Located at the southern end of West Carriage Drive – the road which divides Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park – are bronze-painted cast iron gates which were made for the Great Exhibition of 1851.
The gates are named for their manufacturer, the Coalbrookdale Company in Shropshire, and were designed by Charles Crookes.
Each of the gates were cast in one piece and feature cherubs or mer-children below gold crowns atop the finials. There are stags head urns sitting atop Portland stone pillars bearing Queen Victoria’s monograms at either end.
The gates were originally positioned as an entrance to the Great Exhibition and were known as the Queen’s Gate (due to their being through which Queen Victoria entered).
The gates were moved here from their original position during the construction of the Albert Memorial in 1871.
The now Grade II-listed gates were damaged by a bomb during World War II. They were restored in 2000.
• A letter written by Sir Christopher Wren requesting stone for the construction of the Royal Hospital for Seamen in Greenwich is on display in the Painted Hall vestibule. Wren wrote the letter requesting 2,000 tonnes of Portland stone to Thomas Gilbert, overseer of the King’s Quarries of the Isle of Portland, on 11th October, 1700. It is being displayed along with information explaining how the stone was brought from Dorset to London. The display is one of a series of events taking place at the Old Royal Naval College marking the 300th anniversary of Wren’s death on 25th February, 1723. Can be seen until January, 2024. An admission charge applies. For more, see https://ornc.org/whats-on/painted-hall-display-letter-written-by-sir-christopher-wren/. For more on events surrounding the 300th anniversary of Wren’s death, head to https://ornc.org/celebrating-wren300/.
• Slavery, the cruel segregationist policies of the Jim Crow era, and the civil rights movement in the southern United States are all explored in a new exhibition at the Royal Academy.Souls Grown Deep like the Rivers: Black Artists from the American South, features around 64 works – including assemblages, sculpture, paintings, reliefs, and drawings – by 34 artists spanning the period from the mid-20th century to the present. Drawn mostly from the collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia, many of the works are being seen in Europe for the first time. The display in the Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries also features quilts by the celebrated quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, and the neighbouring communities of Rehoboth and Alberta. Opening on Friday, the exhibition can be seen until 18th June. Admission charge applies. For more, see royalacademy.org.uk.
• Three masterpieces from The National Gallery’s collection – by Hogarth, Gainsborough and the Le Nain Brothers – have gone on show at The Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury as part of a new exhibition exploring what family is and can be.Finding Family examines the ways in which artists have represented and responded to ideas of family with reference to the historic paintings as well as contemporary works of art. The art is accompanied by creative writing created by participants in ‘Tracing Our Tales’ – the museum’s award-winning programme for young care leavers – who have responded to the exhibition’s themes. Opens on Friday and runs until 27th August. Admission charge applies. For more, see https://foundlingmuseum.org.uk/event/finding-family/.
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A confession to begin – this property, located in Kew Gardens, was never actually a residence but instead was built as a country day retreat for the family of King George III at the behest of his wife Queen Charlotte.
The cottage, which features a thatched roof and half-timbered walls and dates from around 1772, is known as a cottage orné (decorated cottage).
Located in what’s described as “one of London’s finest bluebell woods” with parts of it more than 300-years-old, it was designed to be a place where the Queen and her growing family (the King and Queen would have 15 children) could enjoy picnics or take tea while on walks through the gardens during their summers at Kew.
Inside, the ground floor of the premises features two halls – one for the royal family on the left and another for servants on the right, each of which features a staircase leading to the first floor. In the centre of the ground floor is the Print Room, a small room hung with more than 150 satirical engravings including works by the famed James Gillray. There’s also a small kitchen.
On the upper floor is the Picnic Room which features two expansive recycled 17th century windows looking out to the garden and wall and roof paintings featuring trailing nasturtiums and convolvulus to give the appearance of a bower. The latter are thought to have been the work of Princess Elizabeth, generally viewed as the most artistic of King George III’s children.
Behind the cottage was a large paddock which was used to contain a growing menagerie of animals, no doubt to the delight of the royal children. Initially the occupants were Tartarian pheasants and oriental cattle but later it also housed a now extinct quagga (an animal similar to a zebra) and some of the first kangaroos to arrive in Britain (these were bred by the early 19th century, there were up to 18 of them). In 1806, the gardener was instructed to turn the paddock into a flower garden.
