London Bridge

A Brief Timeline

AD 100-400 AD During this time a wooden bridge was built by the Romans.

In 1014 Ethelred and Olaf of Norway burnt the bridge to divide the Danish forces, then in London.

Ottar Svarte a Norse poet wrote:

London Bridge is broken down

Gold is won and bright renown

Shields resounding

War horns sounding

Hildur shouting in the din

Arrows singing

Mailcoats ringing

Odin makes our Olaf win.

The more familiar version (including the refrain ‘My Fair Lady’ ) did not appear until 600 years later.

Two more wooden versions were built but were either burnt down or swept a way.

The first stone bridge (1176) by Chaplain of St Mary Colechurch. (Poultry). First houses in 1201 (3-7 storeys high). There was a chapel in the centre dedicated to St Thomas a Becket

There were19 small arches and a drawbridge at the Soutwark end. The size of the arches meant that it was dangerous for boats to go underneath the bridge due to the currents. There was a saying ‘ Wise men go over it, fools go under it.’

In 1213 there were fires at both ends, 3000 killed, partly caused by panic.

In 1305 William Wallace’s head was stuck in on a spike on top of the gatehouse.

1357 Black Prince escorted King John of France into London as a prisoner of war.

1535 Thomas More’s head was on the on gatehouse spike. As was Thomas Cromwell’s in 1540.

In 1598 30 heads on the bridge were noted by a German visitor.

In 1633 hot ashes were inadvertently placed under a stairwell in one of the houses on the bridge. A fire ensued and half the structure was destroyed. The bridge did actually survive the Great Fire in 1666.

In 1660 Charles II crossed the bridge to be received to public acclaim in London. This echoes Henry V and retinue crossing the bridge to be received in London after the battle of Agincourt.

Charles, possibly thinking of his father’s fate, discontinued the heads on spikes custom.

In 1831 a new stone bridge was built consisting of 5 stone arches.

Moorgate and King William Street were established as approach roads to the bridge.

In 1967 London Bridge was found to be slowly sinking. It was sold to an American entrepreneur, Robert P McCulloch who bought it for $2.4m (then over £1m), He dismantled it and rebuilt it in Arizona’s Lake Havasu City for another $7m. It re-energized the local economy there, as it resulted in a sharp increase in house sales which reportedly more than covered the cost. 50 years on, the bridge remains a major tourist attraction in Arizona, as well as being an important transport link.

The current 3 arch structure in London was opened in 1973.

Kevin Kiernan

photos Claude de Jongh & Cornell University Library






St Olaf House

was built as the Headquarters for the Hay’s Wharf Company which was founded in 1867.

For many centuries the site of St Olaf House had been occupied by the historic St Olave’s Church, which was the parish church for the area through all the changes to the district, up to 1928. The tower was a landmark in the area through medieval times, and was replaced by a new tower as part of its rebuilding in the eighteenth century by Henry Flitcroft, a well-known architect of the period.

St Olaf House is an outstanding example of an Art Deco building designed by the famous architect, Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel and was awarded Grade II*-listed status on 13 May 1971.

Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel was born in Cambridge in 1887. As well as an architect Goodhart-Rendel was a

  • soldier,
  • composer,
  • pianist

In 1913 he inherited the ancestral family home, Hatchlands Park, near Guildford in Surrey. Hatchlands was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1945 and was handed over to the Trust on the death of Goodhart-Rendel in 1959.

St Olaf House has a well-known river facade and Doulton faience, pottery with coloured glaze, panels by Frank Dobson. The boardroom has been used in several television commercials, including an advertisement for British Airways.

It is a steel-framed building, clad in white Portland stone. The building footprint is a T-shape with the ‘arm’ of the T facing onto the River Thames. It is six storeys high with a wide entrance bay on the Tooley Street side. Two large decorative bronze light fixtures light the entrance bay. The building name is carried above the entrance bay in tall, slender gilt lettering. Steel columns divide the entrance bay area, with an entrance hall set to the rear. With the exception of the outside corners at ground floor level, the corners of the building are chamfered, cut at an angle. To the right of the entrance bay at the ground floor level are set doors.

The next four stories all feature a wide central Oriel, recessed, bay window above the entrance bay. To the either side are three bays of tall, slender windows. The windows to the right are progressively stepped downwards away from the centre of the building. The fifth storey features five square windows set in a square-moulded architrave. Between the three central square windows are two smaller lozenge-shaped windows. The fifth storey is surmounted by a parapet with two octagonal pinnacles either side of the central bay.

The river frontage is seven bays wide. At ground level six evenly spaced columns support the building. Three tall, narrow windows surrounded by thirty-nine gilded and terracotta panels edged in black granite pierce the central three bays from the first to third floors. The panels were designed by British artist and sculptor Frank Dobson (1888-1963) and depicted scenes from the dockside, entitled ‘Capital, Labour and Commerce’. The remaining windows on the lower three storeys and the two ‘bands’ on the fourth and fifth storeys are black-metal framed. The top storey features gilded lettering spelling out ‘Hay’s Wharf’.

