The exchanging of gifts on Queen Elizabeth II’s official engagements both in the UK and overseas is the subject of a special exhibition at this year’s summer opening of the Buckingham Palace State Rooms. Displayed throughout the rooms are more than 250 objects from more than 100 countries and territories and among the gifts on show is the Vessel of Friendship (pictured), a model of a 15th century ‘treasure ship’ sailed by Chinese navigator and diplomat Zeng He which was presented to the Queen by President Xi Jinping of China during a State Visit to Buckingham Palace in October, 2015. There’s also a colourful beaded Yoruba throne presented to the Queen by the people of Nigeria in 1956, a pair of baskets woven from coconut leaves given by Queen Salote Tupou III of Tonga during a visit by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in 1953, and a wooden totem pole presented to the Queen during a visit to Canada in 1971. Royal Gifts can be seen at the palace from Saturday until 1st October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk. PICTURE: Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017.

The lives of some of London’s most popular entertainers is the subject of a new exhibition at the London Metropolitan Archives in Clerkenwell. Life on the London Stage employs documents, prints and photographs to depict the lives of entertainers from the days of the Elizabethan theatre through to the 20th century. Among those whose lives are depicted are everyone from Edmund Keen and Dame Ellen Terry to Sir Henry Irving and Charlie Chaplin. Objects on show include documents recording the tragic life of William Shakespeare’s brother Edmund Shakespeare, Sir Laurence Olivier’s orders for bespoke boots and letters from Carry On actor Kenneth Williams to a young fan. Runs until 6th December. Admission is free. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/lma.

Three time British Open champion and perhaps the first ‘celebrity golfer’ Henry Cotton has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque. The plaque, which was unveiled earlier this month, is located at the golfer’s former home at 47 Crystal Palace Road in East Dulwich. Cotton lived there with his family during his early years and developed the skills that would later lead to his success in the sport. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

Head to the countryside at Kew Gardens as it hosts an ‘Insect Adventure Camp’ in its newly named ‘Natural Area’ of native woodlands this summer. The camp features bell tents, woodland houses, picnic tables and trails which will host a series of family-friendly activities including animation workshops, insect safaris and the chance to explore specimens under a microscope. Other attractions at the gardens this summer include a virtual reality climbing experience following head arborist Tony Kirkham as he scales at 150-year-old Giant Redwood, the return of the kitchen gardens, the Hive installation and the Kew Science Festival. Admission charges apply. Dates vary for different events, so head to www.kew.org for more information.

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As you may have realised (the new £10 banknote anyone?), this month marks 200 years since the death of Jane Austen in Winchester on 18th July, 1817, so to mark the occasion, we’re looking at 10 sites of interest from Jane Austen’s London. To kick off our new Wednesday series, we’re looking at one of the locations where she is known to have resided while in London – number 10 Henrietta Street.

Number 10 in those days was the location of a bank – Austen, Maunde and Tilson – in which Jane’s older (and favourite) brother Henry was a partner. Above the bank’s offices was a flat Henry moved into after the death of his wife Eliza in 1813. It was also where Jane stayed when visiting publishers in the summer of 1813 and again in March, 1814, the latter when she was working on the proofs of Mansfield Park.

As well as a dining room at the front on the first floor, it had a sitting parlour, small drawing room and bedchambers (Jane is known to have stayed in one on the second floor). She described the property as “all dirt & confusion, but in a very promising way”.

Austen is known to have visited nearby theatres including the Lyceum and the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane while staying in London and during 1813 also visited the “blockbuster” exhibition of Sir Joshua Reynold’s paintings at the British Institute in Pall Mall ( a fascinating reconstruction of which can be found here).

A City of Westminster Green Plaque (erected in partnership with the Jane Austen Society) commemorates Jane’s stay here.

