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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): H01/ST/MS
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1842-1977
Level of description: subfonds
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Extent: 0.35 linear metres
Name of creator(s): St Thomas' Hospital Medical School | London


Administrative/Biographical history:

St Thomas's Hospital has its origins in a small infirmary attached to the Augustinian Priory of St Mary the Virgin (St Mary Overie), which was destroyed by fire in 1212. During the Reformation in 1540 the hospital, along with many other religious foundations, was dispossessed of its revenues and closed. Edward VI restored St Thomas's estates and revenues. The hospital re-opened with 120 beds and three Barber Surgeons, assisted by apprentices, were appointed, possibly marking the beginning of St Thomas's Hospital Medical School. A royal charter of 1553 made the Mayor and Commonalty and Citizens of London perpetual Governors of King's Hospital, as it was known for a time before becoming St Thomas's Hospital.

The hospital underwent an extensive building programme between 1693 and 1709, and about 300 beds were provided. Medical education was also formalised at this time, with regulations introduced to control the entry of pupils into the hospital. Students were educated on the wards long before this time. A record of one of the apprentices of a surgeon at St Thomas's appears in 1561. By the second half of the seventeenth century surgeons at the hospital were accepting the apprentices of other surgeons for short periods of tuition within the hospital. The physicians at the hospital had some pupils, though a fewer number than the surgeons. From about the early 18th century the Hospital Apothecary also apprenticed pupils.

Until the mid nineteenth century there were three types of student attending the medical school: surgeons' apprentices and dressers, dressers who had served an apprenticeship elsewhere and were completing their training with a particular surgeon, and pupils, who were not attached to any particular surgeon. Pupils first appeared in 1723, and tended to be on the periphery of surgical procedures. Their numbers were unrestricted and they paid smaller fees than dressers. All students were able to attend the courses of lectures provided by the teaching staff at the hospitals and dissection classes. The study of anatomy was the most prestigious course offered at St Thomas's. New accommodation for dissection classes was provided in 1814, and allowed up two hundred students at a time to practice dissection. Other courses offered to students included chemistry, materia medica, physiology and midwifery.

The popularity and influence of the medical schools led to the building of new facilities at St Thomas's Hospital. New accommodation was opened in 1814, and comprised a museum, laboratory, library, dissection room and large lecture theatre. In 1842 the Hospital Governors stepped in to rationalise and improve the status of the medical school, and took over the management for the next sixteen years. A medical school fund was established and administered by the Hospital Treasurer to pay for the general running costs of the school, including the salaries of the non-teaching staff. A Medical School Committee was created to govern the school, appoint lecturers and oversee expenditure. The first Dean, Dr Henry Burton, was appointed in 1849. In 1858, management of the school was restored to the physicians and surgeons and in 1860 to the teaching staff, as the school had become self-financing.

In 1866 the extension of the railway from London Bridge to Charing Cross forced the Hospital to move to Lambeth, at the foot of Westminster Bridge. The new accommodation and new teaching staff heralded a good start for the new medical school. However, by 1892 most of the teaching staff had left and the new student intake was only forty-three. The enlargement of facilities at the school helped revive the school's reputation, and by 1900 student numbers were improving and increased rapidly.

St Thomas's Hospital and Medical School were seriously disrupted by the Second World War. Students were dispersed among other London hospitals and the pre-clinical school went to Wadham College, Cambridge. With the establishment of the National Health Service the medical school became a separate corporate body in 1948 and one of the general medical schools of the University of London. In 1949 the school accepted its first female medical student. The annual intake of students continued to increase throughout the 1960s and 1970s. In 1982 the medical schools of Guy's and St Thomas's Hospitals reunited as the United Medical and Dental Schools of Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals (UMDS). In 1990 King's College London began discussions with the United Schools and a formal merger with UMDS took place on 1 August 1998. The merger created three new schools: the Guy's, King's and St Thomas' Schools of Medicine, of Dentistry and of Biomedical Sciences, and reconfigured part of the former School of Life, Basic Medical and Health Sciences as the new School of Health and Life Sciences.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Saint Thomas' Hospital Medical School including Medical and Surgical School Committee minutes, 1842-1879; Lecturer's Committee minutes, 1910-1922; War Memorial Committee minutes, 1919 - 1932; Medical School Committee agendas, 1905-1910; Saint Thomas' Hospital Medical School and Surgical College prospectuses, 1895-1977; annual lists of students, 1932- 1948; papers relating to new medical school buildings, 1892-1894; papers relating to the apportionment of buildings between the hospital and medical school, 1948-1954 and balance sheets, 1895-1898.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

In sections according to catalogue.

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:

Immediate source of acquisition:


Allied Materials

Related material:

King's College London Archives hold the records of St Thomas' Hospital Medical School, 1723-2001, including student records, administrative papers, staff papers, financial records, photographs, prospectuses and other publications. See their website for a detailed catalogue of their holdings, reference: GB 0100 TH.

Publication note:

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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