Other notably external decoration to the building is on the Tooley Street frontage. These are a figure of ‘St Olave, King of Norway’ in black and gold mosaic, also by Frank Dobson, and a carved inscription explaining the history of St Olave’s Church that formerly stood on the site.

St Olaf House now houses the London Bridge Private Hospital’s consulting and administration rooms.



Hays Galleria

Hay’s Galleria is a mixed use building in the London Borough of Southwark  Originally a warehouse and Hay’s Wharf for the port of London, it was redeveloped in the 1980s. It is now Grade II listed.

Despite rumours of the contrary, wharf does not stand for ‘ware-house at river front’. The word wharf originates from the Old English ‘hwearf’, which meant bank or shore.

There were once as many as 1,700 wharves on the bank of the River Thames.

The site was originally a brew house, which was bought by Alexander Hay in 1651. However, the building was severely damaged in the Great Fire Of Southwark in 1676. 

It remained with the Hay family until Francis Theodore Hay, Master of the Waterman’s Company and King’s Waterman to George III and IV, died in 1838.

The next owner John Humphrey Jnr who acquired a lease on the property and commissioned William Cubitt to convert it into a wharf with an enclosed dock, thus becoming Hay’s Wharf in 1856.

However, only five years later, the wharf was damaged by another fire, the Great Fire Of Tooley Street, which overall caused £2million of damage due to the goods destroyed in the warehouses.

During the nineteenth century, the wharf was one of the chief delivery points for ships bringing tea into the Pool of London. 

At its height, 80% of the dry produce imported into London passed through the wharves, and on this account the area between Tower Bridge & London Bridge on the Southside was nicknamed ‘the Larder of London‘.

The wharf was seriously damaged again by bombing during World War II. London’s trade was severely dented following the war and over the subsequent years, more and more wharves shut down and fell into neglect. With ships getting bigger, Hay’s enclosed dock wasn’t big enough to fit most of the vessels, so fell into disuse. 

The progressive adoption of containerisation during the 1960s led to the shipping industry moving to deep water ports further down the Thames and the subsequent closure of Hay’s Wharf in 1970

In the 1980s, with the increasing urban regeneration of the Thames Corridor and nearby London Docklands, the area was acquired by the St Martin’s Property Corporation, the real estate arm of the State of Kuwait.

The decision was made to retain the dock and to restore its tea and produce warehouses surrounding it to provide office accommodation and shops.

The dock gates were permanently closed, the ‘impounded’ area of the dock was covered with a floor to the sill of the wharf-sides and the entire space was enclosed with a glass roof designed by the young architect Arthur Timothy while he worked with Michael Twigg Brown Architects.

This scheme was implemented by Twigg Brown Architects as part of their masterplan for the renewal strategy. At the centre of the Galleria is a 60 ft moving bronze sculpture of a ship, called ‘The Navigators’ by sculptor David Kemp, it was unveiled in 1987 – it commemorated the Galleria’s shipping heritage.

The pub at the riverside entrance, ‘The Horniman, is named to commemorate one of the main tea-producing companies associated with the original trade here.

Lesley – wiki

Russell Square

Bloomsbury is a rather indistinct area to clarify but part of Bloomsbury is recorded in the Doomsday Book as having vineyards and “wood” for 100 pigs. The name derives from the manor of Blemond and came into the hands of Edward 111 who gave it to The Charterhouse. At the dissolution of monasteries it was granted to Thomas Wriothesley who became Lord Chancellor and Earl of Southampton. His descendant the 4th Earl moved into a house on land called Southampton Fields and rebuilt the house at the bottom of “Long Fields”.

The Russell family, Earls of Bedford from 1550, gained possession of Bloomsbury by marriage into the Southampton family in 1669. Lady Rachael Vaughan, the widowed daughter of the Earl of Southampton and heiress to Bloomsbury married William Lord Russell, second son of the 5th Earl of Bedford, who became heir to the Russell fortune when his elder brother died in 1678. William got involved in the Rye House Plot and was executed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The family were reinstated in 1694 when William’s father the 5th Earl of Bedford was created Duke of Bedford so Rachel and William’s son inherited as 2nd Duke of Bedford.

The area remained mostly open fields until the mid-18th century. The square was laid out in 1801 by Humphrey Repton and James Burton was the designer of the original buildings that surrounded the square, only a few of which now remain on the west side. Those on the east were demolished for the Russell Hotel. It was named after the Russell’s and is one of London’s largest squares.

Russell Square quickly became one of London’s most desirable places of residence, home to the highest of high society. It was also much favoured by lawyers and other professional men. Thomas Denman who became Lord Chief Justice lived at No 50 in 1818-34 and Sir Samuel Romilly, the great law reformer, killed himself at No 21 in 1818 when distracted by grief at the death of his wife in the Isle of Wight. In his agony he fell into a delirium, and in a moment, when unwatched, he sprang from his bed, cut his throat, and expired in a few minutes. Lord Tenterden, who presided at the trial of the Cato Street conspirators, died at no 28 in 1832. William Cowper, the poet, lived at No 62 and Sir Thomas Lawrence, the painter, lived and had his studio at No 67 from 1805 till his death in 1830. He painted here the series of portraits of princes, generals and statesmen who contributed to Napoleon’s downfall. His picture of Wellington was on a British £5 note from 1971-91. (Both above properties were demolished for the Imperial Hotel). The poet Thomas Gray, the suffragette Emmaline Pankhurst and the theatrical impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte also lived here at one stage.

