Londoners are celebrating St Patrick’s Day with events taking place across the city over this weekend. They include a series of specially commissioned walking tours focusing on London’s Irish history, Irish poets and musicians busking at Underground stations, and a series of open air gigs featuring Irish women artists at Camden Market on Saturday. Cinemas in the West End, meanwhile, are showing Irish films in connection with the weekend while exhibitions to mark the event include #IamIrish, a celebration of mixed race Irish people by artist Lorraine Maher featuring the work of photographer Tracey Anderson, which runs at London City Hall until 13th April. On Sunday, the culmination of the festive weekend, a procession featuring Irish marching bands and dance troupes kicks off at noon from Green Park while in Trafalgar Square there will be a series of stage performances – including a tribute to Dolores O’Riordan, the Cranberries frontwoman who died in London earlier this year – as well as a special zone for families and an Irish street for market. For the full programme of events, head to PICTURE: A St Patrick’s Day celebration in years past. (Garry Knight (licensed under CC BY 2.o))

The work of the UK’s Special Forces are the subject of the first major exhibition at the National Army Museum in Chelsea since it reopened in March last year. Special Forces: In the Shadows examines of the history of the Special Forces from its creation during World War II up until today and looks at the unique role each of the six units – the Special Air Service (SAS), Special Boat Service (SBS), Special Forces Support Group (SFSG), Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), 18 (UKSF) Signals Regiment – play in security and military operations. Among objects on show in the exhibition’s seven distinct areas are a compass that Paddy Mayne wrenched from an enemy plane cockpit and a complete SAS Counter Terrorist Kit from 2007 as well as personal testimonies, video and photography. There’s also interactive exhibits to help visitors understand the challenges soldiers in the field face. Admission charge applies. Runs until 18th November. For more, see

Two exhibitions celebrating the work of British-European artist Tacita Dean have opened this week. Tacita Dean: PORTRAIT at the National Portrait Gallery focuses on portraiture primarily through the medium of 16mm film and, the first in the gallery’s history to be devoted to the medium of film, features works including the six screen installation from 2008, Merce Cunningham performs STILLNESS…, as well as Dean’s film of Claes Oldenburg, Manhattan Mouse Museum and a film diptych of Julie Mehretu, GDGDA – all seen in the UK for the first time. Meanwhile Tacita Dean: STILL LIFE has opened at the neighbouring National Gallery and features a selection of the gallery’s works curated by Dean as well as some by the artist herself and her contemporaries. There’s also a new film, Ideas for Sculpture in a Setting, made especially for the exhibition. A third exhibition on Dean will be held at the Royal Academy of Arts. For more, see and

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Formerly known as the National Westminster Tower (NatWest Tower for short), Tower 42 – sometimes referred to as London’s first “genuine” skyscraper – was once the tallest building in the London (but now comes in at number eight).

Designed by Richard Seifert & Partners (who had proposed a couple of different options), the 47 storey building at 25 Old Broad Street was built between 1971 and 1980 as the headquarters of the National Westminster Bank.

The length of the build – which ended up costing £72 million – was due to the fact that it was paused in the mid-1970s to allow for a redesign of the ground area after the City of London Club was heritage listed (and thus its planned demolition couldn’t proceed).

Some 42 of its stories are cantilevered off a concrete core which contains elevators and service rooms. It has been repeatedly said the building was designed so that in plan view it resembles the NatWest logo – three interlocking chevrons – but Seifert apparently said this was just a coincidence.

It was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 11th June, 1981, and, at 183 metres tall, was not only the tallest in London but in the entire UK until it was surpassed by One Canada Square in the Docklands in 1990. It remained the tallest building in the City of London until 2009 when Heron Tower took over that title.

Among its innovations were use of sky lobbies – located on levels 23 and 24, they are accessible by express elevators from the ground floor, and an automated external window washing system. Problematically, however, its interior layout proved somewhat inflexible which meant some of the bank’s operations remained outside of the building. Thanks to a need for large trading floors after deregulation in 1986, NatWest subsequently relocated its headquarters.

After the building was badly damaged by an IRA bomb in 1993, the entire tower, under the supervision of GMW Architects, was reclad and the interior refurbished. It was subsequently renamed the International Finance Centre and again renamed in 1998, this time as Tower 42 (a reference to the 42 cantilevered floors).

In 2011, it was purchased by South African businessman Nathan Kirsh for a reported £282.5 million. These days it contains office space, several restaurants, health clubs and other services as well as and a champagne bar with panoramic views, Vertigo 42.

An LED light display was installed in 2012 in time to display the Olympic rings for that year’s Games.

