This Week in London – A rare chance to walk through a Thames tunnel; Matisse at the Tate; and, Spitting Image on show…
April 24, 2014
• It’s a rare chance to walk the historic Thames Tunnel between Wapping and Rotherhithe – the first tunnel ever dug under a navigable waterway. Transport for London and London Overground are offering the chance to purchase tickets to walk the tunnel – built by Marc Brunel, it’s now used by the London Overground - over the May Bank Holiday weekend on 24th to 26th May. Tickets, which cost £18 plus booking fee, go on sale today at 10am via the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden and are strictly limited (with no on the day admissions allowed). Proceeds from the day will go to the Railway Children’s Charity and the Brunel Museum. Also, worth noting is that the London Transport Museum is offering tours of its depot this Friday and Saturday. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.ltmuseum.co.uk.
• The paper cut-outs of Henri Matisse are the focus of a landmark exhibition which opened at Tate Modern last week. Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs features about 130 works created between 1937 and 1954 with many seen together for the first time. Highlights include maquettes featured in the 1947 book Jazz, The Snail and its sister work Memory of Oceania (both 1953) and the largest number of the Blue Nudes ever shown together. The display takes an in-depth look at the methods and materials Matisse used in the production of the cut-outs. Runs until 7th September (and keep an eye out for the accompanying film, Matisse: Live in cinemas). Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk. PICTURE: Henri Matisse, Icarus 1946, Maquette for plate VIII of the illustrated book Jazz 1947, Digital image: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Claude Planchet, Artwork: © Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2014.
• On Now: Spitting Image. This exhibition at the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury centres on the partnership of three dimensional artists Peter Fluck and Roger Law and their key role in the creation of what became known as Spitting Image. It features caricature drawings and photographs created for magazines in the 1970s and 1980s of the likes of Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Kate Moss, Saddam Hussein, Billy Connolly, Rupert Murdoch, Jo Brand and John Paul II as well as members of the Royal Family and politicians including Margaret Thatcher. Also present are some of the puppets used in the TV show which ran for 18 series between 1984 and 1996 – these include those of Thatcher, The Queen, Princess Diana and Mr Spock. Runs until 8th June (with selected late opening nights). Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org.
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In contrast to some of the grand homes we’ve featured as part of this series (and there are many more that we haven’t, meaning we might have a future series solely dedicated to them!), comes the rather more humble City home of lexicographer and renowned wit Samuel Johnson.
Johnson – who apparently had at least 17 different London residences – didn’t move in here as a tenant until 1748 and stayed for more than a decade until 1759 (seven years after the death of his wife – for more on Johnson, see our earlier ‘Famous Londoners’ post). It was during his tenancy here that he compiled his famous text, A Dictionary of the English Language. The first comprehensive English language dictionary, it was published in 1755.
The four level property, which is now a museum and has been set up as it was in Johnson’s day, was used by the writer as a residence as well as a workplace and the top floor garret is where six copyists worked transcribing the entries for the dictionary.
As well as the rather spectacular staircase, the property features furnishings from the period as well as portraits, prints and other Johnson-related memorabilia. There is a plaque which was placed on the exterior of the property by the Royal Society of Arts in 1876.
After Johnson vacated the premises, the property was used for various purposes including as a small hotel, B&B and a printer’s workshop. It had fallen into disrepair by the early twentieth century but was saved by MP Cecil Harmsworth who restored it and opened it to the public in 1914 (the small curator’s house was built after this). The house was damaged during World War II bombings – when it was used as a canteen by fireman – but survived. It is now operated by a charitable trust.
Outside the house in Gough Square is a statue of Johnson’s cat Hodge (see our earlier post here) and the property is only a short walk from the historic pub Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (see our earlier post here).
