In May 1915 during the First World War Highbury became an auxiliary hospital for treating wounded soldiers, particularly orthopaedic cases. Initially it had 150 beds but these were increased to 240 as the casualties mounted. The principal bedrooms and reception rooms shorn of their fine furniture and paintings which had been sold, became wards, treatment rooms and an operating theatre, and some of the glasshouses, without the orchids and other exotics, also became wards.
There was an open-air ward in a large wooden hut opposite the front door. Workshops were set up to provide training in various trades, poultry keeping and gardening. Highbury was staffed by professional nurses and VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachments) and volunteer and paid domestic staff. Highbury ceased to be a VAD hospital in 1919 but continued to treat former soldiers until 1932.
To read more about Highbury’s history as a hospital, click here.