The Megalosaurus dinosaur at Crystal Palace Park recently underwent an emergency face-lift to ensure it’s still looking its best for visitors following the lifting of lockdowns. The 167-year-old, Grade I-listed statue is said to be a favourite among the 30 sculptures in the collection at the park. Skilled craftsmen had to make and fit 22 new teeth on the 3.5 metre high and 10 metre long sculpture as well as a new nose and light-weight ‘prosthetic’ jaw. The work – which was supported by a grant from the Culture Recovery Fund (awarded by Historic England), the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs and Bromley Council – was carried out by conservation company Taylor Pearce. It was needed after the jaw on the beast collapsed last May and comes after all 30 of the life-sized sculptures were added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register early last year. First unveiled in 1854 (just 10 years after the term ‘dinosaur’ had been coined), the sculptures were made by renowned artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. For more on the dinosaurs and the 80 hectare park in which they stand, see www.bromley.gov.uk/crystalpalacepark.
While Lord’s and The Oval may be more famous, the honour of being London’s oldest (still-in-use) cricket ground goes to a rather less-well-known ground in Mitcham, south London.
Once located in Surrey but now part of greater London, Mitcham Green has been the home of the Mitcham Cricket Club since 1685 (cricket was reportedly being played earlier elsewhere in London but the grounds haven’t survived).
There are reports that Lord Nelson was among those who came to watch a game here (he lived nearby) and in the 19th century, Mitcham Cricket Ground was used as a practise wicket by the visiting Australian team (the team would apparently stay at the aptly named pub The Cricketers, which formerly overlooked the green).
The ground is rather unusual for the fact that the club’s pavilion, which was built in 1904, lie on the other side of a road (the A323).
In July, 2002, the ground hosted a game between Mitcham and Hambledon, a Hampshire village which boasts a team founded about 100 years after Mitcham. Known as the Golden Jubilee Challenge Match, it was played in honour of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and resulted in a draw.
The closure of two fire stations in 2014 – Clerkenwell (which opened in 1872) and Woolwich (which opened in 1887) – has left New Cross Fire Station in the city’s south as the oldest in London (and, according to the London Fire Brigade, the oldest in Europe as well.)
The station, which was designed in a rather grand “chateau-style” by the brigade’s chief architect Robert Pearsall, was opened at 266 Queen’s Road in New Cross in 1894. It was built to accommodate the divisional superintendent, a station foreman and 16 firefighters – eight married and eight unmarried – as well as two coachmen and stables for four horses.
The fire station initially housed a steam-powered and a manual firefighting appliance as well as a hose cart and van, a long ladder (which had its own shed in the yard) and four fire escapes.
The fire station underwent a major upgrade in 1912, improvements included the addition of more flats for married officers and self-contained houses for the superintendent and foreman as well as a sliding pole to give firefighters a quicker trip to the engine house. In 1958, a third appliance bay was added.
One of the most infamous incidents the firefighters from New Cross attended was in November, 1944, when a V2 bomb hit a Woolworths store in New Cross just after midday on a busy Saturday. Some 168 people were killed, 33 of whom were children, and a further 123 were injured in the attack.
The station is now Grade II-listed.
This area in the south-east of London derives its name from a royal connection – Prince George of Denmark, the husband of Queen Anne, is said to have owned a hunting lodge on the east side of the hill.
Originally named Dulwich Hill (given its proximity to Dulwich), its name was changed in honour of the prince after his marriage to Queen Anne in 1683. The residential area centres on the street of the same name – Denmark Hill.
Landmarks include Ruskin Park, named after Victorian art critic John Ruskin, who lived the street, as well as Maudsley Hospital – built in 1915 – and King’s College Hospital, which moved here in 1913.
The Salvation Army’s iconic William Booth Training College, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and completed in 1932, is also located here.
It’s 53 years ago this month that the World Cup trophy – offiicially known as the Jules Rimet Trophy – was stolen from Methodist Central Hall in Westminster (OK, it’s not a very round figure, but it’s a fascinating story).
