King's College London
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Nightingale and hospital design

St Thomas's Hospital

View of St Thomas's Hospital with plan taken from Henry Currey'sSt. Thomas's Hospital, London. [London] : [Royal Institute of British Architects], 1871 [St Thomas's Historical Books Collection PAMPH. BOX RA988.L8 T1 CUR]View of St Thomas's Hospital with plan taken from Henry Currey'sSt. Thomas's Hospital, London. [London] : [Royal Institute of British Architects], 1871 [St Thomas's Historical Books Collection PAMPH. BOX RA988.L8 T1 CUR]This fine fold-out view of the planned new St.Thomas’s Hospital, London, shows the great pride that was involved in hospital design in the Victorian era.

St Thomas’s was a major project. Built on land largely reclaimed from the Thames, and directly opposite the Houses of Parliament, its plan was simple and monumental. The decoration of the exteriors facing the River revealed the architecture as not just utilitarian.

The manner in which the hinterland behind the new hospital is drawn here shows the hospital being presented as the most important building south of the Thames. The pavilions had airing courts between them, and the teaching function of the hospital is evident from the amphitheatres in the connecting building which runs parallel to the River.

This view shows the traditional sailing barges on the Thames, and encourages one to ponder the enormous contribution of the great intercepting sewers designed by Joseph Bazalgette in cleaning-up the River in allowing such a site to be agreed upon, so comparatively soon after the Great Stink of 1858. The decision was not without controversy: Miss Nightingale had initially championed a rural site.

The image is from a transcript of a paper read at the Ordinary General Meeting of the Royal Institute of British Architects on Monday 23rd January , 1871, giving an account of the new St. Thomas’s Hospital, then approaching completion on the Albert Embankment.

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