This Week in London – Museum of London prepares to move; London’s open spaces celebrated; Kenley Airfield restored; and Milton Avery at the RA…

The Museum of London has launched a six-month programme of events celebrating its 45 year history ahead of its doors closing on 4th December in preparation for its move to West Smithfield. The programme includes a range of family activities – from Roman picnics to large LEGO builds – as well as behind the scenes access at the museum during Open House London and two festivals on the closing weekend celebrating the past 50 years of London’s history. For the full programme of events, head to www.museumoflondon.org.uk. Following its closure at the London Wall site, the new site at West Smithfield, to be named The London Museum, will open in 2026.

A group of children paddling in Whitestone Pond on the edge of Hampstead Heath in 1920. PICTURE: © London Metropolitan Archives

An outdoor exhibition on the essential role of London’s parks and open spaces – which have served as everything from playgrounds and picnics to concerts and Sunday football kickabouts – opens in Guildhall Yard on Monday. Green City: A Visual History of London’s Parks and Open Spaces, which is curated by the City of London Corporation’s London Metropolitan Archives, celebrates the role open places have played in the capital since the 16th century and brings together 100 photographs and prints from the archives’ collections. The exhibition can be seen in Guildhall Yard until 1st August when it moves to Aldgate Square. On 15th August it will open at Hampstead Heath and then, from 1st September, spend two weeks at The View in Epping Forest’s Visitor Centre.

Kenley Airfield – an integral part of London’s defence during World War II – has reopened following a £1.2 million restoration. The airfield, which sits in the Borough of Croydon, was a station for the Royal Flying Corps during World War I and the Royal Air Force during World War II. The restoration work has brought back to life eight deteriorating fighter blast pens, which protected RAF Spitfires and Hurricanes from attack. The site also includes The Kenley Tribute, a memorial to all who served there between 1917 and 1959, both on the ground and in the air. For more, including information on visiting the airfield and self-guided walks, see www.kenleyrevival.org.

The work of 20th century American artist Milton Avery is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the Royal Academy of Arts on Friday. Milton Avery: American Colourist – which can be seen in The Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries in Piccadilly – features some 70 works including portraits and landscapes dating from 1910 until the 1960s. The exhibition is divided into four sections – ‘Early Work’, ‘Portraits’, ‘Innovation in Colour and Form’ and ‘Late Work’ – and highlights include Blossoming (1918), a portrait of Avery’s friends known as The Dessert (1939), two portraits of his daughter March – Seated Girl with Dog (1944) and March in Brown (1954), and, Black Sea (1959). Runs until 16th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

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Where’s London’s oldest…embassy?

Another ‘oldest’ question that’s not as simple as it might seem.

Austrian Embassy, Belgrave Square. PICTURE: David Adams

Austria has occupied a building at 18 Belgrave Square in Belgravia since it moved there from Chandos House in Queen Anne Street in 1866.

But the embassy was vacated with the outbreak of World War I and the building entrusted, firstly to the protection of the ambassador of the United States, and following the severing of their relations in 1917, to the Royal Swedish Legation.

The Austrians returned in 1920 but following Hitler’s incorporation of Austria into the German Reich in 1938, it was used as a department of the German Embassy.

Following the outbreak of World War II, the Swiss legation room over protection of the building and following the end of the war the damaged building fell under the care of Britain’s Ministry of Works.

The Austrians returned in September, 1948, with the new ambassador arriving in 1952. It continues today to serve as the residence of the Austrian Ambassador.

Australia House. PICTURE: Matt Brown (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Not to be confused with the Austrians, the Australian High Commission resides in ‘Australia House’ which claims to be “the longest continuously occupied foreign mission in London”.

In 1912, the Australian Government bought the freehold of a site on the corner bounded by Strand, Aldwych and Melbourne Place. Following a design competition, Scottish architects A Marshal Mackenzie and Son were selected as the designers of the new Australia House with Commonwealth of Australia’s chief architect, Mr JS Murdoch, arriving in London to assist them.