The trophy had arrived in the UK in January for the tournament to be held later that year and was mostly kept at FA headquarters at Wembley. But in March, it went on show at a stamp exhibition being held at the hall (pictured).
Despite being kept under (relatively) constant guard in a glass cabinet, the trophy was discovered missing just after 12pm on 20th March (the crime had apparently occurred while the guards were on a break). Scotland Yard immediately set about investigating the theft but to no avail (the FA, meanwhile, secretly commissioned a replica to be made, just in case the trophy couldn’t be recovered).
A couple of days later Joe Mears, chairman of the FA, received an anonymous package. It contained the removable top lining of the trophy and a demand for £15,000 in return for the trophy. An exchange was to be set up involving codes placed in newspaper personal ads.
The FA chairman then worked with Scotland Yard to set up a false exchange. On 24th March, Flying Squad Detective Inspector Leonard Buggy, posing as Mears, met a former soldier who turned out to be Edward Betchley in Battersea Park, showing him a briefcase filled with newspapers covered with a layer of £5 notes. Betchley then accompanied Buggy in a car, ostensibly driving to pick up the trophy, but he got spooked along the way and jumped out.
Betchley was arrested minutes later but refused to reveal the trophy’s whereabouts, claiming he was just the middleman come to collect the ransom (he was later convicted of demanding money with menaces with the intent to steal).
The trophy was actually discovered a week after it was stolen by a collie-cross named Pickles who found it lying near a neighbour’s car outside the Norwood home of his owner, Thames lighterman David Corbett. Pickles – who went on to become something of a celebrity in his own right appearing in TV shows and even a film, The Spy with a Cold Nose – has, of course, since died (his collar is on display in the National Football Museum in Manchester).
The crime has never been officially solved although there were claims last year that late London gangster Sidney Cugullere and his brother Reg were behind it.
England, meanwhile, did go on to beat West Germany 4-2 in the World Cup final that year. Life, meanwhile, didn’t turn out so well for the trophy. It was stolen again in 1983 in Brazil and this time was not recovered.
PICTURE: David Adams
• Totally Thames – London’s annual celebration of its river – kicks off on Saturday with a packed programme of walks and talks, performances, exhibitions, and the chance to explore the waterway itself. Among the exhibitions are one focusing on the history of the annual Doggett’s Coat and Badge race and another featuring river-inspired artwork created by young people from across the globe, while variously themed walks include a series taking place along the Thames foreshore at low tide. Other events include a concert series in Tower Bridge’s Bascule Chamber, tours of the Billingsgate Roman House and Baths, and talks including one on the “scandalous” history of whitebait and another on the connections between Florence Nightingale, St Thomas’ Hospital and the river. There’s also the chance this Saturday to see the tall ship, STS Lord Nelson, arrive in London to cross the finish line in ‘Lord Dannatt’s Round Britain Challenge’, the Classic Boat Festival at St Katharine’s Docks (running from 7th to 9th September), and the Great River Race (held on 8th September). For the full programme of events, head to www.totallythames.org. PICTURE: The Thames in central London (NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team)
• Iconic car manufacturer, The Cooper Car Company, has been commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque. The plaque, unveiled earlier this month at the company’s former works in Hollyfield Road in Surbiton, makes mention of the company’s success in winning two Formula One World Championships in 1959 and 1960. The former works building, the site where Charles Cooper and his son John created a company which became part of motoring history, is a rare surviving purpose-built and architect-designed 1950s motor workshop. It features an unusual curved frontage – described as a “striking example of ‘Thunderbirds’ architecture” – in what is perhaps an intentional homage to the curved design of the Cooper racing cars, something English Heritage believes is quite possible given its architect, Richard Maddock, was the father of the late Cooper chief designer Owen ‘The Beard’ Maddock. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.
