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Topical Budget 901-2: H.R.H. The Duchess of York (1928)


Main image of Topical Budget 901-2: H.R.H. The Duchess of York (1928)
35mm, 39 ft, black & white, silent
Production CompanyTopical Film Company

The Duchess of York visits the London Fever Hospital in Islington.

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The London Fever Hospital had been caring for victims of chicken pox, diphtheria, scarlet fever, influenza and similar diseases (though not smallpox) since 1802, originally at Gray's Inn Road before moving to Liverpool Road, Islington in 1848. Its establishment had proved controversial, with The Lancet lambasting plans to locate a "deadly pest-house" in a densely populated area, although London's dense population, with the concomitant prevalence of infectious diseases, was, of course, one of the main reasons why the hospital was needed.

The hospital charged a fee for treatment - initially a shilling per day, rising by the mid-1920s to seven shillings for adults and five shillings for children - but was otherwise dependent on subscribers (who in return received preferential rates for themselves and their servants) and donations. These proved hard to attract, and payments for services - even if the patients survived - weren't always easy to collect. Consequently the hospital was frequently short of funds.

In October 1928, the hospital's president, Lord Ebury, announced that "we need, and very sorely need" £50,000, chiefly to fund the construction of a new isolation building; isolation (or quarantine) being "the essence of our work". The Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) was reported as taking "a deep interest" in the appeal (said the Manchester Guardian), and was invited to lay the foundation stone for the new building on 29 November 1928. Characteristically, Topical Budget neglects any reference to the appeal or the hospital's work, concentrating instead on another opportunity to show a member of the Royal household engaged in Good Works. Accompanying the Duchess is another supporter, the Lord Mayor of London (in dark suit with pencil moustache), while the auspicious event was also attended by members of the Order of St. John (from which comes St John's Ambulance) in ceremonial knightly garb.

Mark Duguid

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