What’s in a name? Quite a lot it seems, especially if it’s about somewhere as familiar to all of us as St Mark’s Hospital reports Christopher Browne. In this article, Chris recounts the history and various identities of St. Mark’s, from it’s foundation in 1835 to it’s current status as the National Bowel Hospital in 2023.

Our name game begins in 1835 – almost 180 years ago – when the predecessor of St Mark’s Hospital was founded by a surgeon called Frederick Salmon. It’s name? The Infirmary for the Relief of the Poor afflicted with Fistula and other diseases of the Rectum and Lower Intestines.

Proud but loud, you might say!

This tiny infirmary of one room and seven beds was based at 11 Aldersgate Street in the City of London, and admitted 131 patients in its first year. It was often referred to as the Fistula Infirmary and was financially supported by the City of London council. 

The Lord Mayor, William Taylor Copeland, was one of Mr Salmon’s first patients and was appointed president of the hospital. Another famous patient was the author Charles Dickens who blamed his need for surgery on “too much sitting at my desk”.

After three years the number of patients trebled, so Salmon moved the infirmary to larger premises at 38 Charterhouse Square in London’s Islington. However, it kept on growing and 13 years later it moved to London’s City Road where a group of almshouses had been was converted into a 25-bed hospital.

The new hopital was opened on St. Mark’s Day – 25 April 1854 – and aptly enough renamed St Mark’s Hospital for Fistula and other Diseases of the Rectum.

But wait for it. Bigger things – or should I say names – were to come. The hospital’s soaring workload meant it needed to expand onto an adjacent site in City Road.

However, the costs for building the new site kept on soaring until the by now struggling hospital faced almost certain closure.

Enter Lillie Langtry, the illustrious American actress. In 1909, Miss Langtry organised a charity matinee performance at her theatre in London’s Drury Lane and raised enough money to rescue the project.

Once again the hospital was renamed – this time as St Mark’s Hospital for Cancer, Fistula and Diseases of the Rectum to reflect the work and interests of John Percy Lockhart-Mummery, who was the hospital’s senior surgeon and a pioneer in cancer surgery. Lockhart-Mummery’s colorectal work earned him the nickname “King Rectum”. 

Frederick Salmon – Founder of St. Mark’s Hospital

The hospital continued to expand and in 1948 it became part of the new National Health Service (NHS). The same year Francis Avery-Jones became the hospital’s consultant gastroenterologist, a post he held for 30 years until 1978. His work earned him the soubriquet “the father of gastroenterology”. He was also the pioneer of treatment for the peptic ulcer.

St Mark’s was run jointly with Hammersmith Hospital until the NHS reforms of 1972 when it forged a close partnership with London’s famous St Batholomew’s Hospital (commonly known as Bart’s). In 1995, it became part of the North West London NHS Trust and moved to a site next to Northwick Park Hospital.

St. Mark’s remained at the Northwick Park site until 2020. However, as a result of Northwick Park being a front-line hospital during the COVID crisis, most of the St. Mark’s services were moved “temporarily” to the nearby Central Middlesex Hospital, at Park Royal. In 2022, this move became permanent.

But hold on a minute, I can feel a name change coming on. Can you? Nothing so titillating I’m afraid. The hospital’s title gradually contracted to the now familiar St Mark’s Hospital.

Until recently. One of the many recent initiatives by the St Mark’s Hospital Foundation was to give the hospital’s name more authority by adding ‘The National Bowel Hospital’ to its title.

So stop the presses! We’re now known as St Mark’s, the National Bowel Hospital & Academic Institute.

Jason Bacon, the Foundation’s CEO, says: “It’s a recognition of our status as the UK’s primary centre for tertiary referrals: our complex cancer service has grown exponentially, while the title also recognises our national reputation for IBD and the recent influx of younger IBD patients to the hospital.

Christopher Browne
RLG Commitee member and ROAR! editor

A version of this article first appeared in ROAR! If you would like to read other articles like this, why not become a member of the Red Lion Pouch Support group? You will receive printed copy of ROAR! twice a year and have online access to archive ROAR! editions going all the way back to issue number 1, published in 1994.

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Another article about the history of St. Marks Hospital can be found at Patients that have previously been treated at the old St. Mark’s building at City Road, London, may be particularly interested to see the video/documentary providing a tour of the building following it’s conversion to an upmarket apartment block.

Gary Bronziet