Search

‘I had my kids at Whittington Hospital...but I know so little about it!’

PUBLISHED: 14:02 12 July 2016 | UPDATED: 14:39 12 July 2016

Grafton Primary School pupils in a theatrical performance telling the story of Whittington Hospital. Picture: John Macdonald-Fulton

Grafton Primary School pupils in a theatrical performance telling the story of Whittington Hospital. Picture: John Macdonald-Fulton

All images are in held in Copyright by John Macdonald-Fulton (John M Fulton). Contact: 07521 654 656 email: jmf_foto@outlook.com

From leprosy to Florence Nightingale, budding thespians from Grafton Primary School helped shed light on Whittington Hospital’s rich but oft-forgotten history. James Morris was there.

Grafton Primary School pupils in a theatrical performance telling the story of Whittington Hospital. Picture: John Macdonald-FultonGrafton Primary School pupils in a theatrical performance telling the story of Whittington Hospital. Picture: John Macdonald-Fulton

If you’re reading this article, chances are that you live in – or have lived in – the London Borough of Islington. In which case, it’s highly likely you were born in, or have visited, the Whittington Hospital. But be honest: do you know any of its history?

Nitsa Sergides, headteacher at Grafton Primary School in Eburne Road, Holloway, has been using the hospital for five decades. And she had no idea.

“I grew up round here, in Hornsey Road. I’ve known this place for 50 years.

“I had my children here. My grandchildren were born here. And I knew so little about it!”

Grafton Primary School pupils in a theatrical performance telling the story of Whittington Hospital. Picture: John Macdonald-FultonGrafton Primary School pupils in a theatrical performance telling the story of Whittington Hospital. Picture: John Macdonald-Fulton

It was why, on Friday, Grafton pupils took part in a performance with Archway theatre company Scarabeus paying tribute to the hospital’s heritage.

Preparing for the performance, which took place in a disused hospital ward, the pupils used source material ranging from the History of Whittington Hospital book to Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn, who spoke to them about his own experiences there.

“I’m so happy they had this opportunity,” Mrs Sergides said.

“They have learnt about Edith Cavell and Florence Nightingale [who both worked there as nurses]: amazing women who went on to fight for freedom.

Grafton Primary School pupils in a theatrical performance telling the story of Whittington Hospital. Picture: John Macdonald-FultonGrafton Primary School pupils in a theatrical performance telling the story of Whittington Hospital. Picture: John Macdonald-Fulton

“That can only be inspiring for them.”

The Whittington was named after Richard Whittington in 1948 after three of its wings combined.

Its history goes back to 1474, when a house for leprosy sufferers was built in Highgate Hill. This plot was sold in 1653: not for expensive luxury flats as it might have been today, but for the land to be put to agricultural use.

In 1848, a new smallpox and vaccination hospital was built in Highgate Hill to serve the sick from north London’s Victorian workhouses.

Grafton Primary School pupils in a theatrical performance telling the story of Whittington Hospital. Picture: John Macdonald-FultonGrafton Primary School pupils in a theatrical performance telling the story of Whittington Hospital. Picture: John Macdonald-Fulton

Between 1855 and 1859, 1,185 patients were admitted with a 20 per cent mortality rate.

The Grafton performance demonstrated some of the more gruesome medical treatments of the times.

Mrs Sergides said: “Apart from being on our doorstep – and that many of the pupils were born here and have been to A&E here – this is important because it’s heritage that goes a long way back. It’s relevant to all of them.

“We as schools need to value these kinds of projects. The hospital is the nucleus of our community.

Grafton Primary School pupils in a theatrical performance telling the story of Whittington Hospital. Picture: John Macdonald-FultonGrafton Primary School pupils in a theatrical performance telling the story of Whittington Hospital. Picture: John Macdonald-Fulton

“People, whether rich or poor, come here. Background doesn’t matter and this hospital treats people the same in a world that often discriminates.

“So that is something valuable for the children to take away from this, as well as learning the hospital history.”


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Islington Gazette. Click the link in the orange box below for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years, through good times and bad, serving as your advocate and trusted source of local information. Our industry is facing testing times, which is why I’m asking for your support. Every single contribution will help us continue to produce award-winning local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Thank you.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Islington Gazette