PICTURE: Samuel Regan-Asante/Unsplash.
PICTURE: Samuel Regan-Asante/Unsplash.
PICTURE: Samuel Regan-Asante/Unsplash.
• Hitherto unheard oral histories documenting the lived experience of the Windrush generation and the generations that followed have been released by the Museum of London. The oral histories, which were recorded in 2018 as part of the Conversation Booth project in City Hall, are part of the museum’s new online collection of Windrush-related content. Drawn from the collections of both the Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands, it includes objects, photos, videos and articles. To explore the collection, head to www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london-docklands/windrush-stories.
• A hybrid sculpture depicting the body of a woman with the head of a hare has gone on show in Berkeley Square. The work of Sophie Ryder, Crawling was hand-made in 1999 from wet plaster, old machine parts and scavenged toys then cast in bronze. The work is part of City of Westminster’s City of Sculpture programme which brings sculpture to iconic outdoor locations.
• The Museum of the Home is asking people for their opinion on the future of the statue of Sir Robert Geffrye which stands out the front of the almshouses housing the museum in Shoreditch. The almshouses were built by Geffrye, who was involved with the slave trade having made made his fortune with the East India Company and the Royal African Company, in 1714. The consultation is being held in partnership with Hackney Council which is conducting a wider review of landmarks and the naming of public spaces in the borough. The consultation remains open until the 2nd July. To have your say, head to www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/geffrye-statue.
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• The Museum of the Home has launched a new national collecting project aimed at documenting people’s lives during the coronavirus lockdown. Called Stay Home, the project involves answering seven questions about you and your home and sharing up to five images of your home as well as some personal demographic information. Contributions will become part of the museum’s Documenting Homes collection, an archive of almost 8,000 items which represents homes from the 1900s up to the present day. To take part – or to read the stories of those who have, head to www.museumofthehome.org.uk/explore/stay-home-collecting-project/. The museum is planning to reopen in September following a major redevelopment which includes the renovation of the Grade I-listed Geffrye Almshouses and the development of new spaces which will create 80 per cent more space for exhibitions, events and collections. The reopening will, of course, depend on the situation with regard to the COVID-19 outbreak.
• Visits to the National Trust’s home baking pages have increased by almost 900 per cent since the country was locked down in mid-March. Cheese scones have proved the most popular nationally with more than 54,000 people visiting the page in the first four weeks of lockdown – an increase of 3,009 per cent on last year. Second place is apple and rhubarb crumble with almost 15,000 visits (an increase of 581 per cent) and the fruit scone is in third place at almost 10,000 visits (an increase of 737 per cent). Meanwhile in London, favourites include potato and onion soup in Barnet, Westminster and Redbridge, apple cinnamon bun in Islington, chocolate nests in Enfield, and vegetable and coconut curry in Sutton. To visit the recipe pages, head to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/recipes.
• Captain Tom Moore – the World War II veteran who has raised more than £29 million for the NHS – will be the first person to be virtually invested with the Freedom of the City of London. Moore, who celebrates his 100th birthday today, made headlines internationally when he completed 100 laps of his garden in the hope of raising £1,000 to support NHS Charities Together. The investiture ceremony will be conducted next week and is believed to be the first time it’s been conducted virtually since the Freedom was first awarded in 1237.
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We’ve entered a new year but before we leave 2019 completely behind, here’s quick look at four sites in London that were put on the National Heritage List for England last year…
1. Sainsbury Supermarket, Camden Town. Listed at Grade II, it was the first purpose-built supermarket to be placed on the National Heritage List. The store was built in 1986-88 as part of Grand Union Complex designed by architectural practice Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners.
2. The Curtain Playhouse, Shoreditch. A scheduled monument, the theatre dates from about 1577 and hosted performances of Romeo and Juliet during Shakespeare’s lifetime, as well as Ben Jonson’s Every Man in His Humour with Shakespeare himself listed as a performer. Archaeological investigations in the years from 2011-16 revealed parts of the stage as well as the wings, galleries and yards and 17th century structures which showed the later use of the site as tenement housing.
3. Nursemaid’s Tunnel, Regent’s Park. Grade II listed, this is one of the earliest surviving pedestrian subways in London. It was built under New Road (now Marylebone Road) – linking Park Crescent with gardens in Park Square – in 1821 after residents campaigned for its construction due to the dangers of navigating the busy road (especially for children being taken to the playground by their nursemaids).
