Hitherto unheard oral histories documenting the lived experience of the Windrush generation and the generations that followed have been released by the Museum of London. The oral histories, which were recorded in 2018 as part of the Conversation Booth project in City Hall, are part of the museum’s new online collection of Windrush-related content. Drawn from the collections of both the Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands, it includes objects, photos, videos and articles. To explore the collection, head to www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london-docklands/windrush-stories.

A hybrid sculpture depicting the body of a woman with the head of a hare has gone on show in Berkeley Square. The work of Sophie Ryder, Crawling was hand-made in 1999 from wet plaster, old machine parts and scavenged toys then cast in bronze. The work is part of City of Westminster’s City of Sculpture programme which brings sculpture to iconic outdoor locations.

The Museum of the Home is asking people for their opinion on the future of the statue of Sir Robert Geffrye which stands out the front of the almshouses housing the museum in Shoreditch. The almshouses were built by Geffrye, who was involved with the slave trade having made made his fortune with the East India Company and the Royal African Company, in 1714. The consultation is being held in partnership with Hackney Council which is conducting a wider review of landmarks and the naming of public spaces in the borough. The consultation remains open until the 2nd July. To have your say, head to www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/geffrye-statue.

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PICTURE: Magda V/Unsplash

The next two entries in our countdown…

72. 10 sites of significance in Jane Austen’s London – Redux…

71. What’s in a name?…St Mary Axe

A statue of slave owner Robert Milligan has been removed from its position outside of the Museum of London Docklands. The Canal and River Trust removed the statue this week in recognition of the “wishes of the community”. The move had the support of the museum which is one of only three museums in the UK to address the history of the transatlantic slave trade. “The Museum of London recognises that the monument is part of the ongoing problematic regime of white-washing history, which disregards the pain of those who are still wrestling with the remnants of the crimes Milligan committed against humanity…” the museum said in a statement issued earlier in the week. “Now more than ever at a time when Black Lives Matter is calling for an end to public monuments honouring slave owners, we advocate for the statue of Robert Milligan to be removed on the grounds of its historical links to colonial violence and exploitation.” Milligan was a prominent British slave owner who, by the time of his death in 1809, owned 526 slaves and two sugar plantations in Jamaica. The statue, the work of Sir Richard Westmacott, was moved to a position outside the museum in West India Quay in 1997. Earlier this week, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced a new Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm which will review landmarks – including murals, street art, street names, statues and other memorials – across the city of London with a view to improving diversity in the public realm.

The City of London Corporation has launched a competition to redesign the Grade II-listed gardens at Finsbury Circus. The two-stage competition aims to identity creative and sustainable design ideas in a bid to return Finsbury Circus Gardens to being a multifunctional public space with a pavilion as well as a “sanctuary” within the Square Mile. The corporation is seeking a joint bid from an architect and a landscape architect to deliver a new design for the reinstatement of Finsbury Circus Gardens and Pavilion. Some two-thirds of the Finsbury Circus Gardens, one of the oldest parks in the City, have been used by Crossrail for the past 10 years to provide access to a section of tunnel between Farringdon and Liverpool Street. The works required the removal of historic features like the bowling green and historic Grade II drinking fountain and these will now be reinstated into the new design. PICTURE: Looking across Finsbury Circus Gardens in 2006 (David Williams /licenced under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Tickets for ZSL London Zoo have gone on sale ahead of its planned reopening next week. The zoo will reopen on Monday, 15th June, for the first time since its closure on Saturday, 21st March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The zoo, which is offering pre-allocated, timed entry slots, limited to just 2,000 visitors a day, says its taken numerous measures to ensure the safety of visitors. For more, head to www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo.

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Once located on the north side of Cannon Street, St Swithin London Stone was first recorded in the 13th century, rebuilt after the Great Fire of London and finally demolished after being damaged in World War II.

The church’s curious name comes its dedication to St Swithin, a ninth century bishop of Winchester, and the London Stone, a stone of curious origins which was originally located across the road and then moved across to eventually be placed inside an alcove in the south wall of the church in the 1820s (you can read more about it here).

