It’s well known that John Rennie’s London Bridge was purchased from the City of London by American entrepreneur Robert P McCulloch and in 1967 relocated to Lake Havasu City in Arizona. But what other London buildings have been relocated from their original site, either to elsewhere in the city or further afield?

First up is Marble Arch, originally built as a grand entrance to Buckingham Palace. Designed by John Nash, the arch was constructed from 1827 and completed in 1833 (there was a break in construction as Nash was replaced by Edward Blore) on the east side of Buckingham Palace for a cost of some £10,000.

Inspired by the Arch of Constantine in Rome (and, it has to be said, some envy over the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in Paris, built to commemorate Napoleon’s military victories), the 45 foot high structure is clad in white Carrara marble and decorated with sculptural reliefs by Sir Richard Westmacott and Edward Hodges Baily.

An equestrian statue of King George IV was designed for the top by Francis Leggatt Chantrey but it was never put there (instead, it ended up in Trafalgar Square). The bronze gates which bear the lion of England, cypher of King George IV and image of St George and the Dragon – were designed by Samuel Parker.

The arch, said to be on the initiative of Nash’s former pupil, Decimus Burton, was dismantled and rebuilt, apparently by Thomas Cubitt, in its present location on the north-east corner of Hyde Park, close to Speaker’s Corner, in 1851.

There’s a popular story that the arch was relocated after it was found to be too narrow for the wide new coaches – this seems highly unlikely as the Gold State Coach passed under it during Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1952. Actually, it was moved to create room for Buckingham Palace’s new east facade (meaning the palace’s famous balcony, where the Royal Family gather to wave, now stands where the arch once did).

Whatever the reasons, it replaced Cumberland Gate as the new ornamental entrance to Hyde Park, complementing the arch Decimus Burton had designed for Hyde Park Corner in the park’s south-east.

Subsequent roadworks left the arch in its current position on a traffic island. It stands close to where the notorious gallows known as the “Tyburn Tree” once stood.

The rebuilt, now Grade I-listed, arch contains three small rooms which, until the middle of the 20th century, housed what has been described as “one of the smallest police stations in the world”. Only senior members of the Royal family and the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery are permitted to pass through the central gates.

PICTURES: Top – Marble Arch in its current location and; Middle – and an 1837 engraving showing the arch outside Buckingham Palace.

Dignitaries including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Michael Wigston, were among those attending a service commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain in Westminster Abbey on Sunday. The service, which was witnessed by fewer people than would normally have been the case due to the coronavirus pandemic, included an Act of Remembrance during which the Battle of Britain Roll of Honour – containing the names of the 1,497 pilots and aircrew killed or mortally wounded during the 112 days of fighting – was carried through the church and placed beside the High Altar. After the service three Spitfires and a Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight took part in a flypast over the Abbey. Pictured above are the standard bearers formed up on the altar at the service (all pictures via MOD © Crown copyright 2020)

Above: The Queen’s Colour Squadron lining the entrance to Westminster Abbey.

Above: Prime Minister Boris Johnson carrying out a reading during the service.

Above: FO Buckingham saluting the Battle of Britain memorial stained glass window at Westminster Abbey.

Above: The four planes from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight fly above the Abbey.

It was on 7th September, 1940, that the German bombers raided London in what was to be the first of 57 consecutive nights of bombings and the start of the air attacks on the city known as the Blitz (short for ‘Blitzkrieg’ meaning ‘lightning war’ in German).

Almost 350 German bombers, escorted by more than 600 Messerschmitt fighters, were involved in the raid on what became known as “Black Saturday”.

This first wave of bombing, which ended just after 6pm on what had been a hot day, largely targeted London’s docks in attempt to destroy the city’s infrastructure and industrial sites including the munitions factories of the Woolwich Arsenal, gasworks at Beckton, West Ham power station and oil storage tanks at Thameshaven.

A second wave, which lasted eight hours and involved another 400 bombers, arrived from 8pm striking Millwall, commercial docks at Tilbury and Thameshaven, and the heavily populated slums of the East End in localities including Silvertown, Canning Town, East Ham, Poplar, Stratford, Wapping, and Whitechapel.