It is the prime setting for the events of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, which is set at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. “But the tide of fashion has rolled westward,” wrote Charles Knight in 1843, “and left Russell Square to be inhabited by the aristocracy of the City and the Inns of Court.” Knight added that “the scientific section of London literary men” had been attracted here too, by the square’s proximity to the London University and the British Museum.

In 1852 the trustees of the British Museum proposed to extend the building north-eastward – a plan that would have involved buying and demolishing a number of houses in Montague Street and at the south-west corner of Russell Square. In the end they decided to create more internal space by filling in the central quadrangle, while at the same time moving the natural history collection to a new home in South Kensington.

The squares were closed by gates until these were abolished by Act of Parliament in 1893. A cabmen’s shelter was erected at the square’s north-western corner in 1897 – and survives to the present day. Built at the start of the 20th century, the Russell Hotel (or the Hotel Russell, as it later styled itself) is a chateau-style terracotta extravagance, regarded as the finest work of the architect Charles Fitzroy Doll. It had 342 bedrooms but is currently being revamped and it is set to open in April 2018 as “The Principle, London”

Russell Square Gardens were re-laid in 2002, returning them to something like their appearance in the early 1800s by reproducing the original twisting paths and planting new lime trees. Low branches were removed from some older trees and the park was better lit and once again railed and gated.



Sir George Williams

George Williams was born in a small village in Dulverton, Somerset, England on October 11, 1821, to Amos and Elizabeth Williams. He was the youngest of eight brothers. He worked on the family farm until the age of twenty. At that time he moved himself to London to find new employment.

He found work with George Hitchcock and Company; he quickly learned how to become a draper. When George Williams arrived in London He described Himself as a, “careless, thoughtless, Godless, swearing young fellow.”

While George Williams was living in London he had nowhere to stay or live. A lot of young men came to London to work and while they were there they stayed at the same place they worked. The store where Williams worked had a room above it where he lived with several other men; it was very similar to camping. You really didn’t have much for privacy.

It was, however, safer to live there than on London’s Streets. Where there were thieves, thugs, beggars, drunks, and prostitutes. Seeing this really inspired George Williams and he wanted to create a place where young men like him had a safe place to go.

In 1844 George Williams and a group of fellow workers organized and created the first YMCA known as the Young Men’s Christen Association. It was a place to substitute Bible study and prayer for life on the streets. One of the first converts to the YMCA was his boss George Hitchcock.

In 1853, Sir George Williams married George Hitchcock’s daughter and she ultimately succeeded him in the business. In 1885, Williams became president of the YMCA, then later in his life he also became president of thirty religious and philanthropic societies, and then of the board of directors of a hundred others.

Williams was also a crusader. He improved working conditions so people worked fewer hours. Before this a standard working day was fifteen hours. He also donated two thirds of his income.

Queen Victoria Knighted Williams in 1894 for all the service he did to create the Young Men’s Christen Association. (Being knighted is one of the highest honours one can achieve in the United Kingdom and this honour can only be given by the queen.) He was on the 50th Year anniversary of the YMCA at that time there were five thousand YMCA’s in 24 countries with 500,000 members.

On November 6, 1905 Sir George Williams died. His funeral was at St Paul’s Cathedral and he is buried in the crypt there with a monument with a bust nearby.

He changed the world by helping others. Since his death there are YMCA’s at work in more than 130 countries around the world and serving more than 45 million people and the YMCA has opened its doors to females.

George Williams and YMCA memorial window.

In the south aisle of the nave of Westminster Abbey is a stained glass window in memory of the services rendered by the Young Men’s Christian Association during the First World War. The window also remembers its founder Sir George Williams. Two portraits of Sir George, in youth and old age, appear at the base of the window. The window was designed by Dudley Forsyth and dedicated on 14 November 1921.

The subjects are the Sermon on the Mount and the Transfiguration of Our Lord; above are St Michael and St George; below these are the royal coat of arms and the arms of Edward the Confessor. In the quatrefoil at the top is Our Lord in glory surrounded by angels. In niches in the window borders are figures of soldiers from all over the world who served with British forces during the Great War, with the shields of arms of their countries. At the base of the window is the YMCA symbol and the chi-rho sign (the two letters which begin the Greek word for Christ). The inscription reads:

To the glory of God and in memory of the services rendered through the Young Men’s Christian Association during the Great War 1914-1918: and to George Williams, its founder

His great-great grandson Colin Williams, Vice President of the YMCA, was a donor to the Abbey’s recent restoration appeal and a small window for him, with the YMCA badge, can be found in the Abbey’s Lady Chapel.


