Gertrude Bell – an adventurer, archaeologist, mountaineer and diplomat (who was at least partially responsible for the creation of the nation of Iraq) – has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque on the Chelsea home that served as her London based for some 40 years. The three storey Georgian residence at 95 Sloane Street (pictured) belonged to Lady Olliffe, the mother of Bell’s step-mother Florence. Bell, who spent much of her time in the Middle East, used the home as her London base between 1884, when she graduated from Queen’s College, through to her last visit to London in 1925, including during an extended period in 1915 when she managed the Red Cross’s Wounded and Missing Enquiry Department’s office in Arlington Street. Meanwhile, jazz musician Ronnie Scott has also been honoured with a Blue Plaque which marks the site of his first club in Soho. Scott and fellow saxophonist Pete King opened jazz club in the basement of 39 Gerrard Street in Chinatown on 30th October, 1959 – 60 years ago this year. The club remained there for six years before moving to 47 Frith Street in 1965. Musicians including Zoot Sims, Johnny Griffin, Roland Kirk, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, Benny Golson, Ben Webster, and Al Cohn all performed at the club while patrons included Harold Pinter, the Beatles, Peter O’Toole, and Spike Milligan. For more on English Heritage Blue Plaques, visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/. PICTURE: Google Maps

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The Chelsea property where Jamaican singer-songwriter Bob Marley lived in 1977 has been given an English heritage Blue Plaque. Marley lived at the four storey terraced house at 42 Oakley Street while he and the Wailers were finishing recording their album Exodus which features hits including Jamming, Waiting in Vain, Three Little Birds and One Love. Marley, who often played football with bandmates at pitches in Battersea Park, said he regarded London as a “second base”. Among the evidence considered in deciding to award the plaque was Marley’s arrest for possession of cannabis on 10th March, 1977, along with bassist Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett. Court records have Barrett’s address as 42 Oakley Street while Marley’s is recorded as 27 Collingham Gardens. Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests he gave this address to try and prevent the police from searching Oakley Street for drugs and English Heritage says the unanimous recollection of contemporary witnesses is that Oakley Street was both the band headquarters and Marley’s primary address at the time. Other music-related identities who have been honoured with blue plaques include Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, George Frideric Handel and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/. PICTURE: 42 Oakley Street (before plaque) via Google Maps.

The history and culture of the Krio people of Sierra Leone are the subject of a new display opening at the Museum of London Docklands tomorrow. The Krios of Sierra Leone explores the dress, architecture, language, lifestyle, traditions and history of the Krio community with contemporary objects from Krio Londoners on show as well as items related to the history of British colonial rule of Sierra Leone from the museum’s collections. Highlights include a large carved wooden printing block dating from around 1800, known as a ’tillet block’, that bears the crest of the Sierra Leone Company, a silver entrée dish which was presented to Thomas Cole, acting colonial secretary of Sierra Leone and assistant superintendent of Liberated Africans, who was responsible for assisting people freed from slave ships when they arrived in the colony, and, a typical Krio dress ensemble wore by Krio women. The free exhibition can be seen until 27th September next year. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/krios.

Portraits of everyone from Sir David Attenborough to actor Tilda Swinton are on show as part of the largest ever exhibition of the work of photographer Tim Walker at the V&A. The display, Tim Walker: Wonderful Things (pictured above), features more than 150 new works inspired by the V&A’s collections and boasts more than 300 objects, encompassing photographs and the objects that inspired them as well as images of some of the biggest names in fashion – Lily Cole, Lindsey Wixson, Stella Tennant and Alexander McQueen among them – and portraits of such luminaries as Margaret Atwood, David Hockney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Claire Foy, Saoirse Ronan, Kate Moss, and artist Grayson Perry. Runs until 8th March. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.

Writers Angela Carter and Martha Gellhorn were both commemorated with English Heritage Blue Plaques earlier this month. Carter, an award-winning novelist, spent the last 16 years of her life at the property at 107, The Chase, in Clapham, and it was there she often tutored her then-student Kazuo Ishiguro and received fellow writers like JG Ballard, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie. Meanwhile, Gellhorn, a war correspondent who reported on conflicts ranging from the Spanish Civil War to the Vietnam War, was commemorated with a blue plaque on her former top floor flat in Cadogan Square where she spent the last 28 years of her life. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

The final release of tickets for this year’s New Year’s Eve fireworks go on sale from midday on Friday. Those who wish to attend the fireworks in central London must purchase a ticket priced at £10. To sign up for ticket updates and more information go to www.london.gov.uk/nye

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This Soho square was laid out in the late 17th century, possibly by Sir Christopher Wren, and by the early 1700s most of the buildings surrounding the square were complete.

The name of the square is said to be a corruption of ‘gelding’ – the area, once apparently known as Gelding Close, was previously used for the grazing of geldings (there’s also a story that the gelding was featured on a nearby inn sign which locals objected to, renaming it ‘golden’).

It was, at first, the place to be among the well-to-do – among early residents were Barbara Villiers, the Duchess of Cleveland and mistress of King Charles II, James Bridges, who became the 1st Duke of Chandos, and Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke, a favourite of Queen Anne.

By the mid 18th century, however, the trendy crowd had moved to developments further west and the square subsequently became noted for the high number of foreign delegations which made their base here, including those of Bavaria, Russia, Genoa and Portugal, as well as foreign artists including Swiss painter Angelica Kauffmann – the first female member of the Royal Academy, and Anglo-Irish painter (and later Royal Academy president) Martin Archer Shee.

