Once apparently known as Traitor’s Hill, Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath offers stunning views of the City of London and surrounds.

The summit of the hill, the view from which is protected, features a plaque, donated by the Heath and Hampstead Society and installed in 2016, which identifies various London landmarks visible from the site (it updated a similar plaque installed in 1984). Among the landmarks visible from the hill, which lies some six miles from the City in the south-east of the heath, are The Gherkin (St Mary Axe), St Paul’s Cathedral, The London Eye and the Houses of Parliament.

The hill’s name is somewhat shrouded in mystery. According to one story, it relates to the fact it was defended during the English Civil War by troops loyal to Parliament (hence first Traitor’s, then Parliament, Hill). Another named-related story, generally deemed to be somewhat dubious, has it as the site where Guy Fawkes and co-conspirator Robert Catesby planned to watch the destruction of Parliament in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

Once part of a manor granted by King Henry I to a local baron, the hill was added to the public open space of Hampstead Heath in the late 1880s although manorial rights to the land persisted until the mid-20th century. The City of London Corporation has managed the hill since 1989.

Parliament Hill, these days a popular place for kite flying, is also the site of a short white pillar known as the ‘Stone of Free Speech’, once believed to have been a focal point for religious and political meetings (although its origins, like the hill’s name, are somewhat sketchy).

WHERE: Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath (nearest Tube station is Hampstead/nearest Overground stations are Gospel Oak and Hampstead Heath); WHEN: Always; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/hampstead-heath/visitor-information/Pages/Parliament-Hill-Viewpoint.aspx.

This Grade II-listed pub owes its name to the fact it was from where “medicinal waters” taken from nearby springs were taken to be bottled before being sold to coffee houses and taverns across London at threepence a flask.

The business was established by the Wells Trustees which had initially intended the waters to be solely for the use of the Hampstead poor. That idea, however, soon developed into a lucrative trade in bottled water with distribution across the city apparently handled by an apothecary, a Mr Philips, from his base at a Fleet Street tavern.

Known initially as the Thatched House due to its roofing material (and later as the Lower Flask to distinguish it from The (Upper) Flask in Highgate), the pub was famously mentioned in Samuel Richardson’s novel, Clarissa.

The current premises at 14 Flask Walk was built in 1874 – designed by Cumming and Nixon – and among its public rooms are a grand saloon bar and a conservatory.

Part of the Young & Co’s chain since 1904. For more, see www.theflaskhampstead.co.uk.

The Flask in an image taken in 2014. PICTURE: Adam Bruderer/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The-Assembly-HouseThis name of this Kentish Town establishment, which dates from the late Victorian era, apparently has nought to do with politics.

Rather it apparently takes its name from the fact that during the 18th century, this site served as a gathering – assembly – point for travellers heading further to the north – to places such as Hampstead Heath – in the belief that safety in numbers could protect them from highwaymen.

There has been a public house on the site since at least the end 18th century (it’s suggested it was at one stage named the Bull), the current capacious, Grade II listed pub, was built in 1898 and, designed in the French chateau-style, features a corner turret.

Inside there are still many original features including a circular glass dome, brilliant cut mirrors and elaborate wrought-iron screening.

The pub can also apparently be seen in the 1971 Richard Burton film, The Villain.

For more on the pub, which is located at 292-294 Kentish Town Road, see www.assemblyhouse.co.uk.

PICTURE: Jim Linwood/CC BY 2.0/Via Wikimedia

Shady-avenue

We finish our series looking at notable English Heritage blue plaques with a look at a plaque which not only commemorates a prominent Londoner but, unusually, also displays there for all to see the reason (well, an important part of it, anyway) for his prominence.

Edward-Johnston1Yes, we’re talking about Edward Johnston (1872-1944), a master calligrapher who was not only credited with starting the modern revival of the art but is also noted for having created the famous Johnston typeface which he developed for London Transport in the early 20th century.

In a lovely touch, the sans serif typeface he created is that used on the plaque – located at premises at 3 Hammersmith Terrace in Chiswick where he lived from 1905-1912 – itself.

The plaque, which was erected on the building in 1977 by the Greater London Council, was the first to feature the typeface but isn’t the only one: in fact there are four, all of which commemorate people related to London Transport.

The other three commemorated include Frank Pick (1878-1941), a London transport administrator who steered the development of London’s corporate identity – he’s commemorated with a plaque on his former property at 15 Wildwood Road, Hampstead Garden Suburb, with a Greater London Council plaque erected in 1981).

They also include Albert Henry Stanley, Lord Ashfield (1874-1948), the first chairman of London Transport (placed on his former home at 43 South Street, Mayfair, in 1984 by London County Council); and, the most recent plaque commemorating Harry Beck (1902-1974), designer of the London Underground map (placed by English Heritage in 2013 on his former property at 14 Wesley Road in Leyton).

