This address is printed in accordance with the wish of many members of
the Abernethian Society, before whom it was delivered at the first
meeting of the Session 1885-1886.
Since its delivery, Dr. Norman Moore has published in the 21st. vol. of
our Hospital Reports the complete text of the MS. Life of Rahere, from
which I have made many extracts; and I am indebted to his kindness, in
permitting me to look at the proof sheets, for an opportunity of
correcting several verbal misprints which were present in the previous
editions from which I had taken my quotations.
A few additions have been made in the account of the Second Foundation.
The Frontispiece is a reproduction of a portion of an engraving
contained in the Vetusta
of the Society of Antiquaries.
Note to the Reader
I (tbird) have transcribed the manuscript exactly as published. The King & Barnard translation
published in Webb's Records
more modern English than Moore's translation; I recommend a comparison
in case what follows is confusing or apparently non-sensical.
The Two Foundations. I.
St. Bartholomew's Hospital was founded more than seven centuries ago by
Rayer (commonly called Rahere, from the Latin Raherus
Thus we may always boast of being members of the oldest Hospital in
London, and claim whatever honour and glory may belong to that
distinction; not forgetting, however, that with such honour comes also
the greater responsibility -- the responsibility of Inheritance.
Among the manuscripts preserved in the British Museum is one devoted
almost entirely to the life and acts of the founder of St.
It was written, a few years after Rahere's death, by one of the monks
of the Priory of St. Bartholomew the Great, the foundation of which may
be considered practically identical with that of St. Bartholomew's
Hospital, which at first formed a part of it.
The author begins --
"For as mooche that the meritory and notable operacyons of famose goode
and and devoute faders yn God shojuld be remembred, for instruction of
aftercumers to theyr consolacion and encres of devotion; thys abbrevyat
Tretesse shal compendiously expresse and declare the wondreful, and, of
celestial concel, gracious fundacion of oure hoely placys, callyd the
Priory of Seynt Bartholomew yn Smythfyld, and of the hospital of olde
tyme longyng to the same; with other notabilities expediently to be
knowny; and most specially the gloriouse and excellent myracles wroghte
withyn them, by the intercessions, suffragys, and merytys of the
forsayd benygne, feythful, and blessid of God apostyl Sanct Bartholomy,
ynto the laude of Almyghty God, and agnicion of his infinite power.
Ffyrst shal be shewyd who was ffundre of owere hoely places, and howh,
by grace, he was ffyrst pryor of owre priory; and by howh longe tyme
that he contynued yn the same."
"And yn what ordir he sette the fundament of this temple yn fewe wordys
lette us shewe, as they testified to us that fey nym, herd hym, and
were presente yn his werkys and dedis; of the whiche sume have take
ther slepe yn Cryiste, and some of them be zitte alyve, and wytnesseth
of that that we shal after say." [Malcolm's Londinium Redivivum,
vol. i. p. 266.]
[In my quotations from the Life of Rahere I have used, for the most
part, a modernised version as to spelling, and have followed Mr.
Saunders in his interesting article in "Knight's London" in the order
in which the quotations are taken.]
Rahere, continues the author of the old chronicle, was a
"Man sprung and born of low kynage; and when he attained the flower of
youth, he began to haunt the households of noblemen and the palaces of
princes; where under every elbow of them he spread their cushions, with
japes and flatterings delectably anointing their eyes, by this manner
to draw to him their friendships. And still, he was not content with
this, but often haunted the King's palace [Henry I.], and among the
noiseful press of that tumultuous Court informed himself with polity
and cardinal suavity, by the which he might draw to him the hearts of
many a one.
"There, in spectacles, in feasts, in plays, and other courtly mockeries
and trifles intending, he led forth the business of all the day. This
wise to the King and great men, gentle and courteous and known familiar
and fellowly he was."
Rahere is often referred to as the King's minstrel, or even his jester;
but there is no good reason for believing that he ever held any
official position in either capacity. He seems to have been rather the
kind of man who would have been more properly termed the King's
favourite, had his birth been noble or his social position more
assured. As it was, the inferiority of his birth was probably
overlooked for the sake of the brilliancy of his social gifts; although
we may well believe that by those who were jealous of his success he
may have been nicknamed the minstrel or the jester; and the tradition
of his having held some such position at Court may have been thus
Stow says, "Rahere was a pleasant-witted gentleman, and therefore in
his time called the King's minstrel."
But to continue in the words of the old MS. --
"This manner of living he chose in his beginning, and in this excused
his youth. But the inward Seer and Merciful God of all, the which out
of Mary Madalen cast seven fiends, the which to the Fisher gave the
keys of Heaven, mercifully converted this man from the error of his
way, and added to him so many gifts of virtue.
"For why? They that are fonnysch and feeble in the world's reputation,
our Lord chooseth to confound the mighty of the world."
Rahere, repending of his follies and sins, determined to go to the
Court of Rome --
"Coveting in so great a labour to do the worthy fruits of penance."
"Where at the shrines of the slessed apostles Peter and Paul, he
weeping his deeds, prayed to our Lord for remission of them." "And
while he tarried there, in that meanwhile he began to be vexed with
grievous sickness; and his dolours little and little taking their
increase, he drew to the extreme of life; the while dreading within
himself that he had not still for his sins satisfied to God, therefore
he supposed that God took vengeance of him for his sins, amongst
outlandish people, and deemed the last hour of his death drew him nigh.
"This remembering inwardly, he shed out as water his heart in the sight
of God, and all brake out in tears; that he avowed, that if health God
would him grant, that he might return to his country, he would make an
Hospital in recreation of poor men, and to them so there gathered,
necessaries minister after his power.
"And not long after, the benign and merciful Lord, that beheld the
tears of Ezechie the King, the importune prayer of the woman of
Chanane, rewarded with the benefit of his pity; thus likewise
mercifully he beheld this weeping man, and gave him his health,
approved his vow.
"So of his sickness recovered he was; and in short time, whole made,
began homeward to come, his vow to fulfil that he had made.
