Hertford CrestHertford British Hospital Charity

Friday 19 July 2024

The Hertford British Hospital at its inauguration in 1879
The Hertford British Hospital at its inauguration in 1879

The Hertford British Hospital was founded in 1871 by Sir Richard Wallace for the medical and surgical treatment of "indigent and sick British nationals in and around Paris". It was named after his father, the 4th Marquess of Hertford.

Sir Richard was a philanthropist and a great connoisseur of art, of which he acquired a valuable collection that became the "Wallace Collection" in London. It was bequeathed to the British nation by Sir Richard's widow, Lady Wallace, in 1897, following his death in 1890. The collectiion is displayed at Hertford House, one of the family's London properties in the nineteenth century.

Sir Richard Wallace achieved fame during the during the Franco-Prussian War and the great siege of Paris (1870/71) for his  notable acts of charity, which included providing medical care for the citizens ansd ensuring that they had access to clean water. Many of his water fountains, "les fontaines Wallace", erected in 1870, can still be seen to this day.

The Hertford British Hospital was opened on its present site in rue de Villiers in Levallois-Perret in 1879 and served the British public for 85 years under the Deed of Covenant of 1892.

During the two World Wars, the Hospital was used principally for military purposes and after evacuation in 1940, came successively under the protection of the Swiss Embassy, the French Croix Rouge and the British Red Cross.   In 1952 the Hospital was closed, re-opening in 1957 as a military hospital for SHAPE. It was run by the RAMC, staffed by the Queen Alexandra Royal Nursing Corps and the buildings were enlarged and modernised.

In 1961 the Hospital returned to the civilian sector but it struggled with insufficient income and eventually, in 1977 it was contracted into the French state health scheme. However, it remained a private, non-profit making charity in the now dilapidated buildings most of which dated from the Hospital's foundation in 1879.

HBH original facade
The hospital has been largely reconstructed but the original facade is still visible today

At this stage, the Committee of Management worked hand-in-hand with the British Ambassador and the Embassy staff to raise funds to rebuild the Hospital. Through the intervention of  Simone Veil, the French Minister of Health at the time, a grant was made to the Hospital that enabled the construction of the new Hospital building. This was opened by Her Majesty Quen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1982; she had been its faithful Patron since 1937, a role she kept until her death in 2002.

The 9th Marquess of Hertford has replaced the Queen Mother as Patron of the Corporation thus continuing his family's connection with the original Charity.

From 2008 the hospital started to serve a new role. The French authorities, as part of a national plan, have encouraged the two hospitals in the Levallois area to regroup. The medical activities of the neighbouring Hôpital Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours and the Hertford British Hospital were merged to create the Institut Hospitalier Franco-Britannique. Like the HBHC, the Œuvre du Perpétuel Secours was founded in the 1870s, and the new Institute was run by trustees of the two charities under the supervision of the French Health Authorities.

At 4, rue Kléber is the main Accident and Emergency unit and the departments of general medicine, orthopaedic and digestive surgery, cancerology, and rheumatology.

At 3, rue Barbès are the departments of gynaecology, obstetrics, paediatrics and neo-natality. In addition, there are radiology departments, medical laboratories and physiotherapy facilities on both sites.

From March 1, 2019, the Hôpital Franco-Britannique has a new management structure formed by linking of the Œuvre du Perpétuel Secours with the Fondation Cognacq-Jay to form the Hôpital Franco-Britannique GCS* IHFB – Cognacq-Jay. (See http://www.cognacq-jay.fr/la-fondation/histoire for historical information about Cognac-Jay.)

Then, on 1st January 2022, after the winding up of the joint venture, the hospital became part of the Fondation Cognacq-Jay and simplified its name, becoming Hôpital Franco-Britannique – Fondation Cognacq-Jay. It’s in this new context that an ambitious renovation programme, notably the construction of a new 17,000 m2 building for the gynaecology, obstetrics, paediatrics and neo-natality functions and the building of new operating theatres is planned on the rue Kléber site, with completion expected in 2027.

The governance of the hospital has evolved over the years but always for the common good, ensuring that medical care is associated with genuine solidarity: a committed team providing high-quality medical care.

For those seeking to learn more about Sir Richard Wallace and the history of the Hertford British Hospital, one of the Corporation's Trustees, Peter Howard, has written a complete history of the Hospital, entitled "Sir Richard Wallace - Le Millionaire Anglais de Paris - and The Hertford British Hospital." The proceeds of this work go to the Charity.
The book is published by the Grimsay Press, and details of the book, including order information may be found on this page.

* GCS Groupement de Coopération Sanitaire - Heathcare Cooperation Group