We pause briefly at the start of this week’s coverage to remember those killed and injured in yesterday’s terror attack outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster as well as pay tribute to the emergency services and passersby who responded to aid the wounded.

The UK’s first major exhibition dedicated to the evolution of the anti-war movement has opened at the Imperial War Museum this week. People Power: Fighting for Peace features such rare items as a hand-written poem by Siegfried Sassoon, artist Gerald Holtom’s original sketches for the iconic ‘peace symbol’, artworks depicting the destructive nature of World War I like Paul Nash’s Wire (1918) and CRW Nevinson’s Paths of Glory (1917), a handwritten letter by Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne outlining his struggle to reconcile pacifism with the rise of Hitler, and Peter Kennard and Cat Philip’s iconic photomontage Photo Op (2007) which depicts former PM Tony Blair taking a selfie against the backdrop of an explosion. More than 300 items are displayed in the exhibition including paintings, literature, posters, banners, badges and music, dating from World War I to the present. Admission charge applies. Runs until 28th August. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk/exhibitions/iwm-london/fighting-for-peace. PICTURE: David Gentleman, Stop the War – No More Lies/© David Gentleman, reproduced with the kind permission of the Stop the War Coalition.

• The first new gallery space to open at The National Gallery in 26 years was launched this week. Gallery B, designed by architects Purcell, features some 200 square metres of display space and features nine works by Rubens and 11 by Rembrandt. There are also drawings by contemporary painter Frank Auerbach, inspired by Rembrandt and Rubens works, in the Gallery B lobby and espresso bar. The launch also marks the daily opening of Gallery A which has hitherto only be opened on selected days. Entry is free. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

A virtual reality experience which enables people to experience what it feels like to sit inside the Russian Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft used by Tim Peake – the UK’s first European Space Agency astronaut – in a mission to and from the International Space Station opens at the Science Museum tomorrow. The South Kensington museum acquired the spacecraft in December last year and, from Friday, visitors will be able to take part in Space Descent VR with Tim Peake – a 360 degree state-of-the-art virtual reality experience which allows visitors to experience what it is like in the Soyuz’s 1.5 tonne descent module during its dangerous 400 kilometre high speed journey back to Earth during which it has to slow from a speed in orbit of 25,000 kph. The experience was created by Alchemy VR and made possible with the support of Samsung, Tim Peake and the ESA. For more information and tickets, see sciencemuseum.org.uk/VR.

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A group of extinct Irish elk from the Ice Age – part of a series of models of extinct animals created by sculptor and fossil expert Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins and Professor Richard Owen, founder of the Natural History Museum, in the 1850s for the park surrounding the reconstructed Crystal Palace, known as Crystal Palace Park. Built for the Great Exhibition of 1851 by Joseph Paxton, the palace had been relocated from Hyde Park to Sydenham, in what was Kent (and is now south London), following the exhibition’s closure. The series of life-sized extinct animals, initially just mammals but later expanded to include dinosaurs, underwent extensive restoration in 2002 and were given Grade I listed status in 2007. There’s a free audio guide you can download while visiting the dinosaurs. PICTURE: Neil Cummings/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0.

The collaborative partnership between Renaissance Italian artists Michelangelo and Sebastiano del Piombo is the subject of a new exhibition which opened at The National Gallery this week. The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Michelangelo & Sebastiano features about 70 works – paintings, drawings, sculptures and letters – produced by the pair before, during, and after their collaboration. The two met when Michelangelo was working on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and spent 25 years in a friendship partly defined by their opposition prodigious artist Raphael. Key works on show include their first collaborative work, Lamentation over the Dead Christ (also known as Viterbo ‘Pietà’ it was painted in about 1512-16), The Raising of Lazarus (completed by Sebastiano in 1517-19 with Michelangelo’s input and one of the foundational paintings of the National Gallery’s collection – it bears the first inventory number, NG1 ), The Risen Christ (a larger-than-life-size marble statue carved by Michelangelo in 1514–15 which is shown juxtaposed, for the first time, with a 19th-century plaster cast after Michelangelo’s second version of the same subject (1519–21)), and, Michelangelo’s The Virgin and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist (also known as the ‘Taddei Tondo’, it was commissioned in 1504-05 and is on loan from the Royal Academy of Arts). The display features a 3D reproduction of the Borgherini Chapel in Rome to evoke the sense of seeing the works in situ. Runs until 25th June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk. PICTURE: Sebastiano del Piombo, Lamentation over the Dead Christ (1516), The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg/© The State Hermitage Museum /Vladimir Terebenin