Hundreds of tons of bombs were dropped in the raids during which some 448 of London’s civilians were killed and 1,600 injured. Some of the fires started in the bombing burned for five days with the flames visible for miles.

While the attack was the first day of the Blitz, it was actually the 60th day of the Battle of Britain in which the German Luftwaffe had targeted air fields, oil installations and other war-related infrastructure.

While Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring had gone on radio on the day of the raid, describing it as an “historic hour, in which for the first time the German Luftwaffe has struck at the heart of the enemy”, the strategy shift – to target London instead of the air defence-related installations – proved to be what Hugh Dowding, chief of Fighter Command described as a “mistake”, giving the defences time to rebuild.

But at the time, the attack on London was believed at the time to herald the start of a full invasion. It’s known that as the Luftwaffe attacked the East End, the military chiefs of staff were meeting in Whitehall – at 8pm that night, just as the second wave of planes was starting to bomb the city, they issued the code word ‘Cromwell’ which indicated that invasion was imminent and defending troops need to prepare.

The planned invasion – Operation Sea Lion – never eventuated but the Blitz was to continue until May the following year.

PICTURE: The London docks ablaze during the Blitz on 7th September, 1940. Palls of smoke rise in the docks beyond the Tower of London with the Surrey Docks to the right of the bridge and the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs in the distance. PICTURE: © Port of London Authority Collection / Museum of London. For more on the ‘Docklands at War’, head to www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london-docklands/permanent-galleries/docklands-war.

A sculpture created for the 1951 Festival of Britain has returned to Waterloo Station where it was first displayed almost 70 years ago. The work of Hungarian-born artist Peter Laszlo Peri, The Sunbathers features two figures – made from ‘Pericrete’, a special kind of concrete created by the artist as a cheaper alternative to casting in bronze – and was mounted on the wall close to the station’s entrance. It was presumed lost until it was rediscovered in 2016 at the Clarendon Hotel in Blackheath and, following restoration, was put on show in 2017 in the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall. Now, thanks to the efforts of Historic England and Network Rail, the sculptures have returned to the station, close to its original site, and will stay there for five years. PICTURES: Courtesy of Network Rail

A memorial commemorating the role of the Chindit Special Forces in Burma during World War II has been awarded a Grade II listing on the National Heritage List for England in honour of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Japan (VJ) Day. Located in Victoria Embankment Gardens outside the Ministry of Defence building in Whitehall, the memorial’s granite plinth is topped with a bronze chinthe, a mythical beast that stands guard outside Burmese temples. The Chindit Special Forces, which were formed by British Army officer Major General Orde Charles Wingate and disbanded in early 1945, are credited with helping to turn the tide of World War II against Japan in the Far East. The memorial was designed by architect David Price and the chinthe sculpture the work of Frank Forster. It was unveiled by Prince Philip on 16th October, 1990. On Saturday, as the nation commemorated VJ Day, a military delegation lad a wreath at the foot of the memorial. PICTURE: Derek Voller (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0).

Among the buildings destroyed in the Blitz, St Stephen Coleman Street was one of the more than 50 City of London churches designed by the office of Sir Christopher Wren in the wake of the Great Fire of London of 1666.

The church was located on the corner of Coleman and Gresham Streets and replaced an earlier medieval building, the origins of which date back to at least the 13th century (the earliest mention occurs during the reign of King John) and which had also been known as St Stephen in the Jewry due to the number of Jewish people living in the vicinity.

St Stephen’s had apparently become a Puritan stronghold by the early 17th century when the vicars included John Davenport, who later went on to found a colony in Connecticut.

Five members of Parliament whom King Charles I attempted to arrest on 4th January, 1642, hid here as his troops searched for them. During the Commonwealth, the church instituted rules under which only those who were approved by a committee including the vicar and 13 parishioners – two of whom had apparently signed King Charles I’s death warrant, could receive Communion.

Following its destruction in the Great Fire of 1666, the church was rebuilt its former foundations – the new building incorporating some of the ruins of the former and featuring a bell lantern with a gilded weathervane on top – and was largely completed by 1677. In the early 1690s, additional funds gained through a coal tax provided for the construction of a burial vault and a gallery.

Notable vicars after the rebuild included Rev Josiah Pratt (1768-1844) who served for 21 years as secretary of the Church Missionary Society.

