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The Design Museum’s new home in Kensington finally opened this week and it’s already been getting some rave reviews, hence why, despite its freshness, we thought we’d mention it in our Treasures of London feature.

The museum, which moved to its new premises after 25 years in Shad Thames, now occupies the former Commonwealth Institute building, which dates from 1962 and was designed by Robert Matthew. The building has recently undergone a £83 million makeover with the interiors designed by architect John Pawson.

The new museum has three times the space of the previous premises and features the only collection in the UK devoted exclusively to contemporary design and architecture. At the heart of the building is the Designer Maker User exhibition which, as the museum’s first free permanent display, occupies the top floor of the museum, and includes more than 1,000 items of 20th and 21st century design. At its entrance can be found a wall featuring more than 200 items from 25 countries nominated by the general public including a Bible, Coca-Cola can and a £5 banknote.

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Inside, the Designer section focuses on the thought-processes of designers and features a full-sized production of a gerberette used in the Richard Rogers-designed Centre Pompidou in Paris as well as models and images of the works of the late architect Zaha Hadid, David Mellor’s traffic lights, Kinneir and Calvert’s British road signage system and a full scale prototype for a new London Tube train designed by PriestmanGoode as well as Moulton bicycles and London Underground maps.

The Maker section, meanwhile, traces the evolution of manufacturing from Thonet bentwood cafe chairs and Model T Ford cars to robotic arms and 3D printing and includes objects at different stages of production – from tennis balls to the London 2012 Olympic Torch.

And in the User section, visitors will be led to explore the interaction between the consumer and brands that have become household names – Braun, Sony, Apple and Olivetti – as well as the impact of design on politics, fashion and music. Displays in the latter part include Gucci tennis shoes, the fashions of Vivienne Westwood and Christian Louboutin and the pioneering magazine The Face.

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As many as 500,000 people are expected to visit the museum in its first year. Along with permanent displays, also unveiled this week was the new exhibition, Fear and Love, featuring 11 new installations by world leading designers. They include The Pan-European Living Room by architecture practice OMA, Room Tone by fashion designer Hussein Chalayan, Pittsburgh-based designer Madeline Gannon’s “mechanical creature” Mimus, and a series of death masks called Vespers created using 3D printing technology Neri Oxman.

And running until 19th February is the Beazley Designs of the Year, a celebration of design that promotes or delivers change, enables access, extends design practice or captures the spirit of the year past. Categories include architecture, digital, fashion, graphics, product and transport.

WHERE: The Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High Street, Kensington (nearest Tube stations are Kensington High Street. Earl’s Court and Holland Park); WHEN: 10am to 6pm daily; COST: free (admission charges to special exhibitions); WEBSITE: http://designmuseum.org

PICTURES: Top – Gravity; Middle – Gareth Gardner; Bottom – Helene Binet. Courtesy The Design Museum.

Kensington-Palace-garden-partyJoin Queen Caroline, wife of King George II, for a garden party in the grounds of Kensington Palace this weekend. The celebrations include music, military drills and live performances in a bid to bring the era of the Georgians to life. Visitors can listen to court gossip, learn how to play popular music and devise ways to amuse the queen as they pop in and out of a range of tents set up in the gardens, each of which contains a different activity, from uncovering dress secrets to designing a mini-garden fit for a king or queen. There’s even the chance to sample some Georgian ice-cream in the ice-house. The days will be held from today until 21st August. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/. PICTURE: Via HRP

The Great Fire 350 Festival – marking the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London – is underway and there’s a range of events being held in London over this month and next. While we’ll be mentioning some of these a little closer to actual anniversary date, meantime there are bi-weekly walks, a ‘Fire Trail’ treasure hunt and a new Monument app to keep you busy. The latter allows visitors to conduct a self-guided ‘Great Fire journey’ focusing on the fire itself, the commemoration of the blaze and London as we know it now as well as taking users into the minds of Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke – designers of The Monument. Available for download from Android Market and Apple App Store. For more on the events running as part of the anniversary, see www.visitlondon.com/greatfire350/events.

 Take a behind the scenes look at the Museum of London – and see some rarely exhibited objects – in an exhibition which opened late last month. The free display allows visitors to catch a glimpse of some of the work that goes on behind the scenes and see objects usually housed in the museum’s extensive stores including a detailed model of the process engraving department at the Evening Standard newspaper in 1977, an ice-cream maker and moulds from around 1910, and a confectioner’s icing stand from about 1900. The exhibition can be seen until 15th September. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

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Elfin-OakDelightfully carved out of a hollow oak tree, the Elfin Oak takes its name from the many colourful figures that adorn it.