PICTURE: Diane Griffiths/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The 25.2 metre long skeleton of a blue whale named Hope along with that of an American mastodon, a meteorite which is one of the oldest specimens in Earth, a taxidermal display of a giraffe and giant coral are among items on display in the Natural History Museum’s newly transformed Hintze Hall from tomorrow. Selected from the museum’s more than 80 million specimens, the sometimes historic items are at the heart of 10 new displays which go on show in the ground floor alcoves known as ‘wonder bays’ as part of what is being described as a “once-in-a-generation” transformation of the 136-year-old museum. The 10 ‘wonder bays’ include five on the eastern side of the building focused on the origins and evolution of life on earth while those on the western side show the diversity of life on earth today. Elsewhere in the museum, hundreds of new specimens have been introduced including those in two new displays on the first floor balconies: the ‘Rocks and Minerals Balcony’ on the east side which features almost 300 rocks, ores and minerals and the ‘Birds Balcony’ on the west side which features more than 70 birds from as far afield as New Zealand and the Falkland Islands. To coincide with the new displays is the launch of a new summer exhibition – Whales – which features more than 100 specimens showing the diversity of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Featuring species ranging from the double-decker bus sized sperm whale – the largest toothed predator on Earth – to the 1.5 metre long harbour porpoise – one of the smallest cetaceans, the exhibition’s highlights include skulls revealing how whales sense and their eating habits, organs showing how they breathe and digest food and flippers which reveal swimming styles. For more on the exhibition and the transformation of the South Kensington museum, see www.nhm.ac.uk. PICTURE: Blue whale in Hintze Hall © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London.

The mysterious fate of Sir John Franklin and his 128 man crew – last seen in Baffin Bay in July, 1845, as they sailed in search of the North-West Passage – is the subject of a new landmark exhibition opening at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich tomorrow. Death In The Ice: The Shocking Story of Franklin’s Final Expedition tells the story of the disappearance of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror and the largely unsuccessful expeditions which were launched in the following 30 years to find them as well as the more recent work of forensic anthropologist, Dr Owen Beattie, and the 1845–48 Franklin Expedition Forensic Anthropology Project (FEFAP), and the eventual discovery of the remains of the HMS Erebus in 2014 and the HMS Terror in 2016. At the heart of the exhibition are objects found by Parks Canada’s archaeological teams including personal items, clothing and ship components with those from the Erebus, including the ship’s bell, being shown for the very first time since their discovery and some items found in earlier searches. Along with an examination of the Victorians fascination with the fate of the men, the exhibition will also show the significant role the Inuit played in learning their fate as well as in relation to recording the European exploration of the Arctic more generally and includes numerous Inuit objects, some of which incorporate materials of European origins traded from explorers or retrieved from abandoned ships. Developed by the Canadian Museum of History in partnership with Parks Canada and the National Maritime Museum and in collaboration with the Government of Nunavut and the Inuit Heritage Trust, the exhibition runs until 7th January. Admission charge applies. For more see www.rmg.co.uk/franklin.

Fifty drawings from Britain’s finest collections by artists including Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Durer, Peter Paul Rubens and Rembrandt van Rijn and eight portraits by Hans Holbein the Younger from the Royal Collection have gone on show at the National Portrait Gallery. The Encounter: Drawings from Leonardo to Rembrandt includes many rarely seen works with all those on show chosen because they captured an apparent moment of connection between the artist and a sitter. While some of those pictured in the portraits can be identified – such as the emperor’s chaplain or the king’s clerk, many are simply faces seen in the street, such as those of a nurse or a shoemaker or an artist’s friend or student. The display also includes the types of tools and media used to create the artworks and shows how the artists moved away from using medieval pattern books to studying figures and faces from life. Runs until 22nd October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk/encounter.

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We have finished our series on 10 of the most memorable (and historic) views of London. And while there’s plenty of views we didn’t mention (we’ll be featuring more in an upcoming series at some point), we think we have captured 10 worth seeing. So, in case you missed any, here they are again…

1. View from St Paul’s Cathedral’s dome…

2. The city skyline from Primrose Hill…

3. View from General Wolfe, Greenwich…

4. View from King Henry’s Mound, Richmond Park…

5. View from the top of The Monument…

6. View from Parliament Hill…

7. View of the Houses of Parliament from across the Thames…

8. View from Point Hill, Greenwich…

9. High level views from Tower Bridge…

10. View of Maritime Greenwich…

We’ll kick off our new special Wednesday series next week…


A rainy day in Marylebone. PICTURE: Anjana Menon/Unsplash.

The Ship & Shovell just off the western end of the Strand takes its name from Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell who lived nearby in May Street.