PICTURE: Edwardx/CC BY-SA 4.0

Freud-Museum

The fact the properties can have many residents with the passing of the years means that there’s a select number of properties in London (18 to be exact) which bear more than one English Heritage blue plaque – among them 4 Carlton Gardens in St James’s (home to 19th century PM Lord Palmerston and where General Charles De Gaulle set up the headquarter of the free French forces in 1940).

But among that group is an even more select group – properties which bear two blue plaques with both of those people commemorated coming from the same family.  The home at 20 Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead (pictured above) falls into this group.

Now a museum, the home’s celebrated occupants have included psycho-analyst Sigmund Freud, who lived here briefly in the final years of his life (between 1938 and his death on 23rd September, 1939), and his daughter Anna Freud, the youngest of his six children and herself a pioneering psycho-analyst, who lived here from 1938 until her death in 1982.

Both occupants have their own blue plaques on the property: Sigmund’s original London County Council blue plaque was unveiled on the site by his daughter Anna – then still occupant in the home – in 1956, the 100th anniversary of his birth. It had deteriorated and was replaced in 2002, at the same time a plaque to Anna herself was unveiled.

When Freud had moved to London from Vienna in June, 1938 – following the annexation of Austria by the Third Reich, he had initially lived in Primrose Hill before settling in the property in Maresfield Gardens along with his family and a significant collection of furniture from his Vienna consulting rooms.

In 1986, four years after Anna’s death, property was reopened as the Freud Museum and the public can still go inside and see Freud’s study, including his famed consulting couch, just as it was when he lived there.

The Freuds aren’t, of course, the only family members commemorated by English Heritage Blue Plaques – others include suffragette mother and daughters Emmeline and Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst (the first two commemorated on a single plaque at 50 Clarendon Road in Notting Hill and the latter at 120 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea), and father and son Prime Ministers William Pitt the Elder and his son William Pitt the Younger (at 10 St James’s Square in St James’s and 120 Baker Street in Marylebone respectively).

WHERE: Freud Museum London, 20 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead (nearest Tube stations are Finchley Road and Swiss Cottage);  WHEN: Noon to 5pm, Wednesday to Sunday; COST: £7 adults; £5 seniors; £4 concessions (including children 12-16); children under 12 free; WEBSITE: www.freud.org.uk.

PICTURE: Rup11/CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia.

A once forgotten collection of watercolour paintings and drawings owned by Empress Catherine the Great of Russia has gone on show at Hampton Court Palace as part of commemorations marking the 300th anniversary of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. The Empress and the Gardener exhibition features almost 60 intricately detailed views of the palace and its park and gardens during the time when Brown worked there as chief gardener to King George III between 1764 and 1783. The works came to be in the collection of the Empress – a renowned fan of English gardens – after Brown’s assistant, John Spyers, sold two albums of his drawings of the palace to the her for the considerable sum of 1,000 roubles. The albums disappeared into her collection at the Hermitage (now the State Hermitage Museum) and lay forgotten for more than 200 years before they were rediscovered by curator Mikhail Dedinkin in 2002. As well as the collection – on public show for the first time, the exhibition features portraits of Brown and the Empress, previously unseen drawings of her ‘English Palace’ in the grounds of the Peterhof near St Petersburg, and several pieces from the ‘Green Frog’ dinner service, created for the Empress by Wedgwood, which is decorated with some of the landscapes the prolific Brown created across England. Runs until 4th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/.

A house in Chelsea has become only one of 19 homes in London to bear two official blue plaques. Number 48 Paultons Square has the honour of having been home to two Nobel prize winners (albeit in different fields) – dramatist Samuel Beckett, who lived there for seven months in 1934 while writing his first novel, Murphy, and physicist Patrick Blackett, noted for his revolutionary work in U-boat detection during World War II, who lived there from 1953 to 1969. Other ‘doubles’ include 20 Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead (home to Sigmund Freud and Anna Freud) and 29 Fitzroy Street in Fitzrovia (home to George Bernard Shaw and Virginia Woolf). This year marks the 150th anniversary of the blue plaques scheme. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

The rise of the British graphic novel is the subject of a new exhibition at the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury. The Great British Graphic Novel features works by 18th century artist William Hogarth as well as Kate Charlesworth, Dave Gibbons (one of the creators of the ground-breaking Watchmen), Martin Row, Posy Simmonds (creator of the Tamara Drewe comic strip) and Bryan and Mary Talbot. It runs until 24th July. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org.

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Kenwood-HouseThis is the case of a movie stand-in. While Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath in north London (pictured above) was the real life home of late 18th century figure Dido Elizabeth Belle, the subject of the 2014 Amma Asante-directed film Belle – the movie wasn’t actually shot there.

Thanks to the fact that parts of Kenwood House – in particular the famed Robert Adam interiors – were undergoing restoration at the time, the scenes representing the home’s interiors were instead shot at three other London properties – Chiswick House, Syon Park and Osterley Park, all located in London’s west (West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire, meanwhile, was used for the exterior).

