Around London – ‘Cathedral of Middlesex’ to be opened in west London; Roman brothel token on display; wifi in Westminster and Kensington; and, looking at the Hajj at the British Museum…

February 2, 2012

• A medieval barn in west London, said to be the “Cathedral of Middlesex”, will open to the public in April. The Grade I listed Harmondsworth Barn was built in 1426 by Winchester College, who owned a manor farm at Harmondsworth, and was used to store grain. Nearly 60 metres long, the roof is held up by 13 massive oak trusses. In 2006, the barn was bought by an off-shore company who subsequently agreed to sell it to English Heritage following the issuing of a notice for emergency repairs. English Heritage say the barn, called the “Cathedral of Middlesex” by the late poet-laureate Sir John Betjeman, will now be “run by and for the local community”. “Harmondsworth Barn is one of the greatest medieval buildings in Britain, built by the same skilled carpenters who worked on our magnificent medieval cathedrals,” says Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage. “Its rescue is at the heart of what English Heritage does – protecting this nation’s architectural treasures and helping people discover our national story through them. We will complete the repair of this masterpiece and working with local people, will open it to the public to enjoy.” For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk. (Image: Copyright English Heritage; Photographer Boris Baggs).

The oldest Roman brothel token to have been discovered in London has gone on temporary display at the Museum of London. The token, which may be the oldest of its kind to have been found in Britain (or, indeed, even the only one of its kind ever found in Britain), was known as a spintria and depicts two reclining human figures on one side and the Roman numeral 14 on the other. It was found on the Thames foreshore near Putney Bridge by a mudlarker using a metal detector. Only the size of a 10 cent piece, its use remains something of a mystery – it may have been exchanged for sexual services or used as gaming piece. The token is on display at the museum until April. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

Free wifi is being rolled out across Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea as part of deal between Westminster City Council, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and network operator, O2. The network, installation of which began last month, is initially being rolled out in a limited number of areas but will eventually cover all of the boroughs and create the largest free wireless hub in Europe.

Now On: Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam. This exhibition at the British Museum is the first to focus on the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia – a central tenet of the Islamic faith. Organised in partnership with the King Abdulaziz Public Library in Riyadh, it’s based around three central themes: the pilgrim’s journey to Mecca with an emphasis on the major routes taken; the Hajj today and its associated rituals; and the origins and importance of the Hajj to Mecca. Objects featured in the exhibition include a seetanah which covers the door of the Ka’ba as well as gifts offered to the sanctuary and souvenirs taken back home. It’s the first of three exhibitions at the British Museum focused on spiritual journeys. Runs until 15th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

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