A new display commemorating the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I has opened at the Tower of London, coinciding with the sea of ceramic poppies which has been ‘planted’ in its moat (see our earlier post on the poppies here). The exhibition, housed in the Flint Tower, features photographs and film from 1914 showing how the Tower was used for in the recruitment, deployment and training of the military and as a place for execution. Photographs from today have been combined with those from 1914 to create moving composite images. The display can be seen with general admission entry. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/.

A copper element which represented Team GB and was one of 204 – one for each country – used in the Olympic cauldron during the 2012 Games is on display at the Museum of London. It and Paralympic GB’s element will be on alternate display in a new gallery, Designing a Moment: The London 2012 Cauldron, which follows the cauldron’s journey its design and manufacture to its unveiling, ceremonial role, and legacy. The gallery features two seven metre long sections of the cauldron, which was designed by Heatherwick Studio and which featured one element for each country represented at the Games and then for the Paralympics. Until 27th August, it will also feature the Team GB’s element which will then be returned to the British Olympic Association/British Olympic Foundation and replaced with the Paralympics GB copper element, on loan from the British Paralympic Association, which will remain on show until 23rd October, after which it will be replaced by an unassigned Paralympic copper element. Admission is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

A portrait of author Roald Dahl as a young RAF pilot during World War II has gone on show at the National Portrait Gallery near Trafalgar Square. Painted by Matthew Smith, the work is featured in Colour, Light, Texture: Portraits by Matthew Smith & Frank Dobson, a new display which brings together Smith’s paintings with Dobson’s sculptures. The portrait was painted in 1944 when Dahl was in his late twenties. Found in Room 33, the display can be seen until April 6th. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

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QEOP• The UK’s tallest sculpture, the ArcelorMittal Orbit, will be open to the public in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – described as the “biggest new park to open in Europe in 150 years” – in London’s east from this weekend. While the northern part of the 560 acre park, the Copper Box Arena, Lee Valley VeloPark and Aquatics Centre have been open to the public since July last year, from Saturday visitors will be able to visit the southern part of the park featuring the 114.5 metre high sculpture. Features in the southern part of the park include a new tree-lined promenade with giant globes, interactive water fountains, an adventure playground and four themed walking trails focusing on the 2012 Games, nature and biodiversity, education, and art and culture. Visitors who head to the top of ArcelorMittal Orbit will be able to view across 20 miles of London from a 76 or 80 metre high platform (admission charges apply – £15 adults/£7 children/£40 for a family of four – and, be warned, you may need to book) while at the base of the sculpture is a cafe and event space. The opening weekend will see a host of special events including a parade of children, an aerial acrobatic performance, choirs, bands, dancers, poets, circus performers and story tellers and ‘try out’ sports and fitness sessions. There’s more yet to come with the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre opening to the public in June and the Olympic Stadium reopening for the 2015 Rugby World Cup next year. For more on the park, see www.queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk and for tickets to the ArcelorMittal Orbit, see http://arcelormittalorbit.com.

The printed works of William Shakespeare are the focus of a new exhibition which opened at the Guildhall Library in the city this week. Shakespeare in Print explores the library’s Shakespearean works and looks at how they were produced. Among the treasures on display will be a First Folio, the first collected edition of his plays, contemporary writers quartos and later editions of the Bard’s plays and poetry. This free exhibition is running until 29th May. The library will be hosting a series of Shakespeare-related events in the week of 22nd to 25th April to mark the 450th anniversary of his birth. For more, head here.

Italian fashion from 1945 until today is the subject of the V&A’s spring exhibition opening on Saturday. The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014 will feature 100 ensembles and accessories by leading Italian fashion houses including Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Prada, Valentino and Versace as well as creations from the “next generation of talent” including Giambattista Valli and Fausto Puglisi and will also showcase the creativity of less well remembered figures such as Sorelle Fontana and Walter Albini. As well as charting the shifting international perception of Italian style, the display will also highlight techniques and materials used in the creation of Italian fashion with a digital map visualising the industry. Runs until 27th July. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.

Send all items of interest for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

A-Ship's-OperaThe Mayor’s Thames Festival kicks off tomorrow and runs for 10 days until 15th September. This year’s highlight’s include the day long A Ship’s Opera which culminates in a sound and light “spectacular” at Tower Bridge, large-scale artworks placed on boards along the river, an exhibition of more than 50 artworks inspired by the Diamond Jubilee Pageant along the Thames, a film celebrating the people who live and work on the river which will be shown for free on an outdoor screen, riverside choral performances, boat races – including the world’s slowest river race and the longest race on the Thames – and the Source to Sea River Relay in which a bottle of Thames water, filled at the Thames’ source, will be relayed by walkers, swimmers, rower and sailors for the entire length of the river. Most activities will be focused on the stretch of river between Lambeth Bridge and St Katharine Docks. For a full program of all events, check out www.thamesfestival.org.

