The HHS 75th Birthday Rides
NHS started in this week in July, 1948. We organised a ride related to the founding of the NHS on the approprate Saturday morning. 16 riders signed up within hours of the posting on Eventbrite. So it was decided to repeat the ride in the afternoon and see if anyone signed up. 8 riders did register and 2 more contacted me to say Saturday afternoon was actully quite good for them – but not this particular Saturday. Route map at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/nhs-75th-anniversary-cycle-ride-tickets-671312191837. Here are brief reports on the 2 rides.
Ride 1. Saturday 10am
14 riders at London Bridge despite the intermittent showers. First stop Parliament Square and the large statue of Lloyd George. The Liberal government in 1911 introduced National Insurance for workers and this included free health care. From Parliament Square headed past Buckingham Palace (tourists all over the road, including the cycle path) and into Hyde Parkc Exited soon via the Albert Gate into Belgravia and a stop at the blue plaque to Nye Bevan and his wife Jenny Lee. Aneurin Bevan was Minister of Health in the post war Labour government who in 1948 started the NHS. Next a long ride eastwards to 2 stops about how the idea of a national health service developed in the first half of the 20th century. Southwark played a key role. An outstanding figure was Dr Alfred Salter, a socialist who practiced medicine in the borough from 1900 and whose campaigning on many social issues led to his becoming MP from 1922-1945. He and his family are commemorated by statues on the Bermondsey waterfront. Before reaching the statues a stop at a plain 1937 building on Grange Rd. This is still an NHS Centre, but started as a local authority-run public health centre, the first in the country. Local authorities increasingly ran accessible health centres in the 1930s. Short ride to the river and the Salter statues, then easy ride back to London Bridge on Cycleway 4. 12 miles completed – and it stayed mostly dry.
Ride 2. Saturday 2.30pm
The rain was descending steadiy at 2.30pm. I wondered if anyone would turn up. 5 people did and after a brief disussion in the shelter next to Evans Cycle shop it was unanemously decided to get wet. We set off across London Bridge and by the time we were on Cycleway 3 the rain had stopped. As with the morning ride, first stop Lloyd George in Parliament Square. Then up to Hyde Park Corner where we were pleased to see NO TRAFFIC! Posed for a photo on the stop line usually packed with cars. Would be nice of this could be permanent but it was just because a large demonstration was passing from Park Lane to Piccadilly leading to a temporary redirectng of traffic away from the west side of the Hyde Park Corner gyratory. Crossing into the park was fraught as traffic was chock-a-block. Next stop at Nye Bevan’s house in Cliveden Place. Following this some serous cycling back to Southwark to Grange Road and the Health Centre. This was opened in 1937 and was the first such centre offering free health care in London. It was run by the local Bermondsey Council, an example of the role of local councils in providing health care at this time. Final stop was at the riverside to say hello to Dr and Mrs Salter. Dr Salter was MP for Bermondsey in the 1920s and 30s and was a strong proponent of a national health srvice, He was a key player in the formation of the Grange Road clinic and he and his wife were involved in lots of local initiatives not just to improve health, but also other areas such as housing and green space and trees. From the statues an easy ride, now in bright sunshine, along cycleway 4 to London Bridge.
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