Other famous residents have included dancer Elizabeth Gamberini, singer Caterina Gabrielli and Scottish anatomist John Hunter (his former home is one of two marked with English Heritage Blue Plaques in the square). Thomas Jefferson, later a US president, stayed in Golden Square during March and April, 1786, in his only visit to London.

A couple of houses in the square – then occupied by the Bavarian minister Count Haslang – were attacked during the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots. These properties were bought by James Talbot, the Roman Catholic Bishop for London, in 1788, so the Roman Catholic Church in Warwick Street could be build in the gardens behind.

The square had deteriorated somewhat by the time Charles Dickens placed it in his late 1830s story Nicholas Nickleby as the home of Ralph Nickleby, and it become the location of numerous boarding houses and small hotels as well as various professionals.

By 1900 the square had become closely connected with the wool trade with as many as 70 firms connected with it located here. Several such firms are apparently still located here but the square is better known these days for companies associated with the movie business.

The middle of the square was dug up for an air raid shelter in World War II but it was paved afterwards and the statue of King George II, attributed to John Van Nost and erected here in 1753 as part of beautification project (it has been suggested the statue actually represents King Charles II but that remains a matter of conjecture), returned to its place in the middle.

None of the original houses now remain but there are a number of residences which still have at least elements dating from late 18th century rebuilds including numbers 11, 21, 23 and 24.

PICTURE: Top – David Iliff (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0); Right – David Adams; Below – RozSheffield (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Exhibitions exploring why culture and heritage are attacked during times of war and how cultural treasures in British museums and galleries were protected during World War II open at London’s Imperial War Museum on Friday. What Remains – which highlights both historic and contemporary instances in which buildings, places, art and artefacts have been deliberately targeted during times of conflict as well as examples of resistance, protection and restoration, and, Art in Exile – which looks at the role UK cultural organisations have played in wartime, are both part of Culture Under Attack, a free season of events that explore how war threatens cultural heritage. Also launching as part of Culture Under Attack this week is Rebel Sounds, an immersive exhibition that reveals how music has been used to resist and rebel against war and oppression with examples from Nazi Germany in the 1930s, Northern Ireland in the 1970s, Serbia in the 1990s and present day Mali. All three displays run until 5th January. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk/seasons/culture-under-attack. PICTURE: British Army poster from 1943, created to educate and inform its soldiers of the importance of respecting property, including cultural heritage (© IWM)

• Sir Arthur Pearson, newspaper publisher and founder of St Dunstan’s (Blind Veterans UK), has been remembered with an English Heritage Blue Plaque. The plaque was unveiled at his now Grade II*-listed home on Portland Place in Marylebone last week, the place where he lived with his wife and some of the blinded servicemen supported by St Dunstan’s in the later years of World War I and those following. Pearson had made a fortune as a press magnate, founding the Daily Express in 1900 and later purchasing The Evening Standard but his attention turned to campaigning for the blind after he was told he would lose his sight in 1913. For more on English Heritage Blue Plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

The largest ever exhibition of the work of pioneering Greek artist Takis (Panayiotis Vassilakis) has opened at the Tate Modern this week. Takis features more than 70 works by the self-taught artist – renowned as a “sculptor of magnetism, light and sound” –  including a rarely-seen Magnetic Fields installation, a series of musical devices generating resonant and random sounds, and forests of his antenna-like Signals. Can be seen until 27th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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A sapphire and diamond coronet made for Queen Victoria goes on permanent display in the V&A’s William and Judith Bollinger Gallery from today. The new display is being unveiled as part of the V&A’s commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the births of the Queen and her husband, Prince Albert. The coronet was designed for the Queen by Prince Albert in 1840, the year they were married. Albert based the design on the Saxon Rautenkranz (circlet of rue) which runs diagonally across the coat of arms of Saxony. Victoria wore the coronet in a famous portrait by Franz Xavier Winterhalter completed in 1842 and again in 1866 when she wore it instead of her crown at the opening of Parliament. Entrance to the gallery is free. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.

A major new exhibition of the work of Edvard Munch (1863-1944) opens at the British Museum in Bloomsbury today. Edvard Munch: love and angst, a collaboration with Norway’s Munch Museum, features 83 artworks taken from the museum’s collection as well as loans from across the UK and Europe. Highlights include a black-and-white lithograph of The Scream – the first time any version of the work has been on show in the UK for a decade, Vampire II – considered to be one of his most elaborate and technically accomplished prints, the controversial erotic image Madonna, and, Head by Head, a print representing the complex relationship between human beings. All of the latter three latter prints are being displayed alongside their original matrix (the physical objects Munch used to transfer ink onto paper). Runs until 21st July in the Sir Joseph Hotung Exhibition Gallery. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org. (PICTURE: The Scream (1895), Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Private Collection, Norway. Photo: Thomas Widerberg)

A retrospective of the work of Abram Games (1914-1996), a poster artist for the War Office during World War II, has opened at the National Army Museum in Chelsea. The Art of Persuasion: Wartime Posters By Abram Games features more than 100 posters he designed while working in the War Office’s Public Relations Department between 1941 and 1945. It explores how his Jewish refugee heritage, his experiences while a soldier and the turbulent politics of the time shaped his career and how his work – Games is described as a “master of reductive design” – still influences design professionals today. In conjunction with the opening of the exhibition last week, Games has been commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at his former home in Golders Green. Runs until 24th November. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nam.ac.uk/artofpersuasion.