WHERE: Dr Johnson’s House, 17 Gough Square (nearest Tube station Chancery Lane, Temple, Farringdon and Blackfriars); WHEN: 11am to 5.30pm (May to September); COST: £4.50 adults/£1.50 children (5-17 years)/£3.50 concession/£10 family; WEBSITE: www.drjohnsonshouse.org
April 22, 2014
This Week in London – Meet King George I this Easter; celebrating Shakespeare’s 450th; and feasting with St George in Trafalgar Square…
April 17, 2014
• Historic Royal Palaces are offering you the chance to meet King George I and explore the world in which he lived at his former real-life home of Hampton Court Palace this Easter weekend. A re-enactment marking the 300th anniversary of his accession will have the new Hanoverian king arrive by royal barge on the River Thames and will also include courtiers taking part in a “stately dance”, the King’s troupe of Hanoverian horses performing a “horse ballet” and a Georgian Army encampment with soldiers involved in firing displays. Visitors to the palace will also be able to see a new re-presentation of the Queen’s State Apartments which explores who the Hanoverians were, how they came to rule and their many and bitter family feuds. Runs from tomorrow (18th April) to 21st April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace/.
• The 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth is being celebrated with a week of events at the Guildhall Library next week. Kicking off on Tuesday, 22nd April, and running until Friday, 25th April, events include talks – with subjects including ‘Shakespeare’s London Theatreland’ and ‘Imaging Shakespeare’s Indoor Theatre’, and a six hour complete reading of Shakespeare’s sonnets with readers including actor Damian Lewis, author Alan Hollinghurst and Lord Mayor of City of London Fiona Woolf as well as Shakespeare-themed walks around the City and Southwark, and the free Shakespeare in Print exhibition at the Library. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visiting-the-city/archives-and-city-history/guildhall-library/Pages/default.aspx. Meanwhile, the V&A is also holding a Shakespeare Festival, kicking off next Monday and running until 4th May. Highlights of the festival include screenings of some of the best theatre productions of Shakespeare in the last 20 years, live performances by actors and musicians and a series of debates and talks including the “interactive lecture” Marchpane to Mutton – A Taste of Shakespeare’s Time by food historian and artists Tasha Marks. There’s also a competition – Cakespeare – in which the public are invited to design, bake and decorate a Shakespeare-themed cake and share an image of it on social media (#Cakespeare) by 4th May with the winner to receive a weekend for two to Stratford-upon-Avon and tickets to the Royal Shakespeare Company. The festival is being complemented by a display in the Theatre and Performance Galleries, Shakespeare: Greatest Living Playwright which features the First Folio as its centrepiece. Admission is free. See www.vam.ac.uk for more.
• It might be two days ahead of the official saint’s day, but the Feast of St George will be celebrated in Trafalgar Square this Bank Holiday Monday with a banquet and guests including a five metre high interactive dragon. The festivities, hosted by Mayor of London Boris Johnson, will also include an English Farmers’ Market featuring 20 stalls, a kid’s marquee and traditional wooden garden games, harlequins on stilts, swing boats and circus lessons for children, a bandstand located in front of Nelson’s Column and a 12 foot tall Maypole. Runs from noon to 6pm. For more, see www.london.gov.uk/feast.
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A Palladian villa located on the bank of the Thames between Richmond and Twickenham, Marble Hill House was built in the mid to late 172os for Henrietta Howard, mistress of King George II and later Countess of Suffolk.
The symmetrical property – seen as a model for later Georgian-era villas in both England and overseas - was constructed by Roger Morris. He, along with Henry Herbert – a friend of the countess and later the 9th Earl of Pembroke – was also involved in its design as was Colen Campbell, architect to the Prince of Wales and future King George II, who is believed to have drawn up the first sketch designs for the house.
As well as being familiar with the work of neo-Palladian Inigo Jones, Lord Herbert had travelled in Italy and there is it believed had directly encountered the works of sixteenth century Italian architect Andrea Palladio whose architecture the property emulated (see our earlier post on Chiswick House here).
Key rooms include the ‘great room’ – a perfect cube, this is the central room of the house and boasts a wealth of gilded carvings; the dining parlour which had hand-painted Chinese wallpaper; and, Lady Suffolk’s rather sparsely furnished but nonetheless impressive, bedchamber.
Howard, who as well as being a mistress of King George II both before and after his accession to the throne in 1727, was a Woman of the Bedchamber to his wife, Queen Caroline of Ansbach, and, as a result, initially spent little time at the property (which coincidentally was built using money the King had given her while he was still Prince of Wales).
But after she become the Countess of Suffolk in 1731 when her estranged husband Charles Howard became 9th Earl of Suffolk after his brothers’ deaths, Lady Suffolk was appointed Mistress of the Robes, and following the death of her husband in 1733, retired from court.
