St Bartholomew’s Hospital Museum


North Wing, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, West Smithfield, EC1A 7BE


020-3465 5798



Opening times:

Tues–Fri 10:00–16:00

How to get there:

Tube: St Paul’s/Barbican

Entry fee:


Additional information:

Café (in hospital) and small bookshop

St Bartholomew’s Hospital, one of London’s major hospitals, was founded in 1123, with the Priory of St Bartholomew, by Rahere, a former courtier of Henry I. St Bartholomew appeared to him in a vision, demanding the establishment of a hospital for the poor and sick. The hospital’s small museum tells the history of this ancient charitable and medical institution, from the 12th century to the present day. Entry is through the Henry VIII gate, which leads to the hospital’s main square, built in the 18th century by James Gibbs, whose designs replaced most of the medieval architecture. The museum is under the north wing archway. On show is Rahere’s 1137 grant, an ancient document which has been at the Hospital without interruption, except perhaps at the time of the 1666 Great Fire. There are also a magnificent 1546 charter which refounded the Hospital following the dissolution of the Priory, with Henry VIII’s Great Seal; displays relating to William Harvey, the famous discoverer of the circulation of the blood, who was physician to Barts (as the hospital is popularly known) from 1609–43; and historic surgical, medical and apothecary’s equipment.

The museum’s other magnificent attraction is Gibbs’s 1730–32 North Wing, with its grand staircase leading to the vast Great Hall, the highly decorated, official and ceremonial rooms of the hospital. The staircase is decorated with large biblical New Testament scenes by William Hogarth, The Pool of Bethesda and the Good Samaritan. Hogarth carried out the work for free, and was elected a governor of the hospital in return. He wrested the commission from the Venetian artist Jacopo Amigoni (who was instrumental in persuading Canaletto to visit London) in 1734. Beyond charitable philanthropy and the desire to be a hospital governor, Hogarth had several reasons for wanting the project: Barts was personal to him, since he was born in the area; he could avenge his late father-in-law Sir James Thornhill’s humiliation at having had his great Baroque works at Moor Park replaced with those of Amigoni; he could champion the work of the British School; and he could establish himself as a serious, large-scale history painter. Hogarth himself recognised the ambitious challenge he had set himself of painting figures ‘seven foot tall’. In April 1736 the Pool of Bethesda was complete, and the Good Samaritan the following year, by July when the scaffolding was taken down. The governors thanked Hogarth for his pictures ‘which illustrate the Charity extended to the Poor, Sick and Lame of this Hospital’, which quickly became one of the sights of London. Several elements of Hogarth’s dignified scenes draw on Raphael’s ‘Acts of the Apostles’ cartoons, then at Hampton Court, now at the V&A, regarded at the time as the high point of artistic excellence. The figure of Christ, for example, is based on Raphael’s Feed My Sheep. Hogarth had also carefully observed the patients at Barts for the sick being cured by Christ (an infant with rickets, a man with gout, and an emaciated old woman). The landscape background is attributed to Hogarth’s fellow artist and friend George Lambert; the scenes are set within feigned Rococo plasterwork, executed by a Mr Richards; and below are grisaille scenes showing Rahere’s vision and establishment of the hospital, and a sick man being carried into the hospital on a stretcher.

  • 0 Comment(s)

Your comment

Notify me when someone adds another comment to this post



Details below are taken from our Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London.  This is a 2005 title, here generally updated for website address and opening times, with useful comments from some of the museums themselves.  More recent information is given in Emily Barber's magisterial new Blue Guide London, "Exceptional update to a classic and useful guide to this amazing city" (Amazon reader review).

FULL LISTING of CURRENT EXHIBITIONS in London from Apollo Magazine »

Emily Barber recommends five major London museums »

Please do share your comments and updates with us via the form below the entry for each museum.