King George III was apparently fond of the cottage but he was last at Kew in 1806. It was used in 1818 following the double wedding of his sons, the Duke of Clarence (who became King William IV) and Edward, the Duke of Kent (father of Queen Victoria).
Queen Victoria rarely visited the cottage but had it maintained by a housekeeper. In 1889, the Queen gave the cottage to the public to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee.
The Grade II* cottage is these days managed by Historic Royal Palaces.
WHERE: Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, the south-west corner of, Kew Gardens (nearest Tube station is Kew Gardens); WHEN: Cottage is open from 4th April from 11.30am to 3.30pm on weekends and bank holidays; COST: (entry to Kew Gardens) £21.50 adults/£10 students/children £5 (discounts apply for advance bookings); WEBSITE: www.kew.org.
• London’s annual St Patrick’s Day Parade will be held on Sunday with more than 50,000 people expected to take part. The festivities will kick off at noon with a spectacular parade featuring Irish marching bands, dancers and pageantry which will wind its way from Green Park through Piccadilly Circus to Trafalgar Square. From noon until 6pm, Trafalgar Square will feature performances from the likes of Sharon Shannon & Band, Celaviedmai, The Craicheads, Celtic Youth Orchestra, Biblecode Sunday’s, and AIS as well as the Maguire O’Shea School of Dance and spoken word artist Leon Dunne. There will also be family-friendly workshops run by Irish youth creative programme Junk Kouture, a selection of food and drinks stalls including demonstrations by celebrity chef Anna Haugh and stalls where you can learn about Irish culture and community staffed by representatives of the Irish Cultural Centre, London Irish Centre, Irish in Britain, Irish Film London and London Gaelic Athletic Association. For more, check out www.london.gov.uk/events/st-patricks-festival-2023.
• London’s first female mayor, Ada Salter, and Welsh philosopher and preacher Dr Richard Price have both been honoured with English Heritage Blue Plaques. A social reformer and activist, Salter became mayor of Bermondsey in 1922 and so became the first female mayor of a London borough as well as the first Labour woman to be elected as a mayor in Britain. The plaque has been placed on 149 Lower Road in Rotherhithe, the Women’s House of the Bermondsey Settlement where Salter lived in the late 1890s. Price, meanwhile, is considered to be one of the greatest Welsh thinkers of all time and, as well as a preacher and philosopher, was also a pioneer of actuarial science. A plaque has been placed on a red brick house at 54 Newington Green which dates from 1658 and is believed to be the oldest surviving terrace in London. Price, who was born 300 years ago this year, lived in the house from 1758 to 1787 and while there wrote letters to the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson with whom he enjoyed close friendships. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.
• Joseph Wright’s painting A Philosopher Giving That Lecture on the Orrery in Which a Lamp is Put in Place of the Sun has gone on show at the Foundling Museum. The painting is at the heart of Seeing the Light, an exhibition which explores the connections between Wright, who hailed from Derby, his large network of friends and acquaintances, and key people in the Foundling Hospital’s history as well as objects in the museum’s collection. This includes the story of the founding of the Lunar Society. Admission charge applies. Runs until 4th June. For more, see https://foundlingmuseum.org.uk/event/seeing-the-light/.
The former home of famed Victorian illustrator and photographer Edward Linley Sambourne, this property at 18 Stafford Terrace in Kensington has been preserved as a museum.
Sambourne, famed for, among other things, the cartoons he produced for Punch magazine, moved into the property in 1875, shortly after his marriage to Marion Herapath in 1874, and the couple, who would have two children – Roy and Maud – lived there for the rest of their lives.
After moving in, Linley, inspired by the grand houses of his artistic friends in the so-called Holland Park circle such as Nick Fildes, Marcus Stone and Colin Hunter, set about redecorating the property in what was then the popular Aesthetic style. He installed stained glass windows, Morris & Co wallpapers and Chinese ceramic vases and over the next 35 years purchased ceramics and furnishings specifically for the property.
While Sambourne adopted many of Aesthetic elements in his decorative scheme such as the stylised motifs inspired by nature and the muted colour palette, he didn’t particularly follow the style’s call for restraint and the house quickly became home to a growing collection of furnishings and objects (in fact an inventory take in 1877, just two years after the couple moved in, shows the home already contained more than 50 vases, 70 chairs and around 700 framed pictures).