The medieval church was rebuilt in 1405 thanks to the largesse of Sir John Hind, twice Lord Mayor of London, and had one of the first towers built specifically for the hanging of bells.

The church was famously also the final resting place of Catrin Glyndwr, daughter of Welsh leader Owain Glyndwr, who was taken hostage in 1409 and imprisoned in the Tower of London before dying in mysterious circumstances four years later. Other notable connections include one with John Dryden who married Lady Elizabeth Howard in the church in 1663.

The church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. Now united with St Mary Bothaw, the church was rebuilt apparently using some of the original stones, to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren. Rectangular in shape, it featured a tower in the north-west corner and an octagonal dome.

The church, which also had an association with the Worshipful Company of Salters, was heavily damaged by bombing during the Blitz. United with St Stephen Walbrook in 1954, the ruined church was eventually demolished in 1962 (the pulpit is now at All Hallows by the Tower). There’s now a garden on the site which features a memorial to Catrin Glyndwr.

PICTURE: The Church of St Swithin, London Stone, as depicted in the 1839 book ‘The Churches of London’ by George Godwin. (public domain)

The Museum of London is offering the chance to explore its previous exhibition, Disease X: London’s next epidemic?, online. The exhibition, which was first shown at the museum in between November, 2018, and March, 2019 to make the 100th anniversary of the second wave of the Spanish flu, draws on the museum’s collections as well as historical research and expert views to explore if the city was at risk from an unknown ‘Disease X’. Among the objects in the display are the mourning dress worn by Queen Victoria to mark the shock passing of her grandson Prince Albert Victor due to ‘Russian Flu’, a 17th century pomander used to waft away the foul vapors thought to cause diseases like the plague and a poster advertising ‘Flu-Mal’, a supposed cure for both influenza and malaria. To see the exhibition, head to https://virtualexhibitions.museumoflondon.org.uk/disease-x/. The online exhibition is part of the museum’s mission to bring online content to people at home while its doors are closed under the banner of the ‘Museum for London’. PICTURE: Influenza conquered by Flu-Mal. Advertising Poster © Museum of London.

The V&A has launched a series of five films that take viewers on a behind-the-scenes tour of its exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk. Curator Anna Jackson guides viewers through the exhibition spaces and provides personal insights into the making of the show, some of the star exhibits and the history of the kimono. The exhibition tracks the “sartorial and social significance” of the kimono from the 1660s to the present day in both Japan and elsewhere around the world and features international designer fashions and iconic costumes from films and performances. Highlights include a kimono created by Living National Treasure Kunihiko Moriguchi, the Alexander McQueen dress Björk wore on the cover of her album Homogenic, and original Star Wars costumes modelled on kimono by John Mollo. To watch, head here.

The National Gallery has announced it has extended its landmark exhibition Titian: Love, Desire, Death which had been due to close on 14th June, having been open for just three days before lockdown measures were put in place. The gallery has also announced the exhibition Nicolaes Maes: Dutch Master of the Golden Age will also be extended while dates for upcoming exhibitions including Sin, Conversations with God: Copernicus by Jan Matejko, and The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Raphael have been pushed back. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

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St Paul’s Cathedral has opened an online book of remembrance for people living in the UK who have died as a result of COVID-19. The Remember Me website is open to family, friends and carers of those who have died to submit, free-of-charge, the name, photograph and a short message in honour of the deceased. The book, which will remain open for as long as is required, will eventually be accompanied by a physical memorial which is planned for the cathedral’s north transept. The Very Revd David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s, said that for centuries, St Paul’s has been a place to remember the “personal and national impact of great tragedies”. “Remember Me is an opportunity to mourn every person we have lost to the effects of this terrible disease, an encouragement to offer compassion and support to those left behind, and an ongoing recognition of the impact of the pandemic on the UK.”  The launch of the website last week – which has the support of Prince Charles – was accompanied by the release of a specially recorded piece of music featuring the choristers of St Paul’s, the Remember Me Anthem – Lift Thine Eyes (see below). PICTURE: Screenshot of the memorial website.