Shovell (1650-1707), like the more famous seaman Horatio Nelson, was a rare achiever – he joined the navy at the age of 13 as a cabin boy and rose to earn a commission, an unusual accomplishment at a time when most were purchased.

Described as the “best officer of his age”, he was eventually made Commander in Chief of the English Fleet having taken part in the capture of Gibraltar as well as Barcelona, but was killed after a disastrous shipwreck off the Isles of Scilly in 1707.

The story goes that when his flagship, the Association, foundered, he had washed up on St Mary’s Island and was killed by a woman for the emerald ring he was wearing – she apparently later confessed (we’ll take a longer look at Sir Cloudesley’s fascinating life in an upcoming Famous Londoners).

The pub itself, located at 1-3 Craven Passage close to Charing Cross and Embankment, originally dates from around 1740 but has been updated several times since, most latterly after, having been left derelict for more than 15 years, it was restored and reopened in 1996.

Another part of the pub was opened across the street a couple of years later, making this a rather unique set-up in that it’s apparently the only London pub with two sections facing each other from either sides of the laneway.

Part of the Hall & Woodhouse group. For more on the pub, see http://shipandshovell.co.uk.

PICTURE: Andrew Bowden/CC BY-SA 2.0

Located in Gracechurch Street in the City of London, this church was first recorded in the late 12th century (although there had apparently been a church here for some time earlier) and was named for St Benedict of Nursia, the founder of Western monasticism (St Benet is apparently a short form of that name).

The church, which stood on the intersection with Fenchurch Street and is among a number of London churches dedicated to that particular saint, is sometimes called St Benet Grass Church – that name apparently relates to a nearby haymarket (see our earlier post on Gracechurch Street).

Records apparently show that during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary I, Biblical texts which had been added to the interior walls during the earlier reign of her brother, the Protestant King Edward VI, were removed.

The church was repaired in the early 17th century but subsequently destroyed in the Great Fire of London. It was among 51 churches rebuilt in the aftermath to the designs of the office of Sir Christopher Wren.

It continued on until 1864 when the parish was united with All Hallows, Lombard Street, which was later among a number of churches united with St Edmund the King and Martyr in Lombard Street.

The church building – its spire had come in for some criticism – was demolished just a couple of years later in 1867-68 (its removal helped to widen Fenchurch Street) and the site apparently sold for £24,000.

The pulpit is now in St Olave, Hart Street, and the plate was split between St Benet in Mile End Road – which was built with the proceeds of the sale of the church land – and St Paul’s Shadwell. (St Benet Gracechurch was apparently only one of two of Wren’s churches never to have an organ).

There’s a plaque marking the location of the church at 60 Gracechurch Street. The narrow street St Benet’s Place also references the former church.

PICTURE: St Benet Gracechurch in the 1820s from The Churches of London by George Godwin (1839)/Via Wikipedia.

 

• An new exhibition marking the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Royal Naval Service opens at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich on Saturday. The free display explores the lives and experiences of the women who served and trained at Greenwich, spanning the period from World War I to the late 1970s. As well as covering the role of the WRNS during the first and second World Wars, the exhibition also looks at the post war experiences of the Wrens and features 16 new interviews and rarely seen photographs which bring to life this chapter in the history of the Old Royal Naval College. The exhibition can be seen until 3rd December. Entry is free. For more, www.ornc.org/wrns. PICTURE: Newly commissioned WRNS officers at Greenwich, 1969. Courtesy Old Royal Naval College.

An English Heritage blue plaque commemorating Stella Reading, founder of the Women’s Voluntary Services, was unveiled at the organisation’s former London headquarters this week. Lady Reading (1894-1971) founded the “army that Hitler forgot” from a single room in the building in 1938 with the so-called ‘ladies in green’ going on to serve in a range of roles – from looking after child evacuees and collecting aluminium for aircraft to serving thousands of cups of tea from static and mobile canteens. The plaque at 41 Tothill Street in Westminster was unveiled by actress and Royal Voluntary Service ambassador Dame Patricia Routledge. For more on blue plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

A year-long season of Korean art in the UK is being launched with a free festival at Olympia London this Saturday. The family-friendly London Korean Festival features food tastings, Korean drumming, martial arts exhibitions, traditional craft workshops and a sneak peak at the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang using the latest VR technology. There’s also a chance for budding K-Pop stars to audition for the K-Pop World Festival and a ticketed evening concert at 7pm featuring four K-pop sensations. The free daytime festival runs from 11am to 5.30pm. For more information, visit www.kccuk.org.uk. Tickets for the K-Pop concert can be obtained at londonkoreanfestival.co.uk.

