What are we doing?

When we began this journey in 2011, as a small group of friends committed to Barts and its heritage, we saw ourselves as a support group for those who were responsible for that heritage: the Barts NHS Trust and the Barts Charity.

We little thought that we would be the sole champion, fighting for the survival of the historic buildings, art and archives of the country’s oldest working hospital, founded in 1123.

We have made significant gains, but we were not able to achieve everything we wanted such as restoring the symmetry of Gibbs ’original design.
This is a summary of our battle. We remain vigilant as we face the next challenge: to deliver a Heritage Trust worthy of this great asset and, ideally, to have completed the Restoration programme in time for the 900th anniversary of Barts in 2023.

Sir Marcus Setchell, Chairman

Protecting the Barts Heritage Site

What is the Barts Heritage Site?

St. Bartholomew’s Hospital has led the provision of healthcare in London for almost 900 years. No other hospital in the country begins to match this record. The Great Hall is the central jewel in the crown of its magnificent if yet unrecognised Heritage Site, consisting of the Grade I listed ancient monument status Gatehouse (1702), the North Wing (James Gibbs 1738), the Parish Church of St. Bartholomew’s the Less with its 12th Century tower, The East and West Wings (James Gibbs, 1752, 1758), the Fountain and Square (1859) and the adjacent Grade II listed Victorian Hardwick buildings.

What was the North Wing Used for?

The Great Hall was built to house the financial and management functions of the Hospital, which has provided free healthcare for the poor of the City of London since 1123. The costs of running the Hospital were not borne from taxes, insurance or private investment, but by voluntary donations from benefactors. The Governors’ Hall was designed as the place for its meetings and as a venue to welcome and attract donors. Patient care was provided in the other wings of the Hospital. After the inception of the National Health Service in 1948, many of the rooms around the Great Hall were used as administrative offices and meeting rooms. In more recent days with the formation of large NHS Trusts, administration has transferred to modern office blocks more suitable for electronic hi-tech management.

Current Usage

The Great Hall continues to be used for all kinds of large gatherings such as educational, cultural, social and fund-raising activities. The building also houses a uniquely valuable collection of Archives, and a small museum. The smaller rooms continue to be used for meetings, but there is potential for greater usage.

Why is the Great Hall under Threat?

This important cultural Heritage site is administered by the National Health Service. Ever rising  healthcare costs inevitably mean that care and conservation of the Heritage buildings are of low priority. Recent news reports suggest that the Barts Health NHS Trust faces a £93 million deficit. The Trust itself recognises that there is a £4 million backlog maintenance requirement.  As a  result of this inevitable  low priority, the buildings and contents are now  AT RISK.   



2009 Options Study: This was commissioned by the then Barts and The London NHS Trust at a cost of £100,000. Hopkins Architects were appointed following open competition to review options for the North Wing and associated heritage buildings which were outside the PFI contract. The study, presented to the Trust in Autumn 2009 identified issues and suggested solutions to make the Great Hall work as a free standing venue with compliant fire escapes; lifts for disabled access; new catering arrangements and access; adequate lavatories and cloakrooms and improved arrangements for the Barts Archives. Importantly, it proposed service bustles at each end to incorporate new stairs and lifts which would restore the original Gibbs symmetrical design. Between 2009 and 2012 there was an approach from Maggie’s Cancer Charity to the Trust. It is not known who made the approach or WHY and WHEN the Trust decided to set aside the Options Study it had commissioned and offer the space to Maggie’s. It is not known whether the decision was made by, or reported to, the Trust Board in full knowledge of its Heritage responsibilities.


2012: Friends of the Great Hall and Archive of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital formally set up as an unincorporated charity. Its aim is to raise awareness of, and support those responsible for the unique architectural, art, archives and medical history of Barts. Their funds are lodged as a Special Purposes Fund with the Barts Charity.

Mid-2012: It became known that the NHS Trust had agreed that Maggie’s could build a new centre at the east side of the North Wing, knowing that most of Barts cancer services were to transfer to UCLH.

In 2012: The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Friends ask Hopkins to review the 2009 options. The possibility of forming a Heritage Trust to relieve the NHS Trust of its heritage responsibilities is explored at a private meeting with the Chairmen of the NHS Trust and the Barts Charity.

2012-2013: Hopkins produce a Masterplan for the heritage buildings, and identify a site for a free-standing Maggie’s Centre.