In 1735 following the end of her intimate relationship with the King, she married a second time, this time happily, to George Berkeley, younger brother of the 3rd Earl of Berkeley and an MP. Together the new couple split their time between a house in Savile Row and Marble Hill. Her husband died in 1746 and Lady Suffolk, who had come to be considered a very “model of decorum”, died at Marble Hill in 1767.
Among the visitors who had spent time at the property were poet and neighbour Alexander Pope (responsible for the design of the grounds along with royal landscape gardener Charles Bridgeman), writer and satirist Jonathan Swift, and, in Lady Suffolk’s later years, Horace Walpole – son of PM Sir Robert Walpole and builder of the Gothic masterpiece Strawberry Hill.
Following Lady Suffolk’s death, later residents of the property included another Royal Mistress – Mrs Fitzherbert, mistress to the future King George IV, Swedenborgian Charles Augustus Tulk and Jonathan Peel, brother of Sir Robert Peel (you can read more about Sir Robert Peel here).
Following the latter’s death, the house stood empty for many years before publication of plans for a redevelopment by then owner William Cunard caused a public outcry which saw the property pass into the hands of the London County Council around the year 1900.
The house opened to the public as a tea room in 1903 and remained as such until the mid-1960s when, now in the hands of the Greater London Council, it underwent a major restoration project and was reopened as a museum. In 1996, the house – which now stands on 66 acres and can be seen in a much lauded view from Richmond Hill – came into the care of English Heritage.
The grounds – Marble Hill Park – are open to the public for free and include a cafe located in the former coach house. Other features in the grounds include Lady Suffolk’s Grotto – pictured above – based on one at Pope’s residence nearby. It was restored after being rediscovered in the 1980s.
WHERE: Marble Hill House, Richmond Road, Twickenham (nearest Tub-e station is Richmond (1 miles) or train stations at St Margaret’s or Twickenham); WHEN: Various times Saturday and Sunday – entry to the house by guided tour only; COST: £5.90 adults/£3.50 children (5-15 years)/£5.30 concession/£15.30 family; WEBSITE: www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/marble-hill-house/.
April 15, 2014
April 14, 2014
It was exactly 543 years ago today that the Battle of Barnet – one of the key battles of the Wars of the Roses – was fought near what was then the small town of Barnet but is now an area on Greater London’s outer northern fringe.
King Edward IV, returning from exile in Burgundy after he was ousted by the Lancastrians, led an estimated 10,000 Yorkists in an engagement with some 15,000 Lancastrians (who backed King Henry VI) under the command of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick and known as the Kingmaker, who had previously supported the Yorkists (and before that the Lancastrians).
The forces met on 14th April, 1471, at around dawn but thick fog sewed confusion in the Lancastrian ranks with allies attacking each other and the army eventually fell apart amid cries of treachery. Warwick was killed in the battle as he attempted to flee.
The exact site of the battle remains something of an unknown although it is thought to span the community of Monken Hadley just to the north of Barnet itself (that is the area marked on the official English Heritage Register of Historic Battlefields).
A stone monument to the battle, the Hadley Highstone, was erected in the 18th century and in the 1800s was moved to its current location at the junction of Kitts End Road with the Great North Road in Monken Hadley and was originally thought to have marked the spot on which Warwick died. The Battlefields Trust is currently developing a project to pin down the location further.
The battle was important because, along with the following Battle of Tewkesbury during which the Lancastrian heir Edward was killed (and the murder of King Henry VI shortly after), it secured the throne for King Edward IV for the next 14 years.
PICTURE: Nigel Cox/Wikipedia
April 11, 2014
A coastal artillery fort built on the orders of King Henry VIII in light of a threatened Catholic invasion, Walmer Castle on the Kentish coast is officially the residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.
What was a rather functional artillery platform has been embellished significantly in the years since it became the official residence of the Lord Warden in 1708, creating a comfortable home for holders of the title who have included Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, the Duke of Wellington and bookseller WH Smith.
The ‘castle’, located about a two hour, 10 minute train journey from London (and then a mile walk from Walmer Station), was constructed in 1539 as one of a string of forts - others include nearby Deal Castle and the long gone Sandown Castle – designed to protect the watery stretch between Goodwin Sands and the coast known as the Downs.
