“It has been my good fortune … to inaugurate this great national work.”[i]

In 1907, after a year of rampant fundraising by both the famous and the anonymous of this nation’s capital, an institution was born from the dilapidated remains of the Princess Louise Hospital, originally opened in 1903 to treat soldiers returning from the Boer War. It was on this Chawton Park premises that the Lord Mayor Treloar’s Cripples Hospital and College was founded, fifty-five years after the first paediatric hospital was opened in Bloomsbury, London at an address of little importance at the time: Great Ormond Street. In his speech celebrating its creation, Sir William Treloar (1843-1923) outlined the aims of the hospital:[ii] to treat children of both sexes up to the age of twelve who were suffering from the tuberculous disease of the bones or joints and to train handicapped boys between fourteen and eighteen years in skilled crafts to enable them to “earn their own livelihood.”[iii]


A workshop at the hospital c1910, ref 5M77.

The decision to create an educational institution alongside the hospital was what made Treloar’s distinct from its predecessors – marking it out as a home of innovation. Yet, there was concern about the Lord Mayor’s intentions. These came chiefly from Henry Gauvain (1878-1945) who was to be the hospital’s first medical superintendent. In a letter dated June 21st 1908, Gauvain wrote that “the primary object of the Alton home must be to cure its inmates, the other things are accessories.”[iv] He feared the hospital would be “bedragged to the level of a petty convalescent home”[v] and made it his life’s work, alongside Treloar and their other colleagues, to ensure that did not happen. The Gauvain-Treloar system was undoubtedly successful. It saw the development and employment of new technologies such as heliotherapy, hydrotherapy, and the iron lung and ultimately succeeded in its primary objective. The hospital closed in 1995, arguably having become a victim of its own triumphs in the field of paediatric medicine. It lives on through the college, however, which changed premises in the 1950s and fused with the girls’ school founded by Treloar’s adoptive daughter, Florence, in the 1970s. It also lives on in archive film.


Photo of Sir William Purdie Treloar, ref 8A11/1/2.

Wessex Film and Sound Archive holds a number of films depicting the hospital and college. A selection of these are available to view on YouTube. The sensitive medical nature of these films means that not all can be shared online; they can however by viewed on site in Winchester.  What is online is a little window into what went on at the hospital in the 1920s and ‘30s but it is well worth coming along to the archive to have a look at some of the other films we have!


George VI & Queen Elizabeth visiting Treloar Hospital while still Duke and Duchess of York, ref: 47M94/F2/4/2

“Father Christmas at Treloar Hospital”[vi] embodies the ‘Happy Hospital’ nickname that was coined for the institution. Henry Gauvain believed that happiness was key to a child’s recovery.[vii] He is true to that vision in this clip as he dresses up as Father Christmas and spreads festive joy throughout the hospital in the winter of 1927. One former patient recalled that “the wards were transformed into a fairy land [at Christmas] and we quickly became exhausted with [all the] excitement and activity.”[viii] The happiness of the children is evident as soon as Gauvain-Claus arrives in a donkey-drawn carriage. Not your typical Christmas vehicle but charming, nevertheless. Gauvain and the children are treated to a pageant before present distribution gets underway. After squeezing down a chimney, Gauvain emerges from the hearth in an infant’s ward. The children there are bewildered but their joy is clear as they embrace their new toys. It is a clip that embodies the fact that the staff and “the nurses were always loving, caring, and friendly.”[ix] Happy hospital, indeed.

The “Lord Nuffield Gives Lungs”[x] video is a newsreel that reflects the role of the hospital within the vanguard of medical innovation. The reel was made in 1938 and celebrates the philanthropy of William Morris, Lord Nuffield. He unveils plans to provide 5,000 iron lungs to hospitals both in Britain and across the Empire. The narrator explains to viewers that the iron lung had been successfully employed by the staff at the Lord Mayor Treloar’s Cripples Hospital. The film is largely informative, showing its audience how the iron lung and the respiratory jacket works in principle. However, in doing so it also gives us a window into the goings on at the hospital in the 1930s. In particular, we are treated to a brief view of an immaculate ward. Nurses in their starched uniforms are bustling about, tending to the children there. Although this clip does not give as much of a sense of what it was like to be a patient or a member of staff at the hospital at this time, it does allow us to understand something about the medical procedures that took place there.


View from the north-west of the hospital, c1910, ref 5M77.

