Church Focus – John Harrison, founder and first surgeon of the London Hospital

Of the many interesting memorial plaques at S. Paul’s, John Harrison’s is a notable one to mention. He was the founder and first surgeon of the London Hospital and his plaque can be viewed in the interior south end of the church today.

By the mid-18th century there were five voluntary hospitals in London – St BartsGuy’s, St Thomas’Westminster and St George’s, which provided free medical care to those who could not afford it, however there were none in the east of the City, serving the rapidly growing, and impoverished population there – this was the void that the London Hospital was to fill.

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London Hospital, Whitechapel in 1753 engraving

In 1740, a group of 7 gentlemen led by 22 year old surgeon John Harrison, met at the Feathers Tavern, Cheapside and established the London Infirmary in Featherstone Street, Moorfields. In 1742 the Infirmary moved to Prescott Street and in 1748, the 2nd Duke of Richmond was asked by John Harrison, to become the first president of the new hospital, at which point it was renamed the London Hospital. However, it wasn’t until June 1752 that it was reported in the Gentleman’s Magazine that ‘The first stone was laid for the foundations of the new London Hospital near White Chapel’. The hospital was able to grow its public support and expand in successive years following the rise of the population and successive outbreaks of cholera between 1830 -1866. In 1990 the Queen visited the hospital and added ‘Royal’ to the name, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of its founding.

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From 1731 – 75 James Bate was Rector of S. Paul’s. Mr Bate had been a fellow of St. John’s Cambridge. He gave a 15th century Persian manuscript to the college in ‘grateful remembrance of the happy years’. He was also an author ‘An address to his parishioners on the occasion of the Rebellion’ (the rebellion led by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745). When John Harrison died in 1753, he was buried in S. Paul’s churchyard during Mr Bate’s incumbency. In 1913 S. Paul’s erected a tablet in memory of John Harrison. (For further information see records held by London Metropolitan Archives: http://bit.ly/2fAlctY)

 

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