St Patrick’s Day is tomorrow and to celebrate London is hosting three days of events showcasing Irish culture, food and music. Cinemas in the West End will be showing short Irish films, there will be comedy, drama and family workshops, an Irish Cultural Trail in the Camden Market and a world-renowned parade on Sunday ahead of a closing concert in Trafalgar Square. For the full programme, see www.london.gov.uk/stpatricks.

An exhibition dedicated to the life and career of Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, has opened at the Science Museum. Attended by the woman herself in honour of her 80th birthday this week, Valentina Tereshkova: First Woman in Space tells how Tereshkova came to be the first woman in space when, on 16th June, 1963, at the age of just 26 she climbed aboard the USSR spacecraft Vostok 6. She orbited the Earth 48 times over the three days, logging more flight time than all the US astronauts combined as of that date. She never flew again but remains the only female cosmonaut to have flown a solo mission. Tereshkova, who had been a factory worker, went on to become a prominent politician and international women’s rights advocate. The exhibition, which is free, is part of the 2017 UK-Russia Year of Science and Education. Runs until 16th September. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/valentina-tereshkova.

Six unbuilt architectural landmarks – proposed for Moscow during the 1920s and 1930s but never realised – are at the heart of a new exhibition which has opened at the new Design Museum in Kensington. Imagine Moscow: Architecture, Propaganda, Revolution looks at how the proposed schemes – including the Palace of the Soviets, planned to be the world’s tallest building, and Cloud Iron, a network of horizontal ‘skyscrapers’ – reflected the changes taking place in the USSR after the Russian Revolution. As well as the six case studies, the exhibition features a dedicated room to the “geographical and ideological centre” of this new Moscow – the Lenin Mausoleum. Runs until 4th June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.designmuseum.org.

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The ‘blanketeers’ were a group of weavers, mainly from Lancashire, who in March, 1817, controversially intended to march from Manchester to London to petition the Prince Regent (later King George IV). 

One of a series of protests which came amid the economic hardship facing England in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars (they would eventually culminate in the infamous Peterloo Massacre of 1819 in which 11 people died in Manchester), participants in the so-called ‘blanket march’ hoped to bring to the attention of the Prince Regent the poor state of the textile industry in Lancashire,

They were also protesting against the recent suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act (this was done in the wake of the Spa Fields Riots in late 1816 and an attack on the Prince Regent’s coach a couple of months earlier).

About 5,000 weavers gathered at St Peter’s Field in Manchester – each carrying a blanket on their back, both for sleeping under during the journey (they apparently hoped people would provide shelter along the way) and to identify their association with the textile industry (hence the name ‘blanketeers’).

Thousands more spectators came to see off the men who intended to march in small groups of 10 to avoid accusations of an illegal mass gathering (meetings of more than 50 had been banned). Each group leader would carry a petition tied around his arm.

They didn’t get far. The Riot Act was read and troops sent in – the King’s Dragoon Guards – who initially arrested more than a score of people including key reform movement leaders Samuel Drummond and John Bagguley.

Several hundred men did manage to set off but the cavalry set off in pursuit. Some were taken into custody by police, and most were turned back including some 300 who reached Stockport. But there is a story,  albeit apparently rather a dubious one, that one marcher – some report his name as ‘Abel Couldwell’ – did reach London and handed in his petition.

