France’s persecution of Protestants (the Huguenots) led to refugees fleeing to England. Many settled in Shoreditch and Spitalfields, where hospital care as they had known it in France was lacking. The Huguenots were familiar with the French system of creating and sustaining hospitals through donations from wealthy citizens. Charles II had ordered funds for the refugees to be collected in each parish, and later William III’s wife, Queen Mary, founded the Royal Bounty for refugees’ aid. The fund was used to help care for the old and sick and to support new arrivals.
In 1708 Jacques de Gastigny left £1,000 in his will to benefit the refugees. His executor built the first hospital, which was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1718. It originally accommodated 80 people, but grew by 1760 to accommodate 234. Westminster Hospital, founded in 1720, is often cited as the first example of voluntary hospital in England (although the Huguenot hospital was founded on similar principles of philanthropy). Over the next few decades, further hospitals were founded, such as the Bristol Royal Infirmary in 1735 and the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in 1729.