The sculpture, which sits beside the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground is the work of children’s book illustrator Ivor Innes.

He spent two years – 1928 to 1930 – carving “Little People” upon an ancient oak tree trunk that had been found in Richmond Park and relocated to Kensington Gardens (and in 1930, with his wife Elsie, published the children’s book, The Elfin Oak of Kensington Gardens).

The characters depicted include animals and fanciful creatures such as a gnome called Huckleberry, a series of elves including Grumples and Groodles and a witch named Wookey.

The hollow, incidentally, had been presented to The Royal Parks by Lady Fortescue in response to an appeal run to improve facilities in line with a scheme by George Lansbury (among other things, he also founded the Serpentine Lido).

Now a Grade II listed structure (and well protected by wire mesh), it has a few pop culture associations – among them, the fact that it appeared on the cover of Pink Floyd’s 1969 album, Ummagumma (the head of the band’s lead singer and guitarist David Gilmour can be seen projecting from the trunk).

Meanwhile, in 1996, Spike Milligan – long a fan of the oak – was the face of a successful campaign to raise funds for its restoration.

Announcing the Grade II listing in 1997, then Heritage Minister Tony Banks noted that the oak sat alongside the late Victorian fascination with Little People and complemented Sir George Frampton’s statue of Peter Pan (also located within the gardens).

“Together the two sculptures make Kensington Gardens very much the world capital of fairies, gnomes and elves,” he reportedly said.

PICTURE: Lonpicman/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0/

Spread-your-wings• A “ground-breaking” hands-on exhibition exploring the concept and future of flight and space travel opens at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich this week. Above and Beyond, produced by Evergreen Exhibitions in association with Boeing (and created in collaboration with NASA), features more than 10 interactive displays, allowing visitors to learn to fly like a bird, take an elevator to space, enjoy a view of Earth from above or go on a marathon mission to Mars and see how your body would cope. Runs until 29th August. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/see-do/exhibitions-events/above-and-beyond-exhibition.

Horrible Histories is bringing the world of the ‘Terrible Tudors’ to life at Hampton Court Palace this half-term break. The Birmingham Stage Company is offering the chance for visitors to dip into 100 years of Tudor history, spanning the reigns of the “horrible” Henries to that of the crowning of King James I in 1603. Get behind the dry facts and discover what the role of the Groom of the Stool was, which queen lost her wig as she was executed and decide whether to join in punishing the ‘whipping boy’ or the monarch and which side you’ll be on as the Spanish Armada set sail. The hour long performances will take place on the palace’s historic East Front Gardens (unreserved seating on the grass). Admission charge applies. Runs from today until 2nd June. For more see, www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/.

The Royal Parks is hosting its first ever BioBlitz at Brompton Cemetery this Bank Holiday weekend. For 24 for hours from 5pm on Friday, people are invited to join in the hunt to track down as many species of plants, animals and fungi as possible with events including tree and nature walks, earthworm hunts, bee and wasp counts and lichen recording. There will also be a range of stalls for people to visit with representatives from a range of nature and wildlife organisations present. The BioBlitz is one of several projects linked to the £6.2 million National Lottery-funded facelift of the cemetery. For more, head to www.royalparks.org.uk/events/whats-on/bioblitz.

Sleep with the lions at ZSL London Zoo next to Regent’s Park from this week. The zoo new overnight experience at the Gir Lion Lodge, in which guests can stay in one of nine cabins at the heart of the new Land of the Lions exhibit, opened on Wednesday. Guests will also be taken on exclusive evening and morning tours in which they’ll find out more about how ZSL is working with local communities and rangers in India’s Gir Forest to protect these endangered cats. The private lodges will be available six nights a week until December with designated adults-only and family nights available. For more, see www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo/gir-lion-lodge. 

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Christmas is looming and that means Christmas themed events happening all over London. Here’s a couple worth considering:

Kensington Palace: Head back into the Victorian era where so many of the Christmas traditions we know and love find their origins. The palace and gardens have been decorated with period-inspired decorations while inside decorations include the beautifully decorated tables where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert showcased their Christmas gifts. There’s talks on the origins of Christmas foods such as plum pudding, music and carolling, and the cafe is serving up seasonal food and drink while on Saturday, a special brunch time lecture will look behind the curtains into the world of Victorian pantomime and performance. Admission charges apply – check the website for dates. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/.

