A facelift fit for a king
The grand entrance to St Bartholomew’s Hospital featuring London’s only public statue of King Henry VIII has been painstakingly restored by a team of specialist stonemasons.
The Henry VIII Gatehouse is the oldest entrance to the hospital. It was designed and built in a Baroque style by the Strong family of masons between 1701 and 1702 as a new entrance from West Smithfield at the north end of the site.
The life-size statue by Francis Bird (1761-1731) stands above the archway, reflecting the Tudor King’s influential role in the history of Britain’s oldest hospital.
Henry’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 placed the St Bartholomew’s future in doubt. Following a petition from the citizens of London, he granted the hospital to the City of London in 1546, and, in 1547, shortly before his death, endowed it with property to provide an income.
The restoration project, led by Barts Health NHS Trust, took many months to complete and also involved repairs to the stonework of the building, to the clock face and the two figures symbolising lameness and disease.
Earlier this year, Barts Heritage secured funding to restore another of the hospital’s listed buildings – the North Wing featuring the Great Hall and staircase painted by William Hogarth, with work expected to begin this summer.
St Bartholomew’s Hospital chief executive said: “Our grand Gatehouse has been welcoming visitors to St Bartholomew’s for over 300 years and I’m delighted that we have secured its future. To do so in our 900th year makes the restoration project even more special.”
2023 is the 900th anniversary of St Bartholomew’s Hospital. To find out more about our Barts900 campaign and join our celebrations visit Barts900.org.
The Gatehouse restoration project was supported by PAYE Stone and Giles Quarme Architects. Pictures: King Henry VIII statue; a stonemason at work; the clock face and, lastly, the Gatehouse before the restoration - all courtesy of Matthew Andrews.