This Week in London – The extraordinary story of George King; Guildhall statues survive (with explanations); and, Wildlife Photographer of the Year…

The extraordinary story of 18th century foundling and sailor George King, who fought in the Battle of Trafalgar, is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury tomorrow. Fighting Talk: One Boy’s Journey from Abandonment to Trafalgar features King’s hand-written account of his life, a fragment of the flag from Nelson’s coffin, letters between the Foundling Hospital’s matron and Lady Emma Hamilton (annotated by Nelson himself) and two rare Naval General Service Medals, of which only 221 were awarded retrospectively when the medal was first issued in 1849, belonging to King and the foundling William South, who served aboard HMS Victory. There is also a display of works by contemporary artist and photographer Ingrid Pollard – Ship’s Tack – which reflects on the Foundling Hospital’s connections with Empire, trade and the Navy and which includes newly commissioned work responding directly to George’s autobiography. Runs until 27th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

Two Guildhall statues portraying figures with links to the slave trade will be retained but have information added detailing those links. The City of London Corporation’s Court of Common Council voted last week to keep the statues of William Beckford and Sir John Cass which will have plaques or notices placed alongside them containing contextual information about the two men’s links to slavery. William Beckford was an 18th century slave owner and two-time Lord Mayor of London, while Cass – an MP and philanthropist – was a key figure in the Royal African Company, which traded in slaves in the 17th and 18th centuries. Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School in the City and the nearby Cass Business School have already changed their names to remove the association with their founder and his links to slavery.

•  French underwater photographer and biologist Laurent Ballesta has won the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year for an image showing camouflage groupers exiting their milky cloud of eggs and sperm in Fakarava, French Polynesia. The image was selected out of 50,000 entries from 95 countries and is being displayed with 100 images in an exhibition opening at the museum on Friday. Meanwhile 10-year old Vidyun R Hebbar, who lives in Bengaluru, India, was awarded the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 for his colourful image, Dome home, showing a tent spider as a tuk-tuk passes by. The exhibition can be seen until 5th June next year. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/wildlife-photographer-of-the-year.

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London Explained – The West End…

Piccadilly Circus lies at the heart of London’s West End. PICTURE: Sheep purple (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

This term is used to describe what was traditionally the western end of London as it developed beyond the City of London boundaries and has since became a word synonymous with the city’s theatre district.

The term’s origins are lost to history although it’s said it first started being used in earnest to describe fashionable areas to the west of Charing Cross in the late 17th or early 18th centuries. The term as it’s used today covers an area which contains the commercial and entertainment heart of London.

While the eastern boundary of the West End can be easily defined as where the City of London ends (Temple Bar on the Strand marks the City of London’s boundaries), thanks to its not being a formally designated geographic area, exactly where the West End finishes is a matter of considerable debate.

While the some see the West End only including Theatreland itself – an area stretching from Aldwych across to Piccadilly Circus and north from Trafalgar Square to Oxford Circus, others have adapted a broader definition which sees include not only Aldwych, Soho and Covent Garden but also Mayfair, Fitzrovia and Marylebone with Oxford Circus at the centre (some even go further and include districts such as Bloomsbury and Knightsbridge in their definition of the West End).

This Week in London – Skateboarding explored at Somerset House; and, looking behind ‘Oliver Twist’…

One of the images in No Comply – ‘Here to win’ © Katie Edwards.jpg

A celebration of skateboarding and its impact on communities and culture of the past 45 years is underway at Somerset House. No Comply: Skate Culture and Community is a free exhibition featuring imagery from some of the world’s foremost photographers capturing skateboarding scenes from across the UK as well as early editions of skateboarding titles like Alpine Sports, Read and Destroy (R.A.D) and Skateboard!, and original film commissions including a new short film from London-based director Dan Emmerson and a new short by skate videographer Sirus f Gahan. The display also explores the influence of skateboarding on mainstream culture – everything from fashion brands to video games – and uses archival objects, photographs and personal anecdotes to share stories from skate communities in the UK and beyond as well as those of skateboarding-related non-profit initiatives including Free Movement Skateboarding and SkatePal. Runs until 19th September; pre-booking required. For more, see www.somersethouse.org.uk.

• On Now: More! Oliver Twist, Dickens and Stories of the City. This exhibition at the Charles Dickens Museum in Doughty Street, Bloomsbury, showcases a selection of letters, illustrations, postcards and photos – including a provocative artwork by artist Cold War Steve – as it explores the story of Oliver Twist and the inspiration behind it. Can be seen until 17th October; admission charge applies. For more, see https://dickensmuseum.com.

