The V&A has reopened the second of its two Cast Courts following a redevelopment which has seen the addition of a new interpretation gallery, new exhibits and the restoration of historic original features. The West Court, now renamed the Ruddock Family Cast Court, has been returned to its historic past with original 19th century floors and wall colours and the Central Gallery, now renamed the Chitra Normal Sethia Gallery, features a new exhibition exploring the history, significance and contemporary relevance of the casts on display. Among the new exhibits are a scaled down digital reproduction of the arch of Palmyra destroyed by the so-called Islamic State in 2015 while one of the key existing exhibits, a 35 metre high cast of Trajan’s Column (displayed in two parts – see picture) has had its base permanently opened so visitors can gain an internal perspective. The reopening follows that of the Weston Cast Court in 2014 and completes a project which was begun in 2011. The Cast Courts were first opened in 1873, then known as the Architecture Courts, and house a collection of casts of some of the world’s most inspiring objects including everything from Michelangelo’s David to 16th-century tombs by Peter Vischer in Nuremberg and the Pórtico de la Gloria from the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. They are the only public galleries in the South Kensington institution to display the same collection of objects as when they first opened. Entry to the Cast Courts is free. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk. PICTURE: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Works by Edward Burns-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and Grayson Perry are among those on show as part of a new exhibition at the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Art Gallery. Visions and Visionaries – a collaboration between the Guildhall Art Gallery, The Sir Denis Mahon Charitable Trust, Flat Time House, and the Bologna-based Association Age of Future, highlights some of the key figures who defined the ‘Visionary’ idea of art and laid the foundations for a later generation of avant-garde artists. Among the works on show are Sir John Gilbert’s depiction of two knights ambushed by fairies in a moon-lit forest, Marcello Pecchioli’s Alien Priest, and John Latham’s experimental screen print, NO IT, 1967 as well as Sir John Gilbert’s The Enchanted Forest, Burne-Jones’ St Agnes and St Dorothy; and a series of 25 drawings by Blake to illustrate two poems by Thomas Gray, The Bard and The Fatal Sisters. Admission is free. Runs until 28th April. For more, follow this link.

On Now: Cats on the Page. Featuring original illustrations of Mog by Judith Kerr, Beatrix Potter’s Kitty-in-Boots as imagined by Quentin Blake and two illustrations by Axel Scheffler for TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, this exhibition at the British Library is a celebration of literary felines and their creators. Objects on show include Lewis Carroll’s own copy of the exceptionally rare 1893 (third) edition of Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there (in which the author expresses frustration with the printing including a comment on an illustration of Alice’s kitten), an 1879 letter by Edward Lear in which he included doodles of himself and his cat Foss, a 16th century pamphlet on witchcraft with a woodcut image accompanying the description of a black cat or familiar belonging to ‘Mother Devell’, and a letter written by TS Eliot to Alison, daughter of his friend Geoffrey Tandy, which contains a draft of his poem Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer as well as Alison’s reply which includes drawings of the two cats. Coinciding with the 80th anniversary year of the original publication of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the free exhibition is being accompanied by a programme of events and can be seen until 17th March. For more, see www.bl.uk/events/cats-on-the-page.

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Visitors to Hampton Court Palace will be transported back to 1906 from Saturday as the palace community prepares for Christmas. Christmas Present, Christmas Past features a range of activities from carol singing around the tree to telling ghost stories (and looking at the traditions behind them) as well as live culinary demonstrations in the kitchens showing the evolution of Christmas dinner as we know it today. Meanwhile, the Hampton Court Palace Festive Fayre returns next weekend (7th to 9th December) with more than 90 stalls set up in the palace courtyards selling mince pies, mulled wine and a host of other festive treats. And the palace’s ice-skating rink has returned to the Tudor West Front (and will be there until 6th January). Admission charges apply. For more, see www.hrpfoodfestivals.com.