4. Cabman’s Shelter, corner Northumberland Avenue and Embankment Place. Grade II-listed, this still-in-use shelter was built in 1915 on the orders of the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund. It was based on Maximilian Clarke’s original design of 1882 and is one of just 13 examples to survive in London.
PICTURE: Google Maps.
• Three of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks are being displayed together in the UK for the first time as part of a new exhibition at the British Library marking 500 years since the artist’s death. Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion, which opens Friday and is being held in partnership with Automobili Pininfarina, will feature a selection of notes and drawings from the Codex Arundel, owned by the British Library, the Codex Forster, owned by the V&A, and the Codex Leicester, owned by US billionaire Bill Gates (and being displayed in the UK for the first time since Gates purchased it in 1994). They reveal Da Vinci’s close observations of natural phenomena and how these explorations of nature and motion directly informed his work as an inventor and artist. The exhibition, which runs to the 8th September, is being accompanied by a series of events and until Sunday, Automobili Pininfarina will be exhibiting a 1,900 hp, zero-emissions Battista hypercar on the British Library Piazza. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.bl.uk/events/leonardo-da-vinci-a-mind-in-motion. PICTURE: Part of the exhibition/courtesy British Library.
• The mysteries of London’s hidden rivers are revealed in an exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands. Secret Rivers brings together art and archaeology along with photography, film, and mudlarking finds to show how the city has been shaped by the Thames and its tributaries – and how they in turn have been shaped by Londoners. It explores how rivers including the Effra, Fleet, Neckinger, Lea, Tyburn, Walbrook, Wandle and Westbourne have all been “exploited for transport and industry, enjoyed and revered, and have influenced artists and writers”. Among items on display are rare surviving fragments of the 13th century Blackfriars Monastery which were used to line a well, a medieval fish trap, and drawings and prints depicting rivers – including James Lawson Stewart’s watercolour Jacob’s Island (1887) which depicts an artificial island located in the Neckinger at Bermondsey. The free exhibition runs until 27th October. A series of talks is accompanying the display. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london-docklands.
• All things African will be celebrated at the Open the Gate Festival in Shoreditch this weekend. The festival, one of a number of monthly key partner events being held in conjunction with the city’s new Africa in London festival – a summer long celebration of African culture and creativity, will be held at Rich Mix on Saturday and features live music, an African Market, family workshops and African street food. For more on the event and the Africa in London initiative, head to www.london.gov.uk/AfricaLDN.
• The UK’s first ever retrospective of Russian avant-garde artist Natalia Goncharova has opened in the Tate Modern’s Eyal Ofer Galleries this week. The exhibition brings together more than 160 international loans – including from Russia’s State Tretyakov Gallery, home of the largest collection of Goncharova works in the world – and features, at its heart, a room designed to evoke Goncharova’s remarkable 1913 retrospective at the Mikhailova Art Salon in Moscow which featured more than 800 works. Highlights of this show include Peasants Gathering Apples (1911), the monumental seven-part work The Harvest (1911) and nude paintings which led to her trial for obscenity as well as the four panel religious work Evangelists (1911), examples of her forays into fashion and interior design including Spring (1928) and Bathers (1922), a reunion of her ground-breaking works Linen, Loom + Woman (The Weaver) and The Forest (1911), and her collaborations with Ballets Russes including her costume designs for Le Coq d’or (The Golden Cockerel) and Les Noces (The Wedding) – performed on London stages in the 1920s and 1930s. Runs until 8th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.
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Located at what’s now the junction with Wormwood Street (and marked by a mitre which appears on a building there), the gate was the departure point for Ermine Street which ran from London to Lincoln and York.
The gate and hence the road – which runs northward from the intersection of Gracechurch Street and Cornhill to where it becomes Norton Folgate Street (which links into Shoreditch High Street) – is believed to have been named for the 7th century Bishop Erkenwald (Earconwald). It was he who apparently first ordered its reconstruction on the site of a former Roman gate.
By Tudor times, the street had become known for the mansions of rich merchants – among those who had their homes here were Sir Thomas Gresham, Sir John Crosby and Sir Paul Pindar (Crosby Hall was later re-erected in Chelsea and the facade of Sir Paul Pindar’s house, is in the V&A). The street also become known for its many great coaching inns, all of which were eventually demolished.
