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Our history


Great Ormond Street Hospital (then known as The Hospital for Sick Children) opened its doors at 49 Great Ormond Street on Valentine's Day 1852 with 10 beds.

It has since become one of the world’s leading children’s hospitals, housing the widest range of specialists under one roof.

Great Ormond Street Hospital was founded by Dr Charles West, who was driven by the shockingly high level of infant mortality in the capital. It was the first hospital in the UK dedicated solely to the treatment of children.

Old Great Ormond Street Building

The hospital itself

Great Ormond Street Hospital started life in a 17th century townhouse with just 10 beds and two physicians. Since then, the hospital has been in a constant state of redevelopment to update ageing wards which have become unsuitable for the treatment of seriously ill children. 

Notable supporters

Great Ormond Street Hospital has been supported by many notable individuals, including JM Barrie (who donated the rights of Peter Pan to the hospital in 1929), Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria and Diana Princess of Wales.

Breakthroughs

For over 160 years, Great Ormond Street Hospital has been at the forefront of developing new and better ways to treat childhood diseases, pioneering numerous breakthroughs in paediatric care.

Some of our breakthroughs and ‘firsts’ include:

  • Appointing the UK’s first consultant paediatric surgeon, Denis Browne, in 1928.
  • Opening the UK’s first heart and lung unit in 1947.
  • Opening the UK’s first leukaemia research unit in 1961.
  • Pioneering the first heart and lung bypass machine for children in 1962, to help repair heart problems.
  • Performing the first successful bone marrow transplant in Britain in 1979, by the late Professor Roland Levinsky.
  • Undertaking the world’s first stem cell supported tracheal transplant in a child in 2010.
  • Becoming Europe’s first children’s hospital to offer a portable haemodialysis service in 2010.
  • Opening Europe’s first research centre to tackle birth defects, the Newlife Birth Defects Research Centre, in 2012.
             

You can learn more about our pioneering work by reading our breakthroughs in children's medicine guides.

History of fundraising

Prior to becoming part of the NHS in 1948, Great Ormond Street Hospital was known as a voluntary hospital, running fundraising campaigns for new buildings from the 1850s onwards. 

In the early decades of the NHS, private fundraising was heavily restricted, but the hospital was allowed to continue receiving legacies.

In 1982, the government relaxed restrictions on charitable fundraising by individual hospitals. This allowed Great Ormond Street Hospital to initiate the hugely successful national Wishing Well Appeal of 1987–8, which raised £54 million to fund the Variety Club Building. 

Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity became a separate legal entity from the hospital in 1998.

More information