Before we commence our next special series, here’s a recap of the series we’ve just run…
The tradition of lying in state – whereby the monarch’s coffin is placed on view to allow the public to pay their respects before the funeral – at Westminster Hall isn’t actually a very old one.
The first monarch to do so was King Edward VII in 1910. The idea had come from the previous lying-in-state of former Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone who had lain in state following his death in 1898.
Ever since then, every monarch, with the exception of King Edward VIII, who had abdicated, has done so along with other notable figures including Queen Mary, wife of King George V, in 1953, former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in 1965, and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, for a three day period in 2002 when some 200,000 people paid their respects.
During the lying-in-state period (which members of the public may pay their respects), the coffin is placed on a central raised platform, known as a catafalque, and each corner of the platform is guarded around the clock by units from the Sovereign’s Bodyguard, Foot Guards or the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. The coffin is draped with the Royal Standard and placed on top is the Orb and Sceptre.
Westminster Hall, the oldest surviving building in the Palace of Westminster and the only part which survives almost in original form, was constructed between 1097 and 1099 on the order of King William (Rufus) II.
Measuring 240 by 67 feet and covering some 17,000 square feet, at the time it was the largest hall in England and possibly the largest in Europe (although once anecdote has the King, when an attendant remarked on its size, commenting that it was a mere bedchamber compared to what he’d had in mind).
Since then, it has been used for a range of purposes including coronation banquets – the earliest recorded is that of Prince Henry, the Young King, son of King Henry II and King Henry’s other son, King Richard the Lionheart, other feasts and banquets – including in 1269 to mark the placing of Edward the Confessor’s remains in the new shrine in Westminster Abbey, and for political events and gatherings such as in 1653 when Oliver Cromwell took the oath as Lord Protector.
It has also been the location of law courts (the trial of William Wallace was held here in 1305 and that of King Charles I in 1649) and even shops.
As the city, nation and world mourns the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, thousands are queuing outside Westminster Hall to pay their respects to the Queen ahead of the State Funeral on Monday. The designated queue route crosses the Thames at Lambeth Bridge and then stretches northward along the south bank to near Tower Bridge. The live “queue tracker” can be found at this link. The Lying-in-State will be open 24 hours a day until it closes at 6.30am on Monday. For more detailed guidance, head here. A national moment of reflection will take place at 8pm this Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Queen’s funeral – which will be broadcast on the BBC – is slated for 11am on Monday at Westminster Abbey, prior to which her body will be transported on a gun carriage from Westminster Hall. Following the funeral, the Queen’s coffin will be taken in a walking procession from the abbey to Wellington Arch, at London’s Hyde Park Corner. The coffin will then be transported Windsor by hearse. On arrival, the Queen’s coffin will then be walked down the Long Walk to Windsor Castle. There, in St George’s Chapel, the Queen’s coffin will be lowered into the Royal Vault under the quire as Her Majesty is laid to rest beside her late husband, Prince Philip.
A Book of Condolence has been set up at www.royal.uk.
We ran a special series to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, so in honour of the Queen’s memory we interrupt our current series to recap ‘Celebrating the Diamond Jubilee with 10 royal London locations’…
• The Open House Festival, a two week-long celebration of buildings and neighbourhoods in London, kicks off today. Now in its 30th year, highlights from this year’s programme include the introduction of nine “headline neighbourhoods” – among them Aldgate, Somers Town, Battersea, and the Greenwich Peninsula, each of which will feature a specially-curated programme of free events. Buildings open for tour include the Bank of England, the recently refurbished Leathersellers’ Hall, and ROOM, an inhabitable sculpture by Anthony Gormley forming part of Mayfair’s Beaumont Hotel as well as pioneering homes such as the David Adjaye-designed ‘Fog House’ in Clerkenwell, the Khan Bonshek-designed ‘Two-up Two-down House’ in Stratford, and Richard and Su Rogers’ high-tech house in Wimbledon. There are also tours of housing estates including Dawson’s Heights designed by Kate Macintosh for Lambeth and infrastructure demonstrations including the new Rolling Bridge designed by Tom Randall-Page at Cody Dock in Canning Town as well as walks, talks and other event. The festival runs until 21st September. For the full programme, see https://open-city.org.uk/open-house-festival.
