museums-at-night From tonight (and across this weekend), museums all over Greater London will be opening their doors after usual closing time as part of the annual Museums at Night event. Among those institutions taking part in the event, produced by Culture24, are such well-known icons as the British Museum, Tower Bridge and The National Gallery as well as lesser known establishments like Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge in Chingford, Southside House on Wimbledon Common and the Grant Museum of Zoology in central London. The October event follows an earlier Museums at Night in May. For the full programme of events, see

Roman London is the subject of a new exhibition at the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Library. Londinium AD43 features the work of photographer Eugenio Grosso who takes the visitors on a photographic journey through time from London’s foundations to its present. The display shows how much of London’s Roman settlement has been preserved and features photographs of locations once home to significant London sites. Runs until 31st March. For more, see

More than 75 portraits in all media by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso can be seen at the recently opened Picasso Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Including well-known masterpieces and some works never seen in Britain before, the works include a group of self-portraits as well as caricatures of Picasso’s friends, lovers, wives and children and images he created inspired by artists of the past. Runs until 5th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see

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the-mansion-houseMansion House, perhaps best known as a tautological-sounding Tube station, is actually the name of the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London (a suitable subject, we felt, given the upcoming Lord Mayor’s Show in November).

mh2Designed by George Dance the Elder and built between 1739 to 1753 (many years after the idea of an official residence for the Lord Mayor was proposed in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London), the Palladian-style property – located a stone’s throw from the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England on a short stretch of street named after the property – has been the home of the Lord Mayor since the latter date.

It was built on the site of what was known as the Stocks Market (it had previously been the location of some stocks – used to punish people for various misdemeanours), the name isn’t actually as repetitive as it looks but actually means “official residence” and was previously used to designate homes which went with particular ecclesiastical jobs.

As well as accommodation for the Lord Mayor, the interior of the Grade I-listed property features two halls known as the Egyptian Hall and what was initially known as the Dancing Gallery but is now the Ballroom (we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the property at a later date).

The Tube station opened in 1871 as the eastern terminus of the Metropolitan District Railway. Interestingly, Bank station is actually closer to the property with Mansion House station located to the south-west down Queen Victoria Street.

The first exhibition dedicated to the works of 17th century Dutch master Adriaen van de Velde has opened at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London. Adriaen can de Velde: Dutch Master of Landscape features more than 60 of his most accomplished works including landscapes and beachscapes as well as red chalk preparatory studies, pen and ink drawings and watercolours. There’s also a selection of his larger works including Portrait of a Family in a Landscape and Landscape with cattle and figures. Part of the Rediscovering Old Masters: The Melosi Series being shown at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the exhibition is being held in partnership with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Runs until 15th January. For more, see

• The Science Museum in South Kensington has opened its “most ambitious” interactive science gallery featuring interactive exhibits, artworks, live demonstrations and immersive experiences. Wonderlab: The Statoil Gallery, which cost £6 million to create, features more than 50 exhibits in seven zones and spans topics as diverse as sound, forces, light and mathematics. Highlights include a giant interactive orrery (mechanical model of the solar system), the chance to explore the effects of different materials on a friction slide and live science shows featuring explosions, rockets, and space. Admission charges apply. For more, see

 A free exhibition focusing on defaced coins and other objects has opened at the British Museum. Defacing the past: damnation and desecration in imperial Rome takes on Roman history from the view of the defacer and features coins of Caligula and Nero – the first emperors to suffer ‘damnation’ after their deaths, as well as defaced images of Domitian and Commodus, both of whom were killed by conspirators as a result of their extravagant and autocratic behaviour. Runs in Room 69a until 7th May. For more, see

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So we’ve come to the end of our current Wednesday series – 10 sites commemorating the Great Fire of London – to mark the Great Fire’s 350th. So here’s the recap in case you missed any:

10 sites commemorating the Great Fire of London – 1. Thomas Farriner’s plaque

10 sites commemorating the Great Fire of London – 2. The Golden Boy of Pye Corner…

