Our heritage

A brief history

QVH is proud of its history and heritage.

The origins of our hospital date back to 1863 when the East Grinstead Cottage Hospital was founded. Following a number of incarnations as a small community hospital, the Queen Victoria Hospital, as it became known by the 1930s, moved to its current site in 1936.

In 1939 a surgeon named Archibald McIndoe started work at the hospital. Less than 10 years later, New-Zealand born McIndoe was knighted in recognition of his pioneering plastic surgery techniques and holistic approach to the treatment of allied aircrew during World War II. These young men, who became known as the ‘Guinea Pigs’, had been badly burned or crushed in their planes, many during the Battle of Britain.

McIndoe’s legacy lives on to this day as QVH remains the regional centre for specialist plastic and reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation. The modern-day QVH burns unit continues to develop pioneering techniques for the treatment of burns.

We have maintained strong links with military patients and regularly treat service men and women injured in Afghanistan and other campaigns. In addition, QVH Consultant plastic surgeon Tania Cubison also serves as a Lt Col in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

QVH has also continued to build on its foundations as a provider of community services for the local population of East Grinstead and surrounding villages. Our modern day Minor Injuries Unit and sleep disorders centre are both situated in the handsome, red-brick Jubilee Centre built in 1936.

Artefacts

Artefacts from the hospital’s history have been collected over many years and were, between 1994 and 2008, available to view in the museum based at the hospital. The collection was carefully cared for and curated by Mr Bob Marchant, a previous QVH employee who is now secretary to the Guinea Pig Club.

In 2009, this collection – comprising several thousand objects including equipment, surgical instruments and prostheses, photographs, paintings and other memorabilia – was transferred to the care of the East Grinstead Museum. The museum is a professional and accredited facility whose expert team has, for the first time, catalogued the collection. A permanent exhibition is now available for viewing at the museum which is open Wednesday to Saturday 10am-4pm and Sunday and Bank holidays 1-4pm. To find out more about the history of McIndoe click here.

QVH, in collaboration with the East Grinstead Museum, plans to display a small, carefully selected range of objects on loan from the collection on the hospital site in future.

Archives

QVH’s historical collections also include a unique collection of records, patient files, drawings and photographs that document the history of the hospital and the development of modern plastic surgery techniques. The archives include the handwritten research notes and papers of Sir Archibald McIndoe and the medical records of his famous Guinea Pig Club patients. This archive is now held at the West Sussex Record Office in Chichester and in 2015 the Wellcome Trust awarded a grant to the Record Office and the QVH Trust to catalogue, preserve the archive as a whole and digitise selected records. The project is being carried out at the Record Office in partnership with the Trust, the Guinea Pig Club and East Grinstead Museum. All of the Guinea Pig Club patient records are being digitised as part of this project, due to be completed in 2018. It will enable this important collection to be preserved and made accessible for future historians and medical research.

Resources

Download a collection of images from the hospital’s history (1.3Mb pdf)

Download a copy of the hospital’s centenary souvenir brochure (2Mb pdf)