Work began in 1913 – King George V laid the foundation stone – but was interrupted by World War I and in 1916, former Australian PM and now High Commissioner Andrew Fisher moved into temporary offices on the site even as the work continued around him. King George V officially opened Australia House on 3rd August, 1918, with then Australian Prime Minister, WM “Billy” Hughes, in attendance.

LondonLife – Commemorating World War I at Hampton Court Palace…

Hampton Court Palace. PICTURE: David Adams

Standing with Giants, a thought-provoking art installation at Hampton Court Palace, commemorates the lives lost in World War I and II and, in particular, the Indian soldiers who resided on the palace’s estate prior to the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, and again for the World War I Victory Parade in London. The work of Oxfordshire artist Dan Barton and a dedicated group of volunteers, the work – located in the East Front gardens – features 100 almost life-sized silhouettes of soldiers and 75 screen-printed poppy wreaths along with an additional 25 specially commissioned silhouettes which represent the Indian soldiers. Almost 1,800 Indian Army officers, soldiers, and civilian workers sailed from India for the World War I Victory Parade and a camp was specially created to house them in the palace grounds in what was at the time one of the largest gatherings of people from India and South-East Asia ever assembled the UK. During their stay in London, the soldiers were treated to excursions in London and across the country which included trips to the Tower of London and a Chelsea football match. Alongside the display, a special trail map has been created to allow visitors to explore other aspects of the palace’s World War I history and former residents who took on roles ranging from frontline nurses to campaigners for improved care for injured veterans. One of the most poignant contributions the palace made to the war effort was the use of wood, supplied from an oak tree felled in Hampton Court’s Home Park, for the making of the coffin for the Unknown Soldier. Can be seen until 28th November. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk.

This Week in London – JMW Turner’s world at the Tate; ‘Unknown Warrior’ centenary marked at National Army Museum; and, model making from the ‘age of railways’…

JMW Turner, ‘The Burning of the Houses of Parliament’ (c 1834-35), oil paint on canvas, Tate (accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856)

A landmark exhibition on the work – and times – of JMW Turner opens at the Tate Modern in Millbank today. Turner’s Modern World features some 160 works and attempts to show how the landscape painter found “new ways to capture the momentous events of his day, from technology’s impact on the natural world to the dizzying effects of modernisation on society”. Highlights include war paintings such as The Battle of Trafalgar (1806-8) and Field of Waterloo (1818), works capturing political events like The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons (1835) and maritime disasters like A Disaster at Sea (1835) and Wreck of a Transport Ship (c1801), as well as works related to the industrial advances taking place such as Snow Storm (1842), The Fighting ‘Téméraire’ (1839), and Rain, Steam and Speed (1844). Admission charge applies. Runs until 7th March (online booking required). For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

An exhibition at the National Army Museum in Chelsea marks the 100th anniversary of the Unknown Warrior being laid to rest in Westminster Abbey. Using objects, paintings, photography and personal testimony, Buried Among Kings: The Story of the Unknown Warrior tells the story of the creation of this symbolic memorial dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of British servicemen who died during World War I. Highlights include a union flag on loan from the Railton family (it was Chaplain David Railton who conceived the original idea for an Unknown Warrior following an encounter in 1916 with a wooden cross on the Western Front which was inscribed ‘An Unknown British Soldier’), a Bible carried by Chaplain George Kendall during the selection of the Unknown Warrior, a fragment of the original wooden Cenotaph erected in 1919-1920, and Frank O Salisbury’s large scale painting, The Passing of the Unknown Warrior, which depicts the procession of the Unknown Warrior from Victoria Station to Westminster Abbey. In connection with the exhibition, Victoria Station is hosting a pop-up display between 9th and 16th November on the journey of the Unknown Warrior from the Western Front to Westminster Abbey (the coffin actually arrived in London on 10th November, 1920). Admission charge applies (at Chelsea). Runs until 14th February (online booking required). For more, see www.nam.ac.uk.