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A cache of papers and items found in Vincent Van Gogh’s former south London home – and dating from 1873-74, the period he lodged there – have shed new light on his time in the city.
The papers, which include insurance documents, a small pamphlet of prayers and hymns, and scraps of paper painted with watercolour flowers (probably not the work of Van Gogh), were found under the floorboards and between the attic timbers of the house at 87 Hackford Road in Stockwell. They were discovered during a renovation of the early Victorian terraced house in which Van Gogh lived in while working as an assistant for an art dealer in Covent Garden. During the period he stayed at the house, it has been suggested that the Dutch artist fell in love with Eugénie Loyer, the 19-year-old daughter of his landlord (although his love was apparently not reciprocated). He also apparently became devoutly Christian during his time there (perhaps explaining the prayer pamphlet). The home’s current owners Jian Wang, a former professional violinist who originally hails from China, and his wife Alice Childs have reportedly been renovating the property in order to use it as a base for visiting Chinese artists in collaboration with the nearby San Mei Gallery. For more on the house, see www.vangoghhouse.co.uk. A near life-size photograph of the facade of the Hackford Road house forms part of Tate Britain’s upcoming display The EY Exhibition: Van Gogh in Britain which opens later this month (more on that shortly). PICTURE: An English Heritage Blue Plaque adorning the house (Spudgun67 – licensed under CC BY 2.0).

News last month that the remains of early 19th century explorer Matthew Flinders had been found beneath Euston railway station. But just who was Flinders and what, aside from being the location of his burial, were his connections to London?

Flinders was not a native Londoner by birth – he was born on 16th March, 1774, in Donington, Lincolnshire, the son of a surgeon-apothecary and educated in local schools. He joined the Royal Navy at the age of 15, serving first on HMS Alert as a lieutenant’s servant and several other ships including the HMS Providence, captained by William Bligh (of mutiny on the Bounty fame) on a voyage taking breadfruit from Tahiti to Jamaica. He also subsequently saw action while on the HMS Bellerophon in 1794, when the ship was involved in the Battle of the Glorious First of June against the French in the English Channel.

In 1795, he served as a master’s mate on the HMS Reliance which sailed to New South Wales with the mission of delivering its new governor, John Hunter.

As well as establishing a reputation as a navigator and cartographer on the voyage, he became friends with the ship’s surgeon George Bass. After arriving at Port Jackson in New South Wales, Flinders undertook two expeditions with Bass in small boats dubbed the Tom Thumb and Tom Thumb II – the first to Botany Bay and the Georges River and the second to Lake Illawarra.

In 1798, now a lieutenant and based in New South Wales, Flinders was given command of the sloop Norfolk with the aim of proving Van Diemen’s Land (now the state of Tasmania) was an island. He did so and named the strait between it and the Australian mainland after his friend Bass (the largest island in the strait would later be named Flinders Island).

In 1799, he sailed the Norfolk north to Moreton Bay before in March, 1800, returning to England on the Reliance.

Thanks to the advocacy of Sir Joseph Banks, to whom Flinders had dedicated his text Observations on the Coasts of Van Diemen’s Land, on Bass’s Strait, etc, in January, 1801, Flinders was given command of HMS Investigator and, subsequently promoted to commander, given the mission of charting the coastline of the Australian continent, then known as New Holland.

Having married his longtime friend Ann Chappelle on 17th April, 1801, he set sail for New Holland on 18th July of that year (without Ann – he had intended taking her on the journey but ordered to remove her from the ship by the Admiralty).

Flinders reached and named Cape Leeuwin in what is now Western Australia on 6th December and then proceeded eastward along the continent’s southern coast. He met the French explorer Nicolas Baudin, aboard the Geographe, in what he named Encounter Bay, named Port Lincoln and Kangaroo Island in what is now South Australia and further to the east spent time exploring the environs of Port Philip Bay (around the modern city of Melbourne). He proceeded north to Sydney, arriving on 9th May, 1802, setting sail again on 22nd July.

Heading northward, he surveyed the coast of what is now Queensland before, having charted the Gulf of Carpentaria, discovering his ship was badly leaking. Unable to undertake repairs, he decided to return to Sydney but did so via the west coast of the continent, thus completing the first documented circumnavigation of it. Back in Sydney, the Investigator was found to be unseaworthy and condemned.

Unable to find another vessel to continue his explorations and hearing of his father’s death and wife’s illness back in England, Flinders looked return home as a passenger aboard the HMS Porpoise. But the Porpoise was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef and Flinders undertook the role of navigating the ship’s cutter back across open sea to Sydney so the remainder of the ship’s crew could be rescued.

He was then given command of the HMS Cumberland to return to England but the poor condition of that ship forced him to put into the French controlled Isle de France (Mauritius) for repairs on 17th December, 1803. War had broken out between England and France and Flinders was detained (it was during his period of detainment – he was allowed to venture around the island after the first few months – that he sent back to England a map of the Australian continent, the only one in which he used the name “Australia” for the title. While he wasn’t the first to use the name Australia, he is credited with popularising it).