"When he would perfect his way that he had begun, in a certain night he
saw a vision full of dread and sweetness; when, after the labourous and
sweating that he had by days, his body he with rest would refresh. It
seemed him to be borne up on high of a certain beast, having four feet
and two wings, and set in a high place. And when he from so great a
height would inflect and bow down his eye to the lower part downward,
he beheld an horrible pit, whose horrible beholding impressed in him
great dread and horror; for the deepness of the said pit was deeper
than any man might attain to see; therefore he, (secret knower of his
defaults) deemed himself to slide into that cruel a downcast.
"And therefore, as him seemed inwardly, he fremyshid, and for dread
trembled, and great cries of his mouth proceeded.
"To whom dreading and for dread crying, appeared a certain man
pretending in cheer the majesty of a King, of great beauty and imperial
authority, and his eye on him fastened: 'Oh man,' (he said), 'what and
how much service shouldest thou give to him, that in so great a peril
hath brought help to thee?'
"Anon he answered to this Saint, 'Whatsoever might be of heart and of
might, diligently should I give, in recompense to my deliverer.' Then
said he, 'I am Bartholomew, the apostle of Jesus Christ, that come to
succour thee in thine anguish, and to open to thee the secret mysteries
of Heaven. Know me truly, by the will and commandment of the Holy
Trinity, and the common favour of the celestial Court and Council, to
have chosen a place in the suburbs of London, at Smithfield, where, in
mine name, thou shalt found a Church, and it shall be the house of God;
there shall be the tabernacle of the Lamb, the temple of the Holy
Ghost; this spiritual house Almighty God shall inhabit, and hallow it,
and glorify it. And his eyes shall be open, and his ears intending on
this house night and day; that the asker in it shall receive, the
seeker shall find, and the ringer or knocker shall enter; truly every
soul converted, penitent of his sin, and in this place praying, in
Heaven graciously shall be heard. The seeker with perfect heart (for
whatsoever tribulation) without doubt he shall find help. To them that
with faithful desire knock at the door of the Spouse, assistant Angels
shall open the gates of Heaven, receiving and offering to God the vows
of faithful people. Wherefore thine hands be there comforted in God,
having in him trust; doubt thee nought; only give thy diligence, and my
part shall be to provide necessaries, direct, build and end this work;
and this place, to me accept, with evident tokens and signs, protect
and defend continually it under the shadow of my wings; and therefore
of this work know me the master, and thyself only the minister; use
diligently thy service, and I shal show my lordship.' In these words
the Vision disparyschydde."
Rahere now "came to London," the monk continues --
of his knowledge
and friends with great joy was received; with which also, and with the
barons of London, he spake familiarly of these things that were turned
and stirred in his heart; and of that was done about him in the way, he
told it out; and what should be done of this he counselled of them.
"He took this answer that none of these things might be perfected, but
the King were first counselled; namely since the place, godly to him
shewed, was contained within the King's market." Therefore "in
opportune time, he adressed him to the King." "And nigh him was he in
whose hand it was to what he would the King's heart incline; and
ineffectual these prayers might not be whose author is the apostle;
whose gracious hearer was God. His word, therefore, was pleasant and
acceptable in the King's eye. And when he had praised the good wit of
the man (prudently as he was witty), he granted to the petitioner his
kingly favour, benignly giving his authority to execute his purpose."
omitting of care and diligence, two works of piety began to make; one
for the vow that he had made, another as to him by precept was
enjoined. Therefore the case prosperously succeeded, and after the
apostle's word all necessaries flowed unto the hand. The church he made
of comely stone work, tablewise. And an hospital house a little longer
off from the church by himself he began to edify. The church was
founded (as we have taken of our elders) in the month of March, in the
name of our Lord Jesu Christ, in memory of the most blessed Bartholomew
apostle the year from the Incarnacion of the same Lord our Saviour,
The Hospital was founded at about the same time as the church, the most
probable date of its foundation being 1123.
But, indeed, Rahere was not the first to whom Smithfield had been
pointed out as a place with a great future. King Edward the Confessor
had dreamed a dream concerning it. In the words of the MS. --
when he was in the church of God (replete with maniforld beauty of
virtue, as the book of his gifts declareth), as a religious and full of
the spirite of prophecy, he shone bright, seholding things far off as
they were present, and things to come as they were now existent, with
the eyes of his soul by the Holy Ghost. For he was illumined.
"The which, in a certain night when he was bodily sleeping, his heart
to God waking, he was warned of this place, with an heavenly dream made
to him, that God this place had chosen, his name therein to be put and
set, and holy and worshipful it should be showed to Christian people.
Whereupon this holy King, early arising, came to this place that God
had shewed him; and to them that about him stood, expressed the vision
that night made to him, said before all the people, prophesied this
place to be great before God,
"Whose clear prophecies how they be supported, greatly with the might
of truth, experience hath approved it. And every faithful man may
clearly behold the same."
Three men of Greece also, of noble lineage, who were on pilgrimage and
had entered England,
visit the bodies of
saints there resting," came to London and to Smithfield; "and before
them that there were present and beheld them as simple ydiottys, began
wonderful things to say and prophesy of this place, saying, 'Wonder not
to see us here to worship God, where a full acceptable temple to him
shall be builded; and the fame of this place shall attain from the
spring of the sun to the going down.' "
Rahere set himself no easy task when he determined to build in
this place" [the
MS. continues] "pretended none hope of goodness. Right unclean it was;
and as a marsh, dungy and fenny, with water almost every time
abounding; and that that was eminent above the water, dry, was deputed
and ordained to the jubeit or gallows of thieves, and to the torment of
other that were condemned by judicial authority."
And here we meet with a very remarkable circumstance in the life of
when Rahere had
applied his study to the purgation of this place, and decreed to put
his hand to that holy building, he was not ignorant of Satan's wiles;
for he made and feigned himself unwise; for he was so coacted and
outward pretended the cheer of an idiot, and began a little while to
hide the secretness of his soul. And the more secretly he wrought, the
more wisely he did his work. Truly, in playing unwise, he drew to him
the fellowship of children and servants, assembling himself as one of
them; and with their use and help, stones and other things profitable
to the building lightly he gathered together."
Mr Saunders observes ["Knight's London," vol. ii. p. 37.] -- "Rahere's
object in this conduct was, we presume, to avail himself of a kind of
superstitious reverence that appears to have been not infrequently felt
for persons of this class to which he made it appear that he belonged."