The Museum of the Home has launched a new national collecting project aimed at documenting people’s lives during the coronavirus lockdown. Called Stay Home, the project involves answering seven questions about you and your home and sharing up to five images of your home as well as some personal demographic information. Contributions will become part of the museum’s Documenting Homes collection, an archive of almost 8,000 items which represents homes from the 1900s up to the present day. To take part – or to read the stories of those who have, head to www.museumofthehome.org.uk/explore/stay-home-collecting-project/. The museum is planning to reopen in September following a major redevelopment which includes the renovation of the Grade I-listed Geffrye Almshouses and the development of new spaces which will create 80 per cent more space for exhibitions, events and collections. The reopening will, of course, depend on the situation with regard to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Visits to the National Trust’s home baking pages have increased by almost 900 per cent since the country was locked down in mid-March. Cheese scones have proved the most popular nationally with more than 54,000 people visiting the page in the first four weeks of lockdown – an increase of 3,009 per cent on last year. Second place is apple and rhubarb crumble with almost 15,000 visits (an increase of 581 per cent) and the fruit scone is in third place at almost 10,000 visits (an increase of 737 per cent). Meanwhile in London, favourites include potato and onion soup in Barnet, Westminster and Redbridge, apple cinnamon bun in Islington, chocolate nests in Enfield, and vegetable and coconut curry in Sutton. To visit the recipe pages, head to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/recipes.

Captain Tom Moore – the World War II veteran who has raised more than £29 million for the NHS – will be the first person to be virtually invested with the Freedom of the City of London. Moore, who celebrates his 100th birthday today, made headlines internationally when he completed 100 laps of his garden in the hope of raising £1,000 to support NHS Charities Together. The investiture ceremony will be conducted next week and is believed to be the first time it’s been conducted virtually since the Freedom was first awarded in 1237.

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Have an item that shows how your life has changed since the arrival of the novel coronavirus in London in January? 

The Museum of London is seeking to build a collection of objects and first-hand experiences related to the coronavirus pandemic in a bid to ensure future generations of Londoners will be able to learn about and understand this extraordinary period in the city’s history.

The museum, which already holds collections related to disease outbreaks such as the 1889 -1893 and 1918 flu pandemics, is looking for both physical and digital objects related to three main themes – how the physical spaces in the city have been transformed, the effects on key and home workers, and how children and young people are reacting to and coping with the changes now that many schools are closed.

Like those in existing pandemic-related collections – such as the dress Queen Victoria wore to mourn the loss of her grandson to influenza in 1892 (pictured – right) or an 1832 cholera notice issued for St Katharine Docks (pictured – top), the COVID-19-related objects will serve as a reminder of the suffering people are experiencing but also tell the story of the pandemic’s effect on society and culture.

“Londoners, like millions of people around the world, have to find ways of coping with the new life the epidemic has imposed,” says Beatrice Behlen, senior curator at the Museum of London.

“This is a major moment in the capital’s history and we want to collect a range of objects, from clothing to hairclippers, from diaries to memes that reflect the physical and emotional response of Londoners to COVID-19. The Museum of London always strives to tell the story of London and its people. We feel it is imperative to capture this time for future generations, to help us understand how this city dealt with an extraordinary situation.“

Individuals and organisations who would like to donate objects should get in touch via social media @MuseumofLondon or email enquiry@museumoflondon.org.uk.

PICTURES: Top – Printed cholera notice issued by the Secretary of St Katharine Dock Company; Right – Dress ensemble, 1892. Worn by Queen Victoria when in mourning for her grandson, the Duke of Clarence, who died in the flu pandemic in 1893. (© Museum of London)

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With everyone being asked to stay at home, we’re highlighting online exhibitions and talks. Wishing all our readers, despite the circumstances, a happy Easter!

The Enchanted Interior exhibition, recently seen at the City of London’s Guildhall Art Gallery, can now be seen in an exclusive virtual tour led by curator Katherine Pearce. The exhibition, which explores the recurring motif of female subjects depicted in enclosed, ornate interiors, sees artworks by Victorian-era Pre-Raphaelites such as Edward Burne-Jones, Evelyn De Morgan and James Abbot McNeill Whistler placed alongside modern and contemporary works by female artists including Martha Rosler, Maisie Broadhead and Fiona Tan. The virtual tour can be found at cityoflondon.gov.uk/enchanted. PICTURE: One of the Pre-Raphaelite works featured in the exhibition.

