London’s largest arts festival, VAULT, kicks off next Wednesday in Waterloo with more than 400 shows on offer. Taking place across a range of venues including the main festival hub, The Vaults below Waterloo Station, as well as pop-ups in shipping containers, caravans and escape rooms and the festival’s new space for immersive events – Unit 9, highlights of the seventh festival include the Belarus Free Theatre’s production of the immersive Ukrainian folk opera Counting Sheep, the Lucy Jane Atkinson-directed play Vespertilio, and the comedy of Ciarán Dowd – winner of “best newcomer” at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards. There’s also a twilight program – featuring the VAULT Comedy Showcase – from 10pm on Thursdays and Fridays and a series of Lates including Launch Party: Hype Time featuring the eight-piece New Orleans band Brass Funkeys,  blues band Slow Mojo and special guest DJs including Hazel Marimba. The festival runs from 23rd January to 17th March, from Wednesdays to Sundays (times vary). For a full programme of events and tickets, head to vaultfestival.com. PICTURE: VAULT Festival’s 2019 “class photo” (courtesy of VAULT)

• The joy found in communities making music together is explored in a new exhibition which opened at the Barbican Music Library in the City of London this week. Making Music Together: A celebration of leisure-time music in the UK shows how 13,000 leisure-time groups gather to play and perform a wide range of music – from jazz and folk to classical and barbershop – in locations ranging from houses and garages to halls, theatres and fields across the country. The exhibition, held in conjunction with Making Music – the UK’s largest organisation for leisure-time music, will feature posters, films and quotes by contributing Making Music member groups as well as specially commissioned portraits of leisure-time musicians. Runs until 23rd March. Free admission. For more, see www.barbican.org.uk/your-visit/general-info/library.

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2019 is upon us so we at Exploring London would like to take the opportunity to wish all our readers a very Happy New Year! We look forward to bringing you fascinating new stories about London’s history and culture in the year to come.

Meanwhile, here are the two most popular (new) posts of 2018…

2. Treasures of London – The Great Hall at Eltham Palace…

1. A Moment in London’s History – The execution of the George, Duke of Clarence…

PICTURE: © ENGLAND’S HISTORIC CITIES (New Year’s Eve fireworks from 2014).

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2018

 

 

Wishing all our readers a very Merry Christmas and a great start to 2019!

 

 

 

PICTURE: Christmas tree in St James (KotomiCreations (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0))

Trafalgar Square bedecked for Christmas with its famous Norwegian tree. PICTURE: Ben Pipe Photography via London Partners.

Visitors to Hampton Court Palace will be transported back to 1906 from Saturday as the palace community prepares for Christmas. Christmas Present, Christmas Past features a range of activities from carol singing around the tree to telling ghost stories (and looking at the traditions behind them) as well as live culinary demonstrations in the kitchens showing the evolution of Christmas dinner as we know it today. Meanwhile, the Hampton Court Palace Festive Fayre returns next weekend (7th to 9th December) with more than 90 stalls set up in the palace courtyards selling mince pies, mulled wine and a host of other festive treats. And the palace’s ice-skating rink has returned to the Tudor West Front (and will be there until 6th January). Admission charges apply. For more, see www.hrpfoodfestivals.com.

Sir Edwin Landseer’s dramatic work – The Monarch of the Glen – is at the centre of a new exhibition celebrating the connections between the 19th century artist and the National Gallery. “Coming home” to the Trafalgar Square-based institution for the first time in more than 160 years, the painting – arguably the most famous animal painting in the world – is one of 14 works included in a new free show opening today. Among paintings created to decorate the Palace of Westminster after fire devastated the building in 1834, Landseer’s (1802-1873) work was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1851, then housed in what is now the National Gallery building. It’s now on loan from the National Galleries of Scotland, which acquired the work in 2017. This is the first London showing since 1983. Other works in the display include Landseer’s Ecorche drawing of a dog’s leg (1821), as well as paintings and drawings connected with the famous lions Landseer designed for Trafalgar Square including a John Ballantyne portrait of the artist modelling the lions in his studio and a work by Queen Victoria, whom Landseer tutored in etching, entitled A pencil drawing of a stag after Landseer’s mural on the Dining Room wall at Ardverikie Shooting-lodge (1847). Can be seen in Room 1 until 3rd February. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk. PICTURE: Edwin Landseer, ‘The Monarch of the Glen’ (about 1851), © National Galleries of Scotland

