March 11, 2016
Described as the first dedicated Indian restaurant in Britain, the Hindoostanee (also spelt Hindoostane) Coffee House was established by Dean Mahomet (later Sheikh or ‘Sake’ Dean Mahomet), an Indian who served with the East India Company Army before coming to Britain.
Accompanying East India Company man Godfrey Baker to Ireland, he lived initially with the Baker family before meeting and marrying a young woman while learning English and subsequently establishing his own household in Cork.
In 1794, he published a book, The Travels of Dean Mahomet, which, written as a series of letters to an imaginary friend, described his own life and Indian customs. It is credited as the first book to be written and published in English by an Indian.
Around 1807, he and his wife and son moved to London where he initially found employment with Sir Basil Cochrane at a “vapour spa” Sir Basil had established in Portman Square. While Mahomet introduced Indian innovations such as “shampooing” to the spa, he was given little credit for his work, however, and so decided to break out on his own.
In 1810, he set-up the coffee house at 34 George Street, Portman Square, just behind Sir Basil’s house.
The establishment was aimed at Anglo-Indians who had spent time in India and offered them Indian-style foods – such as curries and spiced dishes – along with other reminders of the sub-Continent such as a room set up for the use of the hookah with “real Chilm tobacco” – all in an Indian-style setting.
Sadly, the establishment was only rather short-lived and, despite taking on a partner, Mahomet was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1812. But he did go on to establish a very successful Indian-style baths in Brighton, Mahomet’s Baths (and later even opened a second branch in St James’s London which would be managed by his son).
A plaque was erected by the City of Westminster close to the site of the former coffee house in 2005.
PICTURE: Simon Harriyott from Uckfield, England [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.
February 15, 2016
The pub, located at 18 Wilton Row not far from Belgrave Square in Belgravia, was apparently first constructed in 1720 and, located in the barracks of the 1st Royal Regiment of Foot Guards, originally housed the officer’s mess.
It first opened as a pub in 1818 and was initially known as The Guardsman but subsequently renamed The Grenadier after the regiment was renamed – by Royal Proclamation – the First Grenadier Regiment of Foot Guards in honour of their actions in fending off the French at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
A bright red painted sentry box – matching the patriotic red, white and blue of the pub – stands outside the pub today in honour of its history.
Renowned around the world for its Bloody Mary, it has apparently attracted the patronage of some big names – back in the day these included King George IV and the Iron Duke Arthur Wellesley, and, in more recent times, Prince William and Madonna.
There is said to be ghost – known as ‘Cedric’ – which haunts the pub – it’s often referred to as the most haunted pub in London – and is apparently that of a young guardsman who was flogged a little over-enthusiastically after cheating at cards and ended up dead. He is apparently most active in September – said to be the time of year when he was killed.
A tradition of attaching money to the ceiling and walls has developed in an effort to pay off Cedric’s debt (and presumably stop the haunting). Along with the memorabilia relating to the pub’s history, the walls also feature a collection of newspaper clippings about the haunting.
For details, including opening times, head to the Taylor Walker website here.
PICTURE: Ewan Munro/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0 (image has been cropped).
February 8, 2016
Grimaldi was born in Clare Market, London on 18th December, 1778, the son of actor and clown Joseph Giuseppe Grimaldi (known simply as the “Signor”), and Londoner Rebecca Brooker, a dancer who was more than 50 years younger than Grimaldi when she become one of a string of mistresses.
Joe was groomed for the stage by his father from an early age and made his debut at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in late 1780. He was soon also working at Drury Lane Theatre, running between the two to make performances (at the same time, he did attend a theatrical academy in Putney known for educating the children of performers).
Joe’s father died when he was just nine-years-old and he became the family’s main breadwinner and while he was still able to work at both Sadler’s Wells and Drury Lane, his pay was cut after his father’s death meaning the family had to move out of their home in Holborn and into the slum of St Giles where they took lodgings in Great Wild Street.
In 1799, having met three years before, he married Maria Hughes, the eldest daughter of Richard Hughes, the proprietor of Sadler’s Wells Theatre. The newlyweds moved to a home at 37 Penton Street in Pentonville. It was not to be a long-lasting marriage – Maria died during childbirth on 18th October, 1800.
Further hardship was to come soon after when, while performing at Drury Lane Theatre, he accidentally shot himself in his foot and was forced to bed to recover. But there was a silver lining – his mother employed a dancer, Mary Bristow, to look after him during his rehabilitation and they formed a bond which led to them being married on 24th December, 1801.
After recovering from his injury, meanwhile, he had resumed his hectic schedule at London theatres as well as country venues and it was during this period that he redesigned the way in which he painted his face – adopting a white face design still used by many clowns today – and created the iconic clown which he named simply ‘Joey’.
In 1802, his only child was born – Joseph Samuel, known simply as ‘JS’ – and from the age of 18 months, he was introduced to the theatre, making his own acting debut at Sadler’s Wells in 1814.
In 1806, Joe played what is arguably his most famous roles – as both Bugle and the Clown in Thomas Dibdin’s Harlequin and Mother Goose, which opened at the Covent Garden Theatre on 29th December, 1806, and ran for the next two years.
