©Wellcome Library, London

St Bartholomew's Hospital was founded in 1123 by an Italian monk named Rahere who came from the great Roman hospital and Benedictine monastery on the island of San Bartolomeo at the mouth of the River Tiber. In keeping with the monastic element of hospital care, a church, St Bartholomew the Great, was built next door and houses Rahere's tomb. By the end of the 17th century, the hospital could boast a number of famous doctors including Thomas Vicary (c. 1490-1561), the first master of the Barber-Surgeons' Company and surgeon to Henry VIII; William Clowes (1544-1603), surgeon to the English fleet; and William Harvey (1578-1657), who discovered the circulation of the blood. About 3000 patients a year were being discharged from the hospital but the demand for beds was steadily growing. This illustration, showing the Henry VIII Gate and courtyard, was made before the hospital was rebuilt between 1730-1770 from designs drawn up by the architect, James Gibbs (1682-1754). He was the hospital's greatest benefactor because he worked on the designs and supervised the building for 20 years without accepting a fee.

Engraving by Benjamin Cole (fl. 1700-1767), London 1720.