A much-fought for building in the City of London, the neo-gothic Mappin & Webb building was built in the 19th century as a branch of the royal jewellers, Mappin & Webb.

Located on the corner of Poultry and Victoria Street opposite Mansion House – the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London, the triangular-shaped building was designed by John Belcher and completed in 1870.

The building, which featured a cone-roofed tower on the main corner of the site, was granted Grade II status

Following a long – and complicated – battle over the future of the site (which involved no less than Prince Charles), the Mappin & Webb building was demolished in 1994.

The site is now 1 Poultry, which was completed in 1997 and subsequently became the youngest building to be listed as Grade II*. It was designed by James Stirling and is considered an exemplar of post-modernist architecture.

PICTURE: The Mappin & Webb building in 1993 (Derek Voller (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0))

Advertisements

Carved stone inscriptions, medieval manuscripts and early printed works are among items on display in a new exhibition looking at the act of writing and its impact on human civilisation at the British Library. Writing: Making Your Mark spans five millennia and five continents and includes writing examples from more than 30 writing systems including Greek, Chinese and Arabic. Highlights include an 1,800-year-old ancient wax tablet, early 19th century Burmese tattooing instruments, the final diary entry of Antarctic explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott, James Joyce’s notes for Ulysses, Caxton’s 1476-7 printing of The Canterbury Tales – the first book printed in England, and the personal notebooks of Elizabethan explorer Sir Walter Raleigh (pictured). There’s also a 60,000 signature petition from 1905 protesting the first partition of Bengal, Mozart’s catalogue of his complete works from 1784-1791 featuring his handwriting and musical notation, and Alexander Fleming’s notebook in which he recorded his discovery of penicillin in 1928. A programme of events accompanies the exhibition which runs until 27th August. Admission charge applies. For more see www.bl.uk. PICTURE: © British Library.

London’s forgotten rivers, tunnels, sewers, deep shelters, and the world’s first subterranean railway are all explored in a new free exhibition at the London Metropolitan Archives in Clerkenwell. Under Ground London in part celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Victorian engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette – who designed the scheme to overhaul the city’s sewers in the 19th century. As well as Bazalgette’s landmark work, the exhibition explores the legend of a cobbled street buried beneath today’s Oxford Street and tells the story of the Thames Tunnel which, when it opened in 1843, was the world’s first tunnel under a river. There’s also information on London’s ‘ghost stations’, including Strand and King William Street; and the Metropolitan Railway – the world’s first underground railway as well as images of the River Fleet, displayed for the first time. The display can be seen until 31st October. For more, follow this link.

Women artists working in Britain in the past 60 years are being celebrated in a new display at the Tate Britain in Millbank. Sixty Years features about 60 works spanning painting, photography, sculpture, drawing and film and includes many recent acquisitions. Artists whose works are on show include Mona Hatoum, Sarah Lucas, Bridget Riley, Mary Martin and Anthea Hamilton. Highlights include Gillian Wearing’s film Sacha and Mum (1996), Susan Hiller’s large scale multimedia installation Belshazzar’s Feast, the Writing on Your Wall (1983-84), and two new mixed media works by Monster Chetwynd – Crazy Bat Lady (2018) and Jesus and Barabbas (Odd Man Out 2011) (2018). For more, see www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-britain.

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

Wishing all of our readers a very happy Easter!

Easter is being celebrated in London through a range of events over the long weekend. They include an ‘Easter Extravaganza’ treasure hunt for children at The Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace, and a special Easter-themed trail at the Russia: Royalty & the Romanovs exhibition in the Queen’s Gallery, Lindt Gold Bunny Hunts at royal palaces including Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace, and, of course, all the pageantry of Easter services at the city’s many churches.

A major new exhibition of the work of contemporary glass artist Dale Chihuly has opened at Kew Gardens in London’s west. Chihuly at Kew features 32 works by the Seattle-based artist at 13 locations across the gardens. Highlights include Sapphire Star – located at the Victoria Gate, Drawings, the Rotolo series and Seaforms – all located in the Shirley Gallery of Botanical Art and a new, specially-designed sculpture as well as nine other installations in the Temperate House. An interactive trail designed for families takes visitors around the installations and there will be special night-time viewings from 15th August. Kew is also running family activities during Easter. Chihuly runs until 27th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.kew.org.

New works by Irish-born but American-based artist Sean Scully have gone on show at the National Gallery. Sea Star: Sean Scully at the National Gallery was inspired by the artist’s love for JMW Turner’s painting The Evening Star and features new and recent large scale multi-panel works that include his celebrated Landline paintings as well as Robe Blue Blue Durrow (2018), which suggests the seventh-century Book of Durrow from his native Ireland, and Human 3 (2018), inspired by the New York subway. Admission is free. Runs until 11th August. For more, see www.national gallery.org.uk.

