A cottage hospital serving Finchley residents first opened in 1908 with just 20 beds. As Finchley Memorial Hospital celebrates its 100th year, Miriam Craig talks to staff and supporters about its history.

From its start, Finchley Memorial Hospital relied on the massive support of donors and volunteers.

An initial lump sum came from benefactor Ebenezer Homan, followed by money raised through circular letters, canvassing from house to house and amateur dramatics fundraisers.

A Working Men’s Cottage Hospital Fund raised £165 towards the project, and later, around the time of the First World War, two beds were paid for by the Hospital Carnival, an event which continues today as the Finchley Carnival.

On Saturday, more than 700 staff members and supporters gathered at the hospital in Granville Road, North Finchley, to celebrate its 100th birthday with performances by Create children’s theatre, Finchley Chamber Choir and students from Barnet College, among other groups.

Barnet Primary Care Trust (PCT) announced last month it had bought Bow Lane playing fields, next to the hospital, from Camden Council for a major redevelopment.

Sally Malin, chairman of the PCT, said: “The celebrations mark the beginning of a very bright future for the hospital. The redevelopment plans will mean patients will be able to access even more healthcare services closer to their homes in a modern building.”

The hospital, which has two wards and 56 beds, will be rebuilt starting in autumn next year, with work expected to finish in 2012. The old building will be demolished.

The new building will offer specialist rehabilitation and intermediate care, primary care services, outpatients’ services, therapies and many other services.

A large proportion of the playing fields will be kept as a green environment for community use, a PCT spokeswoman said.

Dorrell Dressekie, a member of Friends of Finchley Memorial Hospital and author of a new book charting its history, says the reason the hospital is still around today is because of support from the community.

In its very name the hospital is a memorial to past residents. It was changed from Finchley Cottage Hospital to Finchley Memorial Hospital after the First World War, when a much-needed expansion was conceived as a way of commemorating soldiers from the area who had died.

The need to cope with changes has been a major feature of the hospital’s first 100 years, the most significant being the advent of the National Health Service in 1948.

Linda Stephens is the hospital administration manager and has been a central part of day-to-day life there for 17 years. She said moves to make the hospital run more like a business have not taken away a strong sense of comradeship among staff.

Dr Shah Tauzeeh, a specialist in geriatric medicine and rehabilitation, agrees.

He said: “When you talk about a community hospital you think about rural England or Scotland, but right in the heart of London you’ve got a community hospital which looks after the community, is supported by the community, and where the staff feel like family.”

Finchley Memorial Hospital: The First Century, by Dorrell Dressekie costs £10 and is available by calling 020 8446 4537.