Tuberculosis pioneer. Best-selling author. Convert to Catholicism. Enemy of eugenics, and eugenicists.
On a bright but cold Sunday morning at the beginning of February, I went to four sites of interest. The first of these was the august premises of The Medical Society of London, at 11 Chandos Street, W1.
Chandos street, and this part of the West-End for that matter, was fairly deserted. Someone in an upstairs office saw me, perhaps wondering why I was taking so many pictures as he shut the blind. He need not have worried: what might have appeared as intense surveillance was nothing more than a new camera and its incompetent operator. I was working on the principle that if I tried each of the settings then one of them was going to work. Anyway, you can see the photograph above, taken in Portrait/Landscape/Flash/Backlit/Night portrait/Panoramic/Sports. Well, one of them anyway.
So much for the present: I was here because of the past. It was here that Professor Ann Louise McIlroy gave a talk on 7th July 1921 on the topic of “Birth Control”. Her audience included Earl Russell, Dr H.G. Sutherland, Dr Bernard O’Connor, Dr Haden Guest, Mr G.B. Shaw, Dr Armand Routh and Lord Justice Aitkins.
In closing the questions and discussion, Professor McIlroy said:
“There was too short a time for reading my paper. If I had read my original paper you would not have got home by midnight. I had to cut it down six times. The whole question must be considered by the medical profession because we have absolutely no guide in the matter. I wanted several points of guidance and everybody who has discussed the question has felt the need, and that it must be taken up by the medical profession and put on the proper basis.”
Later she spoke about the possible harm of contraceptives.
“As to contraceptives being harmful, I did not go into that question. The practice would ruin the young men and women of any nation. I have no experience of any harmful result from the use of quinine. The most harmful method of which I have had experience is the use of the pessary. It does not remain in place. It can pass back natural discharges.”
Within a year her remark: the most harmful method of which I have had experience is the use of the pessary, was printed in Sutherland’s book Birth Control: A Statement of Christian Doctrine Against the Neo-Malthusians. Within two, she was part of the bitterly fought Stopes v. Sutherland libel trial in the High Court, testifying for the defendant.
From there to the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Mayfair. It adjoins Mount Street Gardens which lies at the back of the buildings that face Farm and Mount streets. Both the church and the gardens are peaceful, contemplative spaces. In Mount Street there are high-end shops and a very good cafe.
The past: it was here that Dr Sutherland was accepted into the Catholic Church in 1919. Prior to that he was a member of the Church of Scotland (having converted on commencement of World War 1) and, prior to that, he was a Presbyterian by baptism (and an atheist and an agnostic in belief).
Next I walked north, up Marylebone High Street, to the site of the:
The dispensary is long gone and a bus station now stands on the site. The Google map below shows its location, just outside the southern perimeter of Regents Park.
Here is what you will find there today:
Yes, it is a “visitor to London” photographic cliché, isn’t it. As I mentioned, a bus depot stands on the site of the Dispensary today (slightly to the left of centre in the photograph below):
If you continue down this road, you will find Madame Tussauds waxwork museum. Anticipating your demands, I took the trouble to get this better view of the bus depot from the other end of Allsop Place:
A better view of a bus depot? Nothing is too much trouble for you, dear reader.
From there, I entered the Clarence Gate of Regent’s Park, intent on finding the site of the “Open-Air Bandstand School”, shown below in 1912:
The site where the it once stood is shown in the top-right hand corner of the map below, at the junction of paths to the left of the “Ready Money” Drinking Fountain.
This is the site today, looking north on the path parallel to the the Broad Walk.
While it looks quite tranquil, it was a bitterly cold day. The same aspect, but closer to the site:
This photograph was taken at the junction, looking west:
A walk to photograph a bus station. A visit to a place at which a bandstand no longer stands. A pointless journey? Thankfully not. Here is what I learned:
When you get a new camera, read the instructions.
I now physically understood the distances between each site, all within walking distance.
Opening the “Open Air” bandstand school for tuberculous children was no mean feat. As I said it was a cold day when I was there, and it was remarkable to think that the school operated “in all weathers” between 1910 and 1929.
As Dr Sutherland recalled in his bestselling autobiography, The Arches of the Years:
“There was also some opposition [to the establishment of the school], and one elderly physician wrote to the local paper pointing out that the children would all die of pneumonia, and that the proper authority to deal with the scheme was the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.”
“In point of fact, even when there were fifty children at the school there was never a case of pneumonia, and none of infectious fevers”
Click the links below for more information about the bandstand school:
And read Dr Sutherland’s description of it here.
Mark Sutherland, Curator, hallidaysutherland.com