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
Smithfields Market
The largest meat market in the UK today, Smithfields has been in use since Medieval times.
William Wallace Memorial
See the place where Scottish patriot and independence fighter, William Wallace, was executed in 1305.
St Paul's Cathedral
The seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London.
With a past dating back 800 years, this building is a wonderful jumble of architectural styles
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.
Museum of London
A great museum dedicated to the history and evolution of London.

Related Tours

London's Historic Pubs & Rebels: Private Half-Day Walking Tour

Enjoy a pub tour of some of the oldest pubs and taverns in London's vibrant East End, see where Handel and Hogarth liked to drink, while also learning about the bloodcurdling history of Smithfield, and the fate of miscreants, drunks and political rebels.

On your private pub tour you will:

  • Walk through Smithfield Market, the famous old meat market of the East End, as you hear about its lengthy, gritty and fascinating history;
  • See where Sir William Wallace was killed, and learn of his courageous life fighting for Scottish Independence (you can debate the accuracies of the film with your guide!);
  • Enjoy a drink on us at two different traditional pubs - two pints or two glasses of wine are included on your tour;
  • Hear about the history of the buildings, some of which date back to the Middle Ages, like the Hand and Shears Pub;
  • Learn about the distillery process and take the chance to cultivate your own palate: will it be a stout, cider or a traditional British ale?;
  • Learn about the local area’s gruesome history, where tales of drunkards and cadavers, doctors and anatomists, and unwary pub-goers overlap; 
  • Walk by St Bartholomew’s Hospital (St. Bart’s), the oldest in Europe, famous for its work on anatomy…and because of Charles Dickens, and as the place where the iconic fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes first meets Dr Watson
  • Wander into traditional pubs like The Viaduct Tavern and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (frequented by Dr Johnson) just off Fleet Street and enjoy their aged, relaxing ambience.

Looking to quench your thirst whilst taking in London’s past? On this fantastic 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 Sir 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 Hospital, 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!

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 its 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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