More than 40 paintings created during the final year of World War I by artist Alfred Munnings (1878-1959) go on show at the National Army Museum in Chelsea tomorrow. Alfred Munnings: War Artist, 1918 shows his mastery of equine subjects as well as portraiture and landscapes. Munnings was commissioned by the Canadian War Memorials Fund as an official war artist to capture the fighting front and logistics behind the scenes and in early 1918 was embedded with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The exhibition has been developed by the Canadian War Museum in partnership with The Munnings Art Museum and is supported but The Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation. Can be seen until 3rd March. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nam.ac.uk.

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Christmas has arrived at ZSL London Zoo with a series of light sculptures illuminating a mile long festive trail. More than a million pea lights have been used in the first show of its kind at the zoo which taking a month to build, features 200 visual displays including a pair of giant golden giraffes (above), an 11 metre tall Christmas tree made of recycled Christmas sledges (below) and two illuminated flying flamingoes (below). Historic zoo buildings have been lit up as well, including the Grade I-listed Penguin Pool and the historic Mapping Terraces. The trail, which circles the zoo’s 36 acre site so as not to wake up the sleeping animals, has been created in partnership with Raymond Gubbay Limited and designed by Culture Creative. It can seen on selected nights until 1st January. Admission charge applies. For dates and times, see  christmasatlondonzoo.co.ukPICTURES: ZSL London Zoo.


Christmas at Kew kicks off tonight with the garden landscape once again transformed into a spectacular light and sound show. Highlights from this year’s display include a ‘Field of Light’ by Brighton based artists Ithaca which reaches across the landscape towards the newly restored Great Pagoda, a laser garden by Australian studio Mandylights, 300 illuminated origami boats floating on Kew’s lake in an installation by Italian artists Asther & Hemera, ‘Firework Trees’ lit up by explosions of coloured light, a seven metre tall Cathedral of Light, a fire garden and “enchanted walkway” of giant glowing peonies and papyrus by French artists TILT and, of course, the famous Palm House finale which brings the giant glasshouse to life with a show featuring criss-crossing laser beans, jumping jets of light and kaleidoscopic projections playing across a giant water screen. Santa and his helpers can be found along the trail and there is a festival fairground with a Victorian carousel as well as food and drink at a range of stalls in Victoria Plaza. Runs from 5pm on select dates until 5th January. Admission charge applies. For more, head to www.kew.org/christmas. PICTURE – Below: The Fire Garden/Raymond Gubbay Ltd (RBG Kew).

All 12 surviving portraits of celebrated 18th century artist Thomas Gainsborough’s daughters have been brought together for the first time in a major new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Gainsborough’s Family Album depicts the development of the Gainsborough girls from playful young children to fashionable adults with highlights including The Artist’s Daughters chasing a Butterfly (c1756) and The Artist’s Daughters with a Cat (c1760-1) as well as the little seen double full-length of Mary and Margaret Gainsborough as young women (c1774). More than 50 works are included in the display and a number have never been seen in the UK before. The latter include an early portrait of the artist’s father John Gainsborough (c 1746-8) and a drawing of Thomas and his wife Margaret’s pet dogs, Tristram and Fox. The display traces the career of the artist (1727-88) who, despite his passion for landscapes, painted more portraits of his family members than any other artist of the time or earlier. Together they form an “unusually comprehensive” visual record of an 18th century British kinship network, with several of its key players shown more than once at different stages of their lives. The exhibition runs until 3rd February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

Artist William Heath Robinson and his fascination with domestic life is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the Heath Robinson Museum in Pinner on Saturday. Heath Robinson’s Home Life centres on the fact that from about 1930 onwards, the artist’s humour was centred on domestic life including the construction of his house, ‘The Gadgets’, at the Ideal Home Exhibition of 1934 and the release, from 1936, of the first of his ‘How to’ books, How to Live in a Flat. The display features an early series of “Ideal Home” cartoons published in 1933 and rare photographs of ‘The Gadgets’ under construction at the Ideal Home Exhibition. There’s also original artwork from How to Live in a Flat and examples of a set of nursery china that he designed for a Knightsbridge department store in 1927. Runs until 17th February. Admission charge applies. For more see www.heathrobinsonmuseum.org.