While the church suffered some minor damage during an air-raid in World War I, it was repaired. But it was finally destroyed during an air raid on 29th December, 1940, after which the church was not rebuilt but its parish joined with that of St Margaret Lothbury.

A City of London Corporation plaque at the intersection of Coleman Street and Kings Arms Yard marks the site of the former church.

PICTURE: An etching of St Stephen’s Coleman Street published in 1819.

• The National Army Museum in Chelsea is joining with the Royal Air Force Museum, the National Museum of the Royal Navy and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to mark the 75th anniversary of VJ (Victory over Japan) Day, this Saturday, 15th August, with a series of free events including online talks. Among those taking part are World War II veteran Captain Sir Tom Moore, recently knighted by the Queen for his efforts in helping raise funds for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic, author and explorer Levison Wood (who explores the story of his grandfather’s service in Burma), and Professor Tarak Barkawi, author of Soldiers of Empire: Indian and British Armies in World War II, as well as General Lord Richards, Grand President of the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League who’s involved in a conversation about the contribution of Commonwealth soldiers during the Far East campaign. For the full programme of events, head to www.nam.ac.uk/series/vj-day-75.

Steve McQueen is back at Tate Modern. The exhibition, which reopened last Friday following the reopening of all Tate galleries, spans 20 years of McQueen’s work and features 14 major pieces spanning film, photography and sculpture. The exhibition adds to the three visitor routes already in place at the Tate Modern and coincides with McQueen’s latest artwork Year 3, an epic portrait of London’s Year 3 pupils created through a partnership between Tate, Artangel and A New Direction which can be seen at Tate Britain until 31st January. Visitors must prebook. For more, head to tate.org.uk/visit.

Beyond London (a new regular feature in which we include sites around Greater London)
• The East Terrace Garden at Windsor Castle – commissioned by King George IV in the 1820s – has opened to weekend visitors for the first time in decades. Overlooked by the castle’s famous east facade, the formal garden features clipped domes of yew and beds of 3,500 rose bushes planted in a geometric pattern around a central fountain. It was originally designed by architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville between 1824 and 1826 on the site of an old bowling green made for Charles II in the 1670s. Plants, including 34 orange trees sent by the French King Charles X, were specially imported for the garden and statues were brought from the Privy Gardens at Hampton Court, including a set of four bronze figures by Hubert Le Sueur which  were made for Charles I in the 1630s and which remain in the garden today. Prince Albert is known to have taken a particular interest in the garden and the Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, and her sister Princess Margaret grew vegetables there during World War II. As well as the opening of the East Terrace Garden on weekends, visitors with young children on Thursdays and Fridays in August are being given special access to the Castle’s Moat Garden beneath the iconic Round Tower, thought to have dated from the period of King Edward III and believed to be the setting for Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale, the first story in Canterbury Tales. Pre-bookings essential. For more, see www.rct.uk.

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

The first recorded soundscape of London’s busy streets was created in 1928 as part of a Daily Mail campaign calling for noise restrictions. Recordings were made at five sites – Whitechapel East, St George’s Hospital at Hyde Park Corner, Leicester Square, Cromwell Road and Beauchamp Place in South Kensington – in a collaborative project between the Mail and the Columbia Graphophone Company. Now, more than 90 years later, the sounds at the five original locations – or rather the lack of sounds during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown – have been captured again, this time as binaural recordings, a method of recording sound that uses two microphones to create a 3D stereo sound. It’s all part of the Museum of London’s ongoing ‘Collecting COVID’ project and was created in collaboration with String and Tins, an award-winning team of sound designers, composers, sound supervisors and mix engineers. Both the 1928 recordings (now digitised) and the modern recordings have been made available to listen to in their entirety for the first time on the Museum of London’s website. There are accompanying photographs by Damien Hewetson as well as historic imagery from the museum’s archive. PICTURE: A sparsely populated Leicester Square in an image taken in May this year during the coronavirus lockdown (ACME/licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

Located on the Albert Embankment outside St Thomas’ Hospital just to the south of Westminster Bridge, is a small plaque commemorating the victims of Human BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), sometimes referred to as the human form of ‘Mad Cow Disease’.