Last year’s Olympics and Paralympics will be celebrated again in events taking place this weekend. On Saturday – a year since the Paralympic Games closed – disabled athletes and performers will descend on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for a day of celebration to mark National Paralympic Day. Part of the Mayor’s Liberty Festival, an annual showcase of deaf and disabled artists, highlights will include an aerial and sway performance – ‘The Limbless Knight’ – and the ‘Miracoco Luminarium’, an interactive light sculpture. The free day runs from noon to 8pm. For more information, see queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk/events/2013/6/disability-sport (note that registration is required to watch paralympians in action in the newly reopened venue, the Copper Box). Meanwhile on Sunday, Hampstead Heath will host the annual Give it a Go! Olympic legacy festival. Kids will have the chance to take part in everything from penalty shootouts and street dance, boxing and fancy dress and circus workshops as well as martial arts and rugby sessions, and free tennis lessons. The day runs from 1pm to 5.45pm. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/hampsteadheath.

• Victorian revivalism is under examination in a new exhibition at the City of London’s Guildhall Art Gallery. The multi-media, multi-sensory show Victoriana: The Art of Revival explores the work of contemporary artists inspired by the 19th century – including Yinka Shonibare, Grayson Perry and Paula Rego – and features graphic design, film, photography, ceramics, taxidermy, furniture, textiles and fine art. More than 70 works are included – among them is a piece created specially for the show, Paul St George’s ‘Geistlich Tube’ – and they’re grouped under four themes – the Neo-Victorian Identity, Time Travel, The Cute and the Curious, and The Reimagined Parlour. The exhibition opens on Saturday and runs until 8th December. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/victoriana.

 Diver Tom Daley’s swimming trunks, cyclist Bradley Wiggins’ yellow jersey and a Mary Poppins outfit worn in last year’s Olympic Games’ opening ceremony are among the items on display as part of the Museum of London’s 2012 display. The free display, which opened last week, exactly 200 days after the Paralympics closing ceremony, features a selection of 70 items connected with the Games. Runs in the Galleries of Modern London until 31st October. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

Oxford took line honours at the 159th Boat Race, held on the River Thames last weekend. The Dark Blues – whose crew included Olympic medalists Constantine Louloudis and Malcolm Howard – still trail Cambridge (the Light Blues) – whose crew included another Olympic medallist, George Nash, however, with 77 wins to 81 wins. For more, see www.theboatrace.org or our previous articles – here and here.

Kew Garden’s historic Temperate House has received a £14.7 million Lottery Fund grant for conservation of the Grade One listed building, the largest Victorian glasshouse in the world. The grant – which adds to £10.4 million from the government and £7.7 million from private donors – will also be used to create a “more inspiring” public display for visitors with the overall £34.3 million project completed by May, 2018. The building opened in 1863 and was last refurbished 35 years ago. It houses some of the world’s rarest plants, including a South African cycad (Encephalartos woodii). For more, see www.kew.org.

On Now: Phantom Ride. This “haunting” film installation by artist Simon Starling was commissioned by the Tate Britain in Millbank and is located in the neo-classical Duveen galleries. Referencing the late nineteenth century tradition of ‘phantom rides’ – films, often made by cameramen strapped to the front of a train, that gave a dramatic sense of motion as if one is aboard an invisible vehicle – the installation includes a “compelling flow of images” of artworks that once filled the Duveen galleries, creating a sense of movement as the works move up and down the walls. Admission is free. Runs until 20th October. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

A new exhibition opens at the Foundling Museum tomorrow (25th January) which tells the often heart-breaking stories behind the tokens left by mothers with their babies at the Foundling Hospital between 1741-1760. While hundreds of tokens were removed from the hospital’s admission files in the 1860s, Fate, Hope & Charity reunites the tokens – which range from coins and jewellery to playing cards, poems and even a nut – with the foundlings to whom they were given. A moving exhibition. Museum admission charge applies. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

The Duc and Duchesse de La Rochefoucauld-Doudeauville were among those who attended the dedication of a ledger stone marking the grave of their kinsman, Field Marshal Francois de La Rochefoucauld, the Marquis de Montendre, at Westminster Abbey last week. Born in 1672, de La Rochefoucauld served in the British Army during the reign of King William III and Queen Mary II after fleeing France as a Huguenot refugee (he had also succeeded his brother as marquis). He was promoted to field marshal in 1739 but died later that year and was buried in the abbey. The floor stone which was replaced by the new ledger stone will be sent to France for inscription and installation at Montendre. For more on the abbey, see www.westminster-abbey.org.