• The first in-depth exhibition in the UK of the work of late 19th and early 20th century American painter Winslow Homer has opened at The National Gallery. Winslow Homer: Force of Nature features more than 50 paintings and watercolours from public and private collections spanning over 40 years of the artist’s career. Highlights include his paintings from the front lines of the American Civil War such as Prisoners from the Front (1866), those depicting the lives of African Americans during the period known as Reconstruction such as A Visit from the Old Mistress and The Cotton Pickers (both 1876), paintings from his travels to England and the Caribbean such as Inside the Bar (1883), A Garden in Nassau (1885), and The Gulf Stream (1899, reworked by 1906), and works created in the final years of his life such as Driftwood (1909). The exhibition can be seen in the Ground Floor Galleries until 8th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/winslow-homer-force-of-nature
• A celebration of some of finest wood engravings of the past 100 years and those who made them opens at the Heath Robinson Museum in Pinner on Saturday. Scene Through Wood, which comes from the University of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum, celebrates the founding centenary of the British Society of Wood Engravers. It traces wood engraving from its origins – objects on show include an early woodcut by Albert Dürer (1471-1528), its subsequent development by 18th and 19th century naturalist Thomas Bewick and the establishment of the SWE in 1920. Included is the work of notable 20th century artists such as Robert Gibbings, Eric Ravilious and Gertrude Hermes as well as more recent figures such as Monica Poole, Edwina Ellis, Simon Brett and Anne Desmet. Admission charge applies. Runs until 11th December. For more, see www.heathrobinsonmuseum.org/whats-on/scene-through-wood/.
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Located in the historic former Priory of St John of Jerusalem in Clerkenwell, this garden – despite its historic context – was planted out in the mid-1950s after the adjoining church was restored having suffered extensive damage from incendiary bombs in 1941.
The garden, which was created on the site of two former church buildings and was designed by Alison Wear, is planted with flowers and fragrant and medicinal herbs and features a 200-year-old olive tree brought from Jerusalem.
A quiet place of reflection, it serves as a memorial to those who died in the two World Wars.
The garden, which is maintained by volunteers, was redeveloped in 2009-10 – thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Wellcome Trust – with the addition of paving and beds for planting.
Alongside being a peaceful haven for a casual visit, the garden is also these days used as an event space.
WHERE: The Cloister Garden, The Museum of the Order of St John, St John’s Gate, St John’s Lane, Clerkenwell (nearest Tube station is Farringdon); WHEN: Museum galleries and garden are open from 10am to 5pm Wednesday to Saturday; COST: Free; WEBSITE: https://museumstjohn.org.uk.
The Royal Parks announced recently Greenwich Park, here pictured showing the view up to the Royal Observatory, was to undergo a three year project to restore its 17th century landscape. The formal landscape of the park was commissioned by King Charles II and, designed by French landscape architect André Le Nôtre (who also designed the world-famous Versailles gardens), features tree-lined avenues which frame the view up the hill from the Queen’s House as well as “The Grand Ascent”, a series of giant, grass steps leading up the hill, and a terraced layout – known as a parterre. Massive numbers of visitors – some five million annually – have, however, seen the landscape features erode and slump while the trees – Turkey oaks planted in the 1970s to replace the elms wiped out by Dutch elm disease – are now in decline. The restoration work, which begins next month, will see the terraces restored and the declining tree avenues recreated with 92 new, more resilient trees. The work is scheduled to be completed by March, 2025. For more on Greenwich Park, see www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/greenwich-park.
The most famous of court jesters during the reign of King Henry VIII, little is known of Will Somers’ early life although it is suggested he was born in Shropshire.
