London Slant: Eat, Pray, Buy—with the farmers at Guy’s Hospital

Tuesday mornings see a farmers’ market set up shop at Guy’s Hospital near London Bridge. So come one sunny lunchtime I decided to check it out. Business was booming at stalls selling sizzling sausages (hand reared pork, no doubt) and cupcakes (the herdsman must have been at the Aga all day). The few displays of fresh vegetables were largely ignored.

London Bridge Farmers' Market

Shoppers ignore the food display and cluster round the sausage grill at London Bridge Farmers’ Market.

Not wishing to go against the flow, I made for the paella stand. The produce of the paddy fields surrounding London was bubbling up a treat. I bought a boxful and found a peaceful seat among trees whose fragile leaves fluttered against a brilliant sky. Georgian buildings including the aptly-named Shepherd’s House formed an elegant backdrop. It may have been more al fresco food court than fresh produce for sale, but I began to warm to this pretty hideaway in the shadow of the Shard.

Guy's Hospital Chapel

Glowing upper galleries of the 18th century Guy’s Hospital chapel.

Lunch over, I walked on to the 18th century Guy’s Hospital Chapel, and pushed open the door. Dark recesses with mosaic panels of angels led towards the altar, where a row of windows—some with fabulous stained glass—flooded the upper storey with light.

Guy's hospital

Marble memorial to the colourful Thomas Guy, founder of Guy’s Hospital in 1724, shown helping a sick, poor man.

I turned round and there behind me was a sculpture of the hospital’s founder, Thomas Guy. It’s a striking monument, showing him helping up a sick man from a gutter. I later discovered how appropriate this characterful memorial is: Guy made money selling illegal bibles, rode the crest of the Georgian stock market, yet was so concerned about the poor he set up this hospital for “incurables”.

Continuing my ramble I discovered how the story of Guy’s, not to mention British medicine, unfurls through the buildings on this site. As well as a looming tower block there’s a woven metallic structure known as the “wasps’ nest” that houses the pharmacy. A specialist cancer centre is being built nearby. All around are plaques and artworks that shed light on the hospital’s history, from statues of worthies to imaginative representations of medical triumphs.

Bronze statue of poet John Keats, who trained as a surgeon at Guy's. His two companions told me that the alcove was originally part of the previous London Bridge.

Bronze statue of poet John Keats, who trained as a surgeon at Guy’s. His two companions told me that the alcove was originally part of the previous London Bridge.

Guy's Hospital

The “wasps’ nest” building at the main entrance to Guy’s Hospital.

As I headed back through the market at last I spotted what had brought me here: a stall selling vegetables that looked as though they’d been picked that morning. I bought a bag of leafy kale that turned out to be absolutely delicious. So I’ll definitely return for lunch and a bunch—with a dash of history—when the sun comes out another day.

London Bridge Farmers’ Market  is at Memorial Arch Square, Guy’s Hospital, less than 5 minutes on foot from London Bridge tube station. Tuesdays, 9am—2pm

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