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• The 150th anniversary of the Smithfield Market will be celebrated at a street party this weekend. The Museum of London and Smithfield Market are joining in offering the free event which, reminiscent of St Bartholomew’s Fair, will feature food, music and historical re-enactments. Performers include Nadia Rose, Stealing Sheep, Girls Rock London, Gandini Juggling and Horrible Histories. Designed by Sir Horace Jones, the redesigned market – which is owned and managed by the City of London Corporation, was officially opened on 24th November, 1868. Runs from 11am to 8pm on Saturday and Sunday. For more, see www.culturemile.london/festival/smithfield-150/.
• Hampton Court Palace is hosting its annual food festival over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Highlights include The Kitchen theatre featuring live cookery demonstrations from top chefs and gastronomic experts including Nadiya Hussain, Melissa Hemsley, Dr Rupy Aujla, Rhiannon Lambert, Lisa Faulkner and Michel Roux, Jr and The Classroom, which will be offering hands-on masterclasses such as sourdough workshops and ‘naked cake’ decorating with the BBC Good Food Cookery Team, gin and cocktail masterclasses and kids’ cookery. There will be stalls from more than 100 food providers offering everything from oysters to sausages, sweet treats and ales as well as a bandstand with live music and activities including vintage games, shire horses and a circus school. The festival runs from 25th to 27th August. Free entry to the palace and gardens is included with the ticket. For more, see www.hrpfoodfestivals.com.
• The work of largely forgotten Edwardian female illustrators Alice Bolingbroke Woodward and Edith Farmiloe is going on show in a new exhibition at the Heath Robinson Museum in Pinner. Peter Pan and the Other Lost Children, which opens Saturday, has been designed around 19 of Woodward’s original watercolour drawings from the first Peter Pan and also includes seven watercolours from her drawings from a 1930s edition of Alice in Wonderland. The display, which also includes works by Farmiloe, has been timed to coincide with the centenary of the Representation of the People Act of 1918. For more, see www.heathrobinsonmuseum.org.
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A tribute marking the centenary of World War I, Battlefields to Butterflies, has gone on show at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show this week. Designed by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, the special feature garden features two very different scenes – one depicting the desolate landscapes of the trenches and the other a landscape restored to peace by nature. The display draws on the words and paintings of World War I artist William Orpen and reflects what he witnessed firsthand on the Western Front. Among the plants on show are poplars, hornbeams, willow and birch and massed wildflowers including poppies, cornflowers, loosestrife, mallows and cranesbills. A special plaque commemorating the 24 Royal Parks and Palaces gardeners and park keepers who lost their lives in the world is also included in the garden. The plaque will be taken to Brompton Cemetery following the flower show to form part of a permanent memorial garden that will commemorate all parks, gardens and grounds staff, from across the UK and its allies, who died in the war. The show runs until 8th July. For more, see www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-hampton-court-palace-flower-show. PICTURE: © Historic Royal Palaces/Michael Bowles.
And so we come to the final entry in our Wednesday special series on River Thames islands.
Garrick’s Ait, which was previously known as Shank’s Eyot, lies only a few hundred metres upstream from Taggs Island and is said to be the only island in Britain named after an actor – in this case, 18th century star David Garrick.
Similarly to other Thames islands, it was traditionally used to grow and harvest willow osiers but was later popular for picnics and camping. There were apparently no permanent buildings until the 1920s and 1930s when wooden cabins begin to appear on the island and it’s now home to about 20 houses (three were reportedly destroyed in a 2003 fire).
The island took on the name of Garrick’s Ait (ait, like eyot, we recall, being a name for a river island) after the actor bought a property on the Hampton bank in 1754 which he named Garrick’s Villa. In its grounds he famously built a garden folly known as the Temple to Shakespeare.
The ait, which can only be accessed by boat and which sits closer to the Molesey bank than the Hampton bank, was apparently one of three Thames islands that Garrick bought in the area (along with several properties).