But Rahere used many other means for accomplishing his object, and
especially that of preaching; his manner of preaching being that which
in our own day, as in his, would be likeliest to obtain liberal
contributions. His biographer says --
is this wise he
compassed his sermon, that now he stirred his audience to gladness,
that all the people applauded him, and incontinent anon he professed
sadness, and so now of their sins, that all the people were compelled
unto sighing and weeping. But he truly, in the same cheir and soul
evermore persevering, expressed wholesome doctrine, and after God and
faithful sermon preached."
"His life accorded to his tongue, and his deed approved well his
sermon, and so, in the sacrifice of God, the moweth and bylle of the
turtyll was returnyd to his armepittes, and reclyned unto the wynges,
lest that he, preaching to othir, schulde be fownde reprovable yn
"Of this all men were astonished, both of the novelty of the areysid
frame and of the founder of this new work. Who would trow this place
with so sudden a cleansing to be purged, and there to be set up the
tokens of the cross? And God there to be worshipped where sometime
stood the horrible hanging of thieves; who should not be astonished
there to see constructed and builded honourable buildings of piety that
should be a sure sanctuary to them that fled thereto, where sometime
there was a common officyne of damned people, and a general ordained
for pain of wretches? Who should not marvel there to be haunted the
mystery of our Lord's body and precious blood, where was sometime shed
out the blood of gentyly and heathen people? Whose heart lightly should
take or admit such a man, not product of gentle blood, not greatly
endowed with learning of men or of divine kunnynge, so worshipful and
so great a work prudently to begin, and it begun, to so happy a
progress from day to day to perfect and perform?"
This chapter of the MS. concludes --
ys the change of
the right hande of GOd. O Cryst! these ben thy workys, that of thyn
excellent vertu and synguler pyte makyst of unclene clene, and chesist
the feble of the worlde, to fownde the myghty; and callist them that be
nat as yt were they that been. The whiche Golgotha, the place of open
abbominacion, madist a seyntwary of prayer, and a solempne tokyn or
sygne of devocion."
Several miracles are related as occurring at the period of the building
of the Priory and Hospital; and the fame of these brought many gifts to
this church. When the church was being built a light was seen at
Evensong to play upon it for the space of an hour, then suddenly flash
up into the sky and disappear.
A man who had been paralytic for many years was taken in a basket to
the altar of the new church, and recovered the use of his limbs.
A young man, Osberne by name, whose right hand stuck to his left
shoulder, and whose head stuck to his hand, was also cured at St.
A woman's tongue could not be contained in her mouth. Rahere touched it
with relics and painted it with holy water, and within the same hour it
went back between her teeth.
Many other miracles are related by the good monk; but these will
suffice to show at what an early period of English history St.
Bartholomew's became famous for gifts of healing.
When the Hospital was finished its full staff of officers was composed
of a Master, of eight Brethren, and four Sisters.
The first master was appointed by Rahere himself -- an old man, Alfun
by name, "to whom was," as the MS. states, "sad age, and sadness of
age, with experience of long time."
The other titles of Alfun were Hospitaler or Proctor for tending the
poor. His chief duties consisted in begging provisions and other
necessaries for the Priory and Hospital, these supplementing, without
doubt, in a very useful manner, the gifts that were obtained through
the preaching and the fame of the miracles. In the words of the MS. --
was manner and
custom to this Alfun, with ministers of the church, to compass and go
about the high places of the church, busily to seek and provide
necessaries, to the need of the poor men that lay in the hospital; and
to them that were hired to the making up of the church. And that that
was committed to him, truly to bring home, and to sundry men, as it was
need, for to divide."
Alfun himself was a church-builder, having not long before built the
church of St. Giles, Cripplegate.
Towards the end of his life troubles of a new kind assailed Rahere.
said he was a
deceiver, for case that in the net of the Great Fisher evil fish were
mingled with good. Before the hour of the last diffeverance, his
household people were made his enemies, and so rose against him wicked
men and wickedness laid to himself. Therefore with pricking envy, many
privately, many also openly, against the servant of God ceased not to
grudge, and in derogation to the place and prelate of the same, brought
many slanders with threatenings. The goods that they might they
withdrewe and took away; constrained him with wickedness, made weary
him with injuries, provoked him with despites, beguiled him with
There was even a plot against his life, which, however, failed on
account of the confession of a penitent conspirator.
Rahere came well out of his troubles. For he appealed to the King,
begging that he
open the bosom of his pity to them that were desolate," and "restrain
the barking folly of unfaithful people."
The King thereupon confirmed his previous grant by a charter, which
gave full liberty and great privileges to the Priory and Hospital.
Rahere died, after having been Prior twenty-two years and six months.
In the words of his biographer --
clay house of this
world he forsook, and the house everlasting he entered, that founded
this house, into the laude and honoure of the name of Christ; that in
the house of his father he might be crowned, in his mildness and in his
Rahere was a man, says his biographer,
having cunning of
liberal science, but that that is more eminent than all cunning; for he
was riched in purity of conscience; towards God by devotion; towards
his brethren by humility; towards his enemies by benevolence. And thus
himself he exercised them, patiently suffering; whose proved purity of
soul, bright manners, with honest probity, expert diligence in divine
service, preudent business in temporall ministrations, in him were
greatly to praise and commendable. In feasts he was sober, and namely
the follower of hospitality. Tribulations of wretches, necessities of
the poor people, oportunely admitting, patiently supporting,
competently spendynge. In prosperity not ynprided. In adversity
patient; and whatsoever misfortune came to him, he rested himself under
the shadow of his patron that he worshipped, whom he clipped to him
within the bowel of his soul; in whose help for all perils he was
secure, and preserved.
