• The relationship between the glitzy world of fashion and the raw materials used to make it is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the V&A on Saturday. Fashioned from Nature features more than 300 “beautiful, intriguing and unsettling objects” spanning the period since 1600 and including everything from a a pineapple fibre clutch bag, a Calvin Klein dress made from recycled bottles worn by actor Emma Watson (pictured) and a cape of cockerel feathers. One focus of the exhibition is the damage done to the environment due to the demands of fashion and the display highlights some of the campaigners and groups which have been vocal in protesting about the issue. The display also looks at the role design has played in creating a more sustainable fashion industry. Runs until 27th January, 2019. Admission charge applies. For more, see vam.ac.uk/fashionedfromnature. PICTURE: Emma Watson wearing Calvin Klein at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Benefit Celebrating the Opening of Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, Arrivals, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, New York, America, 2nd May 2016 (Matt Baron/REX/Shutterstock).

The British Museum has kicked off a first-of-its-kind two week festival of musical performances exploring the idea of museums as “diplomats of the 21st century”. Running until 29th April, Europe and the world: a symphony of cultures explores Europe’s interactions with the world and looks to create a dialogue between works of classical and contemporary music and objects in the museum which have come from around the world. There’s 17 performances taking place over the two weeks which started last Monday as well as some panel discussions. The works include those of Ligeti, Berio, Stockhausen, Liszt, Messiaen, Strauss, Bartók, and Nono and are being performed along with pieces from historical musical traditions such as medieval temple music from China, classical music from India, Spanish colonial and flamenco music, Spiritual Japanese music from the 7th century and Byzantine choral music. Among those performing are London Sinfonietta, Ensemble für Intuitive Musik Weimar, Accademia del Piacere, Zhang Jun and his Kunqu Ensemble, Kaushikiji Charkraborty and Ensemble, and Reigakusha Ensemble Tokyo. Supported by the German Foreign Office, more details on the festival can be found at www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/europe_and_the_world.aspx.

Tate Britain has launched a series of new night events curated by young people aged 15 to 25. The gallery, which already held the first event in early April, will open late on the first Friday evenings of June, August, October and December for a series of special events featuring music, live performances and workshops and inspired by displays, exhibitions and artworks in Tate’s collections including the current Art Now installation by Marguerite Humeau, John Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, the upcoming Duveens Commission by Anthea Hamilton​ and the Turner Prize. Lates at Tate Britain are free, drop-in events with spaces available on a first come, first served basis. For more, head to www.tate.org.uk.

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Formerly known as Strand Ait (or Ayt), this small island’s name was changed after the English Civil War, inspired by a story that Oliver Cromwell himself had taken refuge here during the war.

There’s apparently no truth to that story (or at least no evidence has been found) or to the legend that there was a secret tunnel which ran under the river from the mid-stream island to the nearby Bull’s Head pub on Strand-on-the-Green in Chiswick where Cromwell was said to have had established a headquarters (the tunnel was apparently so he could escape if the Cavaliers got too close).

The island, which stands in a stretch of the river between Kew and Chiswick (just upstream from Kew Railway Bridge and downstream from Kew Bridge) in London’s west, is not quite an acre in size (and, like Chiswick Ait, it’s roughly ship-shaped) but has served various purposes over the years.

In 1777, the City of London’s navigation committee built a wooden, castle-shaped tollbooth on the island with a barge moored alongside to catch passing river trade and so fund improvements to the navigability of the river. One story says it’s that barge that apparently lent its name to the delightful nearby pub, The City Barge, but others say the pub is named after the Lord Mayor of London’s State Barge which had winter moorings nearby for a time.

In 1865 a smithy was built on the island which was used in the building and repair of barges. It was later, after the Port of London Authority took over ownership in 1909, used as a storage facility and wharves for derelict vessels. The building survived until the 1990s but is now gone – along with any other signs of civilisation.

The island, which now has a dense canopy largely made up of sycamore trees, is these days inhabited by birds – those spotted there have included mallards, cormorants, Black-headed gulls, Canada geese, Egyptian geese, mute swans, magpies and robins – as well as  a range of other life – a 2014 survey found 11 species of mollusc and 35 species of vegetation and the island has also been cited as a habitat for bats and Thames door snails.

 

PICTURE: Amadeusz Misiak/Unsplash.

