This historic hospital with its striking Victorian facade, featured heavily in the news coverage of the attack in Westminster on Wednesday.
Nurses and medics rushed to help the injured on the bridge just yards away from its entrance.
“One of the most uplifting scenes amidst the whole tragedy was doctors and nurses rushing out of St.Thomas’ Hospital to help the injured,” said Abdi Duale, of London Young Labour.
Its proximity to the scene of the outrage reportedly helped limit fatalities, as the “catastrophically” injured were treated within minutes of being hit.
The hospital, on the south side of the river, faces the Houses of Parliament. The design was intended to complement the look of the newly-constructed buildings opposite–both puffing out their chests with imperial pride.
St Thomas’ was originally named for Sir Thomas A. Beckett (Henry II’s ill-fated Archbishop of Canterbury) and located in Borough High Street, Southwark. When the site was needed for the development of the railway link into London Bridge Station in the late 1860’s, it was moved to its present imposing site in Lambeth on the Thames, just off Westminster Bridge.
The design of the newly-sited hospital was influenced by the thinking of Florence Nightingale, whose fame spread during the war in the Crimea (1857).
Six “pavilions” were built facing the river, each connected by low corridors. These separate wings increased ventilation and reduced the possibility of spreading infection.
Three of the original six pavilions were destroyed in the London Blitz.
St Thomas’ has been an occasional feature in my life–and I always prick up my ears when it’s in the news.
I feel proprietorial about it–“Tommys” belongs to me!
I lost my tonsils here when I was four–1946. (More common then to have them removed–penicillin not so readily available.)
I have a vague memory of being on a ward in one of the three iconic wings and standing on my bed–terrified, refusing to drink the orange-flavored potion aimed at knocking me out for the operation.
Not surprisingly, I don’t remember how the kind and understanding–if exasperated–nurses succeeded in getting the evil-tasting liquid down my poorly throat–but they did. I have no tonsils.
My dear brother Jack was born there–a triumph for the special Diabetes Unit. My mother was under their care–in the mid-fifties doctors were less confident of letting a woman with Type 1 Diabetes go to term.
This iconic hospital was also where Ma was taken by ambulance from Pinner way up in NW London in the middle of the night, after she blacked out at home. She’d had a hypoglycemic attack–low blood sugar/insulin imbalance.
Dad woke up–a miracle–called an ambulance and raced through the darkened streets to St. Thomas’ –where Ma was saved.
It happened more than once!
In 1959, I visited my beloved Grandma–Dad’s adoptive mother–in another of the wings and was distraught a few days later on hearing she had died.
“Tommy’s” will always be MY hospital.
And Tommy’s tradition of saving lives and caring for the sick and injured was impressively on display Wednesday afternoon.
Its motto is Sancte et Sapienter: with holiness and wisdom.
And a swift pair of heels…