Art and Medicine Tours London

Lepers and Leeches: Medical Bloomsbury and St Giles

Like a ward in a hospital. Dr. Barry’s making the rounds. Heroically. Not least because this is St. Giles (and Bloomsbury). St. Giles was the patron saint of lepers and cancer patients and disabled people and epileptics and the mentally ill and the sterile. To say nothing of outcasts, beggars and poor people. Gives you a feel for the neighbourhood’s past, doesn’t it – this wasn’t called St. Giles for nothing. So, pilgrims and medical students and the merely curious, what have we got here? We’ve got mental illness (she’s Dr. Barry’s most famous patient). We’ve got “dephlogisticated air.” We’ve got the physical and mental havoc wrought by duelling. We’ve got the London School of Hygiene. We’ve got appalling, beknighted, crippling male chauvanism. We’ve got the medically misguided (a miasmatist, for example) – no shortage of them. We’ve got Jenner and Blossom the cow and the Boy Phipps. We’ve got depictions of all the vectors of disease – incluing Aedes aegypti, which is busy spreading the Zika virus at the moment. We’ve got “mothers’ ruin.” We’ve got bubonic plague. We’ve got goal fever. And, yes, we’ve got leprosy – it’s a historical memory for us but horrifyingly alive in Burma and elsewhere. And Dr. Barry being Public Health Physician Dr. Barry this isn’t just a freak show. It’s serious science, serious medicine, serious epidemiology. Serious science, serious medicine, serious epidemiology that this Public Health Physician guide contexts all the time – the reflection, for example, that food and medicines are at risk because 20 percent of plant species are facing extinction.

There is no need to book for this guided tour. This walk is offered as part of London Walks and you can check their website for times and dates by clicking here. Or email Barry and he will reply with the information.

Walk description written by David Tucker, London Walks.


Meet Dr Barry
Russell Square
First stop (for any latecomers)
Front of Russell Hotel
End points/nearest Underground station
Carnaby Street/ Piccadilly Circus 4 mins