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Barts Guild Celebrates a Century of Service I

n 1911 London was the hub of a great Empire but many of its citizens lived in dreadful poverty in Dickensian slums and were reliant on voluntary hospitals to provide free medical care. Aware of the plight of Barts’ poorest patients a group of ladies, all the wives of Barts consultants, formed a sewing circle. Having paid a subscription of 1/- (5 pence) each to cover expenses they set about making nightwear and clothing for poor patients from the East End and the City. As any charity worker will confirm, a nice cup of tea helps the work along and Guild members would take it in turns to bring their parlour maid along to serve tea at events. Before the inception of the National Health Service in 1948 Barts was a voluntary hospital which relied heavily upon charitable donations to provide the best care for patients. The Guild has always approached fund raising with flair and ingenuity. A good example being the Hogarth Fair held in 1936 .The Guild persuaded private collectors of Hogarths’ work to lend their pictures for an exhibition and a Bazaar was held in Barts’ Great Hall. Customers of the “Hogarthian Gin Shop” drank under the watchful eye of the wife of the Lord Chief Justice while Mrs Sainsbury took charge of the provisions stall.

Over the years the Guild has found imaginative solutions to contemporary problems. During WW1 Guild Members taught injured servicemen to embroider their regimental crests. Not only was this excellent occupational therapy but sales of their work provided the men with an income. A Charity shop called Bart’s Bazaar was opened during WW2 so that local families could replace household goods and clothing lost in the Blitz at very small cost and find a sympathetic listener in the Guild member on duty. In the past hundred years society and the provision of health care, thanks to the National Health Service, has changed in ways that would amaze the Guilds founding

members. The Guild has changed with the times and is now a modern charity encouraging both men and women of all ages to give a little of their time to support Barts. Guild President, Ann Wickham said: “ Supporting Barts through personal service is at the heart of the Guild’s activities. We always welcome new volunteers to work in our Souvenir and General shops and to visit the wards with our newspaper and confectionery and toiletry trolleys. These services are truly appreciated by patients, visitors and staff alike. Profits from the shops help us to provide patients with amenities that are not available to them on the NHS and to provide grants for medical equipment and services.

“If you have a few hours to spare

we will be delighted to hear from you. Whatever your talents be they fund raising, publicity or simply being a good listener we can make use of them and many volunteers find that they learn new skills by working with us. There is no pay but a guarantee of job satisfaction.” A century of support for a great hospital is certainly something to celebrate and the Guild has embraced the opportunity to spread the word about its work and to encourage new members and supporters. A Centenary Fair was held in May which raised much needed funds. The formation of the Guild was celebrated at the Annual General Meeting in October which

was attended by the Lord Mayor, the lady Mayoress and the City Sheriffs and in November Guild members marched in the Lord Mayor’s Show. The 100 year history of the Guild has been chronicled by Ann Wickham in “A Century of Service”. This fascinating book which includes many illustrations drawn from the Barts archives was published in November and is on sale at £15. A Guild Calendar, produced to celebrate the Centenary, features nostalgic images of Barts in bygone years and glimpses of the Barts of the future. The calendar is priced at £5.00. “A Century of Service” and the calendar are both available from the Guild and Souvenir shops at Barts which also stock attractive Christmas cards and many items that would make excellent Christmas gifts.

Barts Children’s ward at Christmas in the 1930s – one of the pictures

from the Charity’s 2012 calendar.

Picture courtesy of Barts Archive

The next hundred years will doubtless be as exciting and challenging for the Guild as the previous century has proved to be. If readers of Barbican Life would like to be a part of that future as a member or volunteer please contact: The Voluntary Services Co-ordinator, Karen Undrill on 020 346 56844 or e mail please quote reference BL1. You can also pick up leaflets on volunteering and membership at the Guild shops at Barts . for shop enquiries please call 020 346 56382 ( General Shop) or 020 346 56844 (Souvenir Shop)


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