The Quarantine Boxes are an intimate way of memorialising disease and exploring loss, not the loss of the good and the great who provided cures and helped save humanity, but the sacrifices forced upon ordinary people.
I went all the way to London to see the famous John Snow water pump in Soho to find that it had disappeared under a pile of new office buildings. I had worked in Broadwick Street many years ago and had walked past the John Snow pump most days not paying any attention. Now that I wanted to see it it had gone.
So, where had it gone to? I knew that Snow came from York and by a strange coincidence my daughter was living close to his original home. Getting ready to go back home one morning I asked her to Google his original address. ‘By the river. Visit it on your way to the station’ was her reply. So here is my photograph of my virus by the John Snow memorial by the York riverside – on the way to the station.
The Smallpox photo was intended to celebrate the life of a pioneer of innoculation that is far less well known than Jenner, although her work significantly pre-dates his. This is the story of Lady Mary Wortley and the Grosvenor Chapel in Mayfair, London where I turned up during a heatwave. This imposing place has many famous parishioners including:
John Wilkes, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Garret Wesley, 1st Earl of Mornington, and his wife (parents to the Duke of Wellington), Florence Nightingale, U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bishop Charles Gore. To name but a few.
The staff had been helpful in allowing me to photograph my ceramics here, but were oddly cool on the morning I turned up, although we were experiencing a heatwave. I asked if I could take an image of my ceramic virus by Lady Mary’s Tomb, but were told in no uncertain terms that she was under the new Training Room. So, no photograph was possible. Instead, I took this admirably dull pic of the jug of ceramic Smallpox in the main body of the chapel.
I booked a meeting with the efficient PR Manager at the Terrence Higgins Trust in King’s Cross London. I turned up with my ceramic HIV and camera and was shown to the meeting room where I took my official Terrence Higgins pic. The famous charity was originally called the Terry Higgins Trust after one of the first people in the UK known to have died from the AIDS virus, which had only been identified the previous year. But this wasn’t really what I wanted.
‘Most of the people I ever knew are now dead, so you can take my photograph. Let’s do this for the cause.’
I had earlier been talking to the volunteer receptionist and as walked through the Reception area to leave the building I saw him again. This was the photo I wanted. I asked him first and he considered this very thoughtfully.
Eyam Plague Village in Derbyshire is where I started my Memorialising Disease adventure. I started off at the pretty Parish Church once home to the famous Rector Mompesson who created a quarantine system to stop the villagers from infecting the wider community.
I had heard that there was an even more interesting place to visit outside the village. On a quiet hillside there is a tiny family cemetery where all the members of one family are buried. The mother, Mrs Hancock, buried all her family here, all her young children and her husband, and moved away untouched by the disease to start a new life in another village. Her strength cannot be underestimated and she is the real hero of the Black Death epidemic in Eyam.