This medieval-era church, located on Broad Street in the City of London, survived the Great Fire of 1666 but was demolished in the early 20th century when, due to the lack of residents in the City, it was no longer needed as a church.

The church, also sometimes referred to as St Peter-le-Poor, was in existence by the end of the 12th century but it’s thought the name ‘le poer’ (generally said to refer to either the poverty of the surrounding area or its proximity to an Augustinian monastery) didn’t come to be added until the 16th century.

The church was rebuilt in 1540 and then enlarged and repaired – including the addition of a new steeple – in the first half of the 17th century.

By 1788, the church had, however, fallen into such disrepair that it had to be rebuilt and the new building, designed by Jesse Gibson and located further back from Broad Street (into which it had previously projected), was consecrated in November, 1792.

The layout of the new church was somewhat unusual – the altar was located on the north-west side of the church, opposite the entrance (altars were traditionally located in the east), and the nave was circular with a wooden gallery running around the interior.

There was a large lantern in the centre with glass walls. The entrance on the eastern side of the church, featured a facade which gave no hint of the circular nature of the building behind – it featured a square tower and columned entrance.

With the declining population living in the City of London, the church was no longer needed as a place of worship by the early 20th century and so it was demolished in 1907.

The parish was united with St Michael Cornhill and the proceeds from the sale of the site were used to build the church of St Peter-le-Poer in Friern Barnet. This church was also given the City property’s font, pulpit and panelling.

 

A unique collection of contemporary botanical art from The Florilegium Society at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia, has opened at The Shirley Sherwood Gallery in Kew Gardens. Among several exhibitions marking the gallery’s 10th anniversary, this display features life-sized works by 64 Australian and international artists of the society (the name florilegium means ‘a gathering of flowers’). Meanwhile, a showcase of botanical works by Australian and New Zealand painters selected by Dr Shirley Sherwood from among her collection has also gone on show. Down Under II: Works from the Shirley Sherwood Collection follows an earlier exhibition in 1998. And finally, with the Temperate House set to reopen next month after a five year restoration, the gallery is also hosting Plans and plants – the making of the Temperate House which takes a look at the history of this Victorian-era landmark through plans, drawings and photographs taken from Kew’s archives. All three displays can be seen until 16th September. Admission included with Gardens entry.  For more, see www.kew.org. PICTURE: Banksia praemorsa by Margaret Pieroni. The Florilegium Society at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney.

Sir Hugh Carlton Greene, director-general of the BBC during the 1960s, has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at his former home in Holland Park. Greene (1910-1987) lived in the two-storey semi-detached home at 25 Addison Avenue between 1956 and 1967, a period which mostly coincided with his time as director-general. A former journalist and younger brother to novelist Graham Greene, he had joined the BBC in 1940 and was appointed director-general in 1960, remaining in the post for more than nine years before resigning in 1969. He presided over the BBC during a period in which the broadcaster was forced to reinvent itself following the arrival of ITV. The plaque was unveiled by veteran broadcaster, naturalist and former colleague, Sir David Attenborough. For more on Blue Plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

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PICTURE: Kevin Grieve/Unsplash

Among the gruesome deaths said to have taken place at the Tower of London is that of George, the Duke of Clarence, who, so the story goes, was drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine on 18th February, 1478 – 540 years ago this year.

George, who was born on 21st October, 1449, was the younger brother of King Edward IV and older brother of (although he was only king after George’s death) King Richard III.

George, who was made Duke of Clarence and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland soon after the House of York’s King Edward IV’s ascendancy to the throne in 1461 during the volatile period known as the Wars of the Roses, had betrayed his brother King Edward IV at least twice before his death.

The first time came in the late 1460s when he joined with Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, in helping the previously deposed Lancastrian King Henry VI back onto the throne. The second time came after his brother Edward has retaken the throne in March, 1471, and the two of them had reconciled. George had sought to wed Mary of Burgundy, but Edward had objected – one of a series of events which apparently led George, whose mental state was said to be deteriorating fast by this point, to once again scheme against the king and eventually saw King Edward IV have him thrown in prison in June, 1477.

The King brought charges – including that he had slandered the King and prepared for rebellion – against George in Parliament in January, 1478, and both houses subsequently passed a bill of attainder with the sentence of death carried out in private (thus perhaps sparing him the humiliation of a public execution?) in the Tower soon after.

