St Thomas' Hospital

St Thomas' Hospital is a large NHS hospital in London, England. It is administratively a part of Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust. It has provided health care freely or under charitable auspices since the 12th century and was originally located in Southwark. St Thomas' Hospital is accessible from Westminster tube station (10 min walk across Westminster bridge), Waterloo station (tube and national rail, 10 min walk) and Lambeth North tube station (10 min walk).

St Thomas' Hospital is one of London's most famous hospitals - associated with names such as Astley Cooper, William Cheselden, Florence Nightingale, Linda Richards, Edmund Montgomery and Agnes Elizabeth Jones. It is a prominent London landmark - largely due to its location on the opposite bank of the River Thames to the Houses of Parliament.

The Hospital at The Borough, Southwark

The hospital was described as ancient in 1215 and was named after St. Thomas Becket — which suggests it may have been founded after 1173 when Becket was canonised. However, it is possible it was only renamed in 1173 and that it was established shortly after St Mary Overie Priory was founded at Southwark in 1106 .

Originally it was run by a mixed order of Augustinian monks and nuns, dedicated to St. Thomas Becket. It provided shelter and treatment for the poor, sick, and homeless. In the fifteenth century, Richard Whittington endowed a laying-in ward for unmarried mothers. The monastery was dissolved in 1539 during the Reformation, but reopened in 1551 and rededicated to Thomas the Apostle. It was reopened through the efforts of the City of London who obtained the grant of the site and a charter from Edward VI and has remained open ever since.. The hospital was also the site of the first printed English Bible in 1537.

At the end of the 17th century, the hospital and church were largely rebuilt by Sir Robert Clayton, president of the hospital and a former Lord Mayor of the City of London. He employed Thomas Cartwright as architect.

Sir Thomas Guy, a governor of St Thomas', founded Guy's Hospital in 1721 as a place to treat 'incurables' discharged from St Thomas'.

There are extensive surviving parts of the old Hospital on the north side of St Thomas Street, in Southwark — from the old parish church (1704), now offices but including the Old Operating Theatre, which is now a Museum, the neighbouring Treasury and the row of Georgian houses to the corner near Joiner Street. The 'Women's Ward' of 1842 which is attached to the church / Operating Theatre, in classical style dressed stone, can best be viewed from Borough High Street, the ground floor is the main Post Office.

The hospital left Southwark in 1862 when the site was compulsorily purchased to make way for construction of the Charing Cross Railway viaduct from London Bridge Station. The hospital was temporarily housed at Royal Surrey Gardens in Newington (Walworth) until the new Lambeth site was completed in 1871.

List of Priors, Masters, Wardens or Rectors

The following names are provided by the Victoria County History, Surrey:

  • Archdeacon Amicius, occurs 1213, 1215
  • Adam de Merton, occurs 1235
  • Thomas de Codeham, occurs 1248, 1251
  • Fulcher, elected 1261
  • Adam II
  • Richard de Bikleswade, resigned 1283 " " (re-elected), died 1295
  • Richard de Hulmo, 1295
  • Walter de Marlowe. 1316
  • Stephen de Bykleswade, occurs 1321, 1338
  • William de Stanton, occurs 1338, 1342
  • Walter de Marlowe, appointed 1350, 1351
  • John de Bradewyn (Bradeway) appointed 1356
  • Henry Yakesley, appointed 1361; died 1377
  • William de Welfrid, appointed 1377; died 1381
  • Thomas Gouday, appointed 1381; died 1392
  • Henry Grygge, appointed 1393; occurs 1401
  • John Reed, appointed 1414; died 1427
  • Nicholas Bokeland, appointed 1427; resigned 1447
  • William Crosse, appointed 1447; resigned 1478
  • Sir William Twynyho (Master) 1485
  • William Beele, appointed 1478; resigned 1487
  • John Burnham, appointed 1487; died 1501
  • Richard Richardson, appointed 1501; resigned 1528
  • Richard Mabbot, appointed 1528; died 1539
  • Thomas Thurleby, appointed 1539; surrendered 1540
Medical training at St Thomas' Hospital

St Thomas's Hospital Medical School was established in 1550. Following the establishment of Guy's Hospital as a separate institution, this continued as a single medical school, commonly known at The Borough Hospitals, with teaching across St Thomas' and Guy's Hospitals. Following a dispute over the successor to the Surgeon Astley Cooper, Guy's established its own separate medical school in 1825 .

The medical school subsequently remerged in 1982 with that at Guy's to form the United Medical and Dental Schools of Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals (UMDS). Subsequent additions included the Royal Dental Hospital of London School of Dental Surgery joining with Guy's Dental School on 1 August 1983 and St John's Institute of Dermatology on 1 August 1985. Following discussion held between 1990 and 1992 with King's College London and the King's College London Act 1997, the UMDS merged in 1998 with King's College School of Medicine and Dentistry to form as The Guy's, Kings & Thomas' Schools of Medicine (GKT School of Medicine), of Dentistry and of Biomedical Sciences. This was renamed in 2005 as King's College London School of Medicine and Dentistry at Guy's, King's and St Thomas' Hospitals.

The Nightingale Training School and Home for Nurses opened at St Thomas' Hospital on July 9, 1860. It is now called the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery and is also part of King's College London.

The modern hospital

The modern St Thomas' Hospital is located at a site historically known as Stangate in the London Borough of Lambeth. It is directly across the river Thames from the Palace of Westminster on a plot of land largely reclaimed from the river during construction of the Albert Embankment in the late 1860s.

