Skip to content

Our history

Read more about our pioneering founder, Anna Freud and the work that she undertook to strengthen and increase the field of child and early years development.

1895-1940 Early life

  • 1895: Born, December 3rd, in Vienna, Austria. Sixth child of Martha and Sigmund Freud.

  • 1914: Visits England for the first time. Begins her apprenticeship as a teacher.  

  • 1919: Volunteers at the radical Baumgarten Children's Home which aims to transform  

    education and provides, food and shelter to Viennese Jewish war orphans.

  • 1927: Publishes an ‘Introduction to the Technique of Child Psychoanalysis’, creating the foundation for direct therapeutic work with children. Founds the Matchbox schools which lays the foundation for her later work, applying psychoanalytic theory to progressive education.

  • 1936: Publishes ‘The Ego and the Mechanisms of the Defence’, one of the most influential books in the history of psychoanalysis.

  • 1937: Establishes the Jackson Nursery for deprived toddlers.

  • 1938: Escapes from the Nazis, fleeing Vienna with her family to live in London.

1941-1985 The breakthrough in practice

  • 1941-1945: Sets up the Hampstead War Nurseries in offering refuge for hundreds of children made homeless by bombing. The Nurseries provide a unique opportunity for observational research into child development and study of the impact of the war on children.

  • 1945 - 1951: Child survivors from Theresienstadt arrive in the UK in 1945. Anna Freud’s research into their experience will become a landmark study ‘An Experiment in Group Upbringing’ by Anna Freud and Sophie Dann, published in 1951.

  • 1952: Establishes the Hampstead Child Therapy Clinic and Course begins. The Hampstead Clinic opens at 12 Maresfield Gardens in 1951 and the Centre is granted charity status. The Clinic is dedicated to clinical practice and research in child analysis, and trains the first generation of child psychotherapists to work in the newly-established NHS.

  • 1954: Anna Freud opens a nursery providing pre-school education based on knowledge of child development. 

  • 1961: Anna Freud is invited to join the Yale Law School as a Visiting Lecturer. The relationship with Yale University continues to this day. Throughout the 1960s and 70s the clinic became a hub for scholarship, attracting academics and visitors from around the world and respected as a world leader in child mental health. 

  • 1965: Publishes her major post-war work, ‘Normality and Pathology in Childhood’, which helps to establish the new field of ‘developmental psychopathology’.

  • 1967: Appointed CBE by the Queen.

  • 1983: After a long period of ill health, Anna Freud dies on October 9th. 

  • 1985: The Centre pioneers some of the first scientific studies of the outcome of child analysis.

1984 - Present day Her legacy: The Anna Freud Centre

  • 1984: Hampstead Child Therapy Centre is renamed the Anna Freud Centre.

  • 1987: The Centre pioneers investigating psychoanalysis with modern scientific methods.

  • 1993-1996: The Anna Freud Centre establishes a close link between University College London marked by the first joint Masters programme between the AFC and UCL

  • 1997-2003: The Centre strengthens its links with the NHS.

  • 2002: The Child Outcomes Research Consortium – a partnership between the Anna Freud Centre and UCL – opens.

  • 2003: A decade of modernisation and expansion begins, broadening the Centre’s therapeutic focus and quadrupling the Centre’s academic training programmes and research activities.

  • 2006: The Evidence Based Practice Unit – a partnership between the Anna Freud Centre and UCL – opens.

  • 2014: The Family School (now Pears Family School), for children who are at risk of exclusion or have been excluded from school, opens.

  • 2015: The Anna Freud Centre establishes its Northern Hub in Manchester.

  • 2019: The new London headquarters of the Anna Freud Centre opens in Islington.

  • 2020: The UK Trauma Council – a project of the Anna Freud Centre – launches.

  • 2021: The National Centre for Family Hubs – a programme led by the Anna Freud Centre – launches. The Child Outcomes Research Consortium formally merges with the Anna Freud Centre.

  • 2022: 70 years since the Hampstead Child Therapy Clinic, now the Anna Freud Centre, was awarded charitable status.

Anna Freud – advocate of the child

As the Anna Freud Centre marks its 70th anniversary, Professor Nick Midgley reflects on the impact which her work had on the ways we think about and care for children. This article was written for The British Psychological Society.