The story that he had been drowned in a butt of his favourite malmsey (a sweet wine) in the Bowyer Tower apparently circulated soon after his death – among proponents of the story was William Shakespeare who in Richard III has the duke stabbed and then drowned in a butt of malmsey – and to this day it remains something of a mystery as to whether it actually occurred (although, interestingly, his body when exhumed was not beheaded which was the common means of executing members of the nobility).

It has been suggested that sawn down wine butts were used for baths at the time – which may mean George was drowned in a wine butt, but one he was using to take a bath rather than one which had wine stored in it. It has also been suggested that the reference to a butt of wine refers to a barrel used for storing his body for removal to Tewkesbury where he was buried alongside his wife rather than his actual execution.

PICTURES: Top – The Tower of London where the Duke was executed; Right – A virtual re-enactment of George’s death at the Tower.

 

An exhibition showcasing the works of Impressionist artist Claude Monet with a focus on his depictions of architecture opens at the National Gallery on Monday. The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Monet & Architecture is the first exhibition concentrating solely on Monet’s works in London in more than 20 years. It spans his entire career from the mid-1860s to early 20th century and features more than 75 paintings depicting everything from villages to cities like Venice and London as well as individual structures and monuments. The display includes a rare gathering of some of Monet’s great ‘series’ paintings including five pictures from trips to Holland made in the early 1870s, 10 paintings of Argenteuil and the Parisian suburbs from the mid-1870s, seven pictures depicting the cathedral at Rouen from 1892–5, eight paintings of London from 1899–1904, and nine canvases showing Venice from 1908. Highlights include the Quai du Louvre (1867) (pictured), the Boulevard des Capucines (1873), and the flag-filled Rue Montorgeuil, 30 June 1878. Can be seen in the Sainsbury Wing until 29th July. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk. PICTURE: The Quai du Louvre (Le Quai du Louvre), 1867, Claude Monet, Oil on canvas © Collection Gemeentemuseum Den Haag.

London’s Abbey Road Studios are celebrated in an exhibition of the work of rock photographer Jill Furmanovsky which opens at the Barbican Music Library on Monday. Inside Abbey Road Studios – Through the lens of Jill Furmanovsky is a showcase of her work since 1976 when she photographed Pink Floyd during the Wish You Were Here recording sessions and, as well as those images, includes more recent images of the likes of Nile Rodgers, Royal Blood, Novelist, and Mura Masa, as well as emerging musical talent. The display is a collaboration between Abbey Road Studios, Furmanovsky – who became artist-in-residence at the studios last year – and the Barbican Music Library. The exhibition, which is free to enter, can be seen until 27th June. For more, see www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2018/event/inside-abbey-road-studios.

Some 20 objects from Ethiopia are featured in new exhibition at the V&A marking the 150th anniversary of the siege and battle at Maqdala, culmination of the British Expedition to Abyssinia. Maqdala 1868, which focuses on the battle and its aftermath, features some of the earliest examples of military photography in Britain as well as a portrait of Emperor Tewodros II’s son Prince Alemayehu taken by Julia Margaret Cameron soon after the prince was brought to England by the British military. There’s also examples of metalwork and textiles including a gold crown with filigree designs and embossed images of the Evangelists and Apostles, a solid gold chalice, jewellery and a wedding dress believed to have belonged to the Emperor’s wife, Queen Terunesh. All of the objects were taken during Sir Robert Napier’s military expedition of 1867-68 which was aimed at securing the release of British hostages held by the Emperor and which culminated in the Emperor’s suicide and the destruction of his fortress. The exhibition, which is free to see, has been organised in consultation with the Ethiopian Embassy in London and an advisory group including members of the Orthodox Tewahedo Church, members of the Anglo-Ethiopian society and representatives from the Rastafarian community. Runs until July, 2019, in Room 66 of the Silver Galleries. There is a program of related events. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.

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Wishing all of our readers a very Happy Easter!

