This Week in London – Literary ‘foundlings’; Anthony Van Dyck re-examined; Astronights; and, Liberty in Fashion…
January 21, 2016
• A new exhibition featuring drawings of fictional child protagonists who were orphaned, adopted, fostered or ‘found’ opens at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury tomorrow. Drawing on Childhood shows how illustrators, spanning the period from the 18th century until today, was inspired by Lemn Sissay’s 2014 commission, Superman was a Foundling. It features original drawings, first editions and special illustrated editions depicting everyone from James Trotter (James and the Giant Peach) to Cinderella and Rapunzel. Among the artists whose work will be on display are Phiz (Hablot K Browne), Arthur Rackham, Quentin Blake, Stref, George Cruikshank, Thomas Rowlandson, Nick Sherratt and David Hockney. Three contemporary artists – Chris Haughton, Pablo Bronstein and Posy Simmonds – have also been invited to produce a new illustration for Henry Fielding’s 1749 novel, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. Runs until 4th May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.
• The works of Anthony van Dyck are the subject of a new display at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. I Am Van Dyck centres around a self-portrait of the artist recently acquired by the National Portrait Gallery and lent to Dulwich and juxtaposes the painting with two works by contemporary British artist Mark Wallinger – Self (Times New Roman) and I Am Innocent – in an effort to explore the meanings of individuality and our sense of self. The display – the first of four under the umbrella of Making Discoveries: Dutch and Flemish Masterpieces – also reveals new information on works by Van Dyck held by the gallery and shows how he developed and altered his compositions. Runs until 24th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.
• The Science Museum is holding the first of its Astronights – “sleepovers for grown-ups” – this Saturday night. Guests will be treated to a midnight screening of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens before which they’ll enjoy a three course meal with live music and an evening of entertainment. The next Astronight will be held on 4th March. Charges apply. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/astronights.
• On Now: Liberty in Fashion. Commemorating the 140th anniversary of the company in 2015, this exhibition at the Fashion and Textiles Museum in Bermondsey Street explores the impact of Liberty & Co on British fashion and features more than 150 garments, textiles, and objects which demonstrate the company’s relationships with designers such as Yves Saint Laurent and Vivienne Westwood. The exhibition, which opened in October, runs until 28th February. Admission charge applies and there’s a series of events accompanying the exhibition (many of which have still to run). For more, see www.ftmlondon.org.
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Bermondsey Abbey, which was more than 130-years-old by the time King John put his seal to the Magna Carta in 1215, has an unusual connection to the unpopular king – it is one of a number of buildings in London which has, at various times in history, been erroneously referred to as King John’s Palace.
This suggestion – that it was a palace which was later converted into an abbey – may have arisen from a site on the former abbey grounds being known at some point in its history as King John’s Court (that name was said to commemorate the fact that King John visited the abbey).
Putting how King John’s name came to be linked with the abbey aside, we’ll take a quick look at the history of the abbey which rose to become an important ecclesiastical institution in medieval times.
While there was a monastic institution in Bermondsey as far back as the early 8th century, the priory which was here during the reign of King John was founded in 1082, possibly on the site of the earlier institution, by a Londoner named as Aylwin Child(e), apparently a wealthy Saxon merchant who was granted the land by King William the Conqueror.
In 1089, the monastery – located about a mile back from the river between Southwark and Rotherhithe – became the Cluniac Priory of St Saviour, an order centred on the French abbey of Cluny, and was endowed by King William II (William Rufus) with the manor of Bermondsey.
It was “naturalised” – that is, became English – by the first English prior, Richard Dunton, in 1380, who paid a substantial fine for the process. It was elevated to the status of an abbey by Pope Boniface IX in 1399.
It had some important royal connections – King John’s father, King Henry II and his wife Queen Eleanor celebrated Christmas here in 1154 (their second child, the ill-fated Henry, the young King, was born here a couple of months later), and Queen Catherine (of Valois), wife of King Henry V, died here in 1437. It was also at Bermondsey Abbey that Elizabeth Woodville, the widow of King Edward IV and mother of the two “Princes in the Tower”, died in 1492 following her retirement from court.
The abbey, which grew to have an enormous income thanks to its acquisition of property in a range of counties, survived until the Dissolution when, in 1537, King Henry VIII closed its doors. It was later acquired by Sir Thomas Pope who demolished the abbey and built a mansion for himself on the site (and founded Trinity College in Oxford apparently using revenues from the property). We’ll deal more with its later history in an upcoming post.