Bishopsgate was the first street in London to have gas lighting when it was introduced about 1810 and, about 1932, became the first in Europe to have automated traffic lights (at the junction with Cornhill).
The City of London ward straddles the site of the old London wall and gate and is accordingly divided into “within” and “without” sections.
While there are a number of churches associated with the street – St Ethelburga Bishopsgate, St Helen’s Bishopsgate and St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate, these days it is largely lined by office buildings including the former NatWest Tower. Other notable buildings include that of the Bishopsgate Institute and the busy Liverpool Street Station is also accessible from Bishopsgate.
The name Bishopsgate is also synonymous with an IRA truck bombing which took place in the street on 24th April, 1993, in which one man was killed and 44 injured.
PICTURE: Top – Looking southward along Bishopsgate in 2014. (stevekeiretsu; licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0); Right – The Bishop’s mitre marking the location of the former gate (Eluveitie/ licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0).
• Dulwich Picture Gallery is hosting a ‘Moomin Winter Weekend’ in a celebration of its current exhibition featuring the works of Tove Jansson. The programme, which kicks of Friday night with a late opening, features storytellers and performers reading the Moomin stories, puppets from the Polka Theatre’s 2014 production Moominsummer Madness, a live performance by the Freshwater Theatre Company exploring the life and work of Jansson, and Moomin-inspired food and drink. Admission charges apply. For more information, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.
• Four 17th and early 18th century Dutch and Flemish paintings have gone on show at The National Gallery, thanks to a bequest from the late Dutch-born collector Willem Baron van Dedem. The works include David Teniers the Younger’s Christ crowned with Thorns (1641), Jan van Kessel the Elder’s Butterflies, Moths and Insects with Sprays of Common Hawthorn and Forget-Me-Not, and Butterflies and Moths and Insects with Sprays of Creeping Thistle and Borage (both 1654, they represent the first of van Kessel the Elder’s works in the gallery’s collection), along with Still Life with a Bowl of Strawberries, a Spray of Gooseberries, Asparagus and a Plum by Adriaen Coorte (1703). They have gone on show in Room 26. For more on the gallery, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.
• On Now – Christmas Past at the Geffrye Museum. The Shoreditch-based ‘Museum of the Home’ is once again running its annual look at how Christmas has been celebrated in English homes over the past 400 years. There’s also a range of accompanying events including fairs, late nights, carol concerts, and decoration and greenery workshops as well as seasonal food and drink. Runs until 7th January. Meanwhile, on 6th and 7th January, the museum will host a special weekend closing party as the doors shut for two years while it undergoes a transformational redevelopment. For more, see www.geffrye-museum.org.uk.
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Located in Chance Street in Shoreditch, the hedgehog mural was created in 2012 by Belgian street artist ROA. It’s recently had a make over by Jim Vision who added cavemen along the base attacking the poor creature with spears (as well as a self-referencing caveman version of the artwork).
• A 17th century Peruvian gold bowl recovered from a shipwreck, Tudor fashion accessories and a collection of ‘micromosaics’ including tabletops commissioned by Tsar Nicholas I are among highlights of the newly reopened Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Galleries at the V&A. The South Kensington museum reopened the four galleries last month after the objects within the collection were removed in 2014 as part of the V&A’s Exhibition Road building project which will be completed in July next year. Amassed by collectors Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert over a period of 40 years from the 1960s, the collection features about 1,200 objects, more than 500 of which are now on display. The collection was on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art before being transferred to the UK in 1996 and accepted as a gift to the nation by the Queen Mother in 2000. It was displayed at Somerset House until coming to the V&A where it opened to the public in 2009. Other highlights on display include a newly acquired silver christening gift presented by King George II to his god-daughter, Lady Emilia Lennox, in 1731, and a life-sized silver swan made by Asprey, London, in 1985 (pictured). Entry to the galleries is free. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk. PICTURE: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
• The period living rooms at the Geffrye Museum of the Home have been transformed for Christmas in its annual Yuletide display. Now in its 25th year, the exhibition at the Shoreditch establishment recreates the Christmas traditions of times past including everything from kissing under the mistletoe to decorating the tree, parlour games such as blind man’s bluff to hanging up stockings and sending cards. Christmas Past is accompanied by a programme of events including craft fairs, festive evenings, carol sings and decoration workshops with festive food and drinks available in the cafe. Runs until 8th January. Entry is free. For more, see www.geffrye-museum.org.uk.