• One we should have mentioned with our piece on Royal Albert Hall last week. The Royal Albert Hall is running behind the scenes tours of the venue every Monday until 11th February as well as Tuesday 29th January (so you’ll have to be quick!). The tour – which runs as an extension of the front of house tour – takes in the loading bay located under the hall and one of the many dressing rooms (currently in use by Cirque de Soleil who are in residency with their new show KOOZA. The 90 minute Behind the Scenes tours cost £16. Booking in advance is strongly recommended. For more, see www.royalalberthall.com.

A pair of swimming trunks worn by diver Tom Daley during the 2012 Olympic Games has been donated to the Museum of London. The trunks join an ever increasing collection of Olympics and Paralympics-related outfits in the museum with others including a leotard worn by bronze-medal winning gymnast Beth Tweddle. A display featuring the Olympic kit is being planned for spring. Meanwhile, still aty the museum and an exhibition featuring a series of photographs exploring the city’s major arterial roadways opens on Saturday. The free exhibition, Highways: Photographs by John Davies, features six specially commissioned photographs taken by Davies in 2001-02 – just prior to the introduction of the Congestion Charge in 2003. Routes featured include the Elephant and Castle roundabout, the Hammersmith Flyover, Marble Arch and Hyde Park, St Pancras Station Midland Grand Hotel and the A501, the junction of Poultry and Queen Victoria Street and the Blackwall Tunnel entrance. Runs until 16th June. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.

• On Now: Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction. This exhibition at the British Library looks at the history of crime fiction and features never-before-seen manuscripts, printed books, rare audio recordings, artworks and artefacts. Highlights include Arthur Conan Doyle’s manuscript of the Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Retired Colourman (1926); the first appearance in print of Miss Marple (in Royal Magazine in 1929); John Gielgud’s annotated script for the film Murder on the Orient Express, crime novels from unlikely authors including Pele and burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee and the 1933 book, the Jigsaw Puzzle Murders in which readers had to complete a jigsaw puzzle to solve the crime. A series of events will be taking place alongside the exhibition. Entry to the library’s Folio Society Gallery is free. Runs until 12th May. For more see www.bl.uk.

4. Around London – Olympic Rings unveiled on Tower Bridge; London from above; Blake on Primrose; V&A illustrations; and, Munch at the Tate Modern. More on an Olympic theme.

3. LondonLife – Florence Nightingale remembered. A piece mentioning the annual service at Westminster Abbey commemorating the life of the ‘Lady with the Lamp’. Part of our LondonLife series.

Both of the next two are from our Thursday updates – Around London…

6. Around London: Olympic Torch Relay hits London; mascots pop-up all over the city; and Shakespeare at the British Museum – not a surprising mention, given the Olympic theme;

5. Around London – Butler’s Retreat reopens in Epping Forest; Designs of the Year; and, Lucian Freud’s last work. The reason for this update’s inclusion remains a bit of a mystery – but it was a big year for the late Lucian Freud.

8. Olympics Special – London bridges aglow. A piece showing how many of inner London’s bridges were illuminated at night during the Games.

7. LondonLife – The Queen visits the newly transformed Kensington Palace. Queen Elizabeth II pays a visit to mark the completion of a £12 million, two year renovation project at Kensington Palace.

Sailing high over the River Thames between North Greenwich in the river’s southern bank and the Royal Docks on the river’s northern bank is the cable car formally known as the Emirates Air Line. Opened in late June and running every day, the cable car – the UK’s first in an urban area – is operated by Transport for London and links into the Underground and Docklands Light Rail network. Travelling at about 90 metres above the ground along a course of more than half a mile, passengers can take in the City, Docklands, Greenwich and as far eastward down the river as the Thames Barrier. This image, which shows the 02 Arena in the background, was taken just after the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Games in August. For more, see www.emiratesairline.co.ukPICTURE: © Transport for London

• The Notting Hill Carnival – the largest festival of its kind in Europe – takes place in London’s west this Sunday and bank holiday Monday. More than a million people are expected top attend to see the floats, listen to the traditional steel drum bands and sample some of the food found at the hundreds of stalls along the streets of Notting Hill.  Sunday, when the costume prizes are awarded, has been designated as Children’s Day and Monday, when the main parade takes place, as Adult’s Day. The festival has been held every summer since 1966. For more, see www.thenottinghillcarnival.com.