We’re skipping upstream, past a few islands this week, to take a look at Thames Ditton Island which lies in Kingston Reach, above Teddington Lock. The island is the largest of a group of three which also includes Swan Island (the smallest) and Boyle Farm Island.
Located opposite the grounds of Hampton Court Palace (built by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in the early 16th century and then, following his fall from grace, claimed by King Henry VIII in 1525), the 320 metre long Thames Ditton Island owes its existence to King Henry who had the river widened and straightened here so that he could use the river for an uninterrupted journey up the river from Westminster to Hampton Court. In doing so, the island was created.
Used as pasture land for the local manor (and known apparently at one point as Colly’s Ait, ait being a word for a river island, before being renamed Thames Ditton after the village on the west bank) for several centuries, the island became a popular recreation spot for the wealthy interested in water sports during the Edwardian era, thanks to the arrival of the railway in the area in the late 19th century.
The island is these days connected to the Thames Ditton bank by a 1930s suspension bridge which ends near the 13th century Ye Olde Swan pub. It is now home to more than 45 rather exclusive riverside properties (almost all are in stilts to help ward off the danger of flooding, a phenomenon with which long-term residents in the area are familiar).
Swan Island, while lies just to the south of Thames Ditton Island, is tiny and the location of the home of the ferryman, who up until 1911, would take people across the river to Hampton Court.
Further to the south likes Boyle Farm Island which also has a single house open it. It stands opposite the mainland property formerly known as Boyle Farm but now a nursing home known as the Home of Compassion.
Interestingly, while Thames Ditton Island is part of Greater London, Boyle Farm Island is part of Surrey (along with Thames Ditton village).
• Death and burials in Roman London are the focus of a new exhibition opening at the Museum of London Docklands on Friday with a rare sarcophagus discovered in Southwark last year one of the highlights. Roman Dead will look at the cemeteries of ancient London, the discoveries made there and their context in the modern cityscape. Alongside the sarcophagus discovered in Harper Road (which had possibly been disturbed by grave robbers), the exhibition features more than 200 objects including a multi-coloured glass dish found with cremated remains, a jet pendant in the form of a Medusa’s head and four men’s skulls which showed signs of violence and were buried in pits by the city’s wall as well as a tombstone of a 10-year-old girl named Marciana, found during excavations in 1979, and a pot decorated with a human face which was used as a cremation urn. The free exhibition can be seen until 28th October. For more, see www.museumofondon.org.uk/docklands.
• The work of celebrated Twentieth century British artist and designer Edward Bawden (1903-89) has gone on display in a new exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Edward Bawden is described as the “most wide-ranging” exhibition of his work since his death and the first to look at every aspect of his 60 year career. It features a number of previous unseen works as well as 18 rarely seen war portraits which are being displayed together for the first time. Some 170 works – half from private collections – are arranged thematically to follow the evolution of his style with rooms dedicated to leisure, architecture, animals, fantasy and gardens. Among the highlights are early designs for the London Underground, Rain (1926) – on display for the first time, portraits of places he visited in North Africa, the Middle East and Europe while working as an official war artist during World War II, and several linocuts from Aesop’s Fables. Runs until 9th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk. PICTURE: Edward Bawden, St Paul’s, 1958 (Colour autolithograph/Trustees of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery (The Higgins Bedford), © Estate of Edward Bawden).
• Delve into the world of the ‘Gorgeous Georgians’ and ‘Vile Victorians’ at Hampton Court Palace this May half term. The Birmingham Stage Company will be uncovering centuries of grisly history in an hour long outdoor ‘Horrible Histories’ performance featuring characters including Georgian kings, Lord Horatio Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Florence Nightingale, and Dr John Snow. Guests are encouraged to bring a blanket and some food for the “ultimate historical picnic”. Admission charge applies – check website for dates. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/explore/the-gorgeous-georgians-and-vile-victorians/.
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Little remains of this priory which once stood on the banks of the River Wandle in Surrey (and is now encompassed in Greater London).
The priory, which was founded as an Augustinian house in the early 12th century, rose to become one of the most influential in all of southern Britain.
