Our history

Mildmay’s origins stretch right back to the mid-1860s and the work carried out by The Reverend William Pennefather, a vicar at St Judes, and his wife Catherine.
St Judes Church, Mildmay Park, Islington, North London

St Judes, which was 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 of the 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.

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
Slum houses in the Old Nichol

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 and within a few years the first Mildmay Mission Hospital was established in a disused warehouse in Cabbage Court (now Little Bacon Street, south of Bethnal Green Road), near to Shoreditch Church. It consisted of twenty-seven beds in three wards, one doctor, three nurses and five deaconesses in training. 

Cabbage Court
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

Mildmay clock
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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.


Do you or someone you know, have a story about Mildmay (from any era) that you would like to share?

Mildmay has been caring for people since the 1860s and in that time thousands of people have passed through its doors. Each one of them had their own unique experience of the hospital and its dedicated staff.

We are assembling a collection of patient and former staff stories and memories to share online and to add to our archive. If you would like to share your story, please contact us.

"I was admitted to the Mildmay when I was 6 years old in 1946. Had a pain in my leg due to a fall. The doctors there realised I had Osteomyelitis, which was very rare then.

If it was not for Mildmay, I would not be here at nearly 80 years old and still enjoying life. Thank you all."
Renee P

The Bert Miller Photographic Archive

Bert Miller was at Mildmay for 30 years; employed for 7 and a volunteer for 23. During some building work, Bert saw some photo transparencies lying in a skip. He retrieved them and took them home. On inspecting them, he found that they were photographs of the hospital and staff dating back to the early 1960's.

Read Bert's inspiring story and see the photographs he rescued

Mildmay's work overseas

In the 1990s, Mildmay was called to extend its expertise to some of the areas where HIV and AIDS were hitting hardest – firstly Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya then Zimbabwe and Rwanda and later into Eastern Europe.

Mildmay currently supports over 100,000 people living with HIV in East Africa. Our ground-breaking work in this region encompasses training and education as well as comprehensive health and HIV care.

Our work in Africa has expanded to address and treat other HIV-related conditions, including screening and treatment for: TB, STI’s and cervical cancer.

We work with some of the most vulnerable and hard to reach adults and children, enabling them to grow and realise their potential. We continue to mobilise communities, developing local partnerships and helping to build in-country capacity that is sustainable.

Some of our international work has been scaled back as funded projects come to an end. In many respects, this marks the successful conclusion of programmes, as Mildmay will hand over a legacy of work to government or to local organisations.

Harry cuts the Mildmay 150th Anniversary Cake

Mildmay Mission Hospital today

Mildmay’s new, purpose-built hospital opened in September 2014, within the footprint of Mildmay’s sprawling, old building.

Our two inpatient wards are named Catherine and William after our founders.

Prince Harry officially opened the new hospital In December 2015, and cut our anniversary cake to mark the opening of our 150th anniversary celebrations in 2016.