Six special eggs designed by six top children’s book illustrators have been hidden at English Heritage sites across the country for Easter. The illustrators – including Ian Beck, Polly Dunbar, Olivia Lomenech Gill, Trisha Kraus, Lydia Monks and Grahame Baker Smith – have all designed eggs inspired by English Heritage properties. Young visitors taking part in the Easter Adventure Quests – which will be held at 20 English Heritage properties including London’s Eltham Palace and Gardens and Down House – will need to hunt for a special “chicken token” hidden in the undergrowth with those who find one presented one of the six “eggsclusive” eggs. The tradition of decorating Easter eggs has been recorded as far back as 1290 in England when King Edward I purchased 450 of them to be decorated and covered in golf leaf for his courtiers. In the early 16th century, King Henry VIII received a silver-mounted egg as an Easter gift from the Pope. The Easter Egg Adventure Quest will be held from 30th March (Good Friday) through to 2nd April (Easter Monday). For more on what’s happening at Easter, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/easter/.

Peter Rabbit and his furry friends are visiting Kew Gardens this Easter. From tomorrow until 15th April, the Peter Rabbit themed festival – A big day out with Peter Rabbit – will see visitors presented with a copy of Mr McGregor’s garden notebook so they can follow a Peter Rabbit-themed trail to the Secluded Garden where they can find life-sized selfie boards of Peter and other characters and take part in a range of activities including games, craft activities and workshops (including how to build their own rabbit warren). The nearby Kitchen Garden will also be on display with mini-tours for families to show off the growing produce. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.kew.org.

An Easter Egg Hunt will take place at The Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace, on Saturday. Between 11am and 3pm, children are invited to hunt for pictures of Rex the corgi and the royal horses Majesty and Scout among the carriages as well as dress up as a footman, learn how to harness a horse, take part in art activities and find out what it’s like to ride in a royal carriage. Each child will be able to claim an Easter egg to take home. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk.

The Science Museum’s free Frankenstein Festival – celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus – kicks off on 3rd April. Featuring immersive theatre, experiential story-telling and hands-on activities, the festival will encourage visitors to examine the ethical scientific questions surrounding the artificial creation of life and allow them to step into Dr Frankenstein’s shoes and create a creature which they can bring to life using stop-motion animation. There’s puzzles and experiments to do, a Frankenstein-themed audio tour of the museum called It’s Alive, a choose-you-own-adventure experience – Pandemic – in which visitors decide how far Dr Frankenstein should go to tackle a virus sweeping across the world, and, Humanity 2.0, a play performed by Emily Carding which examines what could happen if a benevolent AI recreated humanity in an apocalyptic future world. There’s also the opportunity to meet researchers at the cutting edge of science including bio chemists who manipulate DNA and engineers creating artificial intelligence. The festival runs daily between 3rd and 8th April (some activities have limited availability so tickets can be found at sciencemuseum.org.uk/Frankenstein). A Promethean Tales Weekend will be held on 27th to 28th April, featuring panel discussions and special screenings of Terminator 2: Judgement Day and The Curse of Frankenstein in the IMAX cinema. For more, head to sciencemuseum.org.uk/Frankenstein.

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For the final in our series of modern icons of London, we’re looking at the tallest in London (and, at the time it was completed, the tallest in Europe) – the Shard.

Based in London Bridge, the 310 metre high skyscraper, was constructed between 2009 and mid-2012, and inaugurated by Qatar’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabor Al Thani, and Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, in July, 2012 – an event marked by a light and laser show (late that year, Prince Andrew abseiled down the building in a fund-raising effort for charity).

The observation deck of the building – originally known as London Bridge Tower and often referred to as The Shard of Glass – was opened to the public on 1st February, 2013, in an event overseen by the then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Architect Renzo Piano’s lofty design for the building – first sketched out on the back of a napkin in a Berlin restaurant back in 2000 – was inspired by the London church spires and ship masts as seen in the work of 18th century Venetian painter Canaletto, to appear as a “spire-like sculpture emerging from the River Thames”.

It features eight sloping glass walls – the shards – with gaps or “fractures” between them to provide natural ventilation and a tapered structure to give the impression of lightness and transparency as it disappears into the clouds.

As well as office space, the building’s 72 habitable floors features shops, restaurants and bars, as well as a hotel – the Shangri-La, and apartments. News organisation Al Jazeera is also based in the building.

Located on floors 68, 69 and 72, the visitor attraction, The View from The Shard, offers panoramic views of up to 40 miles from an indoor viewing platform and the open air Skydeck (as well as the view, there are also virtual reality experiences available on the Skydeck for an additional cost).