The institution was created thanks to Gilbert, the Sheriff of Surrey, Huntington and Cambridge, who was granted the village of Merton by King Henry I. Gilbert came to live in Merton and there established a priory, building a church and small huts on land thought to be located just to the west of where the priory was later located.
Gilbert had been impressed with what he’d seen of the Augustinians, also known as the Austin friars, at Huntington and so gave control of the new church to their sub-prior, Robert Bayle, along with the land and a mill.
It was based on Bayle’s advice that the site of the priory was then moved to its second location and a new, larger wooden chapel built with William Gifford, Bishop of Winchester, coming to bless the cemetery. The canons – there were now 17 – moved in on 3rd May, 1117.
Among the high profile people to visit the new priory was Queen Matilda, who brought her son William with her. In the early 1100s, a certain Thomas Becket (later the ill-fated Archbishop of Canterbury) received an education here as did Nicolas Breakspeare (later the first English Pope, Adrian IV).
The priory expanded considerably over the next century and in 1217 its chapter house was the location of a peace conference between King Henry III and Louis, the Dauphin of France. The Statutes of Merton – a series of legal codes relating to wills – were formulated here in 1236.
The connection with royalty continued – in the mid-1340s, King Edward III is thought to have passed the Feast of the Epiphany here while King Henry VI apparently had a crowning ceremony here – the first outside of Westminster Abbey for more than 300 years – in 1437.
The priory remained in use until the Dissolution of King Henry VIII. The demolition of the buildings apparently started even before the priory had been formally surrendered to the commissioners – stones from its building was used in the construction of Henry’s new palace – Nonsuch – as well as, later, in the construction of local buildings.
The site came to be referred to as ‘Merton Abbey’ and, passing through various hands, was used to garrison Parliamentarian troops during the Civil War. It later became a manufacturing facility, works for the dying and printing of textiles, one of which became the workshops of William Morris.
Some of the priory buildings survived for some years after but the only remains now left as sections of the perimeter wall (the arch which now stands over the entrance to Merton parish church is reconstructed – there’s another ornamental gateway in the outer court wall which was also replaced with a replica in the 1980s).
The foundations of the unusually large chapter house, meanwhile, have been excavated and are now preserved in a specially constructed enclosure under a roadway. Construction is now underway to build better public access to the remains.
PICTURE: A ceiling boss from Merton Priory which still bears traces of its original red paint and guilding. It was found during excavations at Nonsuch Palace in 1959-60 is now on display in the Museum of London. Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net) (licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0).
• London’s Chinatown will come alive this Sunday to mark the Year of the Dog. The biggest Chinese New Year celebrations outside of Asia feature a parade – which kicks off at 10am with a dragon and lion dance in Charing Cross Road before making its way through Chinatown where between noon and 6pm people get up close to lion dances, take selfies with Chinese zodiac animals and enjoy traditional Chinese food. Festivities in Trafalgar Square, meanwhile, kick off at 11am with the Lions’ Eye-Dotting Ceremony at noon while there’s entertainment including live performances, family-friendly entertainments and martial arts displays at a series of West End locations including Charing Cross Road, Leicester Square, Shaftesbury Avenue between noon and 5pm. For more, check out the Visit London guide. Meanwhile the Museum of London Docklands is also celebrating the Year of the Dog with a range of free cultural events on Friday (the actual date of the New Year) including everything from ribbon dancing classes to taekwondo taster lessons, calligraphy and a spectacular dragon dance. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london-docklands. PICTURE: Paul (licensed under CC BY 2.0)
• The works of one of Canada’s greatest modernist painters, David Milne (1882-1953), have gone on show at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. David Milne: Modern Painting follows Milne’s career chronologically, charting his development as an artist as he moves from New York to the war ravaged landscapes of Europe and back to the fields and open skies of North America. Highlights include Fifth Avenue, Easter Sunday (1912), the watercolour Bishop’s Pond (1916), Montreal Crater, Vimy Ridge (1919) – one of his most famous war paintings, White, the Waterfall (1921) and Summer Colours (1936). Runs until 7th May. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.
