Twenty years after the publication of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone, a new exhibition is opening today at the British Library featuring centuries old treasures. Harry Potter: A History of Magic features Harry Potter-related objects as well as rare books, manuscripts and ‘magic’-related objects from across the world. Highlights include original artwork for the Harry Potter books, the 16th century Ripley Scroll – a six metre long scroll which purportedly describes how to make a philosopher’s stone, Chinese ‘oracle bones’ (the oldest dateable objects in the library’s collection), a celestial globe dating from 1693 which has been brought to life using augmented reality technology, the tombstone of Nicolas Flamel (an historical figure who also features in the first Harry Potter book), and a mermaid, allegedly caught in Japan in the 18th century. Specially designed panels inspired by the exhibition have gone on display at 20 public libraries across the UK to coincide with the opening. The exhibition can be seen at the King’s Cross institution until 28th February after which it will travel to the New York Historical Society for display late next year. Admission charge applies. A series of events accompanies the display. For more, see www.bl.uk. PICTURE: The Ripley Scroll, England, 16th century © British Library Board.

Original costumes and props from the film Paddington 2, have gone on sh0w at the Museum of London ahead of the movie’s opening next month. Behind the Scenes of PADDINGTON 2 provides a close-up look at the film with highlights including a Paddington outfit, the London pop-up book that Paddington is trying to buy for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, and costume designer sketches. The display is accompanied by a series of events for half-term which include the chance to meet Paddington, some of the actors from the film and children’s author Katherine Woodfine as well as a talk and book reading with Michael Bond’s daughter, Karen Jankel. There’s also a chance to win four tickets to the world premiere of the film which opens on 10th November. The free display can be seen until 19th December. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/paddington.

A new display exploring how money works and what it looks like under communism has opened at the British Museum. Drawing on the museum’s extensive collections, The currency of communism features a series of posters advertising financial products along with other objects – including a medal commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall – which explore concepts behind money in communist societies around the world, both historically and in the present day. The display has been made possible through an Art Fund grant which has enabled the museum’s curator of modern money, Thomas Hockenhull, to build a collection of numismatic material from socialist and socialist governed countries, some of which will be seen here. On view on Room 69a, the display can be seen until 18th March. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

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Located on (or should that be under?) Chancery Lane in the City of London, the subterranean complex of underground chambers now known the London Silver Vaults was initially opened by the Chancery Lane Safe Deposit Co in 1876.

Originally intended to provide strong rooms for Londoners to store their valuables – things like jewellery, household silver and important documents, the vaults also proved popular with businesses, such as jewellers and diamond and silver dealers from nearby Hatton Garden, both for storage and eventually for selling directly out of.

The building above was bomb damaged during World War II and when it was rebuilt, the vaults  – at the request of the silver dealers who had previously rented space there – were reconfigured as retail units and re-opened in its current form in 1953.

Featuring 3.9 foot (1.2 metre) thick walls, the vaults proved popular among US servicemen who purchased silver to take home to their families, and film and music stars as well as royalty have all apparently shopped here.

There are just under 30 specialist shops in the complex, claimed to be home to the largest collection of antique silver in the world including everything from cutlery to jewellery and candlesticks. Many of the businesses housed within have been passed down within families.

And, according to the management, the vaults have never been burgled.

WHERE: London Silver Vaults, Chancery Lane (nearest Tube is Chancery Lane); WHEN: 9am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday/0am to 1pm Saturday; COST: free; WEBSITE: silvervaultslondon.com

PICTURES: Matt Brown under license CC BY 2.0.

PICTURE: Christian Vasile/Unsplash

Hatters they are, but mad they most definitely are not (more on that connection later). Lock & Co Hatters, which describes itself not only as London’s oldest hat shop but the world’s oldest, has been serving the city’s hat needs since James Lock first opened the doors at number six, St James’s Street, in 1765.

Lock took over the premises after completing an apprenticeship as a hatter with Charles Davis, son of Robert Davis who had opened a hatters in St James’s Street in 1676. Lock had married Charles’ sister Mary in 1759 and, along with his new bride, had inherited his father-in-law’s business. In 1765, they and their growing family moved across the road from that premises to No 6, previously a coffee house.