On Now: Mary Quant. This exhibition at the V&A focuses on the 20 years between 1955 and 1975 and reveals how Dame Mary Quant democratised fashion for a new generation as she popularised the miniskirt, colourful tights, and tailored trousers. The display brings together more 120 garments as well as accessories, cosmetics, sketches and photographs, most of which have never been on display. Highlights include 35 objects from 30 people received after a public call-out to track down rare Quant items from wardrobes across the nation and 50 photographs of women wearing their Quant clothes. Runs until 8th March, 2020. Admission charge applies. For more, see vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/mary-quant.

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

The story goes that this Kensington pub – which sits on the brow of Campden Hill – was given its name because on a clear day it was possible to see the crenellated towers and walls of that royal residence from the windows on the upper floor.

Whether or not that’s the case remains a matter of some speculation – perhaps the pub was simply named after the salubrious royal abode for its cachet.

The Grade II-listed pub, at 114 Campden Hill Road just to the east of Holland Park, dates from the 1820s when customers apparently included farmers taking their livestock to Hyde Park for market day.

It is said to have been remodelled in the 1930s but, according to its listed building entry “retains a substantial proportion original fabric” as well as, given the remodelling, “exemplifying the ‘Old English’ phase of inter-war pub design”.

The original features of the pub, which also has a walled garden, include wooden screens which separate what were the original bars – Campden, Private and Sherry (the name of the latter apparently comes from a drink once served here called the Hunter). The screens are fitted with small doors, the tiny size due to the fact they were originally intended only for use by bar staff.

There’s a story that the bones of philosopher and author Thomas Paine – he of Rights of Man fame – are buried in the cellar. The bones of Paine, who had died in America where he’d been one of the Founding Fathers, were apparently shipped back to his birthplace of England by MP and social reformer William Cobbett – he had intended to give them a fitting burial on his native soil but that never took place. Instead, when his son inherited them, he is said to have sold his skeleton to the landlord to settle his tab.

Not to be confused with other ‘Windsor Castles’ in London including one in East Finchley and another in Marylebone.

For more, see www.thewindsorcastlekensington.co.uk.

PICTURE: Ewan Munro (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

A sapphire and diamond coronet made for Queen Victoria goes on permanent display in the V&A’s William and Judith Bollinger Gallery from today. The new display is being unveiled as part of the V&A’s commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the births of the Queen and her husband, Prince Albert. The coronet was designed for the Queen by Prince Albert in 1840, the year they were married. Albert based the design on the Saxon Rautenkranz (circlet of rue) which runs diagonally across the coat of arms of Saxony. Victoria wore the coronet in a famous portrait by Franz Xavier Winterhalter completed in 1842 and again in 1866 when she wore it instead of her crown at the opening of Parliament. Entrance to the gallery is free. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.

A major new exhibition of the work of Edvard Munch (1863-1944) opens at the British Museum in Bloomsbury today. Edvard Munch: love and angst, a collaboration with Norway’s Munch Museum, features 83 artworks taken from the museum’s collection as well as loans from across the UK and Europe. Highlights include a black-and-white lithograph of The Scream – the first time any version of the work has been on show in the UK for a decade, Vampire II – considered to be one of his most elaborate and technically accomplished prints, the controversial erotic image Madonna, and, Head by Head, a print representing the complex relationship between human beings. All of the latter three latter prints are being displayed alongside their original matrix (the physical objects Munch used to transfer ink onto paper). Runs until 21st July in the Sir Joseph Hotung Exhibition Gallery. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org. (PICTURE: The Scream (1895), Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Private Collection, Norway. Photo: Thomas Widerberg)

A retrospective of the work of Abram Games (1914-1996), a poster artist for the War Office during World War II, has opened at the National Army Museum in Chelsea. The Art of Persuasion: Wartime Posters By Abram Games features more than 100 posters he designed while working in the War Office’s Public Relations Department between 1941 and 1945. It explores how his Jewish refugee heritage, his experiences while a soldier and the turbulent politics of the time shaped his career and how his work – Games is described as a “master of reductive design” – still influences design professionals today. In conjunction with the opening of the exhibition last week, Games has been commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at his former home in Golders Green. Runs until 24th November. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nam.ac.uk/artofpersuasion.