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• 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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• The first major exhibition in the UK to consider artists’ responses to war and conflict since 9/11 opens at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth today. Age of Terror: Art since 9/11 features 50 works of art including film, sculpture, painting, installations, photography and prints from more than 40 British and international contemporary artists including Ai Weiwei, Grayson Perry, Gerhard Richter, Jenny Holzer, Mona Hatoum, Alfredo Jaar, Coco Fusco and Jake & Dinos Chapman. The exhibition is presented around four key themes – artists’ direct or immediate responses to 9/11, issues of state surveillance and security, our relationship with firearms, bombs and drones, and the destruction caused by conflict on landscape, architecture and people. Highlights include Iván Navarro’s The Twin Towers (2011), Ai Weiwei’s Surveillance Camera with Marble Stand (2015), and James Bridle’s site-specific installation, Drone Shadow Predator, as well as Grayson Perry’s Dolls at Dungeness September 11th 2001 (2001) and, Jamal Penjweny’s photographic series, Saddam is Here (2009-2010). Runs until 28th May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk/ageofterror.
• The first UK retrospective of the work of famed 20th century Finnish illustrator Tove Jansson opened at the Dulwich Picture Gallery yesterday. Tove Jansson (1914-2001) celebrates the work of the artist known as the creator of the Moomin characters and books but also includes a wider looks at her graphic illustration work and paintings. It features 150 works including self-portraits, landscapes and still-lives never seen before in the UK and a series of Moomin drawings only discovered at the British Cartoon Archive this year. Organised in collaboration with the Ateneum Art Museum, the exhibition can be seen until 28th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk. PICTURE: Tove Jansson, Sleeping in the Roots, 1930s, Moomin Museum, Tampere Art Museum Moominvalley Collection (Finnish National Gallery/Yehia Eweis).
• Featuring 50 painted objects created over 700 years, a new exhibition at The National Gallery takes a “radical” look at what happens when artists cast aside the colour spectrum and focus on the power of black and white. Monochrome: Painting in Black and White features paintings and drawings by Old Masters like Jan van Eyck, Albrecht Durer and Rembrandt van Reign alongside works by contemporary artists such as Gerhard Richter, Chuck Close and Bridget Riley. Exhibition opens on Monday and runs until 18th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.
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The origins of the gallery back owe their existence to an art dealership run by a Frenchman, Noël Desenfans, and his Swiss friend, painter Sir Francis Bourgeois. In 1790, the men were commissioned by King Stanislaus II Augustus of Poland to form a royal collection of art for him.
They spent five years doing so but in 1795, the king was forced to abdicate and the two dealers were left with the collection. They began searching for a new home for it but failed to find one and following Desenfans’ death in 1807, Sir Francis decided to leave the collection to Dulwich College (apparently on the advice of his friend, actor John Philip Kemble). The college had been founded in the early 17th century as the ‘College of God’s Gift’ by Edward Alleyn, actor and theatre entrepreneur, who had left it his estate.
Sir Francis died in 1811 and, under the terms of his will, the paintings left to Dulwich had to be made available to the public to view. There was an existing gallery at Dulwich College (the collection had originally been formed around Alleyn’s collection which included portraits or kings and queens) but, conscious that it might not be ideal for displaying the collection, Sir Francis had left £2,000 in his will to refurbish it and made it clear that should this be required, he wanted his friend, Sir John Soane to oversee the work.
Sir John, visiting the college the day after Sir Francis’ death, inspects the existing building but decides that an entirely new wing will need to be built to house the collection. He submitted numerous designs but the cost – more than £11,000 – was considerably more than the college could afford despite Sir John’s efforts to cut costs and simplify. Eventually, after Margaret Desenfans agreed to donate £4,000 of her own money, the college officials agreed to begin construction.
