The London trip turned out to be just as thrilling as expected. Although we embarked upon many tourist hotspots, we explored some of London’s hidden gems including Highgate Cemetery, the Old Operating Theatre Museum, and a Jack the Ripper Tour led by Donald Rumbelow.
We had a scheduled tour of Highgate Cemetery. Against everything on the itinerary, my students said that our day at Highgate was their favorite day. Although I’ve been to Highgate Cemetery a few times before, I forgot that it’s a good twenty minute walk from the nearest Tube station to the cemetery—much of which is an uphill trek. After getting off at the station with only five minutes to spare, we took shortcut directions from a stranger and then ran through pouring rain towards the cemetery. As always during the tour, our guide told us dark and quirky stories about the 170,000 people buried throughout the graveyard. We learned about Victorian body-snatching, the sad reality of common graves for the poor, as well as a rare and very large spider found within the vaults of Egyptian Avenue. Needless to say, I was careful not to brush my shoulder against any dark, damp walls. Yikes!
Old Operating Theatre Museum
One of the strangest museums in London is the Old Operating Theatre Museum. Accessible through a narrow twisting staircase of an Old Bell Tower, the museum showcases one of the longest surviving operating theatres in Europe, cases of nineteenth-century medical devices, as well as an herb garret showing traditional herbs prescribed for various illnesses. We also heard a lecture about the brutal reality of operating theatres, about how amputations would have been performed without anesthesia for broken bones or infections, and how medical students often bet each other on whether or not the hapless patient would survive amputation.
Jack the Ripper Tour
If you go to London, you will find many, many Jack the Ripper tours. Many are overpriced and gimmicky. However, in my opinion, London Walks provides the best tours. If you are able, go on Donald Rumbelow’s tour. He is a former policeman, the world-leading Jack the Ripper expert, and author of The Complete Jack the Ripper. His tour is both informative and exciting.