The memorial, which was erected by the now defunct Human BSE Foundation, reads: “In loving memory of the victims of Human BSE (vCJD). Always in our thoughts.” There’s also an image of a chrysanthemum, a flower sometimes placed on graves to honour the dead.

It was reported in March, 2010, that since 1990, 168 people have died from Human BSE, also known as vCJD (variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease).

There has in recent years been a push to relocate the plaque from its position on the Albert Embankment to a more prominent place.

PICTURE: Cograng (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

This English Heritage Blue Plaque marks the property in Cavendish Square, Westminster, where Sir Ronald Ross, a key figure in the battle against malaria, lived for a period.

The Indian-born Ross received the 1902 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his efforts in discovering, while working for the Indian Medical Service in 1897, how malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes. The find opened the way for combatting the disease.

Having trained in London, Ross worked for the Indian Medical Service for 25 years before joining the faculty of Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He went on to hold the post of professor and chair in Tropical Sanitation at Liverpool University.

He held various other posts – including consultant physician to the War Office and consultant to the Ministry of Pensions – before, in 1926, he became director-in-chief of the Ross Institute and Hospital for Tropical Diseases, an institution established in Putney Heath and named after him.

He held this position until his death in 1932 and was buried in the Putney Vale Cemetery nearby.

The plaque on the property at 18 Cavendish Square, where Ross lived when establishing his institute, was installed in 1985 by the Greater London Council. Ross’ name, along with 23 others (including Edward Jenner) can also be seen on a frieze on the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, in honour of his contributions to public health.

While the impact of malaria has been dramatically curtailed around the world thanks to various interventions, the disease still kills hundreds of thousands. In 2018 alone, it was reported that 405,000 people, mostly young children in sub-Saharan Africa, died of malaria.

PICTURE: Spudgun67 (licensed under CC BY 2.0).

Hitherto unheard oral histories documenting the lived experience of the Windrush generation and the generations that followed have been released by the Museum of London. The oral histories, which were recorded in 2018 as part of the Conversation Booth project in City Hall, are part of the museum’s new online collection of Windrush-related content. Drawn from the collections of both the Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands, it includes objects, photos, videos and articles. To explore the collection, head to www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london-docklands/windrush-stories.

A hybrid sculpture depicting the body of a woman with the head of a hare has gone on show in Berkeley Square. The work of Sophie Ryder, Crawling was hand-made in 1999 from wet plaster, old machine parts and scavenged toys then cast in bronze. The work is part of City of Westminster’s City of Sculpture programme which brings sculpture to iconic outdoor locations.

The Museum of the Home is asking people for their opinion on the future of the statue of Sir Robert Geffrye which stands out the front of the almshouses housing the museum in Shoreditch. The almshouses were built by Geffrye, who was involved with the slave trade having made made his fortune with the East India Company and the Royal African Company, in 1714. The consultation is being held in partnership with Hackney Council which is conducting a wider review of landmarks and the naming of public spaces in the borough. The consultation remains open until the 2nd July. To have your say, head to www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/geffrye-statue.

Send all items to exploringlondon@gmail.

Once located on the north side of Cannon Street, St Swithin London Stone was first recorded in the 13th century, rebuilt after the Great Fire of London and finally demolished after being damaged in World War II.

The church’s curious name comes its dedication to St Swithin, a ninth century bishop of Winchester, and the London Stone, a stone of curious origins which was originally located across the road and then moved across to eventually be placed inside an alcove in the south wall of the church in the 1820s (you can read more about it here).

The medieval church was rebuilt in 1405 thanks to the largesse of Sir John Hind, twice Lord Mayor of London, and had one of the first towers built specifically for the hanging of bells.

The church was famously also the final resting place of Catrin Glyndwr, daughter of Welsh leader Owain Glyndwr, who was taken hostage in 1409 and imprisoned in the Tower of London before dying in mysterious circumstances four years later. Other notable connections include one with John Dryden who married Lady Elizabeth Howard in the church in 1663.

The church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. Now united with St Mary Bothaw, the church was rebuilt apparently using some of the original stones, to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren. Rectangular in shape, it featured a tower in the north-west corner and an octagonal dome.