National Maritime Museum
Wimbledon Windmill Museum
Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
2 Willow Road (National Trust)
William Morris Gallery
Whitechapel Gallery
Westminster Abbey Museum
Wesley's Chapel
Wellington Arch (English Heritage)
Wallace Collection
Victoria & Albert Museum
Tower Bridge Exhibition
Tower of London (Historic Royal Palaces)
Tate Modern
Tate Britain
Sutton House (National Trust)
Spencer House
Southside House
South London Art Gallery
The Courtauld Institute of Art (Somerset House)
Sir John Soane's Museum
Shakespeare’s Globe
Serpentine Gallery
Science Museum
St Bride’s Crypt Museum
St Bartholomew’s Hospital Museum
Saatchi Gallery
Royal Society of Arts
The Royal Mews
Royal London Hospital Museum
The Faraday Museum
Royal Hospital Chelsea
RCM Museum of Music
Royal Academy of Music Museum
Royal Academy of Arts
Red House (National Trust)
Ranger’s House (English Heritage)
Ragged School Museum
The Queen’s Gallery
Prince Henry’s Room
The Photographers’ Gallery
Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
Osterley Park (National Trust)
Orleans House Gallery
Old Operating Theatre, Museum and Herb Garret
Natural History Museum
National Portrait Gallery
National Gallery
National Army Museum
Musical Museum
World Rugby Museum
Museum of the Order of St John
Museum No. 1 (Royal Botanic Gardens)
Museum of London
Garden Museum
Museum in Docklands (Museum of London)
The Royal Observatory
The Queen's House
Old Royal Naval College
Marianne North Gallery (Royal Botanic Gardens)
Marble Hill House (English Heritage)
Mall Galleries
Lord’s Tour and MCC Museum
London Transport Museum
London Fire Brigade Museum
London Canal Museum
18 Stafford Terrace – The Sambourne Family Home
Library and Museum of Freemasonry
Leighton House
Kingston Museum
Kew Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
London Museum of Water & Steam
Kenwood House (English Heritage)
Kensington Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
Keats House
Jewish Museum
Jewel Tower (English Heritage)
Jerwood Space
Imperial War Museum
ICA Institute of Contemporary Arts
Hunterian Museum
Horniman Museum
HMS Belfast (Imperial War Museum)
Hayward Gallery
Handel House Museum
Hampton Court Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
Ham House (National Trust)
Guildhall Art Gallery
Guards Museum
Grant Museum of Zoology & Comparative Anatomy
Geffrye Museum of the Home
Fulham Palace
Freud Museum
Foundling Museum
Forty Hall & Estate
Florence Nightingale Museum
Firepower: The Royal Artillery Museum
Fenton House (National Trust)
Fashion and Textile Museum
Fan Museum
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
Eltham Palace (English Heritage)
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Dr Johnson’s House
Dennis Severs' House
Danson House
Cutty Sark
Contemporary Applied Arts
Chiswick House (English Heritage)
Chelsea Physic Garden
Chartered Insurance Institute Museum
Charles Dickens Museum
Carlyle’s House (National Trust)
Camden Arts Centre
Cabinet War Rooms & Churchill Museum (Imperial War Museum)
Burgh House - The Hampstead Museum
Buckingham Palace
Brunel Engine House
Brunei Gallery SOAS
British Optical Association Museum
The British Museum
The British Library
Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee
Black Cultural Archives
Museum of Childhood (Victoria & Albert Museum)
Bethlem Museum of the Mind
Benjamin Franklin House
Ben Uri Gallery - The London Jewish Museum of Art
Barbican Art Gallery
Banqueting House (Historic Royal Palaces)
Bankside Gallery
Bank of England Museum
All Hallows Undercroft Museum
Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum




Most visited

Hampton Court Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
17750 times viewed
Museum of London
12145 times viewed
Geffrye Museum of the Home
8830 times viewed
Southside House
8039 times viewed
Lord’s Tour and MCC Museum
7967 times viewed
The British Museum
7359 times viewed
The Royal Observatory
7048 times viewed
Sir John Soane's Museum
7042 times viewed
National Gallery
6739 times viewed
Victoria & Albert Museum
6629 times viewed
follow us in feedly