St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield, London

Update 10 Nov 2022: I have at long last returned to my work on this noble church. Watch for updates!

Update 16 June 2008: I have returned to my work on the history and personalities of St. Bartholomew's. All material contained on this site is being migrated to Rahere's Garden: the History and Personalities of St. Bartholomew the Great.

Update 19 December 2006: I am delighted to report that Dr. Peter Webster, of British History Online has added Webb's Records of St. Bartholomew to their vast collection of digitized historical records.

The Records of St. Bartholomew's, Smithfield provides links to the tables of contents of each volume, as well as an invaluable search mechanism for the entire work

Table of Contents for Volume I - chapters are linked individually

Table of Contents for Volume II - chapters are linked individually

Official Web site: The Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great

The London Diocese of the Church of England

City of London churches

Photos of the Exterior by Keith (Boiler Bill) Chesworth

London vol 2 edited by Charles Knight - 1842 discussion of Rahere's church, hosted by Tufts University

Special thanks to David True for the Priory coat of arms used throughout this Web site

Consolabitur ergo Dominus Sion, et consolabitur omnes ruinas ejus; et ponat desertum ejus quasi delicias, et solitudinem ejus quasi hortum Domini.

"For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord." -- Isaiah 51:3 (RSV)


The history of St. Bartholomew the Great captures the story of human kindness. The church is dedicated to Voragine’s light-hearted apostle, identified by many scholars as Nathaniel, famed in the Middle Ages for his prowess as a healer of bodies and souls: The angels go with him, which never suffer him to be weary ne to be an hungered, he is always of like semblant, glad and joyous. St. Bart’s founder, Rahere, built the priory and associated hospital in fulfillment of a vow to the apostle, in thanks for his miraculous recovery from malaria. Bartholomew promised Rahere – in a vision or a fever dream – that prayers for healing made in his church would always be heard and answered: For everyone who being converted and penitent shall pray in this place shall be heard in heaven, or, seeking with a perfect heart help from any tribulation, without doubt shall obtain it; to those who knock with pious longing at the door of the Spouse attendant angels shall open the gates of heaven, receiving and offering to God the prayers and vows of a faithful people (Book of the Foundation, ch. 4) . St. Bart’s has given solace to the poor and dispossessed of London since its establishment in 1123 C.E.

Throughout the turbulent medieval period and through the cataclysms of the Reformation, St. Bartholomew’s maintained its dedication to the well being of its neighbors. Unlike the more common monasteries founded with great enthusiasm by the Normans after the Conquest, the Augustinian canons of St. Bart’s lived in the world, bringing medicine and spiritual leadership to a London suburb better known for its slaughterhouses and gallows. Despite several budget crises in latter years, the hospital founded by Rahere is still available for the sick and impoverished, the traumatized, the homeless. St. Bartholomew's Hospital and the London Hospital - known locally as Barts and the London - house the pre-eminent trauma and emergency care units in the UK. Rahere must be smiling.

In 2008, 885 years after its founding by Rahere, the Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great still lavishes spiritual guidance on its parishioners, as well as its visitors from around the world. The living story of St. Bartholomew’s continually reminds us that of all the variety of human gifts, kindness alone is never a mistake, and is always welcome.



Worley's plan of the church (1908)


Webb's map of the church (some time after 1935)


Present day map (1999)

Advowsons and Possessions of St. Bartholomew's

The Book of the Foundation of St. Bartholomew's, Smithfield

Charles Bird's etchings of St. Bartholomew's

Royal Charter granted by Henry I to St. Bartholomew's (with glossary)

The Priors & Rectors of St. Bartholomew's

Sir Aston Webb: the architect of the restoration

Bibliography and Sources

My first stab at creating a virtual tour

Charterhouse Street Cloth Fair - Hand and Shears View along Cloth Fair Bartholomew Passage Smithfield Market St. Bartholomew sign
Smithfield Gate St. Bartholomew in Gate
Priory arms in Smithfield Gate
Closer view of Smithfield Gate
Underside of Smithfield Gate
Monogram of Christ, Smithfield Gate
Rest in Peace monogram
Arms of St. Bartholomew Priory
Badge of St. Bartholomew Smithfield
Unidentified coat of arms William Panckridge's coat of arms Borradaile Savory's coat of arms
Back view of Smithfield gate house Tudor door in Smithfield gate house St. Bartholomew - Victorian tribute St. Bartholomew - bell tower stairs St. Bartholomew - Smithfield Cat St. Bartholomew - medieval font
PA120095 PA120097
PA120099 PA120100
PA120102 PA120103 PA120104 PA120105
PA150195 PA150196 PA120128 PA120123 PA120107 PA120108
PA120110 PA120111 PA120114 PA120115 PA120116 PA120117
PA150204 PA120129 PA120130 PA120131
PA120132 PA120133 PA120134 PA120135 PA120136 PA120137
PA120138 PA120139 PA120140 PA120141
PA120145 PA120148 PA120149 corbel PA150194 PA150197
PA150199 converted-arch freshwater PA120150    

Acknowledgements & Dedication

I'd especially like to thank Alan Taylor, who convinced me that I wasn't the only person interested in the stories of St. Bartholomew the Great; and Oliver Webb, the great-great-great-grandnephew of Sir Aston Webb, for information and photographs about the family. Nancy Sparrow, archivist at the University of Texas at Austin, has been hugely helpful in providing information to the Webb archives, and in saving me the expense of a trip to Austin.

In additon the ChurchCrawling mailing list has been an endless supply of information, resources and enthusiasm for my ongoing obsession.

Dr. Peter Webster of British History Online has instrumentally improved my research tools by digitizing all of E.A. Webb's monumental, two volume Records of St. Bartholomew's.

This site is dedicated to three people:

First to my grandfather, Professor Otto Bird, who alone amongst my relatives shared my enthusiasm for ancient churches;

Secondly, to my uncle Ken Peczkowski, a lifelong wellspring of curiosity and kindness;

Finally and forever to my beloved Danika True, for encouraging my peculiar passion for this church, and for sharing my life.


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Photographs and text copyright Tina Bird, 2003-2022

Last modified 10 November 2022