We recently presented proposals by Hopkins Architects for the development of a heritage site at Barts. This public exhibition was held in the Henry VIII Committee Room on the ground floor of The North Wing on 16th and 17th December. The turnout was rather special. We were visited by the City of London's planning committee for a private viewing but during the public exhibit also had a few special visits. Alumni popped around, including past surgical and current psychiatric professors and a large crowd of nurses. Nobody was able to tell me what the collective noun for a group of nurses is, but we had one of those!
(I have since been reliably informed it is a League of Nurses!)
Now, these were not any nurses. They were, as they will be the first to tell you, Barts nurses. Indeed, although retired, they still are Barts nurses. They will tell you that too!
On the boards were photographs of Barts and its monuments as well as computer generated images of the site we hope it will become. These magnificent plans were carefully annotated by the architects, who had set out such a clear and inspiring vision for the future and it was difficult not to notice the frisson of excitement that buzzed around the small and increasingly crowded room. Even James Paget seemed to be smiling down in approval from his place on the wall - a little surprising to me, as Sir John Millais' depiction of him has always seemed rather forlorned, with a look of exhaustion about him that I recall seeing on so many of my own professors' faces whilst trying to get me into shape at medical school!
But the exhibition was annotated further - by nostalgia. Not the weepy, Hollywood infected kind but the kind that leaves you with a warm smile on your face that you hadn't even noticed was there. We heard of how Barts nurses were always appropriately attired in crisp uniforms, long after others had adopted a more informal look and how they were famous for this. We were able to see how this pride in appearance had remained important years after retirement. There was some cheeky talk about Barts tarts, which made me blush and we, or I at least, also learned that you suggest that an ex-ITU sister was the sister to the respiratory unit at your peril. I never did get to the bottom of this. We also learned that Mr Setchell 'just hasn't changed one bit since he was a houseman!'.
With all these well remembered years gone by, it was disappointing to learn that our own trust had apparently not been able remember where the Henry VIII Committe Room is located.