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• The education of the daughters of King George III and Queen Charlotte is the subject of a new display which has opened at Kew Palace in Kew Gardens. The queen’s progressive approach to learning meant the princesses received a “thoroughly modern” schooling covering everything from geography to art, upholstery to tackling brain-teasers as well as botany and music. The latter, in particular the harpsichord, was a particular passion of Princess Augusta, and to instruct her and the other girls, JC Bach, son of world-renowned composer JS Bach, was employed as music master (the display features a hand-written copy of his father’s Well-Tempered Clavier – designed to train and test the skills of harpsichord players). Other items on show include a copy of Queen Charlotte’s own tortoiseshell notebook embellished with gold and diamonds, a letter the queen wrote to the princesses’ governess – reputedly the first letter she wrote in English, and a series of newly acquired satirical prints from the Baker Collection depicting Queen Charlotte and her daughters. The new display can be seen from today. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/kew-palace/. PICTURE: Newsteam/Historic Royal Palaces.
• The lives of servants working in middle-class houses in London over the last 400 years are the subject of an exhibition which opened at the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch earlier this month. Swept Under The Carpet? Servants in London Households, 1600-2000 illustrates the dynamic nature of the relationship between servants and their employers – from the intimacy of a maid checking her master’s hair for nits in the late 17th century to an ayah caring for an Anglo-Indian family’s children in the late 19th century and an au-pair picking up after the children in the middle of the 20th century. It explores their story through an examination of the places in which they worked – the middle class parlour, drawing room and living room. Entry to the exhibition, which runs until 4th September, is free. For more, www.geffrye-museum.org.uk.
• On Now – Vogue 100: A Century of Style. This exhibition currently running at the National Portrait Gallery off Trafalgar Square features iconic images of some of the 20th century’s most famous faces. Included are rarely seen images of the Beatles and Jude Law as well as portraits of everyone from artists Henri Matisse and Francis Bacon, actors Marlene Dietrich and Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Diana Spencer and soccer player David Beckham. There’s also complete set of prints from Corinne Day’s controversial Kate Moss 1993 underwear shoot, Peter Lindbergh’s famous 1990 cover shot – said to define the ‘supermodel era’, a series of World War II photographs by Vogue‘s official war correspondent Lee Miller and vintage prints from the first professional fashion photographer, Baron de Meyer. The display can be seen until 22nd May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.
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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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Over the past couple of months our special Wednesday series has looked at “10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London”. So we’re finishing the series by taking a quick look back at the 10 gardens we featured (and providing a single point where you can find any you may have missed)…
Do you have a favourite? Or maybe there’s a ‘small, secret and historic’ garden we didn’t mention that you love (and we may mention in a future special)?
We’ve mentioned the Geffrye Museum gardens before but they’re well worth a more detailed mention.
There are two distinct gardens at the Geffrye – the first are the public gardens located just off Kingsland Road which were originally laid out when the almshouses in which the museum is now based were constructed while the second is the walled herb garden and series of period garden ‘rooms’ which are much more recent additions.
While origins of the former date back to when the almshouses – 14 homes of four rooms each with a central chapel – were built in 1712-14 by the Ironmonger’s Company under instructions in the will of Sir Robert Geffrye (for more on him, see our earlier Famous Londoners entry here), they weren’t opened to the public until 1912 when the London County Council took over the site (for more on the history of the almshouses, see our earlier entries here and here).
These gardens originally featured a series of lime trees and by the early 19th century, an image shows lawns surrounded by railings with some flower beds and trees. The front lawns were apparently grazed by sheep or employed for growing crops of potatoes.
By the mid-1800s, the lime trees had been replaced by London plane trees, most of which are still standing. The gardens were again laid out in 1900-01 and again after the LCC took over in 1910 when a small pool was added in front of the chapel and a bandstand and playground elsewhere in the gardens.
The grounds also include a small graveyard – that of the Ironmongers’ – and among those buried here are Geffrye and his wife, their remains brought here from the chapel of St Dionis Backchurch in Lime Street when it was demolished in 1878.