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10 London memorials commemorating foreign leaders – 7. Mahatma Gandhi…

PICTURE: Alvesgaspar (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

There’s a couple of statues commemorating Mahatma Gandhi in London with the most recent one was unveiled in Parliament Square in 2015.

But this week we head Bloomsbury where we find an older one in the centre of the gardens in Tavistock Square.

The work of Fredda Brilliant, it was unveiled by then Prime Minister Harold Wilson in May, 1968. Also present was the first High Commissioner of India to the UK after independence, VK Krishna Menon, and the then-current High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom, Shanti Swaroop Dhavan.

Menon apparently chose the location for the statue – Gandhi had studied at the nearby University College London between 1888 and 1891.

Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1948 after having playing an instrumental role in the push for India’s independence, is depicted sitting in a cross-legged in the lotus position wearing a loincloth with a shawl over his right shoulder. The statue sits atop a rounded Portland stone plinth.

The memorial was erected by the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Committee, with the support of the India League. It was Grade II-listed in 1974.

A further plaque was added beneath the statue in 1996 commemorating the 125th anniversary of the birth of Gandhi.

This Week in London – Paddington’s story; pioneering neurologist JS Risien Russell honoured; and, Sir Quentin Blake’s gift…

Michael Bond with plush Paddington. PICTURE: © P & Co. Ltd 2021

A new family friendly exhibition celebrating Paddington Bear opens at the British Library tomorrow. The Story of a Bear features more than 50 books, documents, film clips and original artworks as it explores Michael Bond’s creation of the much loved children’s book character. Highlights include a first edition of Bond’s A Bear Called Paddington published in 1958, Barbara Ker Wilson’s original review of the book, photographs and memorabilia of Michael Bond on loan from his family as well as original illustrations of Paddington stories by artists including Peggy Fortnum, David McKee and RW Alley. There are also clips from the Paddington movies and sound recordings featuring Bond speaking about his creation. The exhibition is ticketed (booking in advance recommended). Admission charge applies. For more, see www.bl.uk/events/paddington-the-story-of-a-bear.

Pioneering neurologist James Samuel Risien Russell has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at his former home and practice in Marylebone. Russell, born in 1863 in what was then British Guiana (now Guyana), was one of the UK’s first Black consultants and played a critical role in establishing the British school of neurology in the 1890s. His contribution in furthering our understanding of many conditions of the nervous system and mental health issues has only recently come to light thanks to new research by the Windrush Foundation. Dr Risien Russell lived and worked at 44 Wimpole Street from 1902 until his death in March, 1939. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques.

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• A display of images from Sir Quentin Blake have gone on show at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury to mark his gift of 24 drawings to the museum. Curated by children’s author and illustrator Lauren Child, Quentin Blake: Gifted features pictures form two series –  Children and Dogs and Children with Birds & Dogs – as well as a range of responses from writers including poetry collective 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE, children’s author and poet Michael Rosen and Scottish playwright, poet and novelist Jackie Kay. Admission charge applies. Runs until 26 September. For more, see https://foundlingmuseum.org.uk/events/quentin-blake-gifted/.

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This Week in London – Nero at the British Museum; Stephen Hawking’s office to be recreated at the Science Museum; and, Blue Plaque for Indian engineer Ardaseer Cursetjee Wadia…

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Head from a bronze statue of the emperor Nero. Found in England, AD 54– 61. PICTURE: © The Trustees of the British Museum.

A bronze head of the Roman Emperor Nero found in the River Alde in Suffolk – long wrongly identified as being that of the Emperor Claudius – and the Fenwick Hoard – which includes Roman coins, military armlets and jewellery – are among the star sights at a new exhibition on Nero at the British Museum. Nero: the man behind the myth is the first major exhibition in the UK which takes Rome’s fifth emperor as its subject. The display features more than 200 objects charting Nero’s rise to power and his actions during a period of profound social change and range from graffiti and sculptures to manuscripts and slave chains. Other highlights include gladiatorial weapons from Pompeii, a warped iron window grating burnt during the Great Fire of Rome of 64 AD, and frescoes and wall decorations which give some insight into the opulent palace he built after the fire. The exhibition, which opens today, runs until 24th October in the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/nero/events.aspx.