The church, which also had an association with the Worshipful Company of Salters, was heavily damaged by bombing during the Blitz. United with St Stephen Walbrook in 1954, the ruined church was eventually demolished in 1962 (the pulpit is now at All Hallows by the Tower). There’s now a garden on the site which features a memorial to Catrin Glyndwr.

PICTURE: The Church of St Swithin, London Stone, as depicted in the 1839 book ‘The Churches of London’ by George Godwin. (public domain)

The Museum of London Docklands has released a number of images from its ‘Docklands at War’ collection – including some rarely on display – to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe. These images of the East End show the scale of the damage and destruction caused to London’s docks during World War II when more than 25,000 German bombs were dropped on it in an attempt to impact the national economy and war production, making tens of thousands of home uninhabitable, damaging businesses and destroying docks with the West India Docks and St Katherine Docks suffering the most damage. The pictures also reveal the remarkable contribution to the war effort by the people who lived and worked in the densely populated area. For more on how the museum is marking the day online, head to www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london-docklands/ve-day.

St Katharine Dock after an air raid on 7th September, 1940, the first attack on Docklands.  PICTURE: John H Avery & Co (© PLA Collection / Museum of London)

Bomb damage to a shed, formerly Guiness’s on west side of eastern dock, looking north from the southend taken on 19th December, 1940, following an air raid on 8th December that year. PICTURE: John H Avery & Co (© PLA Collection / Museum of London)


Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Clementine Churchill, with the Flag Officer, London, and J Douglas Ritchie (on left), touring London’s dock in September, 1940, seen with a group of auxiliary firemen. PICTURE: © PLA Collection / Museum of London

Damage caused by a V1 rocket which hit Royal Victoria Dock in 1944. PICTURE: © PLA Collection / Museum of London

The Docklands ablaze during the Blitz on 7th September, 1940. The rising palls of smoke mark out the London Docks beyond the Tower of London, the Surrey Docks to the right of the bridge and the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs in the distance. PICTURE: © PLA Collection / Museum of London


Tanks arriving in the London Docks prior to embarkation for the D Day beaches in 1944. PICTURE: © PLA Collection / Museum of London

This Chelsea home, at 24  Cheyne Row, was that of Victorian philosopher, historian and writer Thomas Carlyle and his wife Jane.

The couple moved to the red and brown brick Queen Anne terraced house, then known as number 5 Cheyne Row, from Scotland in 1834 – it was at the time a rather unfashionable location.

They continued to rent the property until their deaths – Janes in 1866 and Thomas, the “Chelsea Sage” in 1881 – and during their time in the home, it became a hub for writers and thinkers with Charles Dickens, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, George Eliot, and William Makepeace Thackeray all among those who visited.

The property was where Carlyle wrote his most famous book, The French Revolution, A History, which almost never made it into print – he lent the only copy to John Stuart Mill and while in his possession, one of his servants accidentally threw it on the fire meaning Carlyle had to start writing the entire book again from scratch.

The four level property’s interiors are typical of those of a 19th century townhouse and include a parlour (captured as it was in 1857 in a painting by Robert Tait which hangs on the wall), drawing room, basement kitchen (where Carlyle smoked with Tennyson) and a specially designed “sound proof” attic study (it isn’t).

Inside can be found Carlyle’s original manuscripts and possessions as well as part of his original library (his hat still hangs on a peg in the entrance hall). Outside there’s a small walled garden which featured flowers and vegetables as well as plants to remind Jane of Scotland.

The Grade II*-listed property, which dates from 1708, was first opened to the public in 1895. It was taken over the by the National Trust in 1936.

For more, see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/carlyles-house/

PICTURE: Peter Reed (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

It was 75 years ago this month – 8th May, 1945 – that Londoners poured out onto the city’s streets in celebration of the end of World War II.

Some celebrations had already started in London on 7th May as news of the unconditional surrender of all German troops to the Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower in the French city of Reims on 7th May became known.

But Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared 8th May a national holiday and, in response, vast crowds turned out on the streets to celebrate with bunting, flags and fireworks. Church bells were rung and services of thanksgiving held including at St Paul’s Cathedral where 10 consecutive services, each attended by thousands, took place.

