This Covent Garden establishment was founded by Daniel Button, a former servant in the household of the Countess of Warwick, in about 1712.

Button was apparently set up in the Russell Street business, located close to the Covent Garden Market, by newspaper writer and publisher Joseph Addison (who would marry the countess, Charlotte, in 1716) who, setting the example by giving the new premises his personal patronage, ensured it attracted a clientele of “wits” and intellectuals.

These had apparently previously frequented Will’s Coffee House which was located across the street from it but after the death of John Dryden, who was at the centre of this cloud, in 1700, the reputation of Will’s dropped. Enter Button’s.

The coffee house was particularly famous for a white marble letterbox in the shape of a lion’s head, said to have been designed by William Hogarth, which was nailed to the wall.

The concept had been imported from Venice where stone letterboxes, often carved into the shape of grotesque heads, were used by the governing body known as the Council of Ten to gather intelligence (and which informers would use to accuse fellow citizens of misdeeds).

People were encouraged to throw letters, limericks and other witty ephemera into the lion’s mouth, the best of which were then selected and published in Addison’s Guardian newspaper each week (Addison was also, famously, co-founder of The Spectator).

Daniel Button died in 1730 and the coffee house closed in 1751 after which the lion’s head was taken to the Shakespeare Tavern before going on to grace several establishments before the Duke of Bedford apparently took it to his country house at Woburn.

PICTURE: A carved lion’s head, with a tablet on which is engraved “Servantur Magnus ifticerbicibus ungues non nisi Delectâ Parcitur !!! e Fera”; originally displayed at Button’s coffee house. c1850 Watercolour, possibly by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd © The Trustees of the British Museum (licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

• Artworks by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Lucian Freud, Bridget Riley, David Hockney and Visa Celmins are on show in a new exhibition at the British Museum. Reflecting artistic developments in the past 100 years of modern art, Living with art: Picasso to Celmins features 30 prints and drawings. It showcases highlights from the wide-ranging collection of Alexander Walker (1930–2003), a longstanding film critic for London’s Evening Standard newspaper, which was bequeathed to the British Museum in 2004. The exhibition can be seen at the museum until 5th March before heading off on tour. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org. PICTURE: David Hockney (b. 1937), ‘Jungle Boy’ (1964) Etching and aquatint in black and red on mould-made paper © David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt.

Music festivals in Georgian Britain – from the Handel Commemoration of 1784 to the Crystal Palace concerts of the late 19th century – are explored in a new exhibition at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury. Music Festivals in Georgian Britain looks at the logistics behind the organisation of the concerts which followed on in the tradition of benefit concerts for charities as well as the expectations of audiences. Runs until 14th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see https://foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

The “extraordinary story” of German band Tangerine Dream is told in a new exhibition opening at the City of London’s Barbican Music Library today. Tangerine Dream: Zeitraffer features photographs, previously unpublished articles, video clips, and original synthesizers as it tells the story of the band – credited with laying the foundation for the Ambient and Trance music styles – from its founding in 1967 and the release of its first album, Electronic Meditation, in 1970 through to the latest album, Recurring Dreams, last year. The band, which has released more than 160 albums, has also composed the scores for more than 60 Hollywood films including Michael Mann’s Risky Business and Ridley Scott’s Legend as well as Firestarter, based on the Stephen King novel. In 2013, they also wrote the score for the record-breaking video game, Grand Theft Auto V, and their music has appeared in recent Netflix series, Stranger Things, Black Mirror and Mr Robot. Runs until 2nd May. Admission is free.

The stories of six “community curators” – each of whom has personal experience of migration – are at the centre of a new display at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Journeys, which explores themes of identity, belonging, migration and London’s multiculturalism, examines the contemporary relevance of works by the likes of Poussin, Rubens, Canaletto and Van Dyck against the backdrop of the life stories of the curators who, aged between 29 and 69, have a combined heritage spanning eight countries including Yemen, Sri Lanka, Italy, Pakistan and Ireland. Opens next Tuesday (21st January) and runs until 24th June with a special free late opening on 19th June during the final week which coincides with Refugee Week. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This bronze statue located at Tobacco Dock in Wapping commemorates an incident in 1857 in which a newly arrived Bengal tiger escaped from its wooden crate, terrorised the local population and absconded with a boy in its mouth.