The shop soon established itself with the city’s elite and its client list grew to include the likes of Lord Grenville, Prime Minister between 1806-07, and, most famously, Admiral Lord Nelson, who first visited the shop in 1800 to order his signature bicorne – a “cocked hat and cockade” – with a specially built-in eye shade (Nelson had lost his eye at the Battle of Calvi). Nelson’s final visit, incidentally, would take place in September, 1805, when he settled his bill before setting sailing to Spain where, wearing one of Lock’s hats, he would lose his life – and become part of a legend – in the Battle of Trafalgar.

But back to the Locks. James Lock died in 1806 and it was his illegitimate son, George James Lock (aka James Lock II), who inherited the business which continued to flourish (clients around this time include the Georgian dandy Beau Brummell). George’s son, James Lock III and his younger brother George took over in 1821, and in 1849, they were commissioned by Edward Coke to create a hard-domed hat for his gamekeepers – the result was the iconic Coke hat (known to some as the Bowler hat, a name which came from Southwark-based Thomas and William Bowler whom Lock had commissioned to make the hat) .

The Lock & Co hat business continued to pass down through the family and the list of the famous who purchased hats in the store continued to grow – Oscar Wilde bought a black fedora there to wear on his US lecture tour (and due to his later incarceration was unable to pay his bill which was settled more than 100 years later by one of his fans after this news was included in an article in The Times) while Sir Winston Churchill wore a Lock silk top hat on his wedding day and also purchased his trademark Cambridge and Homburg hats there.

In 1932, film star Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, moved in above the shop (and naturally bought some monogrammed hats which were sold in 2011 as part of his estate) while Charlie Chaplin purchased hats there in the 1950s and, impressively, in 1953, Lock worked with jewellers Garrard and Co to design the “fitments” for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation crown.

A warrant from the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, followed (in 1993, Lock & Co received its second Royal Warrant, this time from the Prince of Wales.

Others among Lock’s more high profile clientele over the years have included Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of US President John F Kennedy, and Lock’s Coke hat even made a famed appearance on the silver screen as the headwear of the Bond villain Oddjob in Goldfinger.

The firm, meanwhile, has continued to grow, acquiring Piccadilly hatters Scott & Co in the 1970s.

Lock’s association with Lord Nelson was remembered in 2012 when it designed a hat for his statue atop Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square which featured a full-sized Olympic torch and which, due to popular demand, was left on the admiral for the duration of the Olympics.

Interestingly, it is also claimed that James Benning, a member of the Lock family and a servant of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) – writer of Alice in Wonderland, was the inspiration behind the ‘Mad Hatter’.

PICTURES: Top – Jeremy T. Hetzel; Right – Matt Brown – both licensed under CC BY 2.0.

 

Still a favourite at tea rooms across the world, the Chelsea bun – a squarish, sticky spiced fruit bun – owes its origins to Richard Hand’s establishment in what was Jew’s Road and is now Pimlico Road in what is now Pimlico, on the border with Chelsea.

The single storey premises opened early in the 18th century and in the interior Mr Hand, apparently known as “Captain Bun”, kept a curious collection of clocks, models, paintings, statues and other curiosities.

The bun house, known variously as the Old Chelsea Bun House and the Original Chelsea Bun House, was a huge hit, attracting a clientele which included royalty – King George II and Queen Caroline visited with their daughters as did King George III and Queen Charlotte – and also, famously, the political figure and Jonathan Swift, who bought a stale one for a penny in 1711 and recorded that he didn’t like it.

The tradition of eating a hot cross bun on Good Friday lead to huge crowds at the bun house on that day in particular – said to number more than 50,000 some years – and such were that crowds that in 1793, Mrs Hand, following complaints from her neighbours, declared in a public notice that she would only be selling Chelsea buns, and not cross buns, on Good Friday that year.

The house did, however, return to selling hot cross buns on Good Friday – it is said to have sold an enormous 24,000 on Good Friday in 1839 (some sources have out the figure as high as 240,000 but that may have been a misprint).

Despite the success of Good Fridays, according to The London Encyclopaedia, the closure of the nearby Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens in 1804 had impacted the business.

In 1839, following the death of the Hands’ two sons and with no further family member to take over the business, it was closed and the bakery reverted to the Crown. The building was subsequently demolished.