It’s said Somers (also spelt Somer or Sommers) entered the service of a wealthy Northamptonshire merchant Sir Richard Fermor who presented him to King Henry VIII at Greenwich in 1525 (he is known to have been in service by 1535).
Somers’ role as jester involved using his wit to comment on court life and those in it – including the likes of Cardinal Wolsey – and while he was permitted a wide latitude he would over-step including when he insulted Queen Anne Boleyn and her daughter Princess Elizabeth, leading to the King to threaten to kill Somers himself.
Somers was provided with royal livery to wear at court (he also sometimes apparently wore elaborate costumes) and was provided with a “keeper” to look after him.
Such was the esteem Somers’ was held in, he is believed to be the fool depicted in a family portrait of the King, his wife Jane Seymour and children Prince Edward and Princesses Mary and Elizabeth (Somers has a monkey on his shoulder in the painting; Jane Foole also appears in the portrait). He’s also believed to be depicted in an image with King Henry VIII which appeared in a psalter (pictured)
Towards the end of King Henry’s life it’s said Somers was the only one who could make him laugh. He remained at court following the King’s death through the reigns of King Edward VI and Queen Mary I and present at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I, eventually retired during her reign.
Somers is believed to have died on 15th June, 1560, and be buried in St Leonards, Shoreditch. There’s now a plaque to Somers there commemorating his burial.
Sommers subsequently appeared in various works of literature in following centuries including in more recent years when he has also appeared in TV shows – including the series The Tudors – as well as various novels including Paul Doherty’s The Last of Days.
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Part of the medieval Palace of Westminster, the Painted Chamber took its name from a series of large paintings which decorated the walls.
The long and narrow chamber, which stood parallel to St Stephen’s Chapel, was constructed in the 13th century during the reign of King Henry III and was apparently initially intended as a private apartment for the king as well as a reception room.
It featured a state bed at one end positioned under a painting of King Edward the Confessor and also had a “squint” – a small opening at eye level – through which the monarch could view religious services in a chapel located next door.
The chamber was apparently originally known as the King’s Chamber but came to be known as the Painted Chamber when the walls were decorated with paintings depicting vices and virtues and Biblical figures.
These paintings, which were completed over an almost 60 year period from 1226 and which were repaired a couple of times during that period, were added to with commissions by successive monarchs.
The painted chamber was the location for the State Opening of Parliament in the Middle Ages and was where Oliver Cromwell and the others signed King Charles I death warrant in 1649. The body of King Charles II rested here overnight before he was interred in Westminster Abbey.
Later neglected, the walls of the chamber were whitewashed and hung with tapestries and in the early 19th century restoration work was done to reveal the paintings again with artist and antiquarian Charles Stothard commissioned by the Society of Antiquarians in 1819 to make watercolour copies (further copies were also made by the clerk of works at Westminster, Thomas Crofton Croker).
By 1820, the chamber was being used for the Court of Requests, a civil claims court.
The Painted Chamber was gutted when fire devastated much of the Palace of Westminster on the night of 16th October, 1834. It was reroofed and refurnished and used by the House of Lords until 1847 – as well as for the State Opening of Parliament in February, 1835. It was finally demolished in 1851.
Two ceiling paintings which were removed in 1816 during repairs are now at the British Museum (pictured right).
• Totally Thames – London’s month-long celebration of its river – kicks off Friday with a programme featuring more than 100 events across a range of locations. Highlights this year include Reflections, an illuminated flotilla of more than 150 boats that will process down the Thames to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee on 24th September; River of Hope, an installation of 200 silk flags created by young people across the UK and Commonwealth at the National Maritime Museum; and, of course, the Great River Race, London’s great river marathon on 10th September involving some 330 boats and crews from across the world. There’s also talks, walks, exhibitions and art and, of course, the chance to meet some mudlarks. For more, including the full programme of events, see https://thamesfestivaltrust.org.