The Shard – which attracted a million visitors in its first year alone – remained the tallest building in Europe until November, 2012, when it was surpassed by Moscow’s Mercury City Tower (it is still the tallest building in the European Union).

We’ll be kicking off a new special Wednesday series after Easter.

WHERE: The View from the Shard, Joiner Street (nearest Tube station is London Bridge); WHEN: Times vary, so check the website for details; COST: Pre-purchased timed and dated tickets range from £22.95 for adults/£16.95 for children aged four to 15 (check website for further details); WEBSITE: www.theviewfromtheshard.com.

PICTURES: Top: The Shard (Fred Mouniguet/Unsplash); Below – The Shard from the Thames (Matt Holland/Unsplash).

 

Tower of London crenellations from Tower Hill.

This Mayfair establishment dates from 1749 and was previously known as The Running Horse. 

It was popular among footmen in the service of the well-to-do of Mayfair at the time – their job was to run ahead or alongside their master’s coaches and ensure the path was clear as well as pay any tolls so the carriage could whisk through toll gates.

They also carried messages when required as well as other tasks and such was their reputation for speed that races were apparently run upon which their masters would gamble.

Anyway, so popular did this pub prove among them that one of them bought the property at 5 Charles Street, a stone’s throw from Berkeley Square, after retiring and renamed the pub after himself – I Am the Only Running Footman, a moniker which was at the time, one of the longest names for a pub in London.

That name has since been truncated to The Only Running Footman and now just The Footman.

For more, see www.thefootmanmayfair.com.

PICTURE: An image taken before the name was shortened. Ewan Munro (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Now located just outside St Paul’s Cathedral at the eastern end of Carter Lane Gardens, this Gothic Victorian drinking fountain once stood near the Church of St Lawrence Jewry close by Guildhall. 

Designed by architect John Robinson and featuring bronze sculptural work by Joseph Durham, the now Grade II-listed fountain was paid for jointly by the parishes and St Lawrence and St Mary Magdalene.

One of many fountains erected from the 1850s onwards to provide free, clean water to the city’s residents, it features statues of both St Lawrence – holding the grid iron on which tradition holds he was martyred – and of St Mary Magdalene – holding a cross with a skull at her feet – set in two of four niches in an elaborate canopy. The remaining two niches, now empty, are believed to have once held the names of past benefactors of the churches.

Below the canopy is another niche, from the back of which water streams out into a dish when a button is pushed. The water stream brings an extra dimension to a relief carving depicting a scene from the Biblical book of Exodus in which Moses is striking a rock at Horeb to bring forth water while, beside him, a woman holds a cup to the lips of her child.

The fountain was originally installed to the north of St Lawrence Jewry in Church Passage in 1866 and remained there for more than a century until, in 1970, the redevelopment of Guildhall Yard meant it had to be moved. It was dismantled into about 150 pieces and put into storage in a barn in Epping with the idea that it would be re-erected.

But it wasn’t until 2010 that it underwent an extensive restoration and was placed in its current location.

PICTURE: Top – Another Believer (image cropped); Right – Jordiferrer. Both licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The anniversaries of the four terrorist attacks which took place in London last year – in Westminster, at London Bridge, Finsbury Park and Parsons Green – are being marked from today with a 3D installation on the map area at City Hall. The public are able to pay their respects by signing a digital “book of hope” and interacting with the installation by sending messages of strength, hope and resilience using #LondonUnited on social media, with the messages then projected onto a map of London that #LondonUnited will stand on. The installation, which opens today on the anniversary of the Westminster attack, will remain open until 19th June, the anniversary of the attack in Finsbury Park. Further ‘London United’ exhibitions are also planned for later in the year. “These were not only attacks on our city and our country, but on the very heart of our democracy and the values we cherish most – freedom, justice and tolerance…” said Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. “I hope these arrangements will help people to come together and remember those who were killed and injured, to show solidarity and support for their families and friends and the people whose lives have been affected by these tragic attacks. As we enter this period of remembrance and reflection, we stand together as Londoners, united against terrorism and in hope for the future.” The installation will be open from 8.30am to 6pm Monday to Friday, except Bank Holidays. The Westminster attack anniversary is also being marked today with the projection of the phrase #LondonUnited on the Houses of Parliament from dusk until midnight. Further projections will take place on the anniversaries of the other attacks at the sites where they took place. Londoners who may need support, can visit victimsofterrorism.campaign.gov.uk or call 0808 168 9111.