Model steam locomotive, 1:12 scale, working, represents a standard passenger type locomotive c.1837, made by Mr. J. Dawson, District Superintendent at Southampton of the London & Southampton Railway.

Model making in the “age of the railways” is the subject of a free exhibition now on at the Science Museum in South Kensington. Brass, Steel and Fire features intricate models from the Science Museum Group Collection as well as stunning miniature locomotives and a display of almost 200 tools used by model-maker Keith Dodgson. Highlights include ‘Salamanca’, the world’s oldest model locomotive (on loan from Leeds Museums and Galleries), a model of ‘Fire King’ – made in the 1840s by apprentice Josiah Evans who used his experience to later build full size locomotives, and the world’s oldest working model steam engine, the Etherley winding engine model. The exhibition is free and runs until 3rd May. Online booking required. For more, see sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/brass-steel-and-fire.

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10 disease-related memorials in London…9. The Imperial Camel Corps Memorial…

It’s common to associate war memorials with the commemoration of those who died in combat. But disease, too, is a major killer of soldiers in a time of war yet few memorials explicitly mention disease as cause of death.

One which does do so, however, is the Imperial Camel Corps Memorial in Victoria Embankment Gardens.

The memorial, which features a bronze figure riding a camel atop a stone plinth has a number of inscriptions and plaques recording the corps’ engagements during World War I and the names of the fallen.

Among them is an inscription which reads “To the glorious and immortal memory of the officers, NCO‘s and men of the Imperial Camel Corps – British, Australian, New Zealand, Indian, who fell in action or died of wounds and disease in Egypt, Sinai and Palestine, 1916 -1917-1918.”

Disease was a significant killer in World War I – it’s estimated that some 113,000 British and Dominion soldiers died of disease – but the number was far fewer than those who died in combat or from wounds, a figure which equates to at least 585,000 (not including the tens of thousands of missing).

Yet, medical advances meant disease was far less a killer than in previous wars – it’s said that in the American Civil War, for example, as many as two-thirds of those who died were the result of various diseases.

The Imperial Camel Corps, which grew to four battalions including two Australian, one British and one New Zealander before it was disbanded after the end of the in 1919, suffered some 246 casualties during World War I – we don’t have a breakdown for how many of those deaths were attributable to disease.

The Grade II-listed memorial, which was sculpted by Major Cecil Brown – himself a veteran of the Corps, was unveiled in July, 1921, in the presence of both the Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers.

PICTURES: Top and right – David Adams/Below  – Matt Brown (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

This Week in London – Princess Beatrice’s bouquet; Technicolour Dickens; and, the Royal Parks’ ‘Summer of Kindness’…

Princess Beatrice, who married Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in a private ceremony in The Royal Chapel of All Saints at Windsor’s Royal Lodge last week, has sent the bouquet she carried during the wedding to rest on the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey. The tradition of royal brides sending their bouquets to rest on the grave was started by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, when she lay her bridal bouquet on the grave in memory of her brother Fergus who was killed in 1915 at the Battle of Loos during World War I. Brides including Queen Elizabeth II, the Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Beatrice’s sister, Princess Eugenie, have since continued the tradition. The grave commemorates the fallen of World War I and all those who have since died in international conflicts.

The Charles Dickens Museum in Bloomsbury reopens on Saturday, 25th July, with a new exhibition marking the 150th anniversary of the author’s death. Technicolour Dickens: The Living Image of Charles Dickens explores the power of the writer’s image and features paintings by the likes of William Powell Frith, Victorian-era photographs, ink drawings by “Automatons”, and letters from Dickens in which he explains what he really thought of sitting for portraits. The museum has also commissioned artist and photographer Oliver Clyde to create eight colourised portraits based on images taken from its collection. For more see www.dickensmuseum.com. Other reopenings this coming week include the Horniman Museum (Thursday, 30th July).