10 sites commemorating the Great Fire of London – 3. The Templar’s column…

10 sites commemorating the Great Fire of London – 4. St Paul’s ‘Resurgam’…

10 sites commemorating the Great Fire of London – 5. Paternoster Square Column…

10 sites commemorating the Great Fire of London – 6. A rare survivor…

10 sites commemorating the Great Fire of London – 7. The ancient plaque commemorating St Olave Silver Street…

10 sites commemorating the Great Fire of London – 8. St Paul’s memorial to John Donne…

10 sites commemorating the Great Fire of London – 9. A memorial to a fire prevention breakthrough (erected on the Great Fire’s 110th)…

10 sites commemorating the Great Fire of London – 10. Two mysterious mice…

We’ll kick off a new Wednesday series next week!


heathrow-garden-gateThe UK’s first airport “garden gate” – featuring some 1,680 plants – has been planted at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 in a six month trial of the concept which could see the garden gates being implemented across the airport. Designed by urban greening specialists Biotecture, the installation at Gate 25 covers seven different sites in the gate room and features plants such as English native ivy and the Peace Lily and provides an “eco-sanctuary”, conveying a sense of calm to passengers as they embark on their journey.

fireOf course, the Great Fire of London in 1666 is only one of numerous fires which have occurred in London (although it was no doubt the greatest in terms of destruction). But among others was a fire in 1212 which has been described as London’s worst in terms of the death toll which some have put as high as 3,000 (although it’s generally believed it’s unlikely to have been that high).

The fire, which only came some 77 years after another great conflagration destroyed a stretch of the city reaching from Westminster to St Paul’s Cathedral in 1135, began in Southwark on 10th July (hence it’s also known as the Great Fire of Southwark). Crossing London Bridge, it went on to destroy a large part of the City itself.

As well as destroying buildings on London Bridge including houses and the chapel (the structure itself, having recently been rebuilt in stone, survived somewhat intact although it only remained in partial use for some time afterward), also destroyed the Southwark church known as St Mary Overie (precursor to today’s Southwark Cathedral) as well as many buildings around Borough High Street.

There were apparently numerous deaths – the story goes that many of them occurred when a mass of people poured onto London Bridge from the City as they attempted to cross to Southwark to help put out the fire (or perhaps just gawk at it).

They were trapped in the middle of the bridge when, with the south end was already ablaze, the north end caught fire from sparks. As well as suffering fatally from the effects of flames and smoke, people were apparently crushed in panic and others were pushed off the bridge to drown in the River Thames (along with some of the boat crews who tried to rescue them).

And, just as the Great Fire of 1666, the fire of 1212 did result in some building reforms including the placement of a ban on the use of thatch for rooves.

the-queens-houseThe Queen’s House in Greenwich has reopened this week following more than a year long restoration to mark its 400th anniversary. The property was designed by Inigo Jones for King James I’s wife, Queen Anne of Denmark (supposedly it was a gift from the king, given as an apology for swearing in front of her after she accidentally killed one of his dogs while hunting), and, commissioned in 1616 (but not finished until 1636, well after Queen Anne’s death), is regarded as Britain’s first fully classical building. The newly reopened premises houses more than 450 works of art from the National Maritime Museum’s collection and a new gold leaf artwork – inspired by the newly restored Tulip Stairs – on the ceiling of the Great Hall created by Turner Prize-winning artist Richard Wright. Other attractions include Gentileschi’s painting Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, which has returned to the house, where it is on display in the King’s Presence Chamber, for the first time since 1650, and the iconic Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, which is now on permanent display. Entry to the property is free. The property’s reopening is being accompanied by a series of talks. For more, see