 

diana-her-fashion-storyThe fashions of Diana, Princess of Wales, go on show at Kensington Palace tomorrow in a new exhibition, 20 years after her death. Diana: Her Fashion Story traces the evolution of her sense of style from the demure outfits of her first public appearances to the “glamour, elegance and confidence” of her later life and explores how she used her image to engage and inspire people as well as champion the causes she cared out. The display features everything from glamorous 1980s evening gowns to her “working wardrobe” of the 1990s and original fashion sketches created for her by her favourite designers. Highlights include a pale pink Emanuel blouse worn for Lord Snowdon’s 1981 engagement portrait, a ink blue velvet gown designed by Victor Edelstein and famously worn during a visit to the White House when the princess danced with John Travolta, and a blue tartan Emanuel suit worn for an official visit to Venice in the 1980s. The latter goes on public display for the first time, having recently been acquired at auction by Historic Royal Palaces. Complementing the exhibition, gardeners have created a temporary ‘White Garden’ in the palace’s Sunken Garden with flowers and foliage inspired by the princess’s life, style and image. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/. PICTURE: Courtesy Historic Royal Palaces.

Works chronicling life in the United States of America during the decade after the Wall Street crash of 1929 go on show at the Royal Academy of Arts on Saturday. America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s features 45 works by some of the foremost artists of the era which have been sourced from collections across the US. They include Grant Wood’s American Gothic (1930) – the first time it’s being exhibited outside of the US, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses (1931), Edward Hopper’s Gas (1940) and works by Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston, Alice Nee and Thomas Hart Benton. Organised by the Art Institute of Chicago, in collaboration with the Royal Academy and Etablissement public du musée d’Orsay et du musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, the exhibition in The Sackler Wing of Galleries can be seen until 4th June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

Landscape drawings created over the century spanning 1850 to 1950 are the subject of a new free exhibition which opens at the British Museum today. Places of the Mind: British watercolour landscapes 1850-1950 features more than 125 works from the museum’s department of prints and drawings, over half of which have never been published or exhibited before. Artists represented include George Price Boyce, Alfred William Hunt, John Ruskin, James McNeill Whistler, Philip Wilson Steer. Graham Sutherland and Henry Moore. The display can be seen in Room 90 until 27th August. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

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Apologies that we missed our Wednesday special series on fictional character homes in London this week – normal service will resume next week!

The Repentant Magdalene, regarded as Italian artist Guido Cagnacci’s greatest work, has gone on show at The National Gallery. On loan from the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, the work depicts Mary Magdalene in an unusual pose lying on the ground as Martha begs her to abandon her life of vice while in the background an angel chases out a devil representing vice. Cagnacci (1601-1663), described as one of the most unconventional artists of the Italian Baroque period, was in the Gonzaga collection in Mantua Italy by 1665 but entered the collection of the English Duke of Portland in 1711 where it remained until American collector Norton Simon purchased it in 1981. This is the first time it has been on show in England since. The painting can be seen in Room 1 until 21st May. Admission is free. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.

Camberwell-based architectural practice IF_DO will design the first ‘Dulwich Pavilion’ to sit temporarily in the grounds of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the gallery and London Festival of Architecture have announced. The pavilion will play host to a programme of events marking the gallery’s bicentenary, kicking off  in conjunction with the start of the London Festival of Architecture on 1st June. The design – called ‘After Image’ – features a series of translucent mirrored screens, some fixed, some moveable, which “reflect and disrupt” the context. It has a timber truss roof with a mesh veil, creating a canopy-like space. The winning design was chosen from among more than 70 entries by a panel of leading architectural and cultural figures. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.

On Now: Future Shock: 40 Years of 2000 AD. The British “publishing phenomenon” science fiction comic 2000 AD – which lives on through characters like Judge Dredd – is the subject of an exhibition at the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury. Launched in February, 1977, the comic was the brainchild of Pat Mills and John Wagner who were later joined by writers such as Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison. Eighty pages of original artwork are featured in the display featuring the work of artists including Dave Gibbons, Brian Bolland, Mike McMahon, Ian Gibson, Henry Flint, David Roach, Simon Davis, and Carlos Ezquerra – the originator of Judge Dredd. Runs until 23rd April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org.