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A new permanent World War I memorial was unveiled at Brompton Cemetery earlier this month dedicated to the 24 members of the Royal Parks and Palaces staff who died in the Great War. The inscribed memorial stone, placed on one of the chapel’s colonnades (pictured above), also commemorates all the parks, gardens and grounds staff from across the UK who never returned from the war. It was unveiled at a service conducted by Reverend Canon Anthony Howe, Chaplain to the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace, the gardens of which were managed by the Royal Parks during World War I. Meanwhile, the foundations for a new permanent wildflower meadow honouring the 2,625 Chelsea Pensioners buried in the cemetery were also laid near the Chelsea Pensioners’ monument (pictured below). The meadow will feature flowers which appeared in French fields after the Battle of the Somme including poppies, cornflowers, loosestrife, mallow and cranesbill. Two benches, positioned to either side of the Grade II-listed memorial, have been donated by the Royal Hospital Chelsea as a place for quite reflection. For more on the cemetery, see www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/brompton-cemetery. PICTURE: The Royal Parks/Paul Keene.

With World War I commemorations taking place last weekend, so we thought it fitting to take a look at one of the city’s memorials.

Located in Hyde Park, the Cavalry Memorial (also known as the Cavalry of the Empire Memorial), which commemorates the more than 4,000 members of the cavalry regiments killed during the “Great War”, depicts St George (patron saint of cavalry), shown as a knight, triumphing over the defeated dragon coiled beneath his horse’s hooves.

It’s said that St George was modelled on 1454 bronze effigy of Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick, and that the horse was adapted from a 15th century engraving by Albrecht Dürer.

The pedestal underneath is decorated with a frieze of galloping horsemen from different countries within the Empire and the statue is accompanied by a stone backdrop, originally designed to shield the statue from Park Lane, upon which are bronze plates listing cavalry units from across the British Empire that served in World War I along with the names of the four cavalry officers who became field marshals – Haig, French, Allenby and Robertson.

Designed by army vet Captain Adrian Jones, the bronze sculpture was made from guns captured during the war (Jones also sculpted the Quadriga atop Wellington Arch on Hyde Park Corner). The Portland stone pedestal was designed by Sir John Burnet.

The Grade II*-listed memorial, which was proposed in 1920, was originally unveiled by Field Marshal John French, 1st Earl of Ypres and the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) on 21st May, 1924.

It was originally located at Stanhope Gate but was moved to its present site to the west, near the bandstand, in 1961 after Park Lane was widened.

For more on Hyde Park, see www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park.

For more World War I memorials in London, see our previous special series here.

Thousands of people, including Queen Elizabeth II and members of the Royal Family, attended Whitehall on Sunday to take part in the National Service of Remembrance, this year marking 100 years since the end of World War I. The event included two minutes silence at 11am and wreaths were laid at the base of the Cenotaph to commemorate the servicemen and women killed in all conflicts from the World War I onwards. In an historic first, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier laid a wreath during the ceremony. Following the service, a procession involving 10,000 members of the public who were selected by a ballot marched past the monument and through London. ALL PICTURES: Crown Copyright/Ministry of Defence.

This important Kensington thoroughfare runs through the heart of South Kensington’s world-famous museum precinct from Thurloe Place, just south of Cromwell Road, all the way to Hyde Park.

Along its length, it takes in such important institutions as the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Imperial College London while Royal Albert Hall is only a stone’s throw to the west.

It was, as might be expected given the name, indeed laid out as part of Prince Albert’s grand scheme surrounding the Great Exhibition of 1851 as a means of accessing the vast Crystal Palace which was located in Hyde Park (before moving out to south London).

