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Monday, 25 June 2012


On the edge of the City is St. Bartholomew's Hospital - more popularly known as Barts - it's home to a number of plaques and indeed to a number of things - Monty Python's Graham Chapman and W.G. Grace, the good doctor. It was founded as a priory in 1123 by Rahere, a courtier to Henry I in thanks for surviving an illness. It was refounded after the little catholic kerfuffle by Henry VIII in 1546 and it's the oldest hospital in Britain still on its original site - it was right on the dge of the city and overlooked Smithfield site of the execution of William Wallace and Wat Tyler leader of the Peasant's Revolt in 1381 not to mention a plethora of religious malcontents of various stripes who rather unwisely decided that they wanted to go the opposite way to the monarch of the time. Smithfield was home for 700 years to Bartholomew Fair it started as a trade fair that took place within the Liberty of St. Bartholomew the Great and ended in 1855 as it was felt it encouraged public debauchery and public disorder. Ma and I visited it a couple of years ago as part of the open House programme which was quite special - Hogarth painted a couple of major murials The Pool of Bethesda (1736) and The good Samaritan (1737)the Pool of Bethesda is rather interesting in that some of the sick that Christ is healing were based on patients at the hospital - and various of them have been the point of medical authorities speculating on the real disedases portayed. The Great Hall is a wonderful spce - the walls are covered with the lists of the donations made by the great and the good over the centuries. I havent yet made it to the Barts museum - due in no small part to the fact that its only open during the week. Maybe another time - As part of the Open House project we also got to visit St. Bartholomew the Less which actually lies within the precincts of the hospital - a rather lovely remnant of mediaeval London - it was built in 1184, in 1793 George Dance the Younger created a new octagonal interior. Its also the scene of the first meeting between Holmes and Watson in A Study in Scarlet and was the scene of the denoument of the wonderful Sherlock --- hopefully to return to our screens soon.

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