The tiger, along with various other animals, had just arrived at a premises on Betts Street, just off the Ratcliffe Highway, which was owned by exotic animal trader Charles Jamrach, the man behind Jamrach’s Animal Emporium, when it made its break for freedom.

The boy, variously said to be seven, eight or nine-years-old, had apparently approached the tiger to pet it when the tiger took the boy by his jacket and carried him off in its mouth, presumably looking for a quiet place to consume its prey.

Jamrach followed, subsequently bailing up the tiger and, thrusting his cane into the big cat’s throat, forcing it to let go of the no-doubt terrified boy.

The tiger, which was guided back to its cage after the event, was subsequently sold for £300 to George Wombwell and went on to become a popular tourist attraction in his travelling menagerie.

Despite being relatively unharmed, the boy (variously described as seven, eight or nine, however, sued Jamrach and was awarded some £300 in damages – the same amount Jamrach had sold the animal for.

The statue is located near where the event happened by Tobacco Dock’s Pennington Street entrance.

PICTURE: Matt Brown (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Laurel & Hardy, Bugs Bunny, Mr Bean and Mary Poppins are among the big screen icons who are coming to Leicester Square as part of a new art installation taking up residence from late February. Scenes in the Square, an initiative of the Heart of London Business Alliance in partnership with Westminster City Council and major film studios, celebrates a century of cinema with a “trail” of interactive bronze statues. Other characters include Gene Kelly – hanging off a lamp-post as he appeared in 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain – and more modern heroes like Batman and Wonder Woman. Paddington will also be present with visitors able to sit on a bench and have lunch beside him. Several of the eight statues will be illuminated at night and the trail will be enhanced with interactive content including maps, video and music. It is hoped further characters will be introduced following a six month pilot period. PICTURES: Above – An artist’s impression of what the square will look like; Below – Models of Laurel and Hardy with the life-size Laurel and sculptor David Field in the background.


Lying just to the south of Greenwich Park, this famous common apparently derives its name from the colour of the soil (although some suggest it was the colour of the bracken or even the “bleakness” of the location).

On the route from Canterbury and Dover to London, the sometimes windswept locale has seen its share of historical events over the centuries. As well as hosting remains dating to both the Saxon and Roman eras, Blackheath was where the Danes set up camp in 1011-13 (it was during this time that they murdered the Archbishop of Canterbury, Alfege, probably on the site where St Alfege’s Church in Greenwich now stands).

It’s also where Wat Tyler assembled his peasant army during the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, where Jack Cade and his followers camped in 1450 during the Kentish Rebellion, and where King Henry VII defeated Michael Joseph and his Cornish rebels in 1497.

As well as uprisings, the heath has also seen its share of more joyous events. King Henry IV apparently met Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos here in 1400 before taking him back to Eltham Palace, King Henry V was welcomed by the Lord Mayor of London and aldermen here after his momentous victory at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, and King Charles II was welcomed here on his return to London during the Restoration. Less happily, in 1540 King Henry VIII met Anne of Cleves here for the first time.

During the 18th century, both John Wesley and George Whitefield preached to crowds on Blackheath. Meanwhile, legend has it that King James I founded England’s first golf club here in 1600s (the club joined with the Eltham Golf Club in the 1920s).

The heath, which also had a notorious reputation for highwaymen prior to residential development of the area in the late 18th century, has also been the site of fairs since at least the late 17th century.

But it wasn’t until the early 1800s that the “village” of Blackheath really formed, attracting the moderately well-to-do. The area received a significant boost as a residential locale close to London when the railway opened in 1849.

Significant buildings include All Saints’ Church which dates from 1857 and the entertainment venue known as the Blackheath Halls, built in 1895. The Georgian mansion known as the Ranger’s House – which parks on to Greenwich Park – is just to the north.

Notable residents have included early 20th century mathematician and astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington, 19th century philosopher and political economist John Stuart Mill, seaside cartoonist Donald McGill and polar explorer Sir James Clark Ross. American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne lived at 4 Pond Road in 1856.

Correction: Wesley and Whitefield  preached in the 18th century, not the 19th as originally stated. Apologies for any confusion!

PICTURES: Top – Aerial view of Blackheath (foshie; licensed under CC BY 2.0; image cropped); Below – Looking towards All Saints (Herry Lawford; licensed under CC BY 2.0)

The next couple in our year-long countdown

96. Treasures of London – Swiss Court…

95. Lost London – The Roman basilica and forum…

Now found in the newly opened Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries at the Science Museum in South Kensington, this stethoscope was made by the French physician René Laennec in about 1820.

