Nowadays “Doing a tour” seems to consist of looking and photographing memorable structures or places within the city. You might (if finances allow) actually enter some of these to see inside and exit through the ubiquitous Gift Shop.
The Georgians had a slightly different take on the matter and although I’m sure they visited St Paul’s and climbed the Monument, they also seem to have included contemporary locations. The story of Bedlam is well known with sightseers visiting the mentally ill inmates to taunt and enjoy the spectacle, but I’d always thought of this as something that had died out by the 18th century. It’s quite hard to get your head around, but medical facilities ranked quite high on the Georgian tourists itinerary. Can you imagine organising your trip around the city in the reign of George III?
- St Giles Cripplegate
- Remains of the Roman wall
- Visit to the wards of St Thomas’ Hospital
It all seems a bit voyeuristic to me.
One such instance that is actually worthy of a mention in an early 19th century guidebook of London was a Hospital which was situated 21 Prescot Street, not far from the Tower of London.
Today the Royal College of Psychiatrists building occupies the site of what was the Magdalen Hospital which had the catchy strap line “For Penitent Prostitutes” For a small fee visitors could enter the establishment and gaze on the fallen women known as Magdalens in the infirmary, while those able enough worked in the laundry, repaired clothes and took religious instruction.
It all seems like a grand day out for those gregarious Georgians, and it’s rumoured that the Magdalen had a nice range of fridge magnets, coasters and keyrings.