July 13, 2016
The fact the properties can have many residents with the passing of the years means that there’s a select number of properties in London (18 to be exact) which bear more than one English Heritage blue plaque – among them 4 Carlton Gardens in St James’s (home to 19th century PM Lord Palmerston and where General Charles De Gaulle set up the headquarter of the free French forces in 1940).
But among that group is an even more select group – properties which bear two blue plaques with both of those people commemorated coming from the same family. The home at 20 Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead (pictured above) falls into this group.
Now a museum, the home’s celebrated occupants have included psycho-analyst Sigmund Freud, who lived here briefly in the final years of his life (between 1938 and his death on 23rd September, 1939), and his daughter Anna Freud, the youngest of his six children and herself a pioneering psycho-analyst, who lived here from 1938 until her death in 1982.
Both occupants have their own blue plaques on the property: Sigmund’s original London County Council blue plaque was unveiled on the site by his daughter Anna – then still occupant in the home – in 1956, the 100th anniversary of his birth. It had deteriorated and was replaced in 2002, at the same time a plaque to Anna herself was unveiled.
When Freud had moved to London from Vienna in June, 1938 – following the annexation of Austria by the Third Reich, he had initially lived in Primrose Hill before settling in the property in Maresfield Gardens along with his family and a significant collection of furniture from his Vienna consulting rooms.
In 1986, four years after Anna’s death, property was reopened as the Freud Museum and the public can still go inside and see Freud’s study, including his famed consulting couch, just as it was when he lived there.
The Freuds aren’t, of course, the only family members commemorated by English Heritage Blue Plaques – others include suffragette mother and daughters Emmeline and Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst (the first two commemorated on a single plaque at 50 Clarendon Road in Notting Hill and the latter at 120 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea), and father and son Prime Ministers William Pitt the Elder and his son William Pitt the Younger (at 10 St James’s Square in St James’s and 120 Baker Street in Marylebone respectively).
WHERE: Freud Museum London, 20 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead (nearest Tube stations are Finchley Road and Swiss Cottage); WHEN: Noon to 5pm, Wednesday to Sunday; COST: £7 adults; £5 seniors; £4 concessions (including children 12-16); children under 12 free; WEBSITE: www.freud.org.uk.
English Heritage are celebrating 150 years of the blue plaque scheme this year – the oldest of its kind in the world – and so to celebrate we’re looking at 10 of the most notable among them.
First up, it’s the oldest surviving blue plaque. Located in King Street in Mayfair, just off St James’s Square, it commemorates the last French Emperor, Napoleon III, who lived at the property while a prince in 1848.
It was only a brief stay for the then soon-to-be emperor. The nephew and heir of Emperor Napoleon I, he , like other members of his family was exiled from France after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and spent the following years in various other countries in Europe as well as, finally, London where he lived firstly at Carlton Gardens and then at the King Street property.
He took the lease on this newly built house in February, 1847, and created what English Heritage has called a “shrine to the Bonapartes” inside, displaying such relics as Napoleon I’s uniforms and a portrait of his famous uncle by the celebrated French artist Paul Delaroche.
The prince was something of a society favourite during his time in London and was invited to join various of St James’s clubs and apparently even enrolled as a special constable during the Chartist riots of 1848.
When the Bourbon monarchy – in the person of King Louis Philippe – was overthrown in France in September that year, the prince abandoned the house to rush back to France (apparently in such a hurry that the story goes that he left his bed unmade and his bath still full of water).
The prince was elected first President of the Second Republic on his return to Paris and in 1852 took his place as Emperor Napoleon III on the restoration of the empire (incidentally, he ended up returning to England in exile following his defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and died in Kent in 1873).
The plaque, installed in 1867, also has the distinction of being the only one installed while the person it commemorates was still alive. The rule now is that those commemorated by a blue plaque need to have been dead for at least 20 years before the honour can be bestowed.
The plaque, which is rather more elaborate than modern versions, was put up by the Society of Arts (they’re mentioned on it) and the design features a French imperial eagle. It was manufactured by Minton Hollins & Co.
For more on Blue Plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.
January 29, 2016
Erected to the memory of Queen Alexandra, the consort of King Edward VII, the memorial – an ornate bronze screen – is located on the exterior of the garden wall of Marlborough House – the Queen’s former home – in Marlborough Road, opposite St James’ Palace.