PICTURE: Chelsea buns today. Duncan Hull under licence CC BY 2.0.

An exhibition exploring how recorded sound has shaped and influenced our lives since the invention of the phonograph in 1877 has opened at the British Library. Listen: 140 Years of Recorded Sound provides the opportunity to hear rare and unpublished recordings from the British Library’s sound archive as well as view some the library’s rarely seen collection of records, players and recorders. Highlights include a record of James Joyce reading Ulysses in 1924 (one of only two recordings of his voice), the smallest 78 rpm disc ever issued (made for Queen Mary’s doll’s house), playable stamps from the Kingdom of Bhutan and historic voices including those of nursing icon Florence Nightingale (recorded at her London home in 1890), aviator Amelia Earhart (recorded in 1932), and writer Jorge Luis Borges (recorded in 1971). The exhibition also features a specially commissioned sound installation by musician and former British Library composer-in-residence, Aleks Kolkowski. Free to enter, the display in the Entrance Hall Gallery can be seen until 11th March and is accompanied by a programme of events. For more, see www.bl.uk/events/listen-140-years-of-recorded-sound. PICTURE: Wax cylinders from the British Library sound collections © British Library Board.

Go for a swing! Tate Modern this month has unveiled a large scale interactive installation by Danish collective SUPERFLEX which features dozens of three seater swings weaving through the gallery’s Turbine Hall and out into the landscape beyond. One Two Three Swing! is aimed at encouraging audiences to combat social apathy and work together in a collaborative action to swing. The installation is the third annual Hyundai Commission, a partership between the Tate and Hyundai Motor. Until 2nd April. Admission is free. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

• On Now: Daily Funnies: An Exhibition of Strip Cartoons. This display at the Cartoon Museum features many examples of well-known cartoon strips from newspapers and magazines of the past century including everyone from Andy Capp to Rupert, Bristol to Peanuts. Be quick – closes on 18th November. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org.

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An institution linking the Isle of Dogs to Greenwich underneath the Thames for more than a century, the Greenwich Foot Tunnel was built to provide an alternative to a sometimes unreliable ferry service – thanks to weather – and was principally aimed at workers making their way from their homes in London’s south to docks and shipyards.

It was one of two tunnel crossings – the other being at Woolwich – which were lobbied for by Will Crooks, chair of the LCC’s bridges committee and later MP for Woolwich.

Designed by engineer Sir Alexander Binnie for the London County Council, the project – which reportedly cost some £127,000 – commenced in June, 1899, with the tunnel completed and opened, with very little fanfare (there was apparently no opening ceremony) on 4th August, 1902.

The design features a glass-topped dome at either end with steps spiralling downward (reported as 87 steps to the north and 100 to the south). Lifts were installed in 1904 and then upgraded in the 1990s and more recently in 2012. The tunnel itself. which is positioned at a depth of about 50 feet, is made of cast-iron and lined with 200,000 glazed white tiles. It measures 1,215 feet long with an internal diameter of nine feet.

The northern end of the tunnel was damaged by bombs during World War II and repairs include  a thick steel and concrete lining that substantially reduce the interior size of the tunnel for a short distance.

The tunnel, which has its own friends group, is classed as a public highway and so as a matter of law is kept open 24 hours a day. Its depth means it remains a cool place even on a hot day.

WHERE: Greenwich Foot Tunnel (nearest DLR (northern end) is Island Gardens and (southern end) is Cutty Sark; WHEN: Always; COST: free; WEBSITE: www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/info/200102/walking/693/foot_tunnels.

PICTURES: Top – James Stringer under licence CC BY-NC 2.0; and below – Neil Turner under licence CC BY-SA 2.0

The name of this City of London street – which leads from Upper Thames Street to the intersection of Queen Victoria and Cannon Streets – speaks to the City’s past when it originated at the now-lost dock or jetty known as Garlickhithe. 

Garlickhithe was, not surprisingly, where garlic was landed and sold in a tradition dating back to at least the 13th century. It’s one of numerous thoroughfares in the City named for what was traded there.

The name is also remembered in the church which still stands at the bottom of the hill, St James, Garlickhythe, and which once stood right on the back of the Thames. The church was founded in the 12th century, rebuilt several times – the last time after the Great Fire of London under the direction of Sir Christopher Wren.