Thomas Hodgkin

Thomas Hodgkin was born into a devout Quaker family in Bruce Grove, Tottenham in 1798. He espoused the dress and values of his faith, not always to his advantage in his chosen career. At age 21, he wrote an “Essay on the Promotion of Civilization,” in which he criticized the imperialistic behaviour of colonists that led to the degradation or death of North American Indians and other native peoples. Thomas also developed an interest in science and medicine. From 1817 until 1820 he served as apprentice to an apothecary and “walked the wards” at Guys Hospital in London. While a medical student at Edinburgh, Hodgkin visited European medical centres during 1821–1822 and met René Laennec in Paris. Laennec had recently devised the stethoscope and taught Hodgkin how to use it. He received his medical degree from Edinburgh in 1823, the same year he met Moses Montefiore, a wealthy financier and philanthropist who was to become his lifelong patient and close friend.

In 1826, Hodgkin was appointed first lecturer in morbid anatomy and museum curator at the new Guys Hospital Medical School in London. During the next 12 years at Guys, Hodgkin made a number of major contributions. Despite his brilliance Hodgkin was rejected for a clinical staff position in 1837, after which he resigned from Guy’s Hospital. 1857 marked the first of five journeys with Moses Montefiore on behalf of Jews, Christians, and Arabs in various countries. In 1865 Samuel Wilks wrote his paper using the term “Hodgkin’s disease.” In the following year Thomas Hodgkin died of dysentery in Palestine. He is buried in Jaffa.

Hodgkin’s years at Guy’s Hospital were remarkably productive. He performed hundreds of autopsies and catalogued over 3000 specimens in the Green Book. Hodgkin presented the first systematic lectures on pathology in England and published a two-volume monograph. He described aortic regurgitation 5 years before Corrigan. Hodgkin, Richard Bright, and Thomas Addison were contemporaries and became known as “the three great men of Guy’s. All three correlated clinical with post-mortem findings and all had diseases named for them, but Hodgkin’s remains the most familiar.

Hodgkin brought the first stethoscope to Guy’s Hospital and delivered a lecture on Laennec’s method for its use to the hospital physical society in 1822. The older physicians at Guys were unimpressed with this peculiar-looking cylinder and used his stethoscope as a flowerpot, standing it on end. Once they left the room, the students removed the flowers and began examining each other with the instrument. In 1829 Hodgkin published a catalogue of pathologic specimens he had assembled in the museum, which was a landmark contribution. The museum helped make Guy’s one of the leading teaching institutions in London and all of England. Moreover, the availability of material from his own cases enabled others to later confirm his work.

In 1832 Hodgkin published his article ”On Some Morbid Appearances of the Absorbent Glands and Spleen’ In the report he described clinical histories and post-mortem findings of seven patients with enlargement of lymph nodes and spleen but without inflammation or other significant pathological findings. Hodgkin recognized that tuberculosis coexisted in some of the patients, but the firmness and size of the nodes made him conclude that these findings were different. Interestingly Hodgkin did not look at his specimens under the microscope. He had been one of the first people to use Lister’s improved achromatic lenses to examine the details of red blood cells and muscle fibres and the paper he wrote provided the foundations for the modern study of histology. In 1865 Samuel Wilks came across some of Hodgkin’s original cases in the course of other work and it was he who used the term ‘Hodgkin’s Disease’

Benjamin Harrison, Jr., was the administrator of Guy’s Hospital for over half a century (1797–1848); following in the footsteps of his father .He was wealthy, autocratic, and known as “King Harrison,” the hospital board being essentially a rubber stamp for his wishes.

Why didn’t Hodgkin receive the clinical appointment at Guy’s in 1837? There may have been a number of issues leading to Harrison’s decision, including Hodgkin’s refusal of the fellowship in the Royal College of Physicians, his involvement in the newly organized University of London which was regarded by Harrison as a potential competitor to Guy’s, and the fact that Hodgkin had been ill and absent for some time during the year prior to the decision. Another factor probably played a role in Benjamin Harrison’s decision. He was a board member of the Hudson’s Bay Company and was angered by Hodgkin’s outspoken criticism of the company for its exploitation of American Indians. The Hudson’s Bay Company gave guns and alcohol to the Indians in exchange for furs, which brought large profits to the company. Their divergent views placed Harrison and Hodgkin on a collision course that exploded in 1837. The result of this confrontation was a tragedy for Hodgkin and an irreplaceable loss for Guy’s.

After Hodgkin resigned from Guy’s Hospital in 1837, his academic medical career was over. His efforts on behalf of underprivileged and oppressed peoples throughout the world were lifelong. He remained a social reformer. He had played an important role in organizing the new University of London and its medical school, the first secular institution of its kind in England. Hodgkin declined fellowship in the prestigious Royal College of Physicians in 1836. Two years before, the college had repealed its bylaw that limited the fellowship to graduates of Oxford and Cambridge. However, Hodgkin felt that he would be singled out as an exception and it was unfair that other qualified individuals would not achieve election into fellowship

Hodgkin endured major disappointment in his personal as well as his professional life prior to age 40. He was not permitted to marry his true love, Sarah Godlee, because of the Quaker rule prohibiting marriage between first cousins. Even though he petitioned the Society of Friends to make an exception on two separate occasions, he was refused. Later, too late for Hodgkin, the Quaker rule was repealed. He finally married Sara Scaife, a widow and not a Quaker, in 1849.