It depicts a central figure, described as “Love Enthroned”, supporting a young girl (perhaps a symbol of the Queen’s support for the next generation), and attended by two crowned bowing figures which it’s believed represent faith and hope. An inscription – “Faith, hope, love – The guiding virtues of Queen Alexandra” – sits below.
The memorial was unveiled on 8th June, 1932, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang, in attendance. Queen Alexandra’s Memorial Ode, composed by Sir Edward Elgar, was first performed at the ceremony.
The memorial was the last public artwork to be completed by Gilbert, noted for having also created what is arguably London’s most famous statue – that of Eros in Piccadilly (see our earlier post here), who was knighted by King George V after the unveiling.
The Queen lived at the property during her widowhood until her death in 1925.
Apologies – we neglected to put in the link! Now corrected.
January 19, 2016
Last weekend saw London transformed in a blaze of colour and light as the city hosted its first Lumiere light festival. More than a million people hit the streets over the four nights of the event – developed by creative producers Artichoke and supported by the Mayor of London – to take in the 30 artworks. Above are some of images of British screen stars and directors which were projected on 195 Piccadilly in an installation by Newcastle-based studio NOVAK. Below are some more images from the rather spectacular event. For more on the event, check out www.visitlondon.com/lumiere.
Above is Les Voyageurs (The Travellers) by French artist Cédric Le Borgne (located in St James) while below is Litre of Light by Mick Stephenson and Central Saint Martin’s students in Kings Cross.
Above is binaryWaves by LAB[au] while below is Ron Haselden’s Diver depicting an illuminated figure plunging into the water of the King’s Cross Pond Club.
This Week in London – London illuminated; commemorating Shakespeare’s death; and, of bees and pollination…
January 14, 2016
• The biggest ever light festival to hit London opens tonight. Lumber London, produced by Artichoke with the support of the Mayor of London and visitlondon.com, will see a host of international artists transform a series of iconic buildings and locations in four areas across the city – Piccadilly, Regent Street and St James’s, Trafalgar Square and Westminster, Mayfair and King’s Cross. The 30 installations include French collective TILT’s Garden of Light featuring giant illuminated plants in Leicester Square, Patrice Warrener’s The Light of the Spirit which envelopes the west front of Westminster Abbey in colour and light, Deepa Mann-Kler’s Neon Dogs – a collection of 12 neon dogs inspired by the balloon dogs seen at children’s parties, this sits near Trafalgar Square, and, Pipette, a colourful installation by Miriam Gleeman (of The Cross Kings) and Tom Sloan (of Tom Sloan Design) which sits in the pedestrian subway, the King’s Cross Tunnel. Other highlights include Julian Opie’s work Shaida Walking, 2015 which will be permanently located in Broadwick Street, Soho, and Janet Echelon’s enormous net sculpture 1.8 London which is strung between buildings at Oxford Circus. The festival runs from 6.30pm to 10.30pm over the next four nights. You can download a free map on the installations or use the free London Official City Guide app to locate them. For more information – including the full programme – see www.visitlondon.com/lumiere.
• A property deed signed by playwright William Shakespeare and one of the most complete first folios of his works have gone on show in the London Heritage Gallery at the Guildhall Art Gallery. Alongside the two documents which dates from 1613 and 1623, the Shakespeare and London exhibition marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death – to be commemorated on 23rd April this year – will also display other documents related to the story of London’s playhouses. The property deed – which relates to a property in Blackfriars – is only one of six surviving documents to bear the playwrights authenticated signature while the first folio is one of five of the most complete copies in existence and is apparently usually only brought out for consultation by Shakespearean scholars and actors. The exhibition runs until 31st March. Admission is free. For more on it and other events being run to commemorate the Bard’s death, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/shakespeare400. For more on other events this year, check out www.shakespeare400.org.
• See your art featured in an upcoming exhibition on the importance of bees and pollination by attending a drop-in workshop at Victoria Tower Gardens next to the Houses of Parliament next week. The workshop, which will be held from 10am to 2pm on 20th January, will see participants create their own 3D flowers based on famous paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and Jan Van Huysum currently in The National Gallery’s collection – all as part of a focus looking at what plants bees are attracted to. The art created in the workshop will be seen in an exhibition A Right Royal Buzz which is the result of a collaboration between The Royal Parks, The National Gallery and Mall Galleries and will be seen across all three venues (Victoria Tower Gardens representing the Royal Parks) from 17th t0 20th February. For more, head to this link.
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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.
