Opened in July 1912 by Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, Nelson Hospital was built largely thanks to the hard work and determination of local surgeon, Dr. Frank Deas. He spent years lobbying and fundraising to ensure its construction. At the start of the First World War, the hospital consisted of a central one storey building, flanked by two storey buildings on each side. It had 28 beds and each of its 8 wards was named after a famous ship, battle or person associated with one-time Merton resident, Admiral Horatio Nelson.
During the First World War, Nelson Hospital was an auxiliary service to the Royal Herbert Hospital, providing 15 beds for the treatment of sick and injured servicemen. Between 25 September 1915 and 29 June 1916, it was affiliated to the Horton County of London War Hospital in Epsom.
The Nelson bore its full share of war work - not only were staff caring for injured servicemen, they also faced tremendous pressures to meet the needs of civilian patients from Merton, Morden, Wimbledon and Mitcham, plus those from neighbouring districts who could not get a bed elsewhere. During the four year conflict, the hospital treated 2070 people and 1048 out-patients, including soldiers. This invaluable work was made all the more difficult as medical staff were called up for military service.
Nelson Hospital was also a training facility for Volunteer Aid Detachment nurses, many of whom worked alongside nursing regulars, cleaning equipment, giving medication and treating the wounded.
In 1918 the hospital was asked by the new Ministry of Pensions to install an X-Ray department and to provide massage and electrotherapy for ex-servicemen in need of continuous care. Such treatment was still pioneering but was gradually being shown to be effective for victims of shell shock.
After the war ended, a new wing was added to the east side of the hospital at the behest of Merton and Morden Urban District Council. This became a focal point for the commemoration of local war dead and housed a memorial plaque above the main portico, The new facility was opened in 1922 by Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Frederick Sturdee.
In recent years the hospital site has been redeveloped to create a state of the art community health facility. Part of the South West London Health Partnership, it now provides flexible and extended GP and out-patient services. The new complex was sympathetically designed by Fulcrum Liftco and incorporates part of the historic façade, including the 1922 memorial plaque.