Financial need saw him continue to take on roles in London and elsewhere but finally, in 1823, ill health – the consequence of his many years of physically abusing his body for his act – forced him into retirement. In 1828, two farewell benefit performances were held in which he had a limited role, his last was at Drury Lane on 27th June.
The last years of his life were marked with tragedy – relations which his son were strained (and they spent years estranged) before JS died on 11th December, 1832, at just the age of 30 while his wife died in 1834.
Grimaldi spent the last years of his life living alone in Southampton Street, Islington, before he was found dead in his bed by his housekeeper on 1st June, 1837. He was buried in St James’s churchyard, Pentonville, on 5th June, 1837 – the area is now Joseph Grimaldi Park and features, as well as his grave, a coffin-shaped memorial (pictured, top) that plays musical notes when danced upon (it’s apparently possible to play his signature song, Hot Codlins when “dancing upon his grave”).
Described as being the pre-eminent entertainer of his day, Grimaldi is credited with transforming the role of the Clown in pantomime and ushering in a whole new era in the art of clowning. His legacy – still remembered by clowns everywhere – received a boost when after his death, Charles Dickens edited his memoirs in 1838.
He is remembered in an annual service held on the first Sunday in February every year in Holy Trinity Church, Hackney (the Sunday just past), an event which is attended by clowns in full get-up.
For a detailed look at the life of Grimaldi, see Andrew McConnell Stott’s The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi: Laughter, Madness and the Story of Britain’s Greatest Comedian.
An official public record of the British Government, The London Gazette, initially known as The Oxford Gazette, was first published on 7th November, 1665.
But its publication didn’t take place in London – rather it was in Oxford (hence its being initially named – The Oxford Gazette) where King Charles II, having fled London due to the plague, ordered the publication to be printed at the University Press.
There’s several reasons behind its publication – one is that courtiers were apparently so worried about the plaque they didn’t even want to touch newspapers from London for fears of contagion of the plaque. But there was also a need, amid the swirl of rumours, gossip and sensationalism found in other publications, for a reputable publication of record (not the least because the introduction of censorship a few years before had suppressed other publications).
Published for the first couple of months under its Oxford masthead, it wasn’t until the following year – on 5th February, 1666 – that the gazette was first published in London (issue 24) after the royal court’s return.
The gazette had unparalleled access to government information – including reports from foreign embassies about what was happening abroad (important when news from overseas was limited), and official reports, including those ‘Mentioned in despatches’ from the War Office and Ministry of Defence.
Adopting the same model, official government gazettes followed in the coming years in Edinburgh (1699) and Dublin (1706 – later The Belfast Gazette). All three, from 1889, were published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. Today, The Gazette is published by The Stationary Office (TSO), on behalf of The National Archives (and is now online as well as in print).
Initially published only a couple of days a week, it is now published every weekday except on Bank Holidays.
Notable events published in The London Gazette include the Great Fire of London in 1665 (issue 85), the founding of the Bank of England in 1694 (issue 2982), the burial of Sir Isaac Newton in 1727 (issue 6569), the announcement of the American Declaration of Independence in 1776 (issue 11690), the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo in a “Gazette Extraordinary” in 1815 (issue 17028), and the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 (Supplement 40020).
You can see The London Gazette today and back issues as well as to order commemorative editions, head to www.thegazette.co.uk.
January 18, 2016
Famous around the world as the home of bespoke tailoring in London, Savile Row owes its name – like so many other streets in Mayfair – to landowner Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington.
Burlington (1612-98) resided at Burlington House (now home of the Royal Academy of Arts) on Piccadilly and after his death the land around his former home was developed and the streets named for Burlington and members of his family.
Among them was his wife, Lady Burlington, née Lady Dorothy Savile, after whom Savile Row was named. Laid out in 1695, the street was actually located on the site of the former kitchen gardens of Burlington House and was given its name (originally Savile Street) in the 1730s.
The first to reside here were apparently mostly military and politicians (these included PM William Pitt the Younger) and it was only in the early 19th century that the first tailors started to set up shop here. With clients including society dandy Beau Brummell (see our our earlier post here) and the Prince Regent (later King George IV), the street’s fame grew rapidly and continued into the 20th century when customers included some of the biggest names in Hollywood – Cary Grant, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra among them.
Among the famous tailoring firms still operating in Savile Row are Anderson & Sheppard (at number 30, it’s where the Prince of Wales has his suits made), Henry Poole (at number 15, Victorian-era owner Henry Poole is credited as the inventor of the tuxedo), and Hardy Amies.
Headquartered at number 14 (with a shop at number 8), Amies gained an international reputation when appointed dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth II in 1955/the address was previously owned by the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan and was also the address Jules Vernes gave Phileas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days).
One last tailor worth a particular mention is that of Tommy Nutter, who set up shop at number 35 in the late Sixties with a nameplate out front simply reading Nutters and shocked traditionalists with his modern take on tailoring – this modern approach continues among some tailors in the street even today.
The street also has a famous claim in the story of the Beatles – the moved their company Apple Corps Company into number 3 in July, 1968, and it was on the roof of this building that they played their last live gig on 3rd January, 1969.