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sewage-workersRat catchers, trapeze artists and politicians are among the subjects depicted in photographs, prints and drawings which form the heart of a new exhibition spanning 500 years of London’s history. Opening at the London Metropolitan Archives, The Londoners: Portraits of a Working City, 1447 to 1980 includes portraits of unknown Londoners as well as some of such luminaries as author Charles Dickens, night-watchmanengineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. Highlights include a rare photograph of Charles Rouse, reputedly the last night watchman (pre-cursors to the Metropolitan Police) still on duty in London in the mid-19th century, an 1830 lithograph of a crossing sweeper, the ‘Old Commodore of Tottenham Court Road’, and a number of photographs shot by George WF Ellis in the mid-1920s including a portrait of feminist and social campaigner Dora Russell. The exhibition, which is part of a series of events marking 950 years of London archives, opens on Monday and runs until 5th July at the LMA in Clerkenwell. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/lma. PICTURES: Top – A team of sewermen, photographed outside the City Sewers department in 1875. Right – Jack Black of Battersea, noted rat catcher to Queen Victoria, pictured here from a daguerreotype photograph taken for Henry Mayhew’s ‘1851 London Labour and the London Poor’. Both images © London Met Archives.

The response of artists and photographers to London’s Blitz during World War II forms the subject of a new exhibition which has opened at the Museum of London. Perspectives of Destruction: Images of London, 1940-44 explores how artists and photographers responded to the devastation caused by the massive aerial bombings. Much of the artwork was commissioned by the government’s War Artists Advisory Committee and focused on damage to buildings rather than deaths and injuries to people due to the impact it may have had on public moral. At the heart of the display is nine recently acquired drawings from official war artist Graham Sutherland depicting damage in the City of London and East End between 1940 and 1941. Also on show is a 1941 oil painting of Christchurch on Newgate Street by John Piper and David Bomberg’s Evening in the City of London, dating from 1944, which depicts St Paul’s Cathedral dominating the horizon above a devastated Cheapside. There’s also a photograph of a V-1 flying bomb narrowly missing the iconic cathedral which, along with eight others, was taken by City of London police constables Arthur Cross and Fred Tibbs. Other artists with works featured include Henry Moore, Bill Brandt and Bert Hardy. Runs until 8th May. Admission is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

• A series of installations commissioned from 12 artists – asked to imagine what Europe might look like 2,000 years from now and how our present might then be viewed – have gone on display in the V&A as part of the week long ‘Collecting Europe’ festival. The festival, which only runs until 7th February, includes a range of talks, discussions, live performances and workshops aimed at encouraging debate around Europe and European identity in the light of the Brexit vote. The installations, commissioned by the V&A and Goethe-Institut London, have been created by artists from across Europe. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/collectingeurope.

• Bronze casts of black women’s movement activists’ fists go on display at the City of London’s Guildhall Art Gallery from Tuesday. A Fighters’ Archive, features the work of sculptor Wijnand de Jong and pays tribute to 15 women who were members of various activist groups. The sculpture takes the form of a boxing archive – casts of boxers’ fists collected by boxing academies to commemorate prize fighters – with the fists cast from life. Subjects include Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, Emeritus Professor of Nursing at the University of West London and patron of The Sickle Cell Society, Mia Morris, creator of Black History Month, and Gerlin Bean, founder of Brixton Black Women’s Centre. The fists can be seen until 19th March. Admission if free. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visit-the-city/attractions/guildhall-galleries/Pages/guildhall-art-gallery.aspx.

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A scene from Chinese New Year celebrations heralding the Year of the Rooster held in central London last weekend. PICTURE: Garry Knight/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

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Inside The Monument, built to commemorate the Great Fire of London, in the City of London. For more on the history of The Monument. PICTURE: Flickr/CC BY 2.0.

