March 31, 2015
March 30, 2015
Farringdon is a name that crops up quite a bit in London. As well as Farringdon Road, Farringdon Street and Farringdon Lane, there’s a Tube/overground train station which also bear the name along with two of the 25 wards of the City of London.
These latter are named Farringdon Within and Farringdon Without – a distinction which relates to their placement within and without the City’s walls and dates to the late 14th century.
While the name Farringdon, which can be found elsewhere in England, apparently meant ‘ferny hill’ in Old English, its origins in London apparently relate to two medieval London goldsmiths, William de Faringdon (also spelt de Farindon and various other ways) and his son Nicholas.
Both William and Sir Nicholas were aldermen and Lord Mayors of London in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.
Sir Nicholas was apparently well favoured by King Edward II – he was several times appointed mayor, a job the king apparently said he could hold for “as long as it pleased him”. He was buried at St Peter-le-Chepe, destroyed in the Great Fire of London.
Interestingly, another well-known alderman of this ward was the radical MP John Wilkes, who was elected while in Newgate Prison.
Farringdon Street, which becomes Farringdon Road, runs along the course of the former Fleet River and dates from the 1730s when the river was arched over.
March 27, 2015
A trade hall for the wool and cloth trade, Blackwell Hall, also known as Bakewell Hall, once stood on the east side of Guildhall Yard in Basinghall Street.
The buttressed stone building – whose previous owners included Thomas Bakewell (from where apparently it gets its name) – is understood to have been purchased by the City of London Corporation during the reign of King Richard II and subsequently established as a cloth market.
‘Factors’ were introduced to act as agents and handle the sale of goods on behalf of the clothiers but shifts in trade – in particular the expansion of northern mills which led to them handling their sales directly – saw the importance of the London-based factors wane.
The structure was rebuilt a couple of times over its lifespan – there are records of a rebuilding in 1588 and again after the Great Fire of 1666 – before it was finally demolished in 1820 to make way for the Bankrupcy Court.
Remains of the foundations were discovered during excavations in Guildhall Yard in 1988.
This Week in London – Greek sculpture at the British Museum; Hew Locke at HMS Belfast; an interactive high seas adventure at the National Maritime Museum; and, coral reefs at the Natural History Museum…
March 26, 2015
• The ancient Greek “preoccupation with the human form” is the subject of a new exhibition which opens at the British Museum in Bloomsbury today. Defining beauty: The body in ancient Greek art features about 150 objects dating from the prehistoric to the age of Alexander the Great. Highlights include a newly discovered bronze sculpture of a new athlete scraping his body with a metal tool after exercise before bathing, six Parthenon sculptures from the museum’s collection including a sculpture by Phidias of the river god Ilissos, and copies of Greek originals including the Towny Discobolus (discus-thrower – pictured) – a Roman copy of Myron’s lost original – and Georg Romér’s reconstruction of Polykleitos’ Doryphoros (spear-bearer) . Runs until 5th July. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/definingbeauty. PICTURE: © The Trustees of the British Museum.
• London-based contemporary artist Hew Locke has transformed an entire deck of the HMS Belfast in a major new work, ironically titled work, The Tourists. The installation – which is on show until 7th September – depicts imaginative events in which the crew of the ship are preparing to arrive at Trinidad in time for Carnival in 1962 (the ship’s last international journey – to Trinidad – actually arrived three months after the celebration). Free with general admission charge. For more see www.iwm.org.uk/visits/hms-belfast. Meanwhile, the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth is hosting a free exhibition of Locke’s work in which he explores the idea of naval power through a series of ship sculptures. This free exhibition can be seen until 4th May. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-london.
• Families are invited to take part in a new interactive experience on the “high seas of maritime history” which launches at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich on Saturday. The museum has joined with Punchdrunk Enrichment to take six to 12 year-olds and their families on an adventure, Against Captain’s Orders: A Journey into the Uncharted. Visitors don life jackets as they become part of the crew of the HMS Adventure and take on various seafaring roles as they navigate their way through the exhibition. Admission charge applies. Runs until 31st August. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/againstcaptainsorders.