The building was refused listed status in 2014 owing to its now greatly altered nature.

Interestingly, part of the site was once occupied by Crosby Hall, built in 1466 for City alderman Sir John Crosby and one time residence of King Richard III. The hall was relocated to Chelsea in 1910.

PICTURE: © User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Tate Modern is staging its first ever solo exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s work with a focus on the pivotal year of 1932, described as the artist’s ‘year of wonders’. The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy takes visitors on a month-by-month journey through the year with more than 100 paintings, sculptures and works on paper. Highlights include Nude Woman in a Red Armchair, a key painting in the Tate’s collection, 13 seminal ink drawings of the Crucifixion, Girl before a Mirror and The Dream (pictured) as well as Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, Nude in a Black Armchair and The Mirror. During organised in collaboration with the Musée National-Picasso, Paris, the exhibition runs until 9th September in the Eyal Ofer Galleries. For more, see PICTURE: Le Reve (The Dream), 1932, Private Collection, © Succession Picasso/DACS London 2018.

Family photographs of footballer Bobby Moore – who in 1966 famously captained the only English team to win the World Cup – can be seen in a new display which has opened at the National Portrait Gallery to mark this summer’s FIFA World Cup tournament. Bobby Moore: First Gentleman of English Football features a series of portraits, with the earliest dating from 1962, and including a striking image of Moore (1941-93) winning the ball from George Best during a match against Northern Ireland in 1964 as well as images of Moore relaxing off the pitch, and with his children Roberta and Dean. The free display can be seen in Room 32 until next January. For more, see

The influence of modern Greece upon and the enduring friendships between Greek painter Niko Ghika, British painter John Craxton and British writer, Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor are the subject of a new exhibition at the British Museum. Charmed lives in Greece: Ghika, Craxton, Leigh Fermor brings together their artworks, photographs, letters and personal possessions as it explores how their close friendship – which commenced at the end of World War II after which all three spent much of their subsequent lives in Greece – influenced their artistic output. Highlights include Ghika’s Black Sun and Craxton’s Still Life with Three Sailors as well as Craxton’s original artwork for the book covers of Leigh Fermor’s travel classics, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. Many of the artworks and objects on show are on loan from the Benaki Museum in Greece, to which Ghika bequeathed his house and works. Runs in Room 5 until 15th July. Admission is free. For more, see

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Another project to celebrate the new Millennium, the O2 – originally known as the Millennium Dome – is the largest domed structure in the world.

Occupying a prominent site at the northern tip of the Greenwich Peninsula (on the south bank of the River Thames), the building is 365 metres in diameter, 50 metres high at its highest point and features 12 100 metre high masts which hold up the Teflon-coated glass fibre dome using some 45 miles of steel cable.

It was designed by Sir Richard Rogers and his firm with construction commencing in 1997 after the project, conceived by the Conservative Government, was endorsed (and expanded) by the new Blair Labour Government.

The Dome was officially opened on 31st December, 1999, at a ‘New Millennium Spectacular’ attended by, among others, members of the Royal Family and government.

Throughout the following year the venue hosted what was known as the ‘Millennium Experience’, a celebration of the beginning of the new millennium which attracted more than six million visitors (a big figure but apparently only half of what was projected initially).

A controversial project since its very inception due to its cost and speculation about its use after the year 2000, the facility was largely devoid of life for several years after the year 2000 (apart from a few major events) but the site, which was eventually sold to consortium Meridian Delta Ltd which turned to then consortium member the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) to oversee the transformation of the facility into a sports and entertainment complex.

The building, rebranded O2 following a deal with the telco company of the same name, reopened in 2007 (the first band to play there in a public show was Bon Jovi and more than 600 bands had played there as of last year) and has since been used for a range of events including music concerts and sports, the latter including some of the indoor sports played at the 2012 Olympic Games including gymnastics and basketball.

As well as a more than 20,000 seat sports arena, the O2 now features music venues, a cinema, bars, restaurants and shops as well as an exhibition space. There’s also a 90 minute climb over the top of the Dome for the adventurous.

More than 60 million people visited the O2 since it opened in 2007.

WHERE: O2, Greenwich Peninsula (nearest Tube station is North Greenwich); WHEN: 9am to 1am daily; COST: Various; WEBSITE:

There’s several candidates for this title – NatWest Tower, built in 1980, has been described as London’s first “genuine” skyscraper (we’ll deal with that in our current special) but we’re looking back to earlier times (after all, the term first started to be used in the 1880s) when candidates included 55 Broadway in Westminster.

