From the original article on the Barts Health website.
View Day has been part of the Barts calendar for nearly 500 years, and has possibly existed in some form since the hospital’s foundation in 1123.
Traditionally, View Day has two parts – sharing the work of the hospital with our local community and a more formal inspection of the hospital’s properties.
The origins of presenting the hospital to the community date back to the Easter ‘Spital services’, which took place in the Middle Ages. Patients were walked through the streets of London to encourage Londoners to donate to the cities hospitals.
The tradition of ‘viewing’, or inspecting the hospital properties, dates back to the re-foundation of St Bartholomew’s Hospital by King Henry VIII. The hospital’s medieval buildings were in a state of disrepair and an annual inspection was put in place by the new board of governors.
View Day at St Bartholomew’s HospitalWhen the hospital was rebuilt in the 18th century, the focus shifted to the wards and by the 19th century, prizes were awarded annually for the best one. There was a formal inspection with the Beadle leading a procession of the medical staff, the governors and the matrons to each ward, where they would be greeted by the sister and nurses lined up in order of superiority.
From the 1970s, the church service was reinstated. The Lord Mayor of London has since taken on the formal role of the governors but the procession to the church is still led by the hospital Beadle.
Although viewing patients and wards is no longer appropriate, attendees still get to hear about the work of the hospital and the projects supported by Barts Charity over the previous year.
In 2020, the unprecedented global efforts to stop Covid-19 meant that, for the first time, View Day didn’t take place in its usual format, although the message of the day endured – to share the amazing work of this historic institution.