• See a real coral reef and take a virtual dive in new exhibition at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea – which opens tomorrow on World Oceans Day – also features more than 200 specimens including coral, fish and fossils. These include examples collected by Charles Darwin on the voyage of the HMS Beagle in the 1830s, giant Turbinate coral and creatures ranging from the venomous blue-ringed octopus to tiny sponge crabs. For more see www.nhm.ac.uk.
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Nestled next to Westminster Abbey opposite the Houses of Parliament, St Margaret’s has long been known as the “parish church of the House of Commons” (although we should point out it’s not officially a parish church). As a result, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that it has a couple of significant links to former PM Winston Churchill.
Among the most momentous personal occasions was when Churchill married Clementine Hozier in the church on 12th September, 1908, after a short courtship. A headline in the Daily Mirror called it ‘The Wedding of the Year’.
After the fighting of World War II ended in 1945, on VE Day Churchill, in a move reflecting that taken by then PM David Lloyd George after World War I, led the members of the House of Commons in procession from the Houses of Parliament into the church for a thanksgiving service.
In 1947, the church was the scene of another Churchill wedding, this time that of Sir Winston’s daughter, Mary who was wedded to Captain Christopher Soames of the Coldstream Guards on 11th February.
WHERE: St Margaret’s Church, Westminster (nearest Tube stations are St James’s Park and Westminster); WHEN: 9.30am to 3.30pm weekdays/9.30am to 1.30pm Saturday/2pm to 4.30pm Sunday; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.westminster-abbey.org/st-margarets-church.
March 24, 2015
It’s #MuseumWeek on Twitter and museums all over London are among the more than 2,000 institutions worldwide already tweeting away. Among those, large and small, taking part in London are the @hornimanmuseum, @ExploreWellcome, @JewishMuseumLDN, @BFHouse, @HRP_Palaces, @NMMGreenwich, and @drjohnsonshouse (pictured). Each day of the week they’ll be tweeting on a different theme until Sunday (today’s is #souvenirsMW). For the full stream, head to @MuseumWeek.
March 23, 2015
There’s been a pub on the site of this Soho institution since before the 1700s, although the current building at 7 Greek Street is believed to date from the start of the 20th century.
The pub’s name is an ancient one – it refers to two landmarks, the Rock of Gibraltar on the north side and Mount Hacho or Jebel Musa on the south side (there is apparently some dispute over which), that mark the entrance to the Mediterranean and are together known as the Pillars of Hercules. The name apparently comes from a legend that Hercules created the Strait of Gibraltar between them when pushed the two pillars apart apart and so separated Europe from Africa.
There’s been several pubs in London which have borne this name although this particular premises does get a mention in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (a street which runs under the pub’s archway is named after one of its characters, Dr Manette). There was apparently a similarly named tavern on the site of what is now Apsley House at Hyde Park Corner (that one gets a mention in Henry Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling).
According to a sign on the pub, this Pillars of Hercules was also frequented by nineteenth century poet and cricket lower Francis Thompson, author of the poet The Hound of Heaven.
The current half-timbered pub – located just to the south of Soho Square – has apparently continued as a favoured locale for literary types. Martin Amis, Julian Barnes and Ian McEwan are among more recent writers who have visited (along with Clive James who referred to it in the title of his collections of literary criticism, At the Pillars of Hercules).
Located in Queen Mary’s Gardens in The Regent’s Park, this round fountain features a bronze centrepiece depicting a sea triton blowing on a conch shell with two mermaids (also sometimes referred to as dryads or nereids) springing out of the water at his feet.
Designed by William McMillan (he also designed one of the fountains in Trafalgar Square), the sculpture was offered to the gardens by the painter and sculptor Sigismund Goetze when the gardens were redesigned.
Goetze lived in Grove House (now Nuffield House) on the northern perimeter of the gardens for 30 years until his death in 1939 and had a studio within the grounds; this sculpture was one of a number of features he donated to Queen Mary’s Gardens.
The sculpture, however, was not finished due to the interruption of World War II and it was only in 1950, long after Goetze’s death that it was erected and dedicated by his wife Constance to Sigismund’s memory – “painter, lover of the arts and benefactor of this park”.
The site on which the fountain – which received a gold medal for being the best sculpture exhibited in London that year – was located was formerly occupied by a conservatory which belonged to the Royal Botanical Society.
