‘By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show…’ Samuel Johnson certainly knew what he was talking about in describing London and yesterday our students experienced this vibrant, capital city for themselves. All of our students, administrative staff and Major teachers travelled to London for our second field trip of the program. Each major class spent time together exploring sites relevant to their subject, as well as many of the other historical and cultural attractions that London has to offer. For many of the students, this was their first time in the UK’s capital city, and their first time using the ‘tube’ (London underground) – so there was a lot of excitement in the air! Stay tuned for snippets of what each class got up to over the coming days!
Speech and Debate
The main focus of the day for the Speech and Debate students was one of the great orators of the twentieth century: Winston Churchill. Gavin’s class was lucky enough to visit the Cabinet War Rooms, the bunker from which the British and Allied effort was directed during the Second World War, and which now tells the story of the remarkable men and women who worked there during the conflict. Leading government ministers, military strategists, and the Prime Minister himself lived and worked at the complex – which was in use twenty-four hours a day from 1939-45, shielding them from the many air raids that assailed the city during the war. Their offices and living spaces have been preserved virtually untouched from the date at which peace was brokered. In 2005, the Churchill Museum was added to the War Rooms, and so the Speech and Debate class was able to explore the life and work of Churchill whilst also getting a glimpse into the reality of life underground during the war. The visit to the War Rooms was followed by a trip to Trafalgar Square, where they visited the National Gallery
Churchill’s very own room
Terrorism and Global Politics
The Terrorism and Global Politics class began the day by wandering along the river to see the Houses of Parliament. In class they have been learning about Guy Fawkes and his attempt to blow up Parliament in 1605. This is an early example of a terrorist act. They also walked right up to the bottom of Big Ben, where one of the class members read a poem about the Gunpowder Plot. Holly, our Terrorism and Global Politics teacher, then led the class through St. James’ Park to the front of Buckingham Palace. Fortunately they were just in time to see the end of the changing of the guard, which is the momentous and regal occasion where the Royal Guard parade around in front of Buckingham Palace and then down the Mall. From here the class caught the Tube to the British Museum. Here everyone managed to grab a bite of lunch before being shown some of the highlights of the museum. Holly took the class to the Elgin Marbles, discussing their political significance, the Assyrian friezes, which are like those currently being destroyed by ISIS, and then the Sutton Hoo collection, which was found near Cambridge. Students were then given free rein to wander round the museum with their buddy and to see the exhibits that interested them, before everyone headed back to Covent Garden for dinner.
Drama, English Lit & Film-making
The students and teachers from Drama, English literature, and Film-Making teamed up to explore the city together. The group first visited the National Theatre, Southbank, where they had tea, before walking along the river to the Globe Theatre. The theatre was originally built for Shakespeare’s playing company in 1599, but the current structure was modelled on the original and reopened in 1997. After having lunch in the environs of The Globe and shopping gleefully in the impressive gift shop. the group attended a matinee performance of Shakespeare’s comedy, Measure for Measure.
The Medical Science classes climbed the gloomy, narrow spiral staircase of St Thomas’ Church, Southwark to visit the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret, a museum of surgical history and the oldest operating theatre in Europe. The operating theatre remained blocked up and hidden for almost 100 years, before being rediscovered in 1956. After complete restoration in 1962, it opened as a museum. The operating theatre is located in the roof space of St Thomas’ Church, on the original site of Old St Thomas’ Hospital, which was founded in 1215. It was the original home of Florence Nightingale’s famous nursing school, before the hospital moved to its present site in Lambeth. In 1822, the former herb garret of the hospital’s resident apothecary in Old St Thomas Church was transformed into an operating theatre. It provided much-needed space to demonstrate swift surgical skills to scores of apprentice apothecaries and visiting dignitaries. Before the invention of antiseptic surgery, hundreds of poor women underwent amputations and gruesome operations here without anaesthetic, which was not introduced until 1846!
The Museum’s resident skeleton.
The original (and surprisingly small) operating table in use from 1822.
Blood loss was hugely problematic at this time (when the floorboards of the theatre were removed in the 1960s, a concrete cutter had to be used to remove the sawdust congealed with blood!), but most deaths were the result of secondary infection. Surgeons were more likely to wash up after, rather than before, a procedure and carbolic soap did not exist at this time either. A wooden operating theatre presented huge opportunities for the transfer of germs, and patients also picked up infections on the wards. Up to 150 medical students could be crammed into the viewing galleries for an operation, exposing patients to further sources of infection. The most common procedure at this time was a lithotomy, which involved the surgical removal of a calculus (stone) from the bladder, kidney, or urinary tract. Students were very vocal in their horror at the descriptions of such procedures, told with ghoulish delight by the museum’s medical historian, Julie!
The historian recounted the history of one of the hospital’s patients, a woman in her sixties who was the victim of a carriage accident and had her left leg amputated in the operating theatre. Although she survived the horrific operation without any anaesthetic, she died a week later in the ward from infection. One of our students acted the role of the patient, Elizabeth, as Julie recreated the scene.
Is she going to use that knife on me?
After lunch in Borough Market, the group took the tube to Lincoln’s Inn Fields and visited the Hunterian Museum based in the Royal College of Surgeons. A treasure trove of medical specimens and artefacts, The Hunterian Collection contains approximately 3,500 specimens and preparations from John Hunter’s (1728-93) original collection. The collection still includes many of Hunter’s most famous specimens, including those showing his successful ligation of the femoral artery for popliteal aneurysm and his experiments on collateral circulation. Other specimens demonstrate Hunter’s extensive and varied researches on subjects such as bone growth, transplantation and freemartins. Although photography was not permitted, students gazed in equal parts dismay and awe at the various specimens suspended in jars, and particularly enjoyed the recordings of modern-day operations, such as the removal of a brain tumour!
Check back over the next few days for more London-related posts and the usual smorgasbord of activities and academic pursuits!