Sir Edwin Landseer’s dramatic work – The Monarch of the Glen – is at the centre of a new exhibition celebrating the connections between the 19th century artist and the National Gallery. “Coming home” to the Trafalgar Square-based institution for the first time in more than 160 years, the painting – arguably the most famous animal painting in the world – is one of 14 works included in a new free show opening today. Among paintings created to decorate the Palace of Westminster after fire devastated the building in 1834, Landseer’s (1802-1873) work was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1851, then housed in what is now the National Gallery building. It’s now on loan from the National Galleries of Scotland, which acquired the work in 2017. This is the first London showing since 1983. Other works in the display include Landseer’s Ecorche drawing of a dog’s leg (1821), as well as paintings and drawings connected with the famous lions Landseer designed for Trafalgar Square including a John Ballantyne portrait of the artist modelling the lions in his studio and a work by Queen Victoria, whom Landseer tutored in etching, entitled A pencil drawing of a stag after Landseer’s mural on the Dining Room wall at Ardverikie Shooting-lodge (1847). Can be seen in Room 1 until 3rd February. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk. PICTURE: Edwin Landseer, ‘The Monarch of the Glen’ (about 1851), © National Galleries of Scotland

More than 40 paintings created during the final year of World War I by artist Alfred Munnings (1878-1959) go on show at the National Army Museum in Chelsea tomorrow. Alfred Munnings: War Artist, 1918 shows his mastery of equine subjects as well as portraiture and landscapes. Munnings was commissioned by the Canadian War Memorials Fund as an official war artist to capture the fighting front and logistics behind the scenes and in early 1918 was embedded with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The exhibition has been developed by the Canadian War Museum in partnership with The Munnings Art Museum and is supported but The Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation. Can be seen until 3rd March. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nam.ac.uk.

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This important Kensington thoroughfare runs through the heart of South Kensington’s world-famous museum precinct from Thurloe Place, just south of Cromwell Road, all the way to Hyde Park.

Along its length, it takes in such important institutions as the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Imperial College London while Royal Albert Hall is only a stone’s throw to the west.

It was, as might be expected given the name, indeed laid out as part of Prince Albert’s grand scheme surrounding the Great Exhibition of 1851 as a means of accessing the vast Crystal Palace which was located in Hyde Park (before moving out to south London).

It wasn’t the only road in the area built specifically for that purpose – the transecting Cromwell Road and Queen’s Gate, which runs in parallel and, yes, is named for Queen Victoria, were also built for to provide access to the Great Exhibition.

After the exhibition was over, Exhibition Road formed part of the precinct known as “Albertopolis” in which, inspired by the Great Exhibition, became something of a knowledge and cultural centre featuring various museums and the great concert hall which sadly Albert didn’t live long enough to see.

In the 2000s, a scheme to give pedestrians greater priority along the road was realised (in time for the 2012 Olympics).

PICTURE: Looking north along Exhibition Road from the intersection with Cromwell Road (the Natural History Museum is on the left; the Victoria & Albert Museum – and the Aston Webb Screen – on the right)/Google Maps.

 

This Southwark establishment was built to the designs of Surrey surveyor George Gwilt in the 1790s and survived until the late 19th century.

Constructed adjacent to the Sessions House as a replacement for a former Tudor-era jail, it was once the largest prison in the country housing as many as 300 inmates, male and female. Quadrangular in shape, it featured three wings for criminals and a fourth for debtors and was three stories tall.

The prison had a constant turnover of temporary residents – during 1837, it’s recorded that some 1,300 debtors and 2,506 criminals spent time here.

Famous inmates included writer and intellectual Leigh Hunt (imprisoned for two years for libelling the Prince Regent – he met Lord Byron for the first time here) as well as Colonel Edward Despard, an Irishman found guilty of high treason and, along with six others, sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered (commuted to hanging and beheading and carried out on 21st February, 1803).

The prison was also a site of executions and more than 130 men and women were apparently executed here (Charles Dickens wrote to The Times of his horror after attending the hangings of murderers Maria and Frederick Manning here).