Thus he, subject to the King of Bliss with all meekness, provided with
all diligence that was necessary to his subjects; and so providing,
increased daily to himself, before God and man, grace; to the place
reverence; to his friends, gladness; to his enemies pain; to his
Different views have been taken of the character of Rahere. It has been
said that what he did in the latter part of his life was as much an
evidence of his cunning and desire of self-advancement as the japes and
flatterings which obtained promotion for him in his yough. Mr. Henry
Morley in his book, "Memoirs of Bartholomew Fair," adopts this view,
and looks upon all the miracles so-called, by means of which offerings
were obtained, as so many pieces of jugglery not far removed from those
which formed a staple part of the entertainment provided in the booths
of the great Fair which was held annually just outside, and indeed
inside, the Priory walls. And of course, if we think of Rahere as a man
of the nineteenth instead of the twelfth century, the accusation would
be sufficiently well founded. A man who now used the word "miracle" as
appropriate to the unglueing of a young man whose left hand stuck to
his right shoulder would deserve no better title than that of an
impostor. But we cannot justly estimate the character of Rahere on such
grounds as these. We may as well complain of his not speaking modern
English. Human nature remains the same in all the times about which we
have any record. And it is from this fact, as well as from the details
provided by the monk of St. Bartholomew's Priory, that we are able to
realise the character of Rahere. It is not difficult to imagine the man
who, after living a life of gaiety and fashion, the companion and
flatterer of the rich and noble, became conscious of the true value of
the wares which were bought and sold in the Vanity Fair in which he
dwelt. Weary of the life he was leading, and perhaps as much disgusted
by the very success of his worldly career as by anything else, he
determines to do all in his power to make amends for his wasted youth
and opportunities. The vision of the four-footed winged beast and the
manifestation of St. Bartholomew are but expressions of the spirit of
the age in which he lived, and the natural result, in such a time, of a
vivid and poetic imagination; but the feeling which led him to found
the Hospital is with us in the nineteenth as it was with him in the
twelfth century, and many good works are now done with the same
As we think of Rahere's work, his energy, his perseverance, his
difficulties; his determination to accomplish what he felt to be his
duty to do; his refusal to be discouraged by the feeble support of
friends or the calumnies of enemies; his willingness to be reckoned a
fanatic, or, much worse to bear, even a fool, if he may only by that
means help on the good work -- as we think of all this we may well be
proud of our Founder, and be stirred up to follow in his footsteps. The
motto which is written over the entrance of our new school-buildings
(for they still seem new to the seniors amongst us) might have been
chosen by Rahere himself -- "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it
with thy might."
Rahere was buried in his own church, of which, however, only a part --
the choir -- now remains. But this is a noble fragment; and within the
last few years much has been done to guard it from further decay, and
to clear away from its walls and foundations various ignoble structures
which the carelessness of past generations had allowed to accumulate.
Without doubt every one who is now entering St. Bartholomew's Hospital
for the first time will take an early oppotunity of visiting this
building, now the parish church of St. Bartholomew the Great, which
stands just outside the Hospital walls. And when he does so he will not
fail to be impressed by its beautiful proportions, and to regret that
so small a part of the original structure remains.
Rahere's tomb is in the north wall of the chancel (see Frontispiece,
above). It consists of a highly wrought stone-work screen or, rather,
canopy, with finely groined roof, beneath which is the sarcophagus; and
on this the effigy of Rahere in black robes is seen, extended at full
length, with shaven crown, and hands elevated as in prayer. At his
feet, on a cloud, stands an angel, crowned, holding the arms of the
Priory; while by him kneel two monks, habited, like Rahere, in black
robes, each with a Bible in his hands, open at the 51st chapter of the
prophet Isaiah. The third verse of the chapter, which is inscribed on
the little stone tablets, is significant of the work which Rahere did
when he covered the marshy ground of Smithfield with beautiful
buildings for the praise and worship of God and good deeds to men --
"He will comfort all her waste places; and He will make her wilderness
like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness
shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody."
On the front of the sarcophagus are the four following shields of arms:
Gules, a bend between two martlets.
And round the ledge is this inscription --
"Hic jacet Raherus primus Canonicus et primus
prior hujus ecclesiæ."
The date of Rahere's tomb is not certainly known, but it is much later
than that of the Priory church. Some have thought that the painted
stone figure of the Founder is older than the tomb, and that it is a
portrait executed when the features of the Prior were known. Mr. Morley
observes, "The statue has undoubtedly a real and individual, not a
conventional face," and, he adds, "answers very well to our impression
of the person whom it represents." ["Memoirs of Bartholomew Fair," pg.
Some mental effort is required before we can in any way realize the
great difference between a Hospital so-called of the twelfth century,
or indeed of a much later period, and a Hospital of the present day. In
a grant of privileges to St. Bartholomew's Hospital by Edward III. its
functions are thus stated-- "Ad omnes
pauperes infirmos ad idem hospitale confluentes quousque de
infirmitatibus suis convaluerint, ac mulieres prægnantes
quousque de puerperio surrexerint, necnon ad omnes pueros de eisdem
mulieribus genitos, usque septennium, si dictæ mulieres intra
hospitale prædictum decesserint."
And it seems probable that these corresponded pretty nearly with the work assigned to it by the Founder.
However this may be, the lying-in and sick wards of a parish Workhouse
of the present day probably represent more nearly the condition of the
Hospital for some centuries after its foundation than any department of
a modern Hospital.
But indeed we know very little plan of its plan or extent until after
the lapse of several generations, by which time it would have undergone
many changes and reconstructions. (I may mention in passing that one of
those restorations of the Hospital was carried out in accordance with a
bequest by that hero of our childhood, Richard Whittington, Lord Mayor
of London, in the year 1423.)
Whether St. Bartholomew's Hospital was in its early days much resorted
to in cases of surgical emergencies I cannot tell; probably not. But
with regard to this point a word or two may be said.
As all know, Smithfield or Smoothfield was notes as a place for
tournaments; indeed the name of the street which leads into it from
Holburn (Giltspur Street) is derived, as Stow seems to assume, from
"the Knightes and other riding that way into Smithfielde." And I hope I
may be forgiven for digressing for a moment to quote a description from
Stow [Stow's "Survey of London," 1603, p. 383.] of one of the
cavalcades of which there is now so little in our surroundings to
"In the 14th of Richard
the Second, after Frosart, Royall Justes and Tournements were
proclaimed to be done in Smithfield, to begin on Sunday next after the
feast of St. Michael; many strangers came forth of other countries,
namely Valerian Earle of St. Paul, that had married King Richard's
sister, the Lady Maud Courtney, and William the yong Earle of
Ostarnant, sonne to Albart of Bauiere, Earle of Holland and Henault. At
the day appointed, there issued forth of the tower, about the third
houre of the day, 60 coursers, apparrelled for the Justs, and upon
every one an Esquier of honour riding a soft pace; then came forth 60
Ladyes of honour, mounted upon palfraies, riding on the one side,
richly apparrelled, and every Lady led a Knight with a chayne of gold;
those Knights being on the King's party had their armour and apparrell
garnished with white hartes, and crownes of gold above the harts
neckes. So they came riding through the streets of London to
Smithfield, with a great number of trumpets and other instruments of
musicke before them." "Then alighted the Esquiers of honour from their
coursers, and the Knights of honour from their coursers, and the
Knights in good order mounted upon them; and after their helmets were
set on their heads, and being ready in all points, proclamation made by
the Haraults, the Justes began; and many commendable courses were
runne, to the great pleasure of the beholders. This Justes continued
many dayes with great feasting, as ye may read in Frosard."