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

A state-of-the-art, multi-sensory experience focusing on the beasts, large and small, that have helped shaped London opens at the Museum of London tomorrow. Beasts of London, being run in conjunction with the Guildhall School and Music & Drama, tells the story of the capital from before London existed through to the city today, all through the perspective of animals. Inspired by objects in the museum’s collection, the nine “episodes” of the experience encompass subjects including the arrival of the Romans, the creation of the first menageries during the medieval period, the plague years of the 1600s, the first circuses in the late 1700s, the end of the animal-baiting period in the Victorian era and the role of animals in today’s contemporary city. There’s also a special episode on the contribution horses have made to the city. Well-known identities including Kate Moss, Brian Blessed, Pam Ferris, Nish Kumar, Stephen Mangan, Angellica Bell and Joe Pasquale provide voices for the animals alongside actors from the Guildhall School. The family-friendly experience can be enjoyed until 5th January, 2020. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/beastsoflondon. PICTURE: Lion sculpture; courtesy Museum of London.

A new exhibition about Britain’s role in the Cold War opens at the National Archives in Kew today – exactly 70 years since the formation of NATO. Protect and Survive: Britain’s Cold War Revealed features original documents including political memos, spy confessions, civil defence posters and even a letter from Winston Churchill to the Queen as it explores the complexities of government operations during a time of paranoia, secrets and infiltration. Other highlights include George Orwell’s infamous list of suspected communist sympathisers, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin’s ‘percentages agreement’, a plan of Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabb’s fateful spy mission, ‘Atom spy’ Klaus Fuchs’ confession and Civil Defence posters. There’s also a recreated government bunker and a 1980s living room showing the impact of the Cold War on both government and ordinary lives as well as digital screens on which Dame Stella Rimington, the first female Director General of MI5, shares her experiences along with insights from historian Dominic Sandbrook and curator Mark Dunton. The display is being accompanied by a series of events including night openings, film screening and talks. Runs until 9th November (30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall). Admission charge applies. For more, see nationalarchives.gov.uk/coldwar.

Prince Albert’s personal contributions to the V&A’s Library collection are the subject of a new exhibition which opened this week as part of the South Kensington Institute’s celebration of the 200th anniversaries of the births of both the Prince and Queen Victoria. Prince Albert: Science & the Arts on the Page features books and photographs include one volume containing a letter written by the Prince’s librarian Ernst Becker highlighting Albert’s wish to promote knowledge and learning in science and the arts. There’s also a volume of songs written and set to music by Albert and his brother, featuring amendments in Albert’s own hand, as well as his signed season ticket to the Great Exhibition of 1851. Runs until 1st September on the Library Landing. Admission is free. Head here for more.

Forty years of computer game history is once again on show at the Science Museum from Saturday. Returning for its fourth year, Power UP features 160 consoles and hundreds of games, from retro classics like Space Invaders to the latest in VR technology. Special events include two adults-only evening sessions on 10th and 17th April. Runs until 22nd April. For more, see sciencemuseum.org.uk/power-up.

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

This well-to-do district of west London owes its name to the family of Hugh Grosvenor, the 7th Duke of Westminster and owner of the Grosvenor Estate, the land upon which Belgravia is located.

The country estate of the duke’s family – the Grosvenors – is known as Eaton Hall and it lies just to the south of Chester. Various names related to the estate appear on the London map. Among them is Belgravia.

Belgravia take its name from the tiny village of Belgrave which lies within the estate’s boundary (the word Belgrave, incidentally, comes from the Old French for “beautiful wood”).

The London residential area now known as Belgravia, meanwhile, was formerly known as Five Fields and used for grazing. The Westbourne River meandered through it, crossed by “Bloody Bridge”, so-called because it was a known haunt of robbers.

It later became the site of market gardens and houses began to appear in the area following King George III’s move to what was then Buckingham House but development of the area didn’t begin in earnest until the 1820s when Robert Grosvenor, later the first Marquess of Westminster (pictured here in a statue in Belgrave Square), began developing the estate with the aid of builder Thomas Cubitt.

Designed with Belgrave Square at its centre, the new development immediately became associated with the more affluent end of society, a connection which continues to this day.

As well as Belgrave Square, the district, which straddles both the City of Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, includes Eaton, Chester and Lowndes Squares (the first two names associated with the duke’s country estate; the third named after William Lowndes, a politician and Secretary to the Treasury under King William III and Queen Anne.

Palatial terraced houses aside, landmarks include the Grade II-listed St Peter’s Church, located at the east end of Eaton Square, which was first built in the 1820s and rebuilt in the 1830s. The area is also home to numerous embassies and consulates including those of Norway, Spain, Malaysia and Egypt, and, in keeping with the international feel, also boasts several statues of notable foreigners including Simon Bolivar and Christopher Columbus.

Famous residents have included former Prime Ministers Stanley Baldwin, Neville Chamberlain and Margaret Thatcher (the first two lived in Eaton Square; Thatcher in Chester Square), Louis Mountbatten, who lived in Wilton Crescent, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who lived in Upper Belgrave Street, as did Lord Lucan who mysteriously disappeared in 1974 after his children’s nanny was found murdered.

