London walks and tours, Sighsteeing, St Bartholomew's Hospital.
Continue along West Smithfield, noting as you do that the wall to the left is heavily pockmarked. This damage was caused by shrapnel from a Zeppelin raid on this quarter of the City in 1916. The buildings behind the wall are the buildings of St Bartholomew’s Hospital. A little further along on the left pause outside the:-
Henry V111 Gateway, built in 1702 by the stonemasons who were at the time rebuilding nearby St Paul’s Cathedral. Above it is the only outdoor statue of Henry V111 in London, commemorating the fact that, following his Dissolution of the monastery, he gave the hospital back to the City of London.
Go through the gate and on the left a little way along enter:
The Church of St Bartholomew The Less. The hospital became its own parish in January 1547 and this is the only hospital parish church in existence. As you go in notice the two 15th century arches that survive under the tower. Go up the steps immediately on the left as you enter; just in front of the wooden screen, pull back the green carpet to see the wonderful 15th century brass memorial to William and Alice Markeby. When you leave be sure to replace the carpet over the brass.
Exit the church, turn left and pass into the arch. Immediately on the left you will find:-
The Museum of St Bartholomew’s Hospital. St Bartholomew’s (or Barts as it is more widely known) is London’s oldest hospital to still stand on its original site, and the museum contains and intriguing and illuminating display of artefacts that illustrate its colourful and fascinating history. One of the chief glories of Barts is the magnificent staircase to the Great Hall, which can be seen from the museum and where two large paintings by William Hogarth (1697–1764) are hung, The Pool at Bethesda and The Good Samaritan. It is said that Hogarth used patients from the hospital as his models and, such was his attention to detail, that modern doctors can still look at the individual subjects and diagnose the diseases from which they were suffering.
As you leave the museum and turn right to backtrack and exit via the Henry V11 Gateway the buildings of the hospital are all around you. The hospital features in Charles Dickens’s Pickwick Papers when Jack Hopkins, a medical student under the wonderfully named Mr Slasher the Surgeon, astonishes the Pickwickians with his story of the boy who stole his sister’s beads and swallowed them one by one. ‘He’s in hospital now… and he makes such a devil of a noise when he walks about, that they’re obliged to muffle him in a watchman’s coat, for fear he should wake the patients!’