Hodgkin’s life was devoted to attempts to help the underprivileged and oppressed peoples throughout the world, in North America, Australia, Africa, Syria, the British West Indies, and Liberia, to name a few sites. He lectured on sanitary measures and stressed the importance of protecting child labourers during the early phase of the industrial revolution in England. He cared for the poor, especially Jews in London, and often did not charge fees. He travelled with Moses Montefiore on multiple occasions to help Jews and other oppressed people. He also studied ethnology, geography, and the new science of anthropology. Hodgkin belonged to many organizations with social missions and held leadership positions in some of them. In 1829 he gave four lectures to the public on ways to promote and preserve health. He stressed the importance of adequate oxygen, bathing, and proper disposal of sewage. Hodgkin also warned of the dangers of overeating, excessive alcohol use, tobacco use (“smoking encroaches on the freedom and comfort of others”), and occupational dust exposure. He advocated regular exercise and education (including preschools and equal education for girls and boys). These lectures were given while Hodgkin was still at Guy’s and were remarkable efforts in educating lay persons about personal, social, and occupational health issues.

Moses Montefiore (1784–1885) was a successful financier and philanthropist. An orthodox Jew, he was a fellow of the Royal Society and had been knighted by Queen Victoria for his good works. Montefiore met Hodgkin in 1823 through his brother, who briefly was Hodgkin’s patient but fired him. However, Moses Montefiore and Hodgkin became close friends, and Hodgkin served as personal physician for Moses Montefiore and his wife for many years. Their journeys together for philanthropic purposes included a visit to Palestine in 1866, during which Hodgkin became ill with a dysenteric-like disease and died on April 4. He was buried in Jaffa. On his gravestone is the inscription, “Nothing of humanity was foreign to him”.


The Royal College of Psychiatrists

The Royal College of Psychiatrists was founded in 1971 and is responsible for training and supporting psychiatrists throughout their careers. It sets and monitors the examinations to become members of the college and without this qualification it would be very unusual for any doctor to be employed by the NHS as a psychiatrist. The college is responsible for setting and raising standards of clinical practice. They also work with patients, carers and other organisations to deliver high quality services.

The college produces a large number of patient leaflets, podcasts and even runs its own YouTube channel to produce high quality accurate information for the public about mental health. The college also produces and reviews a large number of research papers ranging from the use of corporal punishment for children to attempts to define safe drinking limits for alcohol.

One might wonder why a Royal College was only established in 1971 when ‘madness’ has been part of the human condition for millennia. Before the 19th century the treatment of the mad did not constitute a specialised branch of medicine. General physicians would handle the mad as part of their general caseload and a few gained a reputation for expertise. Francis Willis was called upon the treat George III in 1788 when the court physicians failed to cure him. Willis was also a clergyman. But unlike other medical conditions it was the community who decided who was mentally unwell and the community that ordered treatment. Mad people were a family responsibility, failing that the parish would provide a carer or the patient would be put in safe keeping in jails, religious institutions or private madhouses. Most madhouses, of which Bedlam was an example, were not medical institutions and had their origins as religious or charitable organisations. Theories of mental illness began to change in the latter part of the 18th century. Ideas of possession by devils and moral failing began to be replaced with ideas about the human mind from the developing science of neurology and ideas from the Scottish and French Renaissance philosophers. Physical treatments such as beating, purging and bloodletting were replaced with ideas of moral management. Patients were treated like children or in very quiet calm self sustaining communities. The York Quakers led by William Tuke, a tea merchant, founded the York Retreat where patients led a simple structured life with plenty of walking, fresh air and kindness. Unfortunately many madhouses were awful places of filth and cruelty able to flourish without regulation or supervision.

Concern for the well being of those suffering from mental illness gradually increased and was particularly embraced in the charitable social and political policy of the Victorians. County asylums were the recommendation of a House of Commons select committee, which had been set up in 1807 to ‘enquire into the state of lunatics’. Legislation in support of the establishment of asylums followed, including Wynn’s Act of 1808 ‘for the better care and maintenance of lunatics, being paupers or criminals’ and the Shaftesbury Acts of 1845 ‘for the regulation of the care and treatment of lunatics’. The Association of Medical Officers of Asylums was founded in 1841 and there was increasing acceptance that doctors had a role in diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. Doctors also had a role in the criminal justice system. In 1799 the trial of James Haslam was halted by the judge when he ruled that his attempt to shoot George III was due to a delusion and a verdict of ‘not guilty by insanity’ was given. Trying to differentiate the ‘bad from the mad’ remains an important part of many trials.