 

Only the remains of this once mighty tree can now be seen in Greenwich Park. Thought to have been planted in the 12th century, the tree died in the late 1800s but, thanks to the support of the ivy that clung to it, remained standing until it finally collapsed in June, 1991. 

The tree, located to the east of the Royal Observatory, has several links to the Tudors – tradition says King Henry VIII danced around it with Anne Boleyn while their daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, is said to have picnicked beneath its leafy canopy. The proximity of Greenwich Palace may explain the connection.

There was apparently in Victorian times, a large seat placed around the tree and there has been a suggestion that the hollow truck was big enough to make a small prison where people who misbehaved in the park were locked up.

Planted alongside is another English Oak – it was officially dug into the soil on 3rd December, 1992, by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, to mark 40 years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

WHERE: Queen Elizabeth’s Oak, Greenwich Park (nearest DLR is Cutty Sark Station and Greenwich Station); WHEN: 6am to 7pm (6pm from end of British Summer Time) daily; COST: free; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/greenwich-park

PICTURE: Clem Rutter, Rochester, Kent/www.clemrutter.net/CC BY-SA 3.0

 

The Science Museum is commemorating 70 years of India’s independence with Illuminating India, a season of exhibitions, specially commissioned artworks and events telling the stories of Indian innovators and thinkers who have often been overlooked or written out of Western versions of history. The exhibition Illuminating India: 5000 Years of Science and Innovation celebrates India’s central role in the history of science and tech by surveying its contributions to subjects ranging from space exploration to mathematics, communication and engineering while Photography 1857-2017 is the first exhibition to provide a survey of photography from its beginnings in India in the mid-19th century through to the present day and pivots around two key dates in India’s history – 1857 and 1947. Alongside the exhibitions, artist Chila Kumari Burman has been commissioned to create a special series of artworks and there is a comprehensive program of related public events, some of which are free. The Illuminating India season runs until 31st March. For the full programme of events, head to www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/indiaseason.

To mark the return of Sir Anthony van Dyck’s self-portrait (pictured) to the National Portrait Gallery after a three year nationwide tour, contemporary artist Julian Opie has been invited to present his works in dialogue with the painting. Julian Opie After Van Dyck features new and recent works including Faime (2016), Lucia, back 3 (2017) and Beach head, 6 (2017). The free display in the seventeenth century galleries opens tomorrow and runs until 7th January. It’s the final of three displays held in the gallery as part of the three year tour following the purchase of the Van Dyck self-portrait, painted in about 1640, in 2014. For more, see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE: National Portrait Gallery.

The friendship and works of Salvador Dali and Marcel Duchamp are explored in a new exhibition opening at the Royal Academy tomorrow. Dali/Duchamp features more than 80 paintings, sculptures, “readymades”, photographs, drawings, films and archival material and is organised into three thematic sections – ‘Identities’, ‘The Body and the Object’ and, ‘Experimenting with Reality’. Among the highlights is Duchamp’s The King and Queen Surrounded by Swift Nudes (1912), Fountain (1917/1964), and The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (1915), as well as Dali’s The First Days of Spring (1929), Lobster Telephone (1938) and Christ of Saint John of the Cross (c1951). Runs until 3rd January and then moves to The Dali Museum in St Petersburg, Florida. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

The first tranche of tickets to see this year’s New Years Eve fireworks event over the River Thames in central London were released late last week. The display will feature more than 12,000 fireworks, and involve 2,000 lighting cues and 30 tonnes of equipment on three barges (and, despite the renovation work, the New Year will still be rung in by the bongs of Big Ben!). The tickets, which are available for £10 each, provide access to a range of specific areas – some of these are already sold out. The full cost of the tickets goes towards costs associated with the ticketing system. People can book up to four tickets at www.london.gov.uk/nye.