The office of late theoretical physicist Professor Stephen Hawking will be recreated at the Science Museum, it was announced this week. The contents of the office, which Hawking, the author of the best-selling A Brief History of Time, occupied at Cambridge’s department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics from 2002 until shortly before his death in 2018, includes reference books, blackboards, medals, a coffee maker and Star Trek mementoes as well as six of his wheelchairs and the innovative equipment he used to communicate. The museum, which reportedly initially plans to put the objects on display in 2022 and later recreate the office itself, has acquired the contents through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, which allows families to offset tax (his archive will go to the Cambridge University Library under the same scheme).

Nineteenth century civil engineer Ardaseer Cursetjee Wadia – the first Indian Fellow of the Royal Society – has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at his former Richmond home. The plaque, which can be found on 55 Sheen Road – the villa Cursetjee and his British family moved to upon his retirement in 1868, was installed to mark the 180th anniversary of his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society. Cursetjee is considered the first modern engineer of India and was the first Indian at the East India Company to be placed in charge of Europeans. He was at the forefront of introducing technological innovations to Mumbai including gaslight, photography, electro-plating and the sewing machine. Cursetjee first visited London in 1839 and travelled regularly been Mumbai (formerly Bombay) and London until his retirement. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques.

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Treasures of London – Sutton Hoo helmet…

This spectacular Anglo-Saxon helmet – perhaps the most famous Anglo-Saxon object in a museum today – was among the finds made at the Sutton Hoo burial site in Suffolk in the late 1930s, the story of which is told in the current Netflix film, The Dig.

The Sutton Hoo helmet in the British Museum in 2016. PICTURE: Geni (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

The ornately decorated helmet, the manufacture of which is dated to the late 6th or early 7th century, was found buried in the grave mound of an important figure whom some believe was an East Anglian king named Rædwald. The grave mound had been constructed over a ship containing the body and artefacts including the helmet. The ship itself had disintegrated but its imprint was uncovered during the excavation.

Excavated in hundreds of corroded fragments, the iron and bronze helmet, which is believed to have weighed about 2.5 kilograms, was painstakingly reassembled in the mid-1940s to reveal a helmet featuring cheek and neck guards and a mask with sculpted facial features including a nose, eyebrows and moustache as well as holes for the eyes. It features a number of other decorative elements including representations of dragons and warriors as well as geometric patterns. Gold and silver were used in the decorations.

The helmet underwent a second reconstruction in the early 1970s after issues were identified with the first.

The helmet, along with other artefacts found at the site, were deemed to be the property of Suffolk landowner Edith Pretty who subsequently donated it to the British Museum. It is on permanent display in Room 41 of the museum.

Treasures of London – Charles Dickens’ writing desk and chair…

Charles Dickens’ desk and chair at the Charles Dickens Museum. PICTURE: Alyx Dellamonica (Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

Among the treasures to be found at Dickens’ former house (and now the Charles Dickens Museum) in Doughty Street, Bloomsbury, is the desk and accompanying chair where Dickens’ wrote several of his later novels including Great ExpectationsOur Mutual Friend and the unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Dickens purchased the mahogany pedestal writing desk as well as the walnut and fruitwood smoker’s armchair in 1859. He used them in the study of his final home at Gad’s Hill Place in Kent (Dickens also had an identical chair in his London office which is now in the New York State Library).

After the author’s death in 1870, the desk and chair – which feature in Luke Fildes’ 1870 work The Empty Chair and the RW Buss’ 1875 work Dickens’ Dream  – were passed down through the Dickens family until they was auctioned in the 2000s with the funds raised used to benefit the Great Ormond Street Hospital.

While the desk and chair had previously been loaned to the museum for display, in 2015 the establishment was able to purchase the desk and chair and make it part of its permanent collection thanks to a £780,000 grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

While the museum is currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, we include these details for when it reopens.

WHERE: 48-49 Doughty Street, Bloomsbury (nearest Tube stations are Russell Square, Chancery Lane or Holborn). WHEN: Currently closedCOST: £9.50 adults/£7.50 concessions/£4.50 children (under six free); WEBSITE: www.dickensmuseum.com.

This Week in London – City statues to be removed; 800-year-old window at centre of upcoming Becket exhibition; and, weavers give £100,000 for new museum…

Statues of two prominent men with links to the trans-Atlantic slave trade will be removed from Guildhall, the City of London has said. The City of London Corporation’s policy and resources committee voted to remove statues of William Beckford and Sir John Cass following a recommendation from the corporation’s Tackling Racism Taskforce. The statue of Beckford, a two-time Lord Mayor of London in the late 1700s who accrued wealth from plantations in Jamaica and held African slaves, will be replaced with a new artwork while the likeness of Sir John Cass, a merchant, MP and philanthropist in the 17th and 18th centuries who also profited from the slave trade, will be returned to its owner, the Sir John Cass Foundation. The corporation will now set up a working group to oversee the removal of the statues and replacement works and will also consider commissioning a new memorial to the slave trade in the City.