With its doors now closed, the Jewish Museum London is holding a series of live streams featuring talks on significant objects in the museum’s collection as well as a ‘Shabbat Shalom Quiz of the Week’ and an arts and crafts session. Under the umbrella of the ‘Jewish Museum London Live’, these upcoming events include a talk on the glass Elijah Cup and another on an object related to baking challah which includes some ways of plaiting challah that you can try at home. For more, see jewishmuseum.org.uk/events/ 

Follow the story of the Passion of Christ through the artworks at the National Gallery in a special online exhibition for Easter. Among the artworks in The Easter Story exhibition – some of which are not on display in the actual gallery – include Rembrandt’s Ecce Homo, Raphael’s The Mond Crucifixion and Michelangelo’s The Entombment (or Christ being carried to his Tomb). To see it, head to www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/the-easter-story. The gallery also has a virtual tour of the Sainsbury Wing which can be accessed at www.nationalgallery.org.uk/visiting/virtual-tours/sainsbury-wing-vr-tour.

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PICTURE: Bex Walton (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

A Turkish bath located off Newgate Street, the Royal Bagnio was a London fixture for almost 200 years.

Said by some to be the first Turkish bath in London, it opened in 1679 in what became known as Bagnio Court (among other names, the alley which led northward off Newgate Street was also at one stage called Roman Bath Street) and was apparently built by Turkish merchants in an eastern style with a cupola roof over the main bath hall as well as Dutch tales and marble steps.

The facilities offered patrons a range of treatments including, according to one 17th century commentator, “sweating, rubbing, shaving, cupping and bathing” (cupping being a reference to using heated glasses to create blood-blisters and so extract blood) . And there were separate days (naturally!) for ladies and men.

The baths apparently later changed its name to the Old Royal Baths – by this time it had a cold bath only – and continued to be used until 1876 when the building was demolished for offices.

The bath was one of a number of Turkish bathhouses which appeared in the late-Stuart and Georgian eras and not a few of them bore the same or similar names (and carried a somewhat seedy reputation). And like some of the others, this particular one was also associated with a nearby coffee house enabling patrons to attend the baths and find refreshment at the same time.

Cultural institutions across London have closed temporarily this week (or are closing soon) as part of the response to the COVID-19 virus (although it’s worth noting that at the time of writing many outdoor spaces remain open including Royal Parks and English Heritage’s outdoor spaces). 

So for the time being, Exploring London will be suspending our regular Thursday ‘This Week in London’ post and be replacing it with other content. This week, we’re simply continuing with our celebratory countdown…

86. Treasures of London – Temple Church knight effigies…

85. 10 sites commemorating the Great Fire of London – 4. St Paul’s ‘Resurgam’…

 

Going on permanent display at the Museum of London from today, Millicent Fawcett’s brooch is a unique symbol of the long struggle for the right of women to vote in parliamentary elections. 

The brooch given to Fawcett by members of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies – which Fawcett was president of between 1907 and 1919.

Made of of gold and enamel, it features gems in the white, red and green colour scheme of the NUWSS. It also bears the message “steadfastness and courage” – a quote taken from a speech Fawcett made in 1913.

Fawcett often wore the brooch, usually as a pendant and it is featured on Gillian Wearing’s recently unveiled statue of her in Parliament Square.

The brooch, which can be seen in the People’s City Gallery, is on long-term loan from the Fawcett Society.