The Geffrye Museum: This Shoreditch institution is once again celebrating Christmas traditions of the past in its annual display showcasing the past 400 years of Christmas traditions. Christmas Past has taken place at the museum for the past 25 years and is based on ongoing, original research. It provides insights into everything from traditional Christmas feasts to kissing under the mistletoe, playing parlour games, hanging up stockings, sending cards, decorating the tree and throwing cocktail parties. A series of related events, including a concert by candlelight, are being held over the Christmas season. The display, which has free entry, closes on 3rd January. For more, see www.geffrye-museum.org.uk.

 

Ebola and the fight against ISIS are the subject of a new exhibition which opened at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth last month. Fighting Extremes: From Ebola to ISIS looks at the experiences of British personnel serving on recent operations including the response to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and the fight against ISIS in the Middle East. The display features behind the scenes interviews such as an in-depth talk with Corporal Anna Cross, a British Army nurse who contracted Ebola, photographs, and recently acquired objects such as the Wellington boots worn by healthcare worker Will Pooley, the first Briton to contract Ebola who was evacuated from Sierra Leone by the RAF, a headset used by an RAF drone pilot, and a shooting target depicting a silhouette of an ISIS suicide bomber used by the British Army to train Peshmerga troops. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk.

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 •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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A monumental Victorian-era drawing of the Battle of Waterloo has gone on display in London for the first time since 1972. The Waterloo Cartoon, more formally known as The Meeting of Wellington and Blucher after the Battle of Waterloo, measures more than 13 metres long and three metres high. A preparatory drawing for a wall painting which still exists in the House of Lords’ Royal Gallery, it took artist Daniel Maclise more than a year to complete in 1858-59 and was based on eye-witness accounts (the artist even recruited Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to use their German contacts to gather information from Prussian officers present on the day). Long considered a masterpiece, it was bought by the Royal Academy in 1870 – the year of Maclise’s death – and was on show at Burlington House until the 1920s. It has been in storage for much of last century and, newly restored following a grant from Arts Council England, has now gone on display to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. The newly conserved drawing is the focus of a new exhibition – Daniel Maclise: The Waterloo Cartoon, which opened at the Royal Academy in Piccadilly yesterday (between May and August, it was on show as part of a Waterloo exhibition at the Royal Armouries in Leeds). Runs until 3rd January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

There’s a rare chance to see inside a former Huguenot merchant’s house dating from 1719 in Spitalfields this weekend. The property at 19 Princelet Street was the home of the Ogier family, who had come to London escaping persecution in France and worked in the silk weaving trade. It was later subdivided into lodgings and workshops with later occupants following a range of trades and professionals while a synagogue was opened in the garden in 1869. The site – which the Spitalfields Centre charity hopes to establish as a museum of immigration – is not generally open to the public but will be open this Saturday and Sunday – from 2pm to 6pm. Entry is free (but donations would be welcome) and there may be queues so its suggested you arrive early. For more, see www.19princeletstreet.org.uk.

Watch a bee keeping demonstrations, help dig up some potatoes and introduce the children to some farm animals. The Kensington Gardens’ Harvest Festival will be held this Sunday, between 11am and 4pm, and will also include a range of children’ activities, experts from the Royal Parks Guild on hand to answer your questions about food growing and complimentary hot and cold drinks available throughout the day while stocks last. It’s the first of three harvest festivals to be held in Royal Parks this month with Greenwich Park set to host its inaugural harvest festival on 13th September (11am to 4pm) and The Regent’s Park Allotment Garden to host one on 19th September (11am to 5pm). For more, see www.royalparks.org.uk.

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Kensington-Palace• Join the Georgian Queen Caroline for a garden party in the grounds of Kensington Palace this weekend. The Georgian Court will be taking to the palace gardens for a summer celebration featuring music, military drills and theatre as they bring the era to life. Visitors are encouraged to immerse themselves in the experience as a courtier with the gardens decked out in a range of tents where they can try out costumes and powdered wigs as well as learn court etiquette, swordplay and dancing while the ice-house will feature Georgian ice-cream (and it’s rather odd flavours such as parmesan). Runs from tomorrow until Sunday. Admission charges apply (under 16s go free with a maximum of six children per paying adult). For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/. PICTURE: ©Historic Royal Palaces