Incidentally, in 1944 Constance Goetze founded the Constance Fund which funded fountains in Green Park and Hyde Park.
WHERE: Queen Mary’s Gardens, The Regent’s Park (nearest Tube stations are Regent’s Park, Great Portland Street and Baker Street); WHEN: 5am to 7pm daily (closing times vary depending on the month); COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/the-regents-park.
This Week in London – Garden art from the Royal Collection; A Royal Welcome at Buckingham Palace; photographic history; and, Joshua Reynolds reconsidered…
March 19, 2015
• King Henry VIII’s well-thumbed gardening manual, a late 15th century copy of the Ruralia Commoda, and a 16th century portrait of Jacopo Cennini, factor and estate manager to the House of Medici – believed to be the earliest surviving portrait of a gardener – are among more than 150 objects on display at a new exhibition celebrating the art of gardens. Opening at The Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace tomorrow, Painting Paradise: The Art of the Gardens features some of the earliest surviving records of gardens and plants in the Royal Collection including Jan Brueghel the Elder’s Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (1615), The Family of Henry VIII (c. 1545) featuring King Henry VIII’s Great Garden at Whitehall Palace – the first real garden recorded in British art, and A View of Hampton Court by Leonard Knyff (c. 1702-14) – described as the “greatest surviving Baroque painting of an English garden”. There are also works by Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Martin, Swiss artist Johan Jacob Schalch and Sir Edwin Landseer. The exhibition runs until 11th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk. PICTURE: Illustration from Henry VIII’s copy of the gardening manual, c. 1490-95. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015.
• Buckingham Palace, meanwhile, has announced its summer opening under the theme of A Royal Welcome. From 25th July to 27th September, displays in the State Rooms will recreate the settings for some of the many occasions in which the palace welcomes guests – from State Visits and garden parties to investitures and private audiences. The displays will show the behind-the-scenes preparations that go into a state visit and show the ballroom set up for a State Banquet. There will also be a display featuring the knighting stool and a knighting sword and, for the first time ever, visitors will enter the State Rooms through the Grand Entrance, used by those who come to the palace at the invitation of the Queen, including heads of state and prime ministers. The Australian State Coach, most recently used to carry the Duke of Edinburgh and the wife of the Mexican President, Señora Rivera, in March this year, will be displayed in the Grand Entrance portico. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk.
• About 100 of the “most stunning photographs ever created” go on show in the Science Museum’s Media Space in South Kensington from tomorrow. Revelations explores the role of early scientific photography in inspiring later art photographers and will feature rare shots from the National Photography Collection including an original negative of X-Ray, 19th century photographs capturing electrical charge and William Henry Fox Talbot’s experiments with photomicrography. Displayed alongside are images by some of the 20th century’s pre-eminent art photographers such as Trevor Paglen, Idris Khan and Clare Strand. Runs until 13th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/revelations.
• On Now: Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint. This exhibition at the Wallace Collection in Marylebone provides a new perspective on the portraits of Reynolds, one of the greatest artists of his day. Works on show including Nelly O’Brien, Mrs Abington as Miss Prue and Self Portrait Shading the Eyes as well as lesser known pictures and a rare history painting. The exhibition reveals discoveries made recently during a four year research project into the works of Reynolds now in the care of the collection. Runs until 7th June. Admission is free. For more, see www.wallacecollection.org.
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Churchill’s association with this landmark Mayfair hotel was a long one – not only did he convene key meetings here during World War II, the hotel also served as his residence.
Entertaining the upper crust since the mid 1800s, Claridge’s was the scene of many meetings during World War II, including all night meetings convened by Churchill with US military intelligence personnel which would only end when Churchill’s barber appeared at 6am.
The Brook Street hotel became something of a haven for deposed heads of state both in the lead-up to and during World War II – King Peter II and his family had moved in after he was exiled in 1941 and it was at the orders of Sir Winston that in 1945 Suite 212 was declared Yugoslavian territory so Crown Prince Alexander II could be born on “home soil” (there’s a story that a clod of earth from Yugoslavia was placed under the bed during the birth).
