Many hospitals in London are named after saints. They were really started around 1000AD by the Knights Hospitallers and their eight pointed cross still forms the basis of the emblem today. The first hospital to be built in London was at Smoothfield (Spitfields) in 1123 where pilgrims could find hospitality for the night and “miracles” could be worked there. This was called St Bartholomew’s. Then St Thomas’s was founded as a religious house followed by Guy’s, established by a wealthy merchant called Thomas Guy.
The first surgeons were the barbers. Hospital surgeons were not allowed to let blood so this job fell to the barbers who would hang their bloody bandages on white poles outside their shops to dry. When the wind blew they got wrapped around the pole – hence the present red and white barber’s pole.
During the London plague of 1665, the apothecaries wore protective leather overcoats and “beaks” stuffed with straw and herbs to filter out air borne infections. They looked like ducks and hence the nickname “quacks” for doctors.
The best and most successful hospitals were built within the city walls for the weel off whilst the hoi polloi were consigned to the outside establishments of ten to die. Just as well times have changed more than a little.
2008 gets off to a good start with two Village Society talks. On Friday Jan 11th, David Barnikel, who gave a much appreciated illustrated talk in 2006, returns with more visual delights under the title of “Images of China today”. On the 4th of February, Paul Attenbury, well-known to regular TV viewers, will present “Behind the scenes at the Antique Road Show”. Paul, who lives locally, is a leading expert of 19th and 20th century art and architecture,. Please do not, however, bring things for him to look at on this occasion.
for more information about this and other talks go to the Village Society's programme