London walk / crossing the line

Photo by Flickr user raulsantosdelacamara. Click for sourceThis Saturday, I’m going to walk between the two poles of London’s psyche, the Maudsley Hospital and the Tavistock Clinic, whose rivalries have shaped our understanding of the mind in both the UK and around the world. If you’d like to join me, you’d be more than welcome.

Both were galvanised by the experience of the First World War where ‘war neuroses’ became a major source of casualties as the mechanised slaughter took a massive toll even on the survivors.

The South London Maudsley pioneered the scientific approach to psychiatry focusing on statistical empiricism and neuroscience while the North London Tavistock pioneered the clinical use of psychotherapy developing group treatments and youth work.

The competition between the two institutions swayed between healthy rivarly to outright distrust and as a result both have developed as contrasting sides to the city’s psyche each conveniently separated by the Thames.

The dark clouds of the Second World War brought an influx of European Jewish émigrés into London, including Sigmund and Anna Freud into the psychoanalytic community orbiting around the Tavistock; while the Maudsley benefited from the arrival of psychopathologists such as Alfred Meyer and William Mayer-Gross.

This cemented their reputation and their outlook and both remain centres of excellence nationally and internationally.

The walk is about 8 miles but I’m planning for a few minor detours for interesting sites (grounds of the old Bedlam Hospital, now the Imperial War Museum, St Thomas’ Hospital and the like) and with stops for lunch and maybe the occasional pint, I reckon leaving the Maudsley at 11am, arriving at the Tavistock will be between about 4-5pm.

I’ve no idea if anyone else wants to walk across London, guided by psychiatric hospitals, but if you do drop me a line, and I’ll email you the exact details nearer the time. I shall be going rain or shine so no need to commit. It’s just so I don’t have to think so bloody far ahead.

I’ll post some details on the day via the Twitter (@vaughanbell) so you can always catch up at any point.

In summary, 11am, near the Maudsley Hospital in Denmark Hill, Saturday 19th September, to walk to the Tavistock Clinic in the leafy suburb of Belsize Park for about 4-5ish.


  1. Enterhase
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    Sounds like the type of thing I would love! I’ll let you know if I ever cross hemispheres. :P -Patricio

  2. Posted September 15, 2009 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    I wish I could join you as well! What a wonderful idea. Enjoy the walk.
    Best, Daniel

  3. Veronica
    Posted September 16, 2009 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    Sounds disturbingly like my kind of thing. So if you indeed welcome perfect strangers (and if it doesn’t rain heavily), I’m in. Drop me a line with the details.

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