The Royal Parks are launching a ‘Summer of Kindness’ campaign to keep the parks clean after unprecedented levels of rubbish were left in the parks during the coronavirus lockdown. The Royal Parks, which played a key role in the physical and mental wellbeing of many people during the lockdown, report that some 258.4 tonnes of rubbish – the equivalent in weight of 20 new London buses or 74 elephants – were collected from London’s eight Royal Parks in June alone with staff having to spend more than 11,000 hours to clear up. And, with groups now able to gather, the littering has continued, prompting The Royal Parks to call for visitors to care for the parks by binning litter or taking it home. So, please, #BeKindToYourParks.

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Famous Londoners – Winnie the Bear…

Once one of the most famous residents of ZSL London Zoo, Winnie the Bear was brought to the city by a Canadian soldier – Lt Harry Colebourn – during World War I.

Colebourn, a member of the 34th Fort Garry Horse Regiment of Manitoba and the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, had purchased the black bear cub at White River, Ontario, for $20, on 24th August, 1914, from a hunter who had killed the cub’s mother.

Colebourn, who named the bear Winnie after his hometown of Winnipeg, subsequently took the bear with him to England where his regiment, the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade, was training on Salisbury Plain ahead of their deployment to France.

The female bear became the mascot’s regiment but when the regiment left for France in December, 1914, she was left at the London Zoo in Regent’s Park for safekeeping.

Colebourn was a frequent visitor during leave from the front – he had initially intended to take Winnie back to Canada at the end of the war. But when the war ended in 1918, Colebourn instead donated the bear to the zoo in appreciation of the care staff had given her.

Among those who came to see the bear at the zoo were writer AA Milne and his son Christopher Robin – Milne subsequently named his famous fictional creation Winnie-the-Pooh after the bear.

Winnie the bear died at the zoo on 12th May, 1934.

There’s a statue of Lt Colebourn and Winnie at the zoo (pictured). The work of Bill Epp, it was presented to the zoo by the people of Manitoba, Canada, on 19th July, 1995. It’s a copy of an original Epp work which was unveiled in Assiniboine Park Zoo, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on 6th August, 1992.

PICTURE: Chris Sampson (CC BY 2.0)

10 historic London hotels…9. The Connaught…

The Connaught Hotel, another five star Mayfair establishment, was built in 1892 on the site of smaller hotel which had opened in what is now Carlos Place in the early 19th century.

Known as The Prince of Saxe-Coburg Hotel (or The Coburg for short), the first hotel on the site opened in 1815 as an offshoot of Alexander Grillon’s hotel in Albemarle Street. The Coburg was created out of two houses owned by the Duke of Westminster.

In 1892, the owners of The Coburg – Lewis Isaacs and H L Florence – embarked upon a complete rebuild of the hotel and in 1897 it reopened with a 90-year lease on the building signed by Sir John Blundell Maple, of a famous furniture making family.

The new premises was renamed The Connaught during World War I amid anti-German sentiment. The new moniker was a reference to the seventh child of Queen Victoria, Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn.

Frequented by the gentry between the wars thanks to its handy position between Buckingham Palace and Harley Street, during World War II the hotel served as home to French President General Charles de Gaulle.

In the post war years, the hotel soon established a reputation for fine food and drink thanks in part to the opening, in 1955, of The Grill Room. This was only enhanced with the arrival of Michel Bourdin as head chef in 1975 – a position he held for 26 years.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, opened the hotel’s new kitchens in 1992 and 10 years later Angela Harnett’s Menu at The Connaught opened, winning a Michelin star in 2004 (it closed in 2007).

In the mid 2000s, the Grade II-listed hotel underwent a major £70 million restoration and refurbishment with new additions including a new wing, the Aman Spa and a Japanese garden. In 2008, French chef Hélène Darroz opened a restaurant at the hotel and the following year, in 2009, a new art deco ballroom designed by Guy Oliver – Mayfair’s first in more than 80 years – opened its doors.

Most recently, in 2017, New York-based French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten opened a new restaurant at the Connaught. Other newer additions include Tadao Ando’s Silence, a water feature installed outside the main entrance in 2011.

