A few weeks back I finally managed to visit a place I had been meaning to visit for a long time: St Barts Pathology Museum. I am a fan of old-style Victorian museums, especially if they are medical or scientific. If they have old specimens or taxidermy then I’ll be all over it – I think it’s the closet goth in me… constantly struggling to get out!
If you want to have a look inside, do it at your own peril – although I didn’t get a lot of detail photos (I wasn’t allowed), this is a museum that is filled with human body parts.
The St Barts Pathology Museum is located in Smithfield in London and is incorporated in the St Barts Hospital, the oldest hospital in Europe, founded in 1123 and is still in its original location. The hospital is still being used to treat patients, but one can easily see that it is an old hospital and in some areas, in need of some TLC. The courtyard is pleasant and fairly quiet (at least on the weekends) so a visit to the museum can be a relaxing experience.
The entrance to the Pathology Museum itself is located inside the courtyard and you need to find the door pictured above. It’s not that well indicated so I’m helping you already! It’s also important to note that the museum isn’t always open, you can visit when there are specific events, which is what I did. I had been meaning to go to one of their markets and I managed to get to their Christmas Market – filled with taxidermy, body part themed objects or art and anything that would look great in a curio cabinet.
As you go in, you can already sense how old the building is – that Roman sarcophagus has been found in 1877 and as the caption reads, found when they were digging to build the library. I am also glad that the people working there have a sense of humour!
To access the museum, you have to continue up the stairs and you’ll find it. As soon as you enter the room, it lights up due to the skylight in the ceiling. It is quite impressive – it houses 5,000 medical specimens on 3 mezzanine levels. I wasn’t able to access the mezzanines but hopefully, one day I’ll be able to.
As I mentioned before, I wasn’t able to take closeup photos of the specimens and that was a shame. I can understand why although it wasn’t explained to me, but I can think of a few reasons for that. The museum has been renovated recently and the specimen collection is still being catalogued. Unfortunately, as the place was teeming with people because of the market, I didn’t have the time to go through some of them with more attention.
The ones I did get to look at, had some information attached that was very informative and fascinating to look at. This is a museum with actual body parts (most of them “pickled”) and it can be a little bit disturbing, come to think of it. But I also believe that the way that they are displayed emphasises the educational aspect, albeit in an antiquated fashion.
A place like this is a real gem, as far as Victorian Museums go – the collection is extensive and in very good condition and displayed in an impressive looking room. As it’s not permanently open and you can only visit for specific events, I would suggest that you visit their calendar page to check out what’s up.
The market happens occasionally – this was the second time I was aware that it was running and it’s well worth going. Lot’s of amazing pieces at very affordable prices too – a great opportunity to start an osteology or taxidermy collection. I have to admit that even though I wasn’t planning on spending any money, I did bring home one of the raccoon skulls in the picture below:
After the market, me and my friend Ross walked around for a while and explored the environs for a while. On a Sunday it’s a very quiet area of town but filled with a lot of historical buildings that are worth spending some time around.
St Barts Pathology Museum
3rd Floor Robin Brook Centre
St Bartholomew’s Hospital
West Smithfield, EC1A 7BE
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