With scenes such as these in Smithfield, it appears to me not too
fanciful a notion that many a dismounted knight has been taken within
the friendly shelter of the Hospital to be mended of his wounds and
bruises by the priestly house-surgeons and dressers of the period, who
would staunch the bleeding with the red-hot iron or the boiling pitch
with kindly sympathy and in as tender a manner of the nature of the
And that it is not a mere fancy which would lead one to think that the
wounded would be taken from Smithfield into St. Bartholomew's Hospital
may be gathered from an interesting historical fact which is thus
recorded in Stow's Chronicles (second edit., p. 461).
The scene is that so well known in English history, in which Richard
the Second rides to Smithfield to meet the rebels there assembled under
the leadership of Wat Tyler.
"The Mayor [William Walworth] being of an incomparable boldness and manhoode without any doubting straight arrested him [i.e. Wat
Tyler] on the head. Wat Tyler furiously strake the Mayor with his
dagger, but hurte him not by meane he was armed. Then the Mayor drew
his baselard and grievously wounded Wat in the necke, and gave him a
great blow on the head; in which conflicte, an Esquire of the King's
house called John Cavendish, drew his sworde and wounded him twice or
thrise even unto death; and Wat, spurring his horse, cried to the
Commons to avenge him; his horse bare him about foure score foote from
thence, where he fell downe halfe dead, and by and by they which
attended on the King, invironed him all about, whereby he was not seene
of his company; and other thrust him in with their weapons in divers
places of his body; and then they drewe him from amongst the people's
feete into the hospitall of Saint Bartilmewe."
The Mayor rushed to the city for help, and when he returned to
Smithfield, "and did not finde Wat Tyglar (as hee left him wounded) hee
greatly marvayled, demanding where the traytor was; and it was told him
that he was carried into the Hospitall of Saint Bartilmewe, and laid in
the Master's chamber. The Mayor went straight thither, and made him to
bee carried into Smithfield, and there caused him to bee beheaded, his
head to bee set on a pole, and borne before him to the King, then
remayning in the field; and the King caused it to be borne neere unto
him, therewith to abash the Commons, greatly thanking the Mayor for
The cattle markets and the horse fairs and the great annual Fair at St.
Bartholomew-tide would also, it may be imagined, provide plenty of
surgical cases in the early periods of the Hospital's existence. But
whether this be so or not, we may be certain that during the four
centuries which elapsed between its first and second Foundations St.
Bartholomew's Hospital did much good work; and that while many were
cured of their injuries and diseases, there were also many sick and
weary folk, then as now, who were thankful to lie down and take their
final rest within its walls.
The Two Foundations II.
In the downfall of the monastic institutions of the time of the
Reformation the Priory and Hospital of Saint Bartholomew did not
escape, and the ecclesiastical part, the Prior and his black-robed
Canons, the religious rites and ceremonies, disappeared without much
regret, probably, on the part of the majority of the people.
But with the Hospital the case was different. It was necessary to
provide still for the diseased and the infirm; and what the Church was
now unable to do must be done by the State or by civic or private
benevolence. In 1537 Sir Thomas Gresham, the Lord Mayor, with the
Aldermen and the citizens, begged the King to grant to them the
governance of the Hospitals then existing in London, and among them of
The spirit of the times is expressed in the petition, or perhaps this
was worded with the special intention of pleasing the King.
It speaks of such institutions being
"Fownded of good
devocon by auncyent fathers, and endowed with great possessions and
rents, onely for the relyeff, comforte and ayde of the poore and
indygent people not beyng hable to helpe theymselffs, and not to the
maynten'nce of preestes, chanons, and monks, carnally lyvyng as they of
late have doon, nothying regardyng the myserable people lyeng in the
streete, offendyng every clene person passyng by the way with thyre
fylthye and nastye favors." ["Report of Commissioners for Inquiring
concerning Charities, 1840." Christ's Hospital Appendix, p. 344.]
No attention seems to have been paid at first to the petition, or at
least to the part of it which begged the transfer of the revenues of
the several establishments specified therein to the Corporation of the
City of London. Their property was in the meanwhile held by the Crown.
After about six years, however, letters patent of the date June 23
1544, were issued, by which, after reciting that the Hospital of St.
Bartholomew's was then altogether vacant and destitute of Masters and
Fellows or Brethren, and that the same and possessions thereof had
therefore fallen to the Crown, the said King, endeavouring that there
"Comfort to the
prisoners, shelter to the poor, visitation to the sick, food to the
hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, and sepulture to
the dead administered there, erected and founded an hospital, to
consist of one master and priest, and four chaplain priests, to be
called the Vice-Master, the Curate, the Hospitaler, and the Visitor of
the prisoners in Newgate; and the said King granted to the said master
and chaplains the site, ambit, and precincts of the said hospital and
the church, and all places parcels of and within the same hospital,
together with the goods and chattels thereof, to hold the same in pure
and perpetual alms."
The government of the Hospital was lodged in the body thus constituted,
but the possessions were not regranted to them, nor was any
visitatorial or any other authority over them vested in the Corporation
of the City of London.
