We’ve reached the end of our series on disease-related memorials in London. But, before we jump into the next Wednesday series, here’s a recap…
With 2020 to be sadly remembered as the year of COVID-19 (and St Paul’s plans to commemorate those who have died in a permanent memorial in the cathedral), we thought we’d take a look memorials and monuments related to disease outbreaks of the past.
First up is a pump in Soho, a replica of the original Broad Street hand pump which lay at the centre of a cholera outbreak in 1854. Its commemorates the efforts of Dr John Snow, whose work in mapping the course of the outbreak lead to him identifying the pump as the source of the outbreak with the well beneath contaminated by human waste from an old cesspit.
The Yorkshire-born doctor’s work, which subsequently led him to have the pump handle removed and thus prevent further spread of the disease, was a breakthrough in preventing the spread of cholera by showing the source was contaminated water (many people had previously thought was spread through the air, the so-called “miasma theory”).
The replica pump was installed in what is now Broadwick Street, just outside The John Snow pub, in 1992 at the behest of the John Snow Society and Westminster Council. It was removed in 2015 as the area was redeveloped and was then re-installed – along with an explanatory plaque – in 2018.
It stands alongside a red granite block in the pavement which is said to mark the exact spot where the original pump was located (there’s another plaque mentioning that on the pub).
There’s also a blue plaque on the pub commemorating Snow’s work to determine cholera was a water-born disease which was erected by the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2008.
• A new exhibition on the work and legacy of John Snow – who traced the source of a deadly cholera outbreak in the 1850s to a Soho water pump – opened at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine this week. Cartographies of Life & Death – John Snow and Disease Mapping – part of a series of events planned for the bicentenary of Snow’s birth – features both historical treasures, such as disease maps from the school’s archives, and new artworks inspired by science with the entire display presented as a disease mapping ‘detective trail’. There will be a pop-up water bar and street lectures and performances. Snow (1813-1858) is considered the founder of modern epidemiology, the study of patterns and causes of health and disease in populations. His work remain influential even today. Admission is free. The exhibition runs until 17th April at the school in Keppel Street. For more, see www.johnsnow.org.uk.
• A new installation at the V&A opening on Saturday will explore the rise – and fall – of the music hall. Music Hall: Sickert and the Three Graces picks up on artist Walter Sickert’s obsession with the New Bedford Music Hall in Camden Town and features film, music and objects presented in a ‘theatrical narrative’ which focuses on the world of the Edwardian Music Hall. Highlights include filmed extracts of Tanika Gupta’s specially produced play The Boy I Love (directed by Katie Mitchell) which takes its name from George Ware’s celebrated music hall song The Boy I Love is Up in the Gallery. Admission is free. The exhibition, which is in the Theatre and Performance Galleries of the V&A, runs until 5th January next year. For more see www.vam.ac.uk.
• Three specially commissioned artworks by British textile artist Alice Kettle will be unveiled today at the Queen’s House in Greenwich. The Garden of England – Royal Museums Greenwich’s first contemporary arts program – features Flower Helix (hanging in the Tulip Stairs), Flower Bed (a “textile garden” found in the North West Parlour), and Queen Henrietta Maria (a stitched portrait of the wife of King Charles I also found in the North West Parlour). The display is accompanied by a program of events – for more on them, see www.rmg.co.uk. Entry is free – the exhibition is on show until 18th August.
• On Now – From the Shadows: The Prints of Sydney Lee RA. This exhibition at the Royal Academy represents a reappraisal of the work of painter-printmaker Sydney Lee (1866-1949) and features more than 50 prints and two major paintings. Lee studied in Manchester and Paris before coming to London where he lived in a house and studio in Holland Park Road in Kensington. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1930 and served as Treasurer from 1932-1940. The first exhibition devoted to his art since 1945, the event coincides with the publication of the first book on Lee written by its curator Professor Robert Meyrick, head of the School of Art at Aberystwyth University. Runs until 26th May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.
Located on the corner of Broadwick and Lexington Streets in Soho, this pub is named for the man who, through his meticulous research, was able to show that London’s cholera epidemic of 1854 was the result of a contaminated water supply.
A physician then working in London, John Snow didn’t believe in the current theory that diseases such as cholera were caused by bad air and instead, through a study looking at where those affected by the disease in 1854 lived and obtained their water, was able to pinpoint a water pump in what was then Broad Street (the ‘wick’ wasn’t added to the street’s name until the 1930s) as the original source.
The pump, which initially apparently stood just outside the pub, is now located down the street. A pink granite curbstone outside the side door of the John Snow pub and plaque on the pub wall mark where the pump formerly stood.
The building housing the pub dates from the 1870s and the pub was apparently initially called the Newcastle-upon-Tyne but this was formally changed to John Snow in May, 1955, to mark the centenary of Snow’s research into the 1854 epidemic.
For a terrific book about John Snow’s work, see Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map: A Street, an Epidemic and the Hidden Power of Urban Networks.
• The Royal Wedding will be broadcast live on giant screens at Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park under plans announced by the Department for Media, Culture & Sport, the Mayor of London and The Royal Parks. The live coverage will be free to watch from 7am on 29th April and guests are advised to get there early. A “celebration wheel” has also been set up in Hyde Park – fees apply. See www.london.gov.uk/royalwedding.
• A blue plaque has been unveiled at the house where novelist Graham Greene wrote Brighton Rock. Greene, who died in 1991, lived at 14 Clapham Common North Side in London from 1935 to 1940 and while here wrote several works – these also included the Cannes’ winning collaboration with Carol Reed, The Third Man, and The Power and the Glory – before he joined the forerunner to intellgience service MI6 in 1941. Graham moved out of the house at Clapham Common after it was hit by a bomb in October 1940 (the Queen Anne-style property has since been rebuilt). No-one was in the house at the time – Greene’s wife Vivien and his children had been evacuated to Sussex while Greene himself was staying in Bloomsbury with his lover Dorothy Glover when the bomb hit. The English Heritage plaque was unveiled by Greene’s daughter, Caroline Bourget.
• On Now: Dirt, the Filthy Reality of Everyday Life. Get down amongst it at the Wellcome Collection where they’re running an innovative exhibition on dirt and humanity’s at times desperate efforts to keep it under control. The exhibition features 200 artefacts including visual art, scientific artefacts, film and literature with highlights including the earliest sketches of bacteria, John Snow’s ‘ghost map’ showing the spread of cholera in London in the 1850s, and a bejewelled broom. The exhibition features six different locations – from a street in Victorian London to a New York landfill site in 2030 – from where to begin the exhibition. Runs until 31st August. See www.wellcomecollection.org.