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a tale of Restoration intrigue by

Molly Brown

St. Bartholomew's Hospital

The site chosen for the Royal Hospital for the sick was West Smithfield, bordered on the west by the Fleet River. Part of it was a horse-pond, the biggest outside London. The availability of water made it London's chief cattle market. It was also the scene of many executions. Over five hundred heretics were burned alive at Smithfield - more than two hundred of them during the brief reign of Mary Tudor.

West Smithfield was also the venue for the annual Bartholomew Fair. At the fair in 1668, a fortune telling horse was asked to go to the man that most loved a pretty wench in a corner and the horse went to Samuel Pepys. Pepys gave the horse 12d.

There is a story of a Dutchman, a patient at St Bartholomew's hospital, who regulary slept for five days and nights every August. This wasn't all, for on those occasions he had dreams that came true, and at the same time, his mother had identical dreams. On one occasion, he was said to have dreamed about two fellow patients in the hospital; the one he saw hurried to a dark and dismal castle, while the other was taken away to a place of bliss. Sure enough, the two men died while the sleeper was dreaming about them.

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(c) 1996 Molly Brown