PICTURES: Top – Terraced homes in Grosvenor Crescent, which runs off Belgrave Square (Google Maps); Right – Statue of Lord Robert Grosvenor, first Marquess of Westminster (David Adams).

Created as part of the City of London’s contribution to 1951’s Festival of Britain, these gardens are found just to the south-east of St Paul’s Cathedral.

One of a series of gardens located around the cathedral, they were created on the former site of the street known as Old Change in an area which had suffered considerable bomb damage in World War II.

Laid out by Sir Albert Richardson, the gardens feature a sunken lawn with a wall fountain at the west end which was a gift of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners.

The gardens, which are permanently open to the public, also contain Georg Erlich’s sculpture, The Young Lovers, which was erected on the garden’s upper terrace – above the water fountain at the west end – in 1973.

Some relandscaping took part in 2012 including the creation of a new garden to the west, called the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Gardens.

PICTURES: Top – Diliff (licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0/image cropped); Right – David Adams

Frank C Bostock is not a name you’d probably immediately recognise but his grave monument gives a big clue to his profession.

Born in 1866 into a family that ran a travelling menagerie (his grandfather was the famous George Wombwell who is buried at Highgate Cemetery), Frank, who became a lion tamer while still a teenager, initially worked as part of the family operation.

In his late 20s, however, he travelled to the US where he established his own menagerie in New York initially in Brooklyn and later at Coney Island. He later returned to the UK and there set up a massive touring exhibition, known as the Jungle, that travelled from city to city.

Bostock died, ostensibly from the flu, on 8th October, 1912. He was buried at Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington in what was by all accounts a grand affair.

The Grade II-listed rectangular white marble grave cover, made by Millward and Co, is topped with a carved figure of a sleeping lion.

There’s said to be a couple of traditions associated with the grave – one says people stroke the lion’s left paw for luck, the other says people place flowers under the lion’s paws for the same.

WHERE: Highgate East Cemetery, Swain’s Lane (nearest Tube station is Archway); WHEN: 10am to 5pm daily; COST: £4 adults/children under 18 and members free; WEBSITE: highgatecemetery.org/visit/cemetery/east.

PICTURE: Taken in July, 2011. Julian Walker (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

It’s 53 years ago this month that the World Cup trophy – offiicially known as the Jules Rimet Trophy – was stolen from Methodist Central Hall in Westminster (OK, it’s not a very round figure, but it’s a fascinating story).

The trophy had arrived in the UK in January for the tournament to be held later that year and was mostly kept at FA headquarters at Wembley. But in March, it went on show at a stamp exhibition being held at the hall (pictured).

Despite being kept under (relatively) constant guard in a glass cabinet, the trophy was discovered missing just after 12pm on 20th March (the crime had apparently occurred while the guards were on a break). Scotland Yard immediately set about investigating the theft but to no avail (the FA, meanwhile, secretly commissioned a replica to be made, just in case the trophy couldn’t be recovered).

A couple of days later Joe Mears, chairman of the FA, received an anonymous package. It contained the removable top lining of the trophy and a demand for £15,000 in return for the trophy. An exchange was to be set up involving codes placed in newspaper personal ads.

The FA chairman then worked with Scotland Yard to set up a false exchange. On 24th March, Flying Squad Detective Inspector Leonard Buggy, posing as Mears, met a former soldier who turned out to be Edward Betchley in Battersea Park, showing him a briefcase filled with newspapers covered with a layer of £5 notes. Betchley then accompanied Buggy in a car, ostensibly driving to pick up the trophy, but he got spooked along the way and jumped out.

Betchley was arrested minutes later but refused to reveal the trophy’s whereabouts, claiming he was just the middleman come to collect the ransom (he was later convicted of demanding money with menaces with the intent to steal).

The trophy was actually discovered a week after it was stolen by a collie-cross named Pickles who found it lying near a neighbour’s car outside the Norwood home of his owner, Thames lighterman David Corbett. Pickles – who went on to become something of a celebrity in his own right appearing in TV shows and even a film, The Spy with a Cold Nose – has, of course, since died (his collar is on display in the National Football Museum in Manchester).

The crime has never been officially solved although there were claims last year that late London gangster Sidney Cugullere and his brother Reg were behind it.

England, meanwhile, did go on to beat West Germany 4-2 in the World Cup final that year. Life, meanwhile, didn’t turn out so well for the trophy. It was stolen again in 1983 in Brazil and this time was not recovered.