Flinders wasn’t released until June, 1810, after a Royal Navy blockade of the island (despite being granted his release by the French Government in 1806, authorities on Mauritius decided to keep holding him). Travelling via the Cape of Good Hope, he returned to England where he was promoted to post-captain.

On returning to home, Flinders, now in poor health, and his wife Ann lived at several rental properties in London – there’s an English Heritage Blue Plaque on one former property at 56 Fitzroy Street in Fitzrovia, central London – and had a daughter Anna (her son Matthew Flinders Petrie, later Sir Flinders Petrie, would go on to become a famous archaeologist and Egyptologist).

It was during this period that Flinders wrote a book about his voyages, A Voyage to Terra Australis. It was published on 18th July. Remarkably, Flinders died of kidney failure just a day later. He was buried on 23rd July in the graveyard of St James’s Church, Piccadilly, which was located up in Camden.

The location of his grave was later forgotten when the headstone was removed and the site became gardens, part of which were subsequently built over by Euston station. Famously, of course, his body was found last month during excavations conducted ahead of the construction of the Euston terminus for the high-speed rail link, HS2, between London and Bristol.

Flinders legacy lives on in the more than 100 geographical place names bearing his moniker in Australia including the iconic Flinders Street Railway Station in Victoria and the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. There’s also a statue of him in his home town of Donington and in July, 2014, the 200th anniversary of his death, a large bronze statue by Mark Richards depicting Flinders and his cat Trim (we’ll deal with Trim’s story in an upcoming post) was unveiled at Australia House by Prince William. It was later installed at Euston Station near where his grave was assumed to be (pictured above).

PICTURE: AndyScott (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

This year marks 200 years since the publication of Mary Shelley’s book, Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, so it’s timely to have a look at the life of this famous Londoner.

Shelley was born on 30th August, 1797, in Somers Town, London, to feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft and political philosopher, novelist and journalist William Godwin. Her mother died soon after her birth, leaving her upbringing to Godwin (and his second wife Mary Jane Clairmont who apparently didn’t get on with Mary).

While she received little formal education, she was tutored in a range of subjects – everything from literature to art, French and Latin – by her father and visiting tutors. Godwin described her as having a great desire for knowledge.

She first met her future husband, the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, while still a teenager. Shelley, who was estranged from his wife, had struck up a friendship with her father and was subsequently a regular visitor to their house.

Mary and Percy began secretly meeting each other at Mary Wollstonecraft’s grave in St Pancras Churchyard and then on 28th June, 1814, the couple eloped to France, taking Mary’s step-sister Claire Clairmont with them but leaving Shelley’s pregnant wife behind.

They went on to Paris and then, through war-ravaged France, to Switzerland. At Lucerne, however, a lack of money forced them to turn back and they returned to London where Mary’s father refused to have anything to do with her.

Now pregnant, Mary and Shelley moved into lodgings with Claire in Somers Town and later in Nelson Square where they were known for entertaining his friends. Shelley’s wife, meanwhile, gave birth to his son – something that must have been hard for Mary – and it is believed that he was also a lover of Mary’s step-sister Claire.

Mary gave birth to her first child, a daughter, on 22nd February, 1815, but she died just 12 days later. That same year, the death of Shelley’s grandfather brought himself considerable wealth and with their financial situation now relieved, in August, 1815, they moved to Bishopgate, in Windsor Great Park. In January, 1816, Mary gave birth to her second child, a son, William.

In May, 1816, the couple travelled with their son William and Mary’s step-sister Claire to Geneva in Switzerland where they hoped to improve Percy’s health. It was during the time they spent there that a ghost-writing contest in June, 1818, led her to write what would be the basis of the novel Frankenstein – credited with introducing genre of science fiction into English literature.

Returning to England, the Shelley’s took up residence in Bath (Clairmont was pregnant by Lord Byron and they wanted to keep this from the Godwins). Harriet Shelley, Percy’s estranged wife, drowned herself in the Thames on 9th November and it was following that, that on 30th December, Mary and Percy married at St Mildred’s Church in London with Mary’s father and step-mother as witnesses.

In March, 1817, the Shelley’s took up residence in Marlow where Mary gave birth to second daughter, Clara Everina Shelley, on 2nd September. Then in March, 1818, the family – along with Claire Clairmont and her daughter – travelled to Italy where it was hoped the warmer climate would help Shelley, who had been diagnosed with pulmonary disease.

There they lived at various addresses and were in Venice when Clara died of dysentery on 24th September, 1818. They traveled to Rome in April the following year and there, on 7th June, William died of malaria, leaving the couple devastated.

Their fourth child and only surviving child, Percy Florence Shelley, was born in Florence on 12th November. Their Italian sojourn continued for the next couple of years until, on 8th July, 1822, Percy Shelley and his friend Edward Williams were drowned in a squall in the Gulf of Spezia.

Determined to show she could write and look after her son, Mary Shelley returned to England in mid-1823 and lived in The Strand with her father and stepmother until in the summer of 1824 she moved to Kentish Town. Her novel, The Last Man, was published in 1826 followed by The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck (1830), Lodore (1835), and Falkner (1837) as well as working on numerous other writing projects.

Shelley never remarried although she was linked to various men romantically including American actor John Howard Payne whose offer of marriage she rejected.

After her son Percy left university in 1841, he came to live with her and between 1840 and 1842 Shelley travelled to various locations in Europe with her son. Sir Timothy Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s father, died in 1844 with the result that Shelley and her son were now financially independent.

