Nurses and Queens

The Royal Masonic Hospital

Changing Times

After the First World War the Freemasons’ War Hospitals in London had transformed into The Freemasons’ Hospital and Nursing Home. In 1929 services from members and their families were in such high demand fundraising began for a new self-supporting hospital.

Royal Masonic Hospital donations box ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Foundations are laid

On 19 May 1932 a foundation stone for the new hospital to be built at Ravenscourt Park, London, was laid. The stone was connected electrically to a replica stone at Olympia. The ceremony was led by the Grand Master at a gathering attended by four Royal princes and over 12,000 freemasons and public figures.

Olympia foundation stone laying ceremony 1932 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

The Jewel of Kindness

An appeal fund to raise £250,000 was launched to build and equip the new Ravenscourt Park hospital. A new jewel was designed. It represented Humanity assisting the Sick, with a Latin motto Aegros Sanat Humanitas (Kindness Heals the Sick). Attached to its blue ribbon was a pentalpha or five-pointed star, a symbol often seen in freemasonry but also an ancient emblem representing health.

Royal Masonic Hospital Appeal Fund jewel ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Royal Visit

When construction at Ravenscourt Park started, individual members and lodges signed up as patrons to help raise the funding target. After the new building was opened by the King and Queen in 1933, it became known as The Royal Masonic Hospital. The architect Thomas S. Tait, and the building were awarded the RIBA Gold Medal for the best new building.

King George V and Queen Mary visit Royal Masonic Hospital 1933 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Modern costs

A fully-equipped modern hospital offering the latest treatments for members was expensive. The Hospital funded freemason patients unable to afford their own care. The Hospital’s Board of Management continued to seek donations in order to ensure the Hospital covered its expenses.

Lab technician at work in Royal Masonic Hospital ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

A space for nurses

The Nurses’ Home was opened by the Princess Royal in 1938, accompanied by her husband, the Earl of Harewood, who was also Grand Master. As well as bedrooms, the Nurses’ Home provided spaces for eating and socialising.

Nurses in dining area at Royal Masonic Hospital ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Training begins

During the Second World War, the Hospital treated almost 9000 servicemen, including American officers and other allies. Nurse training began in 1948 in the Hospital basement until the new purpose-built school opened later.

The Royal Masonic Hospital at Ravenscourt Park ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

The iconic buckle

Nurses wore different belts with blue uniforms, depending on the stage of their training. At qualification, nurses obtained a distinctive belt buckle incorporating the square and compasses, engraved with a student’s name on the reverse. Nurses also wore distinctive hats, representing a square and compass when folded at the back.

Nurse's belt buckle for The Royal Masonic Hospital ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

The need to grow

By 1956 there were long waiting lists restricting access to treatment. A new Appeal was launched to raise funds to increase the Hospital's capacity including a purpose-built Nurse Training School.

A student nurse attends a young patient ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Opening the new wing

The Wakefield Wing opened in 1958 with new operating theatres, wards and a nurse training school. It was named in memory of Charles Cheers Wakefield, Hospital Chairman, and was opened by Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother in December of that year.

The Queen Mother opens The Wakefield Wing in 1958 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

The New school

The new training school included purpose-built classrooms, study areas and covered all aspects of patient care. The modern school soon became a national leader in training nurses, who went on to share their expertise all across the world.

Nurses in training at ©Museum of Freemasonry, London The Royal Masonic Hospital

A Proud legacy

Unfortunately by 1994 rising costs had led to the Hospital’s closure. Today the Hospital’s legacy is defined by the nurses that trained and worked there. The Masonic Charitable Foundation now funds medical treatment for freemasons and their families.

Student nurses at The Royal Masonic Hospital ©Museum of Freemasonry, London