First created in 1923, a playground in Victoria Tower Gardens – newly named the Horseferry Playground – has been reopened after improvement works. The works, carried out under the management of Royal Parks, have seen the reintroduction of a sandpit as well as the installation of new swings and slide, dance chimes and a stare play installation to represent the River Thames. The playground, located close to the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, also features a series of timber horse sculptures, new seating and a refreshment kiosk with metal railings designed by artist Chris Campbell depicting events such as the Great Fire of London and Lord Nelson’s funeral barge and views of the River Thames. The project has also seen the Spicer Memorial, commemorating role of paper merchant and philanthropist Henry Spicer in the establishment of the playground – then just a large sandpit, restored. For more, see www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/victoria-tower-gardens.

Now On – A Dickens Whodunnit: Solving the Mystery of Edwin Drood. This temporary exhibition at the Charles Dickens Museum in Bloomsbury explores the legacy of Dickens’ final novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood, left unfinished after his death in 1870. Visitors are able to investigate crime scenes, search for murder clues and see the table on which the novel was penned as well as clips from theatrical adaptations, and a wealth of theories on ‘whodunit’. The exhibition runs until 11th November. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.dickensmuseum.com.

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Cupola-Room

On Sunday, Princess Charlotte, daughter of Prince William and Princess Kate, was christened at Sandringham. So we thought we’d take a quick look at another christening that took place in London almost 200 years ago, that of Princess Victoria.

The future Queen Victoria was born on 24th May, 1819 – the daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent (fourth son of King George III), and his wife, Princess Victoria Mary Louisa of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

At the insistence of the Prince Regent (later King George IV), the christening was a small affair and was held a month after the birth on the afternoon of 24th June in the magnificent Cupola or Cube Room of Kensington Palace (pictured as it is now, above).

The guest list was small and included the Prince Regent, Prince Frederick, the Duke of York, and his wife Princess Frederica, Princess Augusta Sophia, Princess Mary, the Duchess of Gloucester, and her husband, Prince William, and Prince Leopold, who had recently become a widower after the death of Princess Charlotte.

The ceremony was conducted by Charles Manners-Sutton, the archbishop of Canterbury, and, thanks to the intransigence of the Prince Regent, her name was apparently only decided at the last minute.

The Prince Regent has earlier forbidden the use of such ‘royal’ names including Charlotte, Elizabeth, Georgina or Augusta and when asked by the archbishop what she would be named, he replied brusquely that she would be named Alexandrina in honour of the Russian Tsar Alexander, one of the new princess’s godparents.

Her second name was Victoria in honour of her mother, and while Victoria was often called “Drina” while a girl, she herself apparently preferred her second name to her first.

The gold font used in the ceremony formed part of the Crown Jewels and its origins go back to the time of King Charles II.

Interestingly, there were a couple of significant Victorian connections during Princess Charlotte’s christening – the font used at this christening was known as the Lily Font (like its predecessor, it is usually found with the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London).

It was commissioned by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert for the christening of their first daughter, Princess Victoria, in 1841, apparently due to Queen Victoria’s dislike for the gold font used at her own christening – it had been used by King Charles II to christen his illegitimate children.

The Lily Font has apparently been used at every royal christening since except that of Princess Eugenie who had a public baptism in Sandringham in 1990.

Princess Charlotte also wore a replica of the christening gown worn by Princess Victoria.

WHERE: The Broad Walk, Kensington Gardens, Kensington (nearest Tube stations are High Street Kensington or Queensway); WHEN: Daily 10am to 6pm (until 31st October); COST: £17.50 adult/£14.10 concession/children under 16 free (online booking discounts available, Historic Royal Palaces members free); WEBSITE: www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace.

PICTURE: HRP/newsteam

Serpentine-2015This year’s Serpentine Pavilion, marking the 15th anniversary of the annual summer commission by the Serpentine Galleries in Kensington Gardens, is a polygonal multi-coloured structure designed by Spanish architects selgascano. Made from a fluorine-based polymer, the pavilion has multiple entry and exit points and takes as its inspiration the site itself as well as the way in which people move through London, notably via the web-like network of the London Underground. Say selgascano: “We sought a way to allow the public to experience architecture through simple elements: structure, light, transparency, shadows, lightness, form, sensitivity, change, surprise, colour and materials. We have therefore designed a pavilion which incorporates all of these elements.” The architects say the pavilion was also designed as a tribute to the previous pavilion commissions, designed by the likes of Frank Gehry, Oscar Niemeyer and Zaha Hadid. For more, see www.serpentinegalleries.orgPICTURE: © Iwan Baan

