About us: History of Mount Vernon Hospital

Uxbridge Workhouse

Charles Rudd plaque

Hillingdon and Mount Vernon Hospitals are part of the same NHS Trust nowadays but have different pasts.

Hillingdon Hospital can trace its roots of back to an 18th Century workhouse for the poor in Uxbridge, while Mount Vernon started life as treatment centre for Tuberculosis. Various characters and events have helped shape their respective histories and we share some of them here.

The man with the golden touch

Charles RuddMount Vernon Hospital was founded by a man who made his fortune in Africa’s gold and diamond mines at the turn of the 19th Century. The promise of adventure and riches drew young men to the furthest corners of the British Empire including 19 year-old Charles Dunell Rudd. Rudd travelled abroad hoping the warm climate would help him avoid the same fate of his mother who died of tuberculosis (TB).

He arrived in 1865 and worked a succession of clerical jobs before finding modest success as a trader, insurance dealer and diamond merchant.

It was a less than glittering start to his career and he suffered various mishaps including a failed business venture, a stolen consignment of diamonds and near death from fever. South Africa’s burgeoning mining trade provided the opportunity he was looking for and the realisation there was money to be made above as well as below ground.

Rudd teamed up with fellow Englishman Cecil Rhodes and began supplying the mining community with pumping equipment, corrugated iron sheeting, wire and luxuries like beer and ice cream.

It was hard work in the scorching heat but demand for materials was insatiable as miners realised the fabulous wealth that lay beneath their feet.

Money began pouring in and the partners invested their profits in buying up and working mining claims and formed the world famous De Beers Mining Company in 1880. Their wealth snowballed and a further concession led to the creation of the Gold Fields of South Africa Ltd which London’s Stock Exchange later rated as the most valuable company in the world.

Rudd was a private man but gained unwanted notoriety as the architect of the infamous Rudd Concession. The concession convinced the King of Matabeleland to sign away the entire mining rights of his lands in exchange for a consignment of 1,000 rifles, a gunboat and monthly stipend of £100.

The king unsuccessfully tried to have the concession overturned saying he had been deliberately misled - a fact acknowledged by a clergyman present at the negotiations.

Rudd maintained he had acted honorably but it did little appease the king who had his own advisor in the negotiations executed. Cecil Rhodes later boasted that ‘our concession is so huge it is like giving a man the whole of Australia.’

Personal tragedy came back to haunt Rudd when his wife died of Tuberculosis, the same condition that his claimed his mother’s life years earlier.

He left South Africa six years later and returned to Britain where he lived on a vast Scottish estate. The multi-millionaire turned his hand to philanthropy and donated £200,000 to build Mount Vernon Hospital.

The hospital opened in 1904 and was for the exclusive treatment of TB offered hope to patients too poor to travel abroad to expensive sanatoriums.

No-one knew what sparked Rudd’s generosity but the death of his mother and first wife from tuberculosis must have played a role in the decision. Mount Vernon Hospital was later recognised as one of the most progressive treatment centres in Europe advocating plenty of fresh air and exercise as part of patients’ recovery.

Rudd died in 1916 but his grandson also secured gold in a way - by winning the 400m in the 1920 Olympic Games.

More information

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