Know any famous people born in Barnet's maternity hospital?

Written by  Tuesday, 16 July 2013 15:20
The old Victoria Hopsital now appartments on Wood Street The old Victoria Hopsital now appartments on Wood Street
For well over 60 years the Victoria Maternity Hospital served the people of the Barnets, but today there is scant recognition of the vital role it once played in the area.

Surely the time has come to establish a more lasting tribute to a building that, for so many past and present residents, must evoke the happiest of memories. Perhaps this is also the moment to discover and note the names of famous people whose birthplace was recorded as Wood Street, Barnet.

Dirty Den & MichelleDirty Den & MichelleIf you know of personalities and other people of interest who were born in the Victoria, please give details in the comment box below.  Perhaps you worked at the hospital – or you may know a friend or relative who did – and have a tale to tell about the daily goings-on in a maternity hospital which at its busiest had 48 beds and 48 cots.

Was the last celebrity to “give birth” at the Victoria Maternity Hospital the EastEnders character Michelle Fowler (Susan Tully)? Scenes from the BBC soap, produced at Elstree, have often been filmed in the locality and by all accounts the episode showing the “birth” of Vicki Fowler did include footage from Barnet’s maternity hospital.

Vicki Fowler was “born” in 1986 – the year before the hospital’s closure – and the story-line created quite a stir. Michelle Fowler was 16 and the father was one of the lead characters, Dennis Watts (Leslie Grantham), who was dubbed “Dirty Den” by the tabloid press.

The 1986 Christmas edition of EastEnders, in which Den served divorce papers on his wife Angie (Anita Dobson) at the Queen Vic, attracted a record UK audience of over 30 million viewers, and Michelle’s decision as a teenager to have the baby rather than an abortion, was commended for being “a very positive story-line” by Mary Whitehouse, an arch critic of television standards.

Michelle Fowler was 16 and the father was one of the lead characters, 'Dirty Den'

How do you think it might be possible now to provide a more fitting memorial to such a well-loved Barnet building, which remained a focal point of the town until its closure in 1987 and conversion into residential apartments?

Again the Barnet Society would like to hear your views.

MhtpothtaMhtpothtaFor example, could Barnet follow the path of Glasgow, which commemorates the site of the Royal Maternity Hospital in Rotten Row – once the largest maternity hospital in Europe – with a large stainless-steel nappy pin?

George Wyllie’s sculpture ‘Mhtpothta’ (maternity) is part of a garden established by the community of the University of Strathclyde to celebrate the thousands of lives that began in Rotten Row; the gardens were opened by the Provost in June 2004.

In Barnet, there is a blue plaque on the wall of what was once the Victoria Hospital – the original cottage hospital for Barnet and district – which became the Victoria Maternity Hospital in 1949.

In the brickwork of a flower bed in front of what are now the Cattley Close residential apartments, there is a foundation stone, dated 18 October 1923, which was laid by Mrs Stanley Baldwin when the Victoria Hospital moved from Barnet Hill and was re-established in Cedar Lawn, formerly an elegant Georgian house fronting on to Wood Street.

Mrs Baldwin’s visit must have been quite a moment for Barnet: her husband had been Prime Minister for only five months, having succeeded Bonar Law, who had resigned in May 1923; Baldwin then took the Conservatives to victory in the 1924 general election.

Cedar Lawn was originally the home of the botanist William Cattley, and a second plaque commemorates his residency. 

He lived there from 1799 to 1835 and specialised in the study of orchids.  The house was built in 1766 and was re-fronted with white stucco in the early 19th century.

But the two blue plaques hardly do justice to the special role that the building played in the life of the Barnets, as first a cottage hospital and then a maternity hospital.

The saddest sight of all is the deteriorating condition of the original 1923 foundation stone.  Because of green algae disfiguring the stone work – and the positioning of a flower-bed in front of it – the inscription is difficult to read.

Surely such a historic artefact – marking Mrs Stanley Baldwin’s visit to Barnet – should be properly preserved in Barnet Museum.  After all, this October will mark the 90th anniversary of the hospital’s opening in Wood Street.

Again comments welcomed.  

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29 comments

  • Comment Link Sunday, 21 July 2013 13:15 posted by Mrs L. Hunter

    Sometimes buildings need to change and the old Victoria Maternity Hospital - now residential apartments - is an excellent example of how this can be done whilst in keeping with its location and the Conservation Area.
    Famous people born at the hospital include Elaine Page (Bickerstaff), and Baby Spice - Emma Lee Bunton

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 23 July 2013 13:08 posted by james gough

    Yes well she's famous in our family.
    I think my mum was born there in 1931.
    Its a bit sad that she doesn't even know where she was born, although her birth index states, Barnet, so I assume its this former hospital.
    I wonder if the old hospital records are online??

  • Comment Link Sunday, 04 August 2013 08:08 posted by Hannah Greene(nee Jones)

    I remember walking to QE Girls past the Maternity hospital and seeing the cameras there to film the "birth" of Michelle Fowler's baby storyline. It was very exciting at the time, and I remember hoping I would see Michelle or Dirty Den!

  • Comment Link Saturday, 24 August 2013 17:11 posted by Alan Howells

    I seem to remember that the first surrogate baby for reward in Britain was born at the Victoria ,but cannot recall any details, and hit the National Headlines. Can any readers of this please help fill in the blanks?