Throughout his life – as a child, bachelor, husband and family man, Sir Winston lived in many properties in London (although, of course, a couple of the most famous properties associated with him – his birthplace, Blenheim Palace, and the much-loved family home, Chartwell in Kent – are located outside the city). But, those and 10 Downing Street aside, here are just some of the many places he lived in within London…

29 St James’s Place, St James: Having been born at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire and then having spent time in Dublin, at the age of five (1880) he came to live here with his family. He remained here until 1882 when he was sent off to school in Ascot (he later attended schools in Sussex and, most famously, Harrow School). The family, meanwhile, moved to a townshouse at 2 Connaught Place which backed on to Hyde Park.

33 Eccleston Square, Pimlico: The Churchills moved here in 1909 and it was here that their first two children Diana and Randolph were born in 1909 and in 1911. The family remained here until 1913. A blue plaque marks the property.

• Admiralty House, Whitehall: The Churchills first moved into Admiralty House – part of the Admiralty complex on Whitehall – in 1913 (from the aforementioned Eccleston Square) after Churchill was made First Lord of the Admiralty. They remained here until 1915 – years he would go onto to describe as the happiest in his life – before he resigned but returned in 1939 when he was once again appointed to the position.

• 2 Sussex Square, Bayswater: In 1920, the Churchills bought this property just north of Hyde Park which they kept until 1924 when they moved into 11 Downing Street (see below). The property is marked with a blue plaque.

• 11 Downing Street, Whitehall: The Churchills lived at 11 Downing Street when Sir Winston was Chancellor of the Exchequer, from 1925 to 1929. The property, located in Downing Street, is not accessible to the public.

11 Morpeth Mansions, Morpeth Terrace, Westminster:  The Churchill family lived at this Westminster address between 1930 and 1939 (prior to him becoming Prime Minister). The property is marked by a brown plaque.

28 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington: Churchill died in this Grade II-listed, mid 19th century property on the morning of 24th January, 1965. The couple moved in after the end of World War II and, while it’s not clear whether they fully vacated the residence when he was prime minister between 1951-55, it remained their property until his death 10 years later. The property next door, number 27, provided accommodation for his staff. The property is marked with a blue plaque.

Queen-Caroline's-Temple

Located in Kensington Gardens, this neo-classical summer house was designed by William Kent for Queen Caroline (who was responsible for much of the shape of the gardens as they are now).

Standing amid naturalistic plantings overlooking the Long Water (which was among the features created at the order of Queen Caroline – consort of King George II), it was built in 1734-35 and designed to be glimpsed down one of the avenues of trees which radiated out from the Round Pond in front of Kensington Palace.

The Grade II-listed ‘temple’, which features graffiti inside dating back until 1821, was later converted to a park keeper’s home but restored to its use as a summer house in 1976.

Kent apparently also designed a second summer house for Kensington Gardens which revolved – it stood on a 13 metre high mound constructed by Kent’s predecessor Charles Bridgeman using spoil from the excavation of the Serpentine in the south-eastern corner of the gardens (the summer house was later demolished and the mound levelled).

Not the most prominent feature of the gardens but like the much later Princess Caroline’s Bath in Greenwich Park (see our earlier post here), it does have an important royal connection and is worthy of a stop when visiting the gardens.

WHERE: Kensington Gardens (nearest tube stations are that of Queensway, Bayswater, Lancaster Gate, South Kensington, Gloucester Road and Kensington High Street); WHEN: 6am to dusk; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington-gardens.

The-Leadenhall-Building• Open House London is finally here with some 800 buildings across the city – some of them rarely accessible to the public – open for free this weekend, from grand historical institutions and modern skyscrapers through to ‘green’ schools, engineering projects, parks and gardens, and private homes. The weekend – which is being run this year under the theme of ‘revealing’ – also includes a programme of walks, engineering and landscape tours, cycle rides, a bus tour, childrens’ activities and expert talks as well as a moonlit ‘culture crawl’ through London on Friday night and into Saturday morning (a fundraiser for Maggie’s Centres). Among the buildings opening their doors in the festival – created by London-based architecture organisation Open-City – are the ever popular 30 St Mary Axe (aka ‘The Gherkin’), the Foreign and India Office in Whitehall, the Bank of England, Portcullis House and City Hall along with everything from The Leadenhall Building (aka ‘The Cheesegrater’ – pictured), and Temple Church in the City to the Admiral’s House in Greenwich, the Dutch Embassy in Kensington and the steam coaster, the SS Robin, in Tower Hamlets. As mentioned in a previous week, some visits required pre-booking so make sure you check the programme before heading out. For a full copy of the programme of events, see www.londonopenhouse.org. PICTURE: © R Bryant.