The ruins of the abbey were extensively excavated in the past few decades and some of the remaining ruins of the abbey can still be seen buildings around Bermondsey Square and a blue plaque commemorating the abbey was unveiled in 2010. Bermondsey Street runs roughly along the line of the path which once led from the abbey gates to the Thames and the abbey had a dock there still commemorated as St Saviour’s Dock. The abbey’s name is commemorated in various streets around the area.
For more on the history of the Magna Carta, see David Starkey’s Magna Carta: The True Story Behind the Charter.
Around London – Tudor and Stuart fashion; Wellington Arch treasures; Hunterian celebrates 200 years; Regent Street and the world; and, Kaffe Fassett at the FTM…
May 9, 2013
• A landmark exhibition looking at fashion in the Tudor and Stuart eras opens at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, tomorrow. In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion features everything from a diamond ring given by King Charles I to his then 19-year-old wife Henrietta Maria, an ornate set of armour which belonged to 13-year-old Henry, Prince of Wales (the older brother of King Charles I – he died of typhoid fever at the age of 19), and a diamond-encrusted box in which Queen Mary II kept black fabric patches worn to conceal blemishes or highlight the creaminess of skin. A 58.5 carat pearl, named ‘La Peregrina’ (‘The Wanderer’) and given to Queen Mary I as an engagement gift from Philip II of Spain (and later presented to Elizabeth Taylor by Richard Burton on Valentine’s Day, 1969), is also among the objects on show along with a pendant featuring a miniature of Queen Elizabeth I. The exhibition also features more than 60 portraits from the Royal Collection showing the fashions of the time, including a portrait by Sir Peter Lely of court beauty Frances Stuart, Duchess of Richmond, who famously refused to become King Charles II’s mistress. Admission charge applies. Runs until 6th October. For more, see www.royalcollection.co.uk. PICTURE: Sir Anthony van Dyck, Queen Henrietta Maria, 1609-69. Royal Collection Trust/© 2013, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
• A medieval crozier and bejewelled ring discovered in Cumbria in 2010 are on public display for the first time in a new exhibition at Wellington Arch. The artefacts, which were discovered at Furness Abbey, are featured in an English Heritage exhibition, A Monumental Act: How Britain Saved Its Heritage, which explores how the Ancient Monuments Act of 1913 helped protect Britain’s historical fabric. Other objects in display include some of the historic artefacts found in the 20 years following the act – a Roman bronze weight from Richborough Roman Fort in Kent and a 13th century sculpture of Christ found at Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire. Admission charge applies. The exhibition runs until 7th July. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/wellington-arch/.
• The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons is celebrating its bicentenary this year and to mark the occasion, they’re holding a free exhibition focusing on the museum’s collections of human anatomy and pathology; natural history and artworks. The display will consider how the objects in the collection have informed the medical world and fallen under the gaze of visitors who have included surgeons as well as monarchs. The exhibition in the Qvist Gallery at the museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields opens on Tuesday, 14th May, and runs until 9th November. For more, see www.rcseng.ac.uk/museums/hunterian.
• The world comes to Regent Street this Sunday with the ‘InsureandGo The World on Regent Street’ festival. Representatives from countries including Argentina, Egypt, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey and China as well as the UK will showcasing the best of each country’s culture, music and dance, art, food and fashion. Activities will include tango lessons from Argentina, professional henna drawing from Egypt, a steel band from Trinidad and Tobago, and a Chinese drumming performance and lion dancing. The street will be closed for the day. For more, see www.regentstreetonline.com.
• On Now: Kaffe Fassett – A Life in Colour. This exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey Street celebrates the work of American-born artist Kaffe Fassett and features more than 100 works including nine foot wide knitted shawls, coats and throws, patchwork quilts and a ‘feeling wall’ where visitors can touch the textiles on display. Admission charge applies. Runs until 29th June. For more, see www.ftmlondon.org.
Around London – Workhouse life; funds needed for Salter statues; and Saloua Raouda Choucair at the Tate…
April 25, 2013
• Life as an inmate inside a Victorian workhouse is explored in an exhibition at the Florence Nightingale Museum in Lambeth Palace Road. The exhibition, Workhouse – Segregated Lives, examines the design of the workhouses as well as the inmate’s diet, work and health while living there. Rare artefacts, firsthand accounts, pictorial representations and publications will all help to bring to life the “world of the workhouse” in this display which opened in February and runs until 5th July. There’s a program of events accompanying the exhibition including lectures by historians looking at subjects like the food served in the workhouse and how to find your workhouse ancestors. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.florence-nightingale.co.uk.
