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Our history

Our hospitals have maintained a distinguished medical and nursing tradition throughout their history; they claim many eminent physicians and surgeons amongst their past and present alumni and staff. 

St Bartholomew's Hospital museum tell stories, celebrates its achievements and explains their place in history. The hospital also hold archives which consist of the documents and records that need to be permanently preserved for legal, financial and historical purposes.


St Bartholomew's Hospital history timeline, 1123 - 2015

SBH 1123 Image One

1123: Founded by Rahere, formerly a courtier of Henry I 
St Bartholomew's was founded, with the Priory of St Bartholomew, in 1123 by Rahere, formerly a courtier of Henry I. A vow was made while sick on a pilgrimage to Rome and a vision of St Bartholomew, inspired Rahere to found a priory and a hospital for the sick poor at Smithfield in London. In the early medieval period the sick were cared for by the brethren and sisters of the Priory, but gradually the hospital became independent. It was using a distinctive seal from about 1200 and by 1300 had its own Master. By 1420 the two institutions had become entirely separate.

SBH 1546 Image Two

1546: Refounded by Henry VIII, who signed an agreement granting the hospital to the City of London
The Priory was closed as part of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, and although the hospital was allowed to continue, its future was very uncertain as it had no income to carry out its functions. The citizens of London were concerned about the disappearance of provision for the sick and poor. They petitioned the king for the grant of four hospitals in the City including St Bartholomew’s. Henry finally relented. Near the end of his life he issued two documents, one a signed agreement dated December 1546 granting the hospital to the City of London, and the other letters patent of January 1547 endowing it with properties and income. Along with Bethlem, Bridewell and St Thomas’, St Bartholomew’s became one of four Royal Hospitals administered by the City.

SBH 1567 Image Three

1567: Dr Roderigo Lopez, the first physician, was appointed
Roderigo Lopez, a native of Portugal, was the first regular physician to be appointed to St Bartholomew’s Hospital, starting work in about 1567. He later became physician to Elizabeth I, but was falsely accused of plotting to poison the Queen and was hung, drawn and quartered.

SBH 1609 Image Four

1609: William Harvey appointed hospital physician
William Harvey, discoverer of the circulation of the blood and physician to Charles I, was appointed hospital physician.

SBH 1666 Image Five

1666: Fire of London
St Bartholomew's Hospital escaped damage during the Fire of London but many of it's properties (together with their income) were lost, necessitating the closure of several wards.

SBH 1729 Image Six

1729 - 1770: Rebuilt
The hospital was rebuilt to designs by James Gibbs.

SBH 1734 Image Seven

1734 - 1737: The artist William Hogarth decorated the grand staircase
The artist William Hogarth decorated the grand staircase with two magnificent paintings that depict the biblical stories of The Good Samaritan and Christ at the Pool of Bethesda and illustrate the spirit of the hospitals work. The only medieval building now remaining at St Bartholomew’s is the tower of the Church of St Bartholomew the Less. Formerly a chapel of the priory, the church is now a parish whose boundaries coincide with the precinct of the hospital. All the medieval hospital buildings were demolished during the eighteenth century rebuilding programme, carried out to the designs of architect James Gibbs. The North Wing, which contains the Great Hall, along with the East and West Wings are original Gibbs buildings and Grade I listed. The staircase leading to the Great Hall is decorated with two huge paintings by the artist William Hogarth, depicting the Good Samaritan and Christ at the Pool of Bethesda. The well-known Henry VIII Gate, through which one enters the hospital from West Smithfield, is also listed and is slightly earlier than the Gibbs buildings, dating from 1702. Other buildings have continued to be added as the need has arisen, including medical college buildings, nurses’ accommodation and new ward blocks. The fountain in the square was added in 1859.

SBH 1749 Image Eight

1749: Percivall Pott was appointed surgeon
Percivall Pott, the leading eighteenth century surgeon who gave his name to Pott’s fracture and several other conditions, was appointed surgeon.

SBH 1815 Image Nine

1815: John Abernethy appointed surgeon to the hospital in 1815
In 1822 Abernethy persuaded the hospital governors to give formal recognition to the medical school, which had been gradually established during the late eighteenth century.