A major new exhibition focusing on China during the “pivotal” 50 years of Ming Dynasty rule between 1400-1450 opens at the British Museum in Bloomsbury today. Ming: 50 years that changed China features some of the finest objects ever made in China – loaned from institutions in China and elsewhere – as it explores some of the “great social and cultural changes” that saw Beijing established as the capital and the building of the Forbidden City. It includes objects from the imperial courts along with finds from three regional “princely tombs”. Four emperors ruled during the period and the display will feature the sword of Yongle Emperor, “the warrior”, the handwriting of the Hongxi emperor, “the bureaucrat”, the paintings of the Xuande emperor, “the aesthete”, and portraits of the regents who ruled while the Zhengtong emperor was a boy. The exhibition runs until 4th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

The work of 19th century artist John Constable and its debt to 17th century masters is the focus of a new exhibition opening at the V&A on Saturday. Constable: The Making of a Master – which features more than 150 works including celebrated pieces by Constable like The Hay Wain (1821), The Cornfield (1826) and Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows (1831) as well as oil sketches, drawings, watercolours and engravings – will juxtapose his works with those of 17th century landscape masters like Ruisdael, Rubens and Claude. Among those of their works on display will be Rubens’ Moonlight Landscape (1635-1640) and Ruisdael’s Windmills near Haarlem (c.1650-62). The exhibition runs until 11th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/constable.

And don’t forget, Totally Thames continues to run throughout this month which an extensive programme of river-related events. Those on during the coming week include Londonist Afloat: Terrific Tales of the Thames, a series of discussion sessions on aspects of the River Thames being held aboard the HMS President and London’s River – The City’s Ebb and Flow, a guided walk along the river (held on every Saturday and Monday during September), and Hospital and Troop Ships – Transporting the walking and wounded in the First World War, an exhibition held aboard the HQS Wellington (open Sundays and Mondays in September). For the full programme of events, see www.totallythames.org.

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Queen-Anne

While much attention is being paid this year to the fact it’s the 300th anniversary of the accession of King George I (and the House of Hanover), we thought we’d take a quick look at the event which precipitated that moment – the death of the last Stuart monarch, Queen Anne, on 1st August, 1714.

The queen (depicted here in Richard Belt’s copy of a Francis Bird original outside St Paul’s Cathedral), who had ruled since 1702 and was the first monarch of Great Britain thanks to the 1707 Act of Union, died at Kensington Palace at about 7.30am. She had apparently suffered a series of strokes, having experienced declining health for the previous couple of years (this included gout which had severely limited her mobility and saw her carried in a chair even at her coronation). She was 49.

Her body was so swollen at the time of her death that she had to be placed in a large square-shaped coffin which was carried by 14 men.

Following her funeral, on 24th August she was laid to rest next to her husband, George of Denmark (he’d died at Kensington six years before), in the Stuart vault on the south side of King Henry VII’s chapel in Westminster Abbey.

Many of the bones of her infant and stillborn children lie nearby (Anne was pregnant 18 times) and apparently due to a lack of space, only a “small stone” marks her grave site. Anne’s seated wax funeral effigy, modelled from her death mask, can be seen in the abbey’s museum.

The idiom “Queen Anne is dead” – used as a response to someone who brings old news or who states the obvious – is thought to have its origins in the idea that while news of her death was officially kept quiet so the Hanoverian succession could be shored up, news of it nonetheless leaked quite quickly meaning that by the time it was officially announced, it was already well known.

Peter-Pan2In JM Barrie’s 1911 novel, Peter and Wendy (based on the stage play Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up), the adventure begins when Peter Pan visits the home of the Darling family.

He secretly listens in – via an open window – while Mrs Darling tells bedtime stories to her children – Wendy, John and Michael – but during one visit loses his shadow and it’s on returning to claim it that he meets Wendy and, well, you know the rest…

Peter Pan is most famously associated with Kensington Gardens – it’s here that we are first introduced to the character of Peter in the book Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (in fact there’s a rather famous statue of him there to this day, pictured above) – it’s most often assumed that the Darling’s house must be nearby.