It wasn’t the only road in the area built specifically for that purpose – the transecting Cromwell Road and Queen’s Gate, which runs in parallel and, yes, is named for Queen Victoria, were also built for to provide access to the Great Exhibition.

After the exhibition was over, Exhibition Road formed part of the precinct known as “Albertopolis” in which, inspired by the Great Exhibition, became something of a knowledge and cultural centre featuring various museums and the great concert hall which sadly Albert didn’t live long enough to see.

In the 2000s, a scheme to give pedestrians greater priority along the road was realised (in time for the 2012 Olympics).

PICTURE: Looking north along Exhibition Road from the intersection with Cromwell Road (the Natural History Museum is on the left; the Victoria & Albert Museum – and the Aston Webb Screen – on the right)/Google Maps.

 

The 803rd Lord Mayor’s Show will this Saturday wend its way through the streets of the City of London as new Lord Mayor Peter Estlin takes office. This year’s hour-and-a-half long procession features more than 7,000 people, 200 horses and 140 motor and steam-driven vehicles. Leaving from Mansion House at 11am, it travels to the Royal Courts via St Paul’s and then returns along Embankment at 1.15pm. And while there will be no fireworks this year, there will be two new ‘family entertainment zones’. The first, in Paternoster Square and around St Paul’s Cathedral, will include a film show featuring archival footage, art installations and street theatre as well as food stalls. The second, in Bloomberg Arcade near Mansion House, will feature music and dance, art and sound installations, the MOLA’s (Museum of London Archaeology) Time Truck, as well as technology and apprenticeship workshops and food. For more information, head to https://lordmayorsshow.london. PICTURE: The Lord Mayor’s coach during last year’s procession (John; licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in Whitehall will this Sunday mark a century since the end of World War I. Starting at 11am (the public will be admitted to Whitehall from 8am), the service commemorates the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women involved in the two World Wars and later conflicts. This year’s ceremony will be followed by ‘The Nation’s Thank You – The People’s Procession’, featuring 10,000 members of the public. Large viewing screens will be placed to the north of the Cenotaph, near the green outside the main Ministry of Defence building and outside the Scotland Office, and south of the Cenotaph on the corner of King Charles Street. For more on the day, follow this link and for more on bell-ringing ceremonies across the day, see https://armistice100.org.uk.

The relationship between the British Royal Family and the Romanovs in Russia is explored in a new art exhibition opening at the The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, this Friday. Highlights of Russia: Royalty & the Romanovs include a series of watercolours specially commissioned by Prince Alfred, second eldest son of Queen Victoria, to record his wedding to Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna, daughter of Alexander II, at the Winter Palace in St Petersburg in 1874 so that his mother, who was unable to attend, didn’t miss out. There’s also works by Fabergé and portraits of royal figures by the likes of Sir Godfrey Kneller and Sir Thomas Lawrence. The exhibition is accompanied by another display featuring renowned photographer Roger Fenton’s images from the war in Crimea in 1855. Both exhibitions run until 28th April. Admission charges apply. The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of events. For more, see www.rct.uk/visit/the-queens-gallery-buckingham-palace. PICTURE (above): Nicholas Chevalier, The Bal Polonaise at the Winter Palace, St Petersburg, 23 January 1874, 1876 (Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018).

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Thousands of flames have filled the moat at the Tower of London as part of a moving light and sound display marking the centenary of the end of World War I. Beyond the Deepening Shadow: The Tower Remembers evolves over four hours each night as the moat gradually fills with flames accompanied by a specially commissioned sound installation exploring the shifting political alliances, friendship, love and loss in a time of war. At the heart of the sound installation is a new choral work featuring the words of war poet Mary Borden taken from her Sonnets to a Soldier. The display, which can be seen at the Tower every night from 5pm to 9pm until Armistice Day on Sunday, 11th November, starts with a solemn procession led by the Tower’s Yeoman Warders who ceremonially light the first flame and then gains pace as volunteers slowly light up the rest of the installation. It’s free to view from Tower Hill and the Tower concourse. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/explore/the-tower-remembers/. PICTURES: © Historic Royal Palaces (click on the images to enlarge).