WHERE: People’s City Gallery, Museum of London, 150 London Wall (nearest Tube stations are Barbican Station, St Paul’s and Moorgate); WHEN: 10am to 6pm daily; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

PICTURE: © The Fawcett Society

World famous British photographer Cecil Beaton’s portraits from the “golden age” of the 1920s and 1930s are being celebrated in a shiny new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things features some 150 works, many rarely exhibited, which Beaton took in the 1920s and 1930s depicting the “extravagant world of the glamorous and stylish”. The subjects include the likes of artists Rex Whistler and Stephen Tennant, modernist poets Iris Tree and Nancy Cunard, the glamorous socialites Edwina Mountbatten and Diana Guinness (née Mitford), and actresses Tallulah Bankhead and Anna May Wong as well as less well-known figures like eccentric composer and aesthete Lord Berners, the artist and Irish patriot Hazel, Lady Lavery, and Lady Alexander, whose husband produced Oscar Wilde’s comedies and who became an early patron of Beaton’s. Beaton’s own life story and his relationship with the sitters is woven into the exhibition including through self-portraits and images of him  taken by contemporaries. Runs until 7th June. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE:  The Bright Young Things at Wilsford by Cecil Beaton, 1927. © The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive.

The theme of female subjects depicted in ornate, enclosed interiors – one prevalent in 19th century British painting – is at the centre of a new exhibition opening at the Guildhall Art Gallery on Friday. The Enchanted Interior, being presented in partnership with Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, showcases works in styles ranging from the high Victorian through to Art Nouveau, Aestheticism, Surrealism, and pieces by contemporary female artists which ‘speak back’ to the historic tradition. Artists whose work is represented include Edward Burne-Jones, Evelyn De Morgan, James Abbot McNeill Whistler, Emily Sandys, Jessica Woodman, Fiona Tan, John William Waterhouse and Clementina Hawarden. Admission charge applies. Runs until 14th June. For more, follow this link.

The works of iconic 20th century American artist Andy Warhol are being showcased in a new exhibition at Tate Modern. Andy Warhol, the first exhibition on the artist at the gallery in 20 years, features more than 100 works. Among them are key pieces from the pop period – Marilyn Diptych (1962), Elvis I and II (1963/1964) and Race Riot (1964) – as well as Screen Tests (1964–6), the floating Silver Clouds (1966) installation, and a recreation of the psychedelic multimedia environment of Exploding Plastic Inevitable (1966) originally produced for the Velvet Underground rock shows. Also included are later works like his 1975 Ladies and Gentlemen series and Sixty Last Suppers (1986). Runs until 6th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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No, the name of this City of London street, which runs between Godliman Street and Addle Hill just to the south of St Paul’s Cathedral, has nothing to do with the TV series of the 1980s starring David Hasselhoff (although there is a very tenuous connection – more on that in a moment).

In fact, according to the 16th century historian and antiquarian John Stow, the explanation for its name is believed to be quite simple – knights once rode along this street on their way to Smithfield where tournaments were held in the 12th century.

Much of the street was demolished in the 1860s to make way for Queen Victoria Street and many of the buildings which once graced it are along gone. These include the German Church, which dated from the mid 1660s, the law society known as Doctor’s Commons,  and the Church of St Mary Magdelen – which were all demolished in the 1860s.

Other famous premises include number five, which was the site of a house where Thomas Linacre founded the Royal College of Physicians. The street is still home to The Centre Page pub (apparently David Hasselhoff’s favourite pub).

PICTURE: Google Maps.

We published part I of this two-part article last week. Part II follows…

Marshal had made his name as a knight and, was still in the retinue of Henry, the Young King, heir of Kind Henry II, when he again rebelled against his father (and brother, the future King Richard I).

This was despite a brief rift with the Young King following an accusation that Marshal had slept with Henry’s wife Marguerite (the truth of which remains something of a mystery). Despite their falling out, William and Henry had repaired their relationship to at some degree when, still in rebellion against his father, on 7th June, 1183, the Young King died of dysentery at just the age of 28.

In a dying wish, Henry had asked William to fulfil his vow to go on crusade to the Holy Land. This Marshal duly did, undertaking a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and spending two years in the Middle East before returning to England at around the end of 1185.

On his return, he entered the household of King Henry II and was on campaign with him in France in 1189 when the King died at the age of 56.