The walled herb garden and period garden ‘rooms’, meanwhile, were added in the 1990s. The herb garden opened in 1992 on a what had been a derelict site to the north of the building – it features four square beds containing more than 170 different herbs and plants.
The period garden ‘rooms’, meanwhile, were laid out in 1998 to showcase middle class town gardens from different eras. They currently include a Tudor “knot garden”, a Georgian garden, a Victorian garden and an Edwardian garden.
Each of these gardens has been carefully constructed using evidence gathered from drawings and prints, maps and garden plans along with plant lists, diaries and literature.
WHERE: Geffrye Museum, 136 Kingsland Road, Shoreditch (nearest tube station is Old Street; nearest Overground station is Hoxton); WHEN: 10am to 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday (front gardens are open all year round by period and herb gardens are only open until 1st November and reopen on 28th March; COST: Entry is free; WEBSITE: www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/explore-the-geffrye/explore-gardens/.
• A spectacular tent used by the Tipu Sultan, ruler of the 18th century Kingdom of Mysore (pictured), is among highlights in an exhibition exploring the “incomparably rich world” of handmade textiles from India which opens at the V&A in South Kensington on Saturday. Part of the V&A’s India Festival marking the 25th anniversary of the opening of the museum’s Nehru Gallery, The Fabric of India has exhibits ranging from the earliest known Indian textile fragments (dating from the 3rd century) through to contemporary fashions. Among the around 200 handmade objects – which include everything from ancient ceremonial banners and sacred temple hangings to modern saris and bandanna handkerchiefs – are a Hindu narrative cloth depicting avatars of Vishnu dating from about 1570, an 18th century crucifixion scene made for an Armenian Christian church in south-east India, block-printed ceremonial textiles from Gujarat – made in the 14th century for the Indonesian market, bed-hangings originally belonging to the Austrian Prince Eugene (1663-1736), and a selection of clothing made using Khadi, a cloth which Mahatma Gandhi promoted using in the 1930s when he asked people to make the fabric as a symbol of resistance to colonial rule. Admission charges apply. Runs until 10th January. For more see, www.vam.ac.uk/fabricofindia. PICTURE: © National Trust Images.
• Westbury Road in Bounds Green, Haringey, is the subject of a new photographic and art exhibit which opened at the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch this week. A Street Seen: The Residents of Westbury Road is a collaborative exhibition featuring the works of photographer Andrew Buurman and artist Gabriela Schutz as they document the homes, gardens and residents of what is described as a “typical London street”. The display includes a six metre long panoramic drawing of Victorian houses by Schutz and a series of photographs depicting residents in their back gardens taken over a two year period by Buurman. Runs until 3rd April. For more, see www.geffrye-museum.org.uk.
• One of the founding fathers of sports medicine, Nobel Prize winner AV Hill, has been honoured with an English Heritage blue plaque unveiled at his former home in Highgate in London’s north last month. Hill, as well as being noted for his work in the field of physiology, was also an independent MP during World War II and a humanitarian who is credited with helping more than 900 academics – including 18 Nobel laureates – escape persecution by the Nazis. He lived at the property at 16 Bishopswood Road for 44 years, between 1923 and 1967, 10 years before his death. For more on blue plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.
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• The 161st Boat Race is on this weekend and will once more see Oxford and Cambridge rowing crews battling it out in their annual contest on the Thames. The day’s schedule of festivities kicks off at noon at Bishop’s Park near the race’s starting point just west of Putney Bridge and at Furnivall Gardens near Hammersmith Bridge but the main highlights don’t take place until late in the afternoon – the Newton Women’s Boat Race at 4.50pm and the main event, the BNY Mellon Boat Race, at 5.50pm. The race runs along the Thames from Putney Bridge through to Chiswick Bridge with plenty of vantage points along the way. The tally currently sits at 78 to Oxford and 81 to Cambridge. For more information, including where to watch, head to http://theboatraces.org/.
• Prospective “Designs of the Year” are on display at the Design Museum in Shad Thames ahead of the announcement of awards in May and June. With the awards – handed out in six categories – now in their eighth year, the 76 designs on display include Google’s self-driving car, the Frank Gehry-designed Foundation Louis Vuitton in Paris and Asif Kahn’s experimental architectural installation Megafaces which debuted at the Sochi Olympics as well as Norwegian banknotes, a billboard that cleans pollutants from the air and a book printed without ink. Runs until 23rd August. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.designmuseum.org/exhibitions/designs-of-the-year-2015.
