RepositorySt Bartholomew's Hospital Archives & Museum
TitleStudents Union and Student Leisure and Recreation
Extent62 volumes, 41 files
Admin HistoryBefore the 1890s the Medical College had no institutional clubs or societies beyond the Abernethian Society, and there was no organised socialising outside the college and little encouragement to do so by the lecturers. Some clubs or societies were set up at the initiative of the students and a collegiate identity formed by the 1850s, however this was often more a continuation of former public school life or an imitation of life at Oxford or Cambridge. There was little money for extra-curricular activities, hardly any rooms available to use for socialising (apart from the Abernethian Room) and the multi-site nature of the college discouraged a strong corporate student culture. Studies took almost exclusive precedence. When sporting activities were organised it was by the students.

Eventually the games cult of Victorian public schools and ideas of sport as character building and fostering a sense of identity and solidarity as well as building a fitter more hardy nation took effect in the medical schools of London including St Bartholomew's. Impetus to found a club often came from inter-hospital competitions. Early sporting clubs at Bart's were the Rugby Union, cricket, athletics, amateur boxing and association football in the 1860s and 1870s. Later followed the Music Society and Amateur Dramatic Club. However the situation was disparate and ad hoc until 1892 when a number of existing student societies combined to form the Amalgamated Clubs of St Bartholomew's Hospital. The purpose of the amalgamation was 'to simplify the financial arrangement of the clubs', and each constituent society continued its separate existence. The lecturers, now more aware of the need to encourage the benefits of sport for health and character, gave their support to the Amalgamated Club and agreed to collect the membership fee. The St Bartholomew's Hospital Journal was established to give a voice to the Club.

In 1893 with increasing student numbers involved in sports and an obvious need for a college sports ground, the lecturers bought land at Winchmore Hill near Edmonton on the outskirts of North East London. It was formally opened in 1895.

The Students' Union was formed in 1904 to promote 'social intercourse and unity of interests' among the students. It had an elected council which took over the responsibility of the individual societies from the Amalgamated Clubs. In 1907 the rebuilding of the out-patient block was completed, and new Students' Union accommodation was situated on the ground floor. It comprised a common room, known as the Abernethian Room, and a smaller room used as a sitting room and for meetings of the committee.

The Student's Union encouraged more interest in sport, organised dances and 'smoking concerts'. In 1909 a rifle range was opened in the basement of the new outpatient block. Student activities and clubs suffered during the 1914-1918 War but revived afterwards with dances, cricket matches and garden parties organised. A new stand opened at Winchmore Hill and a 'freshers' tea' stated in 1924 for new students.

Offering extra-curricular activities was a means of colleges attracting students. The UGC encouraged this and competition between medical schools. Bart's Students Union encouraged new and expanding clubs although kept itself out of politics and other potentially controversial religious or moral issues as well as shying away from national co-operation with other student bodies.

Although activities were scaled down during the Depression in the 1930s facilities were added and the new college building at Charterhouse Square included a dining hall, gymnasium, squash courts and common rom. A new sports ground was acquired in Chislehurst, Kent, to accommodate the drive for fitness and sports at St Bartholomew's. By 1939 there was a pavilion, three rugby pitches and a football and hockey pitch.

Students' Union year books were published from 1905 to 1914, and again in 1923/1924. The 1905 volume (SBHMS/SU/4/1) includes a description of the foundation of the Students' Union.
DescriptionExtra-curricular activities have played an important part in student life and many of today's student clubs have a long history. The Abernethian Society was founded in 1795 for the reading and discussion of medical papers (the records of the society are catalogued separately as SBHB/SA). The Rugby Club, one of the oldest in the Rugby Union, dates from 1873.
Access StatusOpen
Related_MaterialSBHMS: Records of students of St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School, 1842-1938.

Cups, medals and other items relating to the sports clubs, are catalogued in SBHX4. Photographs of sports clubs are in SBHX8.

The early history of a number of the constituent societies is described in St Bartholomew's Hospital Journal, Nov 1935 (SBHMS/JO/1/41).

Students' Union year books, 1905-1911, are held by the West Smithfield Site Medical College Library.
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