British girls, of the Picture Division of the London Office of War Information dance in the street with American soldiers during the “VE Day” celebration in London. This scene took place outside the building of the US Army Pictorial Division has its offices. PICTURE: © IWM EA 65796

At 3pm, Churchill made a national radio broadcast from 10 Downing Street. He told listeners that while “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing”, they should “not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead” a reference to the ongoing war with Japan (the radio broadcast, incidentally, is being re-run on the BBC on 8th May this year to mark the anniversary).

Churchill then proceeded to Parliament where he formally reported the end of the war in Europe to Parliament before leading a procession of members to St Margaret’s Church for a service of thanksgiving. He later appeared on the balcony of the Ministry of Health building in Whitehall to address the teeming crowds below, telling them “This is your victory” to which they roared back that it was his.

Churchill waves to crowds in Whitehall on the day he broadcast to the nation that the war with Germany had been won, 8 May 1945. PICTURE: Horton W G (Major) (Photographer),
War Office official photographer/© IWM H 41849

Meanwhile, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, initially accompanied by their two daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace several times to wave to the cheering crowds. The King and Queen, who were at one point joined by Churchill, were still waving when their daughters secretly – and now rather famously – left the palace and joined the crowds outside in what Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II, described as “one of the most memorable moments” of her life. The King also gave a radio address from the palace during which he paid tribute to all those who had died in the conflict.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth with Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret joined by the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, London on VE Day. PICTURE: © IWM MH 21835

While celebrations took place across London, hotspots included Whitehall, outside Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square and Piccadilly Circus, where by midnight there were an estimated 50,000 people singing and dancing. Licensing hours were extended in pubs and dance halls staying open to midnight.

A mass of civilians and servicemen crowding around Piccadilly Circus, London. PICTURE: Poznak Murray, United States Army Signal Corps official photographerIWM EA 65879

One of the most iconic images of the day was a photograph of two sailors standing in one of the fountains at Trafalgar Square with two women, revealed, thanks to research by the Imperial War Museum to be Cynthia Covello and Joyce Digney who had travelled to join the celebrations from Surrey.

Two British sailors and their girlfriends wading in the fountains in Trafalgar Square on VE Day. PICTURE: Massecar T G, United States Army Signal Corps photographer/© IWM EA 65799

With thanks to the Imperial War Museum, London.

 


Only acquired by the National Trust in 2010, this property features a series of uniquely fashioned interiors created by Kenyan-born poet, novelist, artist and British civil servant Khadambi Asalache.

Asalache (1935-2006), who had trained as an architect, purchased the then dilapidated 1819 terraced house while working at the Treasury in 1981 (he apparently spotted it from a passing bus and ended up buying it for less than the asking price).

Confronted with a damp patch in the basement that resisted treatment, he initially covered it with wood and then, deciding that was bit drab, created fretwork to put over the top.

It was the beginning of a massive undertaking which saw the property transformed. Over the next 20 years, Asalache used a fretsaw to turn the home into an extraordinary work of art, eventually embellishing almost every wall, ceiling and door in the house with Moorish inspired fretwork patterns and motifs, hand-carved from reclaimed pine doors and floorboards which he’d found in skips.

The rooms, which are also influenced by African, Ottoman, and British design, are filled with Asalache’s handmade fretwork furniture and his eclectic collections of objects such as pressed-glass inkwells, pink and copper lustreware, postcards and his typewriter.

The Clapham property, which appears unassuming from the front, was left to the National Trust in Asalache’s will.

Only a select number of visitors can visit the property each year on pre-booked tours (although it’s currently closed due to the coronavirus outbreak). For updates on its opening status, head to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/575-wandsworth-road.

PICTURES: Interiors of the property (Shakespearesmonkey (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0))


More than 60 of these shelters were built at major cab stands around London between 1875 and 1914 in order to allow cabmen to seek refreshment without leaving their vehicle.

The narrow, rectangular, green huts were constructed by the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund – which was established in 1875 by a philanthropically-minded group including the newspaper publisher Sir George Armstrong and the  Earl of Shaftesbury (the group also had the support of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII).

The story goes that it was Sir George who pushed the idea forward after a servant he sent to find a cab in some inclement weather took a long time in returning thanks to the fact the cabbies were all off seeking a hot meal in nearby pubs.