The executions initially took place on the roof of the gatehouse but were later moved inside the prison.

In the mid-1800s, the prison was renamed the Surrey County Gaol or New Gaol (Horsemonger Lane was renamed Union Road and is now Harper Road).

The gaol was closed in 1878 – it no longer met required standards – and demolished three years later on 1881 and the site is today a public park called Newington Gardens.


This Battersea pub’s name comes from its location on land which formerly belonged to the manor of Battersea.

Located at 2 St John’s Hill (on the corner with Falcon Road, close to Clapham Junction train station), the manor was, from the 17th century, in the possession of the St John family (hence the name of the street in which it’s located).

The family crest of the St Johns features a falcon, and so we have The Falcon pub (and, of course, Falcon Road).

A pub has been located at the site for centuries (at least since 1733) but the current Grade II-listed red brick building dates from the 1896 when it was constructed as a purpose-built hotel (with a billiard room added to the rear a few years later).

Interestingly, the pub, which has a 360 degree bar apparently partly designed by renowned Dutch artist MC Escher, once held the Guinness World Record for having the longest pub counter in England.

Other interior features include a stained glass window featuring a falcon from the St John family crest.

It’s not the only pub named The Falcon in the area – there’s another (this one’s bright yellow) pub at Clapham North with the same name.

For more, see www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/restaurants/london/thefalconclaphamjunctionlondon.

PICTURE: Google Maps/Streetview

One of the still standing properties most associated with Mary Shelley in London (hence the English Heritage Blue Plaque), Shelley lived in this home at 24 Chester Square, on the square’s north-west side, from 1846 until her death in 1851.

Mary moved here for the last few years of her life after her son Percy (a child she had with now deceased husband Percy Bysshe Shelley) had come into a substantial inheritance following the death of his grandfather in 1844.

During this period, she spent her time between this house which had been relatively recently built by Thomas Cubitt, and the Shelley’s ancestral home at Field Place, Sussex, where her son Percy Florence and his wife Jane lived.

Shelley was 53 when she died here on 1st February, 1851, of a suspected brain tumour. She had apparently asked to be buried with her parents in the graveyard of St Pancras Old Church but instead was buried at St Peter’s Church in Bournemouth close to her son’s new home in Boscombe. Her son had her parents exhumed and buried with her there.

The Blue Plaque was installed on this property in 2003 and unveiled by her biographer Miranda Seymour.

PICTURE: Spudgun67 (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0).

 

Two celebrated series of paintings by Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones have been brought together for the first time in their entirety in a new exhibition at Tate Britain. The large scale works known as The Briar Rose (c1890) and the unfinished Perseus series (started in 1875) – the artist’s most famous narrative cycles – are at the centre of a new exhibition, Edward Burne-Jones: Pre-Raphaelite Visionary, which opened at the gallery yesterday. The Briar Rose features four canvasses – shown in a museum setting together for the first time – which illustrate the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty while the Perseus cycle, commissioned by then-MP and future PM Arthur Balfour, was intended to be 10 large scale oil paintings retelling the ancient myth of Perseus but was only partly realised (the display includes four finished paintings and six full scale preparatory drawings). The other 150 works on show in this display – the first major Burne-Jones retrospective to be held in London in more than 40 years – include paintings, tapestries and stained glass panels. Among other highlights are the large scale paintings Love among the Ruins (1870-73) and The Wheel of Fortune (1883), the stained glass work, The Good Shepherd (1857-61), and altar piece The Adoration of the Magi (1861), drawings including Desiderium (1873), portraits such as those of Amy Gaskell (1893) and Lady Windsor (1893-95) and embroideries, illustrated books and large scale tapestries including The Arming and Departure of the Knights of the Round Table on the Quest for the Holy Grail (1890-1894) and the Adoration of the Magi (1894). Runs until 24th February. Admission charge applies. The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of talks and events. For more, see www.tate.org.uk. PICTURE: The Briar Wood 1874-84, oil paint on canvas, The Faringdon Collection Trust.