The first major exhibition to explore the work Italian artist Caravaggio has opened at The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square this week. Beyond Caravaggio features 49 paintings traces the life of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610), from his early years in Rome producing highly original works depicting youths, musicians, cardsharps and fortune-tellers through to his sensational first public commission in 1600 and the many commissioned works which followed, his two trips to the Kingdom of Naples (both times while fleeing the law, the first after committing murder), and how his works inspired – and were reflected in the works of – other painters. Works on show include Caravaggio’s Boy Bitten by a Lizard (1594-95) and The Supper at Emmaus (1601), as well as the recently discovered The Taking of Christ (1602) and Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness (1603-04) along with a host of works from other painters. The exhibition is a collaboration with the National Gallery of Ireland and the Royal Scottish Academy and will head to these institutions after it finishes its run at The National Gallery on 15th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see

egyptian-hallA free exhibition exploring the popular Victorian entertainments which have shaped today’s theatrical traditions opens at the British Library in King’s Cross tomorrow. Victorian Entertainments: There Will Be Fun focuses on five performers who were instrumental entertainers during the 19th century – from mesmerist Annie De Montfort and ‘Royal Conjurer’ Evasion to Dan Leno – the “funniest man on earth”, circus owner ‘Lord’ George Sanger and magician John Nevil Maskelyne of the Egyptian Hall. The display features decorative posters, handbills, musical scores, advertisements and tickets and  includes items drawn from the 6,000 pieces of printed ephemera contained in the library’s Evasion collection as well as original sound recordings, artefacts on loan from The Magic Circle Museum and memorabilia from the Egyptian Hall in London. Five original performance pieces have been commissioned for the exhibition and every Saturday until 17th December, a company of actors and performers will present archive material from the exhibition in a contemporary performance. There’s also an extensive events programme accompanying the exhibition. Runs until 12th March. For more, see PICTURE: Modern Witchery Maskelyne at the Egyptian Hall; © British Library Board

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To end our series on memorials in London commemorating the Great Fire of 1666 – marking the event’s 350th anniversary – we’re taking a look at what is one of the smallest monuments in the City (and, despite all rumour, possibly not a memorial to the Great Fire at all).

philpot-lane-miceMidway up the wall of a building at the corner of Eastcheap and Philpot Lane, not far from The Monument (for more on its history, see our earlier post here), can be seen two brown mice fighting over a piece of cheese.

The mice are commonly said to be a memorial, not to anyone who died during the fire, but to two men who died while building The Monument itself.

The cheese apparently relates to the story in that the two men fell to the deaths while fighting after one accused the other of eating his cheese sandwich. The two mice, one for each of the men, relate to the fact that it was apparently mice who were later found to be the culprits.

But we need to point out that not all agree on the memorial aspect of the mice, which have apparently been decorating the building’s cornice since the mid-1800s – and there are legitimate questions: why, for example, would the Victorians when constructing the property commemorate two long dead workers and how had the story even reached them of their deaths?

One theory is that the mice do commemorate two men who died in the circumstances described, but while building the property they are located upon and not The Monument at all.

The building, meanwhile, is said to have been constructed as offices and warehouses for spice merchants Hunt & Crombie – it’s been suggested the mice were merely part of the decorations made for the building and not a memorial at all.

Whatever the origins of the mice – and whether they represent a memorial or not – we thought they were a nice way to close out the special series on Great Fire of London commemorative sites. We’ll kick off a new Wednesday series shortly.

PICTURE: Spudgun67/Flickr/CC BY 2.0



A temporary ‘Saxon’ camp will appear in Hyde Park this Saturday as Battle of Hastings’ re-enactors pause on their journey south to meet the forces of William, the Duke of Normandy, in an event marking the battle’s 950th anniversary. English Heritage is recreating the hurried march south of the Saxon King Harald and his followers following the Battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire to Battle Abbey where they will join in an annual re-enactment of the world famous Battle of Hastings on 15th and 16th October. Having already visiting British landmarks like Lincoln’s Roman arch, Peterborough Cathedral, and Waltham Abbey, they will be found at a free “pop-up living history encampment” near Apsley House in Hyde Park between 11am and 3pm on Saturday. People are invited to visit the encampment and meet the re-enactors, learn how the armies lived and ate while on the march, discover which weapons they used and play some Norman games as well as see the Battle of Hastings recreated using vegetables. Later on Saturday, the re-enactors will head across London to the Jewel Tower in Westminster and then on, Sunday, on to Eltham Palace in the city’s south-east, before setting off for Battle to the south. For more – including a day-by-day calendar of the march – head to PICTURE: An earlier re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings/David Adams.