Top posts of 2015 – A garden gem; London and the Peasant’s Revolt; and, the Duke of Wellington’s cloak…
December 28, 2015
10. Our 10th most popular post was published in July came from our special series on “10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London” and looks at the origins of The Goldsmith’s Garden – 10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…1. Goldsmiths’ Garden…
9. Published in November, our ninth most popular post was from our current special series on London ‘battlefields’ and looks at the role the city played in the 14th century Peasant’s Revolt – 10 London ‘battlefields’ – 3. London sacked in the Peasant’s Revolt…
8. At number eight is a post from our long-running Treasures of London series, which, in the year of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, looks at a recent acquisition by the National Army Museum – Wellington’s cloak – Treasures of London – Duke of Wellington’s cloak…
We’ll look at numbers seven through five tomorrow…
September 18, 2015
Spattered with mud, the cloak is made from blue wool and trimmed with a navy collar and facings. Purchased by the museum at auction for £38,000, it will now form part of a collection of other Waterloo and Napoleonic items in the museum’s permanent collection.
The cloak can apparently be traced back to Lady Caroline Lamb, who had an affair with Wellington in the summer of 1815 and is believed to have been given the cloak as a memento. The first documented owner was Grosvenor Charles Bedford who was given the cloak in 1823 by the surgeon and anatomist Anthony Carlisle.
On presenting Bedford with the cloak, Carlisle had commented that it had been given to him by Lady Caroline who had received it from the duke. The cloak has been passed down within Bedford’s family ever since.
The National Army Museum in Chelsea already possesses a portrait of Wellington by Edward Stroehling (1768-1826) which depicts him wearing a similar cloak.
The cloak will go on display when the museum reopens next year. For more on the museum in the meantime, see www.nam.ac.uk.
PICTURE: Courtesy National Army Museum.
This Week in London – The Waterloo Cartoon on show; see inside a former Huguenot’s home; and, Royal Parks’ harvest festivals…
September 3, 2015
• A monumental Victorian-era drawing of the Battle of Waterloo has gone on display in London for the first time since 1972. The Waterloo Cartoon, more formally known as The Meeting of Wellington and Blucher after the Battle of Waterloo, measures more than 13 metres long and three metres high. A preparatory drawing for a wall painting which still exists in the House of Lords’ Royal Gallery, it took artist Daniel Maclise more than a year to complete in 1858-59 and was based on eye-witness accounts (the artist even recruited Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to use their German contacts to gather information from Prussian officers present on the day). Long considered a masterpiece, it was bought by the Royal Academy in 1870 – the year of Maclise’s death – and was on show at Burlington House until the 1920s. It has been in storage for much of last century and, newly restored following a grant from Arts Council England, has now gone on display to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. The newly conserved drawing is the focus of a new exhibition – Daniel Maclise: The Waterloo Cartoon, which opened at the Royal Academy in Piccadilly yesterday (between May and August, it was on show as part of a Waterloo exhibition at the Royal Armouries in Leeds). Runs until 3rd January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.
• There’s a rare chance to see inside a former Huguenot merchant’s house dating from 1719 in Spitalfields this weekend. The property at 19 Princelet Street was the home of the Ogier family, who had come to London escaping persecution in France and worked in the silk weaving trade. It was later subdivided into lodgings and workshops with later occupants following a range of trades and professionals while a synagogue was opened in the garden in 1869. The site – which the Spitalfields Centre charity hopes to establish as a museum of immigration – is not generally open to the public but will be open this Saturday and Sunday – from 2pm to 6pm. Entry is free (but donations would be welcome) and there may be queues so its suggested you arrive early. For more, see www.19princeletstreet.org.uk.
• Watch a bee keeping demonstrations, help dig up some potatoes and introduce the children to some farm animals. The Kensington Gardens’ Harvest Festival will be held this Sunday, between 11am and 4pm, and will also include a range of children’ activities, experts from the Royal Parks Guild on hand to answer your questions about food growing and complimentary hot and cold drinks available throughout the day while stocks last. It’s the first of three harvest festivals to be held in Royal Parks this month with Greenwich Park set to host its inaugural harvest festival on 13th September (11am to 4pm) and The Regent’s Park Allotment Garden to host one on 19th September (11am to 5pm). For more, see www.royalparks.org.uk.
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This Week in London – Celebrate summer at the Tate; Titian revealed at Apsley House; and, exploring the unconscious at The Freud Museum…
July 23, 2015
• On Saturday, the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall on South Bank will host an “audio-visual feast” of music, performances, art installations and activities. The free Turbine Festival will feature everything from an alternative hair salon and a London bus built on the day by artist John Costi to a pop-up juice bar where you can make your own drinks and a record shop where you can design your own vinyl record sleeve. The day will also feature performances by Grime/HipHop/AfroPop artist Afrikan Boy, Felix’s Machines – who will transform live music and sound into a 3D visual show, and poet Jacob Sam-La Rose, as well as a programme of “bite-sized” films running in collaboration with the London Short Film Festival, and a series of interactive workshops covering everything from beatboxing to crafting. Visitors to the festival, sponsored by Hyundai, are also encouraged to contribute to a special project by My Culture Museum by submitting photographs or bringing objects to be archived and curated. Runs from 12.30pm to 9.30pm. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.
