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London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd (Chapter 3)

Section: Prehistory to 1066

St. Bartholomew’s Hospital 

Background

St. Bartholomew’s Hospital (or St. Bart’s) is one of the oldest hospitals in the world. The hospital was founded in 1123 by Rahere, a courtier of Henry I, after St. Bartholomew appeared to him while on pilgrimage to Rome and urged him to found a hospital for the sick in Smithfield. 

During the reign of Henry VIII, St. Bart’s became a royal hospital administered by the City of London after the dissolution of the monasteries left the hospital without funding. Most of the medieval buildings of the hospital were torn down during the rebuilding program in the early 17th century and the tower of the church of St. Bartholomew the less is the only medieval building remaining. 

The hospital is home to two large paintings by William Hogarth, located by the staircase that leads to the great hall. 

St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Museum

The museum at the hospital is located in the north wing and tells the long history of the hospital through life size models, medical collections, and hospital documents. It is run by volunteers and is free to the public. A small bookshop is also on site. Donations are appreciated. 

Links: 

St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Timeline

St. Bartholomew’s Museum and Archives

St. Bartholomew’s (Medical Museums of London)

Filed under london: the biography Liveblogging books St. Bartholomew's St. Bart's Medical History

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London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd (Chapter 2)

Section: Prehistory to 1066

The London Wall:

Photo: Section of the Wall near the Tower of London, taken by myself. (January 2010)

Built by the Romans in 200 AD, the original London Wall can still be seen at various points in the city. In 1984, the Museum of London set up a walk of two miles (a one to two hour walk) from the Tower of London to the Museum. The original guidebook, now out of print, is available in PDF form  on the Museum’s website. 

Link: London Wall Walk

Filed under London London History London: the Biography History Liveblogging books London Wall london bucket list

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London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd (Chapter 1)

Section: Prehistory to 1066

(Note: I’ll primarily just speak about things I noted with interest in each chapter and information I’ve looked up to supplement the text.)


Question: Of what cultural symbol was it said that so long as it stays in the City of London, the city shall flourish?

Let’s have a QI klaxon for all those currently answering the ravens at the Tower. For one, the Tower of London is in Tower Hamlets and not the City of London. As an aside, historical research* indicates the Raven legend may less time immemorial than previously thought. 

However, what I’m speaking of this time is the London Stone, which is currently located in Cannon Street, near Cannon Street Station.

The London Stone is a chunk of oolite rock believed to have been brought to Brutus, the founder of the city, by a deity. Reports of the stone exist back to a gospel attributed to the early 10th Century king Ethelstone of the West Saxons and London’s first recorded mayor was Eylwin de Londenstane in 1188. 

Christopher Wren believed the stone to have originally been part of a larger Roman structure and even Charles Dickens wrote articles on the mythical stone. In 1798, it was moved from the street to become a part of the wall of St. Swithun’s Church. When St. Swithun’s was destroyed in a German air raid, the stone survived.

It’s current home is in a small box on the side of a building that formerly housed a sporting goods shop opposite the former site of St. Swithun’s Church.

The owner of the site wishes to redevelop the property and in recent years has suggested it be moved several yards down the road. Several heritage organizations have opposed the move, citing the fact that the stone has been in it’s current portion of Cannon Street for all of its recorded history and though it might warrant a more attention grabbing display, wish it to remain where it sits. 

So for now, it remains in it’s little box, nondescript and easy to completely miss. 

Sources: 

History of the London Stone by Heritage Key

Rocky Reception for Brutus Stone Move (London Evening Standard)

*Tower’s Raven Mythology May be a Victorian Flight of Fantasy (The Guardian)

Filed under London London History History London: The Biography Liveblogging Books London Stone City of London