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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): H01/ST
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1551-2001
Level of description: subfonds
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Extent: 169.2 linear metres
Name of creator(s): St Thomas' Hospital | London x Infirmary of the Augustinian Priory of St Mary Overy | 1106-1215 x 5th London (City of London) General Hospital | 1915-1919


Administrative/Biographical history:

Saint Thomas' Hospital was founded in the early part of the 12th Century as the infirmary of the Augustinian Priory of St Mary Overy and was run by the 11 brothers and sisters of the monastery. It had 40 beds for the poor including the 'sick and the merely needy'. The exact date of foundation is uncertain but tradition says that the priory was founded about 1106 - by 1215 it was being described as 'ancient'. It is dedicated to Saint Thomas the Martyr, a name that cannot have been assumed until after the canonisation of Saint Thomas Becket in 1173, three years after his death. Following a disastrous fire in 1212, the priory and the hospital developed quite separately. The site opposite the priory in Long Southwark (later known as Borough High Street) was acquired by the hospital in 1215 and occupied until 1862. Its position is still indicated by St Thomas' Street and by Saint Thomas' Church, until recently used as the Chapter House of Southwark Cathedral. Little documentary evidence remains to tell of life in the hospital between 1215 and its suppression with other monasteries in 1540. Treatment was a medley of pseudo-science and old wives' remedies.

The early fifteenth century was marked by the opening of a new ward, the gift of Richard Whittington, Lord Mayor of London (1397, 1406 and 1419). 'The noble merchant, Richard Whittington, made a new chamber with 8 beds for young women that had done amiss, in trust of a good amendment. And he commanded that all the things that had been done in that chamber should be kept secret for he would not shame no young women in no wise, for it might be cause of their letting {i.e. hindering} of their marriage.'

Henry VIII dissolved the Hospital in 1540, despite pleas from the City to allow it to take over control. It was described as a 'bawdy' house possibly because the Master was accused of immorality, or because it treated many of Southwark's prostitutes and their clients for their venereal diseases. At this time there had been forty patients, but the hospital was to remain empty for eleven years until a petition to Edward VI led to it being refounded in 1552 and rededicated to Thomas the Apostle as Becket had been decanonised. The hospital grew in size and reputation. At the end of the 17th century the hospital and the adjoining Saint Thomas' Church were largely rebuilt by Thomas Cartwright (Master Mason to Christopher Wren at Saint Mary-le-Bow). In 1822 part of the herb garret above the church was converted into a purpose built operating theatre for female patients. This strange situation resulted from the fact that the female surgical ward abutted the garret. Previously operations had taken place on the ward.

The rebuilding of London Bridge between 1824 and 1831 led to alterations within the hospital. Borough High Street was realigned further to the west and on a higher level. This resulted in the demolition of two old wings of the hospital, built by Thomas Guy and Mr Frederick. These were replaced by new north and south wings built between 1840 and 1842; these wings stood on much higher ground than the rest of the hospital and it was therefore intended that the whole hospital should be modernised, starting with the rebuilding of the main entrance.

In 1859 Florence Nightingale became involved with Saint Thomas' setting up on this site her famous nursing school, the Nightingale Training School. This started with fifteen probationers and grew rapidly. Instruction during the course was mainly practical, with the Probationers working in the hospital wards under close supervision. Considerable emphasis was placed on high moral character. At the end of the year, if they were approved, they were entered on the Register of Certified Nurses, and employment was found for them.

It was about this time that Parliament gave permission for the railway from Greenwich to be extended from London Bridge across the River Thames to Charing Cross. This extension was to pass within half a metre of the north surgical block of the Hospital and despite protests from the governors went ahead. The only solution for the Hospital was to move elsewhere. Florence Nightingale undertook a statistical survey that suggested that as the majority of the Hospital's patients came from outside the immediate area a move would have little significant effect. The Governors decided to sell the hospital and its site to the South-Eastern Railway Company and seek a new location. The Hospital closed in June 1862 and found temporary accommodation in the old Surrey Gardens Music Hall at Newington. A suitable permanent site was found at Stangate in Lambeth where work began in 1865. On 21 June 1871 Queen Victoria opened the new hospital. In the years immediately after the opening of the hospital the financial situation was such that it became necessary to admit private, paying patients in order to increase the hospital's revenue and meet its running costs.

