Barts Health NHS Trust Lead Archivist Kate Jarman discusses the hospital’s returning View Day.
As Britain’s oldest working hospital, with 900 years of history, there are many unique customs at St Bartholomew’s, including the View Day, a tradition which has endured for at least 471 years.
First recorded in 1551, with roots in medieval traditions and surviving two world wars, it has a distinguished legacy for both the people who work at the hospital and the community it serves.
This year’s event is of particular significance as it is the first in-person View Day since the pandemic began. After the upheaval of the past two years, the spirit of View Day, which celebrates the people that makes St Bartholomew’s what it is, feels especially important.
Traditionally, View Day has two elements: acquainting the community with the work of the hospital and a formal inspection of property and services. This cohesion of the hospital and local community is one that dates back to the Easter services held in Spitalfields in the Middle Ages when patients were walked through the streets so that citizens might see them and make donations towards their care.
Nowadays, View Day reflects its medieval Spital origins with a church service taking place in the historic Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great, which was founded alongside the hospital in 1123. This year, we are also re-introducing stalls and entertainment in the hospital square, emulating the festive atmosphere introduced in the 1980s and 90s.
Although viewing patients is, understandably, no longer appropriate, View Day still provides the opportunity for supporters of Barts Health NHS Trust and Barts Charity to hear about recent clinical advances and show appreciation for the extraordinary acts of service which take place across the trust every day.
As we gear up to celebrate our 900th birthday in 2023, this year’s View Day will also support fundraising for two ground-breaking facilities – a clinical research facility and a dedicated breast cancer centre. With the support of Barts Charity, these new facilities will help us deliver even better care to our community and continue our status as a world-leading hospital.
View Day embodies the past, present and future of St Bartholomew’s. It is steeped in history, whilst celebrating the work of our people and plans for the future. It is fitting that View Day 2022 also signals the start of celebrations to mark our 900th milestone in 2023.
View Day, St Bartholomew’s Hospital
Pictures courtesy of Barts Health Museum and Archive service.