FOUR EXCURSIONS IN LONDON FOR THE
London has been described as a collection of villages, and there is no doubt that different parts of the metropolis have remarkably varied character. We have chosen four very different areas in the city, which will be rewarding to walk around by the footloose epileptologist playing hookey from the congress. Each has some epileptological connections (albeit, in some cases, rather tenuous) but each can be great fun. Herewith a brief description, with details of the Tube journey from the Excel Centre, and with details of a selection of the museums and sites in each area.
BLOOMSBURY AND ENVIRONSBuilt largely between 1740 and 1840, Bloomsbury became the centre of advanced medicine and medical reform, and still is. Many small hospitals and clinics were established there, including those of important to epilepsy such as the National Hospital Queen Square and the Hospital for Sick Children at Great Ormond St. The Royal Colleges of Medicine and Surgery, the British Medical Association and the Wellcome Trust are amongst the Institutions close by. Bloomsbury has always been an educational centre with a tradition of radical liberalism. In this small area are the British Museum, the British Library and the campus of University College London, London’s top-ranked university. The Bloomsbury group were named after the area, and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in Millais’ house in Gower Street. For the historical, educational or artistic epileptologist, a walk around this area resuscitates the mind.
The National Hospital Archive and Museum
The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery at Queen Square was founded in 1860, originally as the Hospital for the Epileptic and the Paralysed. It rapidly established a reputation for its work in epilepsy (more than for paralysis!). The hospital archives contain an enormous collection of documents relating to the hospital and to epilepsy, and are housed in the hospital’s medical library. Amongst these also are the bound case records of the staff including those of Hughlings Jackson, William Gowers, Victor Horsley and David Ferrier - the epilepsy quadrumvirate of the second half of the XIXth century. Victor Horsley carried out the very first surgical operation for epilepsy in a side room on one of the wards, and his operation notes are included in the archive. In the library at the hospital is also a small museum and a nice collection of historical neurological texts. The library and museum are open to all. Dinosaur epileptologists who would like to inspect the archive should contact the librarian first.
The tube stop is either: Russell Square – a 40 minute ride from the Excel Centre (changing at Canning Town station for the Jubilee line and then at Green Park station for the Piccadilly line. In the station take the lift to the surface (the alternative is a spiral staircase of 175 stairs, designed to wreck all but the most fit). Exit the station turning left and then left again into Herbrand Street, and then left into Guilford St. Queen Square is then 100 metres on the right - a three minute walk from the station. The library is entered via no: 23 and is on the first floor.
Alternatively: Holborn station, 29 minutes from the Excel Centre via the DLR and Central line from Bank. The Hospital is at 12 minute walk due north, past Red Lion Square and then a walk across Queen Square.
Opening hours: 09:00 – 18:00 Monday - Friday
A mausoleum of world history. Therein are the famous Sakikku cuneiforms, on which is recorded one of the first references to epilepsy (700BC). For those who can read Babylonian, this will be a wonderful opportunity to make the acquaintance of antasubba, the Sumerian term for the "the falling disease”. As it is written on these tablets, epilepsy was considered by the Babylonians to be caused by possession by demons, the first appearance of this long-held belief. Within the museum are probably other epilepsy-related objects, but I am not sure where. An interesting treasure hunt. As a cultural experience the BM, as it is known locally, is hard to beat. It is a huge museum which has been in a continual state of construction since the 1820s. The Greek Revival façade facing by Sir Robert Smirke with its massive ionic columns is based on the temple of Athena Polias at Priene, and the pediment sculptures depict the progress of civilization (not intended to be ironic). The latest addition is the remarkable roof over the great court, and the space-capsule-like reading room (also by Smirke) in which Marx completed Das Kapital. This and the King’s library are my favorite rooms, but there are of course enormous collections also of antiquities from every corner of the world. When culture is overcome by hunger, there is a rather spectacular restaurant high above the reading room. There are many pubs and second hand bookshops neighboring the museum (try Truckles in Pied Bull Yard and the London Review Bookshop). A must for revolutionary and Babylonian Epileptologist, or just those interested in bibliography, history or food.
The tube stop is either Russell Square station – a 40 minute ride from the Excel Centre (changing at Canning Town station for the Jubilee line and then at Green Park station for the Piccadilly line. In the station take the lift to the surface (the alternative is a spiral staircase of 175 stairs, designed to wreck all but the most fit). Exit the station turning left and walk into Russell Square, cross the square and enter the museum via its back entrance in Montague Place. A 7 minute walk from Russell Square Tube Station.
Alternatively Holborn station: 29 minutes from the Excel Centre via the DLR and Central line from Bank, and then a 10 minute walk to the main entrance in Museum Street.