Fictional pirates in popular culture are the subject of a new exhibition at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. A Pirate’s Life For Me explores the origins and characters of fictional pirates through more than 80 objects including David Munrow’s unpublished play Barnacle Bill, toys designed by Playmobil (exhibition sponsor) and Lego, the first ever painting of Captain Pugwash (pictured), six 18th century Spanish doubloons and the original illustration of the costume design for Captain Hook for the first ever theatrical production of Peter Pan in 1904. Young visitors to the exhibition are invited to take a journey starting at a seaside tavern where they will find a mysterious map which leads on to a pirate boutique, large scale pirate ship and tropical “treasure island”. The exhibition runs until 22nd April. Admission is free. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/moc/whats-on. PICTURE: Framed painting of Captain Pugwash, painted by John Ryan, 1950, oil on board, © John Ryan Estate.

The British Museum’s new Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World opened to the public last week with a display featuring a “comprehensive presentation of the Islamic world through art and material culture” including everything from architectural fragments of a Persian port city and courtly treasures of intricate craftsmanship to rich textiles from the Ottoman Empire and contemporary art. Among the objects on show, which cover the period from the 7th century to the present day, are the 14th century illustrated Persian epic, Shahnama (Book of Kings), and the 16th-century Indian Mughal emperor Akbar’s Hamzanama (Adventures of Hamza), elaborate 19th-century mother-of-pearl inlaid wooden Turkish bath clogs, a brightly decorated Uzbek woman’s robe with Russian lining and 21 stones, an installation of 21 paintings by Idris Khan created in response to the new gallery. A series of free public events is being held to mark the opening. Located in Rooms 42-43. The opening follows the reopening late last month of the Mitsubishi Corporation Japanese Galleries showing off some 430 artworks and artefacts from the museum’s Japanese collection. They included several newly acquired objects, such as a Edo period complete set of Samurai armour bearing the crest of the More clan and Time Waterfall – panel #8 (Blue), a contemporary digital artwork by Miyajima Tatsuo which will greet people as they enter. Found in Rooms 92-94. Admission is free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.
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This major London thoroughfare (and ward of the City of London) owes its name to one of the eight former gates of the City of London – that’s right, Bishopsgate.

Located at what’s now the junction with Wormwood Street (and marked by a mitre which appears on a building there), the gate was the departure point for Ermine Street which ran from London to Lincoln and York.

The gate and hence the road – which runs northward from the intersection of Gracechurch Street and Cornhill to where it becomes Norton Folgate Street (which links into Shoreditch High Street) – is believed to have been named for the 7th century Bishop Erkenwald (Earconwald). It was he who apparently first ordered its reconstruction on the site of a former Roman gate.

By Tudor times, the street had become known for the mansions of rich merchants – among those who had their homes here were Sir Thomas Gresham, Sir John Crosby and Sir Paul Pindar (Crosby Hall was later re-erected in Chelsea and the facade of Sir Paul Pindar’s house, is in the V&A). The street also become known for its many great coaching inns, all of which were eventually demolished.

Bishopsgate was the first street in London to have gas lighting when it was introduced about 1810 and, about 1932, became the first in Europe to have automated traffic lights (at the junction with Cornhill).

The City of London ward straddles the site of the old London wall and gate and is accordingly divided into “within” and “without” sections.

While there are a number of churches associated with the street – St Ethelburga Bishopsgate, St Helen’s Bishopsgate and St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate, these days it is largely lined by office buildings including the former NatWest Tower. Other notable buildings include that of the Bishopsgate Institute and the busy Liverpool Street Station is also accessible from Bishopsgate.

The name Bishopsgate is also synonymous with an IRA truck bombing which took place in the street on 24th April, 1993, in which one man was killed and 44 injured.

