St Bartholomew’s Hospital, commonly known as Barts, is a teaching hospital located in the City of London. It was founded in 1123 and is currently run by Barts Health NHS Trust. Because of it’s age and location there are few very interesting sites to tell you about .
First Public Drinking Fountain
It wasn’t until 1859 that free, public drinking water became a “thing.”
That’s when The Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association was established in London. Before its inception, private water companies monopolized the precious liquid, rarely providing enough of it, and what they did provide was rarely drinkable.
Philanthropist Samuel Gurney heard the call, and built the first fountain on Holborn Hill, a simple granite basin attached to the gates of St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church.
Well, the fountain and its refreshing purpose became instantly popular, and soon 7,000 people were stopping by for a drink every day.
The Gurney’s original fountain includes two cups chained for drinking.
It was moved from the gates of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church in 1867 when the Holborn Viaduct was built, but reinstated in 1913 where it remains to this day.
Golden Boy on Pye Corner
The Golden Boy statue is located on the approximate spot where the Great Fire of London was eventually extinguished, but not before laying to waste approximately 70,000 of the 80,000 homes inside the old City of London proper. At first, the Great Fire was blamed on the Catholics as a Papist plot to destroy the city.
But the strange Golden Boy, found a 20 minute walk away to the west, lays the blame for the Great Fire somewhere else entirely. Underneath the portly two-foot golden statue is the inscription, “This Boy is in Memory Put up for the late FIRE of LONDON Occasion’d by the Sin of Gluttony.” Presumably from the point of view of the statue’s creator, the Great Fire was caused by Londoners eating too many pies.
Underneath the tubby Golden Boy the inscription continues, “the Boy was made prodigiously fat to enforce the moral. The text describes him as the “Boy at Pye Corner.” This is thought to refer not to a prior street name, but to a long forgotten pub which stood on the corner, possibly called The Magpie.
William Wallace Memorial
Situated on the outer wall of St. Bartholomew Hospital in Smithfield is a memorial to Sir William Wallace, who was executed nearby on August 23, 1305. Wallace was a Scottish knight who became one of the main leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence, most famously portrayed by Mel Gibson in the film “Braveheart.”
Wallace was tried in Westminster Hall. He was charged with treason, to which he responded that he could not be guilty, for he had never sworn fealty to Edward I. Nevertheless, he was sentenced to the traitor’s death, one of the most vicious punishments devised during the medieval era.
Legend has it that Wallace remained silent and stoic throughout the ordeal .
Henry VIII Gatehouse Statue
The historic Royal Hospital of St Bartholomew functioned in conjunction with the nearby Priory of St Bartholomew, which was closed in the 1530s when King Henry was on his quest to dissolve all priories and monasteries in the city. The hospital, too, was in imminent danger of being shut down, when petitions were sent to the king pleading for it to be left alone.
It took some time, but the monarch finally succumbed and in 1546 granted the hospital to the city of London, and it continued to serve the poor and needy. To thank him for this generous gesture, the hospital authorities decided to install a statue of the king on their northern gatehouse when they were rebuilding it… more than 150 years later.
The statue of the king, dazzling in his trademark clothes, was completed in 1702, and still exists. It is the only public statue of King Henry VIII in London. Standing right above the hospital’s main entrance, the monarch is easy to miss if you are not looking.
St. Bartholomew’s Gatehouse
Standing proudly at the entrance to one of the oldest churches in the City lies St Bartholomew’s gatehouse, a rare survivor of Tudor London.
The church that the gatehouse protects, St Bartholomew-the-Great, was founded in 1123 as an Augustinian priory. Although remaining relatively unscathed for the first few centuries of its existence, the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 saw a substantial amount of the building destroyed, including the nave.
Some fifty years later in 1595 a local resident seized the opportunity to build a new residence atop the remains of the nave’s southern doorway .
Although the residence was relatively modest by Tudor standards, what it lacked in grandeur it more than made up for in location and was – quite miraculously – spared from the Great Fire of London in 1666 by the huge walls of the neighbouring priory.
William Wallace was hanged, drawn and quartered within 100 metres of the site of the gatehouse.
On this map you can see the location of the Fountain , but if you continue to walk on Giltspur St you’ll see the other sites .