January 2013: The Trust arranged for Maggie’s to present their plans. No member of the Trust was present and instead of the plans there was a marketing presentation about the Maggie’s philosophy. IT WAS MADE CLEAR BY THE FRIENDS THAT OBJECTIONS WERE NOT TO A CANCER CARE CENTRE BUT TO THE SITING OF THE BUILDING. Maggie’s claimed not to know about the sensitivity of the site or the 2009 Hopkins Options nor did the lead oncology clinician at Barts. The Friends and Hopkins try unsuccessfully to meet Maggie’s several times.

15 April 2013: The Trust CEO chairs a meeting of the Trust,the Friends and Maggie’s. He states the Barts mission: to become an outstanding cancer and cardiology centre and protect its heritage. He asks the Friends and Maggie’s professional advisers to look for a “Third Way”. Maggie’s refuse to delay their planning application until the results are known. Hopkins produce possible solutions but Maggie’s do not and say compromise is not possible.

4 June 2013: Maggie’s plans are refused (11:8) because of “concerns over the proposed landscaping and design of the Maggie’s Centre (and) unresolved issues in respect of how the future of the North Block would be safeguarded”. The application is withdrawn before the Committee can agree reasons for refusal.

16 July 2013: Meeting of the Chairmen of the NHS Trust, Barts Charity, the Friends and Hopkins Architects. The Trust declares support for the re-submission of the Maggie’s scheme.

20 - 21 November 2013: Maggie’s plans exhibited at Barts. The scheme is largely unchanged since its rejection and withdrawal.

16 - 17 December 2013: The Hopkins plans are exhibited at Bart’s. The plans are submitted by Hopkins on 20 December 2013.

12 February 2014: Maggie’s, the Friends and Hopkins present their plans, separately, to the NHS Trust Board, including the non-execs.

13 February 2014: Sir Michael Hopkins is advised that the Trust Board would be supporting Maggie’s application.

28 March 2014: NHS Trust/Insalls Architects submit plans for toilets and disabled access at western (wrong) end of North Wing,

30 March 2014: Maggie’s submit revised Planning Application.

29 April 2014: Friends/Hopkins plan is approved UNANIMOUSLY. 15 May 2014: Friends launch campaign to Save Barts Great Hall

17 July 2014: Maggie’s plans are approved 11 to 10. Insalls/NHS plans for basement toilets and main entrance to be at west (wrong) end are approved by 12 to 6.

23 July 2014: With advice from lawyers, SAVE Britain’s Heritage and other heritage experts, the Friends of the Great Hall engage lawyers to advise on the case for Judicial Review.

7 August 2014: Counsel engaged and the case for JR prepared.

20 August 2014: Pre-Action Protocol letter and draft letter of action is submitted to City of London.

29 August 2014: Claim at Court and Permission to bring Judicial Review lodged at High Court.

1 September 2014: The City of London Legal Department propose that all parties should consider an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mediation process between the NHS Trust, Maggie’s (the Interested Parties), the City (The Defendants) and the Claimant (Sir Marcus Setchell). After advice from lawyers and others, the Friends agree in principle to “stay” their case at Court and proceed to ADR.

5-30 September 2014: There are extensive negotiations to select a mediator, agree terms of reference of the ADR and a timetable.

1-28 October 2014: Position Statements, and a Statement of Common Ground are prepared, and revised drawings produced by the relevant architects. A mediator is appointed.

7 November 2014: Mediation meetings begin. After lengthy negotiations, agreement is eventually reached. Essentially the contents and amenities of the Hopkins bustle, crucial for the long-term viability of the Great Hall, (disabled access, lift to all floors, fire escape stairs, lobbies on all levels and basement toilets) are incorporated within the Maggie’s building, but functionally, decoratively and physically separate from their areas.

4 December 2014: An Agreement Settlement is signed and a Media Statement issued which summarises the amended plans to be re- submitted to the City Planning Department.

24 February 2015: Amended plans approved by City of London Planning Committee. Minor internal amendments by the NHS Trust to the west end Pathology Block plans also approved.

25 February 2015: First meeting of NHS/Maggie’s Project Group Membership includes Marcus Setchell and one other member of the Friends as directed in the Agreement Settlement. Outline construction timetable presented.

26 February 2015: Notice of consent subject to conditions issued by City of London.

Contact The Friends

Write to us at:

Friends of the Great Hall & Archive
of St Bartholomew's Hospital
Ground Floor
12 Cock Lane

The Barts Charity

We are working with Barts Charity, Registered Charity No 212563 barts_charity