Bradshaw’s Hand Book to London, The South, St Thomas’ Hospital (no.80)

‘..St Thomas’s Hospital, originally founded as an Almonry in 1213 by the Prior of Bermondsey and opened as an hospital in 1552..’. The hospital was started in association with the Priory of St Mary Overie in 1106 and named after St Thomas à Becket. The Monastery was closed during the Dissolution but the hospital reopened in 1551 through the intervention of the City of London and a Charter from the King, Edward VI, in 1551-52.

By the end of the 17C the buildings were decaying. Three wards and the church were rebuilt at the end of the 17C by Sir Robert Claytona wealthy businessman and Lord Mayor of London, St Thomas’s Hospital, and a further three wards were rebuilt and named after Guy, today’s Guy’s Hospital.

Old St. Thomas's Hospital, Southwark: the entrance courtyard; 17C (Wellcome Library)
Old St. Thomas’s Hospital, Southwark: the entrance courtyard; 17C (Wellcome Library)
St Thomas Hospital, 1850
St Thomas Hospital, 1850

There are still some reminders of Old St Thomas Hospital at London Bridge: St Thomas Church (1702-03) was built at the Chapter House for the Cathedral, but is now offices, with a operating theatre museum (expensive at £6/head), a row of Georgian houses, and the Women’s Ward from 1842 (now a Post Office).

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Old St Thomas Hospital was moved from the London Bridge site in 1862 when the land was bought by the South Eastern Railway Company for the expansion of the railway into Cannon Street station. The decision to rebuild in a new area was on the advice of Florence Nightingale, who established a nursing school in the hospital. The new site was opposite the Houses of Parliament in an area known as Stangatea muddy area with dank tenements. It was a major project for which land had to be reclaimed and the embankment built. (History and details here.) Some of the Victorian Rooms are for hire – the Great Hall and Committee Room.

Cruchley's Map of 1827 (Mapco)
Cruchley’s Map of 1827 (Mapco)
St Thomas' Hospital, after 1862
St Thomas’ Hospital, after 1862
St Thomas' Hospital buildings overlooking the Thames
St Thomas’ Hospital buildings overlooking the Thames
St Thomas Hospital, Great Hall and Committee Room
St Thomas Hospital, Great Hall and Committee Room (from Hospital Brochure)

There are reminders of the history of the hospital: Sir Robert Clayton‘s statue, 1701-02, by Grinling Gibbons, and a ragged statue of Edward VI (the central figure on the gateway to the old hospital) awkwardly placed at the South Wing entrance. The statues of three of the four cripples which came from the old hospital are apparently on the first floor of the North Wing, but I didn’t feel able to wander about the building. They were carved by Thomas Cartwright, the Master of the Mason’s Company.

Sir Robert Clayton by Grinling Gibbons
Sir Robert Clayton by Grinling Gibbons

Today Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospitals are jointly administered through the NHS and form the King’s College London School of Medicine and the Hospital continues to renew itself.

St Thomas Hospital plan

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You may be interested in
St Thomas’s Hospital, 1871
Sir Robert Clayton – very good post
A history of the Hospital
An interesting article on a visit to St Thomas’ Hospital
Images and history, St Thomas’ Hospital
Thomas Cartwright

4 Responses

  1. Matt Harvey

    Hello Candy,
    all FOUR of the cripples statues are on display in the hospital, although they can be a bit hard to find. The Gibbons statue has allso been given a clean and looks all the better for it since your visit.

    • Candy Blackham

      Ah, I would like to see the statues – any guidance? And I will revisit the Gibbons statue and rephotograph – thank you, and thank you for visiting

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