Our History

Mildmay’s origins stretch back to the mid-1860s and the work carried out by the Reverend William Pennefather - the vicar of St Judes, and his wife Catherine.

Mildmay's timeline

Mildmay Deaconesses volunteer to go into some of the East End of London's worst slums to care for the sick and their dependents during an outbreak of cholera.

St Judes Church, Mildmay Park, Islington, North London

St Jude and St Paul's*, which is located in Mildmay Park, Islington, was a lively Victorian church of over 1,000 people. William developed a number of projects known collectively as Mildmay Institutions, providing spiritual guidance and care for the sick.

In 1866 there was a cholera outbreak in East London. Two Mildmay Deaconesses, trained by Catherine, volunteered to go into some of the East End's worst slums in the Old Nichol, one of the most notorious slums of the nineteenth century, where even the police feared to enter, to care for the sick and their dependents.

*Did you know?

St Jude is the patron saint of hospitals and hopeless causes.

This response to the Cholera outbreak, by reaching out to those in great need, formed Mildmay’s first nursing service, and it has been our ethos ever since.

The Old Nichol was situated between High Street, Shoreditch, and Bethnal Green. It consisted of 20 narrow streets containing 730 dilapidated terraced houses which were inhabited by some 6,000 people. The London County Council decided to clear the Old Nichol slums in the 1890s, and the first council housing development in Britain, called the Boundary Estate was built in its place shortly before 1900.


The work of the deaconesses developed and expanded. In 1877, the first Mildmay Medical Mission was established in a disused warehouse in Cabbage Court (now Little Bacon Street, south of Bethnal Green Road), near Shoreditch Church. It consisted of twenty-seven beds in three wards, one doctor, three nurses and five deaconesses in training. This was the first embodiment of what was soon to become Mildmay Mission Hospital.

In 1892 the first purpose-built
Mildmay Mission Hospital was opened

One of the few objects remaining from the original building is our clock, which stands proudly above our main entrance today, just as it did in 1892

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Nurse training certificate from 1951 (click to enlarge)

In 1948, the hospital became part of the National Health Service but by 1982, as a hospital with less than 200 beds, Mildmay was regarded as uneconomic and was closed, along with many other 'cottage hospitals'.

Mildmay’s Trustee Board, under the Chair, Helen Taylor Thompson, and with many loyal supporters, began the fight for Mildmay's survival.

After many setbacks, approval was given by Government and the NHS for Mildmay to reopen in 1988 as Europe’s first hospice caring for people with AIDS-related illnesses.

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Diana, Princess of Wales

Diana visited Mildmay 17 times, both officially and unofficially, and famously shook hands with a patient at the height of fear around the condition, helping to break down some of the stigma surrounding HIV.

(Pictured here with Helen Taylor Thompson and Dr. Veronica Moss).

As knowledge about the virus grew, medication evolved and needs changed, Mildmay quickly changed its focus from end-of-life care to specialised assessment and rehabilitation.

Today Mildmay remains at the forefront of specialist HIV service delivery and care, continuing to adapt and respond to meet new, often complex and rapidly changing needs.

Photographs from our archive collection

Our aim is to get more of these great photographs online and to try and identify the subjects and give even more details, like the dates the photographs were taken. If you have any photographs of Mildmay from any era, do please let us know.