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Clinica London at Harley Street

On the map for medical excellence for almost 200 years
London’s Harley Street is arguably one of the most famous streets in the world and – unlike other areas of the city that are inextricably linked with a certain trade – Harley Street continues to flourish as a centre for private medical excellence.
While the number of bespoke tailors in Saville Row might be diminishing; and newspaper production has now moved away from Fleet Street, Harley Street continues to enjoy its long and well earned prestigious reputation for private health care.
The area attracts a large, ever growing number of top medical practitioners, ophthalmic surgeons, dentists, psychiatrists and plastic and cosmetic specialists. Today – with an estimated 1,500 medical practitioners and 3,000 associated employees – it remains firmly at
the forefront in medical science and technology advancements.
It is no coincidence that top, pioneering medical specialists continue to choose this address for their clinics, consulting rooms and surgeries; but how and why did this attraction begin?
The history of Harley Street as we know it really starts in the 18th Century when the land between Oxford Street and the Marylebone Road was developed in the grand Georgian style of the day.
Edward Harley, the 2nd earl of Oxford, inherited Harley Street from his wife Henrietta Cavendish Hollis. He provided much of the capital needed to create an abundance of highly sought after property around Cavendish Square. Today it is still owned by the Howard de Waldon Estate which can trace its Harley Street heritage back to 1715. Among the wealthy and famous residents of the 1800’s were landscape and marine artist J.M.W. Turner and prime minister W.E. Gladstone, who lived at number 73.
The influx of medical professionals began around the middle of the 19th Century. It is thought that the prestigious buildings, many of which were selected as private residences for the successful doctors of the day, also lent themselves to being converted into their surgeries and consulting rooms.
Harley Street was also well placed for rail links to the north and had a steady supply of wealthy patients on its door step. Additional health care links were provided when the Medical Society of London opened in nearby Chandos Street in 1873 and the Royal Society for Medicine in Wimpole Street in 1912.
Records show that there were around twenty doctors there in 1860, 80 by 1900 and almost 200 by 1914. When the National Health Service was established in 1948 there were around 1,500 doctors practicing there.
Among the distinctive English Heritage blue plaques which adorn many buildings up and down Harley Street is one dedicated to the prominent Victorian and Edwardian surgeon Sir Frederick Treves (1853 to 1923) who charged the maximum treatment fee of 100 guineas in the 1890’s. He is credited with performing the first appendectomy in England on June 29th 1888 and of saving the life of King Edward V11 who suffered an appendicitis just before his coronation. Today Sir Frederick Treves is probably best known for his friendship with Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man. The story of the surgeon and the heavily disfigured man was told in the 1980’s film of the same name.
Other famous former residents include Florence Nightingale who was “Superintendent of the Establishment of Gentlewoman” at Number 1 Harley Street in 1853. Fans of Rescue Remedy and other “Bach flowers” will be interested to know that Dr Edward Bach worked in Harley Street as a specialist in vaccines and bacteriology in the 1920´s before moving to the Homeopathic Hospital where he developed his Bach flower remedies.
A more recent plaque to appear above the door at Number 146 Harley Street is in recognition of the career of Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue whosuccessfullytreatedamongst others King George VI who had a pronounced stammer. However, the Oscar-winning film “The King’s Speech” was not filmed in his original consulting rooms; instead a duplicate set was constructed at 33 Portland Place.
Today, just three doors away, at 140 Harley Street, is Clinica London, the home of ophthalmology and oculoplastics.
One can only speculate on the amazement and fascination that such advances in this delicate and extremely precise field of medicine would be viewed by the early inhabitants of Harley Street. No doubt, despite their astonishment at the ultra-modern surroundings, cutting edge equipment; as well as the procedures and surgical techniques that are now used, they would recognise Clinica London as worthy neighbours across the years – truly a 21st century clinic for 21st century medicine.
Harley Street, London, 2nd September 2011

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