• With the memories of the Olympics still fresh in our minds, it’s time to turn our attention to the impending Paralympics and associated events including the 24 hour Torch Relay which hits London next Wednesday, just before the Opening Ceremony. The torch enters London at Watford and and then moves south through the city, taking in many of London’s most famous landmarks as it visits all six boroughs before arriving at the Olympic Stadium. For more on the route, see www.london2012.com/paralympics/torch-relay/route/. Meanwhile, as with the Olympics, those who don’t have tickets to the Paralympics will be able to watch on a giant screen at Trafalgar Square daily between 11am and 10pm where there will also be live music and activities including the chance to try out a range of Paralympic sports. For more, see www.btlondonlive.com/trafalgar-square. Tower Bridge, meanwhile, is undergoing a makeover with the installation of the Paralympics symbol, Agistos, tomorrow following the earlier removal of the Olympic Rings. Historic projections, meanwhile, will once again appear on the Houses of Parliament. Other events taking place around the Paralympic Games include Surprises: What You Will: Pop-Up Shakespeare – which will see Shakespearean characters like Juliet, Hamlet and Puck suddenly appearing and performing at “cultural hotspots” around the city (the exact time and location of the performances will remain a surprise until the day but you can register for updates at www.molpresents.com/surprises or follow @molpresents and @London2012Fest.

• A series of artworks by South African-born Expressionist Albert Adams are on show at the Imperial War Museum this summer. The works on show include the last painting he completed before his death in 2006 – title Abu Ghraib, it was inspired by reports of abuse perpetrated at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq – as well as a series of etchings Adams created between 2001 and 20064 which address conflicts like that Iraq War and Darfur. Admission is free. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk.

On Now: Anatomy of an Athlete – Elite sport, surgery and medical art. This exhibition in the Qvist Gallery at the Royal College of Surgeons’ Hunterian Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields features new artworks by world-leading medical artists which explore the anatomy and physiology of elite athletes. The art works come in a variety of forms – watercolour, video and sculpture – and represent the human body in a selection of sports and para-sports. Admission if free. Runs until 29th September. For more, see www.rcseng.ac.uk/museums/.

Another reminder of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London can be found at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. The sculpture, a three metre wide shot put embedded in the ground, is one of a series of three different Gifts from the Gods sculptures which have appeared around the city. As well as shot puts, the other sculptures – all of which look as though they’ve been dropped from a great height – depict a 10 metre high javelin and a seven metre long bow with arrows. The sculptures, which will remain in place until 10th September, are part of Wonder, a series of interactive installations put in place as part of the Mayor of London Presents program. For more, see www.molpresents.com/wonder. For more on the Old Royal Naval College, see www.ornc.orgPICTURE: Steve Bradbury/Courtesy of ORNC.

The Olympics might be over but there are still plenty of reminders of the Games around town. Not the least of which are the gold postboxes, painted that color in celebration of London’s gold medallists (the postboxes are located in the home towns of the gold medallists where possible). Pictured is the gold postbox in Heathfield Terrace, Chiswick, west London, painted gold in honor of the victory of Pete Reed in the men’s four rowing. It’s one of a number of gold postboxes in London – others include one in with others in Carshalton Road, Sutton, for Joanna Rowsell’s gold medal win in the women’s team pursuit; one in Church Road in Wimbledon for Andy Murray’s gold medal in the men’s tennis singles, and one in Broad Street, Teddington for Mo Farah’s gold medal in the men’s 5000 metres. Royal Mail has a website where you can see the location of all the gold postboxes in London and elsewhere around the nation – www.goldpostboxes.com. Not sure how long the gold is going to last – Royal Mail has said they will repaint them red – the color they have been, with a few exceptions, since 1874 –  in “due course” but there is a push for them to remain gold as a reminder of the Games.

PICTURE: Courtesy of Royal Mail.

While the history of the All England Tennis and Croquet Club goes back as far as 1868 (it was initially just known as the All England Croquet Club), the first Wimbledon Championships, officially known as The Championships, Wimbledon, were held some nine years later in 1877.