Another film, entitled “Plaster of Paris,”[xi] does something similar. It shows one of the methods employed by Henry Gauvain himself in the treatment of tuberculosis of the bones and joints. It was filmed in 1913, likely by Gauvain’s wife, Louisa Butler, and upon first viewing, it is quite shocking. To a modern audience, the medicine in use seems quite archaic, even barbaric, and thus we have chosen not to make it publically available online. A young patient is suspended from medical apparatus and then, as the title suggests, plaster of Paris is used to immobilise her joints. The process is more akin to mummification than anything else and thus it can be concluded that either Gauvain was incredibly thorough in his work or that the girl’s condition was quite severe.


A ward at the hospital, c1910, ref 5M77.

Alongside this is a film entitled “Light Clinic”[xii] which was made in 1938. This relates to the Nuffield clip and the “Plaster of Paris” film as it once again highlights how Treloar’s was using innovative techniques in pursuit of cures for its patients, just as Henry Gauvain had wanted. “The Light Clinic” also shows the morning routine of some of the hospital’s patients as well as the activities of the college boys such as leather working and the development of their physical attributes through active play. The subtitles reveal that the boys do many sports but that they like boxing best. The scene that follows is that of a boxing match between two young boys, both of whom have had one of their legs amputated. Like the “Plaster of Paris” film, this part of the clip makes for jarring viewing on first watch – through the sheer unexpectedness of it rather than anything else – but what it goes to prove is that the Treloar-Gauvain method was working and that the quality of life of these children was rapidly being improved. If that was in doubt though, it is put to rest by the next scene which depicts a treacle bun race. The boys are lined up and once they are cleared to run, they all hurry – some on crutches – towards a line of treacle buns suspended on string from a wooden beam at the end of the track. Their grins as they jump, taking bits out of the buns, tells you all you need to know. If only spells in hospital could be like that these days!

These films are vital to the preservation of the hospital’s memory and what is charming about them is that they are very much of their time. The films show medical methods that are sometimes quite outdated and undoubtedly raise the eyebrows of modern viewers. Nevertheless, they show that Treloar’s was not only fulfilling its “primary object[ive]”[xiii] but also employing the “accessories”[xiv] to great effect. In many ways, Treloar’s embodied the spirit of the National Health Service long before its inception in 1948: treatment without cost, rehabilitation, and education that altered the futures of youths otherwise destined for destitution, allowing them to become “useful and happy member[s] of society.”[xv] Therefore, when we celebrate the NHS this July, we would do well to remember that the spirit of it had taken root long before its creation. The Lord Mayor Treloar’s Cripples Hospital and College, and other forgotten gems like it, should be celebrated and remembered, also.

On 5 July we will be hosting a special evening event to celebrate 70 years of the NHs, including some of the film and postcards mentioned. You can find out more here.

Amy Humphries, volunteer



[i] Hampshire Archives and Local Studies, 8A11/1/10: Printed Copy of Lord Mayor Treloar’s speech about the proposed formation of the hospital and college, 12 October 1907.

[ii] G. S. E. Moynihan, The Lord Mayor Treloar Hospital and College: The Story of the Little Cripples Hospital (Southampton: Paul Cave Publications Ltd, 1988): 11.

[iii] HALS, 8A11/1/10: Copy of Lord Mayor Treloar’s speech.

[iv] HALS, 8A11/1/11: Letter 1 – Sir Henry Gauvain to Sir Ernest Flower, 21 June 1908.

[v] HALS, 8A11/1/11: Letter 1.

[vi] Newsreel, “AV90/3 Father Christmas visits Treloar Hospital (1927),” Youtube, 2:21, posted by the Wessex Film and Sound Archive, May 21st 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WH34YJpbLEs.

[vii] G. S. E. Moynihan, The Lord Mayor Treloar, 22

[viii] Hampshire Archives and Local Studies, 8A11/1/38: Typed memories of Treloar Hospital from former staff including Eric Absolon, date unkown – 20th century.

[ix] HALS, 8A11/1/38.

[x] Newsreel, “AV90/5 Lord Nuffield Gives Lungs 1938,” Youtube, 1:44, posted by the Wessex Film and Sound Archive, May 21st 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPuxt83Nxek.

[xi] Hampshire Archives and Local Studies, AV90/6/V1, Plaster of Paris, 1913.

[xii] Hampshire Archives and Local Studies, AV90/1/V1, Light Clinic, 1928.

[xiii] HALS, 8A11/1/11: Letter 1.

[xiv] HALS, 8A11/1/11: Letter 1.

[xv] HALS, 8A11/1/11: Letter 1.


3 thoughts on “The Lord Mayor Treloar Hospital and College: A Life and Legacy on Film

  1. My brother spent 12months in Lord Mayor Trelors hospital in 1948. I remember going every weekend to see him with my parents by train and then a special bus for visitors. I played in the grounds as children weren’t allowed in the wards. They did a fantastic job on my brothers feet and it was a very happy place.

    Liked by 1 person

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