Alongside the king of Yugoslavia, other heads of state to have stayed here during this period include the kings of Greece and Norway.
The scene of many a Churchill dinner, Churchill and Lady Clementine made Claridge’s – specifically the sixth floor penthouse suite – their home for a period after his election defeat in 1945 (Churchill apparently wasn’t that keen on the idea of living so high up!).
For more on the history of Claridge’s, check out the hotel’s website here: www.claridges.co.uk.
March 17, 2015
Marking the boundary of the City of London on Victoria Embankment is this large statue of a dragon holding a shield bearing the City’s coat-of-arms. One of a pair, these two statues were originally mounted above the entrance to the Coal Exchange in Lower Thames Street and were moved here in 1963 following the building’s demolition. They’re just two of numerous dragons which guard the City’s outer edges.
March 16, 2015
The annual Crufts dog show has been making headlines around the world recently (sadly not all for good reasons), so we thought it was a good chance to take a look back at where it all began.
While the event is this year being held in Birmingham, the first Cruft’s Show was actually held in London in the late 1800s.
Charles Cruft – the show’s founder – had left college in 1876 and instead of joining the family’s jewellery business, had taken up employment in Holborn with James Spratt’s business selling ‘dog cakes’ (aka dog biscuits).
While he started off as an office boy, he was soon promoted to travelling salesman and he was soon travelling across Europe. So impressed were his customers that in 1878, just two years after leaving school, he was invited to organise the promotion of the canine section of the Paris Exhibition.
Eight years later in 1886, back in England, he took up the role of managing the Allied Terrier Club Show at the Royal Aquarium in Westminster.
The first show bearing the Crufts name – known then as ‘Cruft’s Great Dog Show’ – followed five years later in 1891 (although this was actually called Cruft’s Seventh Great Dog Show thanks to his involvement with the earlier shows).
Held at the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington (now a Grade II-listed building) on 11th, 12th and 13th February, the show boasted 2,437 entries spanning 36 different dog breeds.
Among the entries in 1891 were six Pomeranians owned by Queen Victoria – one of them, Gena, placed equal first (apparently the judges didn’t want to mark down the monarch’s dogs!)
It’s not the only landmark Crufts event held in London. In 1948, with Charles Cruft having died 10 years earlier his widow Emma handed over control of the show to the Kennel Club. The first show under the club’s auspices was held at Olympia with 84 different breeds entered (there are now around 200 entered annually). In 1979 the show moved to Earl’s Court before eventually, in 1991, moving to Birmingham.
For more on Crufts, see www.crufts.org.uk
March 13, 2015
Built for the Empire of India Exhibition at Earls Court, this 308 foot (94 metre) high wheel opened to the public on 17th July, 1895.
Measuring 270 foot (82 metres) in diameter, the wheel – which had 40 cars each apparently carrying up to 40 passengers – had a design based on that of the famous original Ferris wheel which had been built for the Chicago Exhibition of 1893.
Weighing 1,100 tons (including its eight column supports), it had taken a year to build with much of the work carried out at Maudslay, Son and Field in Greenwich before assembly on the site at the Earls Court Exhibition Ground (located on surplus railway lands).
The wheel, which took around 20 minutes to make a full rotation and was powered by two 50 horse power steam engines, remained in service for just more than a decade (there was at least one report of it getting stuck and stranding passengers for several hours).
Having carried more than 2.5 million passengers over its life, it closed in 1906 after last being used at the Imperial Austrian Exhibition. It was demolished just a year later.
This Week in London – Biggest ever Magna Carta exhibition; 200 years since Waterloo at the NPG; and, Alexander McQueen at the V&A…
March 12, 2015
• The largest ever exhibition related to the Magna Carta opens at the British Library in King’s Cross tomorrow to mark the 800th anniversary of the document’s sealing. Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy features two original Magna Carta manuscripts from 1215 as well as 1215 document, the Articles of the Barons (known as ‘draft’ of the Magna Carta), the Petition of Right (1628), the English Bill of Rights (1689), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). It will also display two of the most celebrated documents in American history – the Delaware copy of the Bill of Rights and Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence (both on loan from the US National Archives) – along with UK cabinet papers from 1941 in which it was proposed an original Magna Carta manuscript from 1215 be given to the US in return for their support in World War II and artefacts including King John’s teeth, thumb bone and fragments of clothing taken from his tomb in 1797 as well as his will. The exhibition tells the story of the Magna Carta from its creation in 1215 through to its later use by people fighting for various rights and freedoms and its continuing impact on the world today. There’s also a series of interviews with politicians, historians and public figures including Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi, former US President Bill Clinton and William Hague. Runs until 1st September. Admission charge applies. For more – and a digitised gallery of artifacts – visit www.bl.uk/magna-carta-exhibition. PICTURE: Great Seal of King John, 1203 © Eton College Archives on display in Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy.