On Now: Picturing Hetty Feather. This exhibition at The Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury explores the depiction of the Foundling Hospital through the life of the fictitious Victorian foundling Hetty Feather. Feather first came to life in 2008 and Dame Jacqueline Wilson has since gone on to write four more books about the spirited character, the first two of which feature the Foundling Hospital. The popularity of the books, which have sold millions of copies, has resulted in a stage show and TV series. This exhibition, the first devoted to Hetty Feather and the Foundling Hospital, explores the ways in which curators, writers, directors and designers have used historical evidence (and gaps in it) to bring the 19th century hospital to life. Objects on show include props and original costumes from the CBBC TV series as well as treasures from the Foundling Hospital Collection and the exhibition also includes immersive experiences such as the chance for visitors to try on costumes, try their hand at script writing and discover their own ‘picturing’ abilities (a reference to the imaginative story-telling Hetty employs to help her cope with life’s challenges). Runs until 3rd September. Admission charge applies. For more (including information on associated events), see foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

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For the final in our series of memorable (and historic) views of London, we’re returning to Greenwich, except this time we’re looking across the River Thames from the southern end of the Isle of Dogs at some of the historic buildings of maritime Greenwich.

The splendid view from Island Gardens on the north bank of the Thames today reveals Sir Christopher Wren’s Old Royal Naval College, the Queen’s House and beyond that the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park. But it wasn’t always so.

Prior to its demolition by King Charles II in 1660, this was the site of a royal palace known Greenwich Palace or the Palace of Placentia which had occupied the site since the mid-15th century (and was rebuilt by King Henry VII in the late 15th/early 16th centuries).

Charles decided to demolish it to build a new palace on the site but only a section of it was ever completed and it was never used as a royal palace. In the late 17th century, Greenwich Hospital – incorporating what was built of Charles’ palace – was constructed on the site as a home for retired sailors from the Royal Navy. From 1869, it was used as the Royal Naval College and now houses a range of organisations (see our previous post here for more).

The Queen’s House, which lies at the centre of the view, was designed by Inigo Jones and started on the orders of Anne of Denmark, wife of King James I. But it remained unfinished when Queen Anne died in 1614 and it was Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I, who completed it. The house these days serves as a gallery (for more, see our earlier post here).

Behind the Queen’s House can be seen the Royal Observatory, home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian (see our previous post here) – as well as, of course, the (previously aforementioned) statue of General Wolfe. Also in the modern view from Island Gardens is the Cutty Sark and the National Maritime Museum.

It’s believed that the view from where Island Gardens now stands is that replicated in Canaletto’s painting, Greenwich Hospital from the North Bank of the Thames (although, oddly, whether Canaletto ever actually visited the site is apparently a matter of some dispute).

Greenwich Park and the buildings on the other side of the river can be accessed from the park Island Gardens by the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

WHERE: Island Gardens on the north bank of the River Thames (nearest DLR is Island Gardens); WHEN: Anytime; COST: Free; WEBSITE: (For Greenwich Park across the river – www.royalparks.gov.uk/Greenwich-Park.aspx).

PICTURE:Top –  Paul Hudson/Flickr/CC BY 2.0; Below – David Adams

PICTURE: designerpoint/Pixabay

This week we pay tribute to author Michael Bond, who died last week at the age of 91, with a look at the life of his most famous literary creation – and an iconic London character – Paddington Bear.

Paddington came to life in the late 1950s after, on Christmas Eve, 1956, Bond, then working as a BBC cameraman, famously purchased a teddy bear as a present for his wife, Brenda. He named it Paddington thanks to the fact that they were living near Paddington Station at the time.

The first book featuring Paddington – A Bear Called Paddington – apparently only took 10 days to write and was published on 13th October, 1958, by William Collins & Son.

Paddington, the story goes, arrived in London’s Paddington Station as a stowaway sent from “deepest, darkest Peru” by his Aunt Lucy who had gone to live at a Home for Retired Bears in Lima (his aunt had taken him in after he was orphaned in an earthquake).