Sambourne, who was said to have been “skilled at making a great show on a limited budget”, couldn’t afford to create a purpose-built studio and worked in various parts of the house, initially in the morning room, which he had extended to meet his needs, and later in the upstairs drawing room. After their daughter Maud married and left the property, he converted the former nursery on the top floor into a studio.
After the deaths of Linley in 1910 and Marion in 1914, their bachelor son Roy moved in and lived there until his own death in 1946. The house then passed to Maud (now Maud Messel), although she didn’t live there, and on her death passed to her daughter Anne Messel.
Anne had married Ronald Armstrong Jones in 1925 and then, following a divorce, Michael Parsons, sixth Earl of Rosse in 1935, giving her the title of Countess of Rosse. She inherited the house in 1960 – the same year her son Antony married Princess Margaret and received the title of Earl of Snowdon.
Lady Rosse, who had proposed the house be preserved as it had been in Linley’s day, subsequently negotiated the sale of the property to the Greater London Council in 1980 and in turn it was leased to the Victorian Society, which she had co-founded in 1957. It was subsequently opened as a museum.
In 1989, after the Greater London Council was abolished, ownership of the house transferred to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (the lease to the Victorian Society meanwhile, ended in 2000). In 2022, the house, now Grade II*-listed, was re-opened to the public after a significant renovation and refurbishment project.
Alongside the decor, furnishings and ceramics, the house displays a number of the cartoons Sambourne drew for Punch as well as drawings he did for other projects, such as Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies, and some of his collection of more than 30,000 photographs used to aid his production of cartoons (not all of which apparently are suitable for public consumption). Sambourne’s “detective camera” which allowed him to photograph subjects surreptitiously is also there.
WHERE: Sambourne House, 18 Stafford Terrace (nearest Tube stations are Kensington (Olympia) and High Street Kensington); WHEN: 10am to 5:30pm, Wednesday to Sunday; COST: £11 adult/£9 concession/£5 child (six to 18-years-old/five and under free); WEBSITE: www.rbkc.gov.uk/museums/sambourne-house
British artist Finn Campbell-Notman has been named as the winner of the Sky Arts’ Landscape Artist of the Year for his creation of a contemporary seascape inspired by the work of 17th century marine painters, Willem van de Velde the Elder and his son, Willem van de Velde the Younger. Campbell-Notman’s work, Fail We May, Sail We Must, has gone on display at the Queen’s House in Greenwich which is currently hosting the new exhibition, The Van de Veldes: Greenwich, Art and the Sea. The new painting was inspired by Campbell-Notman’s personal experience as he found out more about the Van de Veldes while travelling in The Netherlands. “My approach to landscape painting is that a painting is rarely, if ever, a direct transcription from a single view, even those painted en plein air,” Campbell-Notman said in a statement. “One composes and constructs, simplifies, rearranges and perhaps adds certain elements to create a picture. The finished painting is thus a record of a dialogue with what is seen and what is reflected within and want I to transmit; between what is seen and what is felt.” For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/queens-house.
The coronation of King Charles III is taking place in Westminster Abbey on 6th June and in preparation for that, the Coronation Chair is getting a makeover.
The six foot tall chair, which was made around 1300, is commonly referred to as the oldest piece of furniture in the UK which is still used for its original purpose and which is by a known maker.
The chair was constructed on the orders of King Edward I in 1300-1301 specifically to hold the Scone of Stone which he had brought south from Scotland several years before and which he had given into the care of the Abbot of Westminster.
Made of oak and painted by one Master Walter, the chair was decorated with patterns of birds, foliage and animals on a gilt background. On the seat back was painted the figure of a king, possibly King Edward I, with his feet resting on a lion. The chair, which would have had the appearance of being made of gold, would have also been decorated with coloured glass.
The space for the stone below the seat was originally fully enclosed and it’s believed the chair originally contained no seat with the King sitting on a cushion placed directly on the Stone of Scone.
The chair now rests on four gilt lions which were added in the 16th century (although those currently there are replacements made in 1727).