• Eight ancient glass vessels, newly conserved after being damaged in the 2020 Beirut port explosion, have gone on show at the British Museum. Painstakingly pieced back together and conserved at the conservation laboratories at the British Museum, the vessels were among 72 from the Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods which were damaged when a case fell over in Beirut’s AUB Museum. Six of the vessels at the British Museum date from the 1st century BC, a period which saw glass production revolutionised in Lebanon, while two others date to the late Byzantine – early Islamic periods, and may have been imported to Lebanon from neighbouring glass manufacturing centres in Syria or Egypt. The vessels can be seen in Room 3 as part of the Asahi Shimbun Display Shattered glass of Beirut until 23rd October before their return to Lebanon in late Autumn. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.
• Chiswick House LEGO model. A brick model of Chiswick House is on show at the property in London’s west. The model, which uses 50,000 bricks and took two years to build, illustrates the dramatic architectural changes that Chiswick House has undergone in its 300-year history including the addition of two wings which were demolished in the late 18th century. On show until 31st October. Admission charge applies. For more, see https://chiswickhouseandgardens.org.uk/event/chiswick-house-lego-brick-model/.
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While recent years have seen the creation of a number of roof gardens across London, the Sky Garden – located atop the controversial ‘Walkie Talkie’ building (otherwise known as 20 Fenchurch Street) – has the honour of being the highest public garden in the city.
The three floor garden, which was designed by landscape architecture practice Gillespie’s, opened in January, 2015.
Located on the 36th to 38th floors, it was designed to provide 360 degree views across London and features landscaped gardens, observation decks, an open air terrace (named for the late architectural townscape advisor Francis Golding) and five bars and restaurants.
The gardens include flowering plants such as the African Lily (Agapanthus), Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia) and Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) as well as fragrant herbs such as French Lavender.
WHERE: Sky Garden (via 1 Sky Garden Walk) (nearest Tube station is Monument); WHEN: 10am to 6pm weekdays; 11am to 9pm weekends; COST: Free (but rebooking required); WEBSITE: https://skygarden.london.
Squirrel monkeys, Sumatran tigers and Humboldt penguins were among the animals that had their statistics recorded at ZSL London Zoo’s 2022 annual weigh-in last week. With more than 14,000 animals in their care, ZSL London Zoo’s keepers spend hours throughout the year recording the up-to-date heights and weights of all the animals – information which helps them to monitor their health and wellbeing. The data is added to the Zoological Information Management System, a database shared with zoos all over the world that helps zookeepers to compare important information on thousands of endangered species. “We record the vital statistics of every animal at the Zoo, from the tallest giraffe to the tiniest snail,” says Daniel Simmonds, deputy animal manager. “This helps to ensure that every animal we care for is healthy, eating well, and growing at the rate they should, as weight is a key indicator of health and wellbeing – a growing waistline can also help us to detect and monitor pregnancies, which is important as many of the species at ZSL London Zoo are endangered and part of international conservation breeding programmes, including today’s Sumatran tigers and Vietnamese giant snails.” Three Sumatran tiger cubs which were born at the zoo in June will be weighed next month at their first health check – which takes place at the age of three months. For more, see www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo.
• The Museum of London is celebrating its final 100 days at London Wall on Friday with free ice creams and “goody bags” for visitors. The museum will be giving away 500 Lewis of London ice creams from 11:30am, while visitors will also enjoy a performance by Grand Union Orchestra at midday. The first 100 visitors through the doors will also receive a gift bag featuring Museum of London memorabilia, including a Museum of London guidebook, a pack of playing cards displaying iconic images from the museum’s collections, a greeting card featuring a print by artist Willkay, and a special gift of either a tea towel, a Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens mug, a sketch notebook, an A3 print of London or a soft toy. Meanwhile, from Friday, digital screens will display a countdown clock to mark the days left before the London Wall site closes to the public on 4th December, in preparation for the museum’s move to a new home at West Smithfield. Friday’s event is part of a six-month long programme of activities leading up to the closure of the site. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
• The tabla – twin hand drums – used by legendary Indian musician Ustad Alla Rakha during his European tours of the early 1980s is going on display at the British Museum in a world first. Ustad Alla Rakha was one of the most important and respected tabla players of his generation, working with the All India Radio in the 1930s, composing music for the film industry in the 40s, and regularly playing with world-renowned sitar player Ravi Shankar. The tabla will be on display in the Hotung Gallery until early 2023 after which they will go on loan to the Manchester Museum South Asia Gallery. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.
