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Not Brentford

Health Centre

David Shailes prepared this note about Brentford's pioneering Health Centre in 2023, a legacy of research for Local History Month, 2022.
There are a couple of points that need to be stressed about the provision of this building and services: it pre-dates the National Health Service by 10 years and was the work of the Education department. The location was also important as at the time this would have surrounded by slum housing, so the service was exactly where it needed to be. The tower was lit at night, as a beacon I guess of progress and hope!

THE WEST LONDON OBSERVER – Friday July 15th 1938

£14,000 Health Centre
Opened at Brentford by Lord Horder
Features of Magnificent Building

Built at a cost of more than £14,000, a splendidly equipped health centre and juvenile employment bureau was opened at Brentford, on Friday, by Lord Horder.

This magnificent building designed by the Borough Engineer, Mr L.A.Cooper, contains dental, orthopaedic, ophthalmic, minor ailments, sun-ray and rheumatism clinics, a toddlers' room, consulting rooms, health visitors' rooms and appropriate offices and staff rooms. The Juvenile Employment Bureau will fulfil the function of gauging the fitness of adolescents to take their places in the world, thus providing a test of the education and medical services.

The centre forms part of a scheme of educational development in Brentford undertaken during the past ten years by the Joint Committee for Education. The building scheme has been carried out by the Borough Engineer and Surveyor in collaboration with the Medical Officer of Health and the Director of Education.

The building is erected on land formerly occupied by the Rothschild School, and has frontages to Brentford High Street, Alexandra Road and Albany Road. The Clinics and Juvenile Employment Bureau are planned on a single floor, with basement for heating purposes and caretaker's quarters on the first floor.

The maternity clinic rooms are grouped around a large general waiting room which in turn gives access to the dental clinic and school clinic. This large general waiting room, which has a 16 ft ceiling height giving clerestory lighting, is for the use of the clinics generally, but each clinic is self-contained and has its own separate waiting room and clerks' office.

A reinforced concrete pram shelter with lights over is provided.

All clinics open on to a paved area, part of which can be used for remedial exercises. A fish pond, with fountain provides a pleasant central feature.

The school clinic has a large room which can be used at alternative periods for the treatment of minor ailments or orthopaedic and ophthalmic cases. A sunray room is provided with easy access to both maternity and school clinics.

The Juvenile Employment Bureau has accommodation for clerks and public space as required.


The elevations are faced with handmade multi-coloured stock bricks with flush joints of yellow mortar. Sills are in artificial stone of Portland stone colour and lintels and canopies are in reinforced concrete, finished fair-face and treated with a cream cement resisting paint. The piers supporting two semi-circular canopies are faced with tiles of sunshine yellow, with a turquoise blue base and capping.

All windows and doors to the general waiting room and corridor are of metal. Other external doors are in wood, and windows, doors and ironwork externally are painted turquoise blue. The entrance to the school clinic has a tiled floor and dado, and the Juvenile Employment entrance has also a tiled floor and skirting with cement rendered walls above distempered cream. Waiting rooms and corridors have floors of "Ruboleum" with coved tiled skirtings and dadoes and cream enamelled plaster walls above.

The dental surgery consulting rooms and rooms to clinics generally have wood block flooring in beech and pyinkado with coved tiled skirting and cream enamelled plaster walls. The toddlers' room has a rubber floor, tiled skirting, spring green rexine leather dado, with nursery rhyme frieze and primrose enamelled plaster above. Tiles have been fixed to walls around all basins, sinks and fittings generally and all fittings follow the best hospital practise. Window sills throughout are of tile with rounded nosings.

The Juvenile Employment Bureau has a "Ruboleum" floor in the public portion and wood blocks in the clerks' office. Walls are cement rendered and distempered cream. Woodwork is in dove grey. The opening ceremony was presided over by Councillor Mrs Burden (Chairman of the Maternity and Child Welfare Committee), who was introduced by the Mayor of Brentford and Chiswick, Ald. M. Leahy. J.P.

Lord Horden, opening the building, stressed the fact that the centre was equipped, not merely to give advice, but also to provide the treatment subsequent to that advice. It was a matter of great satisfaction to him to know that in Brentford and Chiswick the health services really were co-ordinated.

"The idea of the Juvenile Employment Bureau appeals to me again very strongly," he continued, "because of the great value in health of what I call Occupational fitness."

"Many years ago our forbears were, quite a lot of them, extremely healthy people. They didn't engage in physical jerks, and didn't know much about vitamins, and yet they were fit. That is a puzzle for some of the pundits. They had simple but good food, and they had what I call occupational fitness."

"We have lost the great advantage of ocupational fitness in this country to a large extent. Here in this centre an effort is being made to regain occupational fitness and to begin to regain it at the very beginning of the citizen's life, the part of it that matters most."


Links and sources

The site has photos of the Health Centre taken around the time it opened and in 2019, thanks to Liz Bryant and Janet McNamara respectively.

I expect you guessed that Ruboleum is a form of linoelum; I hadn't realised it was used on the Titanic until I found Roger Hunt's write-up.

Page published August 2023