January 20, 2015
A monument commemorating Prince Frederick, the Duke of York and Albany and commander-in-chief of the British Army during the French Revolutionary wars – the Duke of York Column in St James’s Park – has had a makeover. The monument, which was erected in 1834, is the tallest in the Royal Parks. It features a 124 foot tall column of pink and grey Aberdeen granite designed by Benjamin Wyatt and is topped by a 14 foot tall bronze statue of the duke (thought to be the ‘Grand Old Duke of York’ referred to in the nursery rhyme), designed by Sir Richard Westmacott. The column has been cleaned while the statue, which had developed a green pigment thanks to the oxidation process which also gives the Statue of Liberty its green patina, has been repatinated, rewaxed and buffed. The monument, which cost £100,000 to refurbish, originally cost £15,760 and was funded with a day’s pay from every serving soldier. For more on St James’s Park, check out www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/st-jamess-park. PICTURE: Courtesy of Royal Parks.
A quiet square at the heart of the area known as St James, the square’s origins go back to the 1660s when King Charles II granted what was initially a lease (and later the freehold) over a section of St James’s Field to Henry Jermyn, a favourite of King Charles I’s queen Henrietta Maria who was created the 1st Earl of St Alban.
The earl began developing the residential square (the original design had houses on the south-side fronting onto Pall Mall) and, thanks to its proximity to Whitehall and St James’s Palace, quickly attracted some of the who’s who of London to live there.
Indeed it’s said that by the 1720s, seven dukes and seven earls were in residence in the square – other residents included PMs William Pitt the Elder and William Gladstone (both lived in Chatham House, at numbers 9 and 10, albeit at different times) as well as two of James II’s mistresses, Arabella Churchill and Catherine Sedley, who apparently lived at number 21 in the late 1600s.
Among the architects who designed houses around the square were Robert Adam, Sir John Soane, and, in more recent times, Edwin Lutyens.
The square – which reached its final layout, designed by John Nash, around 1854 – remained a desirable place to live even as in the 19th century, some of the houses gave way to financial institutions, private clubs, offices and even lodging houses. These days it’s dominated by business and other institutional organisations.
Organisations located in the square today include the Naval and Military Club (number four – former home of Nancy Astor), the East India Club (number 16) and the London Library (located at number 14, it was founded by Thomas Carlyle in 1841) as well as the international headquarters of BP.
The gardens feature an equestrian statue of King William III at their centre (the work of John Bacon Sr and Jr, it was installed in 1808 and is pictured above). Other monuments include The Stag (located in the south-west corner, it is the work of Marcus Cornish and was installed in 2001) and, just outside the garden railings in the north-east corner, a memorial to WPC Yvonne Fletcher who was killed when a gun was fired from the Libyan Embassy (known as the Libyan People’s Bureau, it was located at number 5) during a demonstration on 17th April, 1984. The pavilion on the south side was designed by John Nash.
The gardens are private – managed by the St James’s Square Trust – but open to the public on weekdays from 10am to 4.30pm.
March 15, 2013
Well done to Jameson, this is indeed located in St James’s Square. Called – rather aptly – Stag, the sculpture dates from 2001 and is the work of Marcus Cornish. The larger-than-life bronze sculpture is located in the south-west corner of the West End square. For more on the work of Mr Cornish, see www.marcuscornish.com. Other statues in the square include an equestrian statue of King William III, the work of John Bacon Senior and Junior, which was installed in 1808.
March 6, 2013
We’ve previously mentioned the home of the British Government – the Houses of Parliament – in this series but this week we’re looking at another government building – a gem of 19th century architecture.
In existence since 1782, the Foreign Office had originally been housed in two houses in St James and then, as the department grew, to properties in Whitehall – first in The Cockpit (this building has an interesting history we’ll look at in a later post) and then in Downing Street. Initially lodged in what had been Lord Sheffield’s house in Downing Street, the department soon spilled over into neighbouring properties.
The deteriorating quality of these abodes, however, was such that there were fears for their collapse and plans to build a new Foreign Office were mooted. But it wasn’t until the 1850s that it was decided the government announced plans for a competition to design new Foreign and War Offices on Downing Street. There was something of a heated debate over the style of the building between those favouring classical and those favouring gothic architecture but in 1858 George Gilbert Scott (knighted in 1872) was finally appointed as architect.
While Scott apparently originally favoured a building in the gothic style, this was opposed by then Prime Minister Lord Palmerston whose preferences for a classical building eventually won the day.
