Art and Medicine Tours London

Lepers and Leeches: Medical Bloomsbury and St Giles

  • L0000328 A French dentist; by T. Rowlandson, 1811
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
A French dentist showing a specimen of his artificial teeth and false palates.
Coloured engraving
1811 By: Thomas RowlandsonDental memoranda /
Theodosius Purland
Published: 1702-1878]

Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Like a ward in a hospital. Dr. Barry’s making the rounds. Heroically. Not least because this is St. Giles (and Bloomsbury). St. Giles was the patron saint of lepers and cancer patients and disabled people and epileptics and the mentally ill and the sterile. To say nothing of outcasts, beggars and poor people. Gives you a feel for the neighbourhood’s past, doesn’t it – this wasn’t called St. Giles for nothing. So, pilgrims and medical students and the merely curious, what have we got here? We’ve got mental illness (she’s Dr. Barry’s most famous patient). We’ve got “dephlogisticated air.” We’ve got the physical and mental havoc wrought by duelling. We’ve got the London School of Hygiene. We’ve got appalling, beknighted, crippling male chauvanism. We’ve got the medically misguided (a miasmatist, for example) – no shortage of them. We’ve got Jenner and Blossom the cow and the Boy Phipps. We’ve got depictions of all the vectors of disease – incluing Aedes aegypti, which is busy spreading the Zika virus at the moment. We’ve got “mothers’ ruin.” We’ve got bubonic plague. We’ve got goal fever. And, yes, we’ve got leprosy – it’s a historical memory for us but horrifyingly alive in Burma and elsewhere. And Dr. Barry being Public Health Physician Dr. Barry this isn’t just a freak show. It’s serious science, serious medicine, serious epidemiology. Serious science, serious medicine, serious epidemiology that this Public Health Physician guide contexts all the time – the reflection, for example, that food and medicines are at risk because 20 percent of plant species are facing extinction.

There is no need to book for this guided tour. This walk is offered as part  London Walks and you can check their website for times and dates by clicking here. Or email Barry and he will reply with the information.

Walk description written by David Tucker, London Walks.


Meet Dr Barry
Russell Square
First stop (for any latecomers)
Front of Russell Hotel
End points/nearest Underground station
Carnaby Street/ Piccadilly Circus 4 mins


  • Pew Foundation of America – Finding a qualified guide from across the pond for a full day’s tour of the River Thames and Greenwich was a daunting task, but we knew had found the perfect guide when Dr. Barry Walsh was recommended to us. After a conversation about our visit, Barry went above and beyond, researching our destinations and tailoring his background in medicine and his immense knowledge of the history of London to suit our group’s interests and ultimately offered us an exceptional, catered experience.  All guests were impressed with not only his breadth of knowledge but his conversational style that welcomed questions. Even crew members of our boat who had heard a hundred guided tours down the Thames before were impressed with his interesting and unique anecdotes, bringing both the history and architecture of London to life. In Greenwich, Barry could speak about every building, boat and piece of artwork to cross our paths, never missing an opportunity to enrich our visit. Overall, we could not recommend a better guide for your visit to London!

    Katy Saris
  • Barry is our “Renaissance Man”. He’s a Consultant Public Health Physician, an Art Historian and professionally qualified Blue Badge Guide.

    London Tour review David Tucker at London Walks
  • Thank you so much for the wonderful day. We were just sitting here talking about how much we learned. WOW!! Brian and I could have stayed all day. What an amazing place.  I will definitely pass your name along to my friends.
    Molly Haas