April 10 - 23 2016: Issue 259


 Courtyard of BMA House


by George Repin

Tavistock Square, a public square in Bloomsbury the medical and academic quarter of London, was formerly part of an estate owned by the Dukes of Bedford, but is now owned and administered by the London Borough of Camden.

It was the scene of one of the four London suicide bombings by terrorists on 7 July, 2005 when a bomb was detonated on a double decker bus diverted from its normal route because of traffic disruptions by the three earlier bomb blasts.  The bomb exploded immediately outside the BMA building killing 13 passengers and injuring many others.

Ironically the centre-piece of the square is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi on which people leave floral tributes to the peace campaigner who was an advocate of non-violence.

A number of other memorials in the square, including a cherry tree planted in 1967 to honour victims of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, have led to the square being regarded, unofficially,  as a peace park, where annual ceremonies are held at each of the memorials.

In the South-west corner is a statue of Virginia Woolf close to where she and her husband lived and worked at 52 Tavistock Square running The Hogarth Press, the publisher at the forefront of modern fiction and poetry, publishing T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster and Katherine Mansfield.

On the opposite corner is a statue of Louisa Aldrich-Blake, the first British woman to qualify as a surgeon.

A blue plaque on the BMA building commemorates the years 1851-1860 when Charles Dickens lived near that spot on the square.

The BMA was founded as the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association by Sir Charles Hastings on 19 July, 1832.  In 1853 it extended its membership to London doctors and, in 1856, became the British Medical Association.

BMA House has been the headquarters of the British Medical Association since 1925, in a building originally designed for the Theosophical Society. Construction, which started in 1911, was interrupted by World War I. After the War the Society, unable to afford to finish the building, sold it to the BMA. On completion of the building to the BMA’s specifications BMA House was officially opened in 1925.  It has since been extended on several occasions.

Façade of BMA House on Tavistock Square

Prior to 1962, when the Australian Medical Association was formed, doctors in Australia belonged to State Branches of the British Medical Association in Australia.

At the time of its entry in to BMA House in 1925 the State Branches presented a President’s Chair to the BMA.  The inscription on the back of the chair reads:


Presented by the Branches of the British Medical Association in Australia to the parent Association in England in token of kinship, loyalty and goodwill to celebrate the entry into its new house, Tavistock Square, London, July, 1925.

  “…ties which, though light as air, are as strong as links of iron”

Back of the President's Chair - presented to the BMA in 1925 by the State Branches of the BMA in Australia

In July 1982 the BMA celebrated its 150th Anniversary.  Celebrations were attended by representatives of Branches and former Branches of the BMA throughout the world.

A limited edition of 1000 plates in Royal Worcester Fine Bone China was commissioned by the BMA to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of its foundation by Sir Charles Hastings in Worcester, July 19th. 1832. A photograph of one of the plates accompanies this article. The picture in the middle of the plate is from an engraving of Sir Charles Hastings’ house at 43 Foregate Street, Worcester while an image of Sir Charles Hastings is below the picture.

The border of the plate is decorated with paintings of medicinal herbs the names of which are on the back of the plate. Clockwise, starting from the coat of arms at the top, they are: Papaver somniferum, Veratrum album, Colchicum autumnale, Chamaemelum nobile, Tussilago farfara, Digitalis purpurea.

Limited Edition 150th Anniversary Commemorative Plate commissioned by the BMA in 1982

Photographs accompanying this article were taken at the time of the Sesquicentenary celebrations in 1982.

 Fountain in the courtyard of BMA House

Previous Reflections by George Repin 

The Nineteen Thirties  Remembering Rowe Street  The Sydney Push  Saturday Night at the Movies  Shooting Through Like A Bondi Tram  A Stop On The Road To Canberra  City Department Stores - Gone and Mostly Forgotten  An Australian Icon - thanks to Billy Hughes  Crossing The Pacific in the 1930s  Hill End  The Paragon at Katoomba  Seafood In Sydney  How Far From Sydney?  Cockatoo Island Over The Years  The Seagull at the Melbourne Festival in 1991  Busby's Bore  The Trocadero In Sydney  Cahill's restaurants  Medical Pioneers in Australian Wine Making  Pedal Power and the Royal Flying Doctor Service  Pambula and the Charles Darwin Connection  Gloucester and the Barrington Tops  A Millenium Apart  Have You Stopped to Look?  Gulgong  Il Porcellino Olympia  Durham Hall  Sargent's Tea Rooms Pie Shops and Street Photographers The Ballet Russes and Their Friends in Australia  Hotels at Bondi  Alma Ata Conference - 1978 Keukenhof - 1954 The Lands Department Building and Yellowblock Sandstone  The Goroka Show - 1958  A Gem On The Quay  Staffa  The Matson Line and Keepsake Menus Kokeshi Dolls  The Coal Mine At Balmain  The Hyde Park Barracks  The Changing Faces Of Sydney From Pounds and Pence to Dollars and Cents Nell Tritton and Alexander Kerensky  Making A Difference In Ethiopia William Balmain  J C Bendrodt and Princes Restaurant Azzalin Orlando Romano and Romano's Restaurant Waldheim  Alcohol in Restaurants Before 1955  King Island Kelp  The Mercury Theatre  Around Angkor - 1963  Angkor Wat 1963  Costumes From the Ballets Russe Clifton at Kirribilli  Chairman Mao's Personal Physician  The Toby Tavern The MoKa at Kings Cross The Oceaographic  Museum in Monaco  The Island of Elba Russian Fairy Tale Plates Meteora Souda Bay War Cemetery Barrow, Alaska Cloisonné Tripitaka Koreana Minshuku The Third Man Photographs and Memories Not A Chagall! Did You Listen? Did You Ask? Napier (Ahuriri, Maori) New Zealand Borobudur  Ggantija Temples Plumes and Pearlshells Murano  University of Padua Ancient Puebloe Peoples - The Anasazi  Pula  The Gondolas of Venice Cinque Terre  Visiting the Iban David The Living Desert Bryce Canyon National Park  Aphrodisias  The Divine Comedy Caodaism  Sapa and local Hill People  A Few Children Cappadocia  Symi Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre  Aboriginal Rock Art on Bigge Island  ANZAC Cove (Ari Burnu) 25 April, 1997 Hotere Garden Oputae Children of the Trobriand Islands Page Park Market - Rabaul Rabual  Kotor, Montenegro  Galleries of Photographs I  Lascaux  Galleries of Photographs II  The Cathedral of St. James – Šibenik, Croatia  Ivan Meštrović  - Sculptor  Delphi  Gallery of Photographs III  The Handicrafts of Chiang Mai Raft Point  San Simeon - "Hearst Castle"  Floriade - The Netherlands - 1982  Russian New Year  Mycenae  "Flightseeing" Out Of Anchorage Alaska  The White Pass and Yukon Route  Totem Poles  Tivkin Cemetery  Krka National Park - Croatia 

Copyright George Repin 2016. All Rights Reserved.