The Radcliffe Infirmary was a hospital in central north Oxford, England, located at the southern end of Woodstock Road on the western side, backing onto Walton Street.

Radcliffe Infirmary
Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust
Radcliffe Infirmary is located in Oxfordshire
Radcliffe Infirmary
Shown in Oxfordshire
LocationOxford, Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom
Coordinates51°45′37″N 1°15′43″W / 51.76028°N 1.26194°W / 51.76028; -1.26194
Care systemPublic NHS
Affiliated universityUniversity of Oxford
Emergency departmentNo Accident & Emergency
ListsHospitals in England

Closed in 2007, after refurbishment the building was re-opened in October 2012 for use by the Faculty of Philosophy and both the Philosophy and Theology libraries of the University of Oxford.



The initial proposals to build a hospital in Oxford were put forward at a meeting of the Radcliffe Trustees, who were administering John Radcliffe's estate valued at £4,000, in 1758. The facility was constructed on land given by Thomas Rowney, one of the two members of parliament for Oxford. The foundation stone was laid on 27 August 1761 and the new facility was officially opened on 18 October 1770.[1]

A fountain of the Greek god Triton was placed in front of the main infirmary building in 1858[2] and the Oxford Eye Hospital was established on the site in 1886.[3]

During the First World War, part of the hospital was converted for military use as one of the many sections of the Third Southern General Hospital.[4]

In 1936 the Radcliffe Infirmary treated four members of the British Union of Fascists following the Battle of Carfax.[5]

A number of pioneering moments in medical history occurred at the hospital. Penicillin was first tested on patients on 27 January 1941[6] and the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology was founded on the site in 1942.[3]

The entrance of the hospital was seen in the ITV television series Inspector Morse in 1991.[7] The first Utah Array (later known as the BrainGate) implantation in a human (Kevin Warwick) took place on 14 March 2002.[8]

After services had been transferred to purpose-built buildings at the John Radcliffe and Churchill Hospitals in nearby Headington, the infirmary closed for medical use in 2007.[9] Following refurbishment, the infirmary building was re-opened in October 2012 for use by the Faculty of Philosophy and both the Philosophy and Theology libraries of the University of Oxford.[2] The site, which is now known as the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, also became home to the Blavatnik School of Government in 2012.[2]

Notable Staff

  • Agnes Jean Watt, Royal Red Cross[10] (1859-1946) Matron, 1897-1921[11] reformed the nursing department[12][13] and was also Principal Matron, TFNS, 3rd Southern General Hospital, Oxford, 1909–1922[14][15][16] She was trained under Matron Eva Luckes, at The London Hospital between 1888 and 1890.[17] Agnes worked as a sister for most of the next seven years at The London Hospital. Sydney Holland and Eva Luckes were determined that she should obtain the matron's position in Oxford.[13][18]
  • Thora Silverthorne trained as a nurse at the Radcliffe Infirmary, during which she earned the nickname "Red Silverthorne" for her Communist Party activism in the city of Oxford and for her membership of the October Club. Silverthorne volunteered as a nurse to serve hunger marchers passing through Oxford during the 1932 National Hunger March, an act of mercy she performed by "helping herself to bandages and dressings" from the Radcliffe Infirmary.[19] Silverthorne used her medical training at the Radcliffe Infirmary to help create the first-ever foreign hospital to serve the International Brigades and the Spanish Republic.[20] Later in life she created the UK's first union for rank and file nurses, the National Nurses Association.[19]

See also



  1. ^ "The Radcliffe Infirmary". Oxford History. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Radcliffe Observatory Quarter (ROQ)". University of Oxford. Archived from the original on 31 August 2012. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  3. ^ a b A brief history of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology Archived 2 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Oxford and the First World War: Third Southern General Hospital". Oxford History. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  5. ^ Bowie, Duncan (2018). Reform & Revolt in the City of Dreaming Spires: Radical, Socialist and Communist Politics in the City of Oxford 1930-1980. London: University of Westminster Press. p. 193. ISBN 978-1-912656-12-7.
  6. ^ "Making Penicillin Possible: Norman Heatley Remembers". ScienceWatch. Thomson Scientific. 2007. Archived from the original on 21 February 2007. Retrieved 13 February 2007.
  7. ^ "Inspector Morse (TV Series); Second Time Around (1991)". IMDB. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  8. ^ "SCI/TECH | Cyborg study draws fire". BBC News. 22 March 2002. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  9. ^ Oxford University takes over Radcliffe Infirmary site Archived 22 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Watt, Miss A., R.R.C., The London Hospital Gazette, 1918, Supplement to Issue 198, Part 2, 29; Barts Health NHS Trust Archives and Museums, London
  11. ^ Anonymous (27 February 1897). "'Appointments'". "The Hospital" Nursing Mirror. 21 (544): 196.
  12. ^ Annual Report, 1921; Radcliffe Infirmary and County Hospital, Oxford Annual Reports, 1921; OHARI/1/A14, 8–9; Oxford Health Authority, Oxfordshire History Centre, Oxford
  13. ^ a b Rogers, Sarah (2022). 'A Maker of Matrons’? A study of Eva Lückes’s influence on a generation of nurse leaders:1880–1919' (Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Huddersfield, April 2022)
  14. ^ Anonymous (1918). "Watt, Miss A., R.R.C.". The London Hospital Gazette. Supplement (198): Part 2, 29.
  15. ^ Annual Report, 1915, 7; Radcliffe Infirmary and County Hospital, Oxford Annual Reports, 1911–1915; OHARI/1/A8; Oxford Health Authority, Oxfordshire History Centre, Oxford.
  16. ^ Agnes Watt, British Army Nurses’ Service Records 1914–1922; WO399/15369; The National Archives, Kew
  17. ^ Agnes Watt, Register of Probationers; RLHLH/N/1/3, 4; Barts Health NHS Trust Archives and Museums, London
  18. ^ Agnes Watt, Register of Sisters and Nurses; RLHLH/N/4/1,103; Barts Health NHS Trust Archives and Museums, London
  19. ^ a b Meddick, Simon; Payne, Liz; Katz, Phil (2020). Red Lives: Communists and the Struggle for Socialism. UK: Manifesto Press Cooperative Limited. p. 185. ISBN 978-1-907464-45-4.
  20. ^ Farman, Chris; Rose, Valery; Woolley, Liz (2015). No Other Way: Oxfordshire and the Spanish Civil War 1936-39. London: Oxford international Brigade Memorial Committee. p. 100.

Further reading