The only event held at the first championship was the “gentlemen’s singles” and the winner was cricketer (and, of course tennis player) Spencer Gore who emerged victorious over William Marshall in straight sets – 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 – before a crowd of about 200 (the “ladies’ singles” wasn’t introduced until 1884 with Maud Watson the first female champion after she defeated her sister Lilian).

Each of the 22 male amateur entrants had paid an entrance fee of £1, 1 shilling, and had to bring their own racquets and shoes “without heels” but were supplied with tennis balls.

Gore apparently won 12 guineas in prize money as well as a trophy, the Field Cup (the Gentleman’s Singles Trophy was introduced in 1887).

The club was then located at a site on Worple Road in Wimbledon (see our earlier entry about a plaque unveiled there earlier this year); it wasn’t until 1922 that it moved to it current location in Church Road. The layout of the courts at Worple Road – which saw the principal court named Centre Court thanks its position in the middle of the others – was carried over to the new location.

For more on the history of Wimbledon – which was the site of the tennis competition during this Olympics – including important milestones, see our earlier entry.

There is a museum based at Wimbledon (pictured above) which details more of the history of the place with exhibits including the Championship trophies, tennis memorabilia dating back to 1555 and a ‘ghostlike’ John McEnroe talking about the games and his opponents in his old dressing room. The museum is currently hosting a special exhibition, Tennis at the Olympics.

WHERE: All England Lawn Tennis Club, Church Road, Wimbledon – between gates 3 and 4 (nearest tube Southfields); WHEN: 10am to 5pm (last admission 4.30pm) daily (not during the Olympics – reopens on 15th August); COST: Museum only £11 an adult/£9.50 concessions/£6.75 child, or Museum plus tour £20 an adult/£17 concessions/£12.50 child; WEBSITE: www.wimbledon.com.

Seven of London’s bridges are being lit up at night until 10th September in an initiative called “Dazzle”. Being run under the Mayor of London Presents program, it celebrates the 50 evenings of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Here’s just a sample of what you can see…

The most iconic of London’s bridges, Tower Bridge has been a focal point for Olympic celebrations. One of the great structures of Victorian London, it was opened in 1894 and at the time was largest bascule bridge ever built (for more on Tower Bridge, see our earlier post here).

The most recent version of London Bridge, this links Borough High Street in Southwark (you can see Southwark Cathedral in the background) and King William Street in the City and was built in the late 1960s/early 1970s and opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973. There have been bridges in this vicinity since as far back as Roman times (for more on the history of London Bridge, see our earlier post here).

The current Southwark Bridge – which links the City of London with the heart of Southwark – dates from 1921 and replaced an earlier bridge designed by John Rennie.

Initially plaqued by the wobbles, the steel suspension walk bridge known as Millennium Bridge is the newest of the bridges that cross the Thames in central London, linking St Paul’s Cathedral on the north bank with the Tate Modern on the south (the looming bulk of which is pictured here). First opened in July 2000, it was closed after concerns over its movement and then reopened to the public in 2002.

Other bridges taking part in Dazzle but not shown here include the Golden Jubilee footbridges, Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge.

For more on the program, see www.molpresents.com/dazzle.

PICTURES: All images courtesy of the City of London Corporation.

We’ll kick off this week with just a few more of the plethora of Olympic-related events which are happening around town:

Tower Bridge, site of some spectacular fireworks last Friday night, is currently hosting an exhibition celebrating the 26 cities which have hosted the modern Olympics. Cities of the Modern Games, located on the bridge’s walkways, runs alongside an interactive exhibition looking at the bridge’s construction. Follow the link for details.

The Guildhall Art Gallery is showcasing sculpture and art inspired by sport and the “Olympic values”. The art works are all winning entries from a contest organised by the International Olympic Committee. The chosen works were selected from among 68 submissions made by an international jury. Follow the link for details.

The Design Museum is hosting a new exhibition celebrating the nexus between sport and design. Designed to Win looks at everything from the design of F1 cars to running shoes, bats and bicycles and explores the way in which design has shaped the sporting world. Runs until 9th September. Admission charge applies. See www.designmuseum.org.

• The London Metropolitan Archives is holding an exhibition of playing cards featuring an Olympic theme. Sporting Aces – Playing Cards and the Olympic Games features cards drawn from the collection of the Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards which have an Olympic theme. Admission is free. Runs until 13th September. See www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/lma.

