People's History of the NHS


Building, Rebuilding, Unbuilding the NHS: An Interdisciplinary Workshop

March 16, 2019
Black Country Living Museum

Building, Unbuilding, Rebuilding the NHS: A Heritage Study Day

Black Country Living Museum

Higher than the handsomest hotel

The lucent comb shows up for miles

Philip Larkin, The Building (1972)

Hospital buildings are a ubiquitous feature of British daily life, regularly seen by commuters, patients, staff, and members of local communities.  Yet these buildings are not just bricks and mortar, but rather are imbued with meaning and emotion.  For local volunteers, historic hospital buildings – often built in the Victorian era – can represent a caring connection between the NHS and local publics.  For staff and patients, the smells and sounds of hospital buildings may have changed over time, and inherited architecture may cause challenges for daily work, or fond attachment.  For campaigners and locals, the closures of hospital buildings, their ‘modernisation’, or their repurposing, stereotypically as luxury flats, can cause controversy and despair, but also community empowerment.

This day-long workshop brings together papers and contributions from historians, campaigners, Friends groups, and people who are interested in – and care about – how the specific architecture, construction, and removal of hospital buildings has shaped public perceptions of Britain’s National Health Service over time.  Papers will reflect on hospital closures, re-openings, and long-standing hospitals, and on their sights, sounds, smells, and construction.  We will discuss the material culture of hospitals, and the memories which they evoke, or change.  The day will also include a tour of the Black Country Living Museum, which reconstructs, restores, and repurposes historic buildings, and which is in the process of developing a new 1950s Infant Welfare Clinic.

We very much welcome all attendees, and particularly those who have memories or views about local hospitals or general practice surgeries, which we would love to hear.  For further information, please do feel free to email

Twitter Feed

The information is provided by us and while we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained on the website for any purpose. We only capture and store personal information with the prior consent of users. Any personal information collected as part of the user registration process or the submission of material (including, but not limited to, name, address, e-mail address) will be stored securely, and accessible only to members of the Cultural History of the NHS project team. We will not sell, license or trade your personal information to others. We do not provide your personal information to direct marketing companies or other such organizations. These opinions do not necessarily represent those of Warwick University or the Wellcome Trust.

This site would like to use cookies to track your usage of the site