Work on the new building began in the early 1860s and it eventually opened in July, 1868. While the War Office was never constructed, other departments were located in adjoining premises within the same block. These included the India Office – while Scott oversaw the exterior design, the interior was designed by Matthew Digby Wyatt, surveyor of the former East India Company and subsequently Architect to the Council of India. It opened in November 1867 but was taken over by the Foreign Office in 1947 following India’s independence – and the Colonial and Home offices – designed by Scott, these were completed by 1875.
Plans to build a new Foreign Office were mooted in the mid-20th century and there was talk of demolishing the existing building but after a public debate, Scott’s building was protected after being given Grade I listed building status.
In 1968, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office merged (the latter had only been created two years before) and the Home Office moved out of its premises, meaning that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office now occupied all four original departmental premises. A modernisation program subsequently took place and there was also a significant restoration program which was completed by January 1997.
Stand out rooms in the complex include the grand Locarno Suite – three interlinked rooms designed by Scott to host dinners, receptions and conferences which gained its current moniker in 1925 when the Locarno Treaties were signed here; as well as the India Office Council Chamber – designed by Wyatt, it features a great marble chimney taken from the former Director’s Court Room in East India House located in Leadenhall Street in the City; and, Wyatt’s spectacular Durbar Court which features a glazed cast-iron roof added in 1868 (the name dates from 1902 when some of coronation celebrations of King Edward VII were held here). The many grand staircases in the building – including the beautiful Muses Stair with its octagonal lantern – are also worth noting.
While the buildings, which are officially entered off King Charles Street, are not usually open to the public, they have been opened for the past few years during London’s Open House weekend. There is an audio tour available which details much of the fine artwork in the building.
February 12, 2013
Freddie Fox (who plays Lord Alfred Douglas opposite Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde in David Hare’s The Judas Kiss now playing at the Duke of York Theatre) marks the start of ‘White Shirt Week’ which kicked off in St James’s on Monday. The West End area is home to Jermyn Street which apparently boasts “the highest number of world renowned shirt makers on one luxury shopping street” with each shirt maker having their own signature design. While the origins of the white shirt date back as far as ancient Egypt, it was only in more recent centuries that in the UK the white shirt developed from being simply an undergarment to a fashion item in its own right – in fact, by the 19th century, the white shirt was worn by gentlemen as a statement that they weren’t engaged in manual labour and could employ servants to launder it. For more on St James’s, see www.stjameslondon.co.uk.
December 21, 2012
There’s still a weekend to go before Christmas and if, having finished all Christmas shopping, you’re still in the mood for seeing some light displays, here’s some more places to look for some amazing (and in some cases historic), Christmas decorations (for the first part of this overview, head here)…
• Last week we mentioned some of the key sites to look for light displays in the West End this Christmas. Some of the other places to look include: the iconic shopping strip of Carnaby Street (decorations there this year are inspired by the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones – pictured) as well as South Molton Street, off Oxford Street (which again features some beautiful illuminated archways), and streets throughout St James (the St James Christmas lights were this year switched on by opera star Katherine Jenkins who earlier led a carol service at St James’s Church) and Mayfair.
• Around Bow Lane and Watling Street in the City of London. Daubed with more than 10,000 lights, these narrow streets provide a wonderful sense of London past.
• Marylebone. The lights here are well worth venturing out for. Turned on this year by Strictly Come Dancing‘s Claudia Winkleman.
• Historic West End arcades. Still a place for fashionable shopping and tasteful Christmas decor, these include the Burlington Arcade, Royal Arcade, Princes Arcade and the Piccadilly Arcade.
• And, of course, throughout London many shops have Christmas window displays. They include that of Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly which this year have a Dick Whittington theme (see our earlier post here); Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge which have gone with an oriental theme; Harrods in Brompton Road which have a Disney Princess theme; and Liberty in Great Marlborough Street which have gone with a theme inspired by the age of steam trains.
Of course, our list is by no means been comprehensive and is only confined to London’s heart – please share any other sensational Christmas decorations you’ve come across elsewhere in the city…
July 9, 2012
Located at 20 Devereux Court, just off the Strand in the area of London known as Temple, The Devereux takes its name from Elizabethan Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex, whose mansion, Essex House, once occupied the site on which it stands.