The new buildings were designed by Henry Currey and the foundation stone was laid by Queen Victoria in 1868. This was one of the first new hospitals to adopt the "pavilion principle" - popularised by Florence Nightingale in her Notes on Hospitals - by having six separate ward buildings at right angles to the river frontage set 125 feet apart and linked by low corridors. The intention was primarily to improve ventilation and to separate and segregate patients with infectious diseases. There was a seventh pavilion at the north end of the site next to Westminster Bridge Road for the "Treasurer's House" (hospital offices) and a nurses home. Between the middle ward pavilions was the entrance hall from Lambeth Palace Road and chapel. The medical school was at the southern end of the site. The formal layout to the Albert Embankment was also designed to complement the Parliamentary buildings opposite.

The hospital was designed to accommodate 588 beds, although the hospital charity's fundraising was not sufficient to open all the wards until 1896.

As the Palace of Westminster is still technically a Royal Palace, a convention has been adopted that any commoner who dies within the Palace is officially recorded as having died at St. Thomas' Hospital to remove the need to convene a jury of members of the Royal Household under the Coroner of the Queen's Household.

The northern part of the hospital site was severely damaged during World War II destroying three ward blocks. Limited reconstruction began in the 1950s including the building now known as East Wing. Complete rebuilding to a more ambitious plan to designs by Yorke Rosenberg and Mardall was agreed on in the 1960s requiring the realignment of Lambeth Palace Road further away from the river to enlarge the hospital campus. The new buildings have white-tiled cladding, which was a characteristic of several other University and hospital buildings designed by the YRM practice. As construction of the thirteen storey block (now North Wing) commenced in 1975 there was a widespread public reaction against the scale and appearance of this building — most notably from MPs who could see it from the river terrace of the Palace of Westminster. The southern part of the redevelopment, which would have included a second tall block, was never constructed. The three remaining Victorian ward pavilion blocks were refurbished in the 1980s.

The current main pedestrian entrance is in Westminster Bridge Road, although there is a separate vehicle and A&E entrance in Lambeth Palace Road; there is also a riverside pedestrian entrance, and the Lane-Fox Unit (sleep disorders) has its own riverside entrance, mainly for the use of patients on the Lane-Fox Ward. The pedestrian entrance to the campus leads to a glazed link between the Lambeth Wing and the North Wing. The Guy's and St. Thomas' Charitable Foundation commissioned sculptor Rick Kirby to produce a sculpture "Cross the Divide", and this was unveiled in 2000 outside the Main Entrance. To the north of the North Wing (closer to Westminster Bridge Road) there is a garden area above car parking with Naum Gabo's fountain sculpture Revolving Torsion at its centre.

With the closure of the Dreadnought Seamen's Hospital at the Greenwich Hospital in 1986, services for seamen and their families are provided by the 'Dreadnought Unit' at St Thomas' Hospital. It allows eligible Merchant seafarers access to priority medical treatment, except cardiac surgery, and is funded by central government with money separate from other NHS trust funds. It originally consisted of two 28-bed wards, but nowadays Dreadnought patients are treated according to clinical need and so are placed in the ward most suitable for their medical condition.

The St John's Institute of Dermatology department at the hospital has specialist skin pharmacy and specialist operating theatres.

Following the merger of Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals into one Trust, Accident and Emergency Services were consolidated at St Thomas' in 1990

A unique unit was set up in the late 1990s by Dr Chris Aps, allowing cardiothoracic surgical patients to be rapidly recovered away from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). This Overnight Intensive Recovery Unit (OIR) has become the template for similar units across the UK and remains active to this day although is currently threatened with being merged into the ICU.

Children's hospital departments are provided by Evelina Children's Hospital. This moved from Guy's Hospital into a new building designed by Michael Hopkins on south eastern part of the St Thomas's site in 2005. The design of the new hospital, which is focused on a four storey conservatory has won several architectural awards for the way it has been designed to provide a friendly environment for children, many of whom may be long term patients.

Explanation of the hospital's name

The use of the plural possessive s' in place of the singular possessive s's is fairly recent. The hospital trust claims that plural s' is grammatically correct, as "there are two men called St Thomas linked to the hospital's history: Thomas Becket and Thomas the Apostle." Within the South Wing of the hospital there are a number of late Victorian brass plaques headed "St Thomas's Hospital" i.e. using singular possessive. However the medical school used the singular possessive s's as it was the school of the hospital and so was termed "St Thomas's Hospital Medical School".

Portrayal in fiction
  • Doctor Who The location building of St Thomas' Hospital serves as the location of the fictional Royal Hope Hospital featured in the Doctor Who episode "Smith and Jones". In the episode, the hospital is temporarily transported to the moon and a smoking pit is shown at the location of the real St. Thomas' Hospital. In images of the hospital sitting on the moon, it appears that the main building of St. Thomas' is used with an added tower. Most other exterior shots of the hospital appear to be of Singleton Hospital in Swansea, Wales, but modified to the resemble the more square shape of St. Thomas'.
  • 28 Days Later The hospital also featured in the 2002 film '28 Days Later' in which the hospital was abandoned due to the nationwide outbreak of a deadly virus.
  • Nightingale, Florence & Anon., Una and Her Paupers, Diggory Press ISBN 978-1-905363-22-3
  • Victoria County History, Surrey, vol.2, pp.119-124, The Hospital of St Thomas, Southwark