Once the tallest office building in London, 55 Broadway was constructed in 1927-29 as the headquarters of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London (which later became London Transport and then Transport for London). The building contains the St James’s Park Underground Station which is one of the most intact of the early underground stations.

Designed by Charles Holden (also noted for his design of the University of London’s Senate House and war cemeteries in Belgium and France) , the 14 storey Art Deco building is cruciform in plan to maximise street views and the amount of light entering each office as well as to ensure that the bulk of the building’s tower didn’t overwhelm the surrounding streetscapes (and to ensure the building complied with the then current building height restrictions).

The building, the design of which was influenced by US architecture, is made from a steel frame encased on concrete and faced in Portland stone. Based on a two storey pedestal which covers the entire site, the spur wings around the tower rise a further five storeys above the base while the tower itself rises 53.3 metres (175 foot).

Internally, the building features bronze and marble decoration and what was a state-of-the-art system known as a Cutler mailing chute to send letters around the building.

Of special note are the many sculptures which adorn the building, described as a “showcase of pre-Second World War British sculpture”.

Among them are two Jacob Epstein sculptures representing ‘Day’ and ‘Night’ and eight figurative reliefs representing the winds for each cardinal point, the work of sculptors led by Eric Gill and also including Eric Aumonier, Alfred Gerrard, Samuel Rabonovitch, Allan Wyon and Henry Moore (it was his first public commission).

The sculptures proved somewhat controversial at time particularly due to Epstein’s depiction of ‘Day’ featuring a nude male – Ezra Pound famously said Epstein was contributing to a “cult of ugliness”. And while this sculpture eventually had his manhood truncated slightly following the outcry, the sculptures were otherwise left untouched.

Holden won the RIBA London Architecture Medal for the building which received Grade I-listing in 2011 (it had earlier been Grade II listed), partly due to its being London’s first ‘skyscraper’ and a building which “heralded the epoch of tall steel-framed office buildings”.

The building was damaged during the Blitz but remains largely intact. There are now plans to convert the building to luxury apartments although at present Transport for London continue to use the building.

PICTURES: Top – Epstein’s ‘Night’ – One of the less controversial sculptures adorning the building (Loz Pycock (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0))/Right – The mass of 55 Broadway with the controversial (and altered) sculpture of ‘Day’ (David Adams).

Note: The original article said 55 Broadway was once the tallest building but should have, of course, said tallest office building. St Paul’s Cathedral was the tallest building until 1967. The building was also damaged during the Blitz but apparently not by a flying bomb.

The first building in London to exceed the height of St Paul’s Cathedral, the 118 metre (387 foot) high Millbank Tower opened in 1963.

Said to have been inspired by the works of Modernist German-American architect Mies van der , the 32 storey building, located on the river just south of Westminster, was designed by Ronald Ward and Partners.

It was originally built as the headquarters of the engineering firm, the Vickers Group (hence its original moniker of Vickers Tower) and the Legal and General Assurance Society.

The glass walled building, which features a 31 storey tower atop a two storey podium, only held the title of London’s tallest building briefly – in 1965 it was overtaken by the Post Office Tower.

Now Grade II-listed, it was famously the headquarters of the Labour Party between the mid-Nineties and early Noughties – it was from here that it ran its 1997 general election campaign which saw the election of Tony Blair to the office of Prime Minister.

The Conservative Party has also been a tenant (although in this case of the complex to which the building is attached) as has the United Nations and numerous government agencies. The bulding has also appeared in episodes of Dr Who.

The building was recently the subject of an application for it to be redeveloped into a hotel and luxury apartments.

PICTURES: Top – David Curran (licensed under CC BY 2.0); Right – Łukasz Czyżykowski (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

An ornate turreted building in South Kensington, construction of the Imperial Institute began in 1887 – the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.

Designed by Thomas Edward Collcutt and paid for almost entirely by public subscription, the huge 213 metre long building featured three “Renaissance-style” towers with copper covered domes. Foremost among them was the 87 metre high Queen’s Tower (initially known as the Collcutt Tower after the architect).

Officially opened by Queen Victoria in 1893 (although the building was apparently never completed), the building – which was built to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee – was intended as an exhibition space to showcase the Empire’s industrial and commercial resources and also as a location for research and meetings.

The idea for a permanent exhibition space for colonial “produce” had apparently been enthusiastically backed by the Prince of Wales (and the Queen herself) following a series of exhibitions showcasing the wares of India and the colonies in preceding years.

But the enthusiasm for the institute, said to have cost more than £350,000, quickly waned (perhaps because of a vagueness over its purpose) and despite efforts to encourage people to use it through introducing “attractions” like a billiards room, the financial position of the institute became somewhat straitened.