But, in fact, the book Peter and Wendy never states where the Darlings’ house is located exactly  – just that it is at number 14 in the street in which they live – while in the 1904 play the address is given as “a rather depressed street” in Bloomsbury. Barrie explains that he placed the Darlings’ house in Bloomsbury because Mr Roget (of Thesaurus fame) once lived there and “we whom he has helped to wend our way through life have always wanted to pay him a little compliment”.

Worth noting, however, is a property at 31 Kensington Park Gardens. Once the home of the Llewellyn Davies family, family friend Barrie was a frequent visitor here and in fact went on to adopt the five Llewellyn Davies children following the death of their parents in the early 1900s. The property, which is divided into a series of flats, is, as a result, said to have been something of a model for the Darling’s house.

Barrie, himself, meanwhile, owned a house at 100 Bayswater Road – not far from Kensington Gardens where he first meet the Llewellyn Davies family – but, interestingly, had previously lived in Bloomsbury. The house is marked with a blue plaque.

Another Peter Pan-related address we have to mention is that of the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children to which Barrie gave the rights to receive royalties from Peter Pan in perpetuity. You can arrange for a tour of the hospital’s Peter Pan-related memorabilia.

For more on the story behind the writing of Peter Pan, see Andrew Birkin’s book, J.M.Barrie and the Lost Boys.

Apologies we didn’t post a new instalment in our Wednesday series yesterday – it will resume next week!

Inspired by a spectacular month of partying by King William III in December, 1699, Kensington Palace is celebrating Christmas with a month of family-friendly entertainment in the Georgian State Apartments. Historic Royal Palaces has joined with games makers Hide & Seek to create Game of Crowns, transforming Kensington into a play palace with games, mummery and the chance to proclaim yourself king or queen for a day. On the weekends, there’s also the chance to join in parlour games from 1700 onward and a Christmas Day sensory room which brings to life King William III and Queen Mary II’s Christmas morning (by which time they must have been exhausted!). The palace will also play host to its largest ever Christmas tree – 30 feet tall – and on December 16th, you can join in Carols by Candlelight. Admission charge applies. Runs until 6th January. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/.

Epping Forest is expanding and this weekend, you have a chance to help by planting some new saplings. The City of London Corporation, which runs the forest, is creating a new area of woodland, named Gifford Wood in honour of former Lord Mayor Roger Gifford, after purchasing 30 acres of land at Upshire last year. Members of the public are invited to join City of London staff and the Friends of Epping Forest at Upshire Village Hall, Horseshoe Hill (EN9 3SP) between 11am and 1pm on Saturday to plant 2,000 new oaks and hornbeam as well as a mix of alder, birch, beech, cherry, field maple, rowan, small lime, wild apple, wild service, holly and yew. Bring your spade. For more, phone 0208 532 1010 or email epping.forest@cityoflondon.gov.uk.

A memorial to the Long Range Desert Group was dedicated in Westminster Abbey this week.  The LRDG was formed in 1940 by Major Ralph Bagnold to act as the forward intelligence arm of the British army in North Africa. The group later shared their expertise in desert navigation with the fledgling SAS (Special Air Service) who also carried out offensives in the desert from 1941. The memorial is located in the west cloister below that of the SAS. For more, see www.westminster-abbey.org.

Serpentine-Sackler-Gallery

 

Designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Zada Hadid, the new Serpentine Sackler Gallery opened to the public in Kensington Gardens on Saturday. Located just a few minutes walk from the Serpentine Gallery on the north side of the Serpentine Bridge, the 900 square metre premises is partly located in a renovated Grade II*-listed building, The Magazine (built in 1805 as a gunpowder store and used by the military until 1963), as well as in a curvaceous modern extension to the north and west. The new gallery, which also features a ‘social space’ and restaurant, is named after Dr Mortimer and Dame Theresa Sackler, whose foundation provided the largest donation for the project – the largest single gift donated to the Serpentine Gallery in its 43-year history. The opening exhibition, Today We Reboot The Planet, features the large scale sculptural work of Argentinian artist Adrián Villar Rojas. The exhibition runs until 10th November. For more, see www.serpentinegallery.orgPICTURES: Serpentine Sackler Gallery, © 2013 Luke Hayes

Serpentine-Sackler-Galllery2

Speke-MonumentWhile thousands walk past this obelisk in Kensington Gardens each day, few probably realise it commemorates the life of John Hanning Speke, a Victorian-era explorer who discovered Lake Victoria in East Africa and named its northern outflow as the source of the Nile.