While some other scenes were also filmed in London – Bedford Square represented Bloomsbury Square where the London home of Lord Mansfield was located, for example, other locations were also used to represent London – scenes depicting Kentish Town, Vauxhall Gardens and the bank of the River Thames were all actually shot on the Isle of Man, for example.

When the real life Belle – the illegitimate mixed race daughter of an English naval captain who was raised by her great-uncle William Murray, Lord Mansfield (she was played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw in the film; Lord Mansfield by Tom Wilkinson)  – is believed to have lived at Kenwood, it was the weekend retreat of Lord Mansfield, then Lord Chief Justice of England (for more on her life, see our previous post here).

Interestingly, the property was also once home to a 1779 painting (previously attributed to Johann Zoffany but now said to be “unsigned”) which depicts Belle and which was apparently the inspiration for the movie. While a copy of the painting still hands at Kenwood, the original now lives at Scone Palace in Scotland.

For more on Belle’s story, see Paula Byrne’s Belle: The True Story of Dido Belle.

 •untitled 276.tif The first major exhibition to explore the history of Egypt after the pharaohs opens at the British Museum today. Egypt: Faith after the pharaohs spans 1,200 years of history – from 30 BC to 1171 AD – with 200 objects showing how Christian, Islamic and Jewish communities reinterpreted the pharaonic past of Egypt and interacted with each other. The exhibition opens with three significant examples of the Hebrew Bible, the Christian New Testament and the Islamic Qur’an – the texts include the New Testament part of the 4th century AD Codex Sinaiticus, the world’s oldest surviving Bible and the earliest complete copy of the New Testament, which is now part of the British Library’s collection. All three are juxtaposed with everyday stamps associated with each of the three religions in an illustration of the relationship between the institutional side of religion and its everyday practice, both key themes of the exhibition. Other exhibits include a pair of 6th-7th century door curtains featuring classical and Christian religious motifs, a 1st-2nd century statue of the Egyptian god Horus in Roman military costume, and a letter from the Roman Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD) concerning the cult of the divine emperor and the status of Jews in Alexandria. Admission charge applies. Runs until 7th February in Room 35. A programme of events accompanies the exhibition. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/egypt. PICTURE: Codex Sinaiticus, open at John 5:6-6:23. Image courtesy of the British Library.

Still at the British Museum and a free four day festival of art, performance, storytelling and talks kicks off on Friday night to mark the Mexican tradition of the Days of the Dead. The annual celebration, which draws on both native and Catholic beliefs, is held on 1st and 2nd November and sees families gather to remember relatives and friends who have died. The festival, which is being conducted in association with the Mexican Government, includes a Friday evening event, a weekend of family activities featuring storytelling, films, music and dance, and a study day  on Monday featuring lectures, gallery talks and activities. The museum will feature elaborate decorations by Mexican artists – including Betsabeé Romero – throughout the festival with a particular focus on the Great Court and Forecourt. Events – which run from 30th October to 2nd November – are free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/dotd.

Horrible histories indeed! Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace are both hosting ghost tours from this weekend. The tours focus on some of the more grisly aspects of the history of the palaces with tours at Hampton Court featuring a visit to a shallow grave which was only uncovered in 1870 and those at Kensington Palace encountering the gruesome details of King William III’s fatal horse-riding accident and Queen Caroline’s horrific final hours. Admission charges apply. For more details, head to www.hrp.org.uk.

Animal welfare campaigner Maria Dickin (1870-1951) and art historian EH Gombrich (1909-2001) have been honoured with English Heritage Blue Plaques. The plaque commemorating Dickin – founder of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) and of the PDSA Dickin medal, awarded to animals associated with the armed forces or civil defence who have shown conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty – has been placed on the Hackney house at 41 Cassland Road where she was born and spent the first few years of her life. Meanwhile the plaque to Gombrich was placed on the house at 19 Briardale Gardens in Hampstead where he lived for almost 50 years, from shortly after publication of his seminal work The Story of Art to his death in 2001. For more see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

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Antonio-Zucchi-'Portrait-of-James-Adam'-Credit---Adam-Williams-Fine-Art-LtdA painting of James Adam, unseen for almost 150 years, has gone on show at Kenwood House in London’s north.

Antonio Zucchi’s Portrait of James Adam, dating from 1763, depicts Adam who, along with his brother Robert, created the splendid villa which now sits on the northern edge of Hampstead Heath between 1767 and about 1779.

The Adams’ first encountered Zucchi while on a “grand tour” in Italy and engaged him as their draughtsman, recording what they were seeing.

They subsequently had him decorate ceilings and walls at Kenwood and his signature was also recently discovered on the painting of Adam – the only known portrait the artist completed – after it was cleaned.

The painting depicts Adam as both architect and “man of fashion” and shows his interest in classical statues and ornamentation, showing the famous Medici vase in the background.

The painting hadn’t been seen by the public since 1867. The painting, loaned to English Heritage – managers of Kenwood House – by Adam Williams Fine Art Ltd in New York, can be seen until 4th January.