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Now an elegant place to have lunch or afternoon tea, The Orangery was originally built in 1704-05. Its construction came at the behest of Queen Anne – the younger sister of Queen Mary II, she had ascended to the throne after the death of Mary’s husband King William III in 1702 following a fall from a horse (Mary had died of smallpox at Kensington Palace in 1694). Queen Anne used the building for parties in summer and in winter, thanks to underfloor heating, as a conservatory for plants (two engines were later fitted to the building to lift the orange trees kept there in colder months). The building’s architect is thought to have been the renowned Nicholas Hawksmoor, clerk of works for Kensington Palace, but it was extensively modified by Sir John Vanbrugh. The building also contains carvings by Grinling Gibbons. For more, see www.orangerykensingtonpalace.co.ukPICTURE: Vapor Kopeny/Unsplash

One of the National Gallery’s most celebrated paintings – Jan van Eyck’s The Amolfini Portrait – is being exhibited for the first time alongside works by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and its successors in a new exhibition exploring the influence of the 15th century masterpiece on 19th century artists. As well as van Eyck’s work, Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites features Sir John Everett Millais’ Mariana (1851), Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1848-49), William Holman Hunt’s The Awakening Conscience (1853) and William Morris’s La Belle Iseult (1858 – pictured) along with a host of other works. The exhibition provides a particular focus on one of the most distinctive features of The Amolfini Portrait – the convex mirror in which van Eyck himself is famously reflected – and, to that end, includes a convex mirror owned by Rossetti and another used by William Orpen. Other objects featured in the exhibition include early photographs, drawings and archival material surrounding the 1842 purchase of The Amolfini Portrait by the National Gallery as well as a Victorian reproduction of van Eyck’s masterwork, The Ghent Altarpiece. The exhibition in the Sunley Room opens Monday and can be seen until 2nd April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.co.uk/reflections. PICTURE: © Tate, London (N04999)

The history of opera from its roots in Renaissance Italy to the present day is being explored in a new exhibition opening at the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington on Saturday. Opera: Passion, Power and Politics, a collaboration between the museum and the Royal Opera House, focuses on seven operatic premieres in seven cities – Montverdi’s L’incoronazione de Poppea (the first public opera), which premiered in Venice in 1642, Handel’s Rinaldo, which premiered in London in 1711, Mozart’s Le nozze de Figaro, which premiered in Vienna in 1786, Verdi’s Nabucco, which premiered in Milan in 1842, Wagner’s Tannhauser, which premiered in Paris in 1861, Strauss’ Salome, which premiered in Dresden in 1905, and Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, which premiered in St Petersburg in 1934.  It features more than 300 objects including Salvador Dali’s costume design for Peter Brook’s 1949 production of Salome, Edouard Monet’s painting Music in the Tuileries Gardens, the original score of Nabucco, and one of only two surviving copies of L’incoronazione de Poppea. There will also be original material from the St Petersburg premier of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk which, including the composer’s original score, stage directions, libretto, set models and costume designs, is being reunited and displayed outside Russia for the first time. World leading performances can be heard over headphones, creating what the museum says is a “fully immersive sound experience”. The exhibition is the first to be displayed in the V&A’s purpose built Sainsbury Gallery and will be accompanied by a programme of live events. Runs until 25th February. For more see www.vam.ac.uk/opera.

Fancy yourself a potter? A ceramics factory where the public can mould or cast jugs, teapots and flowers opens at the Tate Modern today in an art installation by artist Clare Twomey. Located on level five of the gallery’s Blavatnik Building, FACTORY: the seen and the unseen will launch the second year of Tate Exchange and will comprise a 30 metre work space, eight tonnes of clay, a wall of drying racks and more than 2,000 fired objects. In the first week, visitors are invited to ‘clock in’ and learn the skills of working with clay and then exchange what they have made with other objects made in a factory setting. The production line will stop in the second week and visitors invited to enter a factory soundscape and join a factory tour to discuss how communities are built by collective labour. From now until January next year, Tate Exchange: Production will feature a range of artist’s projects at both the Tate Modern and Tate Liverpool exploring the role of the museum in production from a range of viewpoints. For the full programme of events, see www.tate.org.uk/tateexchange.

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Jane Austen died in Winchester, Hampshire, on 18th July, 1817, at the age of just 41. She was buried in the city’s cathedral but a small tablet was unveiled in Westminster Abbey to mark her death 150 years later.

Located in Poets’ Corner in the abbey’s south transept, the small tablet was erected on 17th December, 1967, by the Jane Austen Society. Made of polished Roman stone, it simply bears her name and year of birth – 1775 – and year of death.

