A plaque to mark the former site of Westminster Hospital Medical School was recently unveiled.
Westminster alumni came together with representatives from Imperial, including current Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Professor Jonathan Weber, to celebrate the unveiling of the plaque by the last Dean of the Westminster Hospital Medical School, Dr Peter Emerson.
The plaque marks the old entrance to the medical school at 17 Horseferry Road, the school’s last site after its beginning in Great Smith Street in 1834, though its origins can be traced back still further to the 1700s.
One of Imperial’s constituent medical schools, in 1984 the Westminster Medical School moved and merged with the Charing Cross Medical School to create the Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School.
Then, in 1997, a further merger with the St Mary’s Medical School and Royal Postgraduate Medical School formed the Imperial College School of Medicine known today.
Leading the way
The organisation and mounting of the plaque was led by Dr Christopher Everett, who graduated from Westminster Medical School in 1960.
Speaking to the gathered alumni and guests on the school's former site, now a block of luxury flats, Dr Everett spoke of the history of the school and the 37 years since its closure, after it had been part of the London University since 1900.
Dr Everett said, “At last, we now have physical evidence of the existence of our small, excellent and friendly medical school.
"At the other end of the medical school was the Queen Mary Nurses' Home, and across St John's Garden was the towering Westminster Hospital building: all three were connected by a tunnel for convenience in the rain and is now closed. The old Hospital recently had a Green plaque, and in 1993 was rebuilt in Fulham as The Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
“As students, we were so lucky to have Westminster Hospital and its medical school in such close physical, academic and social proximity.”
Amongst wider efforts to preserve and honour the history of the Westminster, Dr Everett previously chaired a working party for alumni contributing to the celebrations of the Westminster Hospital's tercentenary in 2019, including a ceremony held at Westminster Abbey.
Also addressing the guests and making the toast to Westminster, Dr Emerson praised Dr Everett for his efforts in ensuring the plaque came to fruition, and for ensuring that the site and the Medical School that stood upon it would be remembered and celebrated.
Support for the plaque was also given by Dr Diana Werry, a Westminster student of 1956 in attendance at the event, who, along with two colleagues, wished to commemorate four final-year colleagues killed in the 1959 Spanish air crash.
Dr Everett also presented Dr Emerson with a framed history of the Westminster Medical School, copies of which will also hang in the buildings now standing on the Westminster school site to honour the site’s history and heritage, as well as in the Reynolds Building, home of the current medical school, at Imperial’s Charing Cross campus for staff and students to see.
Professor Jonathan Weber, current Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, noted on the day, “Our students are interested in the antecedence to the current Imperial College School of Medicine. They know they come from these schools with ancient origins, and are proud to be part of this history.
“We are keen to keep the names and stories of these schools alive in perpetuity, as important parts of our heritage that we do not want to lose. Bringing each of these noble constituent schools together has formed something great that is having great impact, seen in the phenomenal work Imperial is undertaking and its successes both in research and in education.
“I hope the alumni of our constituent schools are as proud of being part of Imperial as we are to stand on their shoulders.”
Nicola Pogson, Imperial’s Director of Alumni Relations, was also present, and said, “It is wonderful to see these important pieces of history appropriately honoured, and both I and the College have been so pleased to work with the Westminster alumni to preserve the history of these institutions, which are a hugely important part of Imperial’s story."
Dr Everett also wished to extend gratitude on behalf of himself, the Westminster alumni and Imperial to Steve Drake, Regional Manager for Hurford Salvi Carr, and Tom O'Connor, who manage the flats in the old Westminster Hospital building for their help in hosting the historic ceremony.
Photographs by Jo Mieszkowski.
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