Above: The statue is in the main corridor linking all the hospital buildings.
St Thomas’s Hospital was originally established in Southwark, on the east side of Borough High Street. The dedication for the hospital had originally been to St Thomas a Becket, who was buried in Canterbury Cathedral, where he had been slain in December 1170. Many pilgrims gathered in Southwark to make the pilgrimage to Canterbury to see his shrine.
The hospital, along with all other religious foundations (like monasteries and religious institutions), was closed on the orders of Henry VIII at the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536). IN the case of St Thomas’s Hospital, it was refounded by Henry’s son, Edward VI, in 1551. The dedication was changed to St Thomas the Apostle.
The statue of Edward VI by Peter Scheemakers stood at the hospital on the Southwark site but was taken to the new Lambeth site and can be seen within the hospital itself. The sculptor Peter Scheemakers came from a family of sculptors. Of Flemish origin, both his father and his two sons worked in the profession. He came to London sometime before 1720 and made his reputation with the bust of William Shakespeare in Westminster Abbey in 1740. His statue of Edward VI predates that work. The figure in bronze shows the king in a period dress. The inscription on the plinth records that the cost of the sculpture was met by Charles Toye Esq, Treasurer of the hospital. The sculpture was designated a Grade II* listed structure in 1979.
There are, in fact, two statues of Edward VI on the hospital site at Lambeth. The other one is in the open air and was made in Purbeck limestone by Thomas Cartwright in 1682. It was designed by Nathaniel Hanwell. This figure formed the centrepiece of a grouping that stood on the gateway to the hospital from Borough High Street. The king’s statue was originally flanked by carvings of two pairs of disabled figures which have, since 2019, been on display at the Science Museum.