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Early hospitals founded during the medieval period

It is traditionally thought that the first hospitals in England emerged following the Norman conquest. 

Lanfranc's Hospital

Lanfranc's Hospital in Harbledown, Canterbury was established during the 1070s and is thought to be one of the earlier Norman hospitals. However, in 2010, radiocarbon analysis at the former leper hospital at St Mary Magdalen in Winchester suggests that there may have been a late Anglo-Saxon hospital on the site (960–1030).

St Bartholomew's Hospital

In 1123, Rahere, a courtier of King Henry I, established the Priory of St Bartholomew, and St Bartholomew's Hospital for the sick poor in Smithfield, London, following a pilgrimage to Rome. This hospital was one of the first to be established in Europe and had provision for teaching.

Gradually, the hospital became independent of the religious order. By 1420 the hospital and the priory were entirely separate. St Bartholomew's Hospital was one of only three medieval hospitals to survive the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539.


The Priory of St Mary of Bethlehem was established in 1247, over a century after St Bartholomew’s Hospital was established. It would become the first hospital for the mentally ill in England, and was later known as Bedlam.

Simon FitzMary founded the hospital in an effort to care for sick paupers; he donated a piece of land to the Bishop of Bethlehem to be used for a institution. The City of London took over the hospital in 1346, as it struggled to survive financially.


Historic England.
Health and welfare buildings: Listing Selection Guide.
Historic England; 2017.

The Telegraph.
Britain's first hospital discovered.
The Telegraph; 20 October 2010.

Barts Health NHS Trust.
St Bartholomew's - Our history.
Barts Health NHS Trust; 2019.

Historic England.
From Bethlehem to Bedlam - England's First Mental Institution.
Historic England; 2019.