Most asylums were built on the outskirts of major cities, in order to provide a rural retreat for patients. Most operated as self-sufficient communities with their own water supplies, farms, laundries and factories. They were therefore isolated from the local community and psychiatrists working with them were isolated from their colleagues in other medical specialties. Admission to an asylum could be abused by husbands or other family members to exploit their relatives financially (forms an essential part of the plot of the Wilkie Collin’s novel ‘The Woman in White’. The early asylums made no differentiation between mental handicap and acquired mental illness. The Lunacy Act of 1890 set the parameters for admission, providing a legal system in which a patient had to be certified as insane in order to be admitted to the asylum. Under the Act, asylums became ‘a last resort for the insane rather than a means to their recovery’.3 No psychiatric opinion was sought prior to admission. The parish doctor declared patients insane and they were then placed on a compulsory reception order by a local magistrate and taken to the asylum

These differences in admission criteria contributed to an exponential rise in the asylum population. The rising population was due to a number of factors including the admission of many severely disabled patients who could never be discharged. There were also a large number of poorly understood and untreatable conditions presenting with psychiatric symptoms such as metabolic disorders, lead poisoning, syphilis and intracranial tumours. Once admitted to the asylum, medical officers’ duties included classifying patients as ‘curable’ or ‘incurable’ according to the duration of their illness and the presence of complications such as epilepsy and paralysis.2

In order to address the ever increasing asylum population, the Mental Treatment Act of 1930 extended the voluntary admission procedure to asylums, which encouraged them to establish outpatient departments ‘for the examination of applicants as to their fitness for reception as voluntary patients into asylums’. In 1925, there were 25 psychiatric outpatient departments in the UK and by 1935; this figure had increased to 162. These clinics were the origins of community psychiatric services.

By the 1970s the old asylums were underfunded, rundown and out of tune with modern treatments. In the 1950s effective drugs for the treatment of schizophrenia transformed life for many patients.

Modern psychiatry perhaps more than any other speciality continues to generate controversy. New illnesses such as ‘conduct disorder’ social phobia’ and various new addictions continue to spark heated debate. The rights of the mentally ill and the general population are often perceived as being in conflict and an often fierce debate about medication versus talking therapies never goes away.


The Greatest benefit to Mankind by Roy Porter 1999,  Mind-Forged Manacles by Roy Porter 1987,

From the asylum to community care: learning from experience by Helen Killaspy,


Wilton Music Hall

Is a Grade II* listed building, built as a music hall and now run as a multi-arts performance space in Graces Alley. It is one of very few surviving music halls and retains many original features. Wilton’s has been a producing venue since 2004. It produces imaginative, distinctive work that has roots in the early music hall tradition but reinterpreted for an audience of today, which means presenting a diverse and distinct programme including opera, puppetry, classical music, cabaret, dance, and magic. It is a focus for theatrical and East End history, as well as a living theatre, concert hall, public bar and heritage site. The venue has undergone an extensive programme of restoration work that was completed in late 2015. The theatre didn’t close at any point while the building works were under way: instead there will be was an interim arts programme called The Chrysalis Club.

Wilton’s is a unique building comprising a mid-19th Century grand music hall attached to an 18th Century terrace of three houses and a pub. Originally an alehouse dating from 1743 or earlier, it served the Scandinavian sea captains and wealthy merchants who lived in neighbouring Wellclose Square. From c.1826, it was also known as The Mahogany Bar, reputedly because the landlord was the first to install a mahogany bar and fittings in his pub. In 1839 a concert room was built behind the pub and in 1843 it was licensed for a short time as The Albion Saloon, a saloon theatre legally permitted to put on full-length plays. John Wilton bought the business in c.1850, enlarged the concert room three years later, and replaced it with his ‘Magnificent New Music Hall’ in 1859.

Wilton’s was built by Jacob Maggs, on the same site as the former concert room of the Albion. The hall could accommodate 1,500 people, most of whom were working-class. The bar was retained as the public entrance, and the hall was built in the area behind the existing block of houses. This was common practice at the time, as street frontage for music halls was very expensive. He furnished the hall with mirrors, chandeliers and decorative paintwork, and installed the finest heating, lighting and ventilation systems of the day. The theatre is an un-restored example of the ‘giant pub hall’. In the theatre, a single gallery, on three sides and supported by ‘barley sugar’ cast iron pillars, rises above a large rectangular hall and a high stage with a proscenium arch. In its heyday, a ‘sun-burner’ chandelier of 300 gas jets and 27,000 cut crystals, illuminated a mirrored hall. Today, charring is still visible in the rafters, where the chimney exhausted the heat of this massive device. The hall would have had space for supper tables, a benched area, and promenades around the outside for standing customers.

Wilton’s was modelled on many other successful London halls of the time, including the second Canterbury Hall (1854) in Lambeth; Evans Music-and-Supper Rooms (1856) in Covent Garden and Weston’s (1857) (later known as ‘The Royal Holborn’). Wilton’s remains the only surviving example.