Devereux, a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, inherited the mansion from his step-father, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, in 1588 (the house was originally called Leicester House). A spectacular fall from favor which culminated in an abortive coup, however, led to Devereux’s beheading in 1601 (interestingly, he was the last person to be executed inside the Tower of London – the tower where he is held was named after him).
Used by other members of Devereux’s family following his death, a plaque outside the pub explains that the property was sold to property developer, Nicholas Barbon (also noted as the founder of fire insurance), in 1674, and that he had it demolished soon after.
The present building is said to date from 1676 and was originally two houses. Soon after its construction, it became the premises of the famous Grecian Coffee House which had moved from Wapping Old Stairs.
Noted as a meeting place for prominent Whigs, it was also frequented by members of the Royal Society such as Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Hans Sloane and Dr Edmund Halley as well as writer, poet and politician Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, editor of The Tatler (who gave the coffee house as the magazine’s postal address).
The early 1840s, the premises was into lawyers’ chambers and then later into the public house which now occupies it.
There’s a bust of Essex on the facade beneath which is written the inscription, “Devereux Court, 1676”. The pub is these days part of the Taylor-Walker group. For more, see www.taylor-walker.co.uk/pub-food/devereux-temple/pid-C7177.
For a great book on London’s pubs, take a look at London’s Best Pubs: A Guide to London’s Most Interesting & Unusual Pubs.
December 29, 2011
We’re getting down to the pointy end of the countdown now. Here’s numbers four and three in Exploring London’s list of our most popular posts for 2011…
4. Curious London Memorials – 4. The Suffragette Memorial: One of our series on curious London memorials, this looked at a memorial in St James, erected in the 1970s to mark the contribution of those who fought for women’s right to vote;
3. The Royal Wedding – London’s royal reception venue: Another of our Royal Wedding themed posts, this looked at the history of Buckingham Palace, location of the reception which took place after the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge.
March 30, 2011
Although royal connections with St James’s Park, the oldest royal park in London, go back to the time of King Henry VIII – it was he who first purchased the marshy watermeadow in 1532 with the idea of creating another of his many deer parks, it was on the accession of King James I that orders were given for the swamp to be drained and landscaped.
The landscape features included a large pool known as Rosamond’s Pond at the west end and, at the east end, a collection of waterways and islands used to attract birds that could then stock the royal larder. There was also a flower garden next to St James’s Palace (this had been built by King Henry VIII).
Among the other uses King James I had for the park were as a site to keep the royal menagerie which included exotic animals like crocodiles and camels. There were also bird aviaries placed along what is now appropriately named Birdcage Walk.
The layout of the park became more formal during the later reign of King Charles II who had been inspired by what he’d seen while in exile in France.
PICTURE: Looking across St James’s Park toward Whitehall in the snow.
WHERE: St James’s Park (nearest tube station is St James’s Park); WHEN: 5am to midnight daily; COST: Free entry; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.gov.uk/St-Jamess-Park.aspx
March 21, 2011
A 304-year-old institution, Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly is generally believed (depending, of course, on definition) to be London’s oldest department store.
Founded in 1707, it owes its establishment to the meeting of shopkeeper Hugh Mason and William Fortnum, a footman in the house of Queen Anne, who was his lodger. The story goes that their joint venture began when Fortnum began retrieving the half-used candles discarded by the royal family (they insisted on fresh candles each night) and they started selling them on to ladies at the Royal Court.
Initially founded as a grocery store, Fortnum & Mason, which moved to its current site on Piccadilly in 1756 (see picture to right), become known for its high quality and rare goods – in particular tea.
It has held numerous Royal Warrants since the mid 1800s with the first granted in 1863 when the firm was appointed as grocers to the then Prince of Wales.
A supplier of British officers during the Napoleonic Wars, it was also active during the Crimean War when Queen Victoria had shipments of “concentrated beef tea” sent to Florence Nightingale for use in her hospitals there.
Among its other claims to fame are that the first Scotch egg was created there in 1738 and that in 1886, it became the first store in Britain to stock tins of Heinz baked beans.
The massive clock which hangs on the facade of the building was commissioned in 1964 by Canadian businessman Garfield Weston who bought the business in 1951. Every hour models of Mr Fortnum and Mr Mason come forth and bow to each other.
The store, now famous for its luxury food hampers, underwent a £24 million restoration in the lead-up to its 300th anniversary in 2007. As well as the flagship store, there are now branches – “stores within stores” – in Japan. The firm also reportedly plans to open Fortnum & Mason stand-alone shops in locations like China, the Middle East and India (its last overseas stand alone store was opened on Madison Avenue in New York in the 1930s but the business was short-lived thanks to the Depression).