A free exhibition celebrating all things punk has opened at the Museum of London to mark the end of a year long festival commemorating 40 years of the movement’s influence. Punks, which tells the stories of “ordinary punks” living in London in the late 1970s, features artefacts like handmade mixtape sleeves, DIY fanzines and the radical clothes sold on the King’s Road. The exhibition, which runs until 15th January, is accompanied by what is promised to be a “no holds barred” debate centred on the punk phenomena in November. For more information, see and for more about other events related to the 40th anniversary of punk, see

On Now – Bridget Riley: Learning from Seurat. This exhibition at The Courtauld Gallery explores Riley’s breakthrough encounter with Georges Seurat’s 1887 work Bridge at Courbevoie. For the first time, it brings together a copy Riley made of the painting in 1959 with the original work as well as presenting a small group of Riley’s seminal works to show how her understanding of Seurat’s art led her to create what are described as “some of the most radical and original abstract works of the past five decades”. Part of the gallery’s ongoing series of displays focusing on major contemporary artists, it runs until 17th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see

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This rather unremarkable obelisk on Putney Heath actually commemorates the invention of ‘Fireproof House’ and was erected, not coincidentally, on the 110th anniversary of the great conflagration.

hartley-obeliskThe rather eccentric David Hartley, an inventor and MP, came up with the idea of sheathing joists under floorboards with thin layers of what were initially iron and later iron and copper plating to prevent the spread of fire in homes and ships and was granted a patent for his system in 1773.

Known as ‘Hartley’s Fire Plates’, he claimed in a pamphlet that a single fireplate might have prevented the Great Fire – a claim which got other MPs excited and led them to grant him cash – £2,500 – to continue his experiments as well as an extension on his patent, from the usual 15 to 31 years.

His experiments included building homes for the express purpose of setting them alight to test his invention, one of which he built on Wimbledon Common. Known as the ‘Fireproof House’, the property was repeatedly set alight in front of prominent witnesses.

These included MPs, the Lord Mayor of London and Aldermen of the City of London – who granted Hartley the Freedom of the City and encouraged fire plates to be included in all new buildings in London – and, of course, King George III and his wife Queen Charlotte. One of the tests was apparently carried out while the royal family was eating breakfast in an upstairs room inside (they survived unscathed – one hates to think of Hartley’s fate should they not have).

The house is now gone but the Hartley Memorial Obelisk, erected just off Wildcroft Road in what were formerly the grounds of Wildcroft Manor, remains.

The red brick and stone Grade II-listed structure was erected by the City of London Corporation in 1776, the 110th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, to commemorate Hartley’s invention of fire plates. The first stone in the monument – which is attributed to George Dance – was laid by the then Lord Mayor, John Sawbridge.

PICTURE: David Antis/Geograph/CC BY-SA 2.0

really-good-by-david-shrigley-c-gautier-deblondeA giant hand giving a thumbs-up, the latest commission to grace Trafalgar Square’s famous Fourth Plinth, was unveiled late last month. Really Good, by UK artist David Shrigley stands seven metres high and features a disproportionately long thumb arising from a closed fist. The sculpture is the latest in a string of artworks to have graced the plinth which was built in 1841 and originally designed to hold a statue of King William IV but, thanks to a lack of money, remained empty until recent times. Speaking at the launch of the new work last month, the artist said the work was about “making the world a better place or it purports to actually make the world a better place”. “Obviously, this is a ridiculous proposition, but I think it’s a good proposition,” The Independent reports him saying. “Artworks on their own are inanimate objects so they can’t make the world a better place. It is us, so I guess we have to ask ourselves how we can do this.” For more on the Fourth Plinth program, see

PICTURE: © Gautier Deblonde

the-coal-holeThis pub’s name is fairly self-explanatorily related to coal but there’s a couple of different versions floating around as to why.

One story, mentioned on the pub’s website, says the name comes from the legend that the pub occupies the space which once contained the coal cellar for the Savoy Hotel – not a great leap given its location on the corner of Carting Lane and the Strand, with the Savoy Hotel just behind.

The other is that it takes its name from the “coal heavers” – men who moved coal – who worked nearby on the River Thames. Again, not too much of a stretch.