The turn of the century saw a number of advancements in the running of the hospital including the introduction of electric lighting throughout the hospital in both theatres and wards. It was at this time that the first diagnostic work was done with x-rays and experiments were taking place in the use of x-rays in treating inoperable cancers. However this expansion in the work of the hospital's work put pressure on accommodation that was already over subscribed by 1891. The medical school was allotted money for building work to build a much needed extension. Other building projects were instituted but again the problems of financing the improvements meant there was a continuing shortage of beds and operating facilities.

During the First World War the hospital lost many members of staff to military service and as a result had to restrict the services offered to civilians. Two hundred beds were put aside for the treatment of sick and wounded men from the armed forces. On August 16th 1915 the military section of the hospital became the 5th London (City of London) General Hospital, the staff were given commissions and the nurses enrolled in the City of London Territorial Force Nursing Service. The 5th London General was closed on March 31st 1919, but the hospital continued to be overwhelmed with work in the aftermath of the war.

The inter-war years saw the reform of the scheme used for training nurses, this was undertaken by Miss Alicia Lloyd Still and was based upon the syllabus of the General Nursing Council. Miss Lloyd Still introduced an organised programme of lectures and had proper lecture rooms installed to replace the need to have classes in the nurses dining-room. This period also saw the donation of large sums of money to the hospital for specific purposes with the result that a number of laboratories were founded to expanded the research facilities available at the hospital and further accommodation was provided for the treatment of patients. However the finances of the hospital were as ever under-funded.

The Second World War saw the hospital involved in direct action. From 1940 the hospital buildings were heavily bombed and much damage and destruction occurred. The hospital was allotted to Sector VIII as the centre of a scheme to provide medical care for injured servicemen. Two hundred beds were again set aside for use by the military and 130 beds were retained for civilian use. Such staff as were not needed at the hospital were sent to work in outer areas, and a basement operating theatre was established. Once the bombing began conditions at the hospital became increasingly difficult and most of the staff and patients were evacuated to Hydestile near Godalming where the Australians were evacuating a temporary hospital. The first patients were admitted on April 17th 1941 and it remained in operation throughout the war and afterwards while rebuilding work was taking place in Lambeth, finally closing in 1963. Immediately the war was over work began on rebuilding the hospital, but a shortage of labour and supplies meant progress was slow. By 1947 there were again facilities to provide over 500 beds.

In 1948 the establishment of the National Health Service brought fundamental changes to the hospital. Saint Thomas' Hospital and the Babies' Hostel were the nucleus of a group that included the General Lying-In Hospital, the Royal Waterloo Hospital, the Grosvenor Hospital and the Roffey Park Rehabilitation Centre at Horsham, Surrey. Each of these constituent hospitals retained its name but was fully amalgamated with Saint Thomas' and the group as a whole was given the umbrella name of Saint Thomas' Hospital. Saint Thomas's Hospital was managed by the London Regional Hospital Board (Teaching), acting through a Hospital Management Committee. The nationalisation of the Health Service was greatly to Saint Thomas' financial advantage but lead to increasingly heavy demands for improved services.

Between 1950 and 1975 Saint Thomas' Hospital was virtually rebuilt. The bombing of the Second World war caused such extensive damage that it was shown to be necessary to start again from scratch. The hospital architect W. Fowler Howitt planned a modern hospital built along vertical rather than the traditional horizontal lines. This work was done over a period of time in order to enable the hospital to continue to serve the public throughout the work and to minimise disruption as far as possible.