• The first gallery exhibition devoted to the Duke of Wellington opens at the National Portrait Gallery off Trafalgar Square today. Marking the 200th anniversary year of the Battle of Waterloo, Wellington: Triumphs, Politics, and Passions explores Wellington’s political and military career as well as his personal life. Highlights include Goya’s 1812 portrait of Wellington following his entry into Madrid (later modified to recognise further battle honours and awards), and Thomas Lawrence’s famous portrait painted in 1815, the same year as the Battle of Waterloo (the painting, which normally hangs in Apsley House, was used as the basis of the design of the £5 British note from 1971 to 1991). The exhibition of 59 portraits and other works also includes rarely seen works loaned by Wellington’s family include a John Hoppner portrait of the duke as a young soldier and a daguerreotype portrait taken by Antoine Claudet for Wellington’s 75th birthday in 1844. Runs until 7th June. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk or for more on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, see www.waterloo200.org.
• An exhibition celebrating the works of the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen opens at the V&A in South Kensington on Saturday. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty presents his works in 10 sections which focus on everything from McQueen’s roots in London, his “skilful subversion of traditional tailoring practices”, his fascination with the animal world and his longstanding interest in Eastern cultures. At the centre of the exhibition is The Cabinet of Curiosities, a display showcasing more than 100 garments and accessories and shown with film footage from his many catwalk presentations. The exhibition runs until 2nd August. Admission charge applies but you’ll have to be quick – the exhibition has already set the record for the most ever advance sales for an exhibition at the museum. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/savagebeauty.
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Throughout his life – as a child, bachelor, husband and family man, Sir Winston lived in many properties in London (although, of course, a couple of the most famous properties associated with him – his birthplace, Blenheim Palace, and the much-loved family home, Chartwell in Kent – are located outside the city). But, those and 10 Downing Street aside, here are just some of the many places he lived in within London…
• 29 St James’s Place, St James: Having been born at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire and then having spent time in Dublin, at the age of five (1880) he came to live here with his family. He remained here until 1882 when he was sent off to school in Ascot (he later attended schools in Sussex and, most famously, Harrow School). The family, meanwhile, moved to a townshouse at 2 Connaught Place which backed on to Hyde Park.
• 33 Eccleston Square, Pimlico: The Churchills moved here in 1909 and it was here that their first two children Diana and Randolph were born in 1909 and in 1911. The family remained here until 1913. A blue plaque marks the property.
• Admiralty House, Whitehall: The Churchills first moved into Admiralty House – part of the Admiralty complex on Whitehall – in 1913 (from the aforementioned Eccleston Square) after Churchill was made First Lord of the Admiralty. They remained here until 1915 – years he would go onto to describe as the happiest in his life – before he resigned but returned in 1939 when he was once again appointed to the position.
• 2 Sussex Square, Bayswater: In 1920, the Churchills bought this property just north of Hyde Park which they kept until 1924 when they moved into 11 Downing Street (see below). The property is marked with a blue plaque.
• 11 Downing Street, Whitehall: The Churchills lived at 11 Downing Street when Sir Winston was Chancellor of the Exchequer, from 1925 to 1929. The property, located in Downing Street, is not accessible to the public.
• 11 Morpeth Mansions, Morpeth Terrace, Westminster: The Churchill family lived at this Westminster address between 1930 and 1939 (prior to him becoming Prime Minister). The property is marked by a brown plaque.