• The Salter Statues campaign is appealing for funds for a new statue of former Bermondsey resident Dr Albert Salter after a famous statue of the doctor, known for his work with the area’s poor in the early part of the 20th century, was stolen from its location on Bermondsey Wall in 2011. A fundraising campaign has so far raised more than £16,000 with Southwark Council matching all donations made but £100,000 is needed. As well as a replacement statue of Dr Salter, the funds will also be used to buy a new statue of his wife, Ada, who was the first female Labour councillor in London. The new statues have been designed by artist Diane Gorvin, sculptor of the original group of statues which were erected in 1991 and, as well as the seated statue of Dr Salter, also included the couple’s daughter Joyce – who died aged eight of scarlet fever – and her cat (the statues of Joyce and her cat were removed after the theft and are being held in safekeeping). Donations can be made via www.salterstatues.co.uk.
• The community of a residential complex at the former Arsenal football stadium in North London – Highbury Stadium Square – comes under examination in a new exhibition running at the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton. Photographer Simone Novotny, who is a resident of the complex herself, looks at the lives and stories of residents in 30 of the 700 new homes in a series of intimate portraits. Runs until 26th August. Admission charge applies. See www.geffrye-museum.org.uk for more.
• On Now: Saloua Raouda Choucair. This exhibition at the Tate Modern on South Bank is the first major museum exhibition of the works of Lebanese artist Saloua Raouda Choucair and consists of more than 120 works – many of which have never been seen before – including paintings, sculptures and other objects. The Beirut-born artist, now aged 97-years-old, is credited as being a pioneer of abstract art in the Middle East and her works reflect her diverse interests in science, maths, Islamic art and poetry. Works in display include sculptures in wood, metal, stone and fibreglass (1950s-1980s) as well as early paintings including Self-Portrait (1943) and Paris-Beirut (1948). Runs until 20th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.
Apologies for the delay in posting this piece – next week we’ll post the final in this series!
The first underground railway system in the world, the London Underground – fondly known as the ‘Tube’ – is this year celebrating the 150th anniversary of its creation.
Born out of an idea to link the inner city with the various large rail termini on the outskirts, the first section of what is now the underground system – a six kilometre stretch between Paddington and Farringdon – opened on 9th January, 1863, and was run by the Metropolitan Railway, known less formally as the ‘Met’.
It was constructed using the ‘cut and cover’ method in which streets were dug up and tracks laid in a trench before being covered by brick-lined tunnels and the street above replaced (the method was later abandoned, apparently due to the disruption it caused to traffic). The first trains were steam-driven locomotives and drew gas-lit wooden carriages behind them (the first journey was re-enacted earlier this year – see our earlier post here. Other events commemorating the 150th included a visit to Baker Street Station by Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and the Duchess of Cambridge).
The idea proved a success – 26,000 people used the new railway every day during the first six months of its operation – and the Metropolitan District Railway opened a new line between Westminster and South Kensington (station is pictured) in December, 1868, while the first Tube tunnel under the Thames, from the Tower of London to Bermondsey, opened in 1880, and what is now the Circle Line was completed in 1884.
In December 1890, the world’s first deep-level electric railway opened, running between King William Street in the City and passing under the Thames to Stockwell. Ten years later the ‘Twopenny Tube’, more formally known as the Central London Railway, opened between Shepherd’s Bush and Bank (it was from this that the use of the word ‘Tube’ to describe the Underground system caught on).
The uniting of the system began the following year with the creation of the Underground Electric Railway Company of London and by World War I, all but the Met were within a single group organisation. The name Underground first appeared on stations in 1908, the same year electric ticket machines were introduced.
In 1933, the Underground came under the control of the London Passenger Transport Board – the same year that Harry Beck’s first diagrammatic map of the underground system appeared.
Stations in the system were used as air raid shelters during World War II – part of the Piccadilly Line was closed and used as a storage site for treasures from the British Museum. Following the war, the organisation running the system went through various name changes until the formation of London Underground in 1985.
The system has since expanded – the Victoria Line was opened in the late 1960s and the Jubilee Line a decade later – and now consists of more than 408 kilometres of railway lines and 275 stations which serve more than three million passengers a day – equating to more than a billion a year, the same as the entire national rail network.
For more on the history of the Underground, see our earlier 10 Questions with London Transport Museum curator Simon Murphy. Poster Art 150 – London Underground’s Greatest Designs runs at the London Transport Museum until October. Admission charge applies. For more (including the many events around the exhibition), see www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/events/events-calendar#posterart150.
For more, check out David Bownes’ Underground: How the Tube Shaped London or Andrew Martin’s Underground, Overground: A Passenger’s History of the Tube.
London’s railway network stands out as one of the greatest achievements of the Victorian age for it was during the 19th century that much of the railway infrastructure still in use today was first established.
The first railway line in London opened in February 1836 (six years after the UK’s first line opened) and ran between Spa Road in Bermondsey and Deptford on the south bank of the River Thames. The line was extended to London Bridge in December that same year and again to Greenwich, from cross-Channel steamers left – in April the following year.