Help came from the University of London which took over half of the building just six years later in 1899 and other tenants followed in attempt to keep money for maintenance flowing. Various government departments took on responsibility for the building in the following years.

With its purpose increasingly questioned by the middle of the 20th century, when Imperial College needed to expand, it was decided to demolish the building. Demolition started in 1957 and ran into the mid-1960s. Thanks to public protests led by Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman, the Queen’s Tower, however, was preserved and is now part of Imperial College.

The tower, which once had a public viewing gallery (now closed) contains 10 bells, known as the Alexandra Peal, which are hung about halfway up the tower. They given by a Mrs Elizabeth A Miller, of Melbourne, Australia, in 1892 as a gift and are named after Queen Victoria, the then Prince and Princess of Wales, and other children and grandchildren of the Queen. They are rung on important college occasions.

Meanwhile, the institute, renamed the Commonwealth Institute, relocated to Kensington High Street. It later went into liquidation. That site now houses the recently unveiled Design Museum.

PICTURE: Top – Imperial Institute during the Edwardian era (public domain); Below –  The Queen’s Tower is all that now remains of the institute (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

A new exhibition charting the history of Henry Moore’s sculpture, Draped Seated Woman (known affectionately as Old Flo), has opened at Canary Wharf. Indomitable Spirit features traces the creation of the 2.5 metre high bronze sculpture in 1957-58, its placement in 1962 on the Stafford Estate in Stepney, and, in 1997, its removal to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where it has spent the last 20 years before returning to the East End – this time Cabot Square – last year.  It also explores the artist’s life, career and legacy and the reasons as to why Old Flo – part of an edition of six sculptures – became such an important feature in the East End. The exhibition can be seen in the lobby of One Canada Square until 6th April. Admission is free. For more, see PICTURE: Henry Moore’s ‘Draped Seated Woman’, Canary Wharf.

The first of two Peter Pan-themed weekends kicks off at the Museum of London Docklands this Saturday. Adventures in Peter Pan’s Neverland features a series of interactive events film screenings and performances across the weekend with professional character actors leading workshops and re-enacting short scenes from the story. There will also be “sightings” of Captain Hook’s pirates and other characters and two screenings of the classic animated film Peter Pan each day. Money will be raised for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity through donations on ticket sales and other fundraising activities during the event. Runs from 10.45am to 4pm this Saturday and Sunday and again on 3rd and 4th March. Tickets start at £4. For more, see

On Now: Winner-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic. This exhibition at the V&A, which is closing on 8th April, features original drawings by EH Shepard – on show in the UK for the first time – created to illustrate AA Milne’s classic tale and, as well as examining Milne’s story-telling techniques and Shepard’s illustrative style, takes a look at the real people, relationships and inspirations behind the bear’s creation. Around 230 objects are featured in the display and as well as original manuscripts, illustrations, proofs and early editions, they include letters, photographs, cartoons, ceramics, fashion and video and audio clips, with the latter including a 1929 recording of Milne reading Winnie-the-Pooh). Other highlights include Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh manuscript and pages from the manuscript of House at Pooh Corner as well as Shepard’s first character portraits of Winnie and Christopher Robin nursery tea set which was presented to then-Princess Elizabeth in 1928. Admission charge applies. For more see, PICTURE: Line block print, hand coloured by E.H. Shepard, 1970, © Egmont, reproduced with permission from the Shepard Trust

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Currently known as the Coca-Cola London Eye (it’s had several name and sponsorship changes over its life), this unmissable structure started operations in the year 2000.

Designed by Marks Barfield Architects and located at the south-western corner of Jubilee Gardens on South Bank, it stands 135 metres tall and, with a diameter of 120 metres, is the world’s biggest cantilevered observation wheel. It was also the tallest observation deck in London but lost that title to The Shard.

It features 32 sealed, ovoid-shaped capsules for passengers, each of which can hold up to 25 people, and rotates at the rate of about 0.6 mph, meaning a rotation takes around half an hour (a rate which allows most people to get on or off without stopping the wheel).

The Eye, which offers a birds-eye view of surrounding areas including the Houses of Parliament, was formally opened by then PM Tony Blair on 31st December, 1999, but didn’t open to the public until the following March (thanks to a clutch problem on one of the capsules).

It originally intended as a temporary structure built to mark the new millennium (after which it would be dismantled an moved to another location) but its popularity (and the resolution of a dispute over its lease in the mid-Noughties) has seen become a permanent fixture.

The capsules – there’s apparently no number 13 – were upgraded in 2009 and in 2013, one of them was named the Coronation Capsule in honour of the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Eye has been lit up on numerous occasions to mark special events – among them Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding in 2011.