In 1814, the collection was moved into the building and the following year, the now completed building was opened to Royal Academicians and students. The public opening came two years later, in 1817, and the same year the Desenfanses and Francis Bourgeois were buried in the gallery’s mausoleum as its founders.
Several additions and renovations have since followed (including works after bombing during World War II). The last major works were carried out in the 1990s after which the gallery was formally reopened on 25th May, 2000, by Queen Elizabeth II.
Those who visited the gallery, many as students, have included some big names in the art world – John Constable, JMW Turner and Vincent Van Gogh. Charles Dickens referenced the gallery in his work, The Pickwick Papers, in which he had Samuel Pickwick visit the gallery following his retirement.
The Dulwich Picture Gallery is now an independent registered charity. Its more than 600 works include one of the finest collections of Old Master paintings in the world by artists such as Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Poussin, Watteau, Canaletto, Rubens, Veronese and Murillo. Collection highlights include Rembrandt’s Girl at a Window (1645), Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s The Flower Girl (1665-70), Thomas Gainsborough’s Elizabeth and Mary Linley (c 1772) and Sir Peter Lely’s Nymphs by a Fountain (early 1650s).
WHERE: Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Road, Dulwich (nearest rail is West Dulwich or North Dulwich); WHEN: 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday; COST: £7 adults/£6 seniors/under 18s free (additional cost for special exhibitions); WEBSITE: www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.
PICTURES: Courtesy Dulwich Picture Gallery.
• The lives of three German princesses whose marriages into the British royal family during the Georgian era placed them right at the heart of progressive thinking in 18th century Britain are the subject of a new exhibition which opens at Kensington Palace today. Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte and the Shaping of the Modern World looks at how these three women – committed patrons of the arts and sciences – “broke the mould” in terms of their contributions to society, through everything from advocating for the latest scientific and medical advances to supporting the work of charities, changing forever the role women played in the British royal family. Caroline and Charlotte became queens consort to King George I and King George III respectively while Princess Augusta was at various times Princess of Wales, Regent and Princess Dowager (as mother to King George III) and between them, they had more than 30 children. But alongside their busy family lives, they also were at the centre of glittering courts where the likes of writers Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift, scientist Isaac Newton and composer George Frideric Handel as well as successive Prime Ministers and international statesmen were welcomed. The display features almost 200 objects owned by the princesses, such as Charlotte’s hand-embroidered needlework pocketbook, pastels painted by their children and artworks and fine ceramics commissioned by some of the greatest artists and craftsmen of their day. The exhibition, which has previously been at the Yale Center for British Art, runs until 12th November. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/.
• The UK’s first major exhibition featuring the watercolours of Anglo-American artist John Singer Sargent in almost 100 years has opened at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London. Sargent: The Watercolours features almost 80 works produced between 1900 and 1918, what was arguably his greatest period of watercolour production. Sargent mastered the art during expeditions in southern Europe and the Middle East and the show features landscapes, architecture and figurative scenes, drawing attention to the most radical aspects of his work – his use of close-up, his unusual use of perspective and the dynamic poses of his figures. The works include The Church of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice (c1904-1909), the mountain landscape Bed of a Torrent (1904), and figure study The lady with the umbrella (1911). The exhibition runs until 8th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk. PICTURE: John Singer Sargent – Pool in the Garden of La Granja, c. 1903, Private Collection
• The 249th Summer Exhibition has opened at the Royal Academy with Mark Wallinger, Yinka Shonibare and Antony Gormley among those with works on show. About 1,200 works are featured in the display with highlights including Shonibare’s Wind Sculpture VI, a new large scale work from Gilbert & George’s ‘Beard Speak’ series and, for the first time, a focus on construction coordination drawings, showing the full complexity of a building, in the Architecture Gallery. Runs until 20th August. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.
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We pause for a moment before our regular coverage to remember all those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire in north Kensington.
