St Bartholomew's Hospital, also known simply as Barts and later more formally as The Royal Hospital of St Bartholomew, is a hospital located at Farringdon in the City of London and founded in 1123. It is managed by Barts Health NHS Trust.
Barts was founded in 1123 by Rahere (died 1144, and entombed in the nearby Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great), a favourite courtier of King Henry I. The Dissolution of the Monasteries did not affect the running of Barts as a hospital, but left it in a precarious position by removing its income. It was refounded by King Henry VIII in December 1546, on the signing of an agreement granting the hospital to the Corporation of London.
The hospital became legally styled as the "House of the Poore in Farringdon in the suburbs of the City of London of Henry VIII's Foundation", although the title was never used by the general public. The first Superintendent of the hospital was Thomas Vicary, sergeant-surgeon to King Henry, and an early writer on anatomy. It was here that William Harvey conducted his research on the circulatory system in the 17th century, Percivall Pott and John Abernethy developed important principles of modern surgery in the 18th century, and Mrs Bedford Fenwick worked to advance the nursing profession in the late 19th century.
In 1839 to 1872, the mortality reports show that surgical trauma and postoperative infection were the greatest causes of death. Tuberculosis, however, remained the most fatal nontraumatic cause of death. Nurses were expected to work 12 hours a day, and sometimes fourteen, with meal breaks in 1890. They had two weeks annual holiday. Upon the creation of the National Health Service in 1948, it officially became known as St Bartholomew's Hospital.
Barts is the oldest hospital in Britain still providing medical services which occupies the site it was originally built on, and has an important current role as well as a long history and architecturally important buildings. The so-named Henry VIII entrance to the hospital continues to be the main public entrance; and the statue of King Henry VIII above the gate is the only remaining statue of him in London.
Its main square was designed by James Gibbs in the 1730s. Of the four original blocks only three survive; they include the block containing the Great Hall and two flanking blocks that contained wards. The first wing to be built was the North Wing, in 1732, which includes the Great Hall and the Hogarth murals. The South Wing followed in 1740, the West in 1752 and finally the East Wing in 1769. In 1859, a fountain was placed at the square's centre with a small garden.
St Bartholomew's Hospital has existed on the same site since its founding in the 12th century, surviving both the Great Fire of London and the Blitz. Its museum, which is open Tuesdays to Fridays every week, shows how medical care has developed over this time and explains the history of the hospital. Part-way around the exhibition is a door which opens on to the hospital's official entrance hall. On the walls of the staircase are two murals painted by William Hogarth, The Pool of Bethesda (1736) and The Good Samaritan (1737). They can only be seen at close quarters on Friday afternoons. Hogarth was so outraged by the news that the hospital was commissioning art from Italian painters that he insisted on doing these murals free of charge, as a demonstration that English painting was equal to the task. The Pool of Bethesda is of particular medical interest, as it depicts a scene in which Christ cures the sick: display material on the first floor speculates in modern medical terms about the ailments from which Christ's patients in the painting are suffering.