Its low circular design, featuring a central ‘keep’ reached by a drawbridge and surrounded by a curtain wall with four projecting, semi-circular bastions, was influenced by the need to defend against heavy artillery and provide a platform for guns.
Initially garrisoned with ten gunners, four soldiers and two porters under the command of a captain and a lieutenant, Walmer saw little action during Tudor times but was the site of a siege during the Civil War.
Obsolete by the end of the 17th century, it was the Duke of Dorset who was the first Lord Warden (an office created in the thirteenth century to oversee the affairs of the Cinque Ports Confederation, a grouping of five ports including Hastings, Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich) to use Walmer Castle as a residence, embarking on a renovation and extension of the existing structure.
Further alterations was carried out by successive Lords Warden, the most extensive being those made by the 2nd Earl Granville, Lord Warden between 1865 and 1891, who commissioned architect George Devey to oversee the additions.
The gardens, meanwhile, which are well worth visiting in their own right, were also Granville’s work as well as that of an earlier Lord Warden, Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, who was Lord Warden between 1792 and 1806.
The Duke of Wellington (Lord Warden between 1829 and 1852) reputedly enjoyed his time staying at the castle – he was even visited by the young Princess Victoria here in 1835 (she later stayed for a month with her family when Queen) and died here on 14th September 1852. His room can still be seen inside - the contents include the armchair he was sitting in when he died (the rooms also include a small museum dedicated to Wellington and another dedicated to William Pitt).
Not all Lords Warden enjoyed the property. Sir Winston Churchill, Lord Warden between 1941 and 1965, never stayed here but Sir Robert Menzies, Prime Minister of Australia and Lord Warden between 1966 and 1978, did and the Queen Mother, Lord Warden between 1978 and 2002, was a regular visitor.
The castle was opened to the public soon after responsibility for it was transferred from the War Office to the Ministry of Works in 1905. It is now under the care of English Heritage and the rooms inside are decorated as they were in the 1930s (it was WH Smith who ensured historic furnishings at Walmer could not be removed). There are even a couple of holiday cottages on site which can now be rented.
WHERE: Walmer Castle, Kingsdown Road, Deal, Kent; WHEN: 10am to 6pm daily (until 6th July); COST: Adults £7.90/Children (5-15 years) £4.70/Concession £7.10; WEBSITE: www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/walmer-castle-and-gardens/.
This Week in London – New drawbridge for the Tower; Churchill War Rooms celebrate 30 years; and, the mid-Twentieth century home at the Geffrye…
April 10, 2014
• There’s a working drawbridge at the Tower of London, something not seen at the fortress since the 1970s. The bridge, which would have originally spanned a water-filled moat, was created in 1834 to allow munitions to be brought into the basement level of the White Tower from the wharf (the moat was drained in 1843 on the orders of the then-Constable, the Duke of Wellington). The bridge has been altered many times but the last time it was completely replaced was in 1915 while the tradition of raising it was carried on until the 1970s before it was permanently fixed in 1978. The new bridge draws on historic designs from 1914 and has been constructed of steel and English oak. It will be raised and lowered on “high days” and holidays and for educational purposes. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/.
• The Churchill War Rooms – a complex of underground rooms from where then PM Winston Churchill and others directed the course of Allied troops during World War II – is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its public opening with a new displaying showcasing never before seen objects related to its creation as a tourist attraction. The objects include a private admissions ticket from the days when the only way inside was via specially granted permission, correspondence about the fate of the War Rooms and a poster from 1984 advertising the opening of the Cabinet War Rooms to the public. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk/visits/churchill-war-rooms.
• On Now: John Pantlin: photographing the mid-century home. This free exhibition at the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch celebrates the work of Pantlin who is noted for his extensive work for the architectural press in the 1950s and 1960s. The small exhibition focuses on his shots of domestic interiors with shots of sun-filled living rooms and bedrooms filled with toys with all images drawn from the Robert Elwall Photographs Collection. Runs until 29th June. For more, see www.geffrye-museum.org.uk.
Constructed on the site of the Duke of Somerset’s Tudor-era mansion, Somerset House as we know it today owes its origins to a national scheme aimed at creating public buildings in London which would rival those of Continental cities.
