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.
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.
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.
As a matter of interest, rubble from the old slums was used to build an elevated bandstand that forms the centrepiece of Arnold Circus. Also around this time Charles Booth, a pioneer of social research, conducted an extensive survey of living conditions in London, publishing maps, colour coded according to the wealth of an area. He coloured the Jago in black, the bottom of the scale, the poorest and most crime ridden.
Arnold Circus on the Boundary Estate. The bandstand is yet to be completed.
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.