As might have been anticipated, this attempt to refound the Hospital
without its revenues, which the King retained in his own hands, only
resulted in failure; and, indeed, it does not appear that the new
constitution ever came into active operation. But about two years
afterwards, induced by the earnest solicitations of the citizens, and
perhaps by the distress consequent upon the suppression of the
religious houses, the King consented to grant to the Corporation of the
City of London a new charter, by which the Hospital should be refounded
for the reception of one hundred poor and sick, and to endow it from
its former possessions to the extent of five hundred marks per annum,
upon condition that the citizens should be bound yearly for ever to
give a like sum. The actual instrument by which this obligation was
entered into is not now extant; but the fact of its execution on the
13th April 1546, is recited in an Act of Common Council, 20th December
1548. ["Report of Commissioners for Inquiring concerning Charities,
Thus the second Foundation of the Hospital came about, and we call King Henry VIII. the second Founder.
The gift of the Hospital to the city had been previously announced by the Bishop of Rochester in a sermon at Paul's Cross.
It must not be supposed, however, that all troubles were past with the
handing over of the Hospital to the Corporation. There were some, it
seems, in those days, who assumed such to be the case, and who expected
that all at once the Hospital would be able to get into good working
order, and maintain its hundred poor men and women. They appear,
indeed, to have openly slandered those who were responsible for the
management because this was not so.
The accusations were considered worthy of a replay on the part of the
governing body; and this reply was issued in the form of a Preface,
with an account of the rules and regulations of the Hospital, so that
all men might know exactly how matters stood with the New Foundation.
This preface and copy of the regulations was first published in the reign of Edward VI., and again printed in 1580 and 1652.
A copy which I bought at a second-hand bookseller's, and carried off as
a great prize, many years ago, is the reprint of 1652; and this, with
the permission of the Editors, I published in the last volume of our
In the Preface the writer begins by saying: --
"The wickedness of
report at this day, good Reader, is grown to such ranckness, that
nothing almost is able to defend it selfe against the venime thereof;
but that either with open slander, or privy whispering, it shall be so
undermined, that it shall neither have the good success, which
otherwise it might, nay the thanks which for the worthiness it ought."
Then, after reciting the gift and endowment of the King, and the amount
to be contributed by the citizens, the writer proceeds to describe the
dilapidated condition of the houses which formed the King's part of the
new endowment, and the expenditure which was necessary to restore them
to a decent condition. As for the Hospital itself, there was found in
it, to quote the writer's words only
"So much of houshold
implements and stuffe, towards the succouring of this hundred poor, as
sufficed three or four harlots, then lying in childesed, and no more,
yea, barely so much, if but necessary cleanliness were regarded, so
farre had the godly meaning of the gracious King been abused at those
dayes; and yet was little then smelled and less talked of."
And then, after a few more hard knocks at the slanderers -- "I fear me, having all their zeal in their tongue onely."
The writer asserts that
"the good citizens which now for these five years space haev shunned
for no loathsomeness, to administer the reliefe without other gain then
that Jesus Christ, God and man, promiseth, and will undoubtedly pay,
have here received nothing else but for a commune benefit, an open
detraction, and the poor (as shall afterward appear) a larger
hindrance. Where in the mean season notwithstanding, there have been
healed of the Pocks, Fistulæs, filthy Blains and Sores, to the
number of eight hundred, and thence safe delivered, that other having
need may enter in their room. Beside eight score and twelve, that have
there forsaken this life, in their intolerable miseries and griefes,
which else might have dyed, and stunck in the eyes and noses of the
city, for all these charity tenderers, if this polace had not vouched
safe to become a pump alone, to ease a commune abhorring."
And then, after referring to the large expenditure necessary,
"The wages of the
chirurgions, and such officers and servants, as needfully are attendant
about the poor, the charges of bedding and shift for so many sore and
diseased, and the excessive prices of all things at this day," he adds,
"they might both marvell how so many are relieved, and daily
maintained; and with repentance" [and here is another hard knock] "of
that they have missaid, endevour themselves with as much good report
and praise, to advance both the deed and the doers, to wipe away the
slander, as they have to hinder them both by the contrary."
However, as he says, it is "doubtfull whether they will do as they may, and of conscience are bounden."
And we shall certainly agree with the writer in this; as he would be a
very rare kind of slanderer who confessed and tried to make amends when
he was proved to be in the wrong.
The writer continues--
"The slander is so wise
spred, that a narrow remedy cannot amend it. It is thought good to the
Lord Mayor of this city of London, as chief Patron and Governor of this
Hospitall, in the name of the city, to publish at this present the
overseers and orders by him appointed, partly for the stay and redress
of such slander, and partly for that it might be an open witness, and
knowledge unto all men, how things are administered there, and by whom.
Wherein if any man judge more to be set forth in word, then in deed is
followed, there be means to resolve him. But if there be not so much
set forth in word, then in deed is followed, there be means to resolve
him. But if there be not so much set forth as is expedient (asw hat
thing at the first can attain to the top of perfectness?) or that any
man spieth, ought in this order worthy to be reformed, he shall not
need to cry it at the Cross, but shall finde those at the Hospitall,
that both gladly will and may reform it.
"The Lord Jesus Christ, kindle in us all that faith that worketh by
love, that we may indeed put on Christ our righteousness before God,
and not suffer him to lye up in Presse, that seeketh to be worn to the
glory of his Father, and ours, and to the Testimony of our hope laid up
in him. Amen."
Then, after the Preface, from which I have not time to quote more,
follows an account of the Governors and Officers of the New Foundation.
"The President, alway the Seniour Alderman.
Surveyors, four -- two Alderman and two Communers.
Almoisners, four -- one Alderman and three Communers.
The Tresurer -- a Communer.
Scrutiners, two -- both Communers.
The Officers were seven in number --
The Renter Clerk.
The Butler and Steward.
The Sisters, twelve.
The Byddles, eight.
"There are also in a kinde by themselves, three Chirurgians in the
wages of the Hospitall, giving daily attendance upon the cures of the
"And a minister named the Visitour of Newgate, according to his office and charge."
Then follow the charges, or directions concerning their duties, to the
various Governors and Officers; this custom of delivering a charge to
each Officer on his appointment being kept up at the present day. And
although, in accordance with alterations in the duties, many changes
have been made, the quaint language of the old forms is still to some
As this little book of "Orders and Ordinances" has been so recently
reprinted ["St. Bartholomew's Hospital Reports," vol. xx., 1884.], and
is now accessible to all, I will touch but briefly on its contents. But
I shall be pardoned, I hope, for giving a few extracts.
