By News Reporters
A petition has been started to press Exemplar the owners of a new commercial and residential complex in Fitzrovia to commemorate The Middlesex Hospital in the name of a new public square.
The development known as Fitzroy Place is being built on the site of the former Middlesex Hospital on Mortimer Street which was demolished in 2006. The name proposed by Exemplar — the owners of the site — for a new street running through the site is Pearson Square, after the architect who designed the Grade II* listed hospital chapel that is currently being restored and will be at the heart of the site. The previous name of Fitzroy Place was withdrawn by Exemplar after objections were lodged by the postal authorities and the emergency services.
However, many former staff of the hospital think the street name should incorporate the name Middlesex in recognition of the hospital. An opinion piece in Fitzrovia News argued, “The name Middlesex was synonymous with care and fighting disease and it was a hospital both staff and patients have fond memories of.”
In the nineteenth-century Florence Nightingale worked as a nurse there and Dr Joseph Rogers was a medical graduate of its teaching who would later go on to be instrumental in campaigning against the poor law. It was one of the most important hospitals in London.
Maggie Gormley of the Middlesex Nurses’ Benevolent Fund wrote to Fitzrovia News to say how important it is that the name Middlesex be remembered on this site. “There are still many ex staff and patients of The Middlesex Hospital who are dismayed by the fact that this new area can not be known by the name Middlesex. It was a hospital since the 1700s.”
Gormley, who trained at The Middlesex Hospital and gave birth to her three children there, says that the developers Exemplar appear to be deliberately wanting to avoid calling it Middlesex. Using the name of “the architect of the chapel also seems another excuse to use anything but the name that is so obvious”.
The petition to call the site “Old Middlesex Square” was started by Maggie Gormley at the beginning of August has already attracted over 200 supporters. Many of the signatories have added comments arguing passionately for the name Middlesex to live on.
Middlesex was the hospital where I trained as a physician – and in many ways is responsible not only for my career but for shaping my outlook on life. Still, the memories are more than personal. This was a hospital that not only cared lovingly for the local indigent and needy for several hundred years, but also brought in patients seeking care from far and wide across the UK and even abroad. Even more importantly perhaps, over the centuries thousands of nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals trained here and have provided compassionate care to those needing medical services in England and across the world. This naming would not only be a wonderful memory for the history of Middlesex, but would also create an indelible message of inspiration for the future. — Peter Fisher, Allentown, PA.
Daniel Van Gelder, a founding director at Exemplar, told the West End Extra they had chosen the name Pearson Square after a “full public consultation” and it was fitting to name the site after the revered architect and Marylebone resident.
He said the name of the site would not be open to further debate, adding: “We went through a lot of consultation and they didn’t raise this.”
But this is not the first time a desire to include the name Middlesex has come about. When the Candy brothers owned the site and were proposing calling their scheme Noho Square, David Marriot started a petition in 2008 asking for Middlesex Hospital Square to be the name. This petition is still active and has attracted more than 1,300 supporters, again mostly from former staff and patients.
The final decision over the name of the street will be taken by Westminster Council.
The Middlesex Hospital first opened in 1745 on Windmill Street, it was moved in 1757 to Mortimer Street where it remained until it was finally closed in 2005.
Last year it emerged that flats at Fitzroy Place were being sold overseas to super-rich investors.