While there is some debate over whether King Edward II was sitting in the chair when he was crowned in 1308, that has certainly been the case from the 1399 when King Henry IV was crowned while sitting on it. Twenty-six subsequent monarchs including everyone from King Henry VIII to Queen Elizabeth II followed suit (Oliver Cromwell, meanwhile, had the chair removed to Westminster Hall when installed there as Lord Protector).
The chair has been graffitied in earlier centuries thanks mostly to Westminster schoolboys and visitors. Among the most legible graffiti scrawled upon it is “P Abbott slept in this chair 5-6 July 1800”. It also suffered minor damage in a bomb attack in 1914 thought to have been carried out by Suffragettes (it didn’t suffer any damage in World War II thanks to its being removed to Gloucester Cathedral).
The Stone of Scone, which had been taken briefly back to Scotland by Scottish Nationalists in 1950, was formally returned to Scotland in 1996 where it can now be seen at Edinburgh Castle. It is being returned to London for the coronation.
The chair, which for centuries had been kept in the Chapel of St Edward the Confessor, was moved to the abbey’s ambulatory in 1998 and then again moved again in 2010, this time to a specially-built enclosure in St George’s Chapel, located at the west end of the nave, so it could undergo conservation work. The two year conservation program was completed in 2013.
The chair is currently undergoing cleaning and work to stabilise what’s left of the gilding ahead of the coronation.
Located in the ground floor of Westminster’s three-storied Jewel Tower is a fine 14th-century ribbed vault, described as an “architectural masterpiece”.
The room is believed to have been constructed, along with the rest of the building, in the 1360s to the designs of master mason Henry de Yevele.
Located in the south-west corner of Old Palace Yard, the tower was originally used as a personal treasure-house for King Edward III and was known as the King’s Privy Wardrobe. Later it was used to house government documents and in 1869 became the Weights and Measures Office.
It is one of few surviving buildings from the medieval Palace of Westminster (the rest having been destroyed in the fire of 1834).
The vaulted chamber incorporates tiercerons – ribs set between the transverse and diagonal ribs to form simple fans and also features a series of sculpted bosses.
Made in Reigate stone, these depict human and mythical animal heads, as well as intertwined pairs of eagles and swans and plant designs. It is believed the bosses were once whitened.
The west wall of the chamber features the remains of a fireplace while the main window reveal is medieval (although the window itself dates from the 18th century).
The property, which is under the care of English Heritage, is not to be confused with the Jewel House at the Tower of London.
WHERE: The Jewel Tower, Abingdon Street, Westminster, (nearest Tube stations are Westminster and St James’s Park); WHEN: 10am to 4pm on weekends; COST: £6 adults/£3.60 children (aged five to 17 years)/£5.30 concession; family tickets available; WEBSITE: www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/jewel-tower/
• The work of 17th century marine painters Willem van de Velde the Elder and Willem van de Velde the Younger is the subject of a new exhibition at the Queen’s House in Greenwich – the location of a studio King Charles II granted to them.The Van de Veldes: Greenwich, Art and the Sea features the newly conserved painting, A Royal Visit to the Fleet, which they worked on in their studio at the Queen’s House in the 1670s and which, at almost four metres across, was the largest seascape Van de Velde the Younger had painted to date (pictured after conservation above). Also on show is the The Burning of the Royal James at the Battle of Solebay, 28 May 1672, otherwise known as The Solebay Tapestry and originally one of six, along with a selection of some of the more than 1,400 drawings from the National Maritime Museum’s collection. The exhibition, which is free to visit, runs until 14th January, 2024. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/van-de-velde.
• The Young V&A will open on 1st July following a three year transformation project, it was announced this week. Formerly known as the V&A Museum of Childhood, the Bethnal Green institution will display “remarkable and optimistic stories of children’s ingenuity” alongside 2,000 works from the V&A’s collection of art, design, and performance. Features will include an interactive Minecraftinstallation, murals by street artist Mark Malarko, tech solutions created for Raspberry Pi’s Coolest Projects, and, a display of portraits by photographer Rehan Jamil capturing young people expressing what creativity means to them and set alongside self-portraits by the likes of Chila Kumari Singh Burman, Quentin Blake, Kenneth Branagh, Dapo Adeola, and Linda McCartney. Also announced was the first exhibition at the new facility – Japan: Myths to Manga – which will open on 14th October. For more, see vam.ac.uk/young.