A detail from the healing of Ralph de Longeville in the Miracle window, Canterbury Cathedral, early 1200s. © The Chapter, Canterbury Cathedral.

An 800-year-old stained glass window from Canterbury Cathedral will form the centrepiece of an upcoming exhibition on Thomas Becket. Now scheduled for April after delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, Thomas Becket: murder and the making of a saint will feature more than 100 objects as it tells the story of Becket’s life, death and enduring legacy. The ‘Miracle Window’ – one of seven surviving from an original series of 12 – will be shown in its original arrangement of the first time in more than 350 years. The fifth in the series, it depicts miracles which took place in the three year after Becket’s death including the healing of eyesight and the replacement of lost genitals. The exhibition will represent the first time a complete stained glass window has been lent by the cathedral. Details of tickets will be announced soon. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/becket.

The Worshipful Company of Weavers this week announced the donation of £100,000 towards the creation of the new Museum of London in former market buildings at West Smithfield. The donation is one of the largest ever awarded by the livery company which, having a Royal charter dating from 1155, is the oldest surviving. The masterplan for the new museum received planning permission in June last year.

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This Week in London – The ‘Fight for Women’s Rights’ at the British Library; ghosts at Hampton Court Palace; and, Arctic culture at the British Museum…

Banners loaned from Southall Black Sisters, Bishopsgate Institute, People’s History Museum, Sisters Uncut, Feminist Archive South (Courtesy of the British Library)

The history of the women’s rights movement and the work of contemporary feminist activists is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the British Library tomorrow. Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights, the opening of which was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, features everything from personal diaries and banners to subversive literature, film, music and art. Highlights include protest poems written by Sylvia Pankhurst on toilet paper in Holloway Prison following her imprisonment for seditious activity in January 1921, a first edition of Jane Austen’s debut novel, Sense and Sensibility, published anonymously ‘By a Lady’ in 1811, and, football boots belonging to Hope Powell, a veteran player who became the first woman to manage England Women in 1998. There’s also records of surveillance carried out on Sophia Duleep Singh, one of Queen Victoria’s god-daughters and a supporter of campaigns for women’s suffrage, and a piece of fence wire cut by writer Angela Carter’s friends and sent to her as a present from RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire where they were protesting against nuclear missiles. Runs until 21st February next year. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.bl.uk.

Like a good ghost story? Hampton Court Palace is launched a new self-guided ‘Creepy Stories and Ghostly Encounters’ trail on Saturday. The trail takes in sites including those where the ‘Grey Lady’ – said to be the ghost of Tudor nursemaid – has appeared since Victorian times, the locations said to be haunted by two of King Henry VIII’s queens – Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard, and the site where a spectral figure was captured on film slamming shut a door in 2003. The palace is also unveiling a new display of carved pumpkins in the Royal Kitchen Garden. Entry charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/.

The first major exhibition on the history of the Arctic and its Indigenous people, through the lens of climate change and weather, has opened at the British Museum. The Citi exhibition, Arctic: culture and climate, reveals how Arctic people have adapted to climate variability in the past and are facing today’s weather challenges. It features everything from rare archaeological finds, unique tools and clothing as well as artworks and contemporary photography with highlights including an eight-piece Igloolik winter costume made of caribou fur and an Inughuit (Greenlandic) sled made from narwhal and caribou bone and pieces of driftwood which was traded to Sir John Ross on his 1818 expedition as well as artworks commissioned specifically for the exhibition. These include an Arctic monument of stacked stones, known as an Inuksuk – used to mark productive harvesting locations or to assist in navigation – which was built by Piita Irniq, from the Kivalliq Region of Nunavut, Canada. Can be seen in the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery until 21st February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

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This Week in London – Richard Leveridge in the spotlight; ‘Paradise Lost’ at Kew; and, Princess Beatrice’s wedding dress at Windsor…

The life and work of Richard Leveridge, a leading singer of the London stage during the 18th century, is the subject of a new display opening at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury tomorrow. The display, which can be seen in the Handel Gallery, charts the life of this popular theatre singer who became the lead bass singer at Drury Lane Theatre in 1695 and sang for Purcell in many of his stage works as well as, later, singing in the first performances of Handel’s early London operas. It also includes a look at Leveridge’s work as a composer and coffee shop owner and among items on show are manuscripts, early printed music, artworks, copies of drinking songs and stage works, contemporary accounts and formal portraits. Runs until 28th March. Admission charge applies. For more, see https://foundlingmuseum.org.uk

