London Metropolitan Archives - Item Details


Date of Creation:

1897 - 2008

Reference Code:


Scope and Content:
  • The material dates mainly from the 20th Century, with a very small amount from the late 19th Century reflecting the very beginnings of the Fund.

    The collection includes records from the governance bodies of the Fund, including the minutes of the General Council and the annual reports. There are also significant correspondence files from the offices of the King's Fund paid secretaries.

    The Committee records includes minutes, agendas and committee documents as well as extensive runs of institution files from committees such as the Convalescent Homes, Auxiliary Hospitals, Distribution and other grant giving committees which not only give information on the type support the Fund were giving at various points in time but also reflect changes in the needs of hospitals, convalescent homes and other health care related institutions and the introduction of new equipment and methods of delivering health care services.

    Included also are the visitors reports on individual hospitals, Information relating to the King's Fund role in specialised initiatives such as its involvement in the purchase and distribution of radium for use in London hospitals, the opening of half-way homes for the aged sick and supplying garden advisors to assist in providing pleasing open spaces within hospital grounds.

    The Fund's influence in the development of health care policy and in developing new initiatives can be seen in records such as the King's Fund Institute and the King's Fund Organisational Audit. There is also an extensive series of project files which reflect a huge range of diversity in the needs of hosptials, health care providers, patients and staff. The project files also include records of arguable the Fund's most famous project whereby it produced a specification for the King's Fund bed and the project files whereby it revisited the bedstead in celebration of its centenary.

    Financial records include a substantial series of legacy files reflecting the philanthropic bequests of donors throughout the 20th Century and the decline of legacy giving as a means of supporting charities in more recent years.

    There are records reflecting the Fund's commitment to improving hosptial administration such as those relating to the Colleges and the King's Fund Centre that were established in the 1950s and 1960s when the Fund began to provide educational, training and development opportunites and to be a place to stimulate and improve hospital services.

    ACCESS: Access to records less than 25 years old should be sought from the depositor (contact details may be obtained from a member of staff). King's Fund Commemorative Stamps (A/KE/L/04/001-006) are available only with advance notice and at the discretion of the LMA Director.
Extent: 135.38 linear metres
Classification: CHARITIES
Site Location: London Metropolitan Archives
Level of Description:

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Administrative History:
  • The King's Fund was established in 1897 as the Prince of Wales Hospital Fund for London for the purpose of raising money for the Voluntary Hospitals within a seven mile radius from Charing Cross. A letter by the Prince of Wales was published in 'The Times' on 6 February 1897 inviting subscriptions in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the reign of Queen Victoria.

    The first distribution of grants by the Fund took place in 1897/1898 and amounted to £57,000 however, it was the intention of the Prince and the founding members of the first General Council that the Fund woud become a permanent body with sufficient captial to produce an annual income for distribution. On 1 January 1902 the Fund was renamed King Edward's Hospital Fund for London and in 1907 the Fund was incorporated by an Act of Parliament.

    As the amount available for distribution grew so did the remit of the Fund. The initial seven mile limit from Charing Cross was extended in 1924 to nine miles and in 1940 to the whole of the Metropolitan Region. The Fund also began to include Convescent Homes in its annual distributions.

    Thanks to its financial success, the Fund soon began to have a considerable influence on the work and administration of the London voluntary hospitals and its activities soon diversified into inspecting hospitals and encouraging a more rational distribution of health services across the growing expanse of the city, for example they were instrumental in the move of King's College Hospital to Camberwell, South London. The King's Fund also began to undertake a number of pan-London roles, for example by opening and operating a service of emergency admissions to hospitals and encouraging combined fund raising appeals. The Fund as part of the conditions of its grants required hospitals to submit particulars of their accounts and this led to the introduction of a uniform system of hosptial accounts. They also began to be the representing body of the voluntary hospitals in debates about health and welfare policy.