WHERE: Coca Cola London Eye, Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road (nearest Tube stations are Waterloo, Embankment and Westminster); WHEN: 11am to 6pm daily (till 29th March); COST: See website for details; WEBSITE:


Now the name of a short, crescent-shaped thoroughfare which links the Strand with Kingsway in the West End (and the area surrounding it), the name actually refers back to the Saxon era.

The name Aldwych, which translates roughly as “old trading place” or “old settlement”, referred to a seventh century Anglo-Saxon settlement which was built outside the walls of the Roman city of Londinium. It was after Alfred the Great had the walls of the Roman city refortified in the late 9th century – moving the settlement back inside, that the former Anglo-Saxon settlement eventually became known by the moniker ‘old’.

The modern use of the word for the area dates from just after the dawn of the 20th century when the new street was created, doing away with a number of former streets including the notorious Wych Street. The name was subsequently used for a station on the tramway which ran under Kingsway (closed in the 1950s) and for an Underground station located nearby on the Strand (originally named Strand Station, it was soon changed to Aldwych and closed in 1994).

Notable buildings along Aldwych today include both Australia House and India House, both home to the High Commissions of their nations and both of which date from the early 20th century. It’s also home to Bush House, formerly the headquarters of the BBC World Service and now part of King’s College, London, as well as a number of theatres – including the Aldwych Theatre – and hotels.


The second tallest building in the UK (and once, very briefly, the tallest building in Europe), Canary Wharf’s One Canada Tower is a symbol of London’s revamped Docklands.

The 50 storey skyscraper  (there’s also three underground) was designed by Cesar Pelli and constructed between 1988 and 1991. Containing some 1.2 million square feet of office space making it the largest office building in the UK, it was officially opened on 26th August of the latter year by Prince Philip.

Often called the Canary Wharf tower, One Canada Tower was apparently the first skyscraper to be clad in stainless steel and was designed to reflect the sky. There’s an aircraft warning light on top which flashes some 57,600 times a day.

An office building with no public observation deck, current tenants include a range of financial institutions as well as other companies such as the Trinity Mirror Group, owner of several UK newspapers.

As with other newer skyscrapers in London, One Canada Tower has been seen in its share of movies including in 28 Weeks Later and  Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

Celebrations were held last week marking the 100th anniversary of the day on which the Representation of People Act was passed, giving women the vote for the first time (well, that who are aged over 30 and who occupied a house – or were married someone who did).

The bill, passed on 6th February, 1918, also extended voting rights to all men aged over 21 (previously it had been restricted to men who owned property) but it wasn’t until 10 years later than women gained the same right.

A further bill was passed in November, 1918, which gave women the right to stand in elections. So when women first cast their votes in the next general election – held in December of that year – several women stood for seats in the House of Commons.

In the end, only one – the Sinn Féin candidate for Dublin St Patrick’s, Constance Markievicz – was elected but she choose to sit in the Dáil Éireann in Dublin. This meant that the first woman to sit in the House of Commons didn’t do so until December, 1919, when Nancy Astor, elected as the MP for Plymouth Sutton, did so.

PICTURE: Representation of the People Act 1918/Courtesy of Parliamentary Archives

This rather large fountain once stood in Mayfair as a tribute to literary greats Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare and John Milton.

Designed by Thomas Thorneycroft (and apparently funded from wealth of a lady who died intestate but who had apparently always advocated for the location of a fountain on the site), the fountain stood on the centre of what is now a roundabout at the intersection of Old Park Lane and Hamilton Place.

Unveiled in July, 1875, it featured the three poets standing on various sides of a central pillar (Shakespeare taking pride of place looking towards Hyde Park). Below them sat three muses and above them, on top of a central column, stood a figure representing fame, blowing a trumpet.

The fountain,  and survived until World War II during which it sustained damaged. It was dismantled in 1948 and only the figure of ‘Fame’ is believed to have survived.