The first solo exhibition by Dutch-born, Mexico-based visual artist Jan Hendrix to be held in the UK opens in Kew Gardens’ Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art next week. Paradise Lost features new works in a number of mediums created as a responser to the transformation of the landscape known as Kamay Botany Bay, in Sydney, Australia (which gained its English name – Botany Bay – from plants collected and recorded there in 1770 by European botanists Sir Joseph Banks – Kew Gardens’ first director – and Daniel Solander abroad the HMS Endeavour). Reflecting on how the visit of the Endeavour sparked a transformation of the region – from a pristine environment to what is now a suburban and industrial landscape, the exhibition explores themes including the destruction of the natural world in the wake of colonial industrialisation, contemporary urbanisation and climate change. New works include a vast monochrome tapestry evoking the dynamic texture and beauty of an Australian landscape threatened by wildfire – which ravaged the region in 2019 – as well as the display’s centrepiece – a huge walk-through mirrored pavilion inspired by two plant species that grow in Kamay Botany Bay – Banksia serrata or Wiriyagan (Cadigal) and Banksia solandri, and a moving image work created by Hendrix in collaboration with filmmaker Michael Leggett. A visual tour narrated by the artist will be made available online for those not able to visit in person. Runs from 3rd October until 13th March. Admission charge applies. For more, head to www.kew.org. PICTURE: Mirror Pavilion III, 2020, Stainless Steel by Jan Hendrix/Kew Gardens

• FURTHER AFIELD: Princess Beatrice of York’s wedding dress, first worn by Queen Elizabeth II in the 1960s, goes on display at Windsor Castle from today. Designed by Sir Norman Hartnell, the dress was first worn by the Queen during a State Visit to Rome in 1961 and was altered for Princess Beatrice for her marriage to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi on 17th July this year. The display, which can be seen in the State Dining Room, also features Princess Beatrice’s wedding shoes, made by Valentino, and a replica of her bouquet. Can be seen until 22nd November. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.rct.uk.

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This Week in London – Rare Hebrew manuscripts at British Library; British Museum to reopen; and art at the Old Royal Naval College…

The launch of a new exhibition looking at Hebrew manuscripts marks the next phase of the British Library reopening. Hebrew Manuscripts: Journeys of the Written Word explores the history, culture and traditions of the Jewish people around the world and features rarely seen treasures including a letter to King Henry VIII written by an Italian rabbi in 1530 regarding Biblical laws that could support Henry VIII’s claim to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon as well as the earliest dated copy – 1380 – of Moses Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed, a rare uncensored copy of the Babylonian Talmud dating from the 13th century, and a 15th century illustrated copy of Abraham bar Hiyya’s Shape of the Earth, one of the first Jewish scientific works written in the Hebrew language. Also reopening is the library’s free permanent gallery – the Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library – with a new one-way route taking in treasures including Leonardo da Vinci’s sketchbooks and handwritten manuscripts by the Brontë sisters, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath. For more on the exhibition and the library’s reopening, see www.bl.uk. PICTURE: David Jensen.

The British Museum reopens to visitors from today after the longest closure in its 261 year history. Tickets must be pre-booked online or over the phone and visitors will be able to access the ground floor galleries through a new one-way route. The museum has also announced that Grayson Perry’s work, The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman – an elaborate, cast-iron coffin-ship originally created for his British Museum exhibition of the same name in 2011 – is returning to the museum. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

A “celestial choir of spinning sound machines” can be seen at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich this weekend. Positioned in Lower Grand Square, Chorus is the monumental work of award-winning artist and British Composer of the Year Ray Lee. It features a series of giant metal tripods supporting rotating arms, at the end of which are loudspeakers which emit finely turned musical pitches. It can be viewed from Friday through to Monday. Meanwhile, the Painted Hall is hosting Luke Jerram’s artwork Gaia which features NASA imagery in creating a virtual, 3D small scale Earth. Gaia can be seen from tomorrow until 6th September (admission charge applies).  For more, see www.ornc.org.

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10 disease-related memorials in London…10. Thomas Hodgkin…

Thomas Hodgkin was a physician, pathologist and reformer whose name is now associated with Hodgkin lymphoma, a malignant disease of lymph tissue.

Born in Pentonville in what is now central London, Hodgkin (1798-1866), who trained at St Thomas’s and Guy’s Medical School and the University of Edinburgh, went on to work at Guy’s – where he built up a reputation as a pathologist – and later heading teaching staff at St Thomas’s (after it had split from Guy’s).