The shelters, which police specified were not allowed to be larger than a horse and cart given their position on a public highway, were initially very simple in design but become more ornamental as time went on (architect Maximilian Clarke, who designed a shelter for Northumberland Avenue which was built in 1882, was a key proponent of this more ornate style).

Most were staffed by attendants who sold food and drink to the cabbies (there were also kitchen facilities for them to cook their own as well as tables to sit at and a variety of reading materials). Drinking and gambling, as well as swearing, were apparently strictly forbidden.

The first of these shelters, which reportedly cost around £200 each, was erected in Acacia Road, St John’s Wood, but that shelter is long gone. Just 13 of the huts now survive and all are Grade II-listed. They have various nicknames assigned to them by London’s cabbies – one on Kensington Road, for example, is apparently known as ‘The All Nations’ thanks to its proximity to the site of the Great Exhibition of 1850, while another at Temple Place is simply known as ‘The Temple’.

As to which is the oldest?

Well, that’s proved a bit of a vexed question. According to listings on the Historic England website, the oldest we could find dated from 1897. They included one located in Hanover Square, another in Russell Square (this having been relocated from its previous position in Leicester Square), and a third in Thurloe Place in South Kensington, opposite the Victoria and Albert Museum.

But there were three for which we could find no details of the date on which they were built. They include one on the Chelsea Embankment near the Albert Bridge, another in St George’s Square in Pimlico, and the final one in Wellington Place in St John’s Wood near Lord’s cricket ground.

Update: According to our cabbie correspondent – see comments below – the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund have said the oldest shelter is that in Kensington Park Road, which they dated to 1877. Historic England have this one listed as dating 1909 – perhaps a rebuild?

Correction: The shelter known as ‘The All Nations’ is in Kensington Road, not Kensington Park Road as originally reported.

PICTURES: Top – The Russell Square shelter (David Nicholls, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0); Below – the Cabmen’s Shelter in Thurloe Place opposite the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington (Amanda Slater, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

We decided to continue with our Wednesday series. While the properties are all currently closed, we hope you’ll still enjoy exploring them with us online until the day they reopen…

Hackney property Sutton House –  originally known simply as ‘the bryk place’ – was built by Ralph Sadleir (or Sadler), a courtier  who started out in the service of Thomas Cromwell but rose to become Principal Secretary of State to King Henry VIII. Sadleir, who had married a cousin of Cromwell, had the property constructed in 1535 as his family home.

Sadleir – who makes an appearance in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell novels and who, as well as being of service to King Henry VIII, also served King Edward VI, Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I – sold the property just 15 years later. The red brick house – now said to be the oldest surviving domestic building in Hackney – subsequently passed through numerous hands with its owners apparently including merchants, a sea captain and French Huguenot refugees. In 1751, it was divided into two residences – Ivy House and Milford House.

The property housed a boy’s school in the early 1800s – novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton was among those who attended – and later became a girl’s school. The rector of Hackney bought the premises in 1891 and used it as a base for the St John at Hackney Church Institute, a social and recreational centre for young men.  His modifications included turning part of the cellars into a chapel.

Mistakenly named after the founder of the Charterhouse School, Thomas Sutton (he actually lived in a now demolished adjacent property), Sutton House was bought by the National Trust in the 1930s using the proceeds of a bequest made in memory of two men killed in World War I.

Among its various roles, the building served as a centre for fire wardens during World War II and, from the 1960s, serving as the offices of a trade union. After the union left in the 1980s, the house fell into disrepair and in 1982 squatters moved in and it was renamed ‘the Blue House’. Several murals from this period – when rock concerts were held in the barn – are preserved into the house.

The squatters were evicted and in the late Eighties, a society was formed with the aim of saving the house. Following renovations, the house opened to the public in 1994. These days the Grade II*-listed home is used as a museum and art gallery. There’s also a shop and cafe.

While the facade of the house underwent some changes during the Georgian era, the property’s interior remains essentially Tudor. Highlights include the kitchen, oak panelled chambers, carved fireplaces and, of course, the cellars.

The National Trust reclaimed some adjacent land to create an award winning garden known as the Breaker’s Yard. The name comes from the fact the land was once occupied by a car breaker’s yard.

There’s said to be a couple of ghosts who reside in the house including wailing dogs and a mysterious ‘blue lady’.

