This 18th-century view of St Thomas’s Hospital, when it was located at the junction between Borough High Street and St Thomas Street, includes several figures in the foreground, within a courtyard. The background shows the crowded roof tops of south London.
The Hospital of St Thomas the Martyr was founded in about 1106, probably as part of the Priory of St Mary Overie, Southwark. However, the priory was destroyed by fire in 1207 or 1212. Soon afterwards it was rebuilt on the east side of Borough High Street, where it provided relief for the sick, poor and homeless. In 1539, at the dissolution of the monasteries Henry VIII closed the Hospital. It reopened in 1551, when the name was changed to the Hospital of St Thomas the Apostle.
Between 1693 and 1709 the hospital was rebuilt on the same site, largely at the expense of Sir Robert Clayton, who had been Lord Mayor in 1679. Clayton’s hospital is illustrated by this engraving. However, in 1859 the site was acquired by compulsory purchase, by the Charing Cross Railway Company, who demolished the hospital to build a viaduct from London Bridge Station. St Thomas’s was later rebuilt at its current location, on the south bank of the River Thames, near Lambeth Palace.
William Henry Toms was an engraver of portraits, ships and views of cities and castles in England. He lived at Union Court, Hoborn. He and his wife, Rachel, had a son, Peter (c.1726-1777), who would go on to be a painter. Toms had numerous apprentices during his career, including the engraver and printseller John Boydell. According to the diary of landscape painter Joseph Farington, Boydell described his master as ‘a very passionate man [who] committed many extravagances while his phrenzy [sic] lasted’.
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