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Last Will and Testament

Convalescent home

Neurosurgery Unit

Move to new site

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Mr. Atkinson Morley was a medical student at St. George’s Hospital, Hyde Park Corner, in the years around 1800. ButEtching of St. George's hospital 1733-1983 instead of becoming a doctor, he decided to run a hotel, first the Burlington in Cork Street, then his own in Trafalgar Square.  By the time of his death in 1858, he was very wealthy.*

Atkinson Morley’s Last Will and Testament

Atkinson Morley was on the Boards of a number of hospitals, but his greatest legacy  (worth around £50 million in today’s prices) fell to St. George’s Hospital. The following is an extract from his Last Will and Testament dated July 1850:

“Out of my Residuary personal estate hereinafter bequeathed I bequeath to University College London the sum of Five thousand pounds sterling for the objects and purposes hereinafter mentioned and I direct that such sum of Five thousand pounds sterling shall be applied and appropriated under the direction of the council of the said College for the purpose of founding and establishing in perpetuity Three scholarships for the promotion of the Study of surgery amongst the students of University College London and that the said scholarships shall be named and called “The Atkinson Morley Surgical Scholarships”…

and do and shall stand possessed of the sum of Fifty Thousand pounds ……. Upon Trust that my .. said trustees and the Treasurers … of the Corporation (of Saint George’s Hospital)… do and shall therewith and thereout purchase and cause to be conveyed to the said Corporation such a piece or parcel of Ground as my said Trustees…. Shall think desirable to be situate within seven miles of the said Hospital called Saint George’s Hospital either with or without buildings thereon And I hereby direct that out of and with the said sum of Fifty thousand pounds or a competent part thereof shall be built or otherwise founded and laid out a Hospital or House of reception with suitable Gardens and Grounds thereto and be devoted and used and employed for the purpose of receiving and maintaining and generally assisting the Convalescent poor Patients from the Saint George’s Hospital until they are restored to health and strength but so that no such patient shall be continued in such Hospital for a period exceeding six calendar months…..And it is my will and desire that the said Convalescent Hospital shall be called “Atkinson Morley’s Convalescent Hospital for the benefit of poor Patients from Saint George’s Hospital”…
Etching of Atkinson Morley's Hospital, front view c. 1870

Convalescent Home                                                               

The Hospital decided to use the money to set up a convalescent home for eighty patients.  Just as they were looking round for a suitable site, the Duke of Wellington’s house and forty acre estate off Copse Hill came onto the market.  It seemed ideal.  So they bought twenty-eight acres (after the derelict house had been pulled down) and built a large home in Second Empire style.  It was formally opened in 1869.*

              Photo of an AMH ward c. 1805 Photo of a ward in Atkinson Morley's hospital 1916 Photo of patients having an airing on balconies at rear of AM convalesent home

Two black closed vehicles, known as the “Wednesday buses”, each drawn by two horses, would bring patients every Wednesday afternoon from St. George’s Hospital to the convalescent hospital, and return with those who had completed their stay.* The buses were eventually motorised around 1915.

Photo of Atkinson Morley's hospital, front view, with original pillars at front entrance Photo of Intensive Treatment Unit, Atkinson Morley's Hospital Photo ofAtkinson Morley's Hospital, rear view, 1982 Photo of patients playing games on lawn behind Wolfson clinic, as part of rehabilitation treatment

World Class Neurosurgery Unit

Atkinson Morley’s remained purely a convalescent home until 1939.  It was the Second World War that transformed it into one of the most advanced brain surgery centres in the world”* During World War II, when the Bolingbroke and St. George’s acted as emergency hospitals for war casualties, the Neurosurgery Unit was established at Atkinson Morley’s Hospital by Sir Wylie McKissock. As the Regional Neurosciences Unit for South West London, the hospital even has its own helicopter landing facility. Nextdoor is the Wolfson Neuro-Rehabilitation Centre.

  Colour photo of Atkinson Morley's Hospital, rear view Photocopy of helicopter ambulance on lawn at rear of Atkinson Morley's Hospital Photo of ambulance at front entrance of Atkinson Morley's Hospital Photo of Princess Diana during visit to Wolfson

Hospital move to new site
In Spring/Summer 2003, the Atkinson Morley’s Hospital functions are scheduled to move to new premises in St. George’s Hospital, now located in Tooting.  The hospital site and adjacent staff flats,  The Firs, will be vacated and sold, leading to local concern about proposed development of the site vacated by the Victorian convalescent hospital. (The Wolfson Centre is not included in the disposal plans).

*The above has been reproduced with the kind permission of local historian Richard Milward, from his book “Historic Wimbledon: Caesar’s Camp to Centre Court” (Publ: The Windrush Press and Fielders of Wimbledon 1989)