A charter granted by King William the Conqueror to the City of London in 1067 is on display at the City of London Heritage Gallery. The 950-year-old charter, known as the William Charter, was given by the king soon after his coronation at Westminster Abbey but before he had entered the City and is seen as key in his winning the support of the City as well as in how the City came to have its special autonomy. Written in Old English, the charter measures only 2 x 16 centimetres and has one of the earliest seal impressions of King William I. The oldest item in the City of London Corporation’s 100 kilometres of archives, it’s on display at the gallery until 27th April. For more, follow this link.

Madame Tussauds in Marylebone has unveiled a wax figure of US President-elect Donald J Trump this week in the lead-up to his inauguration in Washington, DC, on Friday. The future president stands in the ‘Oval Office’ section of the display. The organisation’s team of sculptors, make-up artists and hair inserters have been working on the figure since his victory in the US election back in October. For more, see www.madametussauds.com/london/en/.

• A scoop of ice-cream with a visiting fly and micro-drone, a recreation of an ancient sculpture destroyed by the so-called Islamic State and a tower made of a VW, scaffolding, oil drums and a ladder among the possibilities to replace David Shrigley’s Really Good on Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth next year. Maquettes of five short-listed sculptures are on show at the National Gallery from today until 26th March. Two of those displayed will be chosen to be featured on the plinth – one next year and the other in 2020. Admission is free. As well as Heather Phillipson’s The End, Michael Rakowitz’s The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, and Damián Ortega’s High Way, the short-listed works include Huma Bhabha’s Untitled (a massive figure like something from a sci-fi film) and Raqs Media Collective’s The Emperor’s Old Clothes (an empty robe).

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A new exhibition celebrating the life of John Lockwood Kipling – described as an “artist, writer, museum director, teacher, 2-_lockwood_kipling_with_his_son_rudyard_kipling_1882__national_trust_charles_thomasconservationist and influential figure in the Arts and Crafts movement” as well as being the father of world famous writer Rudyard Kipling – opens at the V&A in South Kensington on Saturday. The exhibition is the first exploring the life and work of Kipling (1837-1911) who campaigned for the preservation of Indian crafts as well as being a craftsman himself (his terracotta panels can still be seen on the exterior of the V&A) and an illustrator of his son’s books. Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London features paintings of the Indian section of the 1851 Great Exhibition as well as objects which were on display (the exhibition was visited by Kipling while a teenager), Kipling’s sketches of Indian craftspeople observed during his many years living in India as well as objects he selected for the V&A while there, designs and illustrations for books, and furniture he helped his former student architect Bhai Ram Singh design for royal residences Bagshot Park and Osborne. The free exhibition, a collaboration between the V&A and the Bard Graduate Centre in New York, runs until 2nd April (it will be on display at the Bard Graduate Center, New York, from 15th September this year). For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/kipling. PICTURES: Top: The Great Exhibition, India no. 4, by Joseph Nash/Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016 ©; Right: Lockwood Kipling with his son Rudyard Kipling, 1882/© National Trust, Charles Thomas

Anyone named Emma will receive free entry into the National Maritime Museum’s exhibition on Emma Hamilton this weekend in honour of the 202nd anniversary of her death on 15th January, 1815. Emma Hamilton: Seduction and Celebrity shines a light on the remarkable woman who overcame poverty to become one of the most famous international celebrities of her age. The display features more than 200 objects on loan from public and private collections as well as from the museum’s own collection including paintings, personal letters, prints and caricatures, costumes and jewellery. Simply bring proof that your name is Emma – such as a passport, driver’s licence or utility bill – and gain free entry on 14th and 15th January. The exhibition runs until 17th April. Admission charges usually apply. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/emmahamilton.

Members of the public will be granted a close-up look of the ceiling of the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich this April. The hall, described as the “Sistine Chapel of the UK” is undergoing a two year transformation which includes conservation of Sir James Thornhill’s famous painted ceiling. As part of the project, a series of ceiling tours will be launched on 1st April this year with visitors taken up close via a lift where they can see the conservators at work. For more, see www.ornc.org.