•The most complete Roman pottery kiln ever found in Greater London is going on display in a visitor centre at Highgate Wood from September next year. The kiln, which was excavated from the wood in Haringey in the 1960s and 1970s, has been in storage beneath Bruce Castle Museum. But thanks to a £243,550 grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to charity Friends of Highgate Roman Kiln, it will be returned for public display. The kiln is said to be one of the best-preserved Roman pottery kilns found in the UK and is thought to be the last one built by Roman potters who worked in Highgate Wood between 50CE to 160CE to supply Londinium and south-east England with distinctive ‘Highgate Ware’ pottery.
• A small section of Bayswater Road has been renamed Kyiv Road to mark the first anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The new road name was installed last Friday on the road which runs from Palace Court to Ossington Street and is located not far from the Russian Embassy. Councillor Adam Hug, leader of Westminster City Council, said the request for the new name came from the Ukrainian community. “Westminster is home to Ukrainians displaced by the war, and our residents have opened their hearts and their doors to those fleeing Putin’s war machine,” he said in a statement. “As the centre of an international capital, it seemed to us entirely fitting that part of our City should carry a torch for the unbowed defenders of Ukraine. It’s a small stretch of road, but we want to show the people of Ukraine that their struggle has a visible place in our city.”
Described as the “father of British painting”, 18th century artist William Hogarth bought this property in Chiswick at the height of his fame in 1749.
The property, which had been built between 1713 and 1717 and had previously been the country property of a pastor and his family, then located in what was a rural area and served as the Hogarths country home (they had an inner London home in Leicester Fields).
Hogarth extended the home and had a studio installed above a (now lost) coach house in the rear of the garden. As well as his wife Jane, occupants included Hogarth’s sister Anne and his mother-in-law.
Following Hogarth’s death in 1764 (Hogarth, who actually died in the Leicester Fields property, is buried in the nearby St Nicholas Church), Jane continued to live at the property and along with her cousin Mary Lewis, ran a business selling prints of her husband’s works. Mary inherited the house when Jane died in 1789 and remained there until her own death in 1808.
The house, which features three stories and an attic, subsequently passed through various hands including, from 1814 to 1833, Rev Henry Francis Cary, who translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (and counted literary luminaries such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Charles Lamb as friends). It was sold for redevelopment in 1901 and, following a failed campaign by artists and writers to buy the house, it was purchased by Chiswick resident, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert William Shipway.
Drawing on the help of the architect Frederick William Peel and Hogarth’s biographer, Henry Austin Dobson, he had the house restored and turned into a museum, installing a collection of the artist’s works and commissioning replica furniture based on images in Hogarth’s prints (he even personally took photographs for a guidebook).
The house opened to the public in 1904 and in 1909 Shipway gave the house to Middlesex County Council. Its ownership passed to Hounslow Council when Middlesex County Council was abolished in 1965.
It was damaged by in September, 1940, during World War II after a parachute mine detonated nearby but was repaired and reopened in 1951. A single storey extension to the property was rebuilt at the time to provide a space for exhibitions.
The now-Grade I-listed property’s interior was refurbished for the tercentenary of Hogarth’s birth in 1997 and again in 2011. A further project in 2020 known as the Mulberry Garden Project – funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund – added the Weston Studio for learning and activities, but also re-landscaped and reinterpreted the garden to highlight historic planting and themes.
The house and garden are currently managed by London Borough of Hounslow.
Inside, the house continues to show Hogarth’s artistic output including such famous engraving series as A Harlot’s Progress, A Rake’s Progress and Marriage à-la-mode. The house also contains some of the replica furniture commissioned by Shipway.
In the garden is a Mulberry tree believed to be the last survivor of an orchard first established on the site in the 1670s.
There’s a statue of Hogarth and his famous pug dog, Trump, located in Chiswick High Road.
WHERE: Hogarth’s House, Hogarth Lane, Great West Road, Chiswick (nearest Tube station is Turnham Green while nearest Overground is Chiswick Station); WHEN: 12pm to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays; COST: Free; WEBSITE: https://hogarthshouse.org.