He first described the disease that bears his name in a paper in 1832 but it wasn’t until 33 years later, thanks to the rediscovery of the disease by Samuel Wilks, that it was named for him.

A Quaker, Hodgkin was also involved in the movement to abolish slavery and also raised concerns about the impact of the West on Indigenous culture. He died while on a trip to Palestine in 1866 and is buried in Jaffa.

Hodgkin is commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque on his former home at 35 Bedford Square in Bloomsbury. Interestingly the house also bears a plaque to another giant of the medical field – Thomas Wakley, the founder of The Lancet.

The plaque commemorating Hodgkin was erected by the Greater London Council in 1985.

PICTURE: Spudgun67 (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

This Week in London – Princess Beatrice’s bouquet; Technicolour Dickens; and, the Royal Parks’ ‘Summer of Kindness’…

Princess Beatrice, who married Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in a private ceremony in The Royal Chapel of All Saints at Windsor’s Royal Lodge last week, has sent the bouquet she carried during the wedding to rest on the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey. The tradition of royal brides sending their bouquets to rest on the grave was started by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, when she lay her bridal bouquet on the grave in memory of her brother Fergus who was killed in 1915 at the Battle of Loos during World War I. Brides including Queen Elizabeth II, the Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Beatrice’s sister, Princess Eugenie, have since continued the tradition. The grave commemorates the fallen of World War I and all those who have since died in international conflicts.

The Charles Dickens Museum in Bloomsbury reopens on Saturday, 25th July, with a new exhibition marking the 150th anniversary of the author’s death. Technicolour Dickens: The Living Image of Charles Dickens explores the power of the writer’s image and features paintings by the likes of William Powell Frith, Victorian-era photographs, ink drawings by “Automatons”, and letters from Dickens in which he explains what he really thought of sitting for portraits. The museum has also commissioned artist and photographer Oliver Clyde to create eight colourised portraits based on images taken from its collection. For more see www.dickensmuseum.com. Other reopenings this coming week include the Horniman Museum (Thursday, 30th July).

The Royal Parks are launching a ‘Summer of Kindness’ campaign to keep the parks clean after unprecedented levels of rubbish were left in the parks during the coronavirus lockdown. The Royal Parks, which played a key role in the physical and mental wellbeing of many people during the lockdown, report that some 258.4 tonnes of rubbish – the equivalent in weight of 20 new London buses or 74 elephants – were collected from London’s eight Royal Parks in June alone with staff having to spend more than 11,000 hours to clear up. And, with groups now able to gather, the littering has continued, prompting The Royal Parks to call for visitors to care for the parks by binning litter or taking it home. So, please, #BeKindToYourParks.

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This Week in London – London’s new embankment named; and, ‘Cutty Sark’ reopens…

• London’s first new River Thames embankment in 150 years has been named after Joseph Bazalgette, the Victorian civil engineer who revolutionised London’s sewer system. The ‘Bazalgette Embankment’ is located alongside Victoria Embankment, to the west of Blackfriars Bridge, and includes a new City Walkway as well as open space for recreation and leisure activities. Bazalgette’s sewer design led to cleaner water in the Thames and was also responsible for helping to eliminate cholera outbreaks in the city. The embankment is one of seven new embankments which will be opened as part of the Thames Tideway Tunnel project due for completion in 2024.

• Greenwich landmark, Cutty Sark, reopens to visitors on Monday, 20th July. Other reopened institutions include the Royal Academy of Arts, The Foundling MuseumThe Wallace Collection and Somerset House.

PICTURE: Christine McIntosh (licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0)

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Treasures of London – The Gayer-Anderson Cat…

This stunning hollow bronze figure from ancient Egypt depicts the goddess Bastet in the form of a seated (domestic-sized) cat and dates from around 600 BC.

Its name comes from Irish-born military man Major Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson, who was a keen collector of Egyptian sculpture, jewellery and pottery which he showcased as his Cairo home, now known as the Gayer-Anderson Museum. Gayer-Anderson donated the cat to the British Museum in 1939 (there’s a copy in the Gayer-Anderson Museum).

The 14 centimetre tall figure, which wears a silver protective pectoral and golden earrings and nose ring, was probably housed in a temple. The scarab beetle on the cat’s head and chest symbolises rebirth and the silver wedjat-eye on the pectoral was supposed to invoke protection and healing.

