Path-ologies: An A-Z of London’s illnesses

Snow Cholera MapSickness and the streets of disease from the Great Plague to the present day

Originally developed to mark the 350th anniversary of the Great Plague of London in 2015, we present a special half day study tour investigating the A-Z of infectious diseases and medical conditions from ‘the Ague’ to Zoonoses. We reveal the spots, sores and scabs that have marked out victims of the various poxes to afflict the city and its people from the twelfth to the twenty first centuries

Nell Gwynne by Peter Lely

Explore the alleyways and avenues of the capital to gain an historical perspective on the places forever connected with particular contagions.

Why should we think of Pall Mall and the scurvy together?

What does Golden Square have to do with buboes?

Which highly infectious male-only establishment was squeezed in between the gentlemen’s outfitters of Jermyn Street?

The event begins with a visit to the National Gallery looking beyond the surface sheen of some of the world’s finest pictures to see revealed the sometimes painful and pestilent stories of the sitters, subjects and artists who created the great works of art on show.

Ugly Duchess

We then spread like a virus through a selection of the most fashionable and notorious addresses in town from St James’s to Piccadilly, Soho to Fitzrovia. With a short pause at the halfway point for those breaking into a fever!

En route we encounter the site of leper colony turned Royal Palace, the epicentre of a cholera outbreak that changed the course of that disease forever, reflect on the shadow that consumption cast over Victorian society and remind ourselves of the diseases that claim the largest numbers of lives today, though many are rare in the developed world, easily curable or highly treatable.

We arrive at the Royal College of Physicians on Regent’s Park for a guided viewing of the College’s collections on the history of medicine and the medical profession, concentrating on those figures and apparatus connected with epidemics.

RCP Plague doctor

Encounter the figure of the ‘plague doctor’, the various cures employed by professionals and lay people with little or no success and strategies employed by all to prevent contraction of ‘The Black Death’.

Both a history of the changing nature of infection, epidemic and the contagious diseases that affect us and a geography of the city told through the scars of its previous afflictions and the places of its cures and recovery, this special study tour is sure to engage anyone with an interest in the story of London, both in sickness and in health.

Though especially suited to educational or academic groups, this is a great morning or afternoon for anyone with a passion for plague, an abiding interest in infection or simply a love of London and its history, including the darker side affected by sickness.

A Court for King Cholera

Event details & how to book…

Available to book for private tours only.

Start:             The National Gallery, Sainsbury Wing 

End:                Royal College of Physicians, Regent’s Park

Duration:     Approximately 4 hours to 4 hours 30 minutes, including breaks

Price:             £25 per person

To book a private tour for groups of any size* at a time of your choosing, contact us at 

If you can’t make the time to devote a whole morning or afternoon to the Capital’s contagious geography, we are able to offer a disease inspired tour of The National Gallery, and epidemic influenced strolls through St James’s and Soho and Fitzrovia and Marylebone for private groups upon request.

For a bespoke tour to meet your preferences and timings simply get in touch as always at 

Lord have mercy on London

Anyone interested in the social history of plague and how diseases get given the name, might also be curious to take our walk ‘London’s Plagues’ which is also running as part of our programme of public events or ‘Fire! Plague! Revolution!’ a brand new tour that looks at all the tumultuous events of the 1660s and forms part of a season of events marking the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London.

For details, times and dates click here to visit the ‘London’s Plagues’ event page or see Our Calendar


Click here for more information, a map and directions to The National Gallery 

National Gallery Logo window

Click here for more information, a map and directions to the Royal College of Physicians.



Image credits: (1) John Snow’s Cholera Map – courtesy Cambridge University (2) Unknown woman, formerly known as Eleanor (‘Nell’) Gwyn studio of Sir Peter Lely – National Portrait Gallery (3) An Old Woman (‘The Ugly Duchess’) Quinten Massys – The National Gallery (4) ‘Plague Doctor’ – Royal College of Physicians (5) Cartoon from ‘Punch Magazine’ – wikicommons

*Private bookings can be made for groups of any size, smaller groups will be subject to a minimum charge. Tours are available at all times subject to guide availability and our being able to gain access to The National Gallery and Royal College of Physicians. 

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