CHAPTER 3: ST. THOMAS STREET
St. Thomas Street on the east side of Borough High Street takes its
name from St. Thomas's Hospital, which for over six centuries occupied
ground on the north side of the way. The street is not shown on the earliest
plan of the area circa 1542 (Plate 8) but it was probably in use soon after,
for in the reign of Edward VI the chapel of the hospital was made the parish
church of the newly created small parish of St. Thomas's. Most of St.
Thomas's parish was included in the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey
under the Act of 1899, but the southern side of St. Thomas Street west of
Guy's Hospital, and the greater part of the hospital was incorporated with
Southwark and is, therefore, within the scope of this volume.
St. Thomas's Churchyard lay opposite the church on the south side
of St. Thomas Street. It was approached by a narrow lane, the street frontage being occupied by houses. The churchyard was for many years used as
a private garden to houses in St. Thomas Street, (ref. 62) and it now forms part of
the grounds of Guy's Hospital.
Eight houses, to the east of the way to the churchyard, were leased
to Guy's in 1756, (ref. 63) and part of the ground was utilised for the west wing of
the hospital. Guy's obtained a lease of a further portion of the frontage in
1862, and in 1922 purchased the frontage as far as Borough High Street
with the exception of The Grapes, extending backward as far as the
north side of King's Head Yard. (ref. 63)
Nos. 2–14 (formerly 11–18)
This terrace of four-storey brick houses was built for St. Thomas's
Hospital by a contractor, Mr. Johnson, in 1819, at a cost of about £7,000. (ref. 64)
The houses are plain in design, but there is a moulded stone cornice between
the second and third floors and at first floor level the window sills are carried
through to form a string course.
The windows on the ground floor have segmental heads set in shallow
arched recesses. The upper windows have flat gauged arches and there are
dwarf iron balconies of a plain diagonal pattern on the first floor.
The Grapes (No. 2), which forms part of the terrace, was originally
two houses. A cornice and plain frieze supported on flat Doric pilasters have
been inserted across both frontages below the first floor windows with a shop
front and bar entrances on the ground floor (Plate 21a).
The residents in these houses and, indeed, most of the houses in St. Thomas Street,
have mainly been persons connected with the two great hospitals there. The most notable are:—
No. 2 (formerly 17 and 18), Sir Samuel Wilks, baronet and physician, occupied the
former No. 17 in 1854–60. He studied at Guy's and held several appointments there including
those of physician, curator of the museum and lecturer on pathology. He edited the hospital reports
from 1854 to 1865 and was joint author with G. T. Bettany of the standard history of the hospital.
He occupied No. 14 (formerly No. II) from 1861 to 1869. He died at Hampstead in 1911. (ref. 65)
No. 12, 1821–23(?), Charles Aston Key, surgeon. He was born in Southwark and became
a pupil at Guy's in 1814 and married the niece of Astley Cooper in 1818. He became demonstrator
of anatomy at St. Thomas's and later full surgeon at Guy's. He was one of the first surgeons in
London to use ether as an anaesthetic and his success in operations gained him a great reputation.
His son was Sir Astley Cooper Key, the admiral.
(?)1831–33, John Flint South, surgeon. He was son of a Southwark druggist, and Sir
James South, the astronomer, was his half brother. In 1814 he was apprenticed to Henry Cline,
the younger, at St. Thomas's Hospital. He became lecturer on anatomy there, and later, surgeon.
He was the author of several works on surgery.
1834/5–1845, John Hilton, surgeon. He entered Guy's Hospital as a student in 1824,
and rose to be professor of human anatomy and surgery there in 1860–2. His dissections of the
human body were reproduced in wax and kept in the anatomical museum.
1880–1884, Frederick Henry Horatio Akbar Mahomed, physician. He was the son of the
keeper of a turkish bath. He studied at various hospitals, including Guy's and became medical
registrar at the latter. In 1881 he was elected assistant physician to Guy's. He died in 1884 at his
house in Manchester Square.
John Keats is stated to have lodged over the shop of a tallow chandler named Markham in
St. Thomas Street in 1815, when he was a student at Guy's Hospital. (ref. 66) Unfortunately no rate
books for St. Thomas's parish have been found for the early part of the 19th century and it has not
been possible to establish the position of this shop.