• Three paintings previously attributed to later followers of 16th century Venetian artist Titian but subsequently found to be by the artist himself and his studio have gone on display together for the first time at Apsley House. The three paintings – which include Titian’s Mistress (c1560), A Young Woman Holding Rose Garlands (c1550) and Danae (c1553) – were all in poor condition before conservation and cleaning by experts from English Heritage, the Museo del Prado in Madrid and the Hamilton Kerr Institute revealed their true quality (and Titian’s signature on two of the paintings). All three works were held in the Spanish Royal Collection and among 160 that Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon and King of Spain, tried to take out of the country following his defeat by the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Vittoria in 1813. Wellington was subsequently given the paintings by a grateful King Ferdinand VII. The Titian at Apsley House exhibition, which opened earlier this month, runs at the Duke of Wellington’s home at Hyde Park Corner until 31st October. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/wellington-arch/.
• On Now: Festival of the Unconscious. This festival at Sigmund Freud’s former London home and now home to The Freud Museum sees artists, designers, writers and performers taking another look at Freud’s seminar 1915 paper, The Unconscious. Features of the festival, which runs until 4th October, include specially commissioned films by animators from Kingston University running throughout the house, sound and video installations by London-based art project Disinformation in the dining room and an installation from stage designers at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in Freud’s study. There’s also a display by Julian Rothenstein, co-author of Psychobox, and a chance to recline and “free-associate” on a psycho-analytic couch in Freud’s bedroom. An extensive programme of events accompanies the displays. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.freud.org.uk.
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On Sunday, Princess Charlotte, daughter of Prince William and Princess Kate, was christened at Sandringham. So we thought we’d take a quick look at another christening that took place in London almost 200 years ago, that of Princess Victoria.
The future Queen Victoria was born on 24th May, 1819 – the daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent (fourth son of King George III), and his wife, Princess Victoria Mary Louisa of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.
At the insistence of the Prince Regent (later King George IV), the christening was a small affair and was held a month after the birth on the afternoon of 24th June in the magnificent Cupola or Cube Room of Kensington Palace (pictured as it is now, above).
The guest list was small and included the Prince Regent, Prince Frederick, the Duke of York, and his wife Princess Frederica, Princess Augusta Sophia, Princess Mary, the Duchess of Gloucester, and her husband, Prince William, and Prince Leopold, who had recently become a widower after the death of Princess Charlotte.
The ceremony was conducted by Charles Manners-Sutton, the archbishop of Canterbury, and, thanks to the intransigence of the Prince Regent, her name was apparently only decided at the last minute.
The Prince Regent has earlier forbidden the use of such ‘royal’ names including Charlotte, Elizabeth, Georgina or Augusta and when asked by the archbishop what she would be named, he replied brusquely that she would be named Alexandrina in honour of the Russian Tsar Alexander, one of the new princess’s godparents.
Her second name was Victoria in honour of her mother, and while Victoria was often called “Drina” while a girl, she herself apparently preferred her second name to her first.
The gold font used in the ceremony formed part of the Crown Jewels and its origins go back to the time of King Charles II.
Interestingly, there were a couple of significant Victorian connections during Princess Charlotte’s christening – the font used at this christening was known as the Lily Font (like its predecessor, it is usually found with the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London).
It was commissioned by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert for the christening of their first daughter, Princess Victoria, in 1841, apparently due to Queen Victoria’s dislike for the gold font used at her own christening – it had been used by King Charles II to christen his illegitimate children.
The Lily Font has apparently been used at every royal christening since except that of Princess Eugenie who had a public baptism in Sandringham in 1990.
Princess Charlotte also wore a replica of the christening gown worn by Princess Victoria.
WHERE: The Broad Walk, Kensington Gardens, Kensington (nearest Tube stations are High Street Kensington or Queensway); WHEN: Daily 10am to 6pm (until 31st October); COST: £17.50 adult/£14.10 concession/children under 16 free (online booking discounts available, Historic Royal Palaces members free); WEBSITE: www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace.
June 22, 2015
Given the recent commemorations surrounding the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo (including a re-enactment of the arrival of news of Wellington’s victory in London where it was delivered to the Prince Regent), we thought it only fitting to take a look at the use of the name in London.
The name Waterloo, which now refers to a district in Lambeth centred on Waterloo Station, was first used to designate the bridge which crosses the Thames here.
Opened in 1817 as a toll bridge, the John Rennie-designed structure was known as Strand Bridge during its construction but renamed Waterloo at its opening two years after the battle. (Rennie’s bridge was later demolished and rebuilt in the 20th century – the current bridge is pictured above).
The name was also used to designate Waterloo Road and in the early 1820s was given to the church St John’s Waterloo (now St John’s and St Andrew’s at Waterloo) located on the road.
In 1848, Waterloo Station opened and it was after this that the surrounding district, known in past ages for its swampiness (hence streets like Lower Marsh), generally became known as Waterloo.
On 3rd July, Waterloo will host the Waterloo Carnival with a picnic on Waterloo Millennium Green and a procession (for more on that, see www.waterlooquarter.org/news/come-and-support-this-years-waterloo-carnival) while the month-long Waterloo Food Festival kicks on on 1st July. For more on events in Waterloo commemorating bicentenary, see www.wearewaterloo.co.uk/waterloo200/.
June 19, 2015
Unveiled earlier this month at Waterloo Station to mark the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, the memorial features a supersized solid bronze replica of the obverse side of the Waterloo Campaign medal depicting Nike, the Greek goddess of victory.