• 28 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington: Churchill died in this Grade II-listed, mid 19th century property on the morning of 24th January, 1965. The couple moved in after the end of World War II and, while it’s not clear whether they fully vacated the residence when he was prime minister between 1951-55, it remained their property until his death 10 years later. The property next door, number 27, provided accommodation for his staff. The property is marked with a blue plaque.
This Week in London – War fashions; the “inventor” of Impressionism; looking a Gift Horse in the mouth; and, having a look at the Queen’s House…
March 5, 2015
• A new exhibition exploring how fashion survived and even flourished during World War II has opened at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth to mark the 70th anniversary of the war’s end. Fashion on the Ration brings together more than 300 exhibits including clothes and accessories like the ‘respirator carrier handbag’, photographs and films as well as official documents from the period, letters and interviews. The exhibition is divided into six parts which examine in detail everything from the uniforms worn during the period to clothes rationing (introduced in 1941) and how the end of the war impacted fashion. Runs until 31st August. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk.
• The UK’s first major exhibition devoted to Paul Durand-Ruel, the man who “invented Impressionism”, has opened at the National Gallery off Trafalgar Square this week. Inventing Impressionism features around 85 works including some of Impressionism’s greatest masterpieces, a number of which have never been seen in the UK before. The majority of the works were traded by Durand-Ruel (1831-1922) who is noted for having discovered and supported Impressionist painters like Monet, Pisarro, Degas and Renoir. Durand-Ruel purchased an astonishing 12,000 pictures between 1891 and 1922, including more than 1,000 Monets, about 1,500 Renoirs, more than 400 Degas’, some 800 Pissarros and close to 200 Manets. The images on display include a series of rarely-seen portraits of the dealer and his family by Renoir which are being exhibited in the UK for the first time as well as five paintings from Manet’s ‘Poplars’ series and all three of Renoir’s famous ‘Dances’, not seen in the country together since 1985. The exhibition finishes with a reference to an exhibition Durand-Ruel organised in London in 1905. Held at the Grafton Galleries, it presented 315 paintings. Admission charge applies. Runs until 31st May. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.
• Gift Horse, New York-based German artist Hans Haacke’s sculpture of a skeletal riderless horse, will be unveiled on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square today. The horse, derived from an etching by English painter George Stubbs – whose works are in the nearby National Gallery, features an electronic ribbon tied to the horse’s front leg showing a live ticker of the London Stock Exchange. The statue, described as a ‘wry comment’ on the equestrian statue of King William IV which was originally to occupy the plinth, is the 10th to occupy the plinth since the first commission – Marc Quinn’s sculpture Alison Lapper Pregnant – was unveiled in 2005.
• Contemporary artist Dryden Goodwin’s first feature-length film is on show as part of a new exhibition, Unseen: The Lives of Looking, at the Queen’s House in Greenwich. Continuing Goodwin’s investigations into portraiture, the newly commissioned film focuses on three individuals who have a “compelling” relationship to looking – eye surgeon Sir Peng Tee Khaw, planetary explorer Professor Sanjeev Gupta and human rights lawyer Rosa Curling. Alongside the screening is a series of drawings made by Goodwin after observing the three individuals as well as tools and papers related to each of their trades and a series of objects connected three leading observers related to the history of the Royal Museums Greenwich sites – John Flamsteed, first Astronomer Royal, Edward Maunder, who observed Mars from the Royal Observatory Greenwich, and the artist Willem van de Velde the Elder who made detailed drawings of naval battles in preparation for producing paintings in his studio at the Queen’s House. Runs until 26th July. Admission is free. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk.
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Sir Winston Churchill lived a number of residences in London but, of course, the most famous in its own right is the traditional home of British PMs, 10 Downing Street.
Located in a short street just off Whitehall (now closed to the public), the property has been home to Prime Ministers since Sir Robert Walpole, officially First Lord of the Treasury but effectively the first PM, took up residence in 1735.
Churchill moved in following his election to the office of Prime Minister in 1940 and he and his wife Clementine took up residence in a second floor flat. It was in this property where, cigar in hand, he is famously known to have dictated speeches and letters to his secretary while propped up in bed.