Opening hours: 10:00 -17:30 Daily (open till 20:30 on Fridays)
Close to the Royal College of Surgeons is this, one of the most remarkable museums in London. It is the house of the architect Sir John Soane, who designed the building to house his enormous collection antiquities and his works of art - for, as he put it, ‘amateurs and students’ to learn and enjoy. For the epileptologist amateur this is an extraordinary collection, which includes in the bizarre picture gallery the whole series of Hogarth’s Rakes Progress, with its depictions of disease and destitution in 18C London. It is a wonderful ‘cabinet of curiosities’, described by the Oxford Dictionary of Architecture as “one of the most complex, intricate, and ingenious series of interiors ever conceived”. It is a rabbit warren, with rooms on different crammed from floor to ceiling with pictures, prints, drawings, plaster casts, antique fragments, books and architectural models. Masterpieces by British and European artists including Turner, Watteau, Canaletto and Hogarth hang on hinged panels, and no building in London is so unhinged, with an atmosphere of controlled chaos and idiosyncracy. Illuminated by candlelight, at night, here is the gothic novel.
The tube stop is Holborn station, 29 minutes from the Excel Centre via the DLR and Central line from Bank. The Soane Museum is a five minute walk away from the station. Walk through the small passage way into Lincoln Inn Fields and the museum is on the North side of the square.
Opening hours: 10:00 – 17:00 Tuesday - Saturday
Hunterian museum at the Royal College of Surgeons
Founded by the 18thC surgeon and collector John Hunter in 1799, the museum includes over 3500 pathological specimens of human organs and diseases, painting of diseases and injuries, and various zoological curiosities from Hunter’s own collection. There are additional items, and temporary exhibitions. You can also try your hand at keyhole surgery on a surgical simulator. In the 19th Century, the museum was only open to surgeons, aristocrats and visiting dignitaries, as it was felt that the contents were inappropriate for viewing by the lower classes. John Hunter came to London in 1748 at the age of 20, studied under William Cheselden and Percivall Pott (of Pott’s fracture fame), and devoted his life to making a collection, which finally had 14000 specimens. Despite major bomb damage in the war, this remains one of the finest surgical museums in the World and will be of great interest to the surgically-historically- minded epileptologist. The College buildings are worth looking at. 1813 by George Dance, as is Lincoln Inn Square, where there is a nice open-air café if surgical specimens make you hungry.
The tube stop is Holborn station, 29 minutes from the Excel Centre via the DLR and Central line from Bank. Walk through the small passageway next to the station exit and the Hunterian Museum is a five minute walk away across Lincolns Inn Fields, one of the largest public squares in London and laid out in 1630. The museum is housed in the Royal College of Surgeons building, instantly recognizable by the pomp of its ionic columns (so suitable for barber-surgeons).
Opening hours: 10:00 – 17:00 Tuesday - Saturday
Hamstead and HighgateHamstead is a prosperous leafy suburb of London, known for its intellectual, liberal, artistic, musical and literary associations. Hamstead Heath is a famous park, with infamous bathing ponds, and one of the most desirable places to be seen walking the dog. It is the home of British psycho-analysis, with the Freud Museum and the Tavistock clinic. There are a large number of famous former residents, including, in medicine, Adrian, Huxley and Marie Stopes and Florence Nightingale, and also the home of many literary and artistic figures. A walk round Hampstead is recommended to all urban epileptologists who don’t mind a hilly terrain and enjoy fancy shopping and bijou restaurants. Highgate is a small jaunt away and was developed in Victorian times. It is famous for its high living and pubs, and as an excellent place to be buried in good company.
The Freud Museum
Sigmund Freud was rescued from Nazi-occupied Austria in 1939 and settled in London where he lived until his death. He wrote about epilepsy, considering this often to be the consequence of repressed emotions and caused by egocentricity, supersensitiveness and emotional poverty. My favorite Freudian interpretation is that an epileptic attack occurs as an escape from intolerable irritation and a regression to a primitive mentality, a flight into infantile sexuality. Sexual disturbances were he believed an immediate cause of an epileptic seizure (not very different from Galen ‘‘coitus brevis epilepsia est’’). The museum was Freud’s north London house and includes his study, library and psychoanalyst’s couch; preserved as they were during his lifetime. The house remained the family home until Anna Freud his youngest daughter (and also a famous analyst) died. It also contains his collection of Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Oriental antiquities and his personal effects. It is a fascinating visit in an interesting part of London.
For the intrepid epileptologist, a trip up the Northern line (we leave it up to your imagination to think how Freud would have construed this) to Finchley Rd Tube Station (58 mins from the ExCel Centre including one change of train at Canning Town). The museum is at 20, Maresfield Gardens – a five minute walk from the station.