And in other news…

A night market has been launched at Camden Lock over the summer period. Street food stalls and vintage fashion, arts and crafts and book shops will be open until 10pm every Thursday with extras including live music and film screenings. For more, see www.camdenlockmarket.com.

• On Now: Another London: International Photographers and City Life 1930-1980. This exhibition at Tate Britain in Millbank features more than 150 classic photographs of the city and its communities by foreign photographers including such luminaries as Henri Cartier-Bresson. The exhibition features iconic works such as Robert Frank’s London (Stock Exchange) 1951, Cartier-Bresson’s images of King George VI’s coronation, Elliot Erwitt’s depiction of a rain-washed London bus stop, and Bruce Davidson’s image of a child with pigeons in Trafalgar Square alongside works such as Wolfgang Suschitzky’s images of working class families in the East End, from the 1940s, and Karen Knorr’s images of punks in the 1970s. The photographs all come from the Eric and Louise Franck London Collection, which includes more than 1,200 images of London and has been promised as a gift to the Tate. Runs until 16th September. Admission charge applies. See www.tate.org.uk. 

Have we missed something we should be telling others about? Send details in an email to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

While England and Australia played their first test match as far back as 1877 (at the Melbourne Cricket Ground), the origins of The Ashes go back to a game played at The Oval (now officially known as The KIA Oval) in Kennington in 1882.

Playing their only test of that tour, the Australians only made 63 runs in their first innings, giving England a 38 run lead with a total of 101. Australia followed this up with 122 leaving England just 85 runs to win. They were stopped just eight runs short of victory.

The English team were berated in the press for the loss and on 2nd September that year, a mock obituary for English cricket appeared in The Sporting Times stating that, having died at The Oval on 29th August, 1882, it will be “deeply lamented”. There was a note at the bottom of the obituary (picture right) which said that the body would be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia. And so the name, the Ashes, was born.

English captain Ivo Bligh subsequently promised that he would regain the ashes during the 1882-83 English cricket team’s tour of Australia while the Australian captain WL Murdoch vowed to defend them. It was during a social match played at Rupertswood Estate outside the city of Melbourne that Bligh was presented with the tiny terracotta ashes urn (today on display at the MCC Museum at Lord’s – see our earlier post for more).

The history of The Oval goes back to the mid-1840s when, following the establishment of the Surrey Cricket Club, it was granted a lease for the land from the Duchy of Cornwall (who still own it). The Ashes aside, memorable moments there have included the playing of the first match in the Australian Aboriginal team’s tour of England in 1868 (the first tour of England by a foreign side) and the first England v Australia test match to be played in England (1880). The Oval was also the location for the first international football match, played between England and Scotland in 1870, and the first FA Cup Final, played here in 1872.

Interestingly, The Oval also held a particular attraction for the US billionaire philanthropist,  J Paul Getty II, who built a replica of the ground at his estate at Wormsley Lodge in England’s south.

The history of Lord’s, London’s most famous cricket ground, meanwhile, goes back somewhat further. The current ground is the third to bear the name of Lord’s – the first was created on what is now Dorset Square in Marylebone at the behest of entrepreneur Thomas Lord (from whom it derives its name) and the first match staged there in 1787, the date on which the Marylebone Cricket Club was formed. Between 1811 and 1813, the ground was relocated to Marylebone Bank in Regent’s Park before moving to its current home in St John’s Wood (then the site of a duck pond).

Both grounds continue to host a range of cricketing and other events, such as the current Olympic archery competition being held at Lord’s.

WHERE: The Oval, Kennington Oval, Kennington (nearest Tube stations are Oval, Vauxhall and Kennington); WHEN: 90 minute tours of the ground are available (check website for booking details); COST: Tours cost £10 an adult/£5 under 16s/£25 a family ticket; WEBSITE: www.kiaoval.com.

WHERE: Lord’s Cricket Ground, St John’s Wood Road, St John’s Wood (nearest Tube Stations are Warwick Avenue, St John’s Wood, Marylebone and Maida Vale); WHEN: 100 minute tours of the ground (which include a visit to the MCC Museum) are available daily (check website for times – note that there are no tours during the Olympics, these resume on 21st August); COST: Tours cost £15 an adult/£9 concessions/£40 a family ticket; WEBSITE: www.lords.org.

PICTURE: Wikipedia

In honor of the Olympics, we’re staying with a sporting theme over the next couple of weeks and so this week thought we’d take a look at the oldest sports museum in London – and, it is claimed, the world.