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nye2016Have a great start to 2017 – we at Exploring London are looking forward to more of doing just that – exploring London’s history and culture – with you in the coming year!

And so here are the five most popular new articles we published in 2016…

5. LondonLife – New Underground line named in honour of Queen Elizabeth II…

4. This Week in London – Norway on show at Dulwich; Bruegel the Elder at the Courtauld; and, Kew Gardens celebrates the orchid… 

3. A Moment in London’s History – Sir Walter Raleigh leaves the Tower… 

2. Lost London – The King’s Mews at Charing Cross…

1. (10) iconic London film locations…1. Mary Poppins and feeding the birds at St Paul’s Cathedral… 

It’s been another busy year and we hope you’ve enjoyed our coverage of London’s history and culture in 2016. But we’ve now reached the end and that means it’s time to review Exploring London’s 10 most popular new posts this year. To kick if off, we’re looking at numbers 10 through to six (we’ll look at numbers five to one tomorrow). So, without further ado…

10. 10 iconic London film locations…8. The Tube and Sliding Doors’ defining moment…

9. A Moment in London’s History – The (other) Great Fire of London…

8. A Moment in London’s history…The ‘longest night’…

7. 10 sites commemorating the Great Fire of London – 1. Thomas Farriner’s plaque 

6. Famous Londoners – Joseph Grimaldi…

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Trafalgar Square at Christmas. PICTURE: London & Partners

ice-skating-in-the-tower-moatLondon’s obsession with ice-skating is the subject of an exhibition which opened at the Museum of London earlier this month. Skating on Ice looks at the history of the popular pastime, from the 12th century – when locals are described strapping animals bones to their feet to skate on ice at Moorfields – across the centuries (and the developments that went with them) to today. Among the artefacts on show is an 1839 oil painting by J Baber depicting skaters on the Serpentine in Hyde Park, sketches from the London Illustrated News showing a rescue operation to recover the 40 of some 40 skaters who plunged beneath the ice in Regent’s Park on 15th January, 1867, a navy blue gabardine skirt suit from Fortnum & Mason dating from the 1930s and a series of skates, ranging from some made of animal bones through to a pair of Victorian racing skates known as Fen Runners and a pair of ice skates used from the late 1930s by Londoner Christina Greenberry at Streatham Ice Arena. Runs until 8th February. Entry is free. See www.museumoflondon.org.uk for more. (Pictured – ice-skating in the Tower of London moat).

• Christmas is looming and so, if you haven’t been out and about already, here’s five Christmas trees worth seeing over the coming few days (excluding the obvious one in Trafalgar Square):

  • Covent Garden. Always a glittering treat (this year complete with virtual prizes!).
  • St Pancras International. A rather odd design this year, this 100 foot tall tree is inspired by the Cirque du Soleil show Amaluna and lights up every time a donation is made to Oxfam.
  • Granary Square, Kings Cross. Looking like a Christmas tree frozen inside an ice-cube, this seven metre high installation – Fighting fire with ice cream – by British artist Alex Chinneck features some 1,200 lights.
  • Tate Britain, Millbank. An upside down tree, designed by Iranian artist Shirazeh Houshiary.
  • Connaught Hotel, Mount Street, Mayfair. Designed by British sculptor Antony Gormley, this 57 foot tall tree features a trunk transformed into a pillar of light.

Prince Charles last week unveiled the foundation stone for a tower that will take visitors to Westminster Abbey into the institution’s new museum and galleries. The tower is being built outside Poet’s Corner – between the 13th century Chapter House and 16th-century Henry VII’s Lady Chapel – and will be the principal entrance to the medieval triforium, which has never before been opened to the public and which house the proposed The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries. The tower and galleries, costing almost £23 million, will be the most significant addition to the abbey since Nicholas Hawksmoor’s west towers were completed in 1745. The galleries, which will be located 70 feet above the abbey’s floor, are due to open in summer 2018, and will display treasures from the abbey’s history as well as offering magnificent views of Parliament Square and the Palace of Westminster. To help meet the cost of the new galleries, the abbey has launched a #makehistory campaign asking for public donations to the project. For more, see www.westminster-abbey-galleries.org/Content/Filler.