The bear – who is based on the Spectacled Bear, South America’s only native bear species – was found at the station near the lost property office by Mr and Mrs Brown, wearing an old bush hat and sitting on his suitcase with a label around his neck which read “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” (The label, Bond later revealed, was inspired by memories he had of evacuees fleeing the Blitz in London).

The Browns named the bear Paddington after he told them they wouldn’t be able to pronounce his real name (it’s actually Pastuso) and took him to their home at 32 Windsor Gardens (for more on that location, see our earlier post here) where he subsequently lived with them, their children Judy and Jonathan and housekeeper Mrs Bird. The family learn that he had made the journey from Peru in a lifeboat and had been sustained by marmalade along the way – his favourite food.

The subsequent stories – Bond wrote 13 novels as well as picture books and, thanks to the success of the early books, he was able to retire from the BBC to concentrate on writing in 1965 – focused on Paddington’s adventures in London. As well as the books – which have sold millions of copies around the world, there’s also been several TV series and a 2014 film, Paddington, with a sequel, Paddington 2, to be released later this year.

Among other interesting facts about Paddington, who commonly is seen wearing a blue duffel coat (with a hood and wooden toggles) and Wellington boots, is that he has two birthdays – the Browns weren’t sure how old he was so they started at age one and agreed he would have two birthdays each year – one on Christmas Day and the other on 25th June. He also often carries a marmalade sandwich under his hat “in case of emergencies”.

There’s a life-sized statue of Paddington at Paddington Station (the work of Marcus Cornish, it was unveiled by Bond in 2000, three years after the author had received an OBE for his services to children’s literature – a CBE followed in 2015 ), and in a touching tribute after Bond’s death, people have been leaving marmalade jars alongside it. There’s also an artwork depicting Bond with his creation at the southern end of St Mary’s Terrace, one of a series of works depicting famous local people (pictured).

Vale Michael Bond.

For more on Paddington, check out the official site www.paddington.com.

PICTURE: Loz Pycock/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0 (image cropped)

Restored and altered as part of the creation of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s £54.5 million Exhibition Road Quarter project, the screen was originally built in 1909 to conceal the museum’s boilers. 

Named for renowned architect Sir Aston Webb, who designed the screen as part of his masterplan of the V&A conceived in the last 1800s (but who is perhaps most famous for designing the facade of Buckingham Palace), the screen originally featured a solid stone wall along Exhibition Road on the museum’s west side topped with a colonnade (through which glimpses of the buildings behind could be seen) and featuring a central arch through which to enter the museum.

The screen, which was damaged during World War II by shrapnel, later had black metal gates fitted in the arch for security. They were topped by a large coat-of-arms.

Under the guidance of architect Amanda Levete and her practice AL_A, the work – which actually involved moving the screen off-site in 2013 and then reassembling its 1375 stones last year – has seen the removal of the wall so that people now have 11 entrances into the courtyard beyond (now redesigned as the porcelain-tiled Sackler Courtyard).

Which means the screen that was once designed to hide what was beyond it has been recast to reveal it instead.

The screen – and the Exhibition Road Quarter project as a whole – is being unveiled to the public today. The V&A is hosting a week long event to celebrate the completion of the project.

WHERE: Aston Webb Screen, Exhibition Road entrance, Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington (nearest Tube station is South Kensington); WHEN: Anytime; COST: free; WEBSITE: www.vam.ac.uk

PICTURE: The Aston Webb Screen, the V&A Exhibition Road Quarter, designed by AL_A ©Hufton+Crow

 

 