• Sigmund Freud’s collection of ancient antiquities and books inspired by them are the subject of a new exhibition at the Freud Museum London in Hampstead. Freud’s Antiquity: Object, Idea, Desire, which opens Saturday, explores the crucial role the collection played Freud’s development of the concepts and methods of psychoanalysis. The display, which is co-curated by Professor Miriam Leonard of UCL, Professor Daniel Orrells of Kings College London, and Professor Richard Armstrong, of the University of Houston, discusses six separate aspects of Freudian theory alongside representative objects from the collection and spans his entire psychoanalytic career from 1896 to 1939. Alongside the physical objects is a comprehensive digital multimedia resource, containing video recordings, podcasts, photographs of rarely seen objects from the collection, and a list of suggested reading. A series of events accompanies the exhibition. Runs until 16th July. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.freud.org.uk/exhibitions/freuds-antiquity-object-idea-desire/.
• A new display at the Design Museum will showcase how cutting-edge design can help people live “more independently, sustainably and healthily but also with joy and fulfilment” as they age. Designing for our Future Selves, which opens on Friday, follows on from last Future of Ageing exhibition and will feature 10 design initiatives currently being developed by Design Age Institute and its partners which aim to positively impact the way we live and work as we grow older. The exhibition is free to visit. Runs until 26th March. For more, head here.
• A permanent home for the Migration Museum, currently based in Lewisham, will be built in the Square Mile following planning approval this week. The new facility at 65 Crutched Friars will be located in a 21-storey building and will consist of three floors featuring space for exhibitions and events, a cafe and a shop. The City of London Corporation said the developer had agreed to provide the museum space rent-free for 60 years and to cover its operating costs for three years, and has also donated £500,000 to support its fund-raising campaign.
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A new art installation – Jitish Kallat’s Whorled (Here After Here After Here) – has been unveiled at Somerset House. The work, located in the Edmond J Safra Fountain Court, is more than 30 metres in diameter and comprises two intersecting spirals that represent a “seismic ripple” or a galactic whorl which spirals outwards from the centre of the courtyard. The work, which draws upon sacred geometry and alchemical diagrams, features two 168 metre scrolls which follows the visual language of UK motorway signage. As visitors walk through the spirals, they are taken on a journey past signs indicating the distance from Somerset House to more than 300 locations across the planet and beyond including celestial bodies, such as the Moon, Mars, and distant stars in the Milky Way. The installation is free to see until 23rd April.
Walk the streets of London and chances are you’ll soon come across an English Heritage Blue Plaque commemorating someone famous.
There are now more than 990 Blue Plaques in London, commemorating everyone from diarist Samuel Pepys to writer Virginia Woolf and comedian Tony Hancock.
The scheme was started in 1866 by the Society of Arts (later the Royal Society of Arts) having been proposed by MP William Ewart three years before. The first two plaques were erected in 1867 – one commemorating poet Lord Byron at his birthplace, 24 Holles Street in Cavendish Square (although this property was later demolished) and the other commemorating Napoleon III in King Street, Westminster (this is now the oldest survivor of the scheme).
Thirty-five years – and 35 plaques – later, the London County Council took over the scheme. It was this body that standardised the plaque’s appearance (early plaques come in various shapes and colours) and while ceramic blue plaques were standard by 1921, the modern simplified Blue Plaque didn’t appear until 1938 when an unnamed student at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, who was paid just four guineas for their troubles, came up with what is now an iconic design.
In 1965, the LCC, having created almost 250 new Blue Plaques, was abolished and its successor, the Greater London Council, took over the scheme, expanding its area of coverage to includes places like Richmond, Redbridge and Croydon. In 1984, the GLC appointed artisan ceramicists Frank and Sue Ashworth of London Plaques to make the Blue Plaques (and they continue to do so).
The GLC placed some 262 Blue Plaques before, in 1986, English Heritage took over management of the scheme. Since then it’s placed more than 360 plaques.
The plaques, which are 495mm (19½ inches) in diameter and 50mm (two inches) thick, are slightly domed in a bid to encourage self-cleaning in the rain.
Anyone can propose a subject for a new plaque – but generally only one plaque is erected per person (although there have been some exceptions to this), only a maximum of two plaques are allowed per building (there are 18 buildings with two), and proposals, if turned down, must wait 10 years before they are reconsidered.
In addition, new Blue Plaques are only erected a minimum of 20 years after the subject’s death, the building on which one is placed must “survive in a form that the commemorated person would have recognised, and be visible from a public highway”, and buildings which may have many different personal associations, such as churches, schools and theatres, are not normally considered.