The building suffered some bomb damage during the Blitz – on 14th October, 1940, a bomb fell on nearby Treasury Green and damaged the home’s kitchen and state rooms. Three civil servants doing Home Guard duty were killed but the kitchen staff were saved thanks to Churchill who, dining in the Garden Rooms when the bombing raid began, ordered them to leave their duties and get into a bomb shelter.
The Garden Rooms – which included a bedroom, meeting area and the small dining room – were subsequently reinforced with steel and heavy metal shutters although these apparently would have made little difference had there been a direct hit.
Cabinet moved out of Number 10 into the underground bunker complex now referred to as the Churchill War Rooms (see last week’s post) in October, 1939, and, after several near misses, the Churchills – Sir Winston apparently very begrudgingly – moved into the Number 10 Annex above the war rooms in 1940 (although Churchill continued to visit Number 1o for working and dining).
Much of the furniture and valuables were removed from Number 10 and only the Garden Rooms, Cabinet Room and Private Secretaries’ office remained in use (along with a reinforced bomb shelter built underneath – King George VI is known to have sheltered here when he was dining with Churchill when a raid began).
At the end of the war the Churchills quickly moved back into Number 10 and it was from the Cabinet Room that he made his Victory in Europe (VE) Day broadcast on 8th May, 1945.
He vacated the premises after his election defeat later in 1945 but returned when re-elected PM in 1951 and left after he resigned in 1955 having held a dinner party attended by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip the night before.
A couple of interesting facts about Churchill’s time at number 10: Churchill had many pets who usually had free rein in the house – even at 10 Downing Street his poodle Rufus was known to have wandered into a meeting in the Cabinet Room (before he was ejected) – while in 1958, Georgina Landemare, the cook during his time at number 10, famously published a book, Recipes from No. 10, which featured an introduction by Churchill’s wife, Clementine.
There are apparently two portraits of Churchill among those of other PMs which grace the wall of the Grand Staircase.
For more on the history of 10 Downing Street, see www.gov.uk/government/history/10-downing-street
March 2, 2015
We’re delving back a long way into London’s history here to the Anglo-Saxon period when London was known as Lundenwic. Credited as the first bishop of London in the Anglo-Saxon period, Mellitus is perhaps most famous for having founded the precursor to today’s St Paul’s Cathedral.
Tradition holds that Mellitus was a priest – perhaps an abbot – of noble birth who was among a group of missionaries, known as the Gregorian mission, sent from the monastery of St Andrew on the Coelian Hill in Rome to England by Pope Gregory the Great in response to a call from St Augustine – the first archbishop of Canterbury – for people to help convert the Saxons to Christianity.
The mission was dispatched to England in 601 AD (apparently Mellitus brought with him a number of books, including possibly the St Augustine Gospels now at Cambridge University) coming via Gaul where the mission paused to deliver letters to various Frankish kings.
The group reached England sometime prior to 604 AD for that year St Augustine, with the permission of Saxon King Æthelberht of Kent (aka Ethelbert), consecrated Mellitus Bishop of the East Saxons with London as his seat, making him the first post-Roman-era bishop of the city.
Records are scant about Mellitus’ time as bishop but he is believed to have constructed a simple wooden church dedicated to St Paul (the first ‘version’ of St Paul’s Cathedral) in 604 with King Æthelberht as his patron (the ruler of Lundenwic was King Sæberht but, while he was then a pagan and unlikely to welcome the building of a church, he apparently owed his allegiance to Æthelberht as his overlord (Sæberht was later baptised by Mellitus). It was apparently constructed in the ruins of a temple dedicated to the Roman goddess Diana as per the instructions Mellitus had carried from Rome to convert rather than destroy pagan temples.
Mellitus is known to have left the city in 610 to attend a council of bishops called in Italy by Pope Boniface IV. He returned with letters from the Pope for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Laurentius (or Laurence), and one for King Æthelberht.
There was a crisis following the death of both kings Æthelberht and Sæberht some time around 616-618. Sæberht’s three sons inherited and subsequently drove Mellitus out of the city into exile (Bede suggests it’s because he refused them a ‘taste’ of the sacramental bread but its also suggested he was exiled from his bishopric because the overlordship of the East Saxons passed from the now dead King Æthelberht of Kent to the pagan East Anglian King Raedwald and thus the brothers felt there was no need to allow a Christian bishopric in the city any longer).