A portrait slashed with a butcher’s cleaver by a suffragette in the National Portrait Gallery has gone back on display for the first time in more than 20 years. The portrait of gallery founder Thomas Carlyle, painted by Sir John Everett Millais, was attacked by Anne Hunt in July, 1914, after Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst was rearrested. Hunt later said that the painting would be “of added value and of great historical importance because it has been honoured by the attention of a Militant”. The portrait has gone on display to coincide with the opening of the Votes for Women! exhibition which features objects including a document issued by Scotland Yard to the gallery following another attack by suffragette – this time by Mary Richardson on a Velázquez painting, The Rokeby Venus (The Toilet of Venus) – in March, 1914, along with a sheet of identity photographs police gave to the gallery featuring images of women serving sentences in Holloway and Manchester prisons, a selection of the gallery’s collection of postcards produced by women’s suffrage organisations, portraits of the Pankhurst sisters and a rarely seen painting of women’s suffrage movement figures Millicent Garrett Fawcett and her husband Henry Fawcett by Ford Madox Ford (Millicent this year becomes the first woman to have a statue in Parliament Square). Votes for Women! – part of the gallery’s year-long Rebel Women season – can be seen in Room 33, Floor 1, until 13th May. Admission is free. There’s also a complementary showcase display highlighting Victorian pioneers of the women’s suffrage movement – Votes for Women: Pioneers – in Room 25. For more on the Rebel Women season, see PICTURE: Emery Walker’s photograph of damage to the portrait of Thomas Carlyle by Sir John Everett Millais (1877) © National Portrait Gallery, London.

Kew Gardens’ 23rd Orchids Festival  – the first to be inspired by Thailand, home to 1,100 species of the plant – kicks off on Saturday. Held inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory, the festival features an orchid ‘palace’, a traditional Thai market boat and rice paddy and a special Thai cart on loan from the Royal Thai Embassy in London. The festival – which runs until 11th March – centres on a series of weekends featuring special food, live Thai music and talks and walks, the latter including drop-in guided walks of the floral displays. There’s also special activities at half term and a number of ‘after hours’ events which feature traditional dance performances, cooking tips, Thai-inspired cocktails and massage treatments. For more, see

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Opened in 1891 (albeit under a different name), this Soho institution was apparently founded by a German couple named Schmitt who ran it until the outbreak of World War I.

It was then sold to Belgian chef Victor Berlemont and it’s at this point that some say the name, previously said to have been the Wine House, was changed to the York Minister (although there seems to be a bit of confusion about when the name changed).

Its French associations, meanwhile. were given a big boost during World War II when General Charles de Gaulle and Free French Army officers, in London following the fall of France, made it their HQ. In fact, some say that it was in this pub that de Gaulle wrote his famous speech against the Vichy settlement.

While it was often informally called the “French pub” thereafter, the name didn’t officially change until it reopened after a fire in 1984.

M Berlemont’s son Gaston, meanwhile, had succeeded his father in running the pub many years earlier – there’s a story that when he walked into the pub after World War II, still dressed in his uniform, his father handed over the keys and left him to it. A well-loved Soho identity, the moustachioed Gaston remained at the helm until 1989 when the pub passed into the hands of some French House regulars.

Located at 49 Dean Street, The French House is known for its Bohemian links, particularly with the literary and artistic set. Dylan Thomas is said to have accidentally left his handwritten manuscript Under Milk Wood here while others associated with the pub include Irish poet and playwright Brendan Behan, artists Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, writer John Mortimer (of Rumpole fame) and actor Tom Baker (of Dr Who fame).

For more, see

PICTURE: Tom (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

Untold stories of suffragettes are uncovered in a new display at the Museum of London marking the centenary of women’s suffrage. Votes for Women tells the story of the likes of Emily ‘Kitty’ Willoughby Marshall – arrested six times and imprisoned three times in Holloway including once for throwing a potato at the resident of then-Home Secretary Winston Churchill, Winefride Mary Rix – sentenced to two months hard labour for smashing a window at the War Office, and Janie Terrero – a suffragist since the age of 18 who was imprisoned in Holloway for four months for window smashing during which time she twice went on a hunger strike and was force-fed. The objects on display include Emmeline Pankhurst’s iconic hunger strike medal, a pendant presented to suffragette Louise Eates on her release from prison, and a silver necklace commemorating Willoughby Marshall’s three prison terms. There’s also a newly commissioned film installation highlighting the individual commitment and courage of the lesser known suffragette women. The exhibition opens tomorrow and there’s a special family-friendly festival this weekend featuring interactive performances, workshops and special events. The exhibition Votes for Women runs until 6th January next year. For more, including the full programme of events, see