• Now on: Lucian Freud: The Painter and His Family. The first exhibition of Lucian Freud’s work at the Freud Museum, the home of his grandfather, Sigmund Freud, and aunt, Anna Freud, this display explores Lucian Freud’s childhood, family and friends and celebrates some lesser known aspects of his life including his love of reading and lifelong fascination with horses as well as his relationships with the former occupants of the building. Alongside paintings and drawings, the exhibition includes illustrated childhood letters, books Freud owned and book covers he designed. His sole surviving sculpture, Three-legged Horse (1937) and early painting, Palm Tree (1944), is also being displayed. The display is being accompanied by a programme of events. For more, see www.freud.org.uk.
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Located in the heart of the post-war Brutalist Barbican development is the second largest conservatory in London.
Designed by the complex’s architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, the 23,000 square foot steel and glass conservatory – only bested in size by the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens – was planted in the early 1980s and opened in 1984.
It now houses some 1,500 species of plants and trees from areas as diverse as the bushland of South Africa to the Brazilian coast.
Among the species on show are the tree fern and date palm as well as the Swiss cheese plant and coffee and ginger plants.
The conservatory also features pools containing koi, ghost, and grass carp from Japan and America, as well as other cold water fish such as roach, rudd, and tench and terrapins. An Arid House attached to the east of the conservatory features a collection of cacti, succulents and cymbidiums (cool house orchids).
The conservatory is just one of several distinct gardens at the Barbican complex. These include water gardens located in the midst of lake which feature a range of plants growing in the water itself as well as in a series of sunken pods which are reached by sunken walkways.
Since 1990 the estate has also been home to a wildlife garden which, boasting ponds, a meadow and orchard, is home to more than 300 species including the Lesser Stag Beetle and House Sparrow.
WHERE: The Barbican Conservatory, Barbican Centre, Silk Street (nearest Tube stations are Barbican, Farringdon and Liverpool Street; WHEN: Selected days, from 12pm (check website to book tickets); COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2022/event/visit-the-conservatory.
Nelson’s Column, Trafalgar Square.
The City of London is dotted with halls for the city’s livery companies. But ever wondered what they are?
There are 110 livery companies in the City, representing ancient and more modern trade associations and guilds, including everything from grocers to saddlers, ironmongers to musicians. The newest livery company is the Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars which was created in 2014.
Many of today’s livery companies have their origins in the city’s medieval guilds which were responsible for such things as regulating wages and conditions and setting industry standards (while many of these responsibilities have since passed to other bodies, some – such as the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers and the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths – still play important roles in quality control).
These days the companies are also known for their support of the industries they represent and their philanthropic work.
Livery companies – many of which also traditionally had religious links – built halls as central meeting places – about 40 companies today still own or have a share in a hall.
Members of the livery companies (known as liverymen after the distinctive clothing or uniform they wore) – who are awarded the Freedom of the City of London – have the right to vote for senior offices in the City such as the Lord Mayor of London and sheriffs.
The livery companies of the City of London are listed in an “order of precedence” which was settled in 1515 for the 48 then in existence based on their political and economic power (the Worshipful Company of Mercers comes in at number one). All the companies created since then are ranked according to their date of creation.
The 12 highest ranked companies are known as the Twelve Great City Livery Companies. Among them in the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors which disputes its position at number seven and so once a year at Easter swaps places with the Worshipful Company of Skinners at number six.