The Victoria and Albert Museum is celebrating the opening of its ‘Exhibition Road Quarter’ with a week long public festival featuring art, performances, fashion and family activities. Kicking off tomorrow (Friday), the REVEAL festival also coincides with the museum’s 165th anniversary. It opens with a music and digital-themed Friday Late, hosted in the Boiler Room, and culminates on 7th July with Fashion in Motion, four special catwalk shows in the new Sainsbury Gallery featuring Molly Goddard, British emerging talent winner at the 2016 Fashion Awards. Other events during the week include an immersive light experience by Simon Heijdens, a special performance by Julie Cunningham & Company responding to Yoko Ono’s ‘Dance Pieces’, a new hybrid opera by Anat Ben-David, and musical performances with the Royal College of Music and Albert’s Band from the Royal Albert Hall. The week also includes collaborations with partners from across Exhibition Road, including Discover South Kensington, Imperial College London, the Natural History Museum, Royal Albert Hall, the Royal College of Music and the Science Museum. The V&A’s Exhibition Road Quarter has been designed by Stirling Prize-winning architect Amanda Levete and her practice AL_A and, the museum’s largest architectural intervention in the past 100 years, it comes with new public areas and gallery spaces as well as revealing the historic facades of the existing Grade I buildings. The new spaces include the 1,100 square metre Sainsbury Gallery, the all-porcelain Sackler Courtyard and a new entrance from Exhibition Road, The Blavatnik Hall. A 1909 feature – the Astor Webb screen – has also been restored and incorporated into the design. Entry to the festival is free. For more, see vam.ac.uk/reveal. PICTURE: The Sackler Courtyard and Cafe, V&A Exhibition Road Quarter, designed by AL_A.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has called on Londoners from all communities to join in this year’s Eid Festival celebrations in Trafalgar Square as a gesture of solidarity with those affected by the Finsbury Park attack and the Grenfell Tower fire, which, like Finsbury Park, affected many Muslim families. The event, held to mark the end of Ramadan, will feature live music and performances, arts and crafts, exhibitions, calligraphy, henna, face painting and food from across the world. Highlights include Rai musician Cheb Nacim, British Sudanese artist Rasha from the Shubbak festival, children’s writer Hajera Memon – who will be promoting her childrens’ book Hats of Faith, beat-boxer Omar Sammur, breakdancer Hakim, and a bazaar-style market area. The free event runs between noon and 6pm. For more, see www.london.gov.uk/eid.

A series of newly commissioned installations exploring perceptions and connections to colour have gone on show at the Design Museum. Breathing Colour, by designer Hella Jongerius is an installation-based exhibition that blurs the boundaries between art and design. The display is divided into separate spaces that simulate light conditions at morning, noon and evening and explore the impact of changing light on our perception of colour. Each of the three spaces includes a series of three dimensional objects as well as textiles, some of which have been hand-woven. Runs until 24th September at the Kensington High Street premises. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.designmuseum.org.

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Another view which owes its existence to the Victorians is that from the walkways adjoining the twin towers of the iconic Tower Bridge.

Built between 1886 and 1894, the bridge, the most sophisticated bascule bridge then in existence, was designed with two open-to-the-elements high level walkways, located 42 metres above the Thames, which enabled pedestrians to cross the bridge even when it was raised.

But the walkways didn’t prove popular – people apparently preferred to wait until the bridge was lowered rather than climb the 200 or so steps up and then down to use the walkways. The absence of people meant the walkways became the haunt of some ‘disreputable’ people – prostitutes and pickpockets are the most commonly cited. In 1910, they were closed.

It wasn’t until 1982 that the walkways were opened up once again, allowing visitors to enjoy a view that had been barred to the public for some 72 years.

As well as providing panoramic views to the east and west down the River Thames, the walkways these days contain an exhibition on ‘Great Bridges of the World’ as well as, since 2014, the chance to walk on the 11 metre long glass floor (and, if it’s not doing so in real life, see the bridge raised below via the augmented reality ‘Raise the Bridge’ app).

And don’t worry, the steps have been joined by elevators for those who can’t make the stair climb.

WHERE: Tower Bridge (nearest Tube station is Tower Hill and London Bridge); WHEN: 10am to 5.30pm (until September); COST: £9.80 an adult/£3.90 child (aged five to 15)/£6.80 adult concession (family tickets also available as well as joint tickets to the Monument); WEBSITE: www.towerbridge.org.uk/walkways.

PICTURES: Top – Tower Bridge with its two high level walkways (David Adams); Below – View of the glass floor in the walkways (Matt Brown/Flickr/CC BY 2.0/cropped image)


PICTURE: Clem Onojeghuo/Unsplash


There are several 19th century bandstands in London but we believe the oldest still standing is in Hyde Park.