Madrigals, glees and excerpts from opera were at first the most important part of the entertainment, along with the latest attractions from West End and provincial halls, circus, ballet and fairground. In the thirty years Wilton’s was a music hall, many of the best-remembered acts of early popular entertainment performed here, from George Ware who wrote ‘The Boy I love is up in the Gallery’, to Arthur Lloyd and George Leybourne (Champagne Charlie) two of the first music hall stars to perform for royalty.

Wilton’s passed into several ownerships during the 1870s before being destroyed by fire in 1877. An eight-year rebuild commenced that year before the building was bought by the East End Mission of the Methodist Church. Towards the end of the 19th Century the East End had become notorious for extreme poverty and terrible living conditions. Religious organisations tried to help. The East London Methodist Mission was renamed The Mahogany Bar Mission and for some time considered ‘Methodism’s finest hall’. During the Great Dock Strike of 1889, a soup kitchen was set up at The Mahogany Bar feeding a thousand meals a day to the starving Dockers families. The Mission remained open for nearly 70 years, through some of the most testing periods in East End history including the 1936 Mosley March and the London Blitz. Throughout that time the Methodists campaigned against social abuses, welcomed people of all creeds and ethnicity, and gave invaluable support to the local community, particularly the needy children of the area.

After the Second World War the area was subject to local authority compulsory purchase and scheduled for demolition as part of the slum clearance schemes of the 1960s. The Methodists had to leave and Wilton’s was scheduled for demolition; becoming briefly became a rag storage warehouse. Fortunately a campaign was started to save the building with support from persons such as Sir John Betjeman, Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan. Wilton’s was given the protection of Grade 11* listed building status in April 1971 and was bought by the GLC who preserved it until 1999 when it was leased to the Broomhill Opera Company until 2004.

Wilton’s reopened as a theatre and concert hall in 1997. After years of under-investment, the venue was in a state of near terminal decay. The Music Hall was featured on the BBC television series Restoration in 2003 as a nominee for the south-east segment of the show, alongside Broomfield House in Enfield and Darnley Mausoleum in Kent. The building won the South East category, with the series’ overall winner announced as Victoria Baths in Manchester.

However it was again derelict and in debt! Frances Mayhew became the Managing and Artistic Director and took over in 2004, having worked previously at Wilton’s in the late 90s as an intern. Until her retirement in 2015 she brought the building back to life. In June 2007 the World Monuments Fund added the building to its list of the world’s “100 most endangered sites”. It is owned and managed by the Wilton’s Music Hall Trust and since they took ownership in 2004 restoration has made steady progress..

Phase 1 of the Capital Project Works was finished in February 2013 with completion of repairs to the auditorium. Phase 2 was to repair the five Georgian houses that make up the front half of Wilton’s and which were suffering from damp, rot, subsidence, dereliction, and leaking roofs. Phase 2 commenced in July 2014 and was completed late in 2015.

Today, the hall is used as a thriving arts and heritage venue that today entertains thousands of people each year and also hosts film and photo shoots.



Henry Raine (1679 to 1738)

Was a wealthy brewer who owned a well-established family business in the semi-rural area of Wapping-Stepney, just to the east of the Tower of London.

He initially lived close to what was a substantial group of buildings, which he either owned or rented, before following the example of many of his wealthy contemporaries, having a mansion built for himself and his family in Woodford, Essex.

For several years before the foundation of his own school, Henry Raine had been a trustee of the Wapping Charity School, which was founded as part of the movement to bring some education and training to poorer children, thereby enabling them to be permanently employed after leaving school.

Prior to 1719, Henry Raine had maintained the charity school financially but in that year he started fund the school totally. His financial support meant that he was able to appoint both the schoolmaster and mistress; he was involved in setting the curriculum and ensured that the school was run on Christian principles based on his High Church principles, which were also followed by many of his contemporaries.

The children had to live in parishes close to the school and had to come from families who were practicing Anglicans – non-conformists and Roman Catholics were strictly excluded. The 1719 school building still stands and is now the oldest non-ecclesiastical building in Tower Hamlets.

The school, which was in Charles Street, Wapping, educated fifty boys and fifty girls, who joined aged eight or nine and stayed for four years. At the end of their school careers the boys were apprenticed to local tradesmen and the girls went into domestic service.

On 13 August 1724, Henry married Sarah Petrie, whose family lived in Mile End Old Town, at St Dunstan’s Church, Stepney, Sarah was a member of one of the most important Roman Catholic families in the country. Sarah died on 26 February 1725 after which, uncommonly for that time, Henry never remarried. Sarah and other members of Henry’s family, were buried in the Raine’s family tomb which still stands in the grounds of St George’s in the East, Stepney.

In 1736, Henry built an additional residential school or asylum for girls, who were given a further four years education, to ensure that they would then go on to domestic service. When Henry died in 1738, the provisions of his will ensured that the schools, which would be managed by a large group of local worthies and members of Henry’s immediate family, would be able to continue by utilising the income from his property and the stocks which he left to finance the project. The asylum building, which was demolished in the 1920s, was used as a school until the 1890s after which and despite being condemned, it became part of the Stepney Workhouse complex.