The largest free-to-view motor show in the UK comes to Regent Street on Saturday showcasing vehicles from the past 125 years. The Illinois Route 66 Regent Street Motor Show, the key event in the Royal Automobile Club’s London Motor Week, features more than 100 pioneering vehicles, some of which date from pre-1905, which parade in a Concours d’Elegance judged by Alan Titchmarsh. There will also be retro F1 and Le Mans racers, “celebrity” vehicles such as ‘Herbie’ and the time-travelling DeLorean from the Back to the Future film franchise while manufacturers such as Renault and Triumph will be displaying their latest designs. Iconic US street machines on show as part of the Visit Illinois display will include a Ford Thunderbird, Dodge Charger, Pontiac Trans-Am, 1957 Chevy Pick-up and a pair of Harley Davidson Sportsters. There’s also activities for children including a state-of-the-art display by Scalextric. Among the anniversaries being marked at the show are the 80th anniversary of the Volkswagen Beetle and Jaguar anniversaries including the 70th anniversary of the XK120 and Mk C Saloon and the 50th anniversary of the XJ. Held on Regent Street between Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus, the free show runs from 10.30am to 4pm. For more, head to http://regentstreetmotorshow.com. PICTURE: One of the vehicles on show in 2011 (Garry Knight; licensed under CC BY 2.0)

A series of vibrant Japanese woodblock prints of orchids, first published in 1946, are on show at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art at Kew Gardens. One of four art exhibitions currently on display as part of the gallery’s 10th anniversary, Rankafu: Masterpieces of Japanese Woodblock Prints of Orchids is believed to be the first major exhibition of Rankafu woodblock colour prints outside Japan. Other exhibitions showing simultaneously at the gallery feature a series of 20 highly intricate graphite drawings of veteran oaks by Mark Frith, a series of works focusing on the smaller details of trees such as leaves, seeds and fruit, and a display of the work of Pandora Sellars whose complex compositions have been described as “botanical theatre”. The four exhibitions can be seen until 17th March. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.kew.org.

The first UK retrospective of Russian-born American photographer Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) has opened simultaneously at the Jewish Museum in Camden and The Photographers’ Gallery in Soho. Roman Vishniac Rediscovered spans his career from the early 1920s to the late 1970s and features his well-known images of Jewish life in Eastern Europe between the two World Wars. Other items on show include recently discovered vintage prints, rare and ‘lost’ film footage from his pre-war period, contact sheets, personal correspondence, original magazine publications, newly created exhibition prints and his high magnification photography known as ‘photomicroscopy’. Runs until 24th February. For more, see www.jewishmuseum.org.uk or www.thephotographersgallery.org.uk.

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The Lord’s Mayor’s Show is coming up soon (10th November) so we thought it a good time to take a quick look at the life of one of the city’s most memorable Lord Mayors – Sir John Lawrence, who served in the office in 1664-65.

Sir John, a merchant and member of the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers (and Master of the company in 1677), is remembered for the role he played during the Great Plague of 1665 which preceded the Great Fire of London the following year.

Following the arrival of the plaque in London, those with the means took to their heels and left the city for safer climes. But Sir John assured the public that he and the City officers would remain at their posts to keep law and order among the frightened populace.

He oversaw the issuing of a series of plague-related orders designed to stem the spread of disease and appointed people to oversee and attend to the needs of households affected by the disease and search out the bodies to be taken away as well as doctors to tend to the sick and help prevent infection.

His efforts in ensuring the food supply remained steady have been particularly praised as has his opening of his own home in St Helen’s Bishopsgate to those servants who were discharged when the households in which they worked fled the city.

His tenure as mayor is often favourably contrasted with that of his successor, Sir Thomas Bludworth but Sir John also had numerous other positions during his lifetime, including as president of St Thomas’ Hospital, a committee member of the East India Company and a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Sir John was married and had two children. He died on 26th January, 1692, and was buried at the Church of St Helen’s Bishopsgate.

He is remembered on a plaque at Bunhill Fields for being mayor when, at the City’s expense, the burial ground was enclosed with a wall.

