On the 8th March 1821, the first meeting of the committee of management of the Seamans Hospital Society took place at the "City of London Tavern" where it was agreed to establish by public voluntary subscription a floating hospital, for the relief of sick and helpless seamen, under the patronage of His Majesty the King. (King George IV) This date has become known as "Founders Day", the birth of Tropical Medicine.

The first Hospital was established on-board the ex-naval ship HMS Grampus. After moving ships twice other ex navel warships. 1821-1831 HMS Grampus, 1831-1857 HMS Dreadnought, 1857-1870 HMS Caledonia (renamed Dreadnought) the Hospital gained its land legs when it moved into part of Royal Greenwich Hospital, in 1870, this became known as the Dreadnought Hospital, (named after its last floating home).

The floating hospital

The Lancet – May 1919. "A Hospital dedicated to the treatment of patients suffering from Tropical Diseases will be opened shortly by the Seamans Hospital Society, in the Endsleigh Palace Hotel – near Euston Square". The Endsleigh Palace Hotel, 25 Gordon Street, was at the time being used by the Red Cross as a hospital.

The Endsleigh Palace Hotel

25 Gordon Street was evacuated at the start of the 2nd World War, and the HTD was temporarily relocated back at the Dreadnought Hospital in Greenwich, where it remained throughout the war years. Gordon Street was subsequently damaged during the blitz of London and at end of hostilities the HTD moved into another temporary home at 23 Devonshire Street.

The Hospital for Tropical Diseases, London. This hospital, which was closed during the war, has now reopened at 23 Devonshire Street. The Hospital is open to all patients suffering from tropical Diseases. The Lancet 4/1/1947

In 1948 on being asked what his plans were for tropical diseases in London, the then Secretary of State for Health Aneurin Bevan stated "It is proposed to develop a tropical diseases centre as a unit of the University College of London Hospital group. The Colonial Secretary and I are most anxious to ensure that the development shall be worthy of the object in view." After much discussion the decision was eventually made in 1949, by University College, to offer the vacant St Pancras Hospital as the site for the new hospital.

The Hospital moved in to its new home in 1951, which was officially opened by the Duchess of Kent on the 24th May (Empire Day). The opening of the new hospital which was now part of the newly establish National Health Service, effectively ended the 130 year association with the Seamans Hospital Society. The Dean of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine expressed the hope:

The first purpose-built hospital
that the new Hospital would put London once again in the forefront as a teaching and research centre in tropical medicine. BMJ 1949

A contributor wrote:

The (new) Hospital should be planned on broad lines and should have enough beds to provide ample material in clinical instruction in Tropical Medicine, bearing in mind likely future developments in this rapidly expanding field of medicine. The Lancet 1949

The newly refurbished St Pancras hospital was home to HTD from 1951 until 1998, its longest stay at any site in its long history, when the hospital once again moved in to new purpose built premises within UCLH. The new Hospital for Tropical Diseases was opened on the 29th June 1999, by Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal, thus maintaining the Hospital's long tradition of Royal Patronage.

In July 2004 the hospital moved once more, this time to its current home in the tower of the new UCLH on Euston Road.

The speciality of Tropical Medicine remains in the twenty first century an expanding field of medicine as it did in 1821 when the first Hospital for Tropical Diseases was established on board HMS Grampus. The Hospital for Tropical Diseases remains the only dedicated hospital of its kind within the NHS, providing specialist clinical treatment and diagnostic services to those with tropical and travel related diseases.

© The Hospital for Tropical Diseases 2013 - 2018