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At Barts’ Great Hall

January 22, 2020
by the gentle author

Yesterday’s clear January sunshine offered the ideal light for a visit to the Great Hall at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in Smithfield. This North Wing was the first part rebuilt by James Gibbs in his modernisation of the medieval hospital between 1738 and 1769 which delivered the elegantly-proportioned quadrangle at the heart of the complex. Here in the Great Hall three thousand names are recorded of the benefactors who made this possible.

Now an independent charity, Barts Heritage, has been formed to care for the Great Hall and the Hogarth Staircase, and renovate them in time for the nine hundredth anniversary of the hospital in 2023. I was privileged to have these magnificent airy chambers to myself yesterday and record the charismatic patina in advance of their forthcoming restoration.

The staircase painted with murals by William Hogarth

John Soane is recorded among the three thousand names of benefactors

Portrait of St Bartholomew over the fireplace

Looking out onto James Gibbs’ courtyard

Napkins and tablecloths for fancy dinners

The North Wing at St Bartholomew’s Hospital

Remember the Poor’s Box

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William Hogarth at St Bartholomew’s Hospital

13 Responses leave one →
  1. January 22, 2020

    That ceiling…oh my word! How beautiful is that. A photographic element that the GA uses that I love to bits is the views out of the windows (in this case looking out at James Gibbs courtyard) .Beautifully atmospheric.

  2. January 22, 2020

    Magnificent! And how wonderful that so much of the church built by the monk Rahere 900 years ago still stands just a few yards’ away. How did both Adolf and the Planners miss it?

  3. Alex Knisely permalink
    January 22, 2020

    Fifty-two pounds, ten shillings — “Fifty pounds, Sir, to the hospital — and make them guineas!”

  4. January 22, 2020

    I worked at Bart’s in the early 1970s and I find this blog so interesting…..especially to see they will be celebrating the 900th anniversary of the hospital. Whilst I worked there the hospital celebrated the 850th anniversary and we had a Gala Ball amongst the meat hooks of Smithfield Meat Market dancing to Syd Lawrence Orchestra (probably long gone now) and George Melly. I’m glad the Great Hall has been saved amidst the refurbishment going on at the hospital.

    Brings back good memories and, phew, has fifty years nearly passed me by?!

  5. Greg Tingey permalink
    January 22, 2020

    Recommended reading: “The Tree of Justice” from “Rewards & Fairies” by Kipling.
    Link here

  6. Jill Wilson permalink
    January 22, 2020

    Wow! what a place – and great photos…

    So glad it has survived and is going to be cared for and renovated (and not facaded!!)

  7. January 22, 2020

    Thank you for these photographs GA, Barts Hospital has a place in my heart.
    Bittersweet memories of sitting by the fountain in the beautiful James Gibbs’ courtyard with my brother during his illness and treatment there.

  8. January 22, 2020

    That ceiling is So Amazingly Beautiful!! ????????

  9. Sir Marcus Setchell permalink
    January 22, 2020

    Woweeee! I’ve been in and out of Gibbs’ Square and the Great Hall more days than not for the last 50+ years, and these phenomenal images throw fresh light and excitement. Thank you for doing this ……. and bring it on for restoration and celebration in 2023.

  10. Sue Mayer permalink
    January 22, 2020

    This is a magnificent hall. We are lucky to have it still standing.

    I like the “A Patient in Darkers Ward” on the Benefactions 1806 board.

  11. January 22, 2020

    Some interesting names among the donors – Soane and Angerstein, to say nothing of ‘A patient in Darker’s Ward’ who contributed £5.

  12. January 22, 2020

    Stunning, I bet the wards were not that lovely!

  13. Ian Silverton permalink
    January 22, 2020

    Great pictures GA, remember driving yes driving and parking through the gates in North Wing, to visit my Father whose bed was bought outside so he could see his last English Summer and what a summer it was massive heat wave,pubs even run out of beer 1976 he could never get over it being a Publican from East London. Lovely place that by the fountains spent many days sitting there with him and other patients nearing there end in there Ward Beds, not very PC now we bet. Stay safe London.

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