St Thomas the Apostle, Southwark

Px01477_800x600 - 10b Oct 2010

Above: The building today, on the north side of St Thomas Street.

St Thomas’s Hospital was founded on land beside Borough High Street in the 13th century. By the 1800s the land on which it stood extended along the length of the north side of St Thomas Street. During the 1830s a new London Bridge was opened, on a new site with the result that the northern end of Borough High Street had to re-aligned slightly towards the west and traffic passing the hospital increased considerably. In the same decade London Bridge Station was opened as the capital’s first railway terminus. It was right next to the eastern end of the hospital. The governors felt it was time to move to a quieter location and, taking quite a few years to do so, the hospital was relocated to its present site – opposite the Houses of Parliament.

Standing beside St Thomas Street was the original chapel which was ‘left behind’ when the hospital was moved. The building is still there today. It was built in 1703 as the chapel for St Thomas’s Hospital which originally stood on the north side of St Thomas Street, almost opposite the entrance to Guy’s Hospital.

Called St Thomas the Apostle, the chapel ceased to be a place of worship in the late 19th century. It later served as the Chapter House of Southwark Cathedral until at least the 1960s.

The building was damaged during the construction of the Jubilee line extension in the mid-1990s and was placed on English Heritage’s ‘at risk’ register. In 2007 it was refurbished and now serves as the headquarters of property developers The Cathedral Group plc.

The Old Operating Theatre, Museum and Herb Garret occupy part of the church tower and roof space of the old building.

A planning application was submitted in April 2014 to Southwark Council seeking the conversion of the church into an 80-cover restaurant. There was also provision of a new lift for access to the museum and the creation of a flat in the church tower.

Bearing in mind that there is an old operating theatre within the building where leg amputations without anaesthetic were routinely performed, one wonders if the restaurant will serve ham to its customers and, if so, whether it will be served ‘off the bone’.


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