WHERE: Kenwood House, off Hampstead Lane, Hampstead Heath (nearest Tube stations are Golders Green and Archway/nearest rail is Gospel Oak and Hampstead Heath); WHEN: daily, 10am to 5pm; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.english-heritage.org.uk/kenwood

PICTURE: Adam Williams Fine Art Ltd.

Magna-Carta• The only four surviving copies of the original Magna Carta from 1215 will go on display together for the first time ever  at the British Library in King’s Cross next February – and you have a chance to be among the 1,215 people to see them. In an event to mark the 800th year of the creation of the document, the library – which holds two copies of the document – along with Lincoln Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral – each of which holds one copy – are holding a ballot with winners able to attend an event in which they’ll have the unique opportunity to see the documents side-by-side as well as be treated to a special introduction on its history and legacy by historian and TV presenter Dan Jones. The ballot to see the documents is open until 31st October with winners drawn at random. It’s free to enter – head to www.bl.uk/magna-carta to do so. The four documents will subsequently feature separately in displays at each of the three institutions. One not to miss! PICTURE: Salisbury Cathedral’s Magna Carta/Ash Mills.

The Silent Swoon Free Film Festival kicks off in St Martin’s Courtyard, Covent Garden, next week. The courtyard will be transformed into an open air movie theatre showing a different movie each night – The Talented Mr Ripley on 14th October, Crazy, Stupid, Love on 15th October and Rebel without a Cause on 16th October. Most of the free tickets will be allocated through an online draw but a small number will be allocated each night on a first come, first serve basis. For those with tickets, a range of freebies will be available on the night (including popcorn!). For more information, head to www.stmartinscourtyard.co.uk/silent-swoon-cinema-festival.

Crime writer and film noir pioneer Raymond Chandler has been remembered with the placement of an English Heritage blue plaque outside his childhood home in Upper Norwood, south east London. Chandler, who received global acclaim for his Philip Marlowe novels and his work on movies like The Blue Dahlia, lived at the home from 1901 after emigrating from the US with his mother, aunt and grandmother at the age of 12. He remained at the double-fronted red brick villa until 1908 – the same year he published his first poem, The Unknown Love. In his early Twenties, Chandler worked as a freelance reporter for London newspapers but, disillusioned with writing, returned to the US in 1912. He spent the next decade working for an oil company before the loss of his job in 1932 pushed him to restart writing. He first novel was published in 1939, and he went on to write further books and movie screenplays to ongoing renown. For more on the blue plaques scheme, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blue-plaques/.

Two early works of Rembrandt have gone on display at Kenwood House this month. Anna and the Blind Tobit and Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, both of which date from around 1630, will be seen in the Hampstead landmark until May next year. The two paintings replace Rembrandt’s Portrait of the artist which usually hangs in Kenwood and is on show at the National Gallery and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (from where the two paintings now at Kenwood have come). For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/kenwood. An exhibition of Rembrandt’s works opens at the National Gallery next week – more details then!

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We’re looking at some of London’s World War I memorials so it’s only fitting we look at the life of acclaimed architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, the man credited with designing the Cenotaph – the UK’s national war memorial – in Whitehall (pictured below).

Lutyens was born in London at 16 Onslow Square, South Kensington, on 29th March, 1869, and – the ninth son and 10th of 13 children of soldier Captain Charles Lutyens and his wife Mary – was named for painter and sculptor Edwin Henry Landseer, a friend of his father’s. He grew up in London and Surrey and in 1885 commenced studying architecture at the South Kensington School of Art. In 1887, he left before completing the course, briefly joining the practice of Ernest George and Harold Peto before starting his own practice in 1889.

Cenotaph-in-LondonEarly commissions included country houses and it was during this period that he met with mentor and landscape gardener Gertrude Jekyll, a relationship which led him to design her home, Munstead Wood near Godalming in Surrey.

In 1897, Lutyens, known familiarly as ‘Ned’, married Emily Lytton – daughter of the late Viceroy of India and first earl of Lytton, Edward Buller-Lytton – and by 1908 the couple had five children. The family’s London addresses included 29 Bloomsbury Square (which also served as his office), 31 Bedford Square and 13 Mansfield Street, Marylebone, while his offices were located in numerous places including at 17 Queen Anne’s Gate.

Lutyens continued designing country houses – he eventually designed more than 35 major properties and altered and added many more – and among his commissions were Castle Drogo in Devon and the refurbishment of Northumberland’s spectacularly sited Lindisfarne Castle – both now National Trust properties. He was also involved in helping to plan and design Hampstead Garden Suburb in London, work which included designing two churches.

In 1912, Lutyens was invited to advise on the planning of the new Indian capital in New Delhi and his most important contribution was the design of the Viceroy’s House which combined elements of classical architecture with traditional Indian decoration. He was knighted in 1918 for his contributions in India and for his advice to the Imperial War Graves Commission.