Marshal’s allegiance was now with his son and heir, King Richard I, the “Lionheart”. He subsequently confirmed his father’s permission for Marshal to marry his ward, the wealthy heiress the 16-year-old Isabel of Clare which Marshal, now 42, quickly did, returning to London to claim his bride who was then living at the Tower of London. It’s believed they may have married on the steps of St Paul’s.

Somewhat controversially, when Richard I set off on the Third Crusade, Marshal remained behind in England, appointed as co-justiciar to govern in the king’s absence. Thanks to his marriage, Marshal was now a major landholder with his base at Striguil Castle (now Chepstow) in the Welsh Marches and he assembled a household befitting of his status. In 1190 his wife Isabel gave birth to a son, ‘Young’ William.

Marshal managed to successfully navigate the dangerous politics of the time as, in the absence of King Richard, his younger brother John manoeuvred to gain power and, following news that Richard had been captured on the way home from the Holy Land and was now imprisoned in Austria, went so far as to open ally himself with the French King Philip Augustus.

Richard was finally released for the exorbitant ransom of 150,000 silver marks and when he arrived back in England, Marshal returned to his side, joining the King as he dealt with the fallout, both in England and France, from John’s treachery (John, meanwhile, was back in his brother’s camp, having begged his forgiveness).

His kingdom largely restored, Richard died in April 1199 after being struck with a crossbow bolt while campaigning in Limousin. Following his death, Marshal supported John’s claim to the throne over his ill-fated nephew Arthur and at John’s coronation he was rewarded by being named, thanks again to his marriage, the Earl of Pembroke – the title of earl being the highest among the English aristocracy.

Pembroke  in southern Wales now became his base but following John’s coronation Marshal spent considerable time fighting for the King on the Continent in an ultimately unsuccessful campaign that ended with the English largely driven from France. When Marshal then tried to keep his lands in Normandy by swearing an oath to King Philip, not surprisingly he fell from John’s favour.

Marshal then turned his attention to his own lands in Wales and in Ireland which he visited several times to assert his claim by marriage to the lordship of Leinster. But he again crossed John when he visited in early 1207 without the King’s permission and when John summoned Marshal back to England to answer for his impudence, his lands in Leinster were attacked by the King’s men. John’s efforts to seize Marshal’s Irish domains, however, failed and the King was eventually forced to back down, leaving Marshal to strengthen his position in Ireland.

John and Marshal’s relationship deteriorated even further in 1210 after Marshal was summoned to Dublin to answer for his role in supporting William Briouze, a one-time favourite of the King who had dramatically fallen out him (and who eventually died in exile in 1211 while his wife and eldest son were starved to death in Windsor Castle on John’s orders).

Despite the fact Briouze’s had apparently been on his lands in Ireland for 20 days after they’d fled England to escape the wrathful King, Marshal managed to come out relatively unscathed by the affair – but he was forced to relinquish a castle and place some of his most trusted knights and eldest sons in the King’s custody.

By 1212, however, Marshal was back in royal favour – his sons were freed the following year – and in 1213 he led his forces in support of King John who was facing revolt in England and a possible invasion from France (Marshal subsequently remained in England to guard against attack from the Welsh while the King was in France).

In 1215, Marshal was involved in the creation of the Magna Carta – his name was the first the English lords to appear on the document – and some have even suggested he was one of its principal architects (although this may be overstating his role).

He remained loyal to John in the subsequent strife but he was in Gloucester when King John died in 1216.

Marshal subsequently supported the claim of King John’s son, King Henry III, to the throne and, named as a ‘guardian of the realm’ (a role which was essentially that of a regent), he played an instrumental part in taking back the kingdom for Henry, including successfully leading the royalist forces against a French and rebel force on 20th May, 1217, at Lincoln – a battle which brought about a quick resolution to the ongoing war.

Marshal spent the next couple of years working to restore the King’s rule but in early 1219, at the age of 72, fell ill and retreated to his manor house at Caversham.

He died around noon on 14th May. His body was taken to London via Reading and after a vigil and Mass at Westminster Abbey, he was interred in the Temple Church.

Marshal’s place of burial was due to an agreement he had made with the Templars back in the 1180s in which he agreed to enter their order before his death in exchange for the gift of a manor. The master of the Templars in England, Aimery of St Maur, had apparently travelled to Caversham before his death to perform the rite.