Which-ever is true (or maybe both), the current Grade II-listed building at 91-92 Strand dates from just after the turn of the 19th century and, according to a plaque on the property, was apparently briefly known as as the New Strand Wine Lodge.

During Edwardian times it was apparently a ‘song and supper’ club where patrons were encouraged to sing (something like the karaoke bars of today).

Gilbert and Sullivan apparently regularly performed here regularly during Edwardian times and the great Shakespearean thespian, Edmund Keane, apparently started the Wolf Club – ostensibly “for oppressed husbands forbidden to sing in the bath” but apparently as a pretence for considerably more debauched activities – in the basement.

Now part of the Nicholson’s chain. For more, see

PICTURE: Ewan Munro/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0/Cropped

fighting-temeraireIt’s an atmospheric image – both literally and metaphorically – that will soon be sitting in wallets and purses across the UK. Painter JMW Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838 is among the most famous artworks hanging in The National Gallery and, as the Bank of England has announced earlier this year, will adorn newly produced £20 notes from 2020 onwards. It commemorates the end of the famous ship, the 98 gun HMS Temeraire, which had played a heroic role in Lord Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and, say reports, had been dubbed the “Fighting” Temeraire ever since (although it’s also suggested the ship was actually known by the crew as the “Saucy” Temeraire) . The oil painting, which Turner created in 1839, depicts the ship being towed away to be broken up (although, while it was actually towed from Sheerness to Rotherhithe in London –  a westerly trip, the painting depicts it going eastward). The Temeraire itself is drawn romantically, almost spectrally, while in front of it is a steam tug shown in hard modernity and, of course, in the backdrop is the majestic setting sun, evoking a sense of the end. The painting, which was bequeathed to the gallery by the artist in the 1850s, and which incidentally appeared in the James Bond film Skyfall in a scene in which 007 (Daniel Craig) meets Q (Ben Wishaw) in front of it, can be found in Room 34 of gallery.

WHERE: The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square (nearest Tube stations are Charing Cross and Leicester Square); WHEN: 10am to 6pm daily (open to 9pm Saturdays); COST: free; WEBSITE:

PICTURE:  Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838, © National Gallery, London

the_jesse_cope_detail_ca-_1310-25_c_victoria_and_albert_museum_londonObjects associated with some of the most notable personages of the Middle Ages – from King Edward I and his wife, Queen Eleanor of Castile through to Edward, the Black Prince, and martyred archbishop, Thomas Becket – will go on show at the V&A in South Kensington as part of a display of medieval embroidery. Opening Saturday, Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery features embroidered treasures such as a seal-bag which, dating from the early 12th century, was made to hold the foundation document of Westminster Abbey, the Toledo Cope which has been brought back to England from Spain for the first time since its creation in the 14th century and an embroidered vestment associated with Thomas Becket. There’s also the Hólar Vestments from Iceland, the Jesse Cope from the V&A’s own collections (pictured), the Daroca Cope from Madrid and an embroidered tunic worn by Edward, the Black Prince. As well as embroidery, the display features panel paintings, manuscripts, metalwork and sculpture. Runs until 5th February along with a season of events. Admission charges apply. See for more. PICTURE: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Two works by Spanish painter Fray Juan Bautista Maino have gone on exhibition for the first time in the UK at The National Gallery, off Trafalgar Square. The Adoration of the Shepherds and The Adoration of the Kings, dating from 1612-14, have been loaned from the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, Spain, and can be seen for free in a display being held in conjunction with the upcoming exhibition Beyond Caravaggio. Each of the paintings measures more than three metres in height and were originally part of a retable (altarpiece) created for the altar of the Dominican church of San Pedro Martir in Toledo. The work took three years to complete and it was while he was doing so that Maino took religious vows and joined the Dominican Order (there’s also a chance he included a self portrait in the work in the form of a pilgrim on the altar’s far left). Can be seen until 29th January. For more, see

A former disused toilet block has been converted into a new cafe overlooking the 150-year-old Italian Gardens in the Kensington Gardens. Formally opened by Loyd Grossman, chairman of the Royal Parks charity, earlier this month, the cafe has a “living roof” aimed at supporting the biodiversity and wildlife of the gardens and has been designed in sympathy with the gardens and the nearby Grade 2* listed Queen Anne’s Alcove, currently being restored. The Italian Gardens were a gift from Prince Albert to Queen Victoria. For more on the cafe, including opening times, head here.

