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John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford

Building the new cardiac unit in the 1980sIn 1919 the Radcliffe Infirmary purchased the Manor House estate in Headington. The Infirmary site was already overcrowded and they had been asked to provide sanatorium accommodation for tuberculosis. They had applied to the Radcliffe Trustees for the use of some of the Observatory land, but without success. A public appeal for funds was launched, and much of the purchase price came from the British Red Cross as part of the winding up of monies raised during World War I; it was proposed that the new hospital should serve as a war memorial.

Roads and drainage for a tuberculosis hospital were laid, but financial difficulties intervened. In the event the first hospital use of the site was when the Preliminary Training School of the newly established School of Nursing took up residence in the Manor House in 1922. The Ministry of Health finally finally approved the plans for the hospital for tuberculous cases, and the Osler Pavilion opened in 1927.

The Infirmary’s finances were still in a poor state. In May 1925, having learned that the value of the Manor House estate might be affected by a proposal for an arterial road, the Governors began to sell portions of the estate for building sites. A further large portion of the site was sold in the early 1930s when the Nuffield benefactions made extensive building necessary at the Infirmary; the Radcliffe Trustees had finally agreed to the purchase of the Observatory site. The present site of the John Radcliffe Hospital is only about half the size of the estate purchased in 1919.

The same need for cash had led to the sale of the Infirmary’s Sunnyside estate in Cowley, which was used as a convalescent home. A 30 bedded convalescent hospital was built in the Manor House grounds to compensate; it was also called Sunnyside.

After World War II there began a process of discussion and planning about the future of the hospital service in Oxford which continued throughout the 1950s and was concerned especially with the relative merits of the Manor House and Churchill sites. The only building to be erected at Headington during this period was a nurses home which was completed in 1955. It was named Arthur Sanctuary House in honour of the man who had been administrator of the Radcliffe Infirmary 1921-1951.

The John Radcliffe Hospital in 1985In 1960 the decision was made in favour of Headington, and a planning team was appointed in 1963. Work began on Phase I, a new maternity hospital, in 1968; in the same year the Preliminary Training School left the Manor House. The hospital opened in July 1972. Almost immediately the contract for Phase II was signed, and this acute hospital opened in 1979, with extensions continuing to the present day. The most recent extensions were the West Wing, housing services transferred on the closure of the Radcliffe Infirmary, and the Children’s Hospital, both opened in 2007. The United Oxford Hospitals, who had been responsible for the Radcliffe Infirmary since 1948, handed the new hospital over to Oxfordshire Area Health Authority (Teaching) in 1974 and Oxfordshire Health Authority took over responsibility in 1982. The John Radcliffe Hospital was united with the Churchill Hospital as the Churchill John Radcliffe Hospital in 1993, and the Oxford Radcliffe Hospital NHS Trust was formed in 1994. The Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust took over responsibility for the Horton Hospital in 1998 and for the Radcliffe Infirmary in 1999. On 1st November 2011 the Trust merged with the Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital Trust to become the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.

See also: A.H.T. Robb-Smith The swinging pendulum: notes on the development of the Radcliffe and Manor House Estates Oxford Medical School Gazette volume XIV 1962 A.H.T. Robb-Smith A short history of the Radcliffe Infirmary 1970

Records of the John Radcliffe Hospital

  • Newsletters 1990 onwards
  • Death registers 1979-2002
  • Admission registers (cardiac cases) 1994-2003
  • Cardiac operations registers 1980-1993

There may be information in the records of the United Oxford HospitalsOxfordshire Health Authority and Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust

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Last updated: 29 August, 2018