PICTURE: Top – Looking southward along Bishopsgate in 2014. (stevekeiretsu; licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0); Right – The Bishop’s mitre marking the location of the former gate (Eluveitie/ licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0).

This gothic drinking fountain located in the centre of the Broad Walk in The Regent’s Park takes its name from Sir Cowasjee Jehangir, whose nickname, thanks to his business success, was ‘Readymoney’.

A wealthy industrialist from Bombay, Sir Cowasjee donated the four-sided fountain to the park in 1869 as a thank-you for the protection he and fellow Parsees received from British rule in India (hence why the fountain is also sometimes called the Parsee Fountain).

Made from 10 tonnes of Sicilian marble and four tonnes of red Aberdeen granite, it was designed by Robert Keirle – architect to The Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association – and made by sculptor Henry Ross (at a cost of £1,400).

Set on an octagonal stepped base, it features a basin on each of the four sides. Decorative elements above the basins include carved marble panels featuring a lion and a Brahmin bull.

Three of the gables feature a small bust – one of Queen Victoria, another of Prince Albert and another of Readymoney himself. The fourth has a clock instead.

The now Grade II-listed fountain was erected by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association and unveiled by Princess Mary of Teck (later Queen Mary, wife of King Edward VII) on 1st August, 1869 (she also has some gardens in the park named after her).

The fountain was restored in 1999-2000 and again in 2016-17. The water no longer flows but it remains as a memorial to Sir Cowasjee’s story.

PICTURES: Top – Peter Smyly (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0); Right – Chmee2 (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0) Images cropped.

This rather oddly named pub can be found at 45 Monument Street in the City of London, just a short walk (you may have guessed) from The Monument itself.

There actually nothing terribly mysterious about the name – it comes from a nonsensical narrative poem by Lewis Carroll which he puts in the mouths of those rambunctious twins Tweedledum and Tweedledee in the book, Through The Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There, published in 1871.

No, the real mystery here is why this particular pub, which sits on the corner with Lovat Lane (renamed from Love Lane in the early 20th century; no prizes for guessing what went on there previously), was given this name.

The pub – and there’s been one on the site since at least the early 19th century – was apparently previously known as The Cock and once served the porters from the nearby Billingsgate Market on Lower Thames Street (just across the road). But after Billingsgate moved out to Docklands in 1982, the pub changed its name.

Why remains a matter of conjecture – although in the poem the two main characters encounter a bed of oysters which they eventually eat (perhaps there’s a link here to the fact Billingsgate was formerly located nearby?).

The rooms inside include the, given the pub’s moniker, appropriately named Lewis Carroll Bar and Dining Room.

The pub is now part of the Nicholson chain, previously having been under the Charrington and Fuller’s umbrellas. For more, see www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/restaurants/london/thewalrusandthecarpentermonumentlondon.

PICTURE: Chemical Engineer (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0).

 

Erected around the turn of the 19th century to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 (some put the date  of its erection at about 1897; others in about 1905), the clocktower replaced an obelisk that had previously stood in the centre of St George’s Circus in  Southwark.

The rather ornate tower was designed by architect and engineer Jan F Groll and featured four oil lamps to help light the intersection, described as the first purpose-built traffic junction in England.

It survived until the late 1930s when it was demolished after being described as a nuisance to traffic.

Meanwhile, the Robert Mylne-designed obelisk had been first erected in 1771 and marked one mile from Palace Yard, one mile 40 feet from London Bridge and one mile, 350 feet from Fleet Street (Mylne, incidentally, was the architect of the original Blackfriars Bridge).

Following its removal, it was taken to Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park where it stood until 1998 when it was moved back to its position in St George’s Circus where it now stands. It was Grade II*-listed in 1950.

There’s a replica of the obelisk in Brookwood Cemetery – it marks the spot where bodies taken from the crypt of the Church of St George the Martyr, located in Borough High Street, in 1899 were reinterred to ease crowding.