It was his role in this latter effort which led to his becoming a national figure. He was involved in the creation of numerous monuments to commemorate the war dead, the best known of which are the Cenotaph in Whitehall – initially commissioned as a temporary structure (see our earlier post here) –  and the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme in Thiepval in northern France as well as the Australian War Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux and the Anglo-Boer War Memorial in Johannesburg.

He also designed more than 100 war cemeteries in France and Belgium and other war memorials – including overseas in places like Dublin – as well as London’s Tower Hill Memorial (see our earlier post here). Other London buildings he designed included the headquarters of Country Life magazine in Tavistock Street, Britannic House in Finsbury Square, the head office of the Midland Bank in Poultry and the Reuters and Press Association headquarters at 85 Fleet Street (now home to the Lutyens Restaurant, Bar and Private Rooms).

Lutyens was elected a fellow of the Royal Academy in 1920 (he was later president) and in 1924 was appointed a founding member of the Royal Fine Arts Commission. Even as he continued work in Delhi, he took on other commissions – such as the British Embassy in Washington, DC – and in 1924 he completed one of his most lauded – and smallest – designs: that of the one twelfth scale Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House which was shown at the 1924 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley and which can still be seen at Windsor Castle.

In 1929 Lutyens was commissioned to design a new Roman Catholic Cathedral for Liverpool but when he died on 1st January, 1944, this work was still unfinished with only the crypt completed thanks to the outbreak of World War II broke. Lutyens’ funeral was held in Westminster Abbey a few days later and his ashes were subsequently placed in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral.

For more information on Lutyens’ life and works, check out The Lutyens Trust, founded in 1984 to preserve and protect his legacy.

Stories abound about this historic Hampstead pub – one of London’s oldest, not the least about the origins of its name.

Spaniards-InnTheories about the name include that it was named for a Spanish ambassador attending the court of King James I who sought shelter here during an outbreak of plaque. Others suggest it was named for a Spanish landlord – Francisco Perrero – or for two brothers who once owned it (that is, until one of them died in a duel they fought over a woman).

Whatever the truth, the atmospheric pub, located on the edge of Hampstead Heath, has apparently been around since 1585 and the stories about its connections with the famous (and infamous) number even more than those about its origins.

Highwayman Dick Turpin is associated with the pub (some stories suggest he was born here, although this seems unlikely) and the establishment  is known to have played an important role in sparing nearby Kenwood House, then the home of Lord Mansfield, Lord Chief Justice, during the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots of 1780 – apparently it was the action of the landlord, Giles Thomas, in throwing open the cellars which diverted the attention of would-be rioters from the task at hand to one perhaps more enjoyable.

The pub also features in Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers and in Bram Stoker’s Dracula while among those who frequented it were painter Sir Joshua Reynolds and Lord Byron as well as John Keats who, the story goes, wrote Ode to a Nightingale in the rather extensive garden.

Located in Spaniards Road, this Grade II-listed pub, as well as the main building, features an old toll house on the other side of the road which contains a horse trough (it has been suggested that Turpin stabled Black Bess there but take such claims with a grain of salt!).

Well worth a visit for refreshments after a stroll on the heath. For more, see www.thespaniardshampstead.co.uk.

PICTURE: Philip Halling/Wikipedia 

Belle3

Part of the history of Kenwood House in north London hits the big screen this week with the premiere of the film Belle.

The film, which opens on Friday, is inspired by the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate daughter of Admiral Sir John Lindsay and a slave woman named Maria, who spent her childhood years at the property in the care of her great-uncle Lord Mansfield (played by Tom Wilkinson) in the second half of the 18th century.

The idea for film was apparently sparked when Belle‘s writer Misan Sagay saw a painting of Dido which hangs at Scone Palace in Scotland (a copy of the painting, which was formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany but is now unattributed, can be seen hanging in the Housekeeper’s Room at Kenwood).

Lauren Houlistan, English Heritage senior curator, says Dido grew up at Kenwood from about the age of five (about 1766) and seemed to have been considered one of the family.

She says that while Lord Mansfield was “very fond of her”, Dido’s position was, however, “lower than that of her white, legitimate cousin, Elizabeth – Dido was given a smaller allowance and is noted as only joining visitors after dinner”. Dido is known to have managed the dairy at Kenwood in 1779 and was described as “superintendent” over the daily and poultry yard (for more on Dido’s extraordinary life, see our earlier post here).

Kenwood House was undergoing restoration when the film was being made so scenes for the film set in the house were shot at various other English Heritage properties including Chiswick House and the Ranger’s House in Greenwich.

WHERE: Kenwood House, Hampstead Lane, Hampstead (nearest Tube stations are Golders Green and Archway/nearest train stations are Gospel Oak and Hampstead Heath); WHEN: 10am to 5pm daily; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/kenwood/.

PICTURE: Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as Dido Elizabeth Belle and Sarah Gadon Lady Elizabeth Murray and  in Belle. © Twentieth Century Fox.

