|Caroline Lawrence with the artefact|
|East Wing of Blythe House 1924|
|East Wing of Blythe House 2012|
Shivering in my down parka, I arrive at the east wing of Blythe House, the same entrance used by all those female clerks. I go to a turnstile called Gate A and press the call button. Anyone can visit, but you have to make an appointment first. I have been put in touch with Ms. Katie Maggs and she has kindly agreed to meet me and show me the artefact. The place is maze-like even before I get inside, but I manage to find reception up some outside stairs. I check in with a porter behind a window. He gives me a yellow plastic pass. Katie meets me a few minutes later. She is young, warm, friendly and informative. With a degree in Classics from the University of Warwick followed by two MAs from University College London, one in Museum Studies and one in History of Medicine, she is the perfect person to tell me about the unusual artefact I'm about to examine.
As Katie leads me down a succession of corridors, stairs and passageways, I get a strong sense of deja vu. I've never been here before, but it seems terribly familiar. There is an odd 1970s institutional feel; it reminds me of the recent film version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
'This place has an odd 1970s institutional feel,' I say. 'It's like something out of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.'
'That's because they filmed it here,' says Katie. 'They spent four days here last September.'
|Toby Jones (Alleline) & Ciarán Hinds (Bland) on the roof of Blythe House|
As a film buff and big fan of the movie, this is an added bonus to my visit! I learn that other movies and TV series were filmed here, (e.g. Minder and The New Avengers). You can also see an atmospheric short film called The Phantom Museum set in the maze of corridors, stairwells and storerooms at Blythe House.
|Katie points out the willies|
Yes, willies. If you couldn't wee or do other useful things with your dangly bits, or if you had some sort of boil or spot, you would dedicate a clay model of the appendage to the appropriate god. And you would pray very, very hard.
|Votive eyes (& lead slingbullets?)|
|funeral slab with plug and hole|
|Henry Wellcome in Indian headdress|
My three passions are the Romans, the Wild West and movies. In the oft-filmed Blythe House with its many Roman artefacts collected by an American born in the Wild West, those passions have come together in a delightful way. At the end of my hour with the charming and generous Katie, I am excited and enthused. And I haven't even told you about the object of my visit. That I must leave for another blog (which you can find HERE.)
P.S. You can find hundreds more fascinating objects on the Science Museum's great interactive website, Brought to Life. There is also a superb site devoted to Henry Wellcome. And, oh, all right! As you've made it to the end of this post, here is a picture of some votive willies. If you want to make your own investigation, start here.