The tablet was placed on the lefthand side of the (much larger) memorial to William Shakespeare and below that of lexicographer Samuel Johnson.

This is the final in our series on Jane Austen’s London – we’ll be starting a new series shortly.

WHERE: Westminster Abbey (nearest Tube station is Westminster and St James’s Park); WHEN: Various  – check website; COST: £22 adults/£17 concessions/£9 chirldren (6-16)/five and under free (check website for more options); WEBSITE: www.westminster-abbey.org

PICTURE: Carcharoth (Commons)/CC BY-SA 3.0 (image cropped)

Across-the-Thames

Near London Bridge, looking over the Thames at The Shard. PICTURE: JJ Jordan/Unsplash

Literary history was made in London 80 years ago this month – on 21st September, 1937 – when George Allen & Unwin Ltd published JRR Tolkien’s book, The Hobbit.

The initial print run of 1,500, which featured black and white illustrations and a dust jacket designed by Tolkien himself, had sold out by December. It was released in the US the following year and was subsequently republished in the UK was published in numerous new editions.

George Allen & Unwin, which was founded by George Allen in 1871 and became George Allen & Unwin when Stanley Unwin purchased a controlling interest in 1914, went on to publish Tolkien’s follow-up epic, The Lord of the Rings, in the 1950s after Unwin suggested a sequel based on the popularity of the first.

The publishing company, which also published the likes of everyone from Bertrand Russell to Roald Dahl, was based at Ruskin House in Museum Street in Bloomsbury at the time of the publication.

The company now lives on as an Australian company, Allen & Unwin Australia Pty Ltd.

Jane Austen featured numerous London locations in her novels. Here’s five…

Brunswick Square, Bloomsbury. In Emma, the main protagonist’s married sister, Isabella, lives here with her lawyer husband John Knightley and children. Isabella is well pleased with her home, noting “We are so very airy”.

Hill Street, Mayfair. Admiral Crawford, uncle of Henry and Mary Crawford, lives in this street in Mansfield Park.

Harley Street, Marylebone (pictured). John and Fanny Dashwood took a house in this street for the “season” in Sense and Sensibility.

Bond Street. Well known to Austen, she has Marianne, then upset over Willoughby (who has lodgings here), visit here on a shopping trip in Sense and Sensibility.

Grosvenor Street, Mayfair. The Hursts have a house in this fashionable West End street in Pride and Prejudice and here Jane Bennet visits Caroline Bingley hoping to see her brother Charles. Read the rest of this entry »

LondonLife – Snoozing…

September 19, 2017

Palmerston, the ‘chief mouser’ to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall, captured by photographer Steve Way during the Open House London weekend, apparently oblivious to the crowds. Palmerston was recently the subject of a Freedom of Information release which stated that since his arrival at the FCO in April, 2016, he had been seen capturing 27 mice (although the Office of the Permanent Under-Secretary at the FCO reports the actual figure is “likely to be much higher as these are only reported sightings”). The FOI document also revealed Palmerston eats a variety of food brands, usually ‘Whiskas’ and is cared for by a number of volunteers from across the FCO.

PICTURE: Steve Way/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This Grade II*-listed pub originally dates from the early 18th century but the current building was constructed in the 1860s and still retains many features dating from that period.

The name for this pub, located at 18 Argyll Street just south-west of Oxford Circus, comes from John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll, one of the Duke of Marlborough’s leading generals and the owner of the land on which the street (and pub) now stands.

The London mansion of the dukes was located where the London Palladium now stands and there is a legend that there was a tunnel between the house, which was eventually demolished in 1864, and the pub.

While the pub has undergone some alterations since it was built, mid-19th century features inside include etched glass separating the booths and an ornate plaster ceiling.

The pub is now part of the Nicholson chain. For more, head here.

PICTURES: Top – Russell Davies/Flickr/; Right – Michael Flynn/Flickr/(CC BY-NC 2.0)

The first prison on the site to the north of Clerkenwell Green, initially known as the Clerkenwell Bridewell or New Prison, was built in 1616 and was used as an overflow for City prisons.

Later that century, a second prison was built next door, this time as an as a remand prison for those awaiting trial to relieve the crowded Newgate. Among those imprisoned here was the notorious Jack Sheppard and his mistress Bess Lyon (they both escaped from it in 1724).