PICTURE: David Adams

The Painted Hall in Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College reopens on Saturday following a two-year, £8.5 million restoration project. The hall, known as the UK’s “Sistine Chapel”, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren as a ceremonial dining room for what was then the Royal Hospital for Seamen. Completed in 1705, its 4,000 square metre interior features a decorative scheme painted by Sir James Thornhill, the first British artist to be knighted, which took 19 years to complete. The paintings celebrate English naval power as well as the then newly installed Protestant monarchy with joint monarchs King William III and Queen Mary II as well as Queen Anne and King George I all represented in the artworks along with hundreds of other mythological, allegorical, historical and contemporary figures. The restoration project has also seen the King William Undercroft, located underneath the hall, converted into a new cafe, shop and interpretation gallery. Two cellar rooms from King Henry VIII’s palace – which once stood on the site – were discovered during the restoration works and are also now on public display. Other new touches include the return of a series of carved oak benches to the hall (having been introduced when it was used as an art gallery in the 19th century they were removed 100 years ago), two ‘treasure chests’ containing objects related to the ceiling artworks which can be handled, and new tour options – not just of the hall and undercroft but of the entire Old Royal Naval College site. There’s a host of special activities over the opening weekend, including a parade and official opening ceremony from 9.30am, the chance to meet historical characters, music, food stalls, kids activities and more. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.ornc.org. PICTURED: The Old Royal Naval College, home of the Painted Hall.

The V&A has announced it is extending its sell-out Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition due to unprecedented demand. The exhibition at the South Kensington museum, which had originally been scheduled to close on 14th July, will now run until 1st September with new tickets made available on 15th of each month (there’s also a limited number of tickets available to purchase daily at 10am from the V&A’s Grand Entrance on a first-come, first-served basis; V&A members, of course, attend free-of-charge with no need to book). The exhibition, which initially sold out of its five month run with 19 days of opening, is the most comprehensive exhibition ever staged in the UK on the House of Dior and the museum’s biggest fashion exhibition since Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty in 2015. For more, see vam.ac.uk.

On Now: Merchant Navy Treasures: An Introduction to the Newall Dunn Collection. This display at the City of London’s Guildhall Library delves into the Newall Dunn Collection, one of the world’s most comprehensive photographic and reference collections on merchant shipping, and showcases the achievements of shipping historian Peter Newall and artist and writer Laurence Dunn. Alongside images, press releases and newspaper cuttings, on show are company brochures, menus and other items from the ocean liners and cargo vessels of three famous lines from the golden age of shipping: the Cunard, Orient and Union-Castle. Admission is free. Runs until 24th May. For more, follow this link.

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

Designed by the architect Charles Fitzroy Doll in distinctive French Renaissance-style for the Frederick Hotels Company, the Hotel Russell opened on the east side of Russell Square in 1898.

The now Grade II*-listed building, which is said to have been based on the 16th century Château de Madrid in Paris, is clad in decorative Doulton’s thé-au-lait (“tea with milk”) terracotta.

Its facade incorporates the coats-of-arms of the world’s nations as they were in 1898 and above the entrance are life-sized statues of four queens – Elizabeth I, Mary II, Anne and Victoria – which were designed by sculptor Henry Charles Fehr (pictured). The Guilford Street frontage features busts of four Prime Ministers: Lord Derby, Lord Salisbury, William Gladstone, and Benjamin Disraeli.

The hotel’s interior features ornate fixtures and fitting including a Pyrenean marble staircase which runs off the opulent marble foyer and an interior courtyard housing a Palm Court. Each bedroom was fitted with an en-suite bathroom.

Its restaurant, now named the Neptune but originally named after Doll, was designed almost identically to the RMS Titanic‘s dining room (Doll designed both). That’s not the only Titanic connection – the hotel also features a bronze statue of a dragon on the stairs named ‘Lucky George’ and the Titanic carried an identical statue.

The hotel survived World War II largely intact – with the exception of a roof-top dome which was damaged in an air raid in 1941 and not replaced.

Fast forward to April, 2018, and the hotel reopened as the The Principal Hotel (on the 106th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic) following an extensive £85 million, two year renovation by designer Tara Bernerd.

But the Principal Hotel Company sold its portfolio of hotels to Covivio a few months later and they, in turn, leased the management of the hotels to the InterContinental Hotels Group. The Principal was renamed the Kimpton Fitzroy London in October that year.

Alongside 330 or so rooms, amenities at the five star hotel include the glass-roofed Palm Court, cocktail bar Fitz’s (named for Charles Fitzroy Doll), and the coffee shop Burr & Co. There’s also a grand ballroom, meeting rooms and a fitness centre.

Interestingly, Doll designed another hotel, the Imperial, also on Russell Square, which opened in 1911. It was demolished in 1966.

For more, see www.kimptonfitzroylondon.co.uk/us/en/.

PICTURES: Top – David Iliff (licensed under CC BY 3.0); Right and below – Jack1956.

This is the final in our series on historic London hotels. We’ll be launching a new special series next Wednesday.