SBH 1850 Image 10

1850: Elizabeth Blackwell, one of the pioneers of medicine as a career for women, was permitted to study at St Bartholomew's Hospital
Elizabeth Blackwell, one of the pioneers of medicine as a career for women, was permitted to study at St Bart's by James Paget, the first warden of the medical school and later Serjeant-Surgeon to Queen Victoria. After Blackwell’s departure female students were opposed and excluded until 1947.

SBH 1877 Image 11

1877: Nurses
The School of Nursing was founded and the first ‘probationers’, or student nurses, entered St Bartholomew's.

SBH 1881 Image 12

1881: Ethel Gordon Manson was appointed as matron
Ethel Gordon Manson (later Mrs Bedford Fenwick) was appointed as matron. She went on to become Britain’s first state registered nurse.

SBH 1896 Image 13

Xrays were first used at St Bartholomew's.

SBH 1914 Image 14

1914: The Great War
The East Wing was occupied by 5,400 sick and wounded soldiers during the First World War.

SBH 1954 Image 16

1937: Cancer radiotherapy
St Bartholomew's became the first hospital in the country to offer mega-voltage radiotherapy to cancer patients.

SBH 1948 Image 15

1948: NHS
St Bartholomew’s Hospital became part of the National Health Service (NHS).

1973: 850 years
St Bartholomew’s Hospital celebrated its 850th anniversary.

SBH 1974 Image 17

1974: Teaching hospital
St Bartholomew's became the teaching hospital for the newly-formed City and Hackney Health District, a group including several other hospitals.

SBH 1992 Image 18

1992: The Royal Hospitals NHS Trust 
The future of St Bartholomew's was called into question by the publication of Sir Bernard Tomlinson’s Report of the Inquiry into the London Health Service. The report did not see St Bartholomew's as a viable hospital and recommended its closure. The Government’s response to this report was published in 1993 and laid out three possible options for St Bartholomew's. These were closure, retention as a small specialist hospital, or merger with The Royal London Hospital and The London Chest Hospital. The threat to St Bartholomew's sparked an intense public debate and a campaign in which over one million people signed a petition to save the hospital on its Smithfield site. After public consultation in 1994, The Royal Hospital NHS Trust was formed, amalgamating The Royal London, St Bartholomew’s and The London Chest hospitals. In addition, Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children later joined the Trust. The medical colleges of St Bartholomew’s and The Royal London merged with Queen Mary and Westfield College. In 1998, the Government announced that St Bartholomew's was to remain open on its Smithfield site as a specialist cancer and cardiac hospital, a recognition of its continuing innovation in these fields whilst general hospital services would be concentrated at The Royal London in Whitechapel.
1991: Day surgery
The Barts Day Surgery Unit opened – the first of its kind in Europe.
1993: John Abernethy Theatre
The John Abernethy Theatre Suite opened at St Bartholomew's – the most technically advanced outside of the US.
1999: Trust renamed
The Trust was renamed Barts and The London NHS Trust
2004:: Breast Care Centre
The dedicated Breast Care Centre opened in the refurbished West Wing at St Bartholomew's – one of the advance works for our new hospital redevelopment.
2007: New hospital
Construction of our new hospital at St Bartholomew's starts.
2008: Cancer medicine centre
The experimental cancer medicine centre opened at St Bartholomew's to fast-track new treatment for cancer patients.
2010: Cancer centre
The state-of-the-art cancer centre at St Bartholomew's opened, complementing the existing breast care centre. It has a formidable array of state-of-the-art imaging, radiotherapy and radiosurgery technology, ranging from the UK’s first 64-slice time-of-flight PET-CT scanner to the latest generation gamma knife.
2012: Barts Health Health NHS Trust
St Bartholomew's becomes part of Barts Health NHS Trust.

2015: State-of-the-art Barts Heart Centre opens

The Barts Heart Centre opens, bringing together the services and staff from Barts Health's London Chest Hospital in Bethnal Green and UCLH’s The Heart Hospital in the West End, along with those already running at St Bartholomew’s Hospital.  


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