Alderman Andrew Parmley has been elected as the 689th Lord Mayor of London. In keeping with tradition, he will take up the office after the ‘Silent Ceremony’ in Guildhall on 11th November followed by the annual Lord Mayor’s Show parade through the City the following day.

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As mentioned earlier, there are several memorials to the Great Fire of London at St Paul’s Cathedral – we’ve already mentioned one of them, the Resurgam, which can be found on the south side of the cathedral’s exterior. 

john-donneAnother can be found in a monument which actually commemorates the poet and priest, John Donne, a dean of St Paul’s who died in 1631 (incidentally, it’s not the only place he’s commemorated – there’s also a bronze bust of him outside the cathedral, placed there in 2012).

The marble effigy inside the cathedral, however, is significant because, erected within 18 months of his death,  it is among the few monuments to survive the Great Fire of London. Located in the south quire aisle, the effigy, the work of Nicholas Stone, depicts Donne in his funeral shroud (he apparently posed for it while still alive, wrapped in a sheet).

The effigy was apparently saved by the fact that when the fire raged through the cathedral, it fell into the crypt. And, in a poignant reminder of the fire’s destructive power, if you look closely at the base you can still see scorch marks from the blaze.

It lay in the crypt among other remains of the Great Fire until the late 19th century when it was recovered and restored to its place in the cathedral above in a position close to where it had formerly stood in the Old Cathedral.

PICTURE: Victor Keegan/Flickr/CC BY 2.0/image cropped and lightened.

LondonLife – Rooftop view…

September 27, 2016


Looking across the roof of the National Gallery past Nelson’s Column to Westminster. PICTURE: London & Partners.

fireSir Thomas Bludworth (also spelt Bloodworth) is usually only remembered as the man who had the unfortunate job of being Lord Mayor of London when the Great Fire broke out in 1666. So, given the fire’s 350th anniversary this month, we thought it timely to take a more in-depth look at his life and career.

Bludworth was born in London in February, in about 1620, the second surviving son of John Bludworth, master of the Vintner’s Company and a wealthy merchant. Trained to succeed his father – his elder brother having joined the clergy, Bludworth was himself admitted to the Vintner’s Company in the 1640s and joined the Levant Company in 1648.

First elected an alderman in 1658, he was discharged when he refused to serve as a sheriff and the following year served as the master of the Vintner’s Company. In 1660, he was briefly arrested along with 10 other members of City of London’s common council after the body refused to pay taxes until a representative parliament was convened.

Elected MP for Southwark later that year, Bludworth among city and parliamentary representatives who sailed to The Netherlands to attend the king, Charles II, in exile, and invite him to return to England. It was while attending the king in The Hague that he was knighted. Re-elected in 1661, he was an active parliamentarian who served in numerous different capacities.

Sir Thomas was twice married and had a number of children including a formidable daughter Anne who eventually married the historically unpopular George Jeffreys, (later King James II’s Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor).

In mid-1662, he was once again made a City of London alderman and appointed one of two sheriffs for the following year. He became Lord Mayor of London in November, 1665, but apparently there was no pageant as was customary due to the plague.

During his year in the office – “the severest year any man had” – he faced both the plague and the Great Fire and his reputation has been largely formed out of his response to the latter thanks in large part his alleged response when woken and told of the fire as being: “Pish, a woman might piss it out!”.

Bludworth was heavily criticised at the time and over the years since his reaction to the fire – including not pulling down homes to create a firebreak and thus prevent the spread of the fire, but it should be noted that had he done so before he had received the king’s permission, he would have found himself personally liable.

Diarist Samuel Pepys’ who, following two encounters in the months before the fire had already described Bludworth as “mean man of understanding and despatch of any public business”, recorded that when he finally brought a message from the king ordering the creation of a firebreak, Sir Thomas seemed like “a man spent”.