The month long London Festival of Architecture kicked off this week with the first of more than 200 activities taking place right across the capital. Now in its 10th year, the festival features talks, exhibitions, film screenings, cycle rides, open studios and the chance to explore the city with experts at hand. Headline events include a gathering of international architects at Balfron Tower where they will come up with new ideas for the surrounding area of Poplar as they explore the influence of emigre architecture on London, a talk by Will Self on architecture, and an exploration of ‘The Death and Life of Great London High Streets’ with experts guided people around newly completed projects. Other highlights include the House of Muses, an architectural installation at the Museum of London, the rare chance to see a late 16th century model of country house Tyringham Hall in Buckinghamshire which was commissioned by Sir John Soane (and will be on display at the Sir John Soane Museum), and the art installation, The Pungent Subway which will see a 55-year-old subway in Elephant and Castle transformed by sweet-smelling herbs and flowers as well as GUN Architects Rainforest in Bedford Square. For a full programme of events, many of which are free, check out details on the website, www.londonfestivalofarchitecture.org.

London icon Tower Bridge celebrates its 120th anniversary this year and to mark the event, the Tower Bridge and its events partner Seasoned Events are giving away free tickets to special sunset event. To take place on its high-level walkway on 30th June, the night, which runs from 7pm to 9.30pm, will feature Victorian-themed entertainment in commemoration of the age in which the great structure was constructed. For your chance to win tickets, look out for special competition posts by Tower Bridge on Facebook (www.facebook.com/towerbridge) and Twitter (@TowerBridge) from 9th June and share them on social media by 19th June. As many as 120 lucky winners will be selected at random and notified by 5pm on 20th June. Each ticket includes entry for two and a drink token (and obviously you must be in London and available to attend on 30th June). Good luck! For those who don’t win, there is a consolation prize – entry to the Tower Bridge Exhibition is being dropped to just £1.20 (120 pence) on 30th June when buying tickets at the door. The exhibition will that day also be playing host to a range of ‘Victorian visitors’ – from policeman and tourists to engineers. For more, see www.towerbridge.org.uk.

• Featuring previously unexhibited or rarely seen works by important 20th century painters Ben and Winifred Nicholson, a new exhibition opened at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London yesterday. Art and Life: Ben Nicholson, Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood, Alfred Wallis, William Staite Murray, 1920-1931 features more than 80 words with 16 being displayed for the first time including Ben Nicholson’s 1926-27 (still life) and Winifred Nicholson’s Flowers in a Glass Jar. The display is a rare opportunity to see works by the Nicholson’s different views of the same landscapes, seascapes, still-lives and portraits and has the works grouped by locations where they painted including London, Lugarno in Switzerland, Cumberland and Cornwall. Alongside works by the Nicholsons, the display also features the art of their fellow artists and friends including Christopher Wood, the self-taught marine painter Alfred Wallis, and potter William Staite Murray, and the exhibition is curated by the Nicholson’s grandson, art historian Jovan Nicholson. Runs until 21st September. Admission charge applies. For more see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.

Late addition: The annual Keats Festival kicks off at Keats House in Hampstead on Saturday, 7th June, with highlights including guided tours of the house, plenty of poetry readings and workshops, musical performances, a screen-writing workshop and a family day on 15th June. Other events at the Keats Grove house where the poet lived between 1818 and 1820 include an afternoon tea “in the company of Keats” and an offsite event held at UCL’s Bloomsbury campus next Friday – One Day in the City: A Celebration of London and Literature – which will feature performance poetry, a seminar on Keats and a contemporary retelling of The Canterbury Tales. Many events are free but many require pre-booking. For more information, check out www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/attractions-around-london/keats-house/Pages/Keats-Festival.aspx.

Send all items of interest for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

Having had an extended May Bank Holiday, Exploring London returns with our usual coverage this week…

The subject of the new film Belle, the life of Georgian-era Dido Elizabeth Belle was nothing short of extraordinary.

Belle2Born in 1761, Belle was the illegitimate daughter of Admiral Sir John Lindsay and Maria Belle, an African woman who had apparently been captured from a Spanish ship when Havana was captured from the Spanish in 1762 (Lindsay had captained a ship in the fight).

Baptised at St George’s Church, Bloomsbury, in 1766, Lindsay subsequently sent Dido to live with his uncle William Murray, the Earl of Mansfield – Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. Initially residing at the family house in Bloomsbury Square and later at Kenwood House in Hampstead, she was raised alongside her orphaned cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray who was also in the earl’s care.

She spent some 30 years living at the property and while her status remains something of a mystery, it is thought she was treated more as a companion to Lady Murray than a servant – indeed her familiarity with Lady Murray did prove somewhat shocking to some. Her presence in the house also led to some criticism of Lord Mansfield’s judgements in cases related to slavery.