Admission: £6 adult, £4.50 senior citizen, £3 concession
Opening hours: 12:00 – 17:00 Wednesday - Sunday
For the werewolf Epileptologist, this is the place. It was founded in 1836 and has a rather weird collection of graves (for a ghoulish introduction,see www.highgate-cemetery.org/). These include Karl Marx, Michael Faraday, and the famous writers, actors and artists such as Ralph Richardson and Michael Redgrave, George Eliot, (and for our Australian colleagues Sidney Nolan). Amongst the bizarre graves are those of Wombwell the lion tamer (a wonderful lion sits on his grave deterring grave-diggers) and John Atcheler, Queen Victoria’s horse-slaughterer (a rather apprehensive horse on his grave). For the epileptologist, this is where John Hughlings Jackson who died 7 October 1911 is to be found (prize for locating the gravestone, which sadly is missing the tendon hammer) and Herbert Spencer his philosophical amanuensis. There are some good inscriptions, one favorite is:
I was not and was conceived
I loved, and did a little work,
I am not, and grieve not
(on the grave of William Kingdon Clifford, the inventor of geometric algebra)
The entrance is in Swains Lane, London N6 6PJ, a 20 minute walk from Archway station on the Northern line (52 minutes from the Excel Centre).
Opening hours: 10:00 – 16:30 Monday – Friday, 11:00 – 16:00 Weekends
Regents Park and EnvironsRegents Park and the elegant white stucco ‘regency’ buildings around it was a creation of John Nash, architect to the Prince Regent, in 1811. It is a great place to walk, and for a longer haul, a walk beside the Regents Canal which goes all the way to Birmingham could be considered. London Zoo is located in the North of the Park close to the official residence of the US Ambassador (no link intended) and in the South is the huge London Central Mosque. For the epileptologist, the interest is likely not to be in the veterinary but in the Royal College of Physicians, the Wellcome Trust and the streets running south.
Royal College of Physicians and Regents Park
The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) is the body, founded in 1540, which is responsible for providing support for doctors, for maintaining standards, for monitoring standards of medical training and education. It is now housed in a sumptuous modern building by the architect Denys Lasdun opened in 1964, worth a visit in its own right, with many historical and modern portraits on show, including some famous neurologists and epileptologists. There is also a small museum with a rotating exhibit, plants in the garden which were herbal treatments of epilepsy, and opulent committee rooms. The glory of the college is its library in which are rare copies of many neurological texts. These can be inspected with prior notice, a must for the Bibliophilic Epileptologist. There are also collections of silver, medical instruments, commemorative medals and anatomical tables. A temple to doctors and their work. The college is situated at the South East corner of Regents Park and the neighbouring white stucco terraces are amongst London’s most agreeable vistas.
The tube station is either Great Portland Street, 43 minutes from the Excel Centre. A 10 minutes walk: on exiting the Tube, cross the Marlebone Rd, turn left and then right at the next crossing into Park Square South.
Alternatively, to Regents Park Station, a 38 minute ride via the DLR, to Canning Town, the Jubilee line to Baker Street and then the Bakerloo line, and then a 7 minute walk: exit the tube on the North side of the Marlebone Rd, turn right and then left into Park Square South.
Admission: free Monday - Friday
Opening hours: 09:00-17:00
Wellcome Trust building, Library and Museum (the Wellcome Collection)
Where would British science be without the Wellcome Trust? This philanthropic organisation is a major funder of medical research in Britain and around the world. Its headquarters house a museum now as part of the drive to interest the public in science (dumbing down but anyway quite fun) and has Sir Henry Wellcome’s own collection on permanent display. On display is a bizarre mixture of medical artifacts and art exploring 'ideas about the connections between medicine, life and art' (yawn). There is also a nice cafe and excellent bookshop about medical history. On the upper stories of the building is the quite wonderful ‘Library of the history of medicine’, which is worth a visit in its own right, housing collections of books, journals, manuscripts, archives, films and pictures on the history of medicine from the earliest times to the present day. The catalogue is on the web for the browsing Epileptologist. There is also a nice café and bookshop. The Wellcome Trust moved its administrative offices into the adjacent Gibbs Building (designed for by the brother of a famous London epileptologist- prize for guessing who, answers on a postcard please) on the adjoining site in Euston Road.
The tube stop is Euston Square station. There are a number of ways of getting there from the Excel centre, the simplest probably is to take the DLR to West Ham station and then the Hammersmith and City line to Euston Square station; a 45 minute journey. On exiting the station turn East and the Library and Museum are a 2 minute walk away.
