Victorian London - Organisations - Government Departments - Metropolitan Asylums Board

WITH unusual modesty the Metropolitan Asylums Board quietly took possession of its handsome new offices on the Embankment early this week. The managers were in no mood for jubilation, and consequently the pompous and self- laudatory speeches which one usually looks forward to - or rather dreads - on occasions of this character were dispensed with. It is a happy augury for the future that the managers at once set about their business, and there was a certain significance in the fact that one of the first duties they were called upon to perform was to accept a tender for the erection of another great asylum for the treatment of fever-stricken Londoners. The incident tended to emphasise the alarming manner in which the work of the Board is increasing, it seems almost incredible that within seven years the expenditure of the Board has almost doubled itself, and that the number of patients sent up for treatment has increased in a far larger proportion. In 1890, a staff of 670 officers was sufficient to carry on the fever hospitals, but now their number is not far short of 2,500, and it speaks volumes for their careful administration, that, whereas the total cost per patient in 1885 was 36, the cost has now dropped down to about 10.
    So rapid has been the growth of the Board's work that it has long since outstripped the accommodation provided for the headquarter staff. A few offices in a bye street off the Strand have hitherto sufficed for their needs, but of late the departments have become so uncomfortably congested that the erection of a new establishment became a necessity. The managers, too, were placed in the anomalous position of having to lease a public hall wherein to transact their business. All these drawbacks have now been overcome. The new offices on the Embankment will provide ample accommodation for all the needs of the Board, and the managers are to be congratulated on having at last secured a building worthy of the dignity and importance of the Board.
    The new building stands upon a site, 93ft. by 1651t., at the corner of Carmelite-street. The laying of the foundation commenced in June, 1898, and the erection of the superstructure began three months hater. The total cost of building is to be about 50,000.
    The style of architecture is that of the French Renaissance, and there is some very handsome and artistic sculpture on the frontage overlooking the Thames, which includes a statue of St. Luke, and represents incidents in the Board's operations, while surrounding all is a figure of Mercy, with outstretched hands. There are five floors, containing over eighty rooms.
    The main entrance leads into a spacious stair-case hall lighted with bay-windows. The offices for the new children's department are situated on the righthand side, and beyond the ambulance offices, with telephone boxes, &c. There is a separate entrance to the offices in Carmelite-street, so that the department may be kept open at night. On the other side of the hall is situated the offices of the clerk, assistant clerk and other officers. On this floor there are altogether fifteen rooms besides two waiting-rooms. There are a similar number of rooms on the ground floor. 
    The first floor is devoted entirely to the use of the managers. The board room is a spacious apartment, elongated octagon in shape, the chairman's seat being in the centre of the longest side. There is a coved ceiling with lantern light and ventilators in the centre. Two galleries are provided, one for the public and the other for the press. On the same floor are four committee-rooms, tea-room, library, reception-room, division lobby. The floor immediately above, containing ten rooms, will be set apart for the architect's department. There are also rooms on the next floor, forming a self-contained residence for the housekeeper, the top rooms being set apart for the reception of records, for which a large space is required.
    The architect of the building is Mr. E. T. Hall.

Municipal Journal, established as "London", March 30, 1900