The London Lock Hospital, which opened on January 31, 1747, was the first venereal disease clinic and the most famous and first of the Lock Hospitals.
The Lock Hospitals were developed for the treatment of syphilis following the end of the use of lazar hospitals, as leprosy declined. The hospital later developed maternity and gynecology services before being incorporated into the National Health Service in 1948, and finally closed in 1952.
A charitable society had been working to establish this hospital since July 1746. In November of that year a house was bought for this purpose in Grosvenor Place, London, near Hyde Park Corner. The founder of the hospital was William Bromfeild. After opening in January 1747, the hospital treated almost 300 patients during its first year; the demand for its services stemmed from the unfounded belief that the treatments then available could be effective.
The hospital moved in 1842 to 283 Harrow Road in Westbourne Grove. It was renamed The Female Hospital when a new site in Dean Street, Soho, opened for male outpatients in 1862; that was later expanded in 1867, as a result of the Contagious Diseases Act 1864
The name dates back to the earlier leprosy hospitals, which came to be known as lock hospitals after the “locks”, or rags, which covered the lepers’ lesions. This name was used as far back as medieval times, and was used by lock hospitals including those in Kingsland (established during the reign of Henry VIII) and Kent Street, Southwark as well as the one in Hyde Park Corner.
The memory of the hospital continues with the London Lock Hospital Memorial Prize in Sexually Transmitted Diseases at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, which was established by bequest in 1965 by an old student and staff member of the school. With subsequent mergers of London medical schools, it is now part of the awards in communicable diseases for final year medical students at UCL Medical School.