Percy married Jane Gibson St John in 1848 and Mary lived her son and daughter-in-law, splitting their times between the ancestral Shelley home – Field Place in Sussex – and Chester Square in London as well as accompanying them on their travels overseas.

Shelley suffered considerable illness in the last years of her life – including debilitating headaches and bouts of paralysis in her body – before on 1st February, 1851, she died at the age of 53 from a suspected brain tumour at the Chester Square property.

She had asked to be buried with her mother and father, but Percy and Jane instead buried her at St Peter’s Church in Bournemouth closer to their home. In order to fulfill her wishes, they had the bodies of her parents exhumed from St Pancras graveyard and reburied with her.

Despite gaining respect as a writer in her own lifetime, Shelley’s reputation in the literary arts was overshadowed by that of Percy’s after her death. But in more recent decades her overall writing career has come to be more closely examined and applauded.

If you missed it, for more on Mary Shelley’s links with London, see our special series 10 sites from Mary Shelley’s London.

PICTURE: Mary Shelley by Richard Rothwell (oil on canvas, exhibited 1840/NPG 1235). © National Portrait Gallery, London (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)


Dame Judi Dench has called for the public to nominate “women you admire” for more English Heritage blue plaques in London.
Dame Judi (here pictured at the 2017 unveiling of a blue plaque commemorating actor Sir John Gielgud) call comes after news that women make up just 14 per cent of the more than 900 blue plaques in London. “So far the scheme honours some brilliant women; Florence Nightingale, Ava Gardner and the Pankhursts, but there are many, many more unsung female heroes who deserve recognition,” Dame Judi said. “So nominate the women you admire, the women who did great and remarkable things throughout history, and the women who did not go quietly. English Heritage needs your help.” The most recent woman to appear on a blue plaque is actor Margaret Lockwood. A popular actor in the 1930s and 1940s, Lockwood (1916-1990) was the star of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938) and lived at 14 Highland Road in Upper Norwood after moving to London as a child in the 1920s. To make your nomination, head to www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/. PICTURES: English Heritage.

 

We’ve come to the end of our series on significant London sites related to Mary Shelley – in honour of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein – so it’s time for a quick recap before launching our next Wednesday series…

1. Somers Town…

2. St Pancras Old Churchyard…

3. Marchmont Street, Somers Town…

4. Church of St Mildred, Bread Street

5. The Temple of the Muses, Finsbury Square…

6. St Giles-in-the-Fields…

7. Charles and Mary Lamb’s house…

8. Chester Square…

9. A lock of Mary Shelley’s hair…

10. Memorials to Percy Bysshe Shelley…

 

 

And so we come to the final in our series looking at London sites which tell part of the story of Mary Shelley, writer of Frankenstein, the book which this year marks its 200th anniversary. Of course, one of the most influential figures in her life was her husband, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, so to finish the series, we’re taking a quick look at three sites memorialising him in London…

1.  Poland Street, Soho. Shelley lived at number 15 after he was expelled from Oxford University in 1811 for publishing a pamphlet on atheism. He wasn’t here long – in August he eloped with Harriet Westbrook, then just 16, to Scotland. The building, which stands on the corner with Noel Street, features an English Heritage Blue Plaque and there’s a massive mural on its side, Ode to the West Wind, which takes its name from a poem he wrote in 1819. It was painted by Louise Vines in 1989. PICTURE: Google Maps.

2. Broadwick Street, Soho. The impressive Spirit of Soho mural on the corner with Carnaby Street was created in 1991 and restored in 2006. It features the images of numerous famous figures from the district’s history. As well as the likes of Casanova and Marx, Shelley also features – located a couple of people to the right of Casanova (here seen in red) at the base of the mural’s central panel. PICTURE: Dun.can (image cropped; licensed under CC BY 2.0)

3. Westminster Abbey. There’s no memorial to Mary Shelley in Westminster Abbey but in Poet’s Corner – located in the South Transept – you will find a small memorial to her husband. The joint memorial (which also commemorates John Keats) was designed by sculptor Frank Dobson and unveiled in 1954 by then Poet Laureate John Masefield. It simply features two plaques – one bearing the name Shelley and the other Keats with their birth and death years – linked by a “swag of flowers” attached to a lyre at the top of each plaque.

And that brings and end to our series on Mary Shelley’s London (although, of course there are still more sites associated with Shelley to explore!) . We’ll recap the series next week before launching our next Wednesday special series…

One of the still standing properties most associated with Mary Shelley in London (hence the English Heritage Blue Plaque), Shelley lived in this home at 24 Chester Square, on the square’s north-west side, from 1846 until her death in 1851.

Mary moved here for the last few years of her life after her son Percy (a child she had with now deceased husband Percy Bysshe Shelley) had come into a substantial inheritance following the death of his grandfather in 1844.

During this period, she spent her time between this house which had been relatively recently built by Thomas Cubitt, and the Shelley’s ancestral home at Field Place, Sussex, where her son Percy Florence and his wife Jane lived.

Shelley was 53 when she died here on 1st February, 1851, of a suspected brain tumour. She had apparently asked to be buried with her parents in the graveyard of St Pancras Old Church but instead was buried at St Peter’s Church in Bournemouth close to her son’s new home in Boscombe. Her son had her parents exhumed and buried with her there.

