Miniature hospital, scale 1:16, made for publicity for King Edward's Hospital Fund for London, 1932
Why build a miniature hospital? Was it really a royal doll’s house? Queen Mary, wife of King George V, liked it so much she gave her lace handkerchiefs as tiny bedspreads. But it was not made for her. It was built as a scale model of a 1930s hospital, with everything sixteen times smaller than real life.
So what was it used for? It was an eye-catching way of showing the work of modern hospitals to members of the public. It was complete in as many details as possible, showing wards, operating theatres, X-ray equipment and even an electric lift, which worked if you pressed a button. The Prince of Wales launched the display of the model in January 1933, and it toured the nation, being seen by hundreds of thousands of people.
It was made by the King Edward’s Fund for London, a charity that raised money for voluntary hospitals in the city. They hoped that seeing the model would help the public understand the importance of modern hospitals, and develop a sense of responsibility for maintaining them. Public support was essential for the survival of voluntary hospitals during the economic hardship of the interwar years.
How much did it help? The King’s Fund miniature hospital, lectures, films and leaflets succeeded in raising large sums of money. In 1933, the Fund’s grants met a tenth of annual costs of maintaining London’s hospitals. The model’s story says much about medicine in 1930s Britain. But the lace bedspreads seem to have vanished. Perhaps the Queen needed them back?