The wedding dress and tiara worn by Princess Eugenie at her wedding in October last year has gone on display in a new exhibition at Windsor Castle, just to the west of London. A Royal Wedding: HRH Princess Eugenie and Mr Jack Brooksbank also features groom Jack Brooksbank’s morning suit and the maid-of-honour outfit worn by Princess Beatrice of York. But the star is the wedding dress, designed by Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos, which features fabric interwoven with symbols including the White Rose of York. The exhibition also includes the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara, lent by Queen Elizabeth II and on public display for the first time, Princess Eugenie’s diamond and emerald drop earrings – a wedding gift from the groom, a replica of the bridal bouquet, and the Zac Posen-designed evening gown worn by the princess for the reception. The display can be seen as part of visits to Windsor Castle until 22nd April. Admission charge applies. For more see www.rct.uk. PICTURE: Royal Collection Trust / © All Rights Reserved.

The work of pioneering artist Dorothea Manning is the subject of a new exhibition at the Tate Modern on South Bank. Opened last week, Dorothea Tanning is organised in collaboration with the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid and is the first large scale exhibition of her work for 25 years. It brings together some 100 works, a third of which are being shown in the UK for the first time, including ballet designs, stuffed textile sculptures, installations and large scale pieces. Highlights include the self-portrait Birthday (1942), Children’s Games (1942), Insomnias (1953), Etreinte (1969),Tango Lives (1970) and the room-sized installation Chambre 202, Hôtel du Pavot (1970-73). Runs until 9th June. Admission charge applies. For more see www.tate.org.uk.

A new exhibition on the impact photographic reproduction had on illustrative art at the end of the 19th century has opened at the Heath Robinson Museum in Pinner. The Beardsley Generation looks at how a new generation of artists versed in process engraving replaced the craft wood engravers of the past and how the new technology led to an expansion in the production of illustrated books and periodicals. The work of Aubrey Beardsley, Charles Ricketts, Laurence Housman and the Robinson brothers will be on display in the form of original drawings, books and periodicals drawn from public and private collections. Runs until 19th May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.heathrobinsonmuseum.org.

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

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.

 

Located at the western end of West India Quay in Docklands, the Hibbert Gate is a smaller scale replica of an original gate that stood at the main entrance to the quay for more than 130 years.

The gate was originally installed in 1803 and was topped with a model representing an East Indiaman, the Hibbert, which was named for George Hibbert, one of the principals of the West India Dock Company (and who apparently had a financial interest in the slave trade). The ship ran between London and the West Indies before later being used to transport convicts to Australia.

The gate, which became the emblem for West India Docks and was even incorporated into the Poplar Borough Council’s coat-of-arms, was removed in 1932 due to traffic measures. The model was initially preserved and moved to the Poplar Recreation Ground but vandalism and bomb damage saw it eventually fall apart.

The replica gate, commissioned by the Canary Wharf Group and topped with a replica model by artist Leo Stevenson, was installed in the year 2000, marking 200 years since the construction of the quay.

It was unveiled on 12th July by then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. Part of the signage accompanying the gate reads that it was meant to be “memorial to the man – the replica in no way represents support for slavery”.

PICTURE: Prioryman (Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0/image cropped)

This five star luxury Mayfair hotel opened in 1931 and quickly established a reputation for luxuriousness.

Located at 35 Park Lane on the site of what was formerly the London residence of the Earl of Dorchester (and later a mansion built for millionaire RS Holford), the hotel was the dream of Sir Robert McAlpine who bought the site in partnership with Gordon Hotels in 1929 for £500,000 and vowed to create a luxury hotel that would “rank as the finest in Europe”.

Engineer Sir Owen Williams initially oversaw the building’s design but a falling out saw architect William Curtis Green take over the project (meaning while the structural frame was Sir Owen’s work, the elevations are largely the work of Green). A quarter of the building was constructed underground.

When the 10 storey modernistic building was opened on 18th April, 1931, by Lady Violet Astor, it featured luxurious rooms and suites (with, apparently, the deepest baths of any hotel in London), a ballroom built to accommodate 1,000, an Oriental Restaurant and, of course, the Dorchester Bar (it was here the ‘Dorchester of London’ cocktail was invented).

The Dorchester survived World War II with only minor damage (its basement served as an air-raid shelter). In fact, during World War II, such was the reputation of its reinforced concrete structure, that UK Cabinet members including Lord Halifax stayed here while US General Dwight D Eisenhower planned the D-Day invasion from his suite – now the Eisenhower Suite – during World War II.

In the 1950s, stage set designer Oliver Messel revamped various aspects of the hotel including designing some suites in an extension in Deanery Street (the Oliver Messel Suite is named for him).