Opening hours: 10:00 – 18:00 Monday – Friday, 10:00 – 16:00 Saturday, 10:00-20:00 Thursday
The Harley Street district and Manchester SquareA stroll down Harley street is an interesting experience. This is the street where many private clinics and private practices are located. View the brass nameplates and see how many epileptologists can be identified - from the 1500 doctors with practices in the area. The houses largely date from 1700-1750 and some are very grand; appropriate for the most common minor operation carried out in the road, the walletectomy. On turning left into Wigmore street, one comes across the Wigmore Hall, where amongst the best concerts in London are held - the hall is small with a perfect acoustic. Onwards past John Bell and Croyden, the ‘doctors pharmacy’ with a royal warrant in 1909, past Wimpole street wherein is the Royal Society of Medicine, the ‘doctors club’ to Manchester Square - a epileptological pilgrimage as number 3 was the Home of Hughlings Jackson (see the blue plaque one of three in the square). It was home also of his patient Dr Zed (at number 2 Manchester Square) who was the index case of the psychomotor seizure. It is an 18th Century garden square, of the sort that London excels in.
On the north side of the Square, is the wonderful Wallace Collection. This is a museum of French 18th century painting, furniture, porcelain, old master paintings and a really exceptional collection of armour and historical weapons. Armour is useful clothing for the XXIst Century epileptologist, as knifings in the back are an occupational hazard. World-weary academics - gain sartorial benefit by a visit to the Wallace.
Opening hours: 10:00 – 17:00, 7 days a week
South KensingtonSouth Kensington was developed in the mid-XIXth century to create a home for institutions dedicated to the arts and sciences. In this small area, are many such, including the Royal Geographical Society, Royal College of Music, Royal College of Art, Royal College of Organists, Royal School of Mines etc etc. The largest institution is of course Imperial College with its large and famous medical school (the ink-blue faculty building by Foster is a bit of a shock to the migraineur). The arrival of the Underground to Gloucester Road and South Kensington in 1868 caused a boom in the area, which has become now very smart with many beautiful Victorian squares, gardens and churches tucked away behind the main streets. It is a great place to wander around. The grander sites to visit include Kensington Gardens, the Albert Memorial and the Albert Hall, one of the biggest concert halls in London and site of the 17th and last International Medical Congress in 1913 - where the ILAE held its own 4th meeting - comprising of 4 lectures only (how different now). In the area also are three great museums adjacent to each other- and established by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband with the intention that Kensington should be London’s cultural quarter. The luxury store Harrods, a few hundred yards up the road, however changed the nature of culture and what Prince Albert would have thought can only be guessed at.
The tube stop for the museum is South Kensington Station. The quickest way (36 mins) is to take the DLR line to Canning town, change to the Jubillee line to Westminster and then the westbound District line to South Kensington. A 10 minute longer way is to take the DLR in the other direction to West Ham station and then change onto the Westbournd District line to South Kensington. On entering the ticket hall from the platforms, there is a Victorian tunnel to the museums (5 mins walk), but more attractive is to exit the station, to street level, turn right and walk through the recently pedestrianised streets with lots of pubs, cafes and restaurants (5 minutes to the museums).
Natural History Museum
The Natural History museum building is a gigantic Romanesque structure by Alfred Waterhouse opened in 1881. The façade is covered with terracotta animals and plants (living species on the West wing and extinct species on the east wing explicitly to rebut Darwin’s then contentious theory of evolution) and the interior is dominated by gigantic skeletons of Dinosaurs. For the botanical Epileptologist there are many specimens of therapeutic plants and an exhibition of Captain Cooks voyages to the Pacific, where his artist collaborator died of epilepsy in Tahiti.
Opening hours: 10:00 – 17:50 daily
The Science Museum is next door, with a massive collection of medical curios, including a bottle of ‘Tabloid phenobarbitone’ with the contents listed as poisonous, a bed specially designed for those with epilepsy used in Liverpool Royal Infirmary in 1851 and costing £5 to buy at the time, an experimental MRI and the world’s first CT scanner. The medical collection is one of the largest in the world and the Science and Art of Medicine gallery is one of my favourites - with a displace of 5,000 exotic devices and historic artefacts, from pre-historic to current times, with a of non-Western medical traditions, including African, Chinese, Indian and Islamic practices.
Opening hours: 10:00 – 17:30 daily
Victoria & Albert Museum
Finally, there is the Victoria & Albert Museum (known as the V&A). This is a museum of Arts and Crafts, and is my favourite London museum. With a bit of imagination, one can find the epilepsy connection - for instance the extensive collections of works by Edward Lear (10 seizures a day), an exhibition of lace-up corsets (which when too tight were thought to cause epilepsy) and the 2012 illustration award ('Why Is The Bedroom So Cold', based on the book, 'Touching From A Distance' about the failing marriage of the singer Ian Curtis suffering from epilepsy). Anyway, for the off-duty Epileptologist, this is the place to be. The museum also has the largest collection of Renaissance sculpture outside Italy, the largest collection of Indian, Chinese and Japanese art outside their native countries. It is a pot pourri of beautiful things.
Opening hours: 10:00 – 17:45 daily