PICTURE: Part of the inscription at the gates of Bunhill Fields commemorating Sir John’s role in enclosing the burial ground. (Edwardx; licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0).

 


The last in a series of major exhibitions on World War I by celebrated photographer Mike St Maur Sheil, Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace and Reconciliation – 2018 is a free outdoor exhibition in St James’s Park reflecting on the final year of the war. The exhibition, like the others before it, features photographs of the battlefields of World War I as they appear today along with archival pictures and maps. Mike St Maur Sheil says the theme of his displays – which have reached an audience of more than 10 million and been exhibited at locations including Paris’ Jardin du Luxembourg, Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green and at the junction of Broadway and 5th Avenue in New York – “has always been that time and nature have healed the wounds of war and reveal that what were once places of horror and killing have now become landscapes of beauty and tranquillity.” The free exhibition can be seen until 19th November. For more on St James’s Park, see www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/st-jamess-parkPICTURES – Two of the images on show: Top, showing the effect of artillery bombardment upon the landscape at Verdun; Below, the landscape today at Beaumont Hamel on the Somme with the shell holes and trenches still clearly visible. (Mike St Maur Sheil / Mary Evans Picture Library).

• The biggest ever exhibition exploring the Sun opens at the Science Museum in South Kensington this Saturday. The Sun: Living With Our Star features everything from Nordic Bronze Age artefacts revealing ancient beliefs about how the Sun was transported across the sky to details of upcoming NASA and European Space Agency solar missions. Highlights include the original ‘orrery’ (pictured), an instrument made for the Earl of Orrery in 1712 to demonstrate the motions of the Earth and Moon around the Sun, a rare concave mirror known as a yang-sui which was used for lighting fires in China and dates to between 202 BCE and 9 CE, and a Tokomak ST25-HTS, a prototype nuclear fusion reactor which successfully created and sustained plasma for a record-breaking 29 hours in 2015. There’s also an astronomical spectroscope made for Norman Lockyer, founder of the Science Museum, who used it to identify the element helium in 1868 – the exhibition actually coincides with the 150th anniversary of Lockyer’s discovery, the first of an “extra-terrestrial” element. The exhibition also includes interactive experiences including a huge illuminated wall display allowing visitors to see the Sun rise in different seasons and locations and another in which visitors are able to bask in the sun while sitting in deck chairs under palm trees with sand at their feet. Runs until 6th May next year. Admission charge applies. The exhibition is being accompanied by a programme of events including “family festivals” in early November and early March. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/the-sun-living-with-our-star. PICTURE: Science Museum Group Collection/© © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum.

The story of Charles Darwin is told in a new two hour stage play featuring a cast of seven people and 30 hand-made puppets which opened at The Natural History Museum this week. The Wider Earth, which follows Darwin as he sets out on a daring five year journey aboard the HMS Beagle through uncharted landscapes, is being staged in the museum’s Jerwood Gallery following sold-out seasons in Australia and represents the first time a performance-based theatre has been constructed in the museum. Presented by Trish Wadley Productions and Dead Puppet Society in association with Glass Half Full Productions, the show runs until 30th December. To book tickets, head to www.thewiderearth.com.

This year marks 80 years since Sigmund Freud and Salvador Dalí famously met in London on 19th July, 1938 – a meeting at which Dalí revealed to Freud his recently completed painting The Metamorphosis of NarcissusThe Freud Museum has launched a new exhibition – Freud, Dalí and the Metamorphosis of Narcissus – which explores the extensive influence of Freud on Dalí and on Surrealism as well as Freud’s own reaction to the painting. The painting forms the centrepiece of the exhibition which also includes drawings, photographs and prints as well as documents including letters, manuscripts, books and Freud’s appointment diary. The display is accompanied by a programme of events. Runs until 24th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.freud.org.uk.