The hotel has hosted its share of the rich and famous – Prince Philip hosted his bachelor party in the hotel’s Park Suite on the eve of his wedding to Queen Elizabeth II in 1947 (the Queen, meanwhile, had dined there the day before the engagement was announced), and actors Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor used the hotel as something of a “second home”.

Other notable figures who have stayed at the hotel include writers Cecil Day-Lewis and Somerset Maugham, painter Sir Alfred Munnings, director Alfred Hitchcock and film stars Gloria Swanson, Marlene Dietrich, Danny Kaye and James Mason as well as Tom Cruise, Meg Ryan and Nicole Kidman.

The Dorchester was listed as a Grade II building in 1981 and, having been sold by the McAlpine family to a consortium headed by the Sultan of Brunei in the mid-1970s, it was purchased outright by the Sultan of Brunei in the Eighties (and later transferred ownership to the Brunei Investment Agency).

The hotel was completely renovated between 1988 and 1990 and was again refurbished in 2002.

Facilities today at the hotel – alongside the 250 rooms and suites – include numerous restaurants and bars such as the three Michelin star Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, China Tang, The Spatisserie and The Grill at the Dorchester, as well as The Bar at the Dorchester and The Promenade where afternoon tea is served. There’s also a spa.

Today The Dorchester is the flagship of the Dorchester Collection of hotels which also includes 45 Park Lane, Cowarth Park in Ascot, The Beverly Hills Hotel and The Hotel Bel-Air in LA, the Hotel Eden in Rome, Le Meurice and Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris and the Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan.

Out the front of the hotel is a London Plane tree which was named one of the “great trees of London” in 1997.

For more, see https://www.dorchestercollection.com/en/london/the-dorchester/.

PICTURE: || UggBoy♥UggGirl || PHOTO || WORLD || TRAVEL || (licensed under CC BY 2.0/image cropped)

Famous for its Beatles connection (and a particular pedestrian crossing), Abbey Road in London’s north-west takes it name from, you guessed it, a former religious house.

Kilburn Priory was founded at what is now the road’s northern end under the auspices of Westminster Abbey in about 1130 AD. It was eventually dissolved on the orders of Henry VIII in 1537.

The religious house gave its name not only to Abbey Road but also the intersecting Priory Road and Priory Terrace, and nearby Abbot’s Place, to name a few.

Of course, Abbey Road is famous for being the location of EMI’s Recording Studios (later renamed the Abbey Road Studios, they are located at number three at the southern end in St John’s Wood) where the Beatles and many others, including Shirley Bassey, Yehudi Menuhin, Max Bygraves and Cliff Richard, recorded albums (it’s also been used for recording film scores including for Star WarsRaiders of the Lost Ark, The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter films).

The Beatles named their last studio LP after the street and the album’s cover shows the four of them walking across the aforementioned famous zebra crossing just outside the studio. The crossing, which attracts a steady stream of tourists year round, was given Grade II-listed status in December 2010. The studios are also Grade II-listed.

Abbey Road was also the site of the founding of the Abbey National Building Society, now Santander UK, which was founded in a church here in 1874.

PICTURE: Looking northward up Abbey Road across the famous crossing (the studios are just beyond the crossing on the left) (WillMcC/licenced under CC BY-SA 3.0/image cropped)

 

The City of London’s largest rooftop viewing space – The Garden at 120 – has opened atop the newly opened Fen Court office building in Fenchurch Street. The viewing platform – located 15 storeys above the street – offers 360 degree views of the City and features a pergola planted with fruit trees and Italian wisteria, a water feature and coffee hut. Entry is free and access is between 10am and 6.30pm weekdays until 31st March (5pm on weekends) and between 10am and 9pm from 1st April to 30th September. For more, see www.thegardenat120.com. PICTURE: diamond geezer (licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Rembrandt’s drawing and prints are the subject of a new free exhibition at the British Museum. Marking 350 years since the death of Rembrandt van Rijn in 1669, Rembrandt: thinking on paper features more than 60 of the Dutch artist’s works ranging from quick sketches to fully realised compositions with subject matter including self-portraits, landscapes and Biblical scenes. Works include Young woman sleeping (Hendrickje Stoffels?) (c1654), his printing plate for Reclining female nude (1658), the pen-and-ink Sketches of an old man and child (c1639-40), Self-portrait, bareheaded, bust in frontal view (1629), Self-portrait drawing at a window (1648), the Raising of Lazarus (c1632) and his late, large drypoints the Three Crosses (1653) and Ecce Homo (1655). Runs until 4th August in Room 90. Entry is free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