Marshal’s wife Isabel died the following year and sadly, while he had five sons, the Marshals gradually faded from history, the lack of male heirs in the family eventually leading to the break-up of the family lands.

A towering figure of his age – seen by many as the epitome of what a knight should be, Marshal’s story – despite a minor mention as Pembroke in Shakespeare’s King John – has largely been forgotten. But his influence on the world in which he lived – and hence the shaping of our world today – was significant.

With thanks to Thomas Asbridge’s The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones

PICTURES: Top – An effigy believed to be that of William Marshal in the Temple Church, London (Michael Wal –  licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0). Lower – The Temple Church in London in which William Marshall was buried. PICTURE: David Adams

Famously associated with Leadenhall Market, Old Tom was a gander who for several decades was a popular figure at the City of London marketplace.

Said to have been born in the late 1790s, he was brought to London among a massive contingent of birds from the Continent the aim of being fattened up for the market block.

The story goes that when the time came for the chop, however, Tom did a dash and apparently held off his pursuers for several days, avoiding becoming one of the 34,000 hapless geese which were apparently slaughtered in a two day period. His doggedness in defying the blade led to sympathy among the workers at the market who decided to let him be.

Feed on tidbits from local inns, Tom took up residence and became something of a favourite among those who worked there. He apparently lived to the the ripe old age of 37 or 38-years-old and when he died in 1835, such was the love for him, that Tom lay in state at the market to allow people to pay their respects before his burial at the market. His obituary was published in The Times, referring to him as the “chief of geese, the poulterer’s pride”.

Old Tom is mentioned on a plaque at the entrance to Leadenhall Market (pictured) which tells something of his story and there’s also a bar within Leadenhall Market itself which serves as a memorial – Old Tom’s Bar.

Some also believe that the two identical statues of a small boy grappling with a goose (pictured below) which sit atop the former Midland Bank headquarters building, located at 27 Poultry (and now hotel called The Ned) – just a few hundred paces from the market, also commemorate the gander.

The website of The Ned, however, suggests the statues, designed by Sir William Reid Dick for the architect Edwin Lutyens was actually inspired by Boethus’ famous sculpture of a boy playing with a goose which can be found in the Vatican.

Maybe it’s both?

PICTURES: Google Maps

We’ve decided to tell William Marshal’s fascinating story over two weeks – tune in next Monday for part II, the latter part of Marshal’s life, when the connections of Marshal to London are more fully spelt out …

A knight who served five English kings and rose to become a significant force in late 12th and early 13th century England, William Marshal was one of the towering figures of his time and seen by many as a paragon of what a knight could be.

Marshal – who died 800 years ago last May, was born in about 1147, the second son from the second marriage of a minor noble, John Marshal, during the 15 year conflict between King Stephen and his cousin, the Empress Matilda.

Marshal had ascended to become Marshal to the King in the court of King Henry I but during the subsequent conflict which erupted after the king’s death in 1135 had, like many, attempted to exploit the situation for his own benefit (he is said to have initially supported Stephen but was, however, among the Empress’ forces during a battle at Wherwall in 1141, during which he lost an eye and suffered significant injuries after the lead roof of a church melted onto him).

Late in King Stephen’s reign, he personally attracted the ire of the King upon himself by building a new fortified outpost, Newbury Castle, to the west of London, leading the king to marshal his forces against him. Marshal apparently begged for a truce ahead of the surrender of the castle and it was here that William enters the story, offered up as a hostage for his father.

But John Marshal decided, having handed over the boy, that he would not surrender and abandoned William to his fate. Stephen, angered at the deception, ordered the boy William to the gallows but, in what was a seminal moment in William’s childhood, the king relented and Marshal was spared – the story goes that it was William’s innocence which stayed the King’s hand.

King Stephen eventually won the day – although John Marshal escaped, leaving his son with the King. William was to remain a captive for more than a year – only after peace was agreed between King Stephen and Empress Matilda in 1153 was he to return to his family.