A series of watercolour paintings depicting the interior and precincts of Westminster Abbey have gone on display in the abbey’s chapter house. The paintings, by internationally acclaimed British artist Alexander Creswell, represent, in the words of the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, “the first time ever a large suite of paintings has been commissioned to capture the stunning architecture and amazing light of the Abbey”. They can seen until 16th May. Entrance to the chapter house in the Abbey’s east cloister is free. For more, see www.westminster-abbey.org/events/events/glimpses-of-eternity. Meanwhile the abbey announced last week that there will be a special service of thanksgiving later in the year for the late theoretical physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, who died on 14th March at the age of 76, during which his ashes will be interred near the grave of Sir Isaac Newton.

Numismatics – the study of coins, medals, banknotes and associated objects – is the focus of a new exhibition opening at the British Museum today. Money and Medals: mapping the UK’s numismatic collections celebrates the work of the Money and Medals Network, which provides advice to British museums, and features objects from six participating institutions. They include a framed set of replica Greek coins dating from the late 19th century, a ‘Magic Money Machine’ which can seemingly transform a roll of blank paper into banknotes, a set of medal miniatures from Henry Hook, who won the Victoria Cross for gallantry at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, and a selection of Roman coins and replica medals of Louis XIV from the collection of the Armagh Robinson Library, founded by Archbishop Richard Robinson in 1771. The exhibition, which is free, can be found in Room 69a and runs until 30th September. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

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Nick-named the ‘Walkie Talkie’ due to its distinctive, top-heavy, bulbous shape, 20 Fenchurch Street is a 38 storey building in the City of London.

Completed in early 2014 after a five year build with the public access areas opening the following year, the building contains 690,000 square feet of office space with the top three floors – reached by an express lift – housing a “sky garden” – described as the city’s “highest public garden” – with specially planted terraces as well as bars, restaurants and a public viewing deck.

Designed by New York City-based Uruguayan architect Rafael Vinoly, the 160 metre high building was controversial from the get-go, both for its impact on the skyline and surrounding streetscapes but also for the way its exterior cladding acted as a concave mirror and focused intense light on streets which lay to the south.

The heat was so intense that it damaged parked cars, leading some wags to dub it the ‘Walkie-Scorchie’ or ‘Fryscraper’, while a newspaper reporter famously fried an egg on the pavement below to demonstrate just how hot it was getting down there. Permanent sun shading was subsequently installed on the tower to deal with the issue.

The building was awarded the dreaded Carbuncle Cup in 2015, an annual award given to the ugliest building of the year, with one of the judges describing it as a “Bond villain tower” and another as a “gratuitous glass gargoyle”.

The building, which continues to draw strong opinions, was reportedly sold last year for a record £1.3 billion.

WHERE: 20 Fenchurch Street (nearest Tube station is Monument); WHEN: Visiting hours for the Sky Garden are 10am to 6pm weekdays and 11am to 9pm weekends (only a limited number of tickets available each day); COST: Free; WEBSITE: https://skygarden.london

PICTURES: Nigel Tadyanehondo/Unsplash

Women’s suffrage advocate Millicent Garrett Fawcett will become the first woman to be honoured with a statue in Westminster’s Parliament Square next month to mark the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 1918 act which gave women the vote for the first time. But who exactly was she?

Born in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, on 11th June, 1847, Millicent Garrett was the daughter of Newson Garrett, a merchant and shipowner, and his wife Louisa – the eighth of their 10 children.

At the age of 12, in 1858, she went to London with her older sister Elizabeth (who would go on to become Britain’s first female doctor) to study at a private boarding school in Blackheath. A key moment came seven years later in 1865 when she went to hear a speech by radical MP John Stuart Mills who spoke of equal rights for women.

Fawcett was deeply impacted and became actively involved in his campaign. When she was just 18, Millicent was introduced via Mills to Henry Fawcett, MP for Brighton and women’s rights activist and the two became close friends before, despite an age difference of 14 years, marrying on 23rd April, 1867. As well as caring for her husband who had been blinded in a shooting accident some 10 years before they were wed, Millicent took up a role as his secretary.