The campaign led to the passing of an Act of Parliament in 1775 for the construction of a new public building at Somerset House to house government agencies such as the Navy Office, Salt Office, Surveyor General of Lands, the King’s Bargemaster and the offices of the Duchy of Lancaster and Cornwall as well as various learned societies.
The former building – which had been worked on by the likes of Sir Christopher Wren and which had been used as a residence for the likes of King Charles II’s queen, Catherine of Braganza, following his death, had fallen into a state of considerable disrepair and was demolished in 1775.
William Robinson, secretary of the Office of Works, was initially given the job of designing the new building (much to the discontent of some) but after his sudden death the same year, the task was given to Sir William Chambers, comptroller of the Office of Works and one of England’s leading architects.
The basic design was as it appears today – four ranges built around a central court (now named the Edmond J Safra Fountain Court). The Strand Block, located to the north and the most highly decorated of the buildings inside and out, was built first and largely completed by 1780, the Embankment Building (home of the Navy Office) in 1786 and the east and west ranges two years later.
When Chambers died with the work unfinished in 1796, it was carried to completion by James Wyatt and declared complete in 1801, despite the fact elements of Chambers’ design were still outstanding. It had cost more than £460,000, in excess of three times Robinson’s original estimate.
One of the first new occupants – thanks to a decision by King George III – was the fledgling Royal Academy of Arts (it had been one of the last occupants of the former premises) and its focal point was the Great Exhibition Room where exhibitions were held until 1836. Others in the new building included The Royal Society (it remained until 1837 when, like the RA, it moved to Burlington House) and the Society of Antiquaries (it moved to Burlington House in 1874).
As well as being home to various offices of the Navy Board (the southern building, where it was housed, contains the stunning, now restored, Nelson stair), Somerset House was also home to the Inland Revenue.
New additions were made to the original design in the nineteenth century – the extension of the south block to the east and addition of a New Wing to the west - and the construction of the Victoria Embankment (see our earlier post here) meant the two watergates Chambers had designed became landlocked. Somerset House no longer rose directly from the water as he’d intended but from a roadway (as it does today – we’ve mentioned this before but you can see the original riverbank by looking through the glass floor of the building’s Embankment entrance).
Somerset House is these days home to a range of cultural and artistic organisations – from the British Fashion Council to the National Youth Orchestra and, in the north wing, the Courtauld Institute of Art. And as well as hosting various art installations, the central courtyard is host to an ice-skating rink over winter.
For more on Somerset House, see www.somersethouse.org.uk.
April 8, 2014
In contrast to the colourless smog which has lain over London, Scottish artist David Batchelor’s sculpture, Chromolocomotion, brings a splash of colour to the Grand Terrace at St Pancras International. Unveiled this week, the 20 by 10 metre work consists of 44 L-shaped pieces of coloured perspex suspended from the Grade I-listed roof of the Barlow Shed. It replaces Lucy and Jorge Orta’s Cloud: Meteoros and is the second installation commissioned by St Pancras International’s owners HS1 Ltd as part of the Terrace Wires initiative. The work will remain in place until late September. For more on the initiative, see www.terracewires.co.uk. PICTURE: HS1 Ltd.
April 4, 2014
The first home of the British Museum, Montagu House was originally built on what is now the site of the museum in Great Russell Street for courtier and diplomat Ralph Montagu, the 1st Duke of Montagu (among other titles), in the late 1670s.
The Bloomsbury property, which was designed by Robert Hooke and had both French and Dutch influences, had a central block and two service blocks built around a courtyard and featured murals by the Italian artist Antonio Verrio and wall paintings by Frenchman Jacques Rousseau.
In 1686, only a few years after it was completed, the house was gutted in a fire. But the duke had it rebuilt to the designs of French architect Pierre Pouget. It featured a prominent Mansard roof, had interiors created by French artists and formal, much admired, French-inspired gardens (see picture).
In the early 1700s, the 2nd Duke, John Montagu, relocated to the then more fashionable district of Whitehall where he constructed a more modest residence which was later replaced with a mansion.
In 1754, the now neglected Montagu House in Bloomsbury was sold to the trustees of the British Museum and both the gardens and house were restored. The museum, which was officially founded by an Act of Parliament in 1753, opened to the public in the property on 15th January, 1759, with free entry to “all studious and curious persons” (the gardens had opened two years earlier).
