Britain’s oldest working hospital St Bartholomew’s celebrates 900 years

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The central London hospital, which was founded in 1123, has survived the Reformation, Great Plague, the Great Fire of London and two World Wars, making it one of the oldest in the world.

St Bartholomew’s Hospital, the UK’s oldest working hospital, today (March 25) celebrates its 900th anniversary.

This milestone happens in the same year as the National Health Service (NHS) turns 75 years old.

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The central London hospital, which was founded in 1123, has survived the Reformation, Great Plague, the Great Fire of London and two World Wars, making it one of the oldest in the world.

St Bartholomew’s hospital is celebrating its 900 year anniversary. Credit: Emily HuntingfordSt Bartholomew’s hospital is celebrating its 900 year anniversary. Credit: Emily Huntingford
St Bartholomew’s hospital is celebrating its 900 year anniversary. Credit: Emily Huntingford | Credit: Emily Huntingford

The hospital has achieved a wide range of significant medical breakthroughs over the years, including:

  • 1628: Physician-in-Charge at Barts and one of the greatest names in medical history, William Harvey was the first to describe correctly and in detail the systemic circulation and how blood is pumped through the body by the heart.
  • 1775: Percival Pott was the first to describe how to treat a bone fracture without the need for amputation.
  • 1834: Sir James Paget, first Warden of the hospital, was the first to advocate removal of the tumour instead of amputation of the limb. Paget’s disease of bone and Paget’s disease of the nipple (a form of breast cancer) are named after him.
  • 1954: Barts becomes the first hospital in the country to offer mega-voltage radiotherapy for cancer patients.
  • 2021: The hospital became the first in the UK to introduce a ground-breaking balloon technology to treat patients with an irregular heart rhythm.

Barts Charity is currently fundraising £30m to fund a new breast cancer centre and a clinical research facility in east London.

In addition, a major restoration – Sharing Historic Barts – will take place to preserve the older parts of the hospital, using funds raised by Barts Heritage.

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Finally, the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great – London’s oldest surviving church, situated in the grounds of the hospital – which was founded at the same time as the hospital in 1123, will be launching new projects to see the Smithfield institution into the future.

Commenting on the anniversary, Professor Charles Knight OBE, CEO of Barts said: “So few things in history last 900 years and we’ve been treating patients here free at the point of care since we were founded by Rahere in 1123.

“We’ve survived plagues, the Great Fire, the Blitz and various attempts to close us including the dissolution of the monasteries and the Tomlinson report but we’ve made it through and now we’re an international centre of excellence for cancer and cardiac and we are really proud of our staff.”

Nickie Aiken MP for Cities of London and Westminster said: "I’m very proud that we have one of the world’s oldest and ground-breaking hospitals in the City of London.

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“St Barts is a very special place — the breakthroughs and innovation from this institution over the centuries have significantly advanced medical treatment and will have literally saved countless lives across the world.”

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