The memorial, which was installed on a balcony above the main concourse by The London Mint Office on behalf of Waterloo200 – the organisation overseeing bicentenary commemorations, is dedicated to the 4,700 members of the allied armies who were killed in the battle on 18th June, 1815 (which also left 14,600 wounded and 4,700 missing).
The upsized medal, which has a diameter of 65 centimetres, is a replica of one which was the first to be commissioned for every soldier who fought in the battle, regardless of their rank.
Designed by London-based artist Jason Brooks, the memorial also features a famous quote from the Duke of Wellington on granite: “My heart is broken by the terrible loss I have sustained in my old friends and companions and my poor soldiers. Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.”
It was unveiled on 10th June by the 9th Duke of Wellington (pictured with the memorial) in a ceremony attended by some of the descendants of those who fought and died in the battle.
Waterloo Station was itself, of course, named in commemoration of the battle (well, indirectly – it, like the surrounding district itself, took its name from nearby Waterloo Bridge which was in fact named after the battle).
June 5, 2015
News this week that Historic Royal Palaces and the Royal Botanic Gardens are embarking on a two year project to restore eighty decorative dragons to the Kew Pagoda has led us to take a look at the history of the exotic tower set amid the trees.
Designed by architect Sir William Chambers (one of his drawings is depicted here), the pagoda was built in 1762 during the eighteenth century craze for Chinoiserie and was probably commissioned by Princess Augusta as part of the ongoing works she undertook in the gardens after the death of her husband Prince Frederick, eldest son of King George II and Queen Caroline.
Standing 163 feet (or almost 50 metres) high, the 10 storey pagoda was originally decorated with eighty golden dragons. It was designed to be the high point of a world tour through the gardens which also took in Roman ruins and Arabic mosques.
While the pagoda remains, the dragons were only on the structure for some 22 years before being removed in 1784 during roof repairs. Thanks to rumours they were made of solid gold, it was suggested they were sold off to pay the debts of the Prince Regent (the future King George IV), but experts say the wooden figures had simply rotted and so had to be removed.
Following their removal, the dragons subsequently disappeared and despite several attempts to find them – including one by Decimus Burton, architect of the famous Palm House (for more on that, see our earlier post), in 1843 – they have never been found.
Historic Royal Palaces and the Royal Botanic Gardens have now decided to replace them with new ones, drawing on contemporary accounts and drawings and using a team of specialist craftsmen to create them.
The restored pagoda – complete with new dragons – will be open to the public in 2017.
It is one of several ornamental buildings still located in the gardens. Others include a Japanese gateway and a Japanese wooden house called a minka.
WHERE: The Great Pagoda, Kew Gardens (nearest Tube station is Kew Gardens); WHEN: 10am daily (closing times vary – see websites for details); COST: £16.50 adults/£13 concessions/children £3.50 (discounts apply for online bookings); WEBSITE: www.kew.org.
PICTURES: RBG Kew
This Week in London – Marking VE Day’s 70th; Rut Blees Luxemburg at the Museum of London; and India’s Sidi community on show at the NPG…
May 7, 2015
• Three days of events kick off in London tomorrow to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day. Events will include a Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in Whitehall at 3pm tomorrow (Friday) coinciding with two minutes national silence while Trafalgar Square – scene of VE Day celebrations in 1945 – will host a photographic exhibition of images taken on the day 70 years ago (the same images will be on show at City Hall from tomorrow until 5th June) and, at 9.32pm, a beacon will be lit at the Tower of London as part of a nation wide beacon-lighting event. On Saturday at 11am, bells will ring out across the city to mark the celebration and at night, a star-studded 1940s-themed concert will be held on Horse Guards Parade (broadcast on BBC One). Meanwhile, on Sunday, following a service in Westminster Abbey, a parade of current and veteran military personnel will head around Parliament Square and down Whitehall, past the balcony of HM Treasury where former PM Sir Winston Churchill made his historic appearance before crowds on the day, to Horse Guards. A flypast of current and historic RAF aircraft will coincide with the parade and from 1pm the Band of the Grenadier Guards will be playing music from the 1940s in Trafalgar Square. Meanwhile, starting tomorrow, special V-shaped lights will be used to illuminate Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament as a tribute. For more information, see www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/ve-day-70th-anniversary.
• The works of leading London-based photographer Rut Blees Luxemburg are on show in at new exhibition at the Museum of London in the City. London Dust will feature three major newly acquired works by Luxemburg including Aplomb – St Paul’s, 2013, Walkie-Talkie Melted My Golden Calf, 2013, and the film London/Winterreise, 2013. Blees Luxemburg’s images – others of which are also featured in the exhibition – contrast idealised architectural computer-generated visions of London that clad hoardings at City-building sites with the gritty, unpolished reality surrounding these. In particular they focus on a proposed 64 floor skyscraper, The Pinnacle, which rose only seven stories before lack of funding brought the work to a halt. The free exhibition runs until 10th January next year. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
• The Talk: The Cutting Edge – Weapons at the Battle of Waterloo. Paul Wilcox, director of the Arms and Armour Research Institute at the University of Huddersfield, will talk about about the weapons used at Waterloo with a chance to get ‘hands-on’ with some period weapons as part of a series of events at Aspley House, the former home of the Iron Duke at Hyde Park Corner, to mark the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo. To be held on Monday, 11th May, from 2.30pm to 4pm. Admission charge applies and booking is essential – see www.english-heritage.org.uk/apsley for more.