Several years earlier, Laennec, working in a hospital in Paris, wanted to listen to a young woman’s heart beat but, for the sake of propriety he didn’t want to put his ear to her chest as was common practice. In sudden inspiration, he used a rolled up piece of paper with one end placed over her heart and his ear on the other open end.

It proved a good way to amplify sound and Laennec was so impressed he followed up by making brass and wooden versions like the one at the Science Museum., drawing on the skills he used, no doubt, he had previously used in making flutes.

Laennec called his invention the “stethoscope” (from the Greek word for chest, “stethos”). His invention was succeeded in the following decades by the creation of the modern binaural stethoscope with its two earpieces and dial for listening.

The Science Museum stethoscope is labelled. It reads: “This is one of Laennec’s original stethoscopes, and it was presented by him to Dr Bégin a French Army surgeon whose widow gave it to me in 1863.”

WHERE: Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries, Science Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington (nearest Tube is South Kensington); WHEN: 10am to 6pm daily; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.sciencemuseum.org.uk.

PICTURE: Laennec stethoscope made by Laennec, c1820. Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

It’s our first ‘This Week in London’ for 2020 so instead of our usual programming, we thought we’d briefly look at five key exhibitions that you won’t want to miss this year…

1. Thomas Becket at the British Museum. Marking the 850th anniversary of the murder of the medieval Archbishop of Canterbury on 29th December, 1170, the museum will host the first ever major exhibition on the life, death and legacy of the archbishop as part of a year-long programme of events which also includes performances, pageants, talks, film screenings and religious services. The exhibition will run from 15th October to 14th February, 2021. PICTURE: Alabaster sculpture, c 1450–1550, England. Here, Becket is shown kneeling at an altar, his eyes closed and his hands clasped in prayer, all the while four knights draw their swords behind him. To Becket’s right is the monk Edward Grim, whose arm was injured by one of the knight’s swords. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

2. Elizabeth and Mary at the British Library. This exhibition draws on original historic documents to  take a fresh look at what’s described as the “extraordinary and fascinating story of two powerful queens, both with a right to the English throne: Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots”. Letters and other 16th century documents will show how their struggle for supremacy in the isles played out. Runs from 23rd October to 21st February, 2021.

3. Tudors to Windsors at the National Maritime Museum. This major exhibition promises to give visitors “the opportunity to come face-to-face with the kings, queens and their heirs who have shaped British history and were so central to Greenwich”.  Including more than 150 works covering five royal dynasties, it will consider the development of royal portraiture over a period spanning 500 years and how they were impacted by the personalities of individual monarchs as well as wider historical changes. Will be held from April.

4. Gold and Glory: Henry VIII and the French King at Hampton Court Palace. Marking the 500th anniversary of the Field of Cloth of Gold – King Henry VIII’s landmark meeting with his great rival, the French King François I, the exhibition will feature a treasure trove of precious objects from the English and French courts as well as a never-before-seen tapestry, manufactured in the 1520s, which depicts a bout of wrestling at the meeting presided over by François and which also shows a black trumpeter among the many musicians depicted. Opens on 10th April. The palace will also play host this year to Henry VIII vs François I: The Rematch, a nine day festival of jousting, wrestling and foot combat complete with feasting, drinking and courtly entertainment. Runs from 23rd to 31st May.

5. Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I at the Queen’s House in Greenwich. This display brings together, for the first time, the three surviving versions of the iconic ‘Armada Portrait’ of Elizabeth I. The portrait commemorates the Spanish Armada’s failed attempt to invade England and the display will include the Royal Museums Greenwich’s own version of the painting along with that from the National Portrait Gallery and that which normally hangs in Woburn Abbey. Runs from 13th February to 31st August.

We’ll feature more details in stories throughout the coming year. But, of course, this is just a sample of what’s coming up this year – keep an eye on Exploring London for more…

Sitting at the foot of a statue of artist William Hogarth – described on the monument as the “father of English painting” but perhaps best known today for his satirical prints such as Gin Lane – in Chiswick High Road in London’s west is his beloved pug dog, Trump.