The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) Museum is located at Lord’s Cricket Ground in St John’s Wood, just north-west of the City (keep an eye out for our post on Lord’s later this week), and is said to have been collecting cricket-related artefacts since as far back as 1864.

The star sight on display is that tiny urn, known simply as The Ashes, which was given to English captain Ivo Bligh during the English cricket team’s visit to Australia following a game on an estate outside Melbourne on Christmas Eve 1882 (the term was actually first used in August that year when, following an English loss to Australia, at The Oval, The Sporting Times ran an obituary for English cricket and said its ashes would be taken to Australia).

The museum also contains cricket equipment used by some of the game’s greats along with memorabilia celebrating the likes of WG Grace, Victor Trumper, Jack Hobbs, and Donald Bradman as well as more recent players Shane Warne, Rahul Dravid and Paul Collingwood. Other exhibits include the Wisden Trophy, a stuffed sparrow bowled out by Jehangir Khan in 1936 and the battered copy of Wisden’s which EW Swanton used to help him survive a World War II Japanese internment camp.

There is also an extensive collection of cricket-related paintings and photography and a theatre – the Brian Johnson Memorial Theatre – which screens archival cricket footage.

It should be noted that the museum is closed during the Olympics (until 15th August) when Lord’s is playing host to the archery competition (people attending the archery, however, will have free entry). In celebration of the archery, the museum is hosting an exhibition of trophies and pictures related to archery, the centrepiece of which is an arrangement featuring the Musselburgh Arrow and Medals, prizes which have been competed for since 1603.

WHERE: MCC Museum, Lord’s Cricket Ground, St John’s Wood Road, St John’s Wood (nearest Tube Stations are Warwick Avenue, St John’s Wood, Marylebone and Maida Vale); WHEN: Weekdays (with exceptions – check website for details and times); COST: £7.50 an adult/£5 for concessions (or included with tours); WEBSITE: www.lords.org.

We take a break from our regular series this week to bring you some images from the second half of the Olympic Torch Relay as it made it’s way around London toward tonight’s Opening Ceremony…


Day 67 (24th July): Tennis player Oliver Golding holds the Olympic Flame in between the Olympic Rings at Kew Gardens, London.

London Underground employee John Light carries the Olympic Flame onto an underground train at Wimbledon Station.

Day 68 (25th July): Former World Cup winning footballer Gordon Banks carries the Olympic Flame down Wembley Way, at Wembley Stadium.


Prince Charles, Duke of Cornwall, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, pose with  young entrepreneur Jay Kamiraz and Paralympian Scott Moorhouse as they kiss together Olympic torches in Tottenham.

Day 69 (26th July): Disaster mapping charity volunteer Wai-Ming Lee passes the Olympic Flame to mountain rescue team leader John Hulse in front of Buckingham Palace in the presence of Prince William, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

Wheelchair basketballer Ade Adepitan carries the Olympic Flame on Millennium Bridge.

Student Ifeyinwa Egesi holds the Olympic Flame inside the Globe Theatre.

For more on the Torch Relay, see www.london2012.com/torch-relay/

ALL PICTURES: LOCOG.

• It’s all about the Olympics in London this week and many of the events – like the Opening Ceremony and Torch Relay (see last week’s post) – are well covered elsewhere, but we thought we’d mention a couple of things in relation to the Games: 

The first is the ‘All the Bells’ project which will see bells across London being rung at 8:12am on Friday to “ring in” the first day of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Work No. 1197: All the bells in a country rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes, commissioned as part of the London 2012 Festival, is the brainchild of Turner Prize-winning artist and musician Martin Creed and will involve thousands of bells across the nation. Speaking of bells, the City of London has announced that some of the City’s churches will be ringing continuously during the three Olympic marathon events – the men’s, women’s, and Paralympic events. As many as 57 of the country’s most experienced bell ringers, co-ordinated by the Ancient Society of College Youths (a ringing society created in London in 1637) will be working for three to four hours continuously at churches including St Paul’s Cathedral, St Mary le Bow, St Lawrence Jewry, St Magnus the Martyr, St Vedast and St Katharine Cree. During the women’s marathon, an all-female band will be attempting a peal at St Paul’s, the first all-woman attempt on the bells. (Apologies, this article had originally had the time for the bell ringing at 8.12pm – it is in the morning, not the evening!)