As well as its array of goods for sale, the Piccadilly store now houses a number of eateries including St James’s Restaurant, The Parlour, The Fountain, The Gallery and the 1707 Wine Bar.
November 22, 2010
This curiously named street in the heart of London’s St James district traces the origins of its moniker back to the 17th century when the game of “pall mall” (“pell mell” and “paille maille” being among a host of alternative spellings) was played there.
The game, mentioned by Samuel Pepys in his famous diary, involves the use of a mallet and ball similar to that used in modern croquet but, according to some commentators, pall mall was more likely a predecessor of golf than croquet, with players attempting to belt the ball as far as possible along a pitch before putting the ball through a hoop suspended high off the ground.
Pall Mall, which runs parallel to The Mall from St James’ Street in the west to Haymarket in the east with an eastern extension, Pall Mall East, completing the journey from Haymarket into the northern end of Trafalgar Square, became famous in the 19th and early 20th centuries for housing numerous ‘gentlemen’s clubs’. Among those still in business are the Travellers Club, the Athaenaeum Club, the Reform Club, the Army and Navy Club, the Oxford and Cambridge Club, and the Royal Automobile Club.
St James’s Palace sits at the street’s western end and it is of note that nearly all of the southern side of the street is still part of the Crown Estate (the exception being a home Charles II is believed to have given to the actress Nell Gwynne, who apparently sensibly demanded the freehold on the property).
Other buildings along the street include Schomberg House, built for the Duke of Schomberg in the late 17th century (only the facade of which remains), and the Sir Christopher Wren-designed Marlborough House, which is tucked in between Pall Mall and The Mall and sits opposite St James’s Palace. The National Gallery and the Royal Academy also both briefly had homes in Pall Mall.
November 10, 2010
We’re nearing the end of our series on Wren’s London (next week we’ll take a final look at some of the Wren designs we’ve not yet mentioned), so this week we look at one of his lesser known (and less accessible) designs – Marlborough House.
Tucked away behind high brick walls next to St James’ Palace just off Pall Mall, Marlborough House was built for Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough – a confidant of Queen Anne – and completed in 1711.
The duchess, who secured a lease of the site from Queen Anne, selected Sir Christopher as the architect in preference to Sir John Vanbrugh, but she later fell out with Wren and, after dismissing him, oversaw the completion of the building herself. It is believed that the design of the house was actually the work of Wren’s son, also named Christopher, although the plans were undoubtedly drawn up under Wren senior’s watchful eye.
The house, built of red Dutch bricks brought to England as ballast in troop transports, was noted for its plain design. But the walls of the central salon and staircases were decorated with scenes of battles the Duke had fought in.
The property remained in the hands of the Dukes of Marlborough until it was acquired by the Crown in 1817. The building – which was substantially extended in the mid 1800s to the designs of Sir James Pennethorne – was subsequently used by members of the royal family including Princess Charlotte (only daughter of the future King George IV) and her husband Prince Leopold (later the King of the Belgians), Queen Adelaide, widow of William IV, Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), George, Prince of Wales (later George V), King Edward VII’s widow, Queen Alexandra, and, lastly, Queen Mary, widow of George V.
Following the death of the Queen Dowager in 1953, Queen Elizabeth II donated it for use by the Commonwealth Secretariat who still occupy the building today.
WHERE: Pall Mall (nearest Tube stations are Green Park and Piccadilly); WHEN: Two hour tours are usually held every Tuesday morning (check first); WEBSITE: www.thecommonwealth.org/Internal/191086/34467/marlborough_house/
October 26, 2010
The Queen’s Life Guard at Horse Guards Parade. The parade ground, which lies between Whitehall and St James’ Park, was formerly the site of the tiltyard of the Palace of Whitehall and was the location for tournaments during the rule of Henry VIII. It now serves as the site for the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony. The men pictured (wearing blue tunics and red plumed helmets) are part of a squadron of The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons) who, along with a squadron of The Life Guards (wearing red tunics and white plumed helmets), make up the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, responsible for providing The Queen’s Life Guard. The “Horse Guards” have guarded this site – still regarded as the official entrance to St James’ Palace and Buckingham Palace – since the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 and can be seen there in the Changing of the Guard ceremony on weekdays and Sundays. For more information, visit www.army.mod.uk/events/ceremonial/2355.aspx