How is this hospital built on shells?

Home-made ornaments crafted from shells helped to raise money to establish this hospital.

Sisters Johanna and Louisa Chandler founded this hospital in 1860 by raising £200 – proceeds from selling their hand-made shell creations.

Small Acorns Fund

Johanna and Louisa discovered a shocking lack of expert medical help for their grandmother, who had been paralysed. So they called for a specialist hospital. They built and sold elaborate ornaments out of shells, raising £200 (around £25,000 in today’s money). This was enough to approach the Lord Mayor of London, who was also partially paralysed from a stroke – to get his support and gain backing for the project. He encouraged his wealthy and influential contacts to support the cause, and the hospital was established in a house at 24 Queen Square. The hospital rapidly ran out of space and over the 160 years since, has expanded into the majority of buildings surrounding the square. 

The National Hospital had humble beginnings – and as a charity, we know just how often great things can come from small ideas. As a result, we set up The Small Acorns Fund.

Impact it will make:

The fund gives front-line, clinical staff the chance to apply for funding to fast-track smaller scale projects that will have a big impact and benefit to patients. Previous successful projects have included mindfulness training to help staff teach their patients how to manage neuropathic pain; comfy, adaptive clothing for patients with reduced mobility; and mobile arm supports for the neurorehab unit to aid those affected by a stroke. These might be small changes, but the difference they can make to people’s lives are enormous.

Fundraising commitments:

Our aim is to raise £40,000 a year so we can respond effectively and quickly to projects ranging from £500 to £10,000 put forward by staff at The National Hospital and The Institute of Neurology.

Help us raise vital funds for Queen Square projects

Please help us achieve our vision to help create better outcomes for everyone with a neurological disorder by making a donation to help raise vital funds.

Get In Touch

Contact details

020 3448 4724


The National Brain Appeal
3rd Floor
Ormond House
26/27 Boswell Street
London WC1N 3JZ

Registered Charity No. 290173. A limited company registered in England. No. 01844281
Photography: @georgehouse/ | @janefergusonphotography/​k