The “invaluable” role artists from abroad played in the development of British medallic art is the focus of a new display at the British Museum. Witnesses: émigré medallists in Britain features medals from six centuries documenting significant historical moments and commemorating famous British figures. The earliest objects date from Elizabethan England when Dutch artist Steven van Herwijck introduced the art of the medal to Britain’s cultural elite while ‘stars’ in the display include a spectacular Waterloo medal conceived by 19th century Italian gem engraver Benedetto Pistrucci which took 30 years to complete and bears the image of the four allied sovereigns – George, Prince Regent, Francis II of Austria, Alexander I of Russia and King Frederick William III of Prussia. The free display can be seen in Room 69a until 7th April next year. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org. PICTURE: Benedetto Pistrucci: Coronation of George IV, 1821, gold, 35mm. © the Trustees of the British Museum M5716. B, 1070. CME6436.

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Following their sojourn at Lake Geneva where, in September, 1816, Mary Shelley (then Godwin) first started writing Frankenstein, Shelley and her lover – the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley – returned to England and then to London where on 30th December, 1816, they were married at St Mildred’s Church, Bread Street.

The marriage followed the suicide of Percy Shelley’s wife, Harriet, who was found drowned in the Serpentine in Hyde Park on 10th December that year. Harriet’s family had apparently resisted the poet taking custody of the couple’s two children and it has been reported that Percy was advised by lawyers that marrying Mary, pregnant to him again at this stage, would improve his chances of his winning custody of them.

Mary’s father William Godwin and step-mother Mary Jane Claremont Godwin attended the wedding and the rift which had divided the family due to the couple’s earlier elopement was apparently at least partly mended as a result. Others in attendance were the publisher and poet Leigh Hunt.

The church in which they were married once stood on the east side of the south end of Bread Street in the City of London (and is not to be confused with the Church of St Mildred, Poultry, which once stood near Mansion House).

Originally dating at least as far back as the early 13th century, it had been destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and then rebuilt to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren in the years following.

In good condition and retaining many of Wren’s original fittings into the 20th century, the building was sadly destroyed by bombing in 1941 (and the parish subsequently united with that of St Mary le Bow). The site is now covered by the Grade II-listed Seventies office building, 30 Cannon Street.

A memorial to Admiral Arthur Philip, which now stands just off New Change, was once located in this church.

PICTURE: Interior of St Mildred, Bread Street from The Churches of London by George Godwin (1839). (Via Wikipedia)

The first ever major survey of Oceanic art to be held in the UK opens at the Royal Academy in Piccadilly on Saturday. The exhibition – Oceania – brings together around 200 works created in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia and includes pieces from public and private collections spanning a period of more than 500 years. It’s being held to mark the 250th anniversary of the RA which was founded in 1768, the same year Captain James Cook set sail on the Endeavour on his first expedition to the Pacific. Highlights of the display, which is organised around three major themes – ‘Voyaging’, ‘Place-making’ and ‘Encounter’, include a 14th century wooden Kaitata carving, excavated in 1920, which is one of the oldest known objects to have been found in New Zealand as well as two Maori hoe (canoe paddles) collected during Cook’s first voyage, and a 19th century feather god image from the Hawaiian Islands likely to be have been collected on Cook’s third voyage. There’s also an 18th century mourning costume known as a Heva tupapau which was obtained in Tahiti in 1791, a rare Fijian late 18th or 19th century double-headed whale ivory hook, and Maori sculptor Tene Waitere’s Ta Moko panel (1896-99 – pictured) depicting male and female tattoos as well as a 19th century Nguzunguzu (prow ornament for a war canoe) featuring a pigeon and a never-before-exhibited ceremonial feast bowl measuring almost seven metres in length, both from the Solomon Islands. Runs in the Main Galleries until 10th December. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk. PICTURE: Tene Waitere, Ta Moko panel, 1896-99. Te Papa (ME004211) © Image courtesy of The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