In 1974 Saint Thomas's District Health Authority (Teaching) was formed under the Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Area Health Authority (Teaching) which in 1982 became West Lambeth District Health Authority. The Special Trustees of Saint Thomas' Hospital came into existence on 1 April 1974 when as a consequence of National Health Service reorganisation, Saint Thomas' Hospital ceased to have its own Board of Governors, but became part of the Saint Thomas' Health District (Teaching) of Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Area Health Authority. The Special Trustees took over responsibility for the hospital's endowment funds. In April 1993 in a further reorganisation of the National Health Service and the way hospitals were organised and grouped the Saint Thomas' Hospital group was amalgamated with the Guy's Hospital Group to create the Guy's and Saint Thomas' NHS Hospital Trust. Their mission statement outlines what the trustees see as the Hospital's current role in society: "To be London's leading University Hospital, providing a comprehensive local acute hospital service to people who live and work in London, providing a range of specialised hospital services and working in partnership with Guy's, King's and St Thomas' School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences to deliver high quality teaching and research."


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Saint Thomas' Hospital, 1551-2001.

Papers relating to hospital administration, including Charter, 1551; General Court of Governors minute books, 1556/7-1948; Board of Governors minute books 1948-1974; General Purposes and Finance Committees minute books, 1948-1974; Grand Committee minute books, 1634-1947; Almoners' Committee minute books, 1845-1959; House Committee minute books, 1879-1929; Medical and Surgical Officers' Committee, Medical Chairman's Committee and associated committees minute books, 1920-1985; Committee minute books, 1831-1974; notices of meetings, 1765-1865; rules, orders and charges, 1556-1974; Steward's report books 1896-1946; Easter reports 1689-1862; miscellaneous reports 1759-1944; annual reports 1894-1990; medical reports 1836 and 1870-1952; lists of governors 1633-1942; in-letters and papers, 1265 and 1579-1946; out-letter books, 1715-1870 and 1929-1938; correspondence files, 1940-1962; administrative papers, [1575]-1903; staff administration, 1591 and 1739-1948 and miscellaneous reports and papers, 1955-1973.

Papers relating to hospital buildings including papers, contracts, deeds, agreements and plans for the buildings at Southwark, 1697-1867; reports, pamphlets, papers, bills and plans relating to the removal of the Hospital from Southwark, 1862-1871; deeds, leases, agreements, correspondence, plans, contracts and papers relating to the hospital site at Stangate Street, Lambeth, 1807-1966; inventories and linen records, 1669-1948; Rebuilding Committee and associated committees minute books, 1944-1975, papers relating to the rebuilding of St. Thomas' Hospital, 1950-1976; architects' drawings, [1865]-1947; contract drawings and documents, 1959-1973 and plans relating to the restoration of Governors' Hall, 1988-1990.

Patient records including admission registers (fragmentary), 1672-1865; Saint Thomas' Hospital, Hydestile admission registers, 1941-1957; Ophthalmic Ward admission books, 1897-1908; admission letters, forms and regulations, 1689-1881; registers of In-patients, 1870-1871, 1890-1929 and 1940-1947; Lodge maternity books, 1933-1939; Lady Almoner's index books, 1938-1944; registers of baptisms, 1880-1946; Chaplains' registers of services, 1949-1968; death registers, 1763-1964; Out-patients records, 1897-1960; Diet table and diet kitchen log books, 1872-1948; case books (examples only), 1878-1936; pathology records, 1903-1950 and records of the Department of Ophthalmology, 1937-1973.

Papers relating to nursing staff including minutes of Matron's and Sisters' meetings, 1918-1937; registers of nursing staff, 1844-1919; Matron's account books, 1865-1909; Saint Thomas' Hospital, Hydestile staff nurses' record books, 1941-1956 and Nurses' Musical Society list of costumes and properties, 1927-1931.

