Chelmsford YHA Group


The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group

November 2014

Anatomical London

Royal College of Surgeons - Hunterian Museum

Eight of us met in glorious sunshine at Marble Arch for a 7 mile adventure around the sites of anatomical London. Marble Arch was the site of the Tyburn Gallows from where, under a grant by Henry VIII, bodies of hanged criminals were handed over to surgeons for dissection. Many bodies were fought over between family members or friends and the surgeons, as some bodies were actually revived after hanging, and physical resurrection would be impossible after dissection.

We had morning coffee in the Royal Academy, where two remarkable artefacts are stored. Both are 19th Century plaster casts of men executed at Tyburn and set into poses before rigor mortis set in. One is of a smuggler, set into the pose of a famous statue, known as Smugglerius and the other was crucified and is known as the Anatomical Crucifixion. I suppose luckily they are not on public view, but can be seen on weekdays by appointment. We visited several churchyards on our tour, and saw the watch towers where guards would look out for the body snatchers. Bodies would fetch 20 times a man's weekly wages so it was a good living, and we must remember that if it wasn't for this practice, surgery would not have advanced.

This led us to the Hunterian Museum where the massive collection of body parts, human and other animals, collated by John Hunter is kept. While those who had not visited the museum before saw the famous sights, like Charles Byne's skeleton, the Irish giant of 7.5 feet, or the Waterloo teeth, and Dave J found as many rude bits as possible, Mike and I had a tour by a PhD student from Hong Kong in Dentistry. She was doing her doctorate on the Phossy Jaw, so we saw the appropriate exhibits and learnt about the history of the match making Industry in the East End.

After reaching the Thames, we visited two churches, the ruined St Dunstan's and St Mary-at-Hill which was full of people. We were invited in and learnt that this restored Wren Church holds only one service a year and it was to be tomorrow! It was the fisherman's Harvest Festival service, as we were very near to the old Billingsgate Market. Apparently they put on a wonderful display of fresh fish instead of the usual harvest fare and the porters all wear their special hats for carrying the fish on their heads. You can see some pictures at the Spitalfields Life website. We also investigated the Apothecaries Hall, where many doctors are still awarded their qualification to practice.

At around 5pm we eventually crossed London Bridge in brilliant sunshine and as the Old Operating Theatre was already closed, we settled for afternoon tea in Borough Market. Robin's satnav said we had walked over 10 miles instead of the suggested 7, and we missed The Clink, The Old Bailey, Barts Hospital Museum and many other things! Another day perhaps.



The Hunt for Kinder Scout


Who would have thought the highest point in the Peak District could be so hard to find? The scramble up Grindsbrookdale from Edale was straightforward enough, and it was a lovely sunny walk round the edge of the Kinder plateau for lunch at the downfall. At this point we were forced to defend ourselves and our sandwiches from marauding sheep the first of our many trials.

Kinder Scout

From here we cut into the pathless wilderness of the central plateau. There were no landmarks, so we were relying on compass bearings, but following a bearing whilst weaving in and out of peat hags was not that easy. Eventually we found a turf with a stick poking out of it that looked a bit higher than the surrounding bog. Surely that must be the summit? Or was the summit that other turf with a stick poking out about 50 yards away? Or possibly the little cairn we found? Naturally we bagged all three to be on the safe side.

The summit was conquered (we hope!), but our trials were not over as we still had to make it back to Edale. Kinder has a somewhat boggy reputation and on the whole we did pretty well, but Judi did manage to find a bootful to take home as a souvenir.


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