The golden age of ocean liners is recreated in a new exhibition opening at the V&A this Saturday. Ocean Liners: Speed & Style showcases more than 250 objects with highlights including a Cartier tiara recovered from the doomed Lusitania in 1915, a panel fragment from the Titanic‘s first class lounge, Goyard luggage owned by the Duke of Windsor dating from the 1940s, and Stanley Spencer’s painting The Riveters from his 1941 series Shipbuilding on the Clyde. Other artists, architects and designers whose work is featured in the display include Le Corbusier, Albert Gleizes, Charles Demuth and Eileen Gary. Among the “design stories” explored in the exhibition is that of Brunel’s Great Eastern along with Kronprinz Wilhelm, Titanic and its sister ship Olympic (all known for their Beaux-Arts interiors), the Art Deco Queen MaryNormandie and the Modernist SS United States and QE2. The display also features objects related to some of the ocean liner’s most famous passengers as well as the couturiers who saw ocean travel as a means of promoting their designs. These include a Christian Dior suit worn by Marlene Dietrich as she arrived in new York aboard the Queen Mary in 1950, a Lucien Lelong gown worn for the maiden voyage of the Normandie in 1935, and Jeanne Lanvin’s Salambo dress, which, as one of the most important flapper dresses in the V&A collection, once belonged to wealthy American Emilie Grigsby who regularly travelled between the UK and New York aboard the Aquitania, Olympic and Lusitania in the 1910s and 1920s. Runs until 10th June. Admission charge applies. For more, see

PICTURE: Titanic in dry dock, c1911, Getty_Images (Courtesy Victoria & Albert Museum).

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Loved and loathed by Londoners over the years since its construction in the mid-Sixties, the column-like BT Tower, despite growing competition, remains a dominant feature of the city’s skyline.

The tallest building in Britain at the time of its official opening in 1965, the 189 metre tall structure (including a 12 metre tall mast) was commissioned by the General Post Office to support microwave aerials which carried communications from London to the rest of the UK.

Designed by a team led by architect GR Yeats under the direction of Eric Bedford, chief architect of the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, its narrow, tubular shape was engineering to reduce wind resistance and ensure stability.

Construction of the tower started in June, 1961, and some 13,000 tonnes of steel and 4,600 square metres of specially treated glass were used in building the £2.5 million tower.

Along with the aerials capable of handling up to 150,000 simultaneous telephone calls and 40 TV channels, the tower also housed 16 floors of technical and power equipment, as well as other floors with offices and even a revolving restaurant on the 34th floor (it made one revolution every 22 minutes).

PM Harold Wilson did the honours of officially declaring the tower open on 8th October, 1965. Queen Elizabeth II’s first visit would come on 17th May, 1966, just two days before then Postmaster General Tony Benn opened the tower’s public areas – an observation gallery and a 34th floor cocktail bar and restaurant, called Top of the Tower, which was managed by Butlins. More than 50,000 visited the observation gallery in the first three weeks after its opening.

A bomb exploded in the men’s toilets on the 31st floor – the location of the viewing gallery – in October, 1971, and took two years to repair. Despite this – no-one has apparently ever claimed responsibility for the bombing, public areas continued to remain open until the restaurant closed in 1980 and access to the observation gallery ceased in 1981 (although the restaurant is still used for corporate and charity events).

Originally known as the Post Office Tower, the tower has had many other official names since it was built including the Museum Tower, the London Telecom Tower and the BT Tower while staff suggestions at the time it was being constructed included the Pointer, Spindle, Liaiser and Telebeacon. Interestingly, the tower was apparently designated an official secret when built and didn’t appear on Ordnance Survey maps until after MP Kate Hoey, following on from other members who had “given examples of seemingly trivial information that remains officially secret”, told Parliament of its address – 60 Cleveland Street – in February, 1993.

The now Grade II-listed tower, which is located just off Tottenham Court Road in Fitzrovia, remained the tallest building in London until it was overtaken by the NatWest Tower in 1980. The last of its famous satellite dishes were removed in 2011.

Its wrap-around LED light display, officially called the Information Band, went live in 2009. It has since carried special messages on occasions like Remembrance Day and Valentine’s Day as well as an Olympic countdown and even the first ever tweet sent by the Queen (a message to mark the opening of the BT-sponsored ‘Information Age’ communications gallery at the Science Museum in 2014).

The tower has featured numerous times in literature and film, the latter including Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

PICTURES: Top – BT Tower with Wembley in the background (Robert Speirs, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0); Right – View of BT Tower from The Monument (Dun.can, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

OK, this is an unusual one – a TV show instead of a person, but given it’s 30 years this month since the last episode was broadcast on 28th January, 1988, we thought we’d pause to remember a landmark couple of TV series.

Yes Minister, which starred Paul Eddington as the hapless newly-elevated first time government minister Jim Hacker, first aired on BBC on 25th February, 1980.

The show centred on the trials and tribulations of Mr Hacker as he tried to bring about the sort of changes he had dreamed about as a candidate, opposed by an obstructionist civil service – in particular the Permanent Secretary to the Minister for Administrative Affairs, Sir Humphrey Appleby (played by Sir Nigel Hawthorne). Caught between the two – with loyalties to both – was Mr Hacker’s Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley, played by Derek Fowlds.

