Harefield Hospital History

Harefield Hospital a well renowned cardiothoracic specialist centre stands in the borough of Hillingdon, Uxbridge on the grounds of several hundred acres. It contains several buildings including the mansion, Chapel, numerous wards, dining room, nurses quarters and the house where relatives can stay close to their loved ones.

The great house

The main house a grade 2 listed building of historical and architectural interest, now known as the mansion is over 300 years old and is still said to contain Harefield’s ghost – The White Lady, John Cook’s granddaughter. This is now the building where the doctors reside this in itself has an interesting history.

On the fourth of February 1704 the house then known as The Rise standing on 170 acres was bought by John Cook as part of his son’s marriage settlement.

Then, in 1710 to 1718 the house was replaced by George Cook with a new one which stood at the East end of two oblong lakes. This contained 30 rooms and was known as Belle Hammonds and covered 400 acres. After George Cook and John’s grandson died in 1837, the house was then subsequently leased for a number of years. Thomas Wakeley took up the house lease between 1845 and 1856. He succeeded in creating the General medical Council and was one of the founding members of the medical act of 1858. Harefield Hospital is the birthplace of the Lancet, the former founder editor being one Thomas Wakeley.

The Australians

In 1909 Mr Charles bought the house and surrounding land for £18,500. Around the early 1900 is the Australian Imperial Force was looking for somewhere to send their war invalids in order to recuperate and since Charles was an expatriate from New South Wales, Australia, he offered them the house at Harefield.

So in 1914 the first Australians started to be shipped over and on the second of June 1915, the first patients arrived at Harefield. They came from Gallipoli and then later on, straight from the front line. Of course many renovations have been done to the house to make room for the patients including building wards and hearts for the men to stay in. By October 1916, Harefield was officially classed first Australian auxiliary hospital. In early 1916 Harefield started specialising in ear, nose and throat. This year also saw the birth of their second hospital magazine Hospital Park boomerang. 1916 to 1920s saw big flu and tuberculosis epidemics and unfortunately claimed the lives of nearly all the patients.

The sanatorium and today’s hospital

Tuberculosis being rife meant another specially controlled sanatorium had to be found for the sufferers within the County of Middlesex itself and so Harefield Park was chosen. Harefield Park being on the highest point in Middlesex meant that this would be an ideal situation for an open air treatment centre. After many renovations, the sanatorium opened in 1921.

The sanatorium was only meant to be a temporary measure, but when operations were discovered for cardiac cases a thoracic unit was opened. It was the opening of this unit which led to the decision in the late 1950s to turn Harefield into a specialist chest Hospital.

Heart surgery

The cardiology department grew and in 1958 of the first cardiology technician was appointed. By the late 1960s Harefield was one of two major chest hospitals in the region.

The world’s first pulmonary valve factory was carried out at Harefield on the fourth of December 1947.

The intensive therapy unit was opened in 1964 and a paediatric specialist unit following shortly after. More than 100 open heart surgeries were performed between 1961 and 1969. 1969 was the year that the well renowned heart surgeon Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub came on the scene at Harefield. On the eighth of September 1973, Harefield’s first heart transplant took place. It wasn’t until the 1980s that heart transplantations really got under way, the predecessors in the 1970s, not having a very good survival rates. In 1985, the hospital transplant fund was born and has since gone from strength to strength. Britain’s first heart-lung transplant was performed by Magdi Yacoub in 1983.

A special investigation cardiology suite was opened in 1988 in memory of Eric Morecambe the comedian who was a former patient. He had been cared for in the hospital. This houses the electrocardiogram and is always in use. The electrocardiogram is a method by which electronic wires are attached to the body and cardiac movement is recorded onto a piece of paper, by way of a graph.

With recovery time getting shorter and operations getting more complex Harefield Hospital will never stop being a pioneering heart specialist centre.