Little else is known of Marshal’s early childhood but in around 1160, at the age of about 13, he went to live in the household of William of Tancarville in Normandy – a distant relative – to acquire skill at arms in order to become a knight. He was knighted at the age of about 20 by Tancarville and was soon involved in fighting to protect Normandy’s borders but shortly after that, found his time under Tancarville’s patronage at an end (although the exact reasons why he was let go are unclear).

Rather than returning to his family in England, the penniless Marshal instead spent the next year or so travelling Europe on the tournament circuit to try and make some money and indeed had some success before he did eventually return to England and enter the house of his uncle, Earl Patrick of Salisbury. When Patrick and his men were called up to campaign with King Henry II in south-western France in early 1168, William was among his men.

In April, William was with the Earl serving as a guard for King Henry II’s wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, when they were attacked. The Queen hastened to safety while Patrick and his men held back the attackers but during the fighting, the earl was killed while Marshal, despite his skill, was eventually run through the thigh was lance and taken prisoner.

Recovering from his wound, Queen Eleanor eventually paid a ransom for his release and he was subsequently offered a place in her retinue in what was to his first post in a long life of royal service. After just a couple of years in the Queen’s service, her husband, King Henry II, appointed William as tutor-in-arms to his son and heir, Henry “the Young King” who had already been crowned at Westminster Abbey despite his father still holding the reigns of power.

When Henry rebelled against his father in 1173, William remained among his men, and, after an uneasy peace between the Young King and King Henry II was restored, William was with the young Henry when he spent three years on the tournament circuit from 1176 to about 1179. The Young King and his men saw considerable success in tournaments before William branched out on his own, his skill with weaponry bringing him both fame and wealth in his own right to the degree that by the early 1180s, he was regarded as one of Europe’s greatest knights.

With thanks to Thomas Asbridge’s The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones

An effigy believed to be that of William Marshal in the Temple Church, London. PICTURE: Michael Wal  (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

The world of mushrooms is explored in a new exhibition opening tomorrow at Somerset House. Part of the Charles Russell Speechly’s Terrace Rooms Series, Mushrooms: The art, design and future of fungi is curated by writer Francesca Gavin and features works by more than 35 artists, designers and musicians in an exploration of “the rich legacy and incredible potential of the remarkable organism, the ideas it inspires in the poetic, spiritual and psychedelic, and the powerful promise it offers to reimagine society’s relationship with the planet, inspiring new thinking around design and architecture”. Highlights include watercolours by renowned author Beatrix Potter (one of which is pictured), American artist Cy Twombly’s quasi-scientific portfolio Natural History Part I, Mushrooms (1974), and a spectacular floral display, featuring mushrooms grown in Somerset House’s former coalholes, by the London Flower School. The free exhibition, which runs until 26th April, is accompanied by a series of events. For more, see somersethouse.org.uk/mushrooms. PICTURE: Beatrix Potter, Hygrophorus puniceus, pencil and watercolour, 7.10.1894, collected at Smailholm Tower, Kelso, courtesy of the Armitt Trust

A newly commissioned film which reimagines Tower Bridge as a musical instrument is at the heart of a new exhibition which opened in the bridge’s Victorian Engine Rooms this week. Created by internationally acclaimed artist, inventor and filmmaker Di Mainstone to mark the bridge’s 125th anniversary, Time Bascule draws inspiration from Hannah Griggs, one of the first women to work at the bridge (in her case as a cook for the Bridge Master and his family between 1911-1915). The display also includes behind-the-scenes footage, storyboards and early sketches, as well as the opportunity for visitors to play a range of specially created musical instruments. Runs until March. Included in admission to the bridge. For more, see www.towerbridge.org.uk.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece, La Ghirlandata, is being unveiled at the Guildhall Art Gallery today following a year-long restoration. William Russell, Lord Mayor of the City of London, is unveiling the portrait which was painted in 1873. Conversation work undertaken included cleaning the painting to reveal a “brighter, fresher scene with a cooler tonality”, repairing and cleaning Rossetti’s original frame, and replaced the deteriorating living canvas. The restoration was made possible thanks to a grant from the Bank of America.

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