This octagonal, Grade II-listed, bandstand was originally located in the adjoining Kensington Gardens (near Mount Gate),  having been built in 1869, only eight years after the first ever bandstand in London had been installed in the nearby Royal Horticultural Gardens in Kensington.

It was moved to Hyde Park in 1886 – it can now be found on the north side of Serpentine Road, just to the north-west of Hyde Park Corner – and concerts were apparently held here three times a week in the 1890s. (Another bandstand was erected in Kensington Gardens in the 1930s).

Featuring cast iron decorative columns and a tent roof, the Hyde Park bandstand appeared in the 1935 film, Top Hat, which starred Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (although the building in the film was actually a replica located on a Hollywood soundstage). Others who have ‘played’ the bandstand include the famous trumpeter Harry Mortimer.

The bandstand, which is now one of the oldest in Britain, is still used for concerts on occasion as well as being part of the annual Winter Wonderland event. Check The Royal Parks website for details of when events are scheduled here.

PICTURE: Claire Ward/Geograph/CC BY-SA 2.0

The lives of three German princesses whose marriages into the British royal family during the Georgian era placed them right at the heart of progressive thinking in 18th century Britain are the subject of a new exhibition which opens at Kensington Palace today. Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte and the Shaping of the Modern World looks at how these three women – committed patrons of the arts and sciences – “broke the mould” in terms of their contributions to society, through everything from advocating for the latest scientific and medical advances to supporting the work of charities, changing forever the role women played in the British royal family. Caroline and Charlotte became queens consort to King George I and King George III respectively while Princess Augusta was at various times Princess of Wales, Regent and Princess Dowager (as mother to King George III) and between them, they had more than 30 children. But alongside their busy family lives, they also were at the centre of glittering courts where the likes of writers Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift, scientist Isaac Newton and composer George Frideric Handel as well as successive Prime Ministers and international statesmen were welcomed. The display features almost 200 objects owned by the princesses, such as Charlotte’s hand-embroidered needlework pocketbook, pastels painted by their children and artworks and fine ceramics commissioned by some of the greatest artists and craftsmen of their day. The exhibition, which has previously been at the Yale Center for British Art, runs until 12th November. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/.

The UK’s first major exhibition featuring the watercolours of Anglo-American artist John Singer Sargent in almost 100 years has opened at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London. Sargent: The Watercolours features almost 80 works produced between 1900 and 1918, what was arguably his greatest period of watercolour production. Sargent mastered the art during expeditions in southern Europe and the Middle East and the show features landscapes, architecture and figurative scenes, drawing attention to the most radical aspects of his work – his use of close-up, his unusual use of perspective and the dynamic poses of his figures. The works include The Church of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice (c1904-1909), the mountain landscape Bed of a Torrent (1904), and figure study The lady with the umbrella (1911). The exhibition runs until 8th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk. PICTURE: John Singer Sargent – Pool in the Garden of La Granja, c. 1903, Private Collection

The 249th Summer Exhibition has opened at the Royal Academy with Mark Wallinger, Yinka Shonibare and Antony Gormley among those with works on show. About 1,200 works are featured in the display with highlights including Shonibare’s Wind Sculpture VI, a new large scale work from Gilbert & George’s ‘Beard Speak’ series and, for the first time, a focus on construction coordination drawings, showing the full complexity of a building, in the Architecture Gallery. Runs until 20th August. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

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Another of London’s protected views, though perhaps lesser known, is the panoramic vista from the top of Point Hill in Blackheath towards the City.

The view from a small park known as The Point (reached via Point Hill, just to the west of Blackheath) takes in modern City skyscrapers as well as Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral and even the dome of the Old Bailey.

While there is a danger the growth of plants along the brow of the hill can partially block the view (which stretches as far as Essex), it remains a splendid site from which to view the city and no doubt was a vantage point for those, such as the leaders of the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, who historically gathered on Blackheath before marching to London.

The park, meanwhile, is host to a memorial stone erected to mark the site where an Australian-born RAF pilot, Flight Lieutenant Richard Carew Reynell, fell to his death on 7th September, 1940, after his Hurricane fighter was shot down over Blackheath on the first day of the Blitz.

PICTURE: © Mike Mojopin/Flickr

Floral tributes for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster outside the Notting Hill Methodist Church. PICTURE: ChiralJon/CC BY 2.0. (image cropped)