Not the least of its charms is the religious spirit (in the best sense
of the term) in which the orders are conceived. In undertaking the
duties of Treasurer, for example, or Almoner, or other honorary
officer, it is assumed that a Governor undertakes a solemn religious
duty, and he is remind of this in the concluding sentence of his
charge. Thus, after reciting the duties of the Treasurer, the charge
concludes with these words --
"And in recompence of
your pains, ye shall be assured of the mercies layed up for you in the
promises, and bloud of Jesu Christ our Saviour."
So with the Surveiour -- "And for your pains taking here God hath
promised to give you rest and pleasure in heaven perpetually." And so
for the Scrutiners and the Auditours.
The chirurgeons too are admonished not to neglect to give good counsel to their patients.
"Also at all such times
as ye shall go to the dressing of any diseased person in this house, as
much as in you is, ye shall give unto him or her faithfull and good
counsell, willing them to minde to sin no more, and to be thankfull
unto Almighty God, for whose sake they are here comforted of men."
And at the end of the book is a form of thanksgiving --
"To be said by the poor
that are cured in the Hospitall, at the time of their delivery from
thence, upon their knees in the Hall before the Hospitaler, and two
Masters of this House at the least. And this the Hospitaler shall
charge them to learn without the Book, before they bee delivered."
In comparing the charges of the various officers of the Hospital now
with those which were delivered to them in the time of the second
Founder, Henry VIII., one is struck by the differences which the lapse
of time has brought about.
The Hospitaler, besides looking after the spiritual welfare of the
patients by reading and preaching, received the provisions from the
steward, and delivered so much as he thought necessary to the cook; and
the provisions being dressed, he was to see that they were truly
delivered and distributed to the patients.
The Matron was to receive of the Hospitaler the sick and diseased
persons to be admitted, and to bestow them in such convenient places as
she should think meet.
The Matron, too, was to receive the flax provided by the Governors, and set the
"Sisters to spinning
it, or doing some other manner of work that may avoid idleness and be
profitable to the poor of this house."
In the Matron's charge is also the following: --
"Ye shall suffer no
poor person of this house to sit and drink within your house at no
time, neither shall yee so send them drink into their wards, that
thereby drunkenness might be used and continued among them, but as much
as in you shall lye, ye shall exhort them to vertue and temperance,
declaring this house to be appointed for the harbour and succour of the
deer members of Christ's body, and not of drunkards and unthankfull
The Sisters seem to have requried a deal of looking after in the reign
of Henry VIII. There were not to leave the woman's ward after the hour
of seven of the clock in the winter, and nine of the clock in the
"Except some great and speciall cause (as the present danger of death or needful succour of some poor person)."
But some selection even here was exercised, for at
"Such a speciall time it shall not be lawfull for every Sister
to go forth to any person or persons (no though it be in her own ward),
but onely for such Sisters as the Matron shall think vertuous, godly,
And then in the Sisters' charge follows the special command --
"And so much as in you shall lye, ye shall avoid and shun the conversation and company of all men."
An order which, I have no doubt, was as implicitly obeyed then as any similar command would be now.
The Porters had certain duties more or less resembling those belonging
to them now, but they also exercised a general supervision over the
patients, to see that there was no disorderly conduct in the wards.
They had also a power of summary punishment.
"And whatsoever poor
person shall be found a swearer or an unreverent user of his mouth
towards God or his holy name, or a contemner of the Matron, or other
officer of this house, or that shall refuse to go to bed at the lawfull
houres before appointed, him shall ye punish (after once warning given)
in the stocks, and further declare his follie unto the Almoners of this
house, that they may take such order with him or them, as shall seem
meet by their discretions."
The Beadles (Bedells or Byddles) then performed the duties of
constables for the city. When not specially on duty in the Hospital,
they were to walk about the city,
"Every man taking his
separate walk." "And if in any of your walks yee shall happen to espy
any person infected with any lothely griefe or disease, which shall
fortune to lye in any notable place of this City, to the noyance and
infection of passers by, and slander of this house, ye shall then give
knowledge therefore to the Almoners of this Hospitall, that they may
take such order therein as to them shall be thought meet."
The Beadles were to be also on the watch for any who had been healed in
the Hospital, and who should afterwards counterfeit any disease and beg
"And if ye shall
fortune to find any so doing, ye shall immediately commit him, or them,
to some Cage, and give knowledge thereof to the Governors of this
house." "Also ye shall not suffer any sturdy or idle begger or
vagabound, to begge or ask almes within this City of London, or
Suburbes of the same, but yee shall forthwith commit all such to ward,
and immediately signifie the name and surname of him, or them, to the
Alderman of that ward, when ye shall apprehend any such begger, or else
to the Lord Mayor."
Among the list of officers of St. Bartholomew's Hospital was also, as I
have said, a Visitour of the neighbouring prison of Newgate, whose
charge was to visit
"All the poor and
miserable captives within the Prison of Newgate, and minister unto them
such ordinary service at times convenient, as is appointed by the
King's Majestie's book for ordinary Prayer. Also that he learn without
book the most wholsome sentences of holy Scripture, that may comfort a
desperate man, that readily ye may minister them to such persons as yee
shall perceive them most needfull to be ministered unto."
Then the Clerk gives us an account of the annual expenditure of the
Hospital; but I fear he will get but little sympathy from us with
regard to the "excessive prices of all things," of which he speaks in
Thus the Matron's board wages were eighteen-pence the week, and her
livery thirteen shillings and fourpence a year. A Sister received
sixteen-pence a week for board wages and ten shillings a year for her
livery. The diet of each patient was reckoned to cost twopence per day.
The salary of the Steward (Steward and Baker) was £6, 13s. 3d.
The Cook received but £6 a year for his meat, drink, and wages.
In comparison with these the Chirurgeons seem to have been well paid,
for each of the three received about £20 a year.
The total amount of the certain charges was £798, 2s. per annum.
The uncertain charges are thus given --
"For Shirts, Smocks,
and other apparell for the poor, needfull, either at their comming in
or departure. For Sugar and Spices for Cawdles for the sick, Flax for
Sheets, and Weaving of the same, Soltwich Cloth for Winding Sheets,
Bolls, Brooms, Baskets, Incense, Juniper, Ashes to buck their clothes.
And also money given to the poor their departure, which is measured
according to their journey and need."