The collection was initially based on that of physician, naturalist and collector, Sir Hans Sloane (see our earlier post here), who has bequeathed the 71,000 objects he had collected to King George II (in return for a payment of £20,000 for his heirs).
Montagu House remained the museum’s home until it was replaced by the current museum building, designed by Sir Robert Smirke, which was completed in 1850s.
PICTURE: Wikipedia/James Simon c 1715
This Week in London – Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park opens fully this weekend; Shakespeare at the Guildhall Library; and, the V&A celebrates Italian fashion…
April 3, 2014
• The UK’s tallest sculpture, the ArcelorMittal Orbit, will be open to the public in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – described as the “biggest new park to open in Europe in 150 years” – in London’s east from this weekend. While the northern part of the 560 acre park, the Copper Box Arena, Lee Valley VeloPark and Aquatics Centre have been open to the public since July last year, from Saturday visitors will be able to visit the southern part of the park featuring the 114.5 metre high sculpture. Features in the southern part of the park include a new tree-lined promenade with giant globes, interactive water fountains, an adventure playground and four themed walking trails focusing on the 2012 Games, nature and biodiversity, education, and art and culture. Visitors who head to the top of ArcelorMittal Orbit will be able to view across 20 miles of London from a 76 or 80 metre high platform (admission charges apply – £15 adults/£7 children/£40 for a family of four – and, be warned, you may need to book) while at the base of the sculpture is a cafe and event space. The opening weekend will see a host of special events including a parade of children, an aerial acrobatic performance, choirs, bands, dancers, poets, circus performers and story tellers and ‘try out’ sports and fitness sessions. There’s more yet to come with the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre opening to the public in June and the Olympic Stadium reopening for the 2015 Rugby World Cup next year. For more on the park, see www.queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk and for tickets to the ArcelorMittal Orbit, see http://arcelormittalorbit.com.
• The printed works of William Shakespeare are the focus of a new exhibition which opened at the Guildhall Library in the city this week. Shakespeare in Print explores the library’s Shakespearean works and looks at how they were produced. Among the treasures on display will be a First Folio, the first collected edition of his plays, contemporary writers quartos and later editions of the Bard’s plays and poetry. This free exhibition is running until 29th May. The library will be hosting a series of Shakespeare-related events in the week of 22nd to 25th April to mark the 450th anniversary of his birth. For more, head here.
• Italian fashion from 1945 until today is the subject of the V&A’s spring exhibition opening on Saturday. The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014 will feature 100 ensembles and accessories by leading Italian fashion houses including Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Prada, Valentino and Versace as well as creations from the “next generation of talent” including Giambattista Valli and Fausto Puglisi and will also showcase the creativity of less well remembered figures such as Sorelle Fontana and Walter Albini. As well as charting the shifting international perception of Italian style, the display will also highlight techniques and materials used in the creation of Italian fashion with a digital map visualising the industry. Runs until 27th July. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.
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Known as the ‘Old Lady of Threadneedle Street’, the bank was originally situated there in a small, purpose-built building designed by George Sampson after it’s relocation from a rented property in nearby Prince’s Street (which now runs along the bank’s west side).
Its footprint was subsequently expanded by Sir Robert Taylor – this included covering a site to the west previously been occupied by the church of St Christopher-le-Stocks. Among Sir Robert’s design features were a centrally located rotunda.
In the late 18th century the bank underwent the start of a total transformation under the eye of architect Sir John Soane. Soane, who was Surveyor to the Bank of England between 1788 and 1833, saw the size of the bank more than doubled in a project which lasted well into the 19th century (indeed, such was the size of the bank that at its peak during Soane’s tenure more than 1,000 clerks were working in the building with some even having on-site residences).
Covering three-and-a-half acres on an asymmetrical site, Soane’s design was at least partly inspired by the ancient architecture of Greece and Rome and featured a complex arrangement of courts, halls and offices all surrounded by a high, windowless curtain wall. The buildings inside the wall were largely no more than three stories high and included public banking halls, offices for manufacturing banknotes, and a barracks housing the 30-strong Bank Guard. Given the great curtain wall around the site, the buildings were all either top-lit or faced into courts and light-wells.
Little today remains of Soane’s bank – it was demolished in the 1920s and replaced with a single building designed by Herbert Baker – but the exception is the dominating outer wall which surrounds the entire site (pictured above from the south-east corner).