Trump, who famously features in Hogarth’s 1745 self-portrait, The Painter and his Pug (now at the Tate Britain), was one of several pugs owned by the artist over his career.

Trump, like the other dogs, appears in several of Hogarth’s works including the self-portrait and the 1746 work Captain Lord George Graham in his Cabin, now at the National Maritime Museum.

The dog was also the subject of a terracotta sculpture by Frenchman Louis-François Roubiliac, created to accompany a bust of Hogarth in 1741. It was later reproduced in porcelain versions and plaster casts of it were sold after Hogarth’s death in 1764. While the original of sculpture of the dog is lost, the bust of Hogarth can still be seen at the National Portrait Gallery.

Hogarth is often said to have compared himself to his dogs and his close connection was noted by others who used it to make fun of the artist including Paul Sandby who, in a 1753 etching, depicted Hogarth as half-pug.

The statue, which stands opposite the intersection with Turnham Green Terrace, is located not far from the country retreat where Hogarth lived – splitting his time between it and his Leicester Square townhouse – between 1749 and his death (now a museum known as Hogarth’s House; the artist is also buried nearby)

The work of Jim Matheison, it was unveiled by Ian Hislop and David Hockney in 2001.

 

Woodlands, former churches and secluded city parks are all among the top 10 most tranquil places in London, according to the Tranquil City Index. According to a list published by the London Evening Standard, the top 10 puts Woodberry Wetlands in Stoke Newington (pictured above) at number one followed by the church ruins (now a park) of St Dunstan-in-the-East in the City of London (below), Cody Dock at Bow Creek and Beckenham Place Park. Postman’s Park in the City of London comes in at number five, followed by the Red Cross Garden in Southwark, Myatt’s Fields Park in Camberwell, Southmere Lake at Thamesmead, the Japanese Garden in Hammersmith Park (pictured) and, at number 10, the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal. The index is the work of Tranquil City, an organisation which explores “our relationship with tranquillity in the urban environment to promote health, wellbeing and balance”. PICTURE: Top – diamond geezer (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0); Below – James Stringer (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0).

Thanks to Guinness World Records, Pearson Cycles in Sutton, south-west London, is officially not just London’s but the world’s oldest bicycle shop.

The premises was established by blacksmith Tom Pearson in about 1860 (when Sutton was still a town in Surrey and not at that stage part of London) and he soon found his skills put to use in working on bicycles.

In 1889, Tom was succeeded by his son Harry who moved full-time into the manufacture of bicycles with the Endeavour the first model.

The shop, at 126 High Street in Sutton, is now run by a fifth generation of the family, Guy and Will Pearson. The company also has a shop in East Sheen.

PICTURE: Tony Monblat (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/image cropped)

We’ll return to our regular programming next week but in the meantime, enjoy the next couple of entries in our year-long countdown…

98. Lost London – Bridewell Palace…

97. Lost London – Exeter/Essex House…

 

Did you know that 2020 marks 10 years since Exploring London first began…well…exploring London?

We’ll be celebrating our anniversary across the year in a number of ways including counting down our 100 most read stories ever…

So let’s kick off the countdown with numbers 100 and 99…

100. LondonLife – A new crown for King Henry VIII…

99. 10 sites of significance in Jane Austen’s London…1. 10 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden…

PICTURE: Adi Goldstein/Unsplash

Happy New Year!

December 31, 2019

Wishing you a great start to 2020 from Exploring London! PICTURE: Alexander London/Unsplash

2. Treasures of London – The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I…

and the most popular post of 2019…

1. Where’s London’s oldest…door?

4. 10 of London’s most curious (and historic) graves – A recap…

3. Lost London – The Mappin & Webb building…

6. 10 historic London hotels…5. The Great Western Hotel (Hilton London Paddington)…

5. This Week in London – City of London’s biggest rooftop viewing platform opens; Rembrandt at the British Museum; and, Franz West at the Tate…

8. Lost London – The Jerusalem Coffee House…

7. Lost London – South Sea House…

And so we come to our annual countdown of the most popular stories published in 2019. Without further ado here’s the first two…

10. 10 of London’s most curious (and historic) graves – 7. Ben Jonson (Westminster Abbey)…

9. 10 of London’s most curious (and historic) graves – 2. Hannah Courtoy…  

We’ll publish the next two tomorrow…

Hoping you have a wonderful Christmas! PICTURE: johnc001 (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)