The property, which stands in Homerton High Street, is temporarily closed but for more information, check the website at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sutton-house-and-breakers-yard.

ALL PICTURES: Kotomi_ (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

Please note: Exploring London is aware that sites across London have closed temporarily as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. But we’re continuing our coverage as usual – in the hope you can visit at a later time…

Located at 5 Strand Lane in the West End, these brick-lined baths were long-reputed to be of Roman origin. But they are actually believed to be the remains of a cistern built in 1612 to supply water to fountain in the gardens of Old Somerset House.

The fountain had been built by French engineer, Salomon de Caus, after he was commissioned to do so as part of King James I’s efforts to refurbish Somerset House for Queen Anne of Denmark.

Following the demolition of the fountain, the cistern was neglected until the 1770s when the cistern was used a public cold plunge bath attached to a property at 33 Surrey Street. A second bath, called the ‘Essex Bath’ was added (it’s now under the nearby KCL Norfolk Building).

The idea that they were Roman is believed to have originated in the 1820s when the bath was so described as an advertising gimmick (Charles Dickens’ helped popularise the idea in his book David Copperfield – it is believed Dickens himself may have bathed here).

The 1.3 metre deep bath passed through a couple of different hands in the ensuing decades including Oxford Street draper Henry Glave and Rev William Pennington Bickford, the Rector of St Clement Danes, who, believing in the bath’s Roman origins, hoped to turn them into a tourist attraction.

But his plans came to nothing due to a lack of funds and following his death, in 1944, the National Trust agreed to take on ownership while London County Council agreed to see to its maintenance. They reopened the baths, following repairs, in 1951.

These days, while owned by the Trust, the baths are managed by Westminster Council.

WHERE: 5 Strand Lane (nearest Tube station is Temple); WHEN: While National Trust properties are temporarily closed, viewings are usually arranged through Westminster Council and Somerset House Old Palaces tour; COST: Free; WEBSITE:  www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/strand-lane-roman-baths.

PICTURE: Michael Trapp (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

Please note: Exploring London is aware that many sites have closed temporarily or considering doing so as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. We’ll be continuing much of our coverage as usual – in the hope you can visit at a later time…

This modernist home in Hampstead was designed by Budapest-born architect Ernö Goldfinger in 1939 for his family.

Goldfinger, who had emigrated to London in the early 1930s, decided to build the property in what was at the time something of an artistic hotspot. But his plan to build three residences in Willow Road – his home was the largest in the middle of the block of three terraced homes – was a controversial project.

Those who voiced their opposition included James Bond author Ian Fleming (who named a now famous villain after Goldfinger) and Lord Brooke of Cunmor, Secretary of the Heath and Old Hampstead Protection Society (and later MP for Hampstead as well as a Home Secretary in the 1960s), who said the proposed project was “disastrously out of keeping” with the character of the neighbourhood.

But, with the support of other local residents, Goldfinger defended his design, stating that it would respect both the surroundings and tradition of Georgian building in London.

The three storey, Grade II* property – which is built to appear as a single building along with its two neighbours – features a facade dominated by the use of red brick but also revealing exposed concrete bearing columns and a continuous strap of picture windows on the first floor.

It features a famous central spiral staircase designed by Danish engineer Ove Arup while Goldfinger himself designed much of the furniture. The house also contains a significant collection of 20th century art by artists including Bridget Riley, Man Ray and Max Ernst.

Goldfinger lived at the property along with his wife, artist and heiress Ursula (nee Blackwell, of the Crosse & Blackwell fortune), until his death in 1987 (his wife, whose money funded the project, died after him).

During their residency, the home hosted exhibitions in support of left-wing causes including one held in 1942 for the  ‘Aid to Russia’ Fund of the National Council of Labour.

Number 2 Willow Road was acquired by the National Trust in 1992 (it was the first modernist building acquired by the Trust). Numbers 1 and 3 Willow Road remain private residences.

WHERE: 2 Willow Road, Hampstead (nearest Tube station is Hampstead/nearest Overground is Hampstead Heath); WHEN: Temporarily closed – check website for times when it reopens; COST: £8.50 an adult/£4.25 a child; WEBSITE: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/2-willow-road

PICTURE: Public Domain