Barts View Day and Reception, Priory Church/Barts Great Hall

Wednesday 10th May 2017

Having now got a taste for High Church services, hot on the heels of St. Paul's I found myself at the Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great – last seen by me for the Cutlers' 600th in the dark days of winter. Arriving by bike rather hot and in blazing sunshine, it was a relief to find a pleasantly cool ambient temperature in this lovely building dating from 1123 and not greatly altered since (well, one half was demolished by HRVIII when he turned it into a parish church, but décorwise..). It’s such a special place, I had no problem enjoying a chat with the Master Constructor for half an hour or so before the service began at 5.15pm. The small choir sang handsomely and the priest/precentor wore a monastic brown cowl over his white cassock, whilst at the altar incense was liberally wafted around until the interior was quite opaque – I did wonder had I’d doctored it with a little Virginian tobacco, it might smelt more palatable, but I suppose the Govt. are only happy for us to ingest incense inside.. A fine service with several hymns and prayers by C of E and RC representatives before we ended with a nice bit of Bach to shuffle out to and proceed round the corner to the Great Hall for wine and canapes. In case you’re wondering, View Day has taken place since 1551 and has never been cancelled despite a couple of World Wars. The idea was to allow the Hospital Trustees an opportunity to inspect the facilities and make sure all was in order and now takes place as an extension of its fundraising as Barts is World Class in several areas and has fine cancer treatment labs now installed. The Great Hall is an extraordinary part of the complex – the stairs are adorned with vast murals by none other than William Hogarth, and the main chamber entirely decked out with donor boards going back to the late medieval era – it’s well worth a look, such a shame the fountain courtyard outside is non smoking as it would be very good for a dinner otherwise! We were treated to wine and nibbles before the new Chief Exec gave a short speech, inviting anyone who wish to “view” the new medical suites. It was a very pleasant occasion and our exit at 20.30 came all too soon…