1919 and the early years
The origins of The St Christopher Health Fund date back to 1919 and a a meeting of Bank of England staff which had been convened to decide how best to perpetuate the memory of Bank staff who had fallen during the Great War of 1914-1918.
Some suggested a memorial chapel within the Bank or a memorial hall to serve as a library or a museum. Others thought a university scholarship scheme for the children of their fallen colleagues would be the most fitting tribute.
It was finally decided, by a vote, to arrange a memorial service, erect a statue in the Bank Court garden and endow a hospital bed. At the time hospitals were self funded and relied heaviliy on donations. There was a special appeal just after the war aimed at City businesses (especially financial insitutions). An appeal was made to the staff for funds and was an immediate success.
The Memorial Service was held in Southwark Cathedral on Saturday, 12th April 1919. Meanwhile, so much money had been donated that the original plan for a Memorial Cross in the Bank garden was modified. Instead, the Committee decided to link up with the history of the plot itself. The Bank’s Court garden occupies the churchyard of the ancient Parish Church of St Christopher le Stocks. The church itself had been deconsecrated and then demolished in 1782 to allow expansion of the Bank to the East.
The legend of St Christopher seemed fitting to the spirit of supporting the bereaved and needy. Offero, the powerful, dedicated his life to assisting people crossing a dangerous river. One day he carried a young child but could barely carry him and found himself in great difficulty. When he finally reached the other side, he said to the child: “You have put me in the greatest danger. I do not think the whole world could have been as heavy on my shoulders as you were.” The child replied: “You had on your shoulders not only the whole world but Him who made it.”
1921 the unveiling
Armistice Day, 1921
Garden Court , Bank of England
After two years of planning, the specially commissioned bronze statue of “St Christopher with the Infant Christ” by Richard Goulden (1877-1932) was unvelied to waiting staff.
The inscription reads:
“TO THE COMRADES WHO, AT DUTY’S CALL, CROSSED THE DARK WATERS TO THE FURTHER SHORE”
to which was subsequently added:
“TO THE MEMORY OF THOSE WHO CROSSED THE SAME WATERS”
The Memorial Bed
One of the other projects initiated by Bank staff in memory of colleauges who had given their lives in the Great War, was to endow a hospital bed. This was accomplished on 12 June 1919 when a cheque for £1,000 was given to Guy’s Hospital for the endowment of bed No. 27 in the Astley Cooper Ward, a ward used for “casualty” patients. In these pre-NHS days Bank staff now effectively had a preferential call on the ward and this bed.
As subsequent appeal in 1923 was made by the London Voluntary Hospitals for financial assistance. The War Memorial Committee, the precursor to the St. Christopher Health Fund (and headed by a Mr W G Bryant) decided to start a subscription fund. In it’s first year, at a shilling a month, it raised £1,555 (£84,900 in today’s money).
Ambitiously, Bryant set the Fund the medium term aim of endowing a whole ward, which was projected to cost £26,000. As this expression of intent Guy’s named one of their wards “Christopher” and transferred the Memorial Bed to it. But there was dissent in the ranks!
1924 – 1948
The Fund was established in 1924 and shortly afterwards differences of opinion as to whether or not all the monies collected should be allocated to Guy’s Hospital. At a meeting of the Committee in mid-1924 a number of female members argued that a portion of the funds should be given to the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital for Women. This had some appeal to Bank staff as as the hospital had been founded by the mother of Sir Alan Garrett Anderson, a Director and eventual Deputy Governor of the Bank. At the General Meeting of 1924 it was agreed that the sum of £300 per annum be paid to the Women’s Hospital. This led to the suggestion from Bank staff that some of their subscriptions be paid to local hospitals. This dispersion of funds obviously diverted funds from the Bryant Guy’s Ward project and led to the Fund changing its name from St Christopher Fund for Guy’s Hospital to the St. Christopher Fund for Voluntary Hospitals.
However these changes did not resolve the divisions within the memberhsip completely. By 1928 there was even stronger support for the Elizabeth Garrett Hospital. When this was not forthcoming, several female members formed a separate Fund, The Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Fund, which continued to support the Womens’s Hospital until 1948. This second Fund did, however, remain closely affiliated to the main Fund.
In the meantime, the Bryant aim of endowing an entire Guy’s St. Christopher Ward continued. By 1932 and despite the other distractions, the funds subscribed had reached the half-way mark at over £13,000 (approx £830,000 in today’s money). By the outbreak of the Second World War the endowment fund had reached £21,000 (more than £1.2 million in today’s money). Bryant retired before his ambition was fulfilled. Despite lower levels of subscriptions due to war, the target was eventually reached in 1944.
However, the way in which hospitals was funded changed completely
as a result of The National Health Act of 1948…
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
1948 – present
Although the task of endowing a ward at Guy’s was accomplished in 1944, the Fund continued to give financial support to the Hospitals until the creation of the National Health Service on 05 July 1948. By that time, Bank staff had contributed a total of £30,500 to Guy’s, £12,000 to the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson hospital (nearly half of this sum through the separate spin off fund), £2,000 to other hospitals near the Bank’s branches and £440 to other hospitals in the United Kingdom.
The creation of the NHS largely removed the need for the Fund as it had originally been set up. Hospitals were now State funded and for a time the St Christopher Fund looked like its time was up.
Between 1948 and 1950 monies were diverted to two causes closely connected to the hospitals with which the Fund had developed such strong ties over the preceding twenty-five years – the Bognor Regis Home of Rest and Recuperation for the Staff of Guy’s and the Samaritan Fund of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital both received assistance from the Fund.
Although there was some uncertainty as to the purpose of the Fund, it was clear that the membership and “Organising Committee” were determined that it would not come to an end. A meeting was convened to change the objectives of the Fund so that it could continue to “exist for a purpose still in keeping with the spirit of St. Christopher” – that the strong and healthy help to carry the burdens of those less fortunate.
It was agreed to pool annual subscriptions and to use them in “making grants of assistance to members, or their dependents, who are unfortunate enough to incur expense for the treatment of illness.” That is how the current form of the self help discretionary fund was formed. The members of the spun off Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Fund felt drawn to this new objective and threw their lot in in the mid-1950’s. By 1961 over £37,000 had been disbursed to members under the new remit.
Throughout the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s the Fund thrived. Challenges towards the end of the twentieth century included the introduction of Bank-wide priviate medical insurance and the transfer of some 500 staff to the Financial Services Authority. The Fund continued to look at new ways of assisting and supplementing the healthcare costs of its members including supporting alternative treatments and therapies.
Today, at 100 years old, and with some 2.000 members, the Fund looks forward to the challenges of the twenty-first century.
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