A new exhibition exploring London’s Olympic history has opened at the British Library. Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games features a range of memorabilia including a swimming costume and the finishing tape broken by – later disqualified – marathon runner Dorando Pietri  from the 1908 London Games (see our earlier post for more on him) as well as posters and artworks, stamps, letters and postcards. The exhibition also features audio interviews with Olympians including William (Bill) Roberts, a relay runner in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and Dorothy Tyler, a medal-winning high jumper who competed in the 1936 and 1948 Olympics. Presented by the British Library and International Olympic Committee, the exhibition runs until 9th September at the library in St Pancras. Entry is free. For more, see www.bl.uk. PICTURE: Rare 1948 postcard by an unknown artist (c) Private collection/IOC

• A new free wifi network has been launched in London’s West End. Westminster City Council and telco O2 launched the network this week. It will initially cover Oxford and Regent Streets, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Parliament Square with further areas in Westminster and Covent Garden the next to be included in the network. A once-only registration process is required to join.

• Henry Moore’s famous sculpture, The Arch, has been returned to its original home in Kensington Gardens. The six metre high work was presented to the nation by Moore in 1980 and was positioned on the north bank of the Long Water until 1996 when the structure became unstable and was placed in storage. In late 2010, the Royal Parks began a project with The Henry Moore Foundation to see if the work could be returned to the gardens. Work began to restore the piece – which consists of seven stones weighing 37 tonnes – to its original location earlier this year. For more on Kensington Gardens, see www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington-gardens.

• On Now: From Paris: A Taste for Impressionism. This Royal Academy of Arts exhibition at Burlington House features 70 works from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and includes works by Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Degas, Sisley, Morisot and Renoir as well as those of post-Impressionist artists Corot, Théodore Rousseau and J-F. Millet, and ‘academic’ paintings by Gérôme, Alma-Tadema and Bouguereau. Runs until 23rd September. Admission charge applies. See www.royalacademy.org.uk for more.

The home of English football, in 1966 Wembley Stadium in north-west London played host to the FIFA World Cup and witnessed England win the coveted cup.

Led out onto the ground by Bobby Moore, the English team, under manager Alf Ramsey, were locked in a 2-2 draw with West Germany when the game went into extra time. English player Geoff Hurst, who had already scored a goal, went on to score two more goals (one of which was particularly controversial with some still believing it didn’t cross the goal-line), giving him a hat-trick of goals and handing England the cup in a 4-2 win.

The team received the Jules Rimet trophy (named for former FIFA president Jules Rimet and replaced with the current FIFA World Cup Trophy in the 1970s) from Queen Elizabeth II.

While the history of Wembley goes back to 1923 when the Empire Stadium, referred to as the “Twin Towers” thanks to its distinctive two domed towers, was built on the site, the current stadium was only officially opened in 2007. Capable of seating 90,000, it is the second largest stadium in Europe.

As the Empire Stadium, the ground – originally built for a British Empire Exhibition – had played host to events including the 1934 Empire Games, the 1948 Olympics, and numerous football finals including the so-called “White Horse final” when a mounted policeman went on the pitch to contain the estimated 200,000 fans who watched the Bolton Wanderers FC defeat West Ham United FC 2-0 in the 1923 FA Cup final.

The current stadium with its iconic arch now plays host to the FA Cup as well as other high-profile matches like the FA Community Shield and large events including rock concerts (a recent vote on the Wembley website found that the greatest event ever held there was a 2007 concert by Muse).

This Olympics, Wembley is hosting numerous football matches including the gold medal match for both men and women, on the 11th and 9th August respectively (the last time the men’s final was played here during an Olympics was in 1948 when England won the bronze). It’s hoped a new record will be set for the number of people attending a women’s Olympic football match (the current record of 76,489 was recorded at the 1996 Olympics in Georgia at the Stanford Stadium) during the Games.

With a one kilometre circumference, the stadium encloses some four million square metres (equivalent apparently to the space taken up by 25,000 London double-decker buses) and features a Royal Box in the middle of the north stand from where all trophies are presented. The roof is partly closable.

There are tours of the stadium (although it’s closed during the Olympics), details of which are below.

WHERE: Wembley National Stadium, Wembley (nearest Tube stations are Wembley Park and Wembley Central or the Wembley Stadium British Rail station); WHEN: Selected dates – see website for details; advance booking strongly recommended (the stadium is closed for events, including the Olympics and before and after); COST: £16 an adult/£9 a child (under 16, under five’s free)/£9 seniors/£41 family ticket (zip wire ride extra); WEBSITE: www.wembleystadium.com/Wembley-Tours.aspx.

PICTURE: Action Images/Paul Harding (courtesy of Wembley National Stadium).