Above: Looking north at the hospital site from Lambeth Bridge.
Outline Summary of the Hospital Sites
St Thomas’s Hospital was founded about 1106 as the infirmary of the Priory of St Mary Overy, in Southwark Just after 1200 there was a disastrous fire in Southwark which also damaged the priory and the infirmary. The hospital moved from the priory precinct to a new site on the eastern side of Borough High Street to provide for the needs of the increasing numbers of pilgrims that set off from Southwark to visit the shrine of St Thomas a Becket, at Canterbury Cathedral.
Having stood beside Borough High Street (known in medieval times as Long Southwark) from about 1200 to 1862, the hospital decided to move to a location that was not so noisy. On the western side, Borough High Street was becoming busier – due to the new London Bridge which opened in 1831. On the eastern side, London Bridge Station had opened as the London terminus of the London and Greenwich Railway. Clearly, if the hospital wanted peaceful surroundings, it was not likely to get any better and the solution was to find a new site which was the one at Lambeth, to the south of Westminster Bridge.
While the new hospital buildings were being constructed, the hospital moved from Southwark to temporary premises at Surrey Gardens, Newington. The hospital was there from 1862 until 1871.
Having moved to the riverside site at Lambeth was made, the hospital has occupied the site at Lambeth ever since. The only exception was when the hospital was evacuated to Hydestyle, near Godalming, between 1941 and 1945, for safety during World War II.
The Site in Lambeth Beside the Thames
Above: The seven original blocks seen from Westminster Bridge in 1871.
New buildings in Lambeth – on land just south of Westminster Bridge were erected 1868-71 on eight and a half acres (3.5 hectares) of land reclaimed from the Thames due to the construction of the Albert Embankment. The whole hospital transferred to the new site, occupying seven new blocks which were officially opened in June 1871 by Queen Victoria.
The whole group of buildings were designed by Henry Currey, the architect to the hospital. The buildings were conceived in the Classic style and built using Fareham red bricks with stone dressings. The Royal Albert Hall was also built using red bricks also from Fareham.
About 1875, the man who became a famous writer, William Somerset Maugham, studied medicine at the hospital where he received his MD degree.
During the Second World War (1939-45), the hospital was severely damaged by enemy action and the greater part of the most northerly block had to be demolished. The North Wing of the hospital was renewed and opened on 16 November 1976 by Elizabeth II.
In 2005 the Evelina Children’s Hospital was opened in a new building on the site of a former nurses’ home of St Thomas’s Hospital. Originally founded in Southwark Bridge Road, the purpose-built hospital was designed by Hopkins Architects.
The hospital, standing between the Albert Embankment and Lambeth Palace Road, also faces the Houses of Parliament across the Thames. The main entrance to the complex of buildings is from the eastern end of Westminster Bridge.
The hospital has played an important part in nursing. It was here that the Florence Nightingale Training School was established, endowed by public subscription, in memory of Miss Nightingale’s services in the Crimean War. A museum telling her story and displaying artefacts connected with her life stands on the part of the large hospital site.