With around 120 rooms and suites (not to mention the world-famous Connaught Bar), the hotel, which had been acquired by the Savoy Group in the 1950s, is now part of the Maybourne Hotel Group along with Claridge’s.

Famous names which have been recently associated with the hotel include Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and Gwyneth Paltrow. And, of course, Ralph Lauren, who was so enamoured of the hotel’s famous staircase that he had a replica made for his Madison Avenue store in New York.

For more, see www.the-connaught.co.uk.

PICTURE: Via Google Street View.

 

This Week in London – Hampton Court kicks off Christmas festivities; ‘The Monarch of the Glen’ returns to National Gallery; and Alfred Munnings’ World War I art…

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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LondonLife – Brompton’s new memorial for those lost in World War I…


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.

Treasures of London – Cavalry Memorial…

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.

LondonLife – Remembrance Sunday marks 100 years since the guns fell silent…

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.

LondonLife – The Tower remembers…

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).

LondonLife – World War I remembered in St James’s Park…


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).

This Week in London – Early London photographs; CRW Nevinson at the British Museum; and, the Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers…

Some of the first photographic images of London and Londoners – depicting everything from Victorian families living in slums and the construction of the capital’s first underground railway to well-known icons like Tower Bridge and the Crystal Palace – have gone on show in Aldgate Square. Presented by the City of London Corporation’s London Metropolitan Archives, Victorian London in Photographs also features a daguerreotype (the earliest form of photograph) dating from the 1840s which depicts a view of The Monument (pictured) and is the earliest photograph of the City of London in LMA’s collections. The free exhibition can be seen until 12th August at Aldgate Square after which it moves to Paternoster Square next to St Paul’s Cathedral, where it can be seen from 14th to 23rd August. For more on the London Metropolitan Archives, follow this linkPICTURE: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London Corporation

A selection of works documenting CRW Nevinson’s experiences during World War I feature in a free exhibition at the British Museum. CRW Nevinson: Prints of War and Peace commemorates the centenary of the artist’s gift of 25 of his prints to the British Museum in 1918 and a number of the works featured on show for the first time. They include a self-portrait while Nevinson was a student at the Slade School of Art, A Dawn and Column on the March, both of which show massed ranks of French soldiers marching to their doom, The Doctor and Twilight which show the conditions wounded soldiers had to endure, and dynamic cityscapes such as Looking down into Wall Street, Looking through Brooklyn Bridge, Wet Evening (depicting Oxford Street in London) and Paris Window and Place Blanche (both dating from 1922 and depicting Paris). The display can be seen in Room 90a, Prints and Drawings Gallery, until 13th September. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

On Now – Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers. This exhibition at the Guildhall Library marks the 450th anniversary of the granting of the Tylers and Bricklayers’ Company’s charter by Elizabeth I in 1568. As well as tracing the company’s history from its first master in 1416 through to the company today, it also looks at the life of the company’s most famous son, playwright Ben Jonson, and how the company was instrumental in the rebuilding of the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666. Runs until 31st August. Admission is free. For more, follow this link.

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LondonLife – World War I commemorated at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show…

A tribute marking the centenary of World War I, Battlefields to Butterflies, has gone on show at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show this week. Designed by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, the special feature garden features two very different scenes – one depicting the desolate landscapes of the trenches and the other a landscape restored to peace by nature. The display draws on the words and paintings of World War I artist William Orpen and reflects what he witnessed firsthand on the Western Front. Among the plants on show are poplars, hornbeams, willow and birch and massed wildflowers including poppies, cornflowers, loosestrife, mallows and cranesbills. A special plaque commemorating the 24 Royal Parks and Palaces gardeners and park keepers who lost their lives in the world is also included in the garden. The plaque will be taken to Brompton Cemetery following the flower show to form part of a permanent memorial garden that will commemorate all parks, gardens and grounds staff, from across the UK and its allies, who died in the war. The show runs until 8th July. For more, see www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-hampton-court-palace-flower-show. PICTURE: © Historic Royal Palaces/Michael Bowles.