The prison, which wasn’t located far from the Middlesex Sessions House, was significantly enlarged in 1774 and, in 1818, when the original Clerkenwell Bridewell was demolished, the New Prison was rebuilt almost entirely across both sites, providing accommodation for a couple of hundred.

Less than 30 years later, however, in the mid-1840s the still relatively new building was demolished and a new House of Detention, also known as the Middlesex House of Detention, was built in its stead. Its design was cruciform and influenced strongly by the recently completed Pentonville Prison. It had several wings for males and one for females.

The prison was eventually closed in 1877 and demolished in 1890. The Hugh Myddelton School was subsequently built on the site (the building still stands, albeit it is used as flats).

One of the most famous incidents at the prison took place on 13th December, 1867, when during an unsuccessful escape attempt, members of the Fenian Society detonated a barrel of gunpowder, causing an explosion which blew open the prison wall as well as damaging the houses which lay opposite across Corporation Row. In what became known as the “Clerkenwell Outrage”, 12 bystanders were killed and scores injured. The ringleader, Michael Barrett, was the last person to be publicly hanged at Newgate on 24th May, 1868.

The prison’s Victorian-era vaults still lie beneath the streets of Clerkenwell and a number of films including Sherlock Holmes and TV shows including Secret Diary of a Call Girl have been shot here. They can be accessed via special tours from time-to-time.

PICTURE: Above – Visiting time at Clerkenwell House of Detention from an 1862 publication (via Wikipedia); Below – All that remains of the House of Detention – the vaults (Daejn/Wikipedia)

Open House London marks its 25th anniversary this weekend, with free entry into more than 800 of the city’s buildings. For the first time, every London borough is participating in the event which sees the doors flung wide on buildings including the recently revamped New Scotland Yard (right), the skyscraper One Blackfriars nick-named ‘The Vase’ (above), an urban farm in Waterloo and the Francis Crick Institute at King’s Cross as well as traditional crowd-pleasers like BT Tower, William Morris’s Red House and the office towers known as the Cheesegrater and the Gherkin.  The weekend also features some 66 walks and talks. Open House have this year  launched a free app which, available for both Android and Apple, allows users to plan their weekend, view nearby buildings, and filter results by day, architectural type and period. To download the app and to see the full programme of events, head to www.openhouselondon.org.uk. PICTURES: Top – CGI/Right – Tim Soar (Open House London).

The London Design Festival, now in its 15th year, also kicks off this weekend with a programme of 450 projects and events across the coming week. The V&A will once again form the festival hub with iconic spaces within the museum transformed by a series of special commissions and displays including an immersive coloured light experienced known as Reflection Room and a 21.3-metre-long uid and free-standing three dimensional tapestry called Transmission. Somerset House will host a new group exhibition called Design Frontiers featuring 30 leading international designers while the Oxo Tower Wharf Courtyard will host a specially created micro house, called URBAN CABIN – one of many ‘landmark projects’ to be seen during the week. The festival runs until 24th September. For more – including the full programme of events, see www.londondesignfestival.com.

The rediscovery of Roman London under the modern city is the subject of a new exhibition which opened at the Guildhall Library in the City this week. The Discovery of Roman London, with a display of objects, archives and 19th century illustrations, looks at the early pioneers of Roman London archaeology over the past three centuries and the establishment of the Guildhall Museum – the precursor to the Museum of London – in 1826 to provide a suitable place for the found artefacts. Runs until 30th November. Entry is free. For more, follow this link.

The story of ancient nomadic tribes known as the Scythians is told in a new exhibition at the British Museum. Scythians: warriors of ancient Siberia features more than 200 objects, many of which have been preserved under permafrost, providing fascinating insights into the lives of the Scythian tribes who lived between 900 and 200 BC. The objects include fur-lined clothes, headgear for horses, gold jewellery, weapons, wooden drinking bowls and even tattooed human remains. There are also a series of painted clay death masks decorated to resemble the faces of the dead which are being shown alongside a reconstructed log-cabin tomb in which they were found. Runs until 14th January in the Sainsbury Exhibition Gallery. Supported by BP, the exhibition has been organised in partnership with the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

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