St Bartholomew's Hospital

St Bartholomew's, often known simply as Bart's, is the oldest hospital in all of Europe.

TravelCurious Tip

There is an excellent seven-minute film shown in the museum which details some of the more colourful episodes of Barts’ history.

Founded in 1123 during the reign of King Henry I, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital – usually known as Barts – is the oldest hospital in Europe. It survived a precarious financial position during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, until Henry VIII refounded it in 1547, endowing it with properties that would secure its income in the future. In gratitude, the grandest gate to the hospital was named in his honour, and the Henry VIII entrance continues to serve as its main entrance. The statue of the king just above the gate is the only remaining one of him in London.

Commuter Care

Barts was nearly closed in 1993, after an inquiry concluded that there were too many hospitals in Central London, an area where relatively few people actually live. The planned closure was met with fierce resistance, and ultimately Barts was kept open on the grounds that it serves the City’s daily commuting workforce of 300,000 people.

Dr. Watson, I Presume

If you find yourself in the area, be sure to stop in at the Barts Museum, which houses a well put-together historical narrative of the hospital. Here you can learn about the pioneering work on surgical procedures carried out by Percivall Pott and John Abernethy, the thrusting into the mainstream of the nursing profession by Mrs Bedford Fenwick, and the various famous alumni who have trained here. Included among the latter (sort of) is Dr. John Watson – Barts was the setting for his very first meeting with Sherlock Holmes.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in London
Museum of London
A great museum dedicated to the history and evolution of London.
Smithfields Market
The largest meat market in the UK today, Smithfields has been in use since Medieval times.
St Paul's Cathedral
The seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London.
Hatton Gardens
World Famous street in London for buying and trading Diamonds and Bespoke Jewellery
London Diamond Bourse
The only internationally recognised diamond bourse in the UK, making it an epicentre for the diamond trade around the British Isles and beyond.
St John Bread and Wine
Now a bustling bakery, dining room and offering a number of delicious wines St John Bread and Wine provides a menu that changes daily.

Related Tours

Private Historical Pubs and Rebels Tour
Explore the dark and chequered history of Smithfield, home to London’s central meat market.

  • Learn about the area’s gruesome history and enjoy a pint of local brew at the oldest drinking holes around.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of Dickens and Sherlock Holmes with a wander around the grounds of the historic St Barts, the oldest hospital in Europe.
  • Uncover the most unlikely stories of one of London’s most influential areas with your expert guide.
  • Learn about the role of traditional watering holes in the area’s history and take the chance to cultivate your palate: from stout, to cider, to traditional British ales.

Exploring London’s Bloody Past

Looking to quench your thirst whilst taking in London’s bloody past? In this fantastic pub tour you will have the pleasure of visiting some of the most historic drinking spots in the City of London. Enjoy some excellent locally-brewed craft beer whilst exploring the dark and chequered history of the Smithfield area. The central meat market for London, Smithfields has been in continuous operation for more than 800 years. Undoubtedly the most gruesome location in the capital, this ancient marketplace has long been a site of gory traditions: from the cattle that were slaughtered in its streets to the presence of countless heretic  witches, public executions (of the likes of William "Braveheart" Wallace) and the slaying of  Wat Tyler during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Murder and mystery define the district, which is often referenced by London’s literary legends – the nearby St Bartholomew, more commonly known as St. Barts, is where Sherlock Holmes first meets Dr. Watson. Once described by Dickens in Oliver Twist as “the armpit of London, where animal excrement and entrails created a sea of filth”,  today Smithfield thankfully operates in beautiful ornate Victorian halls - no entrails in sight!

Hidden Smithfield

As you venture through these labyrinthine streets with your expert local guide, you will be going off the beaten track, journeying back in time as you explore some of Smithfield’s’ most interesting pubs and breweries. One establishment you might venture into, The Hand and Shears, dates as far back as the Middle Ages – the Lord Mayor used to open the famed St.Bartholomew's fair from outside it doors. Another, the Viaduct Tavern, lies opposite the notorious old Newgate Prison. Its cellars are rumoured to have once been cells, though you’d never guess as you sit comfortably inside this former ‘Gin Palace’, which boasts a beautiful Victorian interior of ornate wooden screens and engraved glass panels.   As you make yourself at home in these traditional watering holes, your guide will regale you with tales of the city, whilst you sample a variety of authentic British ales, stouts and ciders.


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