Henry Raine was one of the most important people in the foundation of the parish of St George’s in the East in 1729 and he established his charitable foundation in such a way as to link the school and parish for many years to come. A portrait of the first Rector of St George’s, Dr William Simpson, still hangs in the Headmasters study in the school.

The schools continued virtually unchanged until the middle of the 19th century when it became clear that the buildings were in need of serious restoration and that the schools, rather than the asylum, had outgrown their purpose. In addition, the changes in legislation relating to education were such as to make change inevitable. The school had always been operated on charitable grounds but now a new system, where paying pupils and foundation pupils would both be taken into the school and educated together. The changes coincided with the appointment of Robert Strange Taylor as first Assistant Master and then Master and subsequently Headmaster of the schools, who was responsible for restructuring the whole of Raine’s Foundation and the Schools.

Taylor ensured that the schools were moved to better premises in Cannon Street Road, just a few hundred yards from St George’s in the East.

The boys and girls had separate schools with the education was being geared more towards science, technology and teaching than the traditional subjects and aspirations. The school also dropped its insistence that only practicing Anglicans be admitted and increasingly the school population reflected the mix of people and religions in the East End.

However, the school quickly outgrew the new buildings and Taylor was instructed to find a new site for the school. After several years of work on the project, the Foundation’s trustees bought a plot of land on the east side of Arbour Square, Stepney where, at a cost of some £30,000 they built a school for two hundred and fifty boys and a similar number of girls, where the school remained until 1985.

The school was and still is, an imposing building. However the school went through serious trials and tribulations during both world wars. Over 300 ex-pupils and teachers fought in the First World War, of whom some 35 were killed.

In 1964, the school ceased to be divided into boys and girls departments and became a co-education school.

In 1985, the school moved, for only the third time in what was then its almost 270 years history to two sites in Bethnal Green, the Upper School, which occupies what many east-enders will remember as Parmenters School in Approach Road and the Lower School The Arbour Square building is now part of Tower Hamlets College.

The School’s achievements, based on the legacy of Henry Raine are impressive. It still maintains its mix of foundations and non-foundation pupils. The Foundation itself is the oldest charitable foundation in Tower Hamlets and it still provides financial support for pupils to attend university. The original building is the oldest non-ecclesiastical building in Tower Hamlets and the Arbour Square site is still as imposing as ever and, in many ways, it demonstrates the stability of Henry Raine’s vision.


The Webb Patent Sewer Gas Lamp Carting Lane

London still has 1500 functioning gas street lamps lovingly maintained by a crew of 5 engineers from British Gas but the lamp in Carting Lane is the only surviving example in London of a Webb patent sewer gas lamp. The original lamp, iron lily, was preserved as a historical curiosity, unfortunately the original lamp was mangled beyond repair when a lorry reversed into it and the lamp we see today has been carefully restored by a team of Thames gas craftsmen.

The installation of enclosed sewers in London was a mid 19th century engineering triumph but anaerobic bacterial activity in sewage produces biogas (largely methane) which is not only foul smelling but potentially explosive as well. Pockets of gas would collect where there was a change in the gradient of the sewer and it was necessary to ventilate the sewer. The usual method was to install a stink pipe and the occasional tall green pipe can still be seen on London streets. The problem was that in areas with tall buildings the stink pipes could not be made tall enough to clear the roof line.

Street lamps were installed that could run on town gas and draw biogas from the sewer, but problems could occur that sudden flushing of the sewer stopped biogas escaping and thus the gas jets would be extinguished. Joseph Webb of Birmingham patented a sewer gas destruction lamp in March 1895. The patent specified an arrangement of burners, air supply and heat reflection designed to produce intense heat at the point of combustion (316-427 centigrade) which would turn the methane into carbon dioxide and water vapour. One lamp could reliably remove gases from ¾ mile of sewer.

The first lamp was installed in Birmingham and then rapidly installed across the country. Today other methods of ventilating sewers are used and these lamps have largely disappeared.

Human and animal waste has been used as a fuel source for millennia but fell out of favour in richer countries with the widespread use of cheap fossil fuels to generate light, heat and power. However old ideas often reappear in a modified form and various new small scale projects using biogas are being piloted in the UK.

GENeco, a subsidiary of Wessex Water, launched its Bio-Bus in 2014 running on gas produced from sewage and food waste. The bus runs on the No.2 route from Bath to Bristol Airport and produces significantly less carbon dioxide and air pollution than conventional fuel

The Malvern Hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty, now has the UK’s first street lamp powered by dog-poo. Brian Harper, a local inventor, was fed up of walking in the hills and seeing bags of dog faeces hanging from trees and littering grass verges. His anaerobic digester is the size of a small washing machine and sits on the ground below the street light. Dog owners deposit their bags, turn the handle and let the digester break down the waste and release methane which powers the street light. 10 bags of poo can keep the light going for 2 hours. The city of San Francisco has estimated that 6,500 tons of dog faeces are deposited on the streets annually so Mr Harper’s invention could have a bright future.