The first posthumous retrospective of the work of Franz West (1947-2012) ever staged in the UK has opened at the Tate Modern. Franz West spans the artist’s career over four decades and includes examples from his series of early abstract small sculptures like Passstücke (Adaptives), furniture work first displayed in the artist’s pivotal 1989 exhibition at the Haus Lange Museum, as well as later, large-scale installations such as Auditorium (1992) and Epiphany on Chairs (2011). The artist’s works in papier-mâché – Legitimate Sculptures – are also featured and there’s a room devoted to Redundanz (1986), a three-part ensemble accompanied by text that stresses “the difference between language and art as ways of understanding the world”. The display finishes with an array of West’s dramatic aluminum works and a collection of maquettes for the artist’s outdoor sculptures, five of which are installed in the South Landscape. Runs until 2nd June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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


Built on the site of what was Grosvenor House in Park Lane – London residence of the Dukes of Westminster, the Grosvenor House Hotel opened in 1929 but wasn’t completed until the 1950s.

The Mayfair hotel was conceived and constructed on the orders of commercial speculator Albert Octavius Edwards and was designed by Wimperis, Simpson and Guthrie with luxury in mind (Sir Edwin Lutyens was responsible for the external elevations).

Originally designed as two apartment blocks, it was apparently only when the first block was completed that it was decided the second north block would be a hotel. It opened on 14th May, 1929, with an event described as “outstanding”.

Along with some 472 rooms – it was the first hotel in London to feature en suite bathrooms which came with running ice-cold water in each, its facilities included The Great Room, originally an ice-skating rink where then Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) learned to ice skate which Edwards decided in the 1930s to convert into one of the largest banqueting spaces in Europe.

It was subsequently the scene of many awards evening and charity events including Queen Charlotte’s Ball as well as BBC broadcasts (the Beatles are among those who have performed there). The hotel was also the first in London to have a swimming pool.

The hotel, which only suffered minor damager during the Blitz, saw service during World War II. The Great Room was initially home to the Officers’ Sunday Club and later as one of the largest US officers’ mess. During the war, the premises hosted everyone from Charles de Gaulle and King Haakon of Norway as well as US generals Dwight D Eisenhower and George S Paton.

The hotel actually has strong American connections from the get go – American methods were used during construction to speed things along – and its restaurant was noted for swerving American-style food. Among other Americans who have stayed there include Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, Orson Welles, Jackie Onassis, Henry Kissinger, Sammy Davis, Jr, and Madeline Albright.

The actual construction of the hotel continued into the 1950s when permission was given to demolish a house at 35 Park Street (located next door to the hotel) following the death of its owner – Bruno, Baron Schroder, and a 92 bedroom extension to the hotel was built. It was officially opened by Peter Thorneycroft, Chancellor of the Exchequer, in 1957.

The hotel, which was acquired by Trust Houses in 1963, underwent several changes of ownership in more recent years and following an extensive renovation in the Noughties, it reopened in September, 2008 as a JW Marriott hotel.

It was reportedly announced late last year that Qatari-owned Katara Hospitality was buying the hotel from Indian conglomerate Sahara India Pariwar, which has owned the hotel since 2010, for an undisclosed sum.

For more, see www.LondonGrosvenorHouse.co.uk.

PICTURES: Park Lane facades and entrance in Park Street. Courtesy of Google Maps.

A small air raid shelter designed for people to erect on their properties in preparation for the expected bombing campaigns of World War II, the first of London’s ‘Anderson’ shelters were rolled out 80 years ago in a backyard garden of a house in Islington on 25th February, 1939.

The shelter’s name comes from Sir John Anderson, Lord Privy Seal and the man tasked with the job of overseeing air-raid preparations across the country. As part of that job, he commissioned engineers to come up with an easy-to-construct, affordable shelter that could be used by the population at large.

The resulting arched-roofed structures, designed to be flexible and absorb the impact when bombs hit, were made from six curved sheets of corrugated steel or iron and, at six feet tall, 6.5 feet long and 4.5 feet wide, could house a family of six. They were designed to be buried under four feet of earth in backyards and the roof covered with a minimum of 15 inches of soil.

The shelters were given out for free to lower income families but those with the means had to buy them for £7. Some chose to incorporate them into their gardens and grew vegetables and plants on top and some decorated them – there were even competitions held for the best looking.

By the time bombs started hitting London in the Blitz, more than 1.5 million of the shelters had been built (and a further 2.1 million were erected as the war raged).

It was expected that families would use them every night but the shelters were found to be cold and damp and often flooded which meant many people only used them when air raid sirens sounded (and some not even then – one 1940 survey apparently found only 27 per cent of Londoners used them).

After the war, most were scrapped for the metal but some of the Anderson shelters were repurposed as garden sheds. A small number of them survive across London.

PICTURE: An intact Anderson shelter sits amid devastation in Poplar caused after a land mine fell a few yards away in in 1941. The three people inside were not hurt. Via Imperial War Museum (© IWM (D 5949))