Financial accounts, 1559-1966; papers relating to legacies and endowments, 1553-1947; papers relating to hospital estates and leases, [1246]-1985, including estates registers, insurance registers, rental accounts, deeds, manorial court rolls, surveys, maps and plans; legal cases concerning Dr Todd, incumbent of St. Thomas' Church, Southwark, 1619-1628; account book for legal charges, 1692-1696; legal cases concerning Bridewell Hospital and the City of London, 1770-1782; legal case concerning Operating Theatre Riot, 1837; London and Greenwich Railway Bill and London Bridge Station Bill, 1835-1847; Saint Thomas' Hospital v. City of London, 1850-1851 and dispute with Charing Cross Railway Company and removal of hospital to Stangate, Lambeth, 1859-1871.

Papers relating to the Social Work Department, 1924-1985, including reports, statistics, photographs and papers relating to the Cicely Northcote Trust. Papers of the Hospital Archivist, 1857-1968, including correspondence relating to accessions, lists, catalogues, exhibitions, loans, enquiries and publications. Papers relating to Saint Thomas' Church, 1552-1875, Saint Thomas' Charity School, 1831-1892 and Saint Thomas' Parish, 1817-1898. Papers of the Friends of Saint Thomas' Hospital, formerly the Ladies Guild, including committee minute books, 1910-1967 and annual reports, 1905-1991.

Diaries and memoirs, 1680/1-1983; papers relating to special occasions, 1865-1974; newspaper cuttings, [1805]-1986; papers of Anthony Wingfield, 1729-1799 (receiver of Saint Thomas' Hospital 1775-1799); magazine of the Fifth London (City of London) General Hospital, 1916-1918; printed material produced by the hospital, 1924-1986, including Saint Thomas's Hospital Gazette, 1891-1968 and Circle (staff magazine) 1968-1990; visitors' books, 1925-1965; certificates, papers and photographs of medical staff and students, 1818-1959 papers of the Children's Ward Memorial Fund, 1940-1989; papers of Robert Sharpington, Public Relations Officer, 1957-1975; papers of the United Hospitals Boxing, Fencing and Gymnastic Club, 1908-1991; papers relating to Miss Ethel Hart, housekeeper, 1917-1992; histories of Saint Thomas' Hospital, 1819-1984 and artefacts, [1665]-1960, including plumb line used by Queen Victoria to lay foundation stone of hospital at Lambeth, 1868; arm band with badge, 1917 and a London Penny Token, showing on one side a view of 'St. Thomas's Hospital Compleatd', 1708.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The records of Saint Thomas' Hospital are arranged according to a classification scheme for hospital records: Class A, Hospital Administration, class B, Patients' Administration, class C, Matron's Office and Nursing Staff, class D, Finance, class E, Endowments, class F, Legal papers, class J, Social Work Department, class K, Hospital Archivist, class P, Saint Thomas' Church and parish, class R, Friends of Saint Thomas' Hospital (formerly the Ladies' Guild), class S, Special Trustees of Saint Thomas' Hospital History and works of Art Committee and class Y, Miscellaneous. The library list, appendices to the records of Saint Thomas' Hospital and card indexes have been placed at the end of the list.

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: Depositor

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

The records transferred to the Greater London Council in 1967 and 1968 included administrative records of Saint Thomas' Hospital up to 1948, patients' registers (but not case books or case notes) up to 1948, and other records formerly in the care of the Archivist.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Materials received in various accessions between 1967 and the present day.

Allied Materials

Related material:

For further records of Saint Thomas' Hospital see the Archives and Manuscripts section of the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine (mostly the private papers of former staff), the King's College London Archives (records of the medical school), Southwark Local Studies Library (petitions for admission from the poor of St George the Martyr Parish, Southwark) and the Royal College of Surgeons of England (clinical notebooks and lecture notes).

The old St Thomas' operating theatre for female patients can be visited at 'The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret' at 9a St. Thomas's Street, London, SE1 9RY. See their website for further information.

Publication note:

St Thomas' Hospital, by E M McInnes, 1963.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
February 2009

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