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hamleysThis Regent Street establishment – the oldest and largest toy store in the world – dates back to 1760 when Cornishman William Hamley came to London and founded his toy store – then called ‘Noah’s Ark’ – on High Holborn.

Selling everything from wooden hoops to tin soldiers and rag dolls, the business aimed to capture the trade of affluent Bloomsbury families and proved rather successful, attracting a clientele in the early 19th century which included not only wealthy families but royalty.

Such was its success that in 1881, Hamley’s descendants opened a new branch of the shop at 200 Regent Street. The Holborn store, meanwhile, burned down in 1901 and was subsequently relocated to a larger premises at numbers 86-87 in the same street.

Faced with the Depression in the 1920s, the shop closed briefly in 1931 but was soon reopened by Walter Lines, chairman of Tri-ang Toys, and in 1938 was given a Royal Warrant by Queen Mary, consort of King George V.

The premises at 188-196 Regent Street was bombed five times during the Blitz but the shop (and its tin hat-wearing staff survived). In 1955, having presented a Grand Doll’s Salon and sizeable model railway at the 1951 Festival of Britain, the shop was given a second Royal Warrant – this time by Queen Elizabeth II, who has been given Hamleys toys as a child – as a ‘toys and sports merchant’.

The business, which has passed through several owners since the early 2000s, is now owned by Chinese-based footwear retailer C.banner.  The flagship store is spread over seven floors and tens of thousands of toys on sale, located in various departments.

As well as the Regent Street premises (it moved into the current premises at number 188-196 Regent Street in 1981), Hamlets has some 89 branches located in 23 countries, from India to South Africa. A City of Westminster Green Plaque was placed on the store in February 2010, in honour of the business’s 250th anniversary.

The toy store holds an annual Christmas parade in Regent Street which this year featured a cast of 400 and attracted an estimated 750,000 spectators.

www.hamleys.com

PICTURED: Hamleys during its 250th birthday celebrations.

London is illuminated for Christmas. Here’s some of what photographers on Flickr have captured this year…
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Christmas in Regent Street. PICTURE: Michael Reilly/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

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Christmas tree in Waterloo Place. PICTURE: William Warby/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

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Carnaby Street. decorations PICTURE: Roger/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

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Oxford Street under lights. PICTURE: Paolo Braiuca/Flickr/CC BY 2.0  (image cropped).

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A floating Christmas tree at St Katharine Docks. PICTURE: Matt Brown/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The practice of sending Christmas cards really began in the Victoria era and it was in London, in 1843, that the first commercial Christmas cards are widely said to have been designed and printed.

first-christmas-cardThe idea had come from Sir Henry Cole, the first director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, who, overwhelmed with the volume of correspondence he was receiving, conceived it as answer to his problem, allowing him to send Christmas greetings to a wide group of people – all at once.

He asked his friend, artist John Callcott Horsley, to design the card and an edition of 1,000 were printed by Jobbins of Warwick Court in Holborn.

The hand-coloured card, published by Summerley’s Home Treasury Office in Old Bond Street, showed a family gathered for a Christmas celebration with two side images showing people engaged in charitable acts and a message, ‘A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You’. Designed as a single flat card (not foldable like they are today), it came complete with ‘To’ and ‘From’ spaces for the sender to fill in.

The cards which Sir Henry didn’t need for his personal use were placed on sale for a shilling each but it was a fairly steep price and that – and the fact that the image of people drinking at the festive season apparently roused the ire of temperance campaigners, helped to ensure the cards weren’t an immediate success.

Nonetheless, further cards were produced in the following years and within a couple of decades, they were being mass produced.

One of Sir Henry’s original cards was reportedly sold at an auction in 2013 for £22,000.

winter-wonderland

Kinson Leung captures the vibrant colours of the annual Winter Wonderland fair in Hyde Park. PICTURE: Via Unsplash.