Built in 1881

Royal Alexandra children's hospital
Built on the site of a schoolhouse
Dr Taaffe, the founder
Newspaper report on the opening
Early photograph of interior
Children playing in the grounds

A specialist hospital in our area
This is the Royal Alexandra children’s hospital which you pass when you get to the top of Clifton Hill. As part of my student nurse training I actually did a secondment there and was very surprised by the age of the building but the care that they offer is second to none and we are very lucky to have such a specialist hospital in our area.

On the site of a schoolhouse
The first children’s hospital was in Western Road, just a private house that had two or three beds in it. They then bought the land on which was standing the schoolhouse to St Nicholas’ church.

Hospital was built in 1881
The schoolhouse again became too small so they knocked it down and in 1881 actually built the building that you now see, the royal Alexandra’s Children Hospital. And the doctor who was behind a lot of the development of it, Dr Taaffe, married John Yearsly’s daughter from Grove House.

Opened by Prine and Princess of Wales
Dr Taaffe wrote to their Royal Highnesses, the Prince and Princess of Wales, to come and officially open the Royal Alexandra Hospital, which they did on 21st July, 1881.

Gold key presented to the Prince
Dr Taaffe then presented the Prince with a gold key which acurately fitted the lock of the principal door in the building. The key was in the Queen Anne style, about three inches in length and had an inscription on one side: Presented to HRH the Prince of Wales KG by Dr Taaffe, and is presumably in the Royal collection today.

Comments about this page

  • So the old Children’s Hospital is to go at last! Possibly not before time, as even fifty years ago I remember it being a hotchpotch of dilapidated and prefabricated buildings hidden from dignified view behind the fine fascia of the original redbrick building. The new facility in Eastern Road should certainly prove more serviceable.

    I was on intimate terms with the Children’s Hospital for the first eight years of my life. Having been born with bilateral talipes (two clubfeet), I spent much of my first year as an inpatient, during which time the noted Australian orthopaedic surgeon Walter (Nick) Laurence performed feats of magic to restore my feet to virtually normal. I consider that I owe Mr Laurence a debt of gratitude greater than any I owe to any other person, apart perhaps from my mother who bravely nursed me through this period.

    I subsequently visited the Hospital many times as an outpatient for progress checks and for physiotherapy and electrotherapy on the leg muscles, plus at least one further operation, at age seven, for a tendon transplant. A final inpatient stay was at age eight for removal of my tonsils, as was then still standard practice in cases of severe inflammation.

    Time and tide wait for no man, as they say, and now the old Hospital will be no more. It would be great if the original redbrick building, or at least its frontage, could be saved and incorporated into whatever new development is on the cards, but I doubt this will happen. At least we have the fine photomontage by JJ Waller elsewhere on this website to remind us of the much-loved old facility.

    A year or so ago, in a fit of nostalgia, I “Googled” Mr Laurence to see if, after fifty years, I could find out more about this fine surgeon to whom I owe so much, and discovered that in the mid 1990s he was killed in a tragic accident at the waste recycling site in Portslade, being then in his late 80s, long retired but still fit and active. With his passing, and that of the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital, I’ll have only my memories of an invaluable facility and a fine man.

    By Len Liechti (12/02/2008)
  • I remember this wonderful old hospital with fondness and the wonderful staff that worked there. I spent much of my childhood on Taaffe Ward with asthma from 1970 – 78. There was a wonderful large bear that sat on the wall at the bottom of the ward and the old bathrooms had wooden lids on the baths. It also had a wonderful garden where a long bench swing existed. I spent many a time as I was recovering swinging on that  (happy memories). So sorry that it is to be destroyed by the bulldozers.

    By Sophie Fox (24/06/2008)
  • I remember having my tonsils out at age five at the hospital. All I remember of the stay was the big white hats the nurses wore, the awful taste of the orange juice and the mince meat. Amazing how the memory sticks. Couldn’t wait to go home!

    By Stuart Spagatner (08/03/2009)
  • I had two stays at the hospital in the 1960s. The first circa 1963 to have my tonsils removed. The second in December 1966 to have my appendix removed. The nurses were lovely, and did their best to keep the patients happy and positive. However, I hated the fact that I could only see my parents once a day and was really homesick. Also, every morning, at some unearthly time, we would be woken up to swallow a nasty tablet, washed down with orange squash. I hated squash, and even as a child, would have preferred a cup of tea!

    By Mark Morton (17/11/2010)
  • I’m another former patient, from the very early 50s – when I went in with mysterious throat and ear pains, for an overnight visit (only to have tonsilitis diagnosed much later on). I remember how really kind and helpful the staff were. Walking past the boarded-up windows of the now derelict building, I still get a good feeling from my brief childhood stay there. Interesting to read something of the history of the building.

    By Stuart Leggett (27/06/2011)
  • In the early nineties I managed the Probation workshop at Roedean where we would provide work for offenders who had court orders, and one of the project’s we produced was  a miniature house every thing was scaled down even the roof tiles. It took a number of months to construct, and when it was completed we presented it to the children’s hospital, and we duty erected in the garden. Don’t know what happened to it when the hospital was demolished.

    By Bill Timson (07/11/2013)
  • I had my tonsils out here in 1960, aged 7. I remember being put in a small ward, and given my hospital wear of green/white gingham rompers and smock – very practical and I enjoyed wearing them. Mixed wards of course, and I made friends with the boy in the next bed. A day or so later, the operation, and then into a large ward, very high-ceilinged. After a few days there was a treat – some of us who’d recuperated were brought to a low table with a green-tiled surface for a special tea including ice-cream – very exciting. I think I was in there for a week.

    By Jill Goulder (16/03/2021)
  • It seems the Alex specialised in taking tonsils out! I had mine removed in 1970, aged six. Still remember the mince for dinner, followed by ice cream.

    By ian lacey (16/08/2023)
  • I spent four weeks in The Alex in 1955, which included the Easter weekend. Every day all the children had to take a nap after lunch and, on Easter Sunday when we woke up, there was a small plate of chocolate on our bedside tables. We were told that this had been broken from the “giant” Easter egg that Woolworths in Western Road had been displaying for some time beforehand. I was lead to believe this happened every Easter.

    By Alan Phillips (17/08/2023)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.