'Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be'
Nothing beats a good walk around the gorier aspects of London’s history, and ever since I wrote my first guided walk for Wellcome Collection – ‘Blood, Guts, Brains and Babies’, in 2005 – I’ve been looking for ways to bring them to a wider audience.
Using project grant funds from my Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellowship, I’ve been working with The Galton Lab to create Sick City Walks – a new smartphone app featuring self-guided walks with guest narrators, images from the Wellcome Library’s collection, and (most of all) sackfuls of stories about life and death in London.
We’re now in the final stages of assembling the first three Sick City Walks, and here’s a little taster of what you can expect:
Death By Water: John Snow and Cholera in Victorian Soho
Through the late 1840s John Snow, a Soho GP, watched helplessly as dozens of his patients succumbed to cholera. In 1854, working against the grain of contemporary medical thought, he used pioneering medical detective work to argue that the disease was transmitted by polluted water from a communal pump on Broad Street. Walk in the footsteps of Snow – and some less savoury characters – to uncover the story of dirt and disease, pleasure and revolution in the grubby heart of the West End.
Dutch Courage and Mothers’ Ruin: The London Gin Craze
Eighteenth-century London was awash with cheap, fiery gin. William Hogarth and Henry Fielding railed against it; politicians legislated against it; and doctors blamed it for destroying the health of the nation. But what was the truth behind this notorious epidemic of gin-fuelled depravity? Find out on this walk into the darker side of Enlightenment London, and the gin hotspots of Soho and Covent Garden.
Liquid History: London and the River Fleet
London has many lost rivers, but the greatest of them all is the mighty Fleet – a prehistoric tributary, a Roman trade route, a medieval moat, an eighteenth-century eyesore and a Victorian sewer. Join us as we paddle – metaphorically – in the Fleet’s lower reaches, exploring the experiences of those who have lived and died beside it over two thousand years.