Around London – Cutty Sark to reopen next month; Bed of Ware leaves V&A; and, Quentin Blake at the Foundling Museum…

• London landmark, the 19th century tea clipper Cutty Sark, will reopen to the public on 26th April following a five year, £50 million conservation project. Visitors to the ship will now be able to explore the vessel as well as, for the first time, walk under the ship after it was raised three metres above the dry dock. A glass canopy has been designed to protect the base of the ship’s hull. The Cutty Sark was built in 1869 by ship-builders Scott & Linton at Dumbarton, Scotland, and, one of the last tea clippers built, was designed to move very fast through the water. After the tea trade was taken over by steamers, the Cutty Sark was used to carry more general trade including wool from Australia. Later sold to a Portuguese company and renamed Ferriera, in 1922 Captain Dowman of Falmouth bought the ship and used her in the floating nautical school. Following his death, the clipper was donated to the Thames Nautical Training School at Greenhithe. After the formation of the Cutty Sark Preservation Society in the early 1950s, the ship was moved to Greenwich and permanently installed in a stone dry-dock where the clipper’s appearance restored to that of an active sailing vessel. In November 2006, the ship rig was dismantled in preparation for a full restoration project – this received a set back the following 21st May a fire broke out aboard the ship. But with the restoration now complete, the ship will once again accommodate visitors wishing to explore its 140 year history. For more on the Cutty Sark, see www.cuttysark.org.uk. PICTURE: © Cutty Sark London

• A treasure of the V&A Museum, the 16th century Great Bed of Ware, is being loaned to the Ware Museum, located not surprisingly in the Hertfordshire town of Ware, for a year from early next month. Believed to date from around 1590 and to have been made in Ware, the bed is believed to have been created as a tourist attraction for people traveling the pilgrim route between London and Walsingham or Cambridge University. More than three metres wide, it was said to be able to sleep 12 people and was such an attraction that people apparently stopped in Ware for the night just to sleep in the bed.  It’s even mentioned in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night – the author has Sir Toby Belch describe a piece of paper as “big enough for the Bed of Ware”. The bed was acquired by the V&A in 1931 and hasn’t left the museum since. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.

• Now On: Quentin Blake – As large as life. This exhibition at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury features more than 60 works by artist Quentin Blake, best known for his illustrations of Roald Dahl’s books and Britain’s first Children’s Laureate. The works – which are recent commissions by UK and French hospitals – are contained in four series of pictures which are displayed throughout the museum. They include Our Friends in the Circus – a 2009 series featuring circus performers, Ordinary Life – a 2o10 series celebrating the “pleasures of everyday life”, the 2007 work Planet Zog – a 2007 series in which aliens and young people swap doctor and patient roles, and Mothers and Babies Underwater – a 2011 series created for a French maternity ward. Admission charge applies. The event draws on the long history of artists’ aiding the work of hospitals and child welfare organisations – including William Hogarth who donated paintings to the Foundling Museum. Runs until 15th April. For more information, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

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