In 1868, Millicent gave birth to their only child, Philippa, and the family spent their time between two households – one in London (at 51 The Lawn on the site of what is now Vauxhall Park) and the other in Cambridge (where she later became a co-founder of Newnham College).

Meanwhile, with her husband’s encouragement, she was also pursuing her own writing career, penning the popular short book, Political Economy for Beginners, which was published in 1870, as well as becoming a well-known public speaker on a range of issues including women’s rights.

While when her husband – then Postmaster General – died of pleurisy on 6th November, 1884, Millicent temporarily withdrew from public life (it was after Henry’s death that, as per his wishes, Vauxhall Park was created on the site of his former home). But the years following saw her become increasingly engaged in activities in support of women’s suffrage.

She was involved in the formation of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) in 1897 – it went on to become the largest group of its kind with 50,000 members by 1913 – and would later become its president, a post she would hold until after World War I.

Fawcett’s interests, however, also saw her involved in campaigns to curb child abuse, to end child marriage and the “white slave trade” as well as the formation of a relief fund for South African women and children affected by the Boer War (in 1901 she visited South Africa as head of a commission charged with reporting on conditions in concentration camps).

When some groups advocating for women’s suffrage started to take more violent action – which included breaking windows and hunger strikes when jailed, Fawcett argued against such militancy and remained among the moderates, convinced that women would eventually win the vote as a result of the changes taking place in society.

Suffrage activism was interrupted thanks to World War I but the role women played in support of the war effort saw opinion shift enough for, in 1918, the passing of the Representation of the People Act, which gave women aged over 30 voting rights.

In 1919, Fawcett retired from active engagement in politics. She was appointed a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire in 1925.

Fawcett witnessed the passing of an act to give women equal voting rights to men in 1928 – 10 years after the first act – before dying, at the age of 82, at her home at 2 Gower Street in Bloomsbury, London, on 5th August, 1929 (there’s a Blue Plaque on the property where she had lived for more than 45 years – pictured above). She was cremated at Golders Green but there is a memorial to both her and her husband in Westminster Abbey.

The Fawcett Society, which has carried her name since 1953, continues to fight sexism and gender inequality in the UK, campaigning on issues such as closing the gender pay gap.

Famous for its mentions by Charles Dickens, Jacob’s Island – located in Bermondsey – was not actually a true island.

It was a small parcel of land formed into an “island” thanks to its location in a loop of the Neckinger River and, on the south side of the loop, a man-made ditch which was used as a mill run for Bermondsey Abbey.

The “island” – which on a modern map was located just to the south of the street known as Bermondsey Wall West, east of Mill Street, west of George Row and north of Wolseley Street, was home to a notorious slum or “rookery” between the 18th and early 19th centuries,

It was most famously mentioned in Charles Dickens’ book, Oliver Twist and was where the notorious Bill Sikes died in the mud of ‘Folly Ditch’ – a reference to the ditch surrounding the island – as he attempted to elude the authorities.

Dickens describes Jacob’s Island in the book as a place “where the buildings on the banks are dirtiest and the vessels on the river blackest with the dust of colliers and the smoke of close-built low roofed houses, there exists the filthiest, the strangest, the most extraordinary of the many localities that are hidden in London”. In the preface to the 1867 edition of the book, he even wrote of its ongoing existence which was apparently doubted by one City alderman, saying “Jacob’s Island continues to exist (like an ill-bred place as it is) in the year one thousand eight hundred and sixty-seven, though improved and much changed”.

The slum itself existed until the late-1800s – much of it was razed in a fire of 1861 – in subsequent decades, the ditches surrounding it were filled in and the area redeveloped into warehouses.

The River Neckinger, incidentally, is one of London’s ‘lost rivers’. Its name means ‘devil’s neckerchief’ or ‘devil’s necklace’ – a reference to the hangman’s noose – and it is believed to refer in here to the gibbet from which pirates were hung close to the mouth of where the river entered the Thames at nearby St Saviour’s Dock and where their bodies left to deter others from taking a similar path.

PICTURE: Top – Jacob’s Island and Folly Ditch, an engraving from a book published in 1873 (Internet Archive Book Images/licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0); Right – ‘Folly Ditch’, pictured here in about 1840.

