The campaign to celebrate 900 years of St Bartholomew’s Hospital and church has received a major boost with the news that the City of London Corporation has become an official partner.
St Bartholomew’s is the oldest hospital in the country still providing care on its original site. It was founded with the Priory of St Bartholomew in 1123 by Rahere, a courtier of Henry I, to look after the sick people of Smithfield.
To mark this unique milestone, two ambitious fundraising projects have been launched by Barts Health and Barts Charity which aim to reduce health inequalities in east London. Proposals include a new centre of excellence for breast cancer surgery at St Bartholomew’s Hospital and a new clinical research facility (CRF) based at The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel.
Barts Heritage, a charity established to restore the iconic buildings at the heart of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, is fundraising to restore the Grade I listed North Wing, with its spectacular Great Hall and staircase painted by William Hogarth, and the neighbouring Henry VIII Gatehouse. Led by chief executive Will Palin, it plans to bring the buildings back into public use accompanied by a pioneering health and heritage programme to benefit NHS staff, patients and visitors.
The Parish which incorporates St Bartholomew the Great – London’s oldest parish church – and St Bartholomew the Less – the only parish church based in and serving a UK hospital – is also raising money to enhance its historic spaces and reconnect with its ancient medical roots. Plans include an education centre based in the Great’s ancient triforium, a musical endowment, mental health hub and the creation of a monastic garden to serve as a place of calm in the heart of the City.
Support for the campaign is the latest chapter in a centuries-long partnership between the City and the hospital. The Priory of St Bartholomew was closed as part of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, leading to uncertainty over the hospital’s future. Following a petition from the citizens of London, the King granted the hospital to the City in 1546 and, shortly before his death in 1547, he endowed it with property to provide an income.
Last year, five members of staff from St Bartholomew’s Hospital received the Freedom of the City of London as a thank you for their efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic.
St Bartholomew’s Hospital chief executive Professor Charles Knight OBE said: “Support from the City of London is a huge part of the 'Barts' story, from the petitions made by citizens which led to the re-foundation of the hospital under Henry VIII to more recently when the community rallied around NHS staff during the Covid-19 crisis. We are enormously grateful to the Corporation and proud to have this endorsement for the campaign.”
Policy Chair at the City of London Corporation Catherine McGuinness said: "Our partnership with St Bartholomew’s Hospital signifies the City’s support for the remarkable work of this institution, which will celebrate 900 years of caring for people in 2023.
"As custodians of the Square Mile, we share the nation’s gratitude for those who work so tirelessly, and with such dedication, for the NHS. They are a lifeline for the public, and never more so than in recent months, as they have dealt so admirably with the extraordinary challenges presented by Covid-19."
The Barts900 campaign was launched in May this year with a message of support from HRH the Prince of Wales who is also patron of Barts Heritage. It will include a programme of celebratory events taking place in 2023, the anniversary year.
Picture courtesy of Matthew Andrews and Barts Heritage.