The Blue Plaque was installed on this property in 2003 and unveiled by her biographer Miranda Seymour.

PICTURE: Spudgun67 (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0).

 

Renowned sibling writers Charles and Mary Lamb lived in a property at 64 Duncan Terrace in Islington from 1823-27 and, their visitors there apparently included Mary Shelley.

Shelley had returned to London in 1823 after the death of her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley who had drowned along with two other men off the coast of Italy in July the previous year.

Back in London, Shelley lived in various properties as far afield as Kentish Town – many of which are no longer extant. But one home she was known to have visited after her return (which is still standing) was that of the Lambs.

Charles, part of the literary circle which included Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, described the property – Colebrook Cottage – as a “white house with six good rooms”. Now Grade II-listed, it dates from the 18th century.

The New River once ran close by  – so close, in fact, that one guest, believed to be the blind poet George Dyer, walked into the river after leaving the house and had to be rescued by Lamb. The river is now covered.

The property features an English Heritage Blue Plaque (although in this case, it’s actually brown), commemorating Lamb’s stay here.

PICTURE: Spudgun67 (licensed under CC BY 2.0).

 

Jousting returns to Hampton Court Palace this weekend with visitors invited to join King Henry VIII and his court as they watch this sporting spectacle. Along with the thrills and spills of the tourney, visitors can also partake of the delights of Tudor food and music and a specially commissioned play featuring chief minister Thomas Cromwell as he prepares a royal banquet to celebrate the king’s marriage to Anne of Cleves. The event kicks off with a royal procession in which knights will greet the king with a display of heraldic pageantry before they head to the jousting arena at the East Front Gardens. Admission charge applies. Runs on 14th and 15th July. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk. PICTURE: A previous jousting event at Hampton Court Palace (David Adams).

Venture into the hidden world of shadows in a major new exhibition opening at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington on Friday. Afraid of the dark? takes visitors deep into underground caves, to the depths of the oceans and into the pitch blackness of night as it recreates habitats usually hidden from view and presents hundreds of incredible creatures, some brand new to science, which have adapted to a life without sunlight. The sensory display allows visitors to touch some of Britain’s nocturnal animals, hear the sounds of the deep sea, smell the distinctive aromas of a bat cave and see through the eyes of a cave boa using infrared technology. Runs until 6th January. Admission charge applies (children aged up to 16 are free). For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk.

Bauhaus designers and teachers Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer and László Moholy-Nagy have been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at the Belsize Park home where they lived and worked in the 1930s. Gropius (1883-1969) founded the art school known as Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar in 1919 with Breuer (1902-1981), who initially joined as a student before becoming director of furniture workshops in 1924, and Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) who joined the staff in 1923 and edited the house magazine and 14 books. All three went on to have successful careers in the field of design and architecture and live in flats in the Grade I-listed Isokon Building, completed in 1934 and originally known as the Lawn Road Flats, in Belsize Park. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

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The campaign for women to be able to vote and stand as representatives in Parliament is the subject of an exhibition opening at the Houses of Parliament. Staged in Westminster Hall, Voice & Vote: Women’s Place in Parliament features historic objects, pictures and archives from Parliamentary collections and elsewhere with the “immersive” recreation of some of the lost historical spaces in the Palace of Westminster among the highlights. These include ‘The Ventilator’ – a space above the House of Commons Chamber where women, banned from the public galleries, watched and listened to Parliamentary debates, ‘The Cage’ – a ladies gallery closed off by brass grills built as part of the House of Commons when it was reconstructed after the 1834 fire, and ‘The Tomb’ – a room for women MPs after the 1918 decision allowing them to stand for Parliament. The exhibition, which is free to attend, runs from until 6th October. Tickets have to be pre-booked via Parliament’s website. PICTURE: Michael D Beckwith/Unsplash

The final commissioned portrait of popstar Michael Jackson is among images on show in a new National Portrait Gallery exhibition exploring his influence on contemporary art. Along that work – Kehinde Wiley’s 2010 work Equestrian Portrait of King Philip II (Michael Jackson), the exhibition Michael Jackson: On the Wall features American artist and activist Faith Ringgold’s story quilt Who’s Bad?, a series of collages by Isaac Julien, and a ‘dinner jacket’ covered with forks, spoons and knives made by costume designer Michael Lee Bush as well as a pop-graffiti style portrait by Keith Haring, on show for the first time in 30 years. Among new works created specially for the exhibition are a line drawing by artist Michael Craig-Martin which is based on the image of 11-year-old Michael used for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in April, 1971, and a large-scale painting by Yan Pei Ming, In Memory of Michel Jackson. Opening today, the exhibition can be seen until 21st October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

World War I artist CRW Nevinson and his father, journalist Henry Nevinson, have both been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque. The plaque was unveiled at a property at 4 Downside Crescent in Hampstead where the Nevinson family lived between 1903 and 1941 before bombing raids made the home uninhabitable. Richard “CRW” Nevinson (1889-1946) was one of the most famous artists of the Great War and used a variety of styles, including Futurism and Cubism, to capture the brutality of the war based on his experience while serving briefly with the  Royal Army Medical Corps in France (before he was sent home in 1915 for rheumatic pain). His father, who reported on the Boer War and World War I, was known as “the king of war correspondents” and was a champion of universal suffrage. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