These uncertain charges amounted in one year to £60. The
endowment of the Hospital by the King and by the City of London
amounting only to £666, 13s., 4d., there was a deficit of about
£130, in addition to the sum expended in the uncertain items --
"Which onely," the
Clerk adds, "riseth of the charity of certain mercifull Citizens, for
whose continuance with the encrease of moe, we earnestly pray unto the
fountain of mercy, Jesus Christ, the Lord of all, to whom for ever
appertain, the Kingdome, the power, and the glory, world without end.
In 1552 the repairing of the Hospital was begun; and it was carried out
and completed by means of subscriptions raised in the city after the
following manner, as related by Stow [Stow's "Survey of London," second
ed., p. 378.]: --
"Then also were orders
devised for reliefe of the poore, the inhabitantes were all called to
their parish churches, where by Sir Richard Dobbes, their Maior, their
severall Aldermen, or other grave Citizens, they were by eloquent
orations perswaded how great and how many commodities would ensue unto
them and their Citie if the poore of divers sorts which they named,
were taken from out their streets, lanes, and allyes, and were bestowed
and provided for in Hospitalles abroade, so therefore was every man
moved liberally to graunt what they woulde impart towards the preparing
and furnishing of such Hospitals. And also what they would contribute
weekly towardes their maintenance for a time, which they said should
not be past one yeare or twaine, untill they were better furnished of
endowment: to make short, every man graunted liberally, according to
his hability, bookes were drawne of the reliefe in every ward of the
City, towardes the new Hospitalles."
The Hospital was governed as a separate institution for about ten
years; but in 1557 it was agreed to associate it with the rest of the
Royal Hospitals, namely, Christ's Hospital, Bridewell, and St. Thomas's
Hospital; the whole of them being under a comptroller-general and
surveyor-general, while for each of the four was appointed, for its
special government, three aldermen, a treasurer, and eight other
Probably the union of the Royal Hospitals under one government made but
little alteration in the actual working of the differing institutions.
Each had its own particular governing body, and gradually each became
more and more independent, even of the Lord Mayor and Corporation. At
first, beginning in the year 1564, it was the custom to hold a meeting
annually at Christ's Hospital on St. Matthew's Day, and to select a
President, Treasurer, and other Governors for each of the Royal
Hospitals; but after 1587 there meetings became irregular, though they
were still held down to the year 1652. After this date the elections
were made at the several Hospitals, the elections being apparently
confirmed, in a formal manner only, by the Lord Mayor. New Governors,
moreover, were introduced in consideration of pecuniary donations,
independently of the Court of Aldermen; and these naturally would not
consider themselves under any bond of allegiance to the Corporation.
The consequence of all this was continual squabbling between the
Corporation on the one hand and the Governors of the Royal Hospitals on
the other; the former endeavouriung to retain its ancient powers and
privileges, while the latter fought each for the particular Hospital of
which he was a Governor, insisting, apparently with good success, upon
its right to manage its own affairs.
At length there was a general agreement that all these disputes should
be settled by Act of Parliament, and accordingly, in 1782, such an act
was passed. By it the mode of government of St. Bartholomew's Hospital
was arranged in the fashion which holds good at the present time, the
Hospital being completely separated from its alliance with the other
Hospitals. The Corporation of the City of London retained, and still
retains, a considerable share in its management, in virtue of the Lord
Mayor and the Court of Aldermen and twelve members of the Common
Council being ex officio
Governors. But as the voting power of the ex officio
is only equal to that of a like number of the other Governors, the
Hospital is now practically independent; while it may be said to be
materially strengthened by having as part of its governing body the
influential members of the Corporation who take a share in its
The final separation of the Hospital from what may be termed the
patronage of the Corporation of the City of London occurred in 1866,
when a lawsuit was instituted to determine whether the Lord Mayor for
the time being should, in accordance with ancient custom, be elected
President on the occasion of a vacancy in this office, or whether the
Governors had the power of electing whom they might choose. The suit
was determined in favour of the Governors, and the first President
thereafter elected was His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, who has
continued to preside over us to the present time.
I have spoken of St. Bartholomew's Hospital only as an institution, and
have but little time to refer to its buildings; but I hope you
will be the more interested in looking at the engravings which I have
placed in the library. You will be able to trace with their help many
of the structural alterations which have taken place during the last
Unfortunately we have little or nothing to show us what the Hospital
was like in the first few centuries of its existence, the earliest
representation of any kind, so far as I know, being that which is given
in Aggas's Map of London, supposed to have been made in the reign of
Elizabeth. But, of course, little can be gathered from this, excepting
the fact that the Hospital was made up of detached houses, or groups of
houses, intersected by the narrow lanes or streets which formed the
thoroughfares of the parish of St. Bartholomew the Less. As you will
see from the facsimile of the map, the Hospital stands just outside the
wall of London; and instead of being, as now, with reference to the
rest of London, almost in the centre, it was really on the outskirts.
For the country began just beyond Smithfield, and London proper
stretched away towards the east; although at the date of this map
(which was more than four hundred years after the first foundation of
St. Bartholomew's) houses were becoming continuous along the line of
Holborn, and the green fields did not begin westwards until one had
walked to about what is now the corner of Gray's Inn Road.
The earliest separate engraving of the Hospital, so far as I am aware,
is that which was published in Stow's "Survey of London" (ed. 1720),
and of which I am able to show you a good impression this evening.
We see by it that the Hospital had two small quadrangles instead of one
large as at present, besides various detached or semi-detached houses
In 1729-1760 the Hospital was rebuilt from the foundations, and, with
some modifications, these buildings remain to the present day.
In its buildings, as in other things, St. Bartholomew's has grown
largely, and is still increasing. New wards are at this present time
just being completed. Its annual income was at the time of the second
foundation about £800; in 1837, £30,000; in 1885,
"And with moor ampliant
bylyngs were the skynnys of oure tabernaculys dylatid. To the laude and
glorie of oure Lorde Jesu Criste, to whom be honoure and glory, worlde
withowtyn ende. Amen."
St. Bartholomew's Hospital, though growing for centuries, is, indeed,
growing still. Long may it grow! For when it has ceased to grow it may
indeed have come to the perfection of maturity; but such perfection
will be the signal for the beginning of decay.
Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson, and Co., Edinburgh and London.