 

Londoners are celebrating St Patrick’s Day with events taking place across the city over this weekend. They include a series of specially commissioned walking tours focusing on London’s Irish history, Irish poets and musicians busking at Underground stations, and a series of open air gigs featuring Irish women artists at Camden Market on Saturday. Cinemas in the West End, meanwhile, are showing Irish films in connection with the weekend while exhibitions to mark the event include #IamIrish, a celebration of mixed race Irish people by artist Lorraine Maher featuring the work of photographer Tracey Anderson, which runs at London City Hall until 13th April. On Sunday, the culmination of the festive weekend, a procession featuring Irish marching bands and dance troupes kicks off at noon from Green Park while in Trafalgar Square there will be a series of stage performances – including a tribute to Dolores O’Riordan, the Cranberries frontwoman who died in London earlier this year – as well as a special zone for families and an Irish street for market. For the full programme of events, head to www.london.gov.uk/stpatricks. PICTURE: A St Patrick’s Day celebration in years past. (Garry Knight (licensed under CC BY 2.o))

The work of the UK’s Special Forces are the subject of the first major exhibition at the National Army Museum in Chelsea since it reopened in March last year. Special Forces: In the Shadows examines of the history of the Special Forces from its creation during World War II up until today and looks at the unique role each of the six units – the Special Air Service (SAS), Special Boat Service (SBS), Special Forces Support Group (SFSG), Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), 18 (UKSF) Signals Regiment – play in security and military operations. Among objects on show in the exhibition’s seven distinct areas are a compass that Paddy Mayne wrenched from an enemy plane cockpit and a complete SAS Counter Terrorist Kit from 2007 as well as personal testimonies, video and photography. There’s also interactive exhibits to help visitors understand the challenges soldiers in the field face. Admission charge applies. Runs until 18th November. For more, see www.nam.ac.uk.

Two exhibitions celebrating the work of British-European artist Tacita Dean have opened this week. Tacita Dean: PORTRAIT at the National Portrait Gallery focuses on portraiture primarily through the medium of 16mm film and, the first in the gallery’s history to be devoted to the medium of film, features works including the six screen installation from 2008, Merce Cunningham performs STILLNESS…, as well as Dean’s film of Claes Oldenburg, Manhattan Mouse Museum and a film diptych of Julie Mehretu, GDGDA – all seen in the UK for the first time. Meanwhile Tacita Dean: STILL LIFE has opened at the neighbouring National Gallery and features a selection of the gallery’s works curated by Dean as well as some by the artist herself and her contemporaries. There’s also a new film, Ideas for Sculpture in a Setting, made especially for the exhibition. A third exhibition on Dean will be held at the Royal Academy of Arts. For more, see www.npg.org.ukwww.nationalgallery.org.uk and www.royalacademy.org.uk.

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Hare Court, part of Inner Temple – one of the four Inns of Court in London. The inns of Court are professional associations for barristers – the Inner Temple, like the Middle Temple, has provided accommodation for lawyers since at least the 14th century.

An intriguing feature at St Pancras Church are the eight female figures known as caryatids employed to support the rooves of two pavilions standing above the north and south entrances to the crypt.

The caryatids are modelled on those on the Erechtheum on the Acropolis in Athens – Henry William Inwood, who designed the church with his father William Inwood, apparently brought plaster casts of the original back to England to help with their plans for the building.

The caryatids, which were modelled by John Charles Felix Rossi, are made of terracotta constructed around cast iron cores. An original from Athens can be seen in the British Museum.

Unlike the caryatids on the Athens’ structure, however, each of the Inwoods’ statues carries an extinguished torch or empty jug, a reference to their position over the entrance to the crypt – a place of the dead.

The entire building, which is also known as St Pancras New Church to distinguish it the original St Pancras Church which is located to the north, was built between 1819-1822 and is an early example of the Greek Revival style. Other features of the church which also reference this style include its octagonal tower, modelled on the Tower of the Winds in Athens.

The church (we’ll take a more in-depth look at the building as whole in an upcoming post) now has a Grade I listing.

WHERE: St Pancras Church, Euston Road (nearest Tube stations are Kings Cross/St Pancras and Euston Square); WHEN: 8am to 6pm, Monday to Thursday (see website for Sunday times); COST: Free; WEBSITE: http://stpancraschurch.org

PICTURE: Tony Moorey (licensed under CC BY 2.0) Top image cropped.