PICTURE: Once the site of a clocktower, the obelisk has since been returned to St George’s Circus (Martin Addison/licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/image cropped)

The first ever major survey of Oceanic art to be held in the UK opens at the Royal Academy in Piccadilly on Saturday. The exhibition – Oceania – brings together around 200 works created in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia and includes pieces from public and private collections spanning a period of more than 500 years. It’s being held to mark the 250th anniversary of the RA which was founded in 1768, the same year Captain James Cook set sail on the Endeavour on his first expedition to the Pacific. Highlights of the display, which is organised around three major themes – ‘Voyaging’, ‘Place-making’ and ‘Encounter’, include a 14th century wooden Kaitata carving, excavated in 1920, which is one of the oldest known objects to have been found in New Zealand as well as two Maori hoe (canoe paddles) collected during Cook’s first voyage, and a 19th century feather god image from the Hawaiian Islands likely to be have been collected on Cook’s third voyage. There’s also an 18th century mourning costume known as a Heva tupapau which was obtained in Tahiti in 1791, a rare Fijian late 18th or 19th century double-headed whale ivory hook, and Maori sculptor Tene Waitere’s Ta Moko panel (1896-99 – pictured) depicting male and female tattoos as well as a 19th century Nguzunguzu (prow ornament for a war canoe) featuring a pigeon and a never-before-exhibited ceremonial feast bowl measuring almost seven metres in length, both from the Solomon Islands. Runs in the Main Galleries until 10th December. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk. PICTURE: Tene Waitere, Ta Moko panel, 1896-99. Te Papa (ME004211) © Image courtesy of The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

• Meanwhile, in another exhibition at the Royal Academy, 25 British watercolours and drawings – including works from BNY Mellon’s corporate art collection – have gone on show in the Tennant Gallery. British Watercolours: From the Collection of BNY Mellon features the work of prominent Royal Academicians including Thomas Gainsborough, JMW Turner, John Constable and Sir David Wilkie. Highlights include an 1833 view of Hampstead Heath by Constable, Italian landscapes painted in the 1770s by Thomas Jones and John Robert Cozens, John Frederick Lewis’ unfinished Study of a Bedouin Arab (1840s) and an expressive depiction of Venice by John Ruskin in 1876. The British drawings and watercolours in the BNY Mellon collection were largely acquired in the 1980s. The exhibition is being held as part of the Royal Academy’s 250th anniversary. Admission is free. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

A free exhibition focusing on one of pioneering groups of people migrating to Britain – the Bajan nurses from Barbados, is opening in Guildhall Yard on Friday as part of Black History Month. Celebrating 70 years of the NHS, the display reveals individual stories of achievements, struggles and leadership with the focus moving from world famous figures to the unsung midwives who helped deliver Britain’s post-war baby boom. The British-Barbadian Nursing Revolution can be seen anytime until 31st October. There’s a series of talks accompanying the display. For more, head to the City of London website.

New Year’s Eve is coming up fast – yes, it’s that time already! – and the first tickets for the world famous London event go on sale at midday on Friday. Tickets for the event, which features more than 12,000 fireworks, are still priced at £10 (a further batch will be sold in late November). Those without a ticket will not be able to enter the viewing area in central London (although it will, of course, be broadcast on TV). There are a maximum of four tickets per transaction. Head to www.london.gov.uk/nye.

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Opened on 22nd January, 1876, this short-lived building at the junction of Tothill and Victoria Streets in Westminster – across the road from Westminster Abbey, was designed as an entertainment venue offering a space for art exhibitions, concerts and plays in similar fashion to that of the famous Crystal Palace then located in Sydenham.

The classically styled and highly ornamented two storey building was designed by Alfred Bedborough and built of Portland stone and red brick. Its initial board of directors included composer Arthur Sullivan (he of Gilbert and Sullivan fame), retailer William Whiteley, and financier Henry Labouchére, covered an area of almost three acres.

