Alcove From Old London Bridge – London, England - Atlas Obscura

Alcove From Old London Bridge

Before becoming a poet John Keats studied here to become a surgeon.  


In the shadow of The Shard, in the southern borough of London’s Southwark, lies Guy’s Hospital. Nestled deep within all the various departments is a small green oasis of calm. Here, one will find a memorial to John Keats, a 19th-century poet and contemporary of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. What makes this monument unusual is both the statue and its structural encasement.

Why would a writer of poetry from the early 1800s be honored on the grounds of a medical center known for its curative innovation and breakthroughs? Well, before dedicating himself to the art of versification, Keats studied to be a surgeon at this health center. In the Autumn of 2007, poet laureate Andrew Motion unveiled the bronze effigy sculpted by Stuart Williamson. There was also a dedication made to Dr. Robert Knight, who was a great admirer of Keats’ compositions.

The figure of Keats is seated on a bench within a niche of a structure that dates back many centuries. This Grade II listed half dome is one of the few existing pieces of what was once the old London Bridge. Originally constructed of Portland stone, this viaduct was demolished in the middle of the 1800s. The hospital installed this alcove on its grounds in 1831. There are a few other remnants scattered in and around London, from Victoria Park to the banks of the River Thames. 

Know Before You Go

Like many major hospitals, Guys and St. Thomas' is a maze of buildings and side streets. The Inner Quadrangle can be reached by walking under three brick arches off Collingwood Street referred to as Guy's Colonnade.

The accessible route is from St. Thomas Street through the wrought iron arch with Guy's Chapel on the right. The somewhat confusing ramp on the left leads round to three arches, with the statue through and on the left. 

The nearest underground station is London Bridge. 

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December 26, 2022

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