You can see a reconstruction of Soane’s 1793 Stock Office in the museum (see our earlier entry here), which has just reopened its doors after a three month refurbishment, and it’s also possible to see some of the ‘caryatids’ which Soane had originally placed on the dome of the Old Dividend Office and which are now located on rotunda created by Baker. More of Soane’s work can be seen at the Sir John Soane’s Museum (see our earlier entry here).
WHERE: The Bank of England Museum, Bartholomew Lane off Threadneedle Street (nearest Tube stations are Bank/Monument and Mansion House); WHEN: 10am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (last entry 4.45pm); COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.bankofengland.co.uk/education/Pages/museum/visiting/default.aspx.
WHERE: 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Nearest tube is Holborn. WHEN:10am to 5pm, Tuesday to Saturday; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.soane.org.
This year marks the 300th anniversary of the Hanoverian accession and to celebrate, Historic Royal Palaces are running a range of events at Hampton Court, Kensington and Kew Palaces. The ‘Glorious Georges’ season opens on Easter weekend – we’ll be bringing more details closer to the time.In the meantime, see which of the Georges and associated figures you can identify in this image. For more, check out www.hrp.org.uk.
March 31, 2014
This short street in Westminster – which runs between Buckingham Gate and Broadway - was so-named for its association with…well, the French.
Petty France literally means ‘Little France’ and, like Petty Wales, takes its name from the fact there was obviously a hub of people of a certain ethnicity – in this case, the French, living in the street.
We’ve found various theories on which French it was – from wool merchants to some of the estimated 40,000 Huguenots who had fled France for England in the 17th and 18th centuries.
In The Book of London Place Names, however, Caroline Taggart argues that because the name is first recorded late in the 15th century – long before the Huguenots started fleeing – it’s likely to be the wool merchants who settled here.
It’s been suggested Petty France at one time had its name changed to York Street after Frederick, Duke of York and son of King George II, who had a residence there.
The street is now home to, among others, the Ministry of Justice.
This Week in London – Sutton Hoo rediscovered; The Sixties at Tower Bridge; and, the British Library celebrates spring…
March 27, 2014
• Celebrating 75 years since its discovery this year, the Anglo-Saxon treasure of Sutton Hoo has a new home from this week with the reopening of the renovated gallery housing early medieval artefacts at the British Museum. Excavated at a site in Suffolk in 1939, the Sutton Hoo ship burial is described as the richest intact burial to survive from Europe. It featured a 27 metre long ship and objects including an iconic helmet and is thought to be linked to the death of an Anglo-Saxon king in the early 600s. The treasure now forms the centrepiece of the gallery – Room 41 – which was last renovated in 1985. Other objects in the gallery – which covers Europe during the period from 300 to 1100 – include the Kells Crozier, the Lycurgus Cup, and the Fuller Brooch as well as new objects never shown before such as late Roman mosaics, a copper alloy necklace from the Baltic Sea region and a gilded mount found in a lump of material taken from a Viking woman’s grave. Admission to the gallery – the refurbishment of which was made possible through a donation from Sir Paul and Lady Jill Ruddock – is free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.
• The Sixties are the focus of a new photographic exhibition at Tower Bridge which opens tomorrow. The Sixties features more than 60 iconic images of everyone from actors like Peter Sellers and Elizabeth Taylor to Prime Minister Harold Wilson, fashion icons like Twiggy (pictured), racing car driver Jackie Stewart and activists like the Aldermaston marchers. A rare photograph of comic pair Dudley Moore and Peter Cook – taken as a publicity still for the film The Wrong Box – is a highlight. The images can be seen on the bridge’s West Walkway – located 42 metres above the River Thames – and admission is included in the entry fee to Tower Bridge. Runs until 31st December. For more, see www.towerbridge.org.uk. PICTURE: © Getty Images
• The British Library’s annual celebration of fashion, film and design kicks off today. Now in its third year, the Spring Festival, which runs over the weekend, will give people the chance to see selected material from the newly acquired archive of screenwriter, novelist and playwright Hanif Kureishi (he will also be present, speaking with writer Rachel Holmes about his career). Other events celebrate fashion and film in the Jazz Age, the British newspaper archive and the resources the library has for film-makers. For full details, see www.bl.uk/whatson/exhibitions/spring-festival-2014/events/index.html.