• Giovanni da Rimini’s 700-year-old work, Scenes from the Lives of the Virgin and Other Saints, has gone open show at The National Gallery. Acquired by the gallery in 2015 on the understanding that the panel will largely remain with New York collector and philanthropist Ronald S Lauder during his lifetime but for limited exceptions such as this, the panel forms the centrepiece of the exhibition Giovanni da Rimini: A 14th Century Masterpiece Unveiled. It brings together Giovanni da Rimini’s three easel works – also including Scenes from the Life of Christ (on loan from the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini in Rome) and The Virgin and Child with Five Saints (on loan from the Pinacoteca Communal, Faenza, Italy) – for the first time in the UK. There are seven panel paintings in the display in total as well as two ivory panels and a fragment of an illuminated leaf. Alongside works by Giovanni da Rimini are those by Neri da Rimini, Francesco da Rimini/Master of Verruchio, Giovanni Baronzio and the great Florentine painter Giotto. The display can be seen in Room 1 until 8th October. Admission is free. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk. PICTURE: Scenes from the Lives of the Virgin and other Saints (c 1300-1305), Giovanni da Rimini 1300-1305. © The National Gallery, London.
• Dulwich Picture Gallery is celebrating the 200th anniversary of its public opening with a series of free late openings on Friday nights. Running until the end of July, the themed evenings feature performance, talks, and music with food and drink in the pavilion bar supplied by The Camberwell Arms. The nights include one of exploring how the memory of people, buildings, places and experiences influences and impacts architecture (16th June), tours of the gallery in which dancers are the guides (23rd June and 14th July), and a botanical themed evening with flower workshops, infused cocktails and other “green-fingered creativity” (28th July). For the full programme, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk/whats-on/.
• An exhibition focusing on the 600 year history of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers has opened at the Guildhall Library in the City of London. The free exhibition joins the existing photographic display, Books and Publishing in the City, which features the work of artist-in-residence Simon Gregor and includes images of streets, buildings and documents with a particular focus on Stationers’ Hall. Both run until 31st August. For more, follow this link.
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• Join in the hunt for Lindt gold bunnies at Hampton Court Palace this Easter. The bunny hunt is just one of the many chocolate-related activities taking place at the palace over the Easter period – visitors can also explore the history of chocolate and discover how it was made in the palace’s 18th century ‘chocolate kitchen’ by Thomas Tosier, King George I’s private chocolate chef while attractions outside also include the reopened ‘Magic Garden’. An imaginative play garden first opened in spring last year, it invites visitors to explore the world of Tudor tournaments on what was the site of King Henry VIII’s former tiltyard. The Palace Lindt Gold Bunny Hunt runs until 17th April (the Magic Garden is open until 27th October). Admission charges apply. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/. PICTURE: Lindt & Sprungli (UK) Ltd.
• Joseph Dalton Hooker – dubbed the ‘king of Kew’ – is the subject of a new exhibition in The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art in Kew Gardens. Joseph Hooker: Putting plants in their place explores the life of the botanist, charting his travels to many parts of the world – including Antarctica and Mt Everest – and how he helped to transform Kew Gardens from a “rather run-down royal pleasure garden” into a world class scientific establishment. The exhibition features an array of drawings, photographs, artefacts and journals including 80 paintings by British botanical artists and an illustration of Mt Everest by Hooker, the earliest such work by a Westerner. Runs until 17th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.kew.org.
• On Now – The Private Made Public: The First Visitors. The first in a series of public events and exhibitions celebrating Dulwich Picture Gallery’s bicentenary year, this display features the first handbook to the gallery, a 1908 visitor book which includes the signatures of Vanessa and Clive Bell and Virginia Woolf, and James Stephanoff’s watercolour, The Viewing at Dulwich Picture Gallery, which depicts the gallery’s enfilade as it would have been in the 1830s. The exhibition also looks back at some of the gallery’s first visitors and features quotes from notable artists, writers and critics shown next to works in the permanent collection. Can be seen until 4th June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.
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