• On Now: On Belonging: Photographs of Indians of African Descent. A selection of ground-breaking photographs depicting the Sidi community – an African minority living in India – is on show at the National Portrait Gallery off Trafalgar Square. The works, taken between 2005 and 2011, are those of acclaimed contemporary Indian photographer Ketaki Sheth and the exhibition is his first solo display in the UK. They provide an insight into the lives of the Sidi, and include images of a young woman named Munira awaiting her arranged wedding, young boys playing street games, and the exorcism of spirits from a woman as a young girl watches. Admission is free. Runs in Room 33 until 31st August. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.
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This Week in London – Duke of Wellington on show; wartime City bank recreated in Warwickshire; and early photographs at the Tate…
April 30, 2015
• The Duke of Wellington’s political and military career as well as his personal life is being explored in an exhibition running at the National Portrait Gallery off Trafalgar Square until August. Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions features 59 portraits and other works including a rarely seen portrait of the Iron Duke painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence and commissioned by Sarah, Countess of Jersey, a year after Wellington had become Prime Minister. The portrait (pictured) remains unfinished – the state it was in when Lawrence died in 1830 – and, held in a private collection, hasn’t been shown in public for any significant period until now. The exhibition also includes a John Hoppner portrait of the duke as a young soldier, a daguerreotype taken by Antoine Claudet on Wellington’s 75th birthday in 1844 and drawings by Lawrence of Wellington’s wife, Kitty. The exhibition – which is part of the commemorations marking 200 years since the Battle of Waterloo, runs until 7th June. Admission is free. For more see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE: Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1829), © On loan to National Portrait Gallery by kind permission of Mr. & Mrs. Timothy Clode.
• Upton House is Warwickshire has turned the clock back to 1939 with a display dedicated to the time when the Bearstead family moved their City-based bank, M Samuel & Co, to their historic family mansion to escape the Blitz in London. Twenty-two bank staff took over the house, sleeping in shared dormitories and taking meals of rook pie in the home’s Long Gallery while secretaries typed surrounded by works of art. The National Trust has returned 12 rooms to their wartime look based on research conducted by 80 of the volunteers at the house. They’re filled with thousands of objects, from ration-book toothpaste to wartime toilet rolls, to recreate a wartime experience at the home. Outside an Anderson Shelter stands in the garden where heritage vegetables are being grown in an allotment. Visitors will also find out how 40 of the most precious works in the home were sent to a special storage facility in a Welsh slate mine to protect them. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/upton-house/
• On Now – Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840-1860. This exhibition at Tate Britain in Millbank is the first major exhibition in Britain dedicated to salt prints, the earliest form of paper photography, and features 90 images including some of the best and rarest early photographs. The salt print technique was invented in Britain in the 1840s and 1850s and spread across the world, hence as well as portraits, still lifes and scenes from ‘modern life’, the images on show include from William Fox Talbot’s images of a Paris street to Nelson’s Column under construction, Linnaeus Tripe’s views of Puthu Mundapam in India and Auguste Salzmann’s studies of statues in Greece. Runs in the Linbury Galleries until 7th June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.
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This Week in London – Wellington Arch marks the Battle of Waterloo; Shakespeare’s Globe celebrates the Bard’s birth; and the ‘cathedral on the marsh’ open day…
April 17, 2015
• The Battle of Waterloo comes under the microscope in a new exhibition opening at Wellington Arch on Hyde Park Corner tomorrow. Wellington Arch: Waterloo 1815 – The Battle for Peace provides an overview of the battle and the reasons which led to it, the people involved and the battle’s legacy. Displayed items include the sword the Duke of Wellington carried at the battle, his handwritten battle orders and an original pair of ‘Wellington boots’ as well as, of course, the arch itself, which was built in 1825-27 as a monument to Wellington’s victories over Napoleon. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/wellington-arch/.
• Shakespeare’s Globe in Southwark celebrates the Bard’s birthday with a Hamlet-themed day of free family events this Sunday. Along with an Elsinore bouncy castle, there will be sword-fighting demonstrations, ‘skull’ coconut shies and a grave-digging ball pool while actors who have taken on the role of Hamlet over the years while appear on stage attempting to deliver the quickest ever reading of the play and famous film adaptions of Hamlet will be playing on screen around the site. The day will also mark almost a year since Shakespeare’s Globe embarked on an unprecedented two year global tour of Hamlet taking in every country in the world in honour of last year’s 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. The birthday event at the Globe runs between 11am and 4.30pm. For more, see www.shakespearesglobe.com.
• The famous “cathedral on the marsh” – the Crossness Pumping Station – is open to the public this Sunday, the first of five days it will be open this year. The pumping station at Abbey Wood in south-east London was built by Sir Joseph Bazalgette as part of a general sewerage system upgrade and was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1865. The Grade I-listed Beam Engine House was constructed in the Romanesque-style and features some of the “most spectacular ornamental Victorian cast ironwork” to be found today. The day runs from 10.30am to 4pm. Admission charges apply but no booking is required. For more, see www.crossness.org.uk.