Mellitus fled first to Canterbury but King Æthelberht’s successor Eadbald was also a pagan and so he continued to Gaul. He was eventually recalled – some suggest his exile was only a year – after Archbishop Laurentius converted Eadbald. Mellitus was not to return to Lundenwic, however, and the bishopric remained vacant for some years thereafter (it wasn’t until 654 that Cedd reclaimed the bishopric).
Mellitis, meanwhile, went on to greater things – he succeeded Laurentius as the third Archbishop of Canterbury following Laurentius’ death in 619. During his time as archbishop, legend has it that Canterbury was saved from fire due to his prayers which summoned a strong wind that kept the flames from the town.
He eventually died on 24th April, 624. He was buried at St Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury (the ruins of the abbey remain in the city today).
Mellitus, who has a stone memorial at Canterbury Cathedral (pictured), was later elevated to sainthood within the Roman Catholic Church and there was a shrine to Mellitus in Old St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
February 27, 2015
A new addition inside the Natural History Museum’s Exhibition Road entrance in South Kensington, the 150 million-year-old Stegosaurus stenops - the first complete dinosaur specimen to go on display in the museum in almost 100 years – is the only Stegosaurus on display in a public museum outside of the US.
Featuring more than 300 bones, the 5.6 metre long and 2.9 metre high specimen was found in the US about 11 years ago. Missing only the base of the tail and the left arm, it is the most complete Stegosaurus skeleton in the world. It had been excavated from a site on the Red Canyon Ranch in Wyoming after being discovered in 2003 by Bob Simon, who runs a dinosaur quarry on the property.
The skeleton, which took three weeks to excavate, had 18 months of ‘preparation’ work carried out at the Swiss Saurier Museum before arriving at the NHM in December, 2013.
The new acquisition now forms part of the museum’s collection of 80 million specimens, including eight million fossils, which is actively studied by the museum’s 300 scientists and 9,000 visiting researchers from institutions around the world each year.
WHERE: Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London (nearest Tube stations are South Kensington, Gloucester Road and Knightsbridge); WHEN: 10am to 5.50pm daily; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.nhm.ac.uk/stegosaurus.
PICTURE: Natural History Museum.
This Week in London – Rarely seen Goya at the Courtauld; Wolsey Angels saved; and, A Victorian Obsession…
February 26, 2015
• A “ground-breaking” exhibition of works of 18th and 19th century Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco Goya opens to the Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House today. Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album brings together the previously widely scattered pages of one of the artist’s most celebrated private albums in the first exhibition to ever recompile one of them. The album – which features themes of witchcraft, dreams and nightmares and has been reconstructed into its original sequence – is thought to have been made between 1819-23, a period during which Goya completed the murals known as the Black Paintings. Runs until 25th May. Admission charges applies. For more, see www.courtauld.ac.uk/goya. PICTURE: © The Courtauld Gallery (He can no longer at the age of 98, c. 1819-23, J. Paul Getty Museum).
• The ‘Wolsey Angels’ have been “saved for the nation” after a campaign to acquire them by the V&A. The museum has reported that more than £87,000 was raised in a national public appeal – around £33,000 of which was raised via donations and through the purchase of badges at the South Kensington premises – which, along with grants including a £2 million National Heritage Memorial Fund grant and a £500,000 Art Fund grant, will be used to acquire the four bronze angels which were originally designed for the tomb of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, chief advisor to King Henry VIII. The four bronze angels, which have been in display at the V&A, will now undergo conservation treatment before going back on display. For more on the history of the angels, see our earlier post here. For more information on the V&A, see www.vam.ac.uk.
• Closing Soon – A Victorian Obsession: The Pérez Simón collection at Leighton House Museum. This exhibition at the former Holland Park of Lord Leighton presents more than 50 rarely exhibited paintings by leading Victorian artists including Albert Moore, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, John Everett Millais, John William Waterhouse, Edward Pointer, John Strudwick and John William Godward as well as six pictures by Leighton himself and the highlight, Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s The Roses of Heliogabalus. Runs until 29th March. Admission charge applies. See www.rbkc.gov.uk/subsites/museums/leightonhousemuseum/avictorianobsession.aspx for more.