• On Now: Heckling Hitler: World War II in Cartoon and Comic Art. Showing at the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury, this exhibition explores how World War II unfolded through the eyes of British cartoonists. It features more than 120 original drawings and printed ephemera and while the focus is largely on those contained newspapers and magazines, the exhibition does include some sample materials from books, aerial leaflets, artwork from The Dandy and The Beano, postcards and overseas propaganda publications as well as some unpublished cartoons drawn in prisoner-of-war camps and by civilians at home (the latter on scrap paper from the Ministry of Food), and even a rare pin cushion featuring Hitler and Mussolini. Among the artists whose works are featured are ‘Fougasse’ (creator of Ministry of Information posters reminding the public that ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’), William Heath Robinson and Joe Lee. The exhibition runs until 12th July. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org/exhibitions/current-exhibitions/heckling-hitler.
• On Now: Homes of the Homeless: Seeking Shelter in Victorian London. This exhibition at the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch explores the places inhabited by London’s poor during the 19th and 20th centuries and brings them to life through paintings, photographs and objects as well as the retelling of personal stories and reports. Starting in the 1840s, the exhibition charts the problems faced by London’s poor and examines the dirty and cramped conditions of lodging houses, workhouses and refuges where they took shelter along with, for those even less fortunate, the streets where they slept rough before moving on to some of the housing solutions designed specifically to help the poor. Runs until 12th July. Admission charge applies. Running alongside the exhibition is a free display, Home and Hope – a collaborative exhibition with the New Horizon Youth Centre which explores the experience of young homeless people in London today. For more, see www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/whatson/exhibitions-and-displays/homes-of-the-homeless/.
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• The V&A’s spectacular Italian Cast Court will reopen on Saturday after the completion of the first phase in the museum’s programme of renovating its day-lit courts. The Italian court, which has been renamed the Weston Cast Court, features more than 60 19th century reproductions of Italian Renaissance monuments including a five metre high cast of Michelangelo’s David, a cast of the massive Gates of Paradise from Florence Cathedral, a plaster cast of a pulpit from Pisa Cathedral and a monumental cast of Jacopo della Quercia’s great arch from the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna. The displays have been reconfigured with a new interpretation following extensive examination and preservation of the collection during the gallery’s renovation. The two cast courts at the South Kensington-based museum first opened in 1873. Entry is free. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk. PICTURE: © Victoria and Albert Museum.
• The annual ‘Christmas Past’ exhibition – in which 11 period rooms have been decorated in period style for the Christmas season – opened at the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch this week. Along with the chance to see how Christmas looked in bygone years, there’s a series of Christmas-themed events including “A Georgian Christmas” on 4th December, “festive food” in the cafe and Christmas gifts to stuff your stocking with. Entry to the museum is free. Christmas Past runs until 4th January. For more, see www.geffrye-museum.org.uk.
• We’ve mentioned it already but London’s public New Year’s Eve celebration – featuring its spectacular fireworks and lighting display – will this year be a ticketed event and the final tickets will be released during the first couple of weeks in December. A batch of new tickets will be released at noon each day from the 1st to 15th December. Those wishing to snag a ticket – and you can book up to four with a £10 administration fee payable for each – need to head to www.london.gov.uk/nye. Meanwhile the city is gearing up for Christmas and, in the wake of the Christmas lights getting turned on all across the metropolis, comes the annual lighting of the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square. The tree – a gift from the citizens of Oslo as a token of London’s support for them during World War II – takes place next Thursday (4th December) at 6pm (more on further Christmas events next week).
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Apologies that the headline originally had a mis-spelling of the Geffrye Museum (auto-correct run amok!)
He lends his name to one of London’s best small museums but who was the person behind the name the Geffrye Museum?
Details about his life are somewhat scant but it is generally believed Sir Robert Geffrye (among a number of variants of the spelling of his name) was born around 1613 in the village of Landrake near Saltash in Cornwall.
Moving to London while still just in his teens, he is believed to have undertaken a seven year apprenticeship, eventually admitted as a member of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers and freeman of the City of London.