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This Week in London – Biggest ever Magna Carta exhibition; 200 years since Waterloo at the NPG; and, Alexander McQueen at the V&A…
March 12, 2015
• The largest ever exhibition related to the Magna Carta opens at the British Library in King’s Cross tomorrow to mark the 800th anniversary of the document’s sealing. Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy features two original Magna Carta manuscripts from 1215 as well as 1215 document, the Articles of the Barons (known as ‘draft’ of the Magna Carta), the Petition of Right (1628), the English Bill of Rights (1689), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). It will also display two of the most celebrated documents in American history – the Delaware copy of the Bill of Rights and Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence (both on loan from the US National Archives) – along with UK cabinet papers from 1941 in which it was proposed an original Magna Carta manuscript from 1215 be given to the US in return for their support in World War II and artefacts including King John’s teeth, thumb bone and fragments of clothing taken from his tomb in 1797 as well as his will. The exhibition tells the story of the Magna Carta from its creation in 1215 through to its later use by people fighting for various rights and freedoms and its continuing impact on the world today. There’s also a series of interviews with politicians, historians and public figures including Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi, former US President Bill Clinton and William Hague. Runs until 1st September. Admission charge applies. For more – and a digitised gallery of artifacts – visit www.bl.uk/magna-carta-exhibition. PICTURE: Great Seal of King John, 1203 © Eton College Archives on display in Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy.
• The first gallery exhibition devoted to the Duke of Wellington opens at the National Portrait Gallery off Trafalgar Square today. Marking the 200th anniversary year of the Battle of Waterloo, Wellington: Triumphs, Politics, and Passions explores Wellington’s political and military career as well as his personal life. Highlights include Goya’s 1812 portrait of Wellington following his entry into Madrid (later modified to recognise further battle honours and awards), and Thomas Lawrence’s famous portrait painted in 1815, the same year as the Battle of Waterloo (the painting, which normally hangs in Apsley House, was used as the basis of the design of the £5 British note from 1971 to 1991). The exhibition of 59 portraits and other works also includes rarely seen works loaned by Wellington’s family include a John Hoppner portrait of the duke as a young soldier and a daguerreotype portrait taken by Antoine Claudet for Wellington’s 75th birthday in 1844. Runs until 7th June. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk or for more on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, see www.waterloo200.org.
• An exhibition celebrating the works of the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen opens at the V&A in South Kensington on Saturday. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty presents his works in 10 sections which focus on everything from McQueen’s roots in London, his “skilful subversion of traditional tailoring practices”, his fascination with the animal world and his longstanding interest in Eastern cultures. At the centre of the exhibition is The Cabinet of Curiosities, a display showcasing more than 100 garments and accessories and shown with film footage from his many catwalk presentations. The exhibition runs until 2nd August. Admission charge applies but you’ll have to be quick – the exhibition has already set the record for the most ever advance sales for an exhibition at the museum. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/savagebeauty.
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February 16, 2015
The last remaining pub in old Chiswick village in west London, The George and Devonshire has a history dating back to the 1650s.
Initially known simply as The George (like so many taverns and pubs, apparently after England’s patron saint), by the 1820s the name had changed to The George and Devonshire – the Duke of Devonshire’s former showpiece property, Chiswick House, can still be found nearby (for more on Chiswick House, see our earlier post here). The coat of arms of the Dukes of Devonshire now hang over the door.
The Grade II-listed building at 8 Burlington Lane, which is conveniently located just metres from a Fullers brewery, dates from the 18th century.
There was apparently once a secret passageway which led from the pub under the nearby St Nicholas’ Church (burial place of artist William Hogarth) to an opening located among a group of small cottages near the Thames – it is said to have been used by rum and spirits smugglers in the 1700s. The remains of the entrance can still apparently be seen in the pub’s cellar.
For more, see www.georgeanddevonshire.co.uk.
This Week in London – Churchill’s Scientists; Waterloo online; a Chelsea murder case reopened; exploring Crossrail; and, astronomical photography…
February 5, 2015
• Marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill, a new exhibition at the Science Museum in South Kensington looks at his passion for science and the influence that had on bringing World War II to an end. Churchill’s Scientists celebrates the individuals who flourished under Churchill’s patronage (and , as well as helping to bring about the end of World War II, also launched a post-war “science renaissance”) – from Robert Watson-Watt (inventor of radar) through to Bernard Lovell (creator of the world’s largest telescope) – and also delves into more personal stories of Churchill’s own fascination with science and tech. The display include objects from the museum’s collection as well as original archive film footage, letters and photographs. Highlights include the high speed camera built at Aldermaston to film the first microseconds of the detonation of the UK’s first home grown atomic bomb, the cigar Churchill was smoking when he heard news of his re-election as PM in 1951, and a one-piece green velvet “siren suit” designed by Churchill to wear during air raids (only one of three originals known to exist, it’s never been on public display outside of the tailors who created it). The free exhibition runs until 1st March and is part of the Churchill 2015 programme of events. Visit www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/churchill for more. PICTURE: Churchill with a Spitfire from Castle Bromwich (Philip Insley, CBAF Archive Vickers ArchiveSyndics).