Following the Earl of Mansfield’s death in 1793, Belle – who has acted as his secretary later in his life – was awarded £500 outright and a £100 annuity and had her freedom confirmed in Mansfield’s will. In December that year she married a Frenchman and gentleman’s steward (possibly at Kenwood House), John Davinier, at St George’s Hanover Square, London. The couple are believed to have had at least three sons and lived in Pimlico before Belle’s death in 1804. She was buried in St George’s Fields and her remains were later moved when the area was redeveloped in the mid-20th century.

A turbaned Belle is famously depicted in a portrait with Lady Murray which now hangs in Scone Palace at Perth in Scotland (property of the current Earl of Mansfield). The portrait was formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany but it’s now generally accepted it was not created by him.

Belle, which stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Belle, opens in the UK next month.

Kenwood House in north London is being reopened to the public today following a £5.95 million restoration project which has seen the library returned to what Scottish architect Robert Adam had intended it to be. The project, which saw the Hampstead property closed since March last year, has also seen the restoration of three other Robert Adam-designed rooms – the entrance hall, Great Stairs and antechamber or entrance to the library – as well as the redecoration of four rooms in 18th century style, repainting of the exterior and the repair of the home’s roof – a job aimed at protecting the rooms and its stellar

Kenwood-House-Librarycollection of artworks by the likes of Rembrandt and Vermeer. English Heritage has also endeavoured to make the property more homely, replacing ticket desks and rope barriers with an open fire, warm rugs and leather couches on which visitors can relax. The library (pictured) was built and decorated to Adam’s designs between 1767 and 1770 as part of a wider remodelling of the villa for its owner Lord Chief Justice William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield. Redecorated many times since, it was restored in the 1960s but this redecoration was later found to be inaccurate. The Caring for Kenwood restoration project, which has also seen restoration of the Kenwood Dairy, was funded by a £3.89 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as support from the Wolfson Foundation and other donors. To coincide with the reopening, a new app exploring Kenwood House has been released which can be downloaded for free from the iTunes store. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/kenwood/. PICTURE: English Heritage/Patricia Payne.

Head out on a “robot safari” this weekend with a special free event at Science Museum in South Kensington. Robot SafariEU, part of Eurobotics week, features 13 biometric robots from across Europe including an underwater turtle robot, a shoal of luminous fish robots, a robotic cheetah cub and Pleurobot, a robotic salamander. Roboticists from across Europe will be on hand to help visitors interact with the bots. Suitable for all ages, the event kicked off on Wednesday night and runs again on the weekend. Admission is free but timed tickets are required. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/RobotSafari.

A memorial to author, scholar and apologist CS Lewis was dedicated at Westminster Abbey last Friday – the 50th anniversary of his death. Conducting the service, the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, said Lewis was “one of the most significant Christian apologists of the 20th century” and the author of stories that had “inspired the imagination and faith of countless readers and film-goers”. Douglas Gresham, younger stepson of Lewis, read from the author’s book, The Last Battle, at the service. The memorial is located in Poet’s Corner in the abbey’s south transept. For more see www.westminster-abbey.org.

A Blue Plaque commemorating Al Bowlly – described as “Europe’s most popular crooner and famous radio and record star” – will be unveiled at his home in Charing Cross Road this week. Bowlly, who lived between 1899 and 1941, was the voice beyond songs like Goodnight Sweetheart and The Very Thought Of You. The English Heritage Blue Plaque will be unveiled at Charing Cross Mansions, 26 Charing Cross Road – his home during the pinnacle of his career. For more, see www.english-heritage.co.uk/discover/blue-plaques/.

Kew Gardens has opened its gates after dark for the first time with a “captivating show of lights, sound and landscape” this festive season. A mile long illuminated trail, created in partnership with entertainment promoter Raymond Gubbay, will take visitors’ through the garden’s unique tree collections, kicking off at Victoria Gate where a Christmas village (and Santa’s Woodland Grotto) is located. The gardens will be open every Thursday to Sunday until 23rd December and then be open every night from 26th December to 4th January from 4.45pm to 10pm. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.kew.org/Christmas.

VivienLeighActress Vivien Leigh is the star of a new exhibition opening on Saturday at the National Portrait Gallery. Starring Vivien Leigh: A Centenary Celebration tells her story with a focus on her Academy Award-winning role in 1939’s Gone With The Wind. The display features more than 50 portraits of Leigh by the likes of Cecil Beaton, Angus McBean and Madame Yevonde – many of which have never been exhibited in the gallery before – and a selection of memorabilia including magazine covers, vintage film stills and press books. Among the photos will be a newly acquired image of Leigh and her husband, Laurence Olivier, taken by British photojournalist Larry Burrows at a garden party in 1949 (pictured), along with two rarely seen portraits of Leigh – one taken on the set of The School for Scandal by Vivienne in 1949 and the other by Paul Tanqueray in 1942. The exhibition will be held in Room 33 and runs until 20th July. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE:  Copyright – Larry Burrows Collection 2013.

This is one property for which there is no ‘real’ address – 17 Cherry Tree Lane doesn’t exist except in the pages of PL Travers’ books about Mary Poppins (and the many subsequent adaptions including the famous 1964 musical film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke).