The cat, which a particularly fine example of a cat sculpture from the period, can usually be seen in the Egyptian sculpture gallery in Room 4 of the British Museum but given its closure because of the coronavirus pandemic, you may like to take a look at a 3D model of the cat which is on the museum’s website here.

PICTURE:  © the Trustees of the British Museum

This Week in London – 500 years of pregnancy portraits; Picasso and Paper; and, The Cato Street Conspiracy explored…

Representations of the pregnant female body across 500 years of portraiture are the subject of a major new exhibition opening at the Foundling Museum on Friday. Portraying Pregnancy: From Holbein to Social Media features paintings, prints, photographs, objects and clothing from the 15th century to the present day as it explores the different ways in which pregnancy was – or wasn’t – represented as well as how shifting social attitudes have impacted on depictions of pregnant women. Highlights include Holbein’s portrait of Thomas More’s daughter Cicely Heron, the maternity dress that Princess Charlotte wore for an 1817 portrait painted by George Dawe shortly before her death and William Hogarth’s The March of the Guards to Finchley (1750), which features a heavily pregnant woman. There’s also a previously unseen work by Jenny Saville, Electra (2012-2019), Marc Quinn’s Alison Lapper (8 Months) (2000) and Lucien Freud’s Girl with Roses (1947-8) which depicts his first wife Kitty. Runs until 26th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

The most comprehensive exhibition ever held focused on Pablo Picasso’s imaginative and original uses of paper opens at the Royal Academy of Arts this Saturday. Held in the Main Galleries, Picasso and Paper features more than 300 works from across the span of the artist’s career as it explores the “universe of art” he invented involving paper. Highlights include Women at Their Toilette (winter 1937-38) –  an extraordinary collage of cut and pasted papers measuring 4.5 metres in length (being exhibited in the UK for the first time in more than 50 years), outstanding Cubist papiers-collés such as Violin (1912), and studies for Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1908) such as Bust of Woman or Sailor as well as drawings like Self-portrait (1918) and Seated Woman (Dora) (1938). His masterpiece of the Blue Period, La Vie (1903) will also be in the display as well as his Cubist bronze Head of a Woman (Fernande) (1909) and monumental sculpture Man with a Sheep (1943), and the 1955 film Le Mystère Picasso, which records Picasso drawing with felt-tip pens on blank newsprint. Runs until 13th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk. PICTURE: Key 486, Pablo Picasso drawing in Antibes, summer 1946. Black-and-white photograph, Photo © Michel Sima / Bridgeman Images © Succession Picasso/DACS 2019

On Now – The Cato Street Conspiracy: A Terrorist Plot in Georgian London. This exhibition at the City of London’s Guildhall Library draws on contemporary accounts and pictures to tell the story of the conspiracy and its participants. The conspiracy, which was uncovered in early 1820, involved a plot to kill the British Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers. Thirteen of the conspirators were arrested and five executed while five others were transported to Australia. A policeman was killed in the operation to arrest those responsible. This free exhibition runs until 30th April. For more follow this link.

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10 (lesser known) monuments featuring animals in London – 6. Sam the cat…

Captured preparing to jump off a red brick wall, this small playful statue of a domestic cat named Sam can be found in the south-west corner of Queen Square Gardens in Holborn. 

The bronze statue actually commemorates Patricia Penn (1914-1992), a former resident in the square who was a nurse, “champion of local causes” and member of the Queen Square Resident’s Association. The statue was donated by the local community in Penn’s memory.

As is clear from the monument, Penn was also a cat lover. Sam was, of course, one of her pet cats.

Sadly, the original version of Sam – which was installed in 2002 to mark the 10th anniversary of Penn’s death, was stolen in 2007. But a replacement was installed in 2009 – this time with steel rods running into the bricks to prevent it being taken again.

 

This Week in London – The British Museum gets arty; music festivals in Georgian Britain; the story of Tangerine Dream; and, migration at Dulwich…

• Artworks by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Lucian Freud, Bridget Riley, David Hockney and Visa Celmins are on show in a new exhibition at the British Museum. Reflecting artistic developments in the past 100 years of modern art, Living with art: Picasso to Celmins features 30 prints and drawings. It showcases highlights from the wide-ranging collection of Alexander Walker (1930–2003), a longstanding film critic for London’s Evening Standard newspaper, which was bequeathed to the British Museum in 2004. The exhibition can be seen at the museum until 5th March before heading off on tour. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org. PICTURE: David Hockney (b. 1937), ‘Jungle Boy’ (1964) Etching and aquatint in black and red on mould-made paper © David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt.