• The National Army Museum and Waterloo2oo have launched an online gallery which will eventually comprise images and information on more than 200 artefacts associated with the Battle of Waterloo ahead of the 200th anniversary in June. Among the objects featured on Waterloo200.org are the Duke of Wellington’s boots, a French eagle standard captured in battle and the saw used to amputate the Earl of Uxbridge’s leg. One hundred items – drawn from the Army Museum’s collection as well as from European museums and private collections – can already be seen on the site with a further 100 to be added before the bicentenary on 18th June.
• The Talk: Death in Disguise: The Amazing True Story of the Chelsea Murders. On 12th February, the Guildhall Library in the City of London will host Gary Powell as he examines the facts of this double murder which took place in Chelsea in May, 1870, and left Victorian society reeling. For more events at the library, follow this link.
• On Now: Breakthrough: Crossrail’s tunnelling story. This exhibition at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden brings a new perspective on the massive Crossrail project currently underway in the city. Visitors will experience the tunnel environment through a five metre high walk-through installation featuring a computer simulation of a giant boring machine as well as learn about how the project is shaping up, play interactive tunnelling games and hear firsthand from those who work underground. Admission charge for adults applies. Runs until August. For more, see www.ltmuseum.co.uk.
• Extended: Astronomy Photographer of the Year Exhibition. This exhibition at the Royal Observatory Greenwich features the winning images from last year’s competition. They include the Briton James Woodend’s image of a vivid green aurora in the Icelandic night sky; American Patrick Cullis’ view of earth taken from 87,000 feet above ground; and, New Zealander Chris Murphy’s image of dusty clouds dancing across the Milky Way. The exhibition can be seen for free in the Observatory’s Astronomy Centre until 19th July. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/astrophoto.
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This Week in London – Celebrating the Year of the Bus; the British Library looks at WWI; medieval jousting and The Duke of Wellington; and, Blue Plaque nominations resumed…
June 19, 2014
• Almost 50 buses, from a horse-drawn model of the 1820s to the New Routemasters of today, will come to Regent Street on Sunday in celebration of the Year of the Bus. The ‘Regent Street Bus Cavalcade’ – which will stretch from Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Circus and will see the iconic West End street closed to traffic – will also feature a variety of free family events including Lego workshops (there will be a bus shelter and bus stop made entirely out of Lego outside Hamley’s toy shop), children’s theatre performances, a pop-up London Transport canteen and the chance to have a personal message recorded by the voice of London’s buses, Emma Hignett. There will also be an exhibition – Battle Bus – which provides information about the B-type bus (a newly restored version of which will be on display) which was used during World War I to carry soldiers to the frontline as well as ambulances and mobile pigeon lofts while jewellery company Tatty Devine will feature a special range of bus-inspired jewellery and hold jewellery-making workshops on board a London bus. The cavalcade, supported by the Regent Street Association and The Crown Estate, is part of Transport for London’s celebrations marking the Year of the Bus, organised in partnership with the London Transport Museum and the capital’s bus operators. The free event runs from 11.30am to 6pm. For more information, see www.tfl.gov.uk/yearofthebus and www.ltmuseum.co.uk.
• A new exhibition of materials showing how people coped at home and on the front during World War I opens at the British Library in King’s Cross today as part of efforts to mark the war’s centenary. Enduring War: Grief, Grit and Humour features personal objects such as letters, a handkerchief bearing the lyrics of It’s A Long, Long Way to Tipperary, Christmas cards, school essays about airship raids over London sit and recruitment posters, humorous magazines and even a knitting pattern for balaclavas. Highlights include a letter in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle expresses his concern over his son serving at the front, manuscripts by war poets such as Rupert Brooke as well as Wilfred Owen’s manuscript for Anthem for Doomed Youth, Vaughan Williams’ A Pastoral Symphony and Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen. A specially commissioned video and ‘soundscape’, Writing Home, features personal messages contained on postcards written to and from the front. A range of events accompanies the free exhibition. Runs until 12th October. For more on the exhibition, see www.bl.uk.
• Armoured knights on horseback can be seen jousting at Eltham Palace in south London this weekend. The former childhood home of King Henry VIII will host a Grand Medieval Joust which will also include displays of foot combat, the antics of a court jester, medieval music performances and a series of children’s events including a knight’s school. Runs from 10am to 5pm on both Saturday and Sunday. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/events. Meanwhile, the Battle of Waterloo is being remembered at the Duke of Wellington’s home of Apsley House near Hyde Park Corner. Visitors will come face-to-face with Wellington’s troops and their wives, having the chance to take a look inside a soldier’s knapsack, see the equipment he used and the drills he performed as well as see the Battle of Waterloo recreated in vegetables. The Waterloo Festival – this year marks 200 years since Napoleon’s abdication and exile to Elba – runs from 11am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/apsley/.
• Nominations have reopened for English Heritage’s Blue Plaques scheme in London. In 2012 nominations were temporarily suspended while new funding for the scheme was found and thanks to one individual’s donation and the creation of a new Blue Plaques Club to support the scheme on an ongoing basis, they have now reopened. There are 880 official Blue Plaques on London’s streets – remembering everyone from Florence Nightingale to Fred Perry and Charles Darwin. For more and details on nominations, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blue-plaques/.
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