The Blue Plaques panel meet three times a year to decide on proposals. Among those currently serving on the 12 person body are architectural historian Professor William Whyte, who chairs the panel, award-winning journalist and author Mihir Bose, Emily Gee, regional director for London and the South East at Historic England, and, Susie Thornberry, assistant director at Imperial War Museums.
The plaques don’t confer any legal protection to buildings but English Heritage says they can help preserve them through raising awareness.
Recently unveiled plaques have commemorated pioneering social research organisation Mass-Observation, lawyer Hersch Lauterpacht – who played a key role in prosecuting the Nazis at the Nuremberg trials, and, Dadabhai Naoroji, an Indian Nationalist and the first Indian to win a popular election to Parliament in the UK. Among those being unveiled this year are plaques commemorating anti-racist activist Claudia Jones, suffragette Emily Wilding Davison and Ada Salter, the first female mayor of a London borough.
English Heritage’s Blue Plaques scheme isn’t the only one commemorating people in London. Others include the City of London’s Blue Plaques scheme (there is only one English Heritage Blue Plaque in the City of London – it commemorates Dr Samuel Johnson), Westminster City Council’s Green Plaques and Heritage Foundation plaques which commemorate figures who worked in entertainment.
• A gold signet ring once believed to have belonged to the Tudor-era Boleyn family has gone on display at Hampton Court Palace. The ring, was discovered in a field near Shurland Hall on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, the country home of one of Anne Boleyn’s cousins and a property she visited with King Henry VIII. It is engraved with with a bull’s head – which appears in the arms of the Boleyn family (a visual pun on the family name, which was often spelled as ‘Bullen’) – and arrayed with sunbeams and stars of white enamel as well as being decorated with icons of the Virgin and Child and St Catherine of Alexandria on its shoulders. Analysis concluded the ring was consistent with objects of the early Tudor era, leading historians to suggest that it may have belonged to either Thomas or George Boleyn – Anne Boleyn’s father and brother. The ring, which was purchased by Historic Royal Palaces with support from the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Art Fund, the Meakins Family and John Harding, under the terms of the Treasure Act 1996, can be seen in the Great Hall. Included in general admission. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/.
• One of the UK’s most successful rock bands, Status Quo, are the subject of a new exhibition at the Barbican Music Library. Celebrating Seven Decades of Status Quo is the first ever public exhibition on the band and features never-before-seen material including the original handwritten lyrics to Caroline and Down Down as well as tour posters, photographs and more than 40 of the bands key albums. The display is a collaboration between Paul and Yvonne Harvey, who ran the band’s official fan club, ‘From The Makers Of…’ (FTMO), and Status Quo fan and collector Andy Campbell. Status Quo was formed in 1962 and has since had more than 60 chart hits as well as opening the LIVE AID concert in Wembley in July, 1985, and receiving a Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music in 1991. Runs until 22nd May. Admission is free. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/libraries/barbican-music-library.
A celebration of the artists who have painted London on a monumental scale, The Big City is currently running at the Guildhall Art Gallery. The exhibition, which runs until 23rd April, can be visited on a ‘pay what you can’ basis. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/events/the-big-city.
An inhabitant of Roman Londinium some 1,600 years ago, a wealthy Roman woman was laid to rest in a stone sarcophagus in what is now Southwark.
Her rest was not uninterrupted. At some point – reported as during the 16th century – thieves broke into her coffin, allowing earth to pour in. The sarcophagus was then reburied and and lay undisturbed until June, 2017, when it was found at a site on Harper Road by archaeologists exploring the property prior to the construction of a new development.
Subsequent analysis found that almost complete skeleton of a woman as well as some bones belonging to an infant (although it remains unclear if they were buried together). Along with the bones was a tiny fragment of gold – possibly belonging to an earring or necklace – and a small stone intaglio, which would have been set into a ring, and which is carved with a figure of a satyr.
The burial, which took place at the junction of Swan Street and Harper Road, is estimated to have taken place between 86 and 328 AD and the woman was believed to be aged around 30 when she died.
It’s clear from the 2.5 tonne sarcophagus that the woman was of high status – most Londoners of this area were either cremated or buried in wooden coffins. The sarcophagus was only one of three found in London in the past three decades.