That same year – 1837 – the station at Euston opened as the final stop for trains from Birmingham (an earlier terminus as Chalk Farm was deemed too far out). It was followed by Paddington in 1838, Fenchurch Street – the first permanent terminus in the City – in 1841, Waterloo in 1848 and King’s Cross in 1850.
Having seen a boom period during the 1840s, development of new lines took a back seat in the 1850s but resumed apace the following decade with the opening of Victoria Station, connecting the city to Brighton and Dover. Stations followed at Charing Cross, Ludgate Hill and Cannon Street and alongside the grand terminus’ around the outskirts of London where trains arriving from distant destinations arrived, numerous smaller railways began to be built, such as the West End of London and Crystal Palace Railway and the Victoria Station and Pimlico Railway, which took passengers on only short journeys across the city (these smaller railway companies all disappeared by 1923 when the 1921 Railways Act resulted in the creation of what are known as the “Big Four” British railway companies).
And, of course, the London Underground, has its first journey in 1863 but we’ll look at that in more detail next week.
Interesting to note that there were three classes of rail travel and while first and second class passengers had seats, this wasn’t always the case in third class where, writes Michael Paterson in Inside Dickens’ London, passengers, such as those on the Greenwich line, were initially forced to stand in open topped carriages known by some as ‘standipedes’.
Naturally, with the building of the railways came some spectacular stations – among the most spectacular is the late Victorian building which stood at the front of St Pancras Railway Station and housed the Midland Grand Hotel (pictured above). An exemplar of the Gothic Victorian style, it was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and, following a massive recent refurbishment, is now home to the five star Renaissance London Hotel and apartments.
We can, of course, only touch on the history of the railways in such a brief article – but we will be looking in more detail at some more specific elements of the system in later posts.
June 6, 2012
UPDATED: Last week we looked at some of the monuments marking Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee in London, so this week we’re taking a look at some of the monuments marking the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrating what were then 50 years on the throne in 2002.
The year was marked with celebrations, including a Golden Jubilee Weekend, not unlike that experienced in London over last weekend, which featured public concerts in Buckingham Palace gardens including the ‘Party at the Palace’ pop concert, flyovers including one by a Concorde with the Red Arrows, a National Thanksgiving Service at St Paul’s Cathedral and a Jubilee Procession down The Mall.
In addition, the celebrations included the first ever parade of all the Queen’s bodyguards – this 300 strong group featured detachments from the Gentlemen at Arms (created by King Henry VIII in 1509), the Yeoman of the Guard (created by King Henry VII in 1485) and Yeoman Warders (based at the Tower of London).
As with the Silver Jubilee, the Queen more than 70 towns in the UK and visited countries overseas including Jamaica, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.
Among the monuments in London marking the Golden Jubilee are:
• Golden Jubilee Sundial, Old Palace Yard (pictured). Designed by Quentin Newark, this was Parliament’s gift to the Queen and was installed in 2002 as part of the yard’s revamp. The dial, which is ‘set’ to Greenwich Mean Time and can be found just outside the eastern end of Westminster Abbey, features a quote in its outer circle from William Shakespeare’s play, Henry VI, part III: “To carve out dials quaintly, point by point, thereby to see the minutes how they run: how many makes the hour full complete, how many hours brings about the day, how many days will finish up the year, how many years a mortal man may live.”
• King’s Stairs Memorial Stone, Bermondsey. This memorial stone located on the edge of King’s Stairs Gardens by the Thames in Bermondsey was first installed to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. In 2002, the other side of the stone was inscribed to mark the Golden Jubilee and unveiled in the presence of the Earl and Countess of Wessex.
• Dovehouse Green, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. We omitted to mention this last week – located on an old burial ground granted by Sir Hans Sloane in 1733, Dovehouse Green was laid out in 1977 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee and the Golden Jubilee of the Chelsea Society and was refurbished in 2002 to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee (it reopened in 2003).
• Great Ormond Street Hospital. Not strictly a Golden Jubilee memorial, there is a plaque close to the hospital’s main entrance which commemorates the Queen’s visit to the hospital to mark its 150th anniversary in 2002, “Her Majesty’s Golden Jubilee Year”.
• Golden Jubilee Footbridges. One memorial accidentally left off the list initially was the Golden Jubilee Bridges which run along either side of the Hungerford Bridge, between Westminster and Waterloo Bridges. The new four metre wide footbridges, which feature a particularly complex design, were named the Golden Jubilee Footbridges in honor of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. They replaced an earlier – and somewhat notorious – footbridge which cantilevered off the side of the railway bridge.