Many tourists in London travel to the Bloomsbury area to see the Egyptian mummies at the British Museum, but few realise that only a few blocks away, lurks a homegrown - and rather less successful - mummy.
University College London (UCL) - my alma mater - is the third oldest university in England, and is closely associated with the famous 18th century author and philanthropist Jeremy Bentham. Bentham was a strong advocate of broadening access to education, and was one of the original shareholders who financed the establishment of the University of London (the first college of which was UCL) in 1826. The establishment of the University of London was hugely significant because it created a secular alternative to the religiously affiliated colleges of Oxford and Cambridge universities, thus making university education available to non-Anglican groups such as Dissenters, Catholics and Jews for the first time.
Bentham's somewhat ghoulish wish was that his body be publically dissected after his death. Afterwards, his head was mummified and displayed with an 'auto icon'- essentially his skeleton padded with straw and dressed in one of his own outfits - which was subsequently put on display in a wooden, glassfronted case that still stands in the College's South Cloisters .
However, over the years, it became clear that 18th century British scientists had a thing or two to learn from their Egyptian forebears, and the mummification resulted in a leathery-looking brown lump with bulging eyes. The decision was taken to sculpt a more aesthetically pleasing wax head, complete with some of Bentham's hair (presumably to lend some authenticity?) which now sits on the autoicon.
When I was a student, the mummified head was displayed in the glass case along with the wax-topped auto icon. I am a suggestible soul, and I will readily confess that if I was in the College towards nightfall when the Cloisters were quiet, I would avert my gaze and speed past as fast as possible without breaking into an unseemly sprint. However, having been stolen once to many by rival colleges, the mummified head is now securely locked away from public view and only the auto icon remains on display.
According to Wikipedia, on the "100th and 150th anniversaries of the college, it [the mummified head] was brought to the meeting of the College Council, where it was listed as "present but not voting". Having subsequently spent a number of years lecturing at a university elsewhere, which taught me a thing or two about the eccentric world of academia, this assertion sounds just bizarre enough for it to be true!
This is a place to wander around, the cerebal part of London... lots of squares and the less square....
In the heart of London, it is centre of the intellectual past and present, highlights
Located in the Bloomsbury area in London, the Church of Saint George is quite peculiar with its Neoclassical façade and pyramidal tower. It was built in 1730 by the architect, Nicholas Hawksmoor, a student of Sir Christopher Wren (designer of Saint Paul's Cathedral). It is said that the impressive Neoclassical front portico of the church was modelled after the Temple of Bacchus in Baalbek, Lebanon, while the step tower was inspired by the Tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus (located near Bodrum, Turkey). Both are symbols of the ancient pagan past, but in a Christian place of worship! The tower contains sculptures of the symbols of the British monarchy: the English lion and the Scottish unicorn.
Described as the best preserved of London's 18th century squares, Bedford Square deserves a little investigation on your way to or from the British Museum. Most of the town houses are now offices but all are original construction. The door arches are made of Coade Stone, an artificial stone made in Lambeth, South London, from a formula that stayed a secret for generations.
I had first read about this museum on Colin's - VTname Britannia2 - page about London and decided to go there. It's hidden in a small street , quite close to the British Museum. Even though there were not too many visitors, it was not the quiet atmosphere that is usually associated with a museum.Giggling, chuckling, even loud laughing could be heard all over and I soon joined in. This is a wonderful,small museum!
I liked the fact that explanations are given next to the cartoons. Especially with political cartoons it's hard to remember after some time which person or event the cartoon refers to.
Because of the copyright picture taking is not allowed, understandable, but still a pity. I had wanted to describe some of the cartoons to my husband, but it's hard to remember just that very stroke of the pen which makes the whole thing so funny.
Entrance fee is £ 4.
Philanthropist Captain Thomas Coram founded the Foundling Hospital in 1739, to care for some of the abandoned London street children - it is estimated that perhaps 1,000 babies a year were left to die in alleys and rubbish tips at that time. The hospital cared for about 27,000 children during its life until the 1950's, and even had a special anthem written for it by Handel.
It is a small museum but very moving, especially the display cases of tokens left by mothers which allowed them to identify their children if they were subsequently claimed, and the handwritten petitions of mothers pleading that the hospital accept their offspring.
In the early days only a proportion of those seeking entrance were accepted, which could mean the difference between life and death. Groups of mothers would select coloured balls to determine which of their (about one-in-three) babies would be accepted into the hospital.