• Meanwhile, in another exhibition at the Royal Academy, 25 British watercolours and drawings – including works from BNY Mellon’s corporate art collection – have gone on show in the Tennant Gallery. British Watercolours: From the Collection of BNY Mellon features the work of prominent Royal Academicians including Thomas Gainsborough, JMW Turner, John Constable and Sir David Wilkie. Highlights include an 1833 view of Hampstead Heath by Constable, Italian landscapes painted in the 1770s by Thomas Jones and John Robert Cozens, John Frederick Lewis’ unfinished Study of a Bedouin Arab (1840s) and an expressive depiction of Venice by John Ruskin in 1876. The British drawings and watercolours in the BNY Mellon collection were largely acquired in the 1980s. The exhibition is being held as part of the Royal Academy’s 250th anniversary. Admission is free. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

A free exhibition focusing on one of pioneering groups of people migrating to Britain – the Bajan nurses from Barbados, is opening in Guildhall Yard on Friday as part of Black History Month. Celebrating 70 years of the NHS, the display reveals individual stories of achievements, struggles and leadership with the focus moving from world famous figures to the unsung midwives who helped deliver Britain’s post-war baby boom. The British-Barbadian Nursing Revolution can be seen anytime until 31st October. There’s a series of talks accompanying the display. For more, head to the City of London website.

New Year’s Eve is coming up fast – yes, it’s that time already! – and the first tickets for the world famous London event go on sale at midday on Friday. Tickets for the event, which features more than 12,000 fireworks, are still priced at £10 (a further batch will be sold in late November). Those without a ticket will not be able to enter the viewing area in central London (although it will, of course, be broadcast on TV). There are a maximum of four tickets per transaction. Head to www.london.gov.uk/nye.

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More than 800 buildings of all kinds open their doors to the public this weekend as part of the 26th Open House London. Highlights of this year’s event include new entries such as the US Embassy, the Royal Opera House and Bloomberg’s new HQ as well as returning favourites such as the BT Tower, The Shard and 10 Downing Street. There’s also a programme of activities “lifting the lid” of Old Oak and Park Royal – the heart of ‘making’ in London, explorations of new London districts such as Wembley Park, Hackney Wick and Barking Riverside, the chance to view RIBA Award-winners including the Belvue School Woodland Classrooms, Hackney Town Hall and No.1 New Oxford Street, the new COS HQ, and 100 “must-see” homes. The full programme of events – which also highlights the contribution women have made in shaping today’s London – can be found at www.openhouselondon.org.uk and there’s a free app to download. PICTURED: Top – Bloomberg European Headquarters (Nigel Young/Foster + Partners) and right – Valetta House (French & Tye) are among properties open to the public.

A multi-screen art installation remembering the millions of African men and women who served in World War I and an immersive sound installation featuring personal reflections on the Armistice are among four exhibitions opening at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth on Friday. Projected onto three screens, African Soldier combines a powerful sound score, historic footage and newly created film which has been shot by artist John Akomfrah in various locations around the world to speak to the African experience of World War I while the sound installation, I Was There: Room of Voices, features 32 people who fought and lived through war sharing their personal stories of the Armistice. The exhibitions also include Renewal: Life after the First World War in Photographs – a display of more than 100 black and white photographs showing how lives, landscapes and national identities recovered, evolved and flourished after the war – and Moments of Silence, an immersive installation commissioned from 59 Productions. The exhibitions, which can be seen until 31st March, are part of the IWM’s Making A New World, “a season of art, photography, film, live music, dance and conversations exploring how the First World War has shaped today’s society”. For more see www.iwm.org.uk.

The role of science in the lives – and deaths – of the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, and his family is explored in a new exhibition opening at the Science Museum in South Kensington which marks 100 years since the end of the Romanov dynasty. The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution explores the influence of medicine on the Imperial Family –  everything from how they treated conditions such as the heir Alexei’s haemophilia through to the Tsarina’s fertility and the Red Cross medical training the Tsar’s daughters received – as well as recent advances in medicine and forensic science which have been deployed to transform the investigation into their disappearance. Objects on show include personal diaries, an Imperial Fabergé Egg presented to the Tsar by his wife a year before the fall of the Imperial house and photograph albums created by an  English tutor to the Imperial Family. There’s also evidence from the scene of the family’s execution including the dentures of the Imperial physician, a diamond earring belonging to the Tsarina and an icon peppered with bullet holes. Opening on Friday, the exhibition runs until 24th March. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/thelasttsar.

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