It’s been suggested he was an ironmonger in name only but it seems to be the case that his new status gave him the opportunity to launch his career as a merchant and he apparently made a fortune from investing in African and East Indian trade.
Geffrye – who married Priscilla Cropley, a lawyer’s daughter, at the chapel in the Mercer’s Hall in Cheapside in 1651 and lived in Lime Street – was twice Master of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers (first in 1667 and then again in 1685).
He was knighted by King Charles II in 1673 (his coat-of-arms can still be seen in the Ironmonger’s Hall) and in 1674, he was appointed a sheriff of London before being elected Lord Mayor in 1685 (his wife Priscilla had died in 1676).
In 1688, Geffrye became president of Bridewell and Bethlehem Hospitals – a role which he held for two years and which apparently saw him attending Bridewell every Friday to judge and sentence prisoners.
He died in February 1704 and was buried in the now long-gone St Dionis Backchurch, where his wife had been buried earlier. Their remains were transferred to the almshouses grounds after the church was demolished in 1878.
Geffrye left behind a substantial fortune and, along with bequests to family, friends and charities, he made a sizeable bequest which funded the building of 14 almshouses in Shoreditch (now home to the Geffrye Museum which this year celebrates its tercentenary) (for more on the museum and alms houses, see our earlier posts here and here).
A replica of an original 1723 statue of Sir Robert still adorns the almshouses which bear his name (pictured above).
For more on the people that made London, see Boris Johnson’s Johnson’s Life of London: The People Who Made the City That Made the World.
It’s a big year for the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch – not only 300 years since the almshouses were first opened to house the poor and elderly, it’s 100 years since the almshouses were converted into the museum which now occupies the site.
With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at the almshouses themselves (we’ve looked at the museum – which features 11 period rooms from the 17th to 20th centuries – a couple of times previously). The Grade I-listed almshouses were built in 1714 by the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers, using funds that had been bequeathed to them by Sir Robert Geffrye, a Cornishman who became twice-master of the company and a Lord Mayor of London (there’s a fine statue of him adorning the front of the building).
They comprised 14 houses, each of which had four rooms, and provided accommodation for up to 56 pensioners. Arranged in a U-shape around a courtyard, the two storey almshouses came complete with a chapel which still stands at the centre of the the complex and where residents were expected to attend each week (a walkway which runs around the back of the chapel was added in 1914 offers some great views of the garden).
The almshouses, which had originally been built in what was a largely rural context, remained in use until the early 20th century by which time the area had become one of London’s most crowded with poor sanitation. In 1910, the Ironmongers’ decided to sell off the almshouses and move out to the safer, cleaner area of Mottingham in Kent.
In 1912, the houses and gardens were purchased by the London County Council – attracted by the public open space – and following representations from members of the Arts and Crafts movement, the museum opened its doors in 1914.
It’s still possible to visit a former almshouse – number 14 – which was restored and opened in 2002 and has been furnished to show what life was like there for the pensioners (contrast the sparse furnished there with that with some of the more opulent rooms on display in the museum – and don’t forget to allow some time to visit the gardens; there is also a shop and cafe on site).
WHERE: 136 Kingsland Road, Shoreditch. Nearest tube is Liverpool Street or Old Street (a fair walk) or Hoxton Overground Station (next door); WHEN: The almshouses are open on select days only – check website. The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays, 10am-5pm (gardens open until 31st October); COST: £3 for admission to almshouses/admission to the museum and gardens is free; WEBSITE: www.geffrye-museum.org.uk
While the association between the Bard and Bankside’s Globe Theatre is well known (see our earlier post here for more), the Bard and his plays were also performed in various other theatres around London. Here we take a quick look at a couple in Shoreditch, then a more rural suburb of London known for its associations with the (somewhat seedy) entertainment industry…
• The Theatre, Shoreditch. Built in 1576 by James Burbage on property that had once been part of Holywell Priory, the Theatre was the home of a number of acting companies including The Lord Chamberlain’s Men of which Shakespeare was a member. The polygon-shaped theatre served as the home of the company between 1594 and 1598 when a dispute with a landlord over the lease led them to leave, temporarily settling at The Curtain Theatre, before rebuilding their theatre, now renamed The Globe, in Southwark. Between 2008 and 2010, archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) carried out an investigation beneath a disused warehouse in New Inn Broadway, near the intersection of Curtain Road and Great Eastern Street, and found the remains of a 14 sided theatre about 22 metres across. Plans have been mooted to build a new theatre on the site. To find out more about The Theatre and see a terrific animated recreation by Cloak & Dagger Studios and MOLA (pictured), head to www.explorethetheatre.co.uk. PICTURE: Courtesy of MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) and Cloak and Dagger Studios.