  • Comment Link Monday, 06 January 2014 10:22 posted by Dorrie

    Yes there was a surrogate baby born here (and a book written about the mother), yes the BBC filmed and actors coached here for the delivery scenes of Eastenders,

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 02 July 2014 11:55 posted by Joanne McDonald

    My Daughter was born there in 1982, we named her Jolean Victoria after the hospital.

  • Comment Link Monday, 21 July 2014 15:25 posted by Rose Brien Harrington

    I was born there myself in December 1959. This is the first time I have ever seen a picture of it. What a lovely building.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 31 July 2014 05:55 posted by John Taylor

    I was born there, a leap year baby, on 29th February 1960. Also appreciate the beuatiful picture, never new I was born in such a grand house!

  • Comment Link Friday, 26 September 2014 22:54 posted by Tania Hall now Christine haywood

    I was born there on 31st January 1959

  • Comment Link Friday, 10 October 2014 15:48 posted by Stephen Smith

    I was born there at 9.50pm on 23rd February 1958.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 19 November 2014 11:25 posted by John Downey

    Like a previous correspondent I have never seen this building prior to visiting this website. I came across my birth certificate and noticed the name of the hospital and looked it up through curiosity
    I was born there on 21 June 1953

  • Comment Link Monday, 02 February 2015 17:47 posted by Michelle

    I was born here on 14th August 1987 apparently I was one of the last babies born before it closed

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 22 April 2015 18:34 posted by Stephen John Matthews

    I was born there at 08.30 on Saturday 17th September 1960.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 16 May 2015 14:38 posted by Paul Hurrell

    On the 7th July 1972 I was born there...!!!

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 19 May 2015 20:37 posted by Lucie Hudson

    I was born there....24th July 1974

  • Comment Link Monday, 25 May 2015 09:05 posted by Wendy Lodge

    My son Robert Lodge was born at the hospital in January 1988. The hospital had officially closed its door the previous year but a small number of stalwart staff still remained. My son was delivered by a lovely midwife called Sister Cooney. The hospital was very dilapidated at the time I was there and I was glad the birth was umcomplicated and I was only resident there for a couple of nights before taking my son home.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 27 May 2015 04:03 posted by josephine gardiner

    I was born there:
    May 28TH, 1964
    Josephine H Gardiner
    Resides in USA: NYC
    Fine Fragrance Ambassador:

    Parents:
    The Late Tilmon Momolu Gardiner(father) P:Detective
    Mother: Florence Edrice Tolbert Gardiner

  • Comment Link Friday, 28 August 2015 09:45 posted by Sandra

    I was born there in June 1964 and my daughter was one of the last official batch of babies born in October 1987 - in the middle of the infamous hurricane, where the ceilings were collapsing in the only ward ope, electrics flickering and failing and we were not allowed in the day rooms, which were conservatory-like structures on the side of the ward, due to the amount of water leaking in.
    The staff were fantastic and there was a "we're all in this together" spirit!!

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 24 November 2015 18:09 posted by Julie abbey nee Mitchell

    I trained as a midwife at the Victoria in 1977-1978. I have many happy memories of the time and the subsequent two years I worked there once qualified. I am still working as a midwife in clacton on sea, Essex, 37 years later.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 22 December 2015 20:34 posted by Marilyn Smith (nee Torrance)

    I was born there in January 1944 but now live in West Sussex

  • Comment Link Monday, 18 April 2016 11:39 posted by Morna OHagan

    I was born here in April 1953 and my younger brother was also born here in March 1956. I was wondering if there are any photographs of the inside foyer. I have a memory of my mum walking down the stairs with a nurse who was carrying my brother. My dad and I were waiting for them at the bottom. I'd love to know if my memory is true.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 11 September 2016 10:15 posted by Linda

    Both my sons were born here, 1979 and 1981. Lovely hospital I spent four weeks with my first and three weeks with my second. I remember Sister 'Fitz' she was wonderful.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 15 September 2016 15:14 posted by Louise Britton (née Clark)

    I was born there on 18th January, 1953.
    I would love to revisit dear old England (I live in Queensland Australia now) to see this beautiful old building for myself.
    I had assumed it would have been knocked down years ago. What a treat to see that it is still standing!

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 03 January 2017 00:09 posted by Valerie Wilmot

    Born here may 5 1951. Interested to know botanist William Cattley, of cattleya orchid fame, lived there. Glad to see its been repurposed rather than demolished. I now live in Vancouver Canada, but have fond memories of growing up in Barnet.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 17 January 2017 17:14 posted by Angela Moore

    I was born there in 1950. My son was born there 1975, one daughter in 1977 and the other daughter in 1981.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 08 February 2017 22:08 posted by Gina McAuley

    I was born there on 16th December 1960 and my middle name is Victoria!

  • Comment Link Monday, 24 April 2017 17:26 posted by mary mcdonald

    I was born in this beautiful hospital on Dec 27th 1958, we had a picture of my mum in the ward with lots of Christmas decorations up. I was very poorly as my mum had had a major stroke whilst expecting me and it is a miracle I survived but thanks to all the wonderful doctors and nurses at the hospital I did,

  • Comment Link Sunday, 14 May 2017 09:59 posted by Paul James Finn

    I was born there on May 14th 1961, really pleased to see the building still exsists today.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 23 May 2017 20:58 posted by Ina Bakker

    My Son Simon Wood was born there on the 29th June 1967
    I will give him a photo of this lovely house for his 50 th Birthday

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