 

This Week in London – The history of women in Parliament; Michael Jackson portraits; and, Nevinsons honoured…

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

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

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

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Lost London – St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics, Old Street…

A monumental-sized building on Old Street in the City of London, St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics was founded in 1751 to treat the poor who suffered from mental illnesses.

The new hospital – which was built partly through concerns about abuses patients suffered at the more famous Royal Bethlehem Hospital (Bedlam) – was initially located on a site in Moorfields which had been formerly occupied by a foundry. But in 1786 it moved to the purpose-built palatial premises in Old Street where it remained until 1916.

The new building, which was designed by George Dance after an competition for its design apparently failed to find a suitable candidate, had a 150 metre long street frontage with a central entrance and male wards on one side and female wards on the other.

The building contained some 300 individual cells – each had a small window, but no heating. There were gardens located behind it and in the basement were cold water baths used to treat patients.

The hospital building was enlarged in the 1840s when infirmaries and a chapel were added.

By the 1860s, the hospital appears to have abandoned its target market of the poor – the 150 or so patients were then described as being of “middle class”.

In 1916, the patients were transferred to other institutions – the charity running the hospital set up a ward in Middlesex Hospital – or sent home and the buildings were acquired by the Bank of England.

The premises was used to print banknotes until the 1950s and the building, which had been damaged during World War I, was eventually demolished in 1963.

The archive of St Luke’s have been digitised and are held by the Wellcome Library.

This Week in London – New City of London benches for LFA; summer concerts in Regent’s Park; and Romania and World War I…

A series of new “one-off” public benches are being unveiled across London as part of the month-long London Festival of Architecture currently underway in the city. Designed by emerging artists and designers and installed in partnership with the City of London Corporation and Cheapside Business Alliance, the benches include Patrick McEvoy’s doggy design, Here Lies Geoffrey Barkington (pictured), located in Jubilee Gardens in Houndsditch, Maria Gasparian’s Ceramic City Bench in Bow Church Yard, McCloy + Muchemwa’s sinuous A Bench for Everyone inside One New Change, and Nicholas Kirk Architects’ Money Box – formed of 45,000 stacked penny coins – outside London Bridge Station. The festival runs until the end of the month and there’s still a plethora of activities to take part in. For more, see www.londonfestivalofarchitecture.org. PICTURE: © Agnese Sanvito (Via LFA)

A free summer series of concerts kicks off in The Regent’s Park Bandstand this weekend in what has been described as a “new chapter” in the bandstand’s history. To be held every Sunday afternoon between 3pm and 5pm (with an extra concert to be held at the same time on the Bank Holiday of 27th August) until 2nd September, the concerts range from classic rock to big bands and jazz. Those performing include the Brixton-based South London Symphonic Winds, Regent Community Brass and the Barnes Concert Band as well as the Heroes Band – which raises funds for Help for Heroes – and Royal Academy of Music-associated acts, the Jonny Ford Jazz Quintet and Metropolitan Brass. The concerts have been organised by the Friends of Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill, working with The Royal Parks charity, the Royal Academy of Music and the Crown Estate Paving Commission, and it’s hoped they’ll become an annual fixture in the park. For more, see www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/the-regents-park.

Romania’s role in World War I is the subject of a free, temporary display at the National Army Museum in Chelsea. Romania and the Great War charts the “years of neutrality (1914-1916), the fierce battles of 1916 on the Entente side, the painful retreat to Moldavia, the striking victories of 1917 and the momentous victory of 1918, which offered a strategic foundation to the political unification of all Romanian provinces and the creation of a modern, democratic state”. Objects on show include photographs, maps, uniforms and original First World War medals. Runs until 15th July. For more, see www.nam.ac.uk.

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This Week in London – WWI impact on art explored; recalling Windrush; ‘Sounds Like London’; and, John Thelwall commemorated…

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

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

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

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

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