• The Curtain Theatre, Shoreditch. The Lord Chamberlain’s Men only performed here temporarily, between 1598-1599, before relocating to Southwark. Henry V (the reference to “this wooden O” in the prologue of the play is taken to refer to this theatre) and Romeo and Juliet are believed to be among Shakespeare’s plays which premiered here. Located just a couple of hundred yards south of The Theatre and built the year after it, it also hosted Ben Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour, a play in which Shakespeare is known to have performed. The polygonal theatre’s name comes from the road on which it stood – Curtain Road, which, it has been suggested, was named after the Holywell Priory’s ‘curtain wall’. It continued as a theatre until the 1620s and was later converted into tenements. The remains of what is believed to have been the Curtain Theatre were found by MOLA archaeologists in 2012 and further excavations are expected with the hope that one day the site will be open to the public with plays performed here. There is a plaque commemorating the site at 18 Hewett Street which is only a short distance from where the excavations were carried out. For more on the Curtain Theatre, check out www.shakespearesshoreditch.com.
For more on Elizabethan theatres, see Julian Bowsher’s Shakespeare’s London Theatreland: Archaeology, History and Drama.
Born the same year as Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe was, like him, one of the foremost dramatists of the Elizabethan era.
Born in Canterbury the son of shoemaker John Marlowe and his wife Catherine in 1564 (he was baptised on 26th February and likely to have been born a few days before), Marlowe attended the King’s School in the city and went on to study at Corpus College in Cambridge, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in 1584 and a Master of Arts in 1587. It is believed that at around this time, he was also working secretly for the government of Queen Elizabeth I, although what the nature of that work was remains unknown.
While Marlowe’s first play was Dido, Queen of Carthage, he first found theatrical success in 1587 with Tamburlaine the Great, later followed with a second part. His other four plays included The Jew of Malta, Edward the Second, The Massacre at Paris about the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in 1572, and Doctor Faustus.
The plays served as key works for the Admiral’s Men, the company of Edward Alleyn who performed many of the key roles in the plays, and who is strongly associated with the Rose Theatre – indeed it was here that Tamburlaine the Great, The Jew of Malta, and Doctor Faustus premiered (you can see our earlier post on the theatre here).
Marlowe, who is known to have lived in Shoreditch, also completed other works included poetry and translations and while there is little evidence about his personal life, there is much speculation including that he was, as aforementioned, a spy as well as a carouser (he is known to have frequented taverns in London including Ye Olde Cock in Fleet Street), a homosexual and/or a heretic. It has also been suggested he was a tutor to noblewoman Arabella Stuart.
It is known that he was arrested in 1592 in Flushing in The Netherlands for counterfeiting coins and was sent back to England but no further action was taken.
His death is one of the big mysteries of his life. A warrant was issued for Marlowe’s arrest over some heretical tracts which were found in the lodgings of his colleague Thomas Kyd (who when questioned apparently implicated him) and he appeared to answer to the Privy Council on 20th May, 1593. They weren’t sitting and he was apparently instructed to appear daily until further notice. He was dead 10 days later.
The exact circumstances of his death remain a matter of speculation. It is often said he died in a drunken brawl with one early source suggesting this was over a homosexual love affair and another, more recent, theory suggesting he even faked his own death to avoid being executed for heresy (an extrapolation of this theory goes that after his fake death he continued writing plays under the name of William Shakespeare but this is generally deemed fairly far-fetched). The official account recorded at the time was that he was stabbed to death in a brawl over payment of a bill with men at a house in Deptford.
He was buried in an unmarked grave at St Nicholas’ Church in Deptford. There is a memorial window to him in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey. A gift of the Marlowe Society, it was unveiled in 2002 and controversially included a question mark after the generally accepted date of his death. There is a portrait, dated 1585, generally believed to be of Marlowe at Cambridge.
PICTURE: Title page of the earliest known edition of Edward II (1594)/Wikipedia