The red granite monument, designed by Philip Hardwicke and made from stone quarried in Scotland, was paid for by public donations and sponsored by Sir Roderick Murchison, president of the Royal Geographic Society which had paid for two of Speke’s expeditions. It was installed in 1866 and is located near the junction of Lancaster Walk and Budges Walk.

Speke, who had been on several expeditions in Africa, had only died at the age of 37 two years before in relatively controversial circumstances. He was shot by his own gun only the day before he was to participate in a debate with another explorer, Sir Richard Burton, about the source of the River Nile (Speke claimed the source of the Nile was Rippon Falls which flowed out of Lake Victoria; Sir Richard disputed this claim – it was later proven correct). Some have claimed Speke’s death to be suicide; others that it was an accident.

The monument itself was circumspect with regard to Speke’s success – it didn’t directly credit him as being the discoverer of the river’s source. This was rectified in 1995 when a plaque giving credit where it was due was placed on the ground in front of the monument by the Friends of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

Deckchair-dreams

Summer is fading fast but until the end of October, there’s still time to sit back and relax in one of the 550 “designer deckchairs” which have been placed in five central Royal Parks this summer. Designed by the likes of Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, comedian Harry Enfield and actor Miranda Richardson and artists Michael Craig-Martin, Susan Stockwell and Maggi Hambling under the theme of ‘Nature’s Grand Designs’, the deckchairs can be found in Hyde Park, Green Park, St James’s Park, Kensington Gardens and the Regent’s Park. The chairs join the more than 6,700 deckchairs already in the five Royal Parks which are available for hire (they can also be bought at the Royal Park’s online shop). For more on hiring a deck chair in the Royal Parks, check out http://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park/facilities-in-hyde-park/park-deck-chairs.

A new exhibition on the work and legacy of John Snow – who traced the source of a deadly cholera outbreak in the 1850s to a Soho water pump – opened at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine this week. Cartographies of Life & Death – John Snow and Disease Mapping – part of a series of events planned for the bicentenary of Snow’s birth – features both historical treasures, such as disease maps from the school’s archives, and new artworks inspired by science with the entire display presented as a disease mapping ‘detective trail’. There will be a pop-up water bar and street lectures and performances. Snow (1813-1858) is considered the founder of modern epidemiology, the study of patterns and causes of health and disease in populations. His work remain influential even today. Admission is free. The exhibition runs until 17th April at the school in Keppel Street. For more, see www.johnsnow.org.uk.

A new installation at the V&A opening on Saturday will explore the rise – and fall – of the music hall. Music Hall: Sickert and the Three Graces picks up on artist Walter Sickert’s obsession with the New Bedford Music Hall in Camden Town and features film, music and objects presented in a ‘theatrical narrative’ which focuses on the world of the Edwardian Music Hall. Highlights include filmed extracts of Tanika Gupta’s specially produced play The Boy I Love (directed by Katie Mitchell) which takes its name from George Ware’s celebrated music hall song The Boy I Love is Up in the Gallery. Admission is free. The exhibition, which is in the Theatre and Performance Galleries of the V&A, runs until 5th January next year. For more see www.vam.ac.uk.

Three specially commissioned artworks by British textile artist Alice Kettle will be unveiled today at the Queen’s House in Greenwich. The Garden of England – Royal Museums Greenwich’s first contemporary arts program – features Flower Helix (hanging in the Tulip Stairs), Flower Bed (a “textile garden” found in the North West Parlour), and Queen Henrietta Maria (a stitched portrait of the wife of King Charles I also found in the North West Parlour). The display is accompanied by a program of events – for more on them, see www.rmg.co.uk. Entry is free – the exhibition is on show until 18th August.

On Now – From the Shadows: The Prints of Sydney Lee RA. This exhibition at the Royal Academy represents a reappraisal of the work of painter-printmaker Sydney Lee (1866-1949) and features more than 50 prints and two major paintings. Lee studied in Manchester and Paris before coming to London where he lived in a house and studio in Holland Park Road in Kensington. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1930 and served as Treasurer from 1932-1940. The first exhibition devoted to his art since 1945, the event coincides with the publication of the first book on Lee written by its curator Professor Robert Meyrick, head of the School of Art at Aberystwyth University. Runs until 26th May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.