Rebels, Radicals and Rough Justice: Historic Clerkenwell
St Bartholomew's Hospital
Stop here for a moment, and look to your left. Behind the stone wall beset with iron-barred openings is St Bartholomew's Hospital.
It was founded by Rahere in 1123 at the same time as the church we just came from. Like all monastic institutions, the hospital was dissolved by Henry VIII.
Walk a little further along the wall, leaving the circle, until you reach the gate into the hospital grounds on your left. Then stop, and look above the entrance.
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Can you see the statue above the gate, with two columns on either side of it? It might surprise you to learn that that’s a statue of Henry VIII. The reason for this is that he was persuaded to refound the hospital, and so took credit for this charitable deed. The statue is actually by Francis Bird. It was put up in the 1700s, when the present hospital buildings were constructed.
If you have time later, you can go inside, and visit the small museum about the history of medicine. You can also see the staircase with William Hogarth's biblical wall paintings. He was a governor of the hospital and donated the paintings.
For now, turn so that the hospital entrance is on your left. Then walk straight down the road ahead, leaving the circle behind you.
While you walk I will tell you about another famous event in English history that occurred here. This was where the Peasant's Revolt of 1381 ended. After the peasant army had destroyed the monastery of St John, their leader, Wat Tyler, led them to Smithfield to confront King Richard II. Their main grievance was against the Poll Tax which had just been imposed on the majority of the population except beggars. King Richard was only 14 at the time and bravely agreed to meet Wat Tyler to discuss the matter. What exactly happened is not clear, but the result was that the Lord Mayor stabbed Wat Tyler and the leaderless peasants disbanded.
Carry on down walking down the street. I’ll catch up with you a little further along.