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Marking 100 years since the end of World War I, a new exhibition opening at the Tate Britain on Tuesday explores the immediate impact of the war on British, German and French art including an examination of how artists responded to Europe’s new physical and psychological scars. Aftermath: Art in the Wake of World War One features more than 150 works spanning the period from 1916 to 1932 by artists including George Grosz, Fernand Léger and CRW Nevinson. They range from battlefield landscapes and images of soldiers’ graves – such as William Orpen’s A Grave in a Trench (1917) and Paul Jouve’s Tombe d’un soldat serbe a Kenali (1917) – to sculptural public memorials commemorating the conflict by the likes of Käthe Kollwitz, André Mare and Charles Sargeant Jagger and more personal memorials created using battlefield relics like shrapnel and mortar shells as well as images depicting the wounded and disabled in the post-war world such as George Grosz’s Grey Day (1921) and Otto Dix’s Prostitute and Disabled War Veteran (1923). The display also features works relating to the birth of dada and surrealism – among those featured are Hannah Höch’s data photomontages – and looks at how the rebuilding of post war society inspired artists like Georges Braque, Christian Schad and Winifred Knights to return to classicism and tradition while pushing others, like Léger, Paul Citroen and Nevinson to create visions of a technological future. Opening on 5th June, it runs until 16th September at the Millbank site. For more, see www.tate.org.uk. PICTURE: George Grosz (1893-1959), Grey Day (1921), Oil paint on canvas, 1150 x 800 mm, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie. Acquired by the Federal State of Berlin. © Estate of George Grosz, Princeton, N.J. 2018.

The story of Jamaican feminist poet Una Marson – the first black woman employed by the BBC, Trinidadian JJ Thomas’ scathing rebuttal of English colonialism, and, manuscripts of Andrea Levy’s novel Small Island are among highlights of a new exhibition at the British Library. Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land marks 70 years since the MV Empire Windrush first carried hundreds of migrants to London and explores why they came, what they left behind and how they came to shape Britain. The free exhibition in the library’s Entrance Hall on Euston Road, which opens Friday, also features Benjamin Zephaniah’s poem What Stephen Lawrence Has Taught Us, personal reflections from some of the first Caribbean nurses to join the NHS and sounds of the Caribbean including jazz to calypso music. Runs until 21st October. For more, see www.bl.uk.

Join in a celebration of London’s ‘grassroots music’ in June. Sounds Like London features more than 200 gigs across the capital including a series of gigs aimed at raising money for the Music Venue Trust’s Emergency Response service which supports grassroots music venues threatened by closure, 11 ‘Airbnb Concerts’ and X-pose, an event showcasing the capital’s leading deaf musicians and DJs. The full programme of events can be found at www.london.gov.uk/sounds-like-london.

The political orator, writer and elocutionist John Thelwall (1764-1834) has been commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque located on the site of his pioneering institution of elocution. Thelwall, described as one of the most popular and effective orators of his day and known as a champion of free speech and universal suffrage as well as being a fierce critic of the French Revolution, opened his ‘Seminary for the cultivation of the science and practice of elocution, and the cure of impediments of speech’ at 40 Bedford Place in Bloomsbury in 1806. The Grade II-listed property, now in use as a hotel, was newly built at the time. The institution remained at the site for seven years before moving to Lincoln’s Inn Fields. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/

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A unique collection of contemporary botanical art from The Florilegium Society at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia, has opened at The Shirley Sherwood Gallery in Kew Gardens. Among several exhibitions marking the gallery’s 10th anniversary, this display features life-sized works by 64 Australian and international artists of the society (the name florilegium means ‘a gathering of flowers’). Meanwhile, a showcase of botanical works by Australian and New Zealand painters selected by Dr Shirley Sherwood from among her collection has also gone on show. Down Under II: Works from the Shirley Sherwood Collection follows an earlier exhibition in 1998. And finally, with the Temperate House set to reopen next month after a five year restoration, the gallery is also hosting Plans and plants – the making of the Temperate House which takes a look at the history of this Victorian-era landmark through plans, drawings and photographs taken from Kew’s archives. All three displays can be seen until 16th September. Admission included with Gardens entry.  For more, see www.kew.org. PICTURE: Banksia praemorsa by Margaret Pieroni. The Florilegium Society at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney.

Sir Hugh Carlton Greene, director-general of the BBC during the 1960s, has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at his former home in Holland Park. Greene (1910-1987) lived in the two-storey semi-detached home at 25 Addison Avenue between 1956 and 1967, a period which mostly coincided with his time as director-general. A former journalist and younger brother to novelist Graham Greene, he had joined the BBC in 1940 and was appointed director-general in 1960, remaining in the post for more than nine years before resigning in 1969. He presided over the BBC during a period in which the broadcaster was forced to reinvent itself following the arrival of ITV. The plaque was unveiled by veteran broadcaster, naturalist and former colleague, Sir David Attenborough. For more on Blue Plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

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Women’s suffrage advocate Millicent Garrett Fawcett will become the first woman to be honoured with a statue in Westminster’s Parliament Square next month to mark the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 1918 act which gave women the vote for the first time. But who exactly was she?

Born in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, on 11th June, 1847, Millicent Garrett was the daughter of Newson Garrett, a merchant and shipowner, and his wife Louisa – the eighth of their 10 children.