We enjoyed the photographs, uniforms, cutlery and the recordings of former inmates describing thier lives.
The museum has exhibits relating to the cartoonist and satirist Hogarth, as well as the composer Handel, including scores of his music, wills and other items connected with the composer and with the hospital.
It is quite different to many other London museums and there are activities for children, audio-visual displays and a good website.
Not me for a start, get 'yer coat girl, you've pulled.
The 'Bloomsbury set' or the 'Bloomsberries' were very much a intellectual clique that existed from roughly the start of the 20th century until the second world war. They lived, partied and worked (occasionaly) in the area of London known as Bloomsbury. This area comprised the area roughly between Tottenham Court Road, Euston Road, Southampton Row and New Oxford Street. It was owned by the Bedford Estates, and thus by the Duke of Bedford. There is therefore something of a coherence about the architecture in this area.
With the poximity of both the British Museum and Imperial University, the various writers artists, economists of the social network have spawned a forest of Blue Plaques in the area. The group itself were somewhat distrusted in their time. This was partly because most took an anti-war stance and partly because their sexual morals were somwhat different to the norm. The bohemian lifestle means thet can perhaps been seen as 'proto-hippies' where homosexuality, open marriages, bi-sexuality and other sexual liasons were common.
It's an area to gently stroll around and discover, especially after a visit to the British Museum.
Dame Louisa Aldrich-Blake (1865-1925) is two ways unless she had a twin! She gained distinction in surgery. In 1893 she was the only woman taking the Bachelorship of Surgery, gained first class honours and qualifed for the Gold Medal, and later was the first woman to gain the Master of Surgery degree.
The statue tells more of her institutional success.....
the scuplture is a study in stern resolve a contrast to Gandhi's serene humility.... which is nearby
Bloomsbury is a wonderful part of London to explore on foot, and as I was in the area I decided to check out The Foundling Museum.
In the 1700's the wealthy sea captain Thomas Coram, was appalled by the number of abandoned babies he saw in London so he set about founding an orphanage for illegitimate babies under 1 year old and in good health. He was supported in his endeavours by the composer Handel and the painter of social history Hogarth and so as well as the the orphanage, this site was also London's first ever public art gallery - the funds gained from the patronage of London's elite maintained the foundling hospital.
The orphanage changed location in the 20th century but the original Foundling Hospital still stands and is home to the largest display of Handel's musical scores anywhere in the world and a collection of Hogarths and Gainsborough paintings which hang in the original Court Room where destitute mothers would have to stand before well to do and well meaning Christian *Ladies* who, keen to support the arts and show how charitable they were, would decide if the baby would be taken in, be put on the reserve list, or be rejected.
You won't see dormitories full of ancient lead-painted cots, or row upon row of inky desks (they weren't taught to write - it wasn't considered necessary for the jobs they would be doing) but you will see a small cabinet displaying tiny little love tokens, left on their babies by desperate mothers - little beaded bracelets, brooches, notelets, and all kinds of mementos - Mothers who gave up their babies hoping that one day they may have a better life. The children were just educated enough to work as maid servants and apprentices, but they were fed and well taken care of and at least had a chance of a better future. It's heartbreaking... take tissues!!
The Coram Family still works today to help the socially deprived and vulnerable children of London.
We often "navigated by scaffolding" (there was a lot of it around including some at Gatwick). We walked down Gower Street to this scaffolding most mornings. The bus stop was next to it, and I think it conceals the Slade College of Art or some other building of UCL. Due to my former job, I often take pictures of scaffolding by reflex.
Next door is the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art which was established in 1904 by Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, the leading actor manager of the day. In 1905 the Academy moved to this building at 62 Gower Street.
Their history says: "Fees of six guineas a term are doubled the following year, except for the children of actors, who only pay half. A managing Council is established on which Tree is joined, among others, by Sir Johnston Forbes Robertson, Sir Arthur Wing Pinero and Sir James Barrie. Within a few years they are augmented by other major figures, including W.S. Gilbert, Irene Vanbrugh and, perhaps most significantly, George Bernard Shaw. "
Queen Elizabeth II made a speech here in 2000.
Ordinarily this would be an off-the-beaten-path tip, but since the Bloomsbury section of the London tips doesn't have many things in it (because the British Museum is about IT for things to see), I thought I'd include it here in a relatively harmless place.
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