Bank-of-EnglandBut we do know that the home of Mr and Mrs Banks – the couple who hired Ms Poppins as a nanny for their children Jane, Michael and baby twins John and Barbara – is believed to have been located somewhere in London – possibly somewhere to the north-west of the city close to The Regent’s Park and within an easy commute of the Bank of England (pictured) where Mr Banks worked.

While some of the locations featured in the book and the film – such as the Bank  and, of course, St Paul’s Cathedral (remember the lady who fed the birds?) – do exist – there is also at least one residential property related to Mary Poppins which does as well.

According to Ed Glinert, author of Literary London, the model for Admiral Boom’s house a little further along Cherry Tree Lane  – you may recall him firing his cannon on the 1964 film – can be found in Admiral’s Walk in Hampstead. The property was apparently once home to the nineteenth century architect George Gilbert Scott.

Freud's-DeskThis group of antiquities sits upon the desk of Sigmund Freud – the “founding father” of psychoanalysis –  at what was his home in Hampstead.

It’s part of an extensive collection of around 2,000 items which is on display at house – now the Freud Museum – located at 20 Maresfield Gardens.

The antiquities – which include Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Oriental artefacts fill a series of cabinets and sit on almost every available surface in Freud’s study including the desk upon which Freud typically wrote until the early hours of the morning.

Collected by Freud from the 1890s onward, they include everything from a bronze statuette of the Greek goddess Athena (dating from the 1st or 2nd century AD – it’s mentioned in one of his manuscripts and, one of Freud’s favorite objects, was one of only three items he chose to have smuggled out of Vienna when his entire collection was threatened in 1938), a small bronze head of the Egyptian God Osiris believed to date from between 1075-716 BC, and a silver Roman ring featuring a blue glass intaglio depicting a pastoral scene which dates from between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD (it was given as a gift from Freud to German psychoanalyst Ernst Simmel in 1928).

The museum has launched a conservation fund to repair and conserve the most fragile of the items and is aiming to raise £40,000 for the work. It follows a successful campaign earlier this year to raise funds for the conservation of Freud’s famous couch, brought from his former home in Vienna (seen in the background of this image).

Freud and his family lived at the home after escaping from Austria following the country’s annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938. It remained the family home until the death of Freud’s daughter, Anna, in 1982. The museum opened to the public in 1986.

PICTURE: Courtesy of the Freud Museum.

WHERE: Freud Museum, 20 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead (nearest Tube stations are Finchley Road and Swiss Cottage);  WHEN: Noon to 5pm, Wednesday to Sunday; COST: £6 adults; £4.50 seniors; £3 concessions (including children 12-16); children under 12 free; WEBSITE: www.freud.org.uk.

FA-Cup-Minute-BookThe 1863 FA Minute Book forms the centrepiece of a new display at the British Library marking the 150th anniversary of The Football Association. Handwritten by Ebenezer Cobb Morley, the minute book contained the 13 original rules of football and is valued at £2.5 million. It is being displayed along with other football related artefacts – such as a Guide for Referees from the 1930s – in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery alongside the Magna Carta, Shakespeare’s First Folio and Captain Scott’s diary and is the first time the library has had a football-themed display. The Football Association was formed on 26th October, 1863, at the Freemason’s Tavern in London with the meeting documented in the minute book which also records the establishment of The FA Cup and the first international football match. Football Rules, entry to which is free, runs at the British Library in King’s Cross until 17th December. For more, see www.bl.uk. For more on the FA’s 150th anniversary, check out www.thefa.com.

As mentioned last week, Hidden London kicks off today and runs over this August bank holiday weekend. The second year it’s been held, the initiative is your chance to see some of the country’s finest museum collections and archives.  To see what’s on, head to www.hiddentreasures.org.uk/?page_id=118.

The National Maritime Museum tomorrow marks International Slavery Remembrance Day tomorrow with a series of free family-oriented events. The programme, which takes place at the museum and around Greenwich, involves music, workshops, talks and walking tours and will culminate in a commemorative ceremony by the River Thames. The day falls on the date of the first successful slave uprising in the western hemisphere which took place in Haiti on 23rd August, 1791, and led to the island’s independence. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/national-maritime-museum/.

English Heritage’s season of concerts at Kenwood House beside Hampstead Heath kicks off this weekend. Live by the Lake features artists including Suede and Keane, an outdoor live screening of Singin’ in the Rain featuring the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, Opera Alfresco and An Evening of Gershwin. Events run until 1st September. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/kenwood-house/.

Pastel portraits by Bob Dylan go on show at the National Portrait Gallery in the West End from Saturday. Bob Dylan: Face Value features 12 new works by singer/songwriter and the portraits represent characters, some of which are real and some fictitious. Dylan, who has 110 million record sales to his name, has been sketching and drawing since childhood but only starting exhibiting his portraits six years ago. The exhibition, in Room 40, is free and runs until 5th January. For more, check www.npg.org.uk.