While the Houses of Parliament (pictured above) are shown as a drawing on the opening credits, the action rarely moves to the House of Commons but largely takes place in Mr Hacker’s Whitehall office and other offices and private clubs in the Westminster area under the premise that it’s behind the scenes where the real work of politics does (or doesn’t) get done.

The show was famous for almost always finishing with Sir Humphrey muttering those immortal words “Yes, Minister”, even as he has thwarted another of the minister’s plans.

Three series of seven episodes were made which ran until 1984 (there were also two Christmas specials) . A follow-up series, Yes Prime Minister, first aired in 1986 and centred once again on Jim Hacker, this time following his elevation to the role of PM. Sir Humphrey continued to be a thorn in his side.

The show, which was also adapted for radio, won several BAFTAs and was said to be a favourite of British PM Margaret Thatcher. It was later made into a stage play and this in turn lead to a “revival” series being produced.

The show has been referenced numerous times in popular culture as well as real-life politics – Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke was a fan and even Humphrey, a former Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, was named after Sir Humphrey.

PICTURE: Jamie Street/Unsplash


Two Blackfriars Bridges – a vehicle and pedestrian bridge, and a railway bridge – still span the River Thames from the City of London on the north bank to South Bank. But just beside the railway bridge stand some large red pylons – the remains of the first Blackfriars Railway Bridge. 

This bridge was built in 1864 to accommodate the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) when it was extended north across the river to what was then named St Paul’s Station (at least until 1937 when it became Blackfriars Station).

The ornate bridge was designed by Joseph Cubitt but within 20 years of its being built, the second, still existing, railway bridge was constructed alongside it to provide more space for trains (the original bridge apparently only had four tracks).

The ornately decorated first bridge was supported on three rows of pylons – the third was incorporated into the second bridge (which is why we now only see two rows).

After 1923, when train services began to terminate at Waterloo Station on the south side of the river, the bridge was rarely used but it wasn’t until many years later, in 1985, that it was declared too weak to support the current crop of trains and removed.

As well as the pylons, on the south side of the river can be seen a massive abutment of Portland stone featuring the ornate cast iron insignia of the former LCDR (above right). Grade II-listed, it was restored in about 1990.

PICTURES: Top – The wub/licensed under The wub; Right – SyndVer/licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

This iconic building – home to the venerable insurance firm Lloyd’s of London – stands on the former site of East India House on the corner of Lime and Leadenhall Streets in the City of London.

Designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership (now Roger Stirk Harbour + Partners) in conjunction with structural engineers Arup, this 12 storey building – which features galleries adjoining a series of towers located around a central, glass-topped atrium – was completed in 1986 after eight years of construction. The £75 million building was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II.

The building, which was granted grade I-listed status in 2011 (making it the youngest building to receive the honour), used more than 33,000 cubic metres of concrete, 30,000 square metres of stainless steel cladding and 12,000 square metres of glass in its creation.

Among its most famous innovations is the location of services – including lifts, toilets and tubes containing wiring and plumbing – on the exterior of the building in an effort to maximise space inside (inviting comparisons with the Centre Pompidou in Paris, which Rogers was involved in the design of, along with Renzo Piano, prior to working on this building).

The building incorporates – in Leadenhall Street – part of the facade of the previous Lloyd’s building which had occupied the site since 1928 (the corporation had been founded in 1688 in Tower Street by Edward Lloyd and endured several moves before coming to its current home).

The 11th floor Committee Room incorporates the Adam Great Room, an adaptation of the original dining room from Bowood House in Wiltshire which was designed by Robert Adam for the 1st Earl of Shelbourne. It was purchased from Bowood in 1956 and incorporated into Lloyd’s former Heysham building before being moved into the current building.

Also present in the building, hanging from the Rostrum on the ground floor, is the famous Lutine Bell. It was recovered from the wreck of HMS Lutine – lost at sea with all hands and cargo in 1799 and, as a result, the subject of a claim against Lloyd’s which was paid in full – in 1859 and has since graced Lloyd’s underwriting rooms. While it was formerly rung to announce when news of an overdue ship arrived – once for a loss, twice for its safe return – these days it is only used on ceremonial occasions.

The building’s futuristic and iconic look meant it’s served as a location in numerous films including 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Mamma Mia (2008) and The Ghost Writer (2010). It has also, in recent years, attracted climbers, leading Lloyd’s to seek an injunction to prevent such actions.

PICTURE: Stephen Richards/licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0