    At the end of the First World War many voluntary hospitals were in considerable difficulty owing to lack of resources. A Hospital Commission was set up for the country to administer a government grant, with King Edward's Fund acting as the coordinating body for the London area. As a result, the Fund overhauled its own constitution into five main committees, Finance, Distribution, Hospital Economy, Revenue and Management. Several special committees were established in the 1920s to investigate various matters, including pensions schemes for nurses and hospital staff, provision of ambulances, and for road casualties.

    The establishment of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948 led to a reappraisal of the work of the King's Fund. Instead of giving maintenance grants to the now tax-funded health service, it concentrated its resources on developing good practice in the NHS and opened a number of new services to provide training, learning and sharing opportunities for NHS staff including the Division of Hospital Facilities (opened 1948, became The Hospital Centre), the College for Ward Sisters (opened 1949), the Catering Advisory Service (opened 1950), th Hospital Administrative Staff College and the School of Hospital Catering (opened 1951) and the Staff College for Matrons (1953). The Fund's colleges were amalgamated in 1968 to become the 'King's Fund College' and in 1997 a change and leadership centre was established. Leadership development is still continued under the Leadership and Development Team.

    Post NHS the Fund also became the home of numerous development projects to improve the quality of health care and opened a specialist health services library in Camden Town. The range of projects ranged enormously from investigations into the use of disposal goods in hospital wards through to the investigation into the design of the hospital bed-stead in the 1960s. In the 1980s, the King's Fund established a unit to analyse health policy issues and a service offering organisational audit to health services. It was also in this era that the Fund widened the scope of its activities to look at social care and public health becoming an influential organisation in health policy, pioneering the development of patient choice in the NHS, of partnerships between health and social care, and of the arts in health. It also began working to tackle health inequalities in London working with the Greater London Authority and other health agencies as well as continuing its work analysing national health policy and developing new ways of working in the NHS and social care services.

    In 2008 the Fund was granted a Royal Charter which in effect gave a new set of governance arrangements, which include a modern version of the original objectives. Allowing the Fund to remain an independent and expert body able to exercise influence and use ideas to change health care.

    Further administrative history details can be found in each sub-fond.
Creator: Prince of Wales Hospital Fund for London, King Edward's Hospital Fund for London, The King's Fund
Custodial History: The first deposit of records was in March 1963 in the London County Record Office at County Hall.
Copyright: Depositor
Source of Acquisition:
  • Records deposited in multiple accessions from 1963 - 2015
  • AC/63/018
  • AC/63/065
  • AC/65/078
  • AC/66/068
  • AC/67/076
  • AC/68/082
  • AC/69/016
  • AC/74/006
  • AC/75/021
  • AC/75/042
  • AC/76/021
  • ACC/2372
  • ACC/3446
  • ACC/3504
  • ACC/3573
  • ACC/3577
  • ACC/3578
  • ACC/3643
  • B97/079
  • B97/105
  • B98/081
  • B99/094
  • B00/073
  • B02/060
  • B03/081
  • B05/112
  • B15/039
  • B15/061
  • ACC/2488
Access Restrictions: These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information may be subject to access restrictions
Physical Condition: Fit
Arrangement: These records are arranged as follows:

In 2015 as part of Wellcome Trust Research and Resources grant the catalogue of the King's Fund was re-structed to allow for the merger of the previously catalogued material and the un-catalogued material. As such all references were changed. The old references have been retained in the former reference field of the catalogue.
Related Material: Annual reports of various London Hospitals, 1897-1947, are held by London Metropolitan Archives within our library collections. They are available to request to view in the Archive Study Area.
Kings Fund-produced reports and other printed material are mainly held by Kings Fund’s Library.
The hospital model is in the care of the Science Museum, although it is not available for public inspection.
Publication Notes:

'Philanthropy and the Hospitals of London: The King's Fund 1897 - 1990' F. K. Prochaska (A/KE/L/01/006)

'King Edward's Hosptial Fund for London: The Story of its Foundation and Achievements 1897 - 1942' F. D. Long (A/KE/L/01/001)

'King Edward's Hospital Fund for London and its records' by Ida Darlington, "Journal of the Society of Archivists "vol II no 9 1964.

King's Fund website: (accessed December 2015)