Historic Whittington has been mainstay of the Archway area
IN the sweltering heat of an Indian Summer and attended by much pomp and ceremony, the Duke and Duchess of York presided over the opening of Highgate Infirmary (now known as St Mary s Wing of the Whittington Hospital) in what was then presumed to be the m
IN the sweltering heat of an Indian Summer and attended by much pomp and ceremony, the Duke and Duchess of York presided over the opening of Highgate Infirmary (now known as St Mary's Wing of the Whittington Hospital) in what was then presumed to be the most densely populated and poorest part of the country.
The year was 1900, the occasion momentous and Japan was about to engage in war with Russia. The Whittington Hospital would go from strength to strength in a remarkable trajectory prompting the commissioning of a 'Whittington Hospital History Project' to chart its progress in a booklet published in 1985.
In a foreword to the revised edition of 1992, the Chairman of the Bloomsbury & Islington Health Authority would have no qualms about predicting that the hospital would become a centre of medical excellence as in many ways it had already achieved that.
He would go on to state that medical services had been provided there continuously since 1473. Since taking the name 'Whittington' the hospital's meteoric rise had mirrored that of the legendary mayor it was in eponymous tribute of. In area alone the extent of its three wings combined would be greater than any other hospital in the UK as evidenced by an aerial photograph taken in 1984.
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So it is with a sense of sadness and deep regret that one hears of the imminent loss of the Accident & Emergency department as a possible precursor to the loss of the entire hospital. The irony will not be lost on many of us that the downturn in its fortunes follows on the heels of the application for it to be accorded foundation status in October 2007 in the hope of its directors securing greater autonomy from the NHS. Quite a paradoxical situation indeed.
Such folly is hard to comprehend as the Whittington has always proved to be the mainstay of an area much wider than has been acknowledged, not least because it is well served by public transport.
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The familiar sight of ambulances parked in front of its A&E department and the broad sweep of its entrance has always been an infinitely reassuring sight. The departure of A&E will almost certainly pave the way for unwelcome development to be given the nod on Highgate Hill. Inevitably such a retrograde step will also have repercussions for the regeneration of the Archway area as it will render inconsequential any improvement to it.
Besides any adverse effect on the Whittington legend itself resulting from such folly will be considered an irrelevance notwithstanding the fact that every year the Lord Mayor and a chain-gang of London mayors march in the footsteps of Dick Whittington from the hospital to Mansion House in recognition of the historical importance of the legend to the area and the City of London.
This will have sunk beneath the wisdom of iconoclasts to whom local history is of no significance. It's a sombre invitation for fringe theatre to stage a Grand Guignol with a time travelling Dick Whittington cast as the hapless victim and the dastardly NHS bosses as the villains, wielding the proverbial scythe.
The dreadful Archway tower dark as pitch, the lurid Dusk to Dawn Archway pub and the monstrous black cat; all staples of a horror film could fill in for the mise en scene!
Henfield Close, N19
A neighbour who works at the Whittington told me that the Trust is proposing to amalgamate the Whittington with the Royal Free. This clearly indicates that other valuable services in addition to A&E will also be transferred, disadvantaging patients who live in Muswell Hill and East Finchley. I would ask your readers who have an email account to sign Hornsey & Wood Green MP Lynne Featherstone's petition online: http://bit.ly/SaveOurAandE or write to her at 62 High Street, N8 7NX
Lynmouth Road, N2