It featured a central hall which stood 340 feet in length and 160 feet wide and was covered with a barrel-shaped iron and glass roof. The interior featured palm trees and other exotic plants, fountains, sculptures, space for a 400 member orchestra, and, 13 large tanks for sea creatures which were fed with fresh and sea water from four cisterns

These tanks, which gave the premises its name as well as its nickname, ‘The Tank’, didn’t prove all that successful. They were initially left empty, prompting author Charles Dickens to note that they become something of a “standing joke”, and even as late as 1896 were described as providing a “beggarly show of fish”.

As well as the main hall, the premises also boasted multiple smaller rooms including eating and drinking establishments, an art gallery, ice-skating rink, reading room, telegraph office, and, at its west end, the Aquarium Theatre, which in 1879 was renamed the Imperial Theatre. There was even apparently a division bell installed for MPs visiting from the nearby Houses of Parliament.

By the 1890s, the entertainments had become more low-brow and the building had become associated with illicit sexual liaisons. Its popularity declined.

In 1903, it was sold to the Methodist Church and Methodist Central Hall was built on the site in 1911. The theatre, however, wasn’t demolished until 1907 – the interior, however, was saved and apparently re-erected as the Imperial Palace of Varieties in Canning Town in 1909 (which itself was destroyed by fire in 1931).

PICTURE: A from 1896 book, The Queen’s London: a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, showing the Royal Aquarium in c1876.

This month marks the 187 years since the opening of “new” London Bridge – the first bridge built over the Thames in London for more than 600 years.

Designed by John Rennie (who had won a competition, beating the likes of Thomas Telford for the honour), work on the new granite bridge had began in 1825 and was completed in 1831.

It was constructed alongside the medieval bridge which had been first completed in the 13th century and added to over the years since (and was eventually completely demolished after the opening of the ‘new’ bridge).

The ‘new’ bridge, said to have cost £506,000 to construct, was formally opened by King William IV on 1st August, 1831, in an event described by The Times as “the most splendid spectacle that has been witnessed on the Thames for many years”.

The royal party – which included Queen Adelaide – had approached the bridge, lined with flags for the occasion, after setting off from Somerset House amid cheering described as “almost deafening” (to add to cacophony of sound, church bells were rung and cannon fired throughout the day).

Watched by thousands of onlookers (who were entertained by bands at various locations), the royal party had processed their way downstream on the river to the bridge with the royal bargemen wearing new livery specially designed for the occasion. Two parallel lines of rivercraft – including barges and steamers – had gathered along the river to provide a sort of honour guard and ensure they had clear passage.

The royals arrived at the bridge at 4pm and the royal party made their way up red carpeted stairs to the bridge’s City end. Following a short ceremony in which the King was presented by the Lord Mayor of London with the sword and keys to the City of London as well as a specially made gold medal to mark the occasion, their Majesties then walked across from the across the bridge to the Southwark end where entertainments had included the ascension of a hot air balloon.

The King and the royal party then returned to the City end of the bridge to attend a banquet – guests were said to number 1,500 people – held under a pavilion erected atop the new structure.

The Gentleman’s Magazine reported that food was provided by a coffee house proprietor, a Mr Leech, and was said to include 150 hams and tongues, 370 “dishes of chickens”, and 300 turtles as well as 200 fruit tarts and 300 “ice-creams”.

The King and royal party then returned up the river.

Rennie’s bridge was replaced in the mid-20th century with another bridge which was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973 and rather than being demolished, was sold to US oil magnate Robert P McCulloch who had it dismantled and shipped to Arizona where it was reconstructed at Lake Havasu City where it can now be seen.

A couple of sections of the bridge survive in London – two of its pedestrian alcoves, one of which can be found in Victoria Park in London’s east and the other at King’s College London.

There is a famous painting – Clarkson Stanfield’s, The Opening of New London Bridge, 1 August 1831 – which captures the moment of the bridge’s opening and is part of the Royal Collection.

PICTURES: Top – ‘A View of the New London Bridge as It Appeared on the 1st August 1831, When Opened by His Majesty, King