Music festivals in Georgian Britain – from the Handel Commemoration of 1784 to the Crystal Palace concerts of the late 19th century – are explored in a new exhibition at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury. Music Festivals in Georgian Britain looks at the logistics behind the organisation of the concerts which followed on in the tradition of benefit concerts for charities as well as the expectations of audiences. Runs until 14th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see https://foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

The “extraordinary story” of German band Tangerine Dream is told in a new exhibition opening at the City of London’s Barbican Music Library today. Tangerine Dream: Zeitraffer features photographs, previously unpublished articles, video clips, and original synthesizers as it tells the story of the band – credited with laying the foundation for the Ambient and Trance music styles – from its founding in 1967 and the release of its first album, Electronic Meditation, in 1970 through to the latest album, Recurring Dreams, last year. The band, which has released more than 160 albums, has also composed the scores for more than 60 Hollywood films including Michael Mann’s Risky Business and Ridley Scott’s Legend as well as Firestarter, based on the Stephen King novel. In 2013, they also wrote the score for the record-breaking video game, Grand Theft Auto V, and their music has appeared in recent Netflix series, Stranger Things, Black Mirror and Mr Robot. Runs until 2nd May. Admission is free.

The stories of six “community curators” – each of whom has personal experience of migration – are at the centre of a new display at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Journeys, which explores themes of identity, belonging, migration and London’s multiculturalism, examines the contemporary relevance of works by the likes of Poussin, Rubens, Canaletto and Van Dyck against the backdrop of the life stories of the curators who, aged between 29 and 69, have a combined heritage spanning eight countries including Yemen, Sri Lanka, Italy, Pakistan and Ireland. Opens next Tuesday (21st January) and runs until 24th June with a special free late opening on 19th June during the final week which coincides with Refugee Week. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.

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This (Year) in London – Five exhibitions you won’t want to miss in 2020…

It’s our first ‘This Week in London’ for 2020 so instead of our usual programming, we thought we’d briefly look at five key exhibitions that you won’t want to miss this year…

1. Thomas Becket at the British Museum. Marking the 850th anniversary of the murder of the medieval Archbishop of Canterbury on 29th December, 1170, the museum will host the first ever major exhibition on the life, death and legacy of the archbishop as part of a year-long programme of events which also includes performances, pageants, talks, film screenings and religious services. The exhibition will run from 15th October to 14th February, 2021. PICTURE: Alabaster sculpture, c 1450–1550, England. Here, Becket is shown kneeling at an altar, his eyes closed and his hands clasped in prayer, all the while four knights draw their swords behind him. To Becket’s right is the monk Edward Grim, whose arm was injured by one of the knight’s swords. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

2. Elizabeth and Mary at the British Library. This exhibition draws on original historic documents to  take a fresh look at what’s described as the “extraordinary and fascinating story of two powerful queens, both with a right to the English throne: Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots”. Letters and other 16th century documents will show how their struggle for supremacy in the isles played out. Runs from 23rd October to 21st February, 2021.

3. Tudors to Windsors at the National Maritime Museum. This major exhibition promises to give visitors “the opportunity to come face-to-face with the kings, queens and their heirs who have shaped British history and were so central to Greenwich”.  Including more than 150 works covering five royal dynasties, it will consider the development of royal portraiture over a period spanning 500 years and how they were impacted by the personalities of individual monarchs as well as wider historical changes. Will be held from April.

4. Gold and Glory: Henry VIII and the French King at Hampton Court Palace. Marking the 500th anniversary of the Field of Cloth of Gold – King Henry VIII’s landmark meeting with his great rival, the French King François I, the exhibition will feature a treasure trove of precious objects from the English and French courts as well as a never-before-seen tapestry, manufactured in the 1520s, which depicts a bout of wrestling at the meeting presided over by François and which also shows a black trumpeter among the many musicians depicted. Opens on 10th April. The palace will also play host this year to Henry VIII vs François I: The Rematch, a nine day festival of jousting, wrestling and foot combat complete with feasting, drinking and courtly entertainment. Runs from 23rd to 31st May.

5. Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I at the Queen’s House in Greenwich. This display brings together, for the first time, the three surviving versions of the iconic ‘Armada Portrait’ of Elizabeth I. The portrait commemorates the Spanish Armada’s failed attempt to invade England and the display will include the Royal Museums Greenwich’s own version of the painting along with that from the National Portrait Gallery and that which normally hangs in Woburn Abbey. Runs from 13th February to 31st August.

We’ll feature more details in stories throughout the coming year. But, of course, this is just a sample of what’s coming up this year – keep an eye on Exploring London for more…