At the age of 12, in 1858, she went to London with her older sister Elizabeth (who would go on to become Britain’s first female doctor) to study at a private boarding school in Blackheath. A key moment came seven years later in 1865 when she went to hear a speech by radical MP John Stuart Mills who spoke of equal rights for women.

Fawcett was deeply impacted and became actively involved in his campaign. When she was just 18, Millicent was introduced via Mills to Henry Fawcett, MP for Brighton and women’s rights activist and the two became close friends before, despite an age difference of 14 years, marrying on 23rd April, 1867. As well as caring for her husband who had been blinded in a shooting accident some 10 years before they were wed, Millicent took up a role as his secretary.

In 1868, Millicent gave birth to their only child, Philippa, and the family spent their time between two households – one in London (at 51 The Lawn on the site of what is now Vauxhall Park) and the other in Cambridge (where she later became a co-founder of Newnham College).

Meanwhile, with her husband’s encouragement, she was also pursuing her own writing career, penning the popular short book, Political Economy for Beginners, which was published in 1870, as well as becoming a well-known public speaker on a range of issues including women’s rights.

While when her husband – then Postmaster General – died of pleurisy on 6th November, 1884, Millicent temporarily withdrew from public life (it was after Henry’s death that, as per his wishes, Vauxhall Park was created on the site of his former home). But the years following saw her become increasingly engaged in activities in support of women’s suffrage.

She was involved in the formation of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) in 1897 – it went on to become the largest group of its kind with 50,000 members by 1913 – and would later become its president, a post she would hold until after World War I.

Fawcett’s interests, however, also saw her involved in campaigns to curb child abuse, to end child marriage and the “white slave trade” as well as the formation of a relief fund for South African women and children affected by the Boer War (in 1901 she visited South Africa as head of a commission charged with reporting on conditions in concentration camps).

When some groups advocating for women’s suffrage started to take more violent action – which included breaking windows and hunger strikes when jailed, Fawcett argued against such militancy and remained among the moderates, convinced that women would eventually win the vote as a result of the changes taking place in society.

Suffrage activism was interrupted thanks to World War I but the role women played in support of the war effort saw opinion shift enough for, in 1918, the passing of the Representation of the People Act, which gave women aged over 30 voting rights.

In 1919, Fawcett retired from active engagement in politics. She was appointed a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire in 1925.

Fawcett witnessed the passing of an act to give women equal voting rights to men in 1928 – 10 years after the first act – before dying, at the age of 82, at her home at 2 Gower Street in Bloomsbury, London, on 5th August, 1929 (there’s a Blue Plaque on the property where she had lived for more than 45 years – pictured above). She was cremated at Golders Green but there is a memorial to both her and her husband in Westminster Abbey.

The Fawcett Society, which has carried her name since 1953, continues to fight sexism and gender inequality in the UK, campaigning on issues such as closing the gender pay gap.

Soldiers of African and Caribbean descent who fought for the British Empire in the 19th century as part of the West India Regiments are the subject of a new display at the Museum of London Docklands. Fighting for Empire: From Slavery to Military Service in the West India Regiments focuses particularly on the story of Private Samuel Hodge, the first soldier of African-Caribbean descent to receive the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military honour. Central to the display in the museum’s ‘London, Sugar & Slavery’ gallery, is Louis William Desanges’ painting, The Capture of the Tubabakolong, Gambia 1866 (pictured above), which gives greater prevalence to the British commanding officer Colonel George D’Arcy than to Hodge and which was never displayed with Desanges’ other military paintings in the Victoria Cross Gallery at the Crystal Palace in the 1870s. The exhibition also includes prints, ephemera and maps. Runs until 9th September next year. Admission is free. Meanwhile, this weekend the museum is hosting a Maritime Music Festival celebrating the Docklands’ proud maritime heritage. The festival offers the opportunity to try your hand at a poetry rhyming session, learn knot tying skills and listen to sea shanty crews performing. The festival runs from noon to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday. Entry is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands.

An English Heritage Blue Plaque has been unveiled at the former South Kensington home of artist Francis Bacon. Bacon moved to the converted Victorian coach house at 7 Reece Mews in 1961. He kept a studio on the first floor and lived at the property, described as “insanely eccentric”, until his death in 1992. Among significant works he completed there was his first large-scale triptych, Three Studies for a Crucifixion, in 1962 as well as portraits including his 1966 work Portrait of George Dyer Talking. Six years after Bacon’s death in 1992, his studio and its entire contents – including the walls, doors, floor and ceiling – were removed and recreated in The Hugh Lane Gallery in the city of his birth, Dublin. The property is today in the care of  The Estate of Francis Bacon. Meanwhile, another Blue Plaque was unveiled this week, this time commemorating Sister Nivedita. She was one of the most influential female figures in India, an Indian independence campaigner and someone who helped introduce Hindu philosophies to a western audience. The plaque can be found at 21A High Street in Wimbledon, where Nivedita stayed with Swami Vivekananda in 1899. For more on Blue Plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

The first UK exhibition dedicated to the works Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela has opened at The National Gallery. Lake Keitele: A Vision of Finland centres on the work titled Lake Keitele which, acquired by the gallery in 1999, is one of four versions, all of which have been reunited for the first time in the UK in this display. They are some of the dozen or so works in the exhibition which spans 30 years of Gallen-Kallela’s career. The free show, which can be seen in Room 1 until 4th February, marks the centenary of Finland’s independence. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

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