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St Bartholomew's museum

Set in the historic North Wing of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, the museum tells the story of this renowned institution, celebrates its achievements and explains its place in history.

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About the museum

A video relates the foundation of the hospital and life-size models bring the history of St Bartholomew's to life.

Sound recordings tell the story of the hospital’s staff from its earliest times. At the press of a button, visitors are transported back into the world of a 13th century sister, a 15th century apprentice surgeon, and a nurse in the new NHS of 1948.

The museum exhibits original and facsimile archives dating back to the 12th century, among them the agreement between Henry VIII and the City of London which refounded the hospital. Henry’s signature can be seen in the top left-hand corner. This magnificent document, complete with the Great Seal of Henry VIII, is one of the most important treasures of the hospital.

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The oldest document in the hospital archives is Rahere’s grant of 1137, and a facsimile can be seen in the museum. Sealed in the presence of Rahere, the founder of St Bartholomew's, this deed has remained in the hospital ever since, except perhaps during the Fire of London in 1666.

Objects from the hospital’s unique historical collections are also exhibited, including works of art, and surgical and medical equipment used in the hospital. Visitors can view a case of amputation instruments which belonged to John Abernethy, surgeon to the hospital in 1815-27, and the tools of the apothecary’s trade, including pill-making equipment, scales and drug bottles.

Visitors can learn about William Harvey, physician to St Bartholomew's from 1609-43 and discoverer of the circulation of the blood. The patients’ diet in earlier times is explained, and a volume of 19th century drawings and watercolours illustrates in graphic detail particular diseases and cases, including that of a patient with a large tumour of the tongue. His case notes are also displayed, and they record that he was ‘so much offended at having to sit with his tongue out’ that he discharged himself from the hospital.

Equipment used by nurses in their work is exhibited, such as feeding cups, a hypodermic syringe and items of uniform. The hospital’s role in the training of medical students is also covered.

The museum overlooks the famous 18th century square designed by James Gibbs. Two vast and spectacular paintings by William Hogarth are also visible from the museum.

The museum shop sells a range of postcards and publications about the hospital.

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Opening times

The museum is open Tuesday to Friday, 10am-4pm (closed over Christmas and New Year, Easter and public holidays). The museum will also be closed on Wednesday 30 and Thursday 31 July due to conservation work.

The museum is staffed by volunteers and our opening hours may be subject to change at short notice. We recommend that you check opening times before planning a special visit to the Museum by telephoning 020 3465 5798/6798.

Group visits

Small groups are welcome, but please telephone 020 3465 5798 to discuss requirements, as space is limited.

Admission

Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

Disabled access

Wheelchair access by arrangement. Induction loop. Please download our access statement here.

Museum shop

The Museum shop sells a range of postcards and publications.

Location

To find the museum, enter the hospital through the Henry VIII gate on Giltspur Street. The museum entrance is about 30 metres to your left under the North Wing archway.

Contact us

Archivist: Kate Jarman
Tel: 020 3465 5798

For more information about our museums, download our information leaflet here.

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