“To the King’s message (to create a firebreak by pulling down houses), he cried, like a fainting woman, ‘Lord, what can I do? I am spent: people will not obey me. I have been pulling down houses, but the fire overtakes us faster than we can do it’.”

Another eyewitness describes him as looking like he was “frighted out of his wits” during the fire.

Sir Thomas’ own property at Gracechurch Street was among the casualties of the fire but he later built a new mansion in Maiden Lane.

He continued to serve as an MP after the fire and was, perhaps ironically, appointed to a committee working on a bill to provide “utensils” for the “speedy quenching of fire”. In the mid-1670s, he become one of the governing members of the Royal African Company.

Sir Thomas died on 12th May, 1682, aged around 60. He was apparently buried in Leatherhead.


• This year marks the 150th anniversary of the transatlantic cable connecting Europe and America and in celebration of the event, the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Art Gallery is holding an exhibition looking at the impact of cable telegraphy on people’s understanding of time, space and the speed of communication. Victorians Decoded: Art and Telegraphy, a collaboration between the gallery, King’s College London, The Courtauld Institute of Art and the Institute of Making at University College London, features never-before-seen paintings from the gallery’s collection as well as rare artefacts such as code books, communication devices, samples of transatlantic telegraph sales and ‘The Great Grammatizor’, a messaging machine that will enable the public to create a coded message of their own. It took nine years, four attempts and the then largest ship in the world, the Great Eastern, to lay the cable which stretched from Valentia Island in Ireland to Newfoundland in Canada and enabled same-day messaging across the continents for the first time. Displayed over four themed rooms – ‘Distance’, ‘Resistance’, ‘Transmission’ and ‘Coding’, the exhibition features works by artists including Edward John Pointer, Edwin Landseer, James Clarke Hook, William Logsdail, William Lionel Wyllie and James Tissot. The free exhibition, which runs until 22nd January, is accompanied by a series of special curator talks. For more information, see PICTURE: Commerce and Sea Power, William Lionel Wyllie/Courtesy Guildhall Art Gallery.

• The life of artist Sir James Thornhill – the painter behind the remarkable Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, has opened at The Stephen Lawrence Gallery in Greenwich. A Great and Noble Design: Sir James Thornhill’s Painted Hall explores the story behind the commissioning of the Painted Hall, painted between 1708 and 1727, through a series of preparatory sketches made by the artist, including three newly-conserved original sketches by Thornhill. Also on show will be the results of new research undertaken into the paintings in the light of upcoming conservation work on the hall’s ceiling. The free exhibition runs at the centre at Stockwell Street until 28th October. For more, see

The food served at the Foundling Hospital comes under scrutiny in a new show at The Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury. Based on new research, Feeding the 400 looks at the impact food and eating regimes had on children at the hospital between 1740 and 1950 through an examination of art, photographs, objects including tableware and the voices of former student captured in the museum’s extensive sound archive. Guest curated by Jane Levi, the exhibition also includes a newly commissioned sound work which evokes the experience of communal eating. A programme of events accompanies the exhibition which runs until the 8th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see

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st-olave-silver-streetMany of the monuments commemorating the Great Fire of London, date from succeeding centuries (the Monument being a notable exception), one of the earliest can apparently commemorating the site of the Church of St Olave Silver Street.

The church dated from at least the 12th century and is one of a number in London which were apparently named after King Olaf, the first Christian King of Norway who fought alongside the Anglo-Saxon King Ethelred II against the Danes in England in the 11th century.

The church served as the parish church of the silversmiths and apparently in recognition of that boasted a figure of Christ on the cross which had silver shoes.

The church had been rebuilt in the early 1600s but was completely destroyed in the Great Fire of London and never rebuilt, the parish united with that of St Alban Wood Street.

The site of the church, now on the corner of London Wall and Noble Street, is now a garden and boasts an almost illegible plaque featuring a skull and crossbones, which is believed to date from the late 17th century, and which commemorates the destruction of the church in the Great Fire.

PICTURE: © Chris Downer/CC BY-SA 2.0