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March 26, 2014
Known around the world for the stoic mounted troopers which stand guard here, this rather fanciful building straddling a site between Whitehall and St James’s Park was built in the early 1750s on land which had previously served as a tiltyard for King Henry VIII.
In the 1660s King Charles II had a barracks built here for the guards manning the entrance to what was then the Palace of Whitehall, but in 1749 it was demolished and the present building constructed.
William Kent had apparently drawn up designs but it was architect John Vardy who oversaw construction of the neo-Palladian building after Kent’s death in 1748. The windows on the St James’s Park side of the building are said to have been based on a drawing by Lord Burlington (he of Chiswick House fame – see our earlier post here).
While the site previously marked the entrance to the Palace of Whitehall, it is now considered the formal entrance to St James’s Palace (although the palace is located some distance away) and, as a result, only the monarch can drive through the central archway without displaying a pass.
Until 1904, the Grade I-listed building housed the office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces but the title was then abolished and replaced with Chief of the General Staff, who relocated to the War Office Building. Horse Guards subsequently became the home of the army commands of London District and the Household Division, a role it still fulfils.
As well as being the site of the daily Changing of the Queen’s Life Guard (this free event takes place at 11am every day; 10am on Sundays), Horse Guards is also now home to the Household Cavalry Museum.
Among treasures in the museum are two silver kettledrums presented to the regiment in 1831 by King William IV, a cork leg used by the first Marquess of Anglesey after his real leg was amputated following the Battle of Waterloo (and subsequently became a tourist attraction in its own right) and silverware by Faberge. Visitors to the museum can also see into the working stables via a glazed petition.
The parade ground behind the building is the site of the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony which officially celebrates the Sovereign’s birthday. Although the ceremony has only been held since 1748, it’s interesting to note that some of the birthday celebrations of Queen Elizabeth I were held in the same place.
WHERE: The Household Cavalry Museum, Horse Guards, Whitehall (nearest Tube stations are Westminster, Embankment, St James’s Park and Charing Cross); WHEN: Open 10am to 5pm (November to March)/10am to 6pm (April to October); COST: £6 adults/£4 children (aged 5-16) and concessions/£15 family ticket; WEBSITE: www.householdcavalrymuseum.co.uk.
March 25, 2014
A website launched last year – Britain from Above – boasts some unique perspectives on London among its more than 61,000 images including this one above of the South Bank site of the Festival of Britain – a national exhibition held at various venues across Britain as a post-war “tonic” for the nation – under construction, taken on 14th August, 1950. The website features images taken as part of a collection of aerial photographs taken between 1919 and 1953 by pioneering air survey company Aerofilms Ltd. It has been created by English Heritage, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales following their joint purchase of the company’s collection of more than 1.26 million negatives and 2000 photo albums and forms part of a four year project which aims to conserve and digitise some 95,000 of the oldest and most valuable photographs in the collection. Under the project, the general public is invited to share and record their knowledge and memories of the photographs featured. To get involved, head to www.britainfromabove.org.uk. Below can be seen an image of the FA Cup Final being played between Sheffield Wednesday and West Bromwich Albion (Sheffield were 4-2 victors) at Wembley Stadium on 27th April, 1935. PICTURES: © English Heritage. Aerofilms Collection EAW031792/© English Heritage. Aerofilms Collection EPW046905.
March 24, 2014
Known as the Minoresses, the nuns – who belonged to the Order of St Clare (also known as the Poor Clares) – lived in a nunnery here. The institution was founded by in 1293 by Edmund, the brother to King Edward I (reigned 1272-1307), and the earl of Lancaster, Leicester, and Derby, to house nuns who had been brought to England from Spain by the earl’s wife, Blanche of Artois, the widow of King Henry I of Navarre.
As with the case of the Black Friars, the name came to be used to refer to the district in which the now long-gone nunnery once stood (it was dissolved in the Great Dissolution and later used as a residence by the likes of Henry, Duke of Suffolk and father of Lady Jane Grey) and lives on in the name of the street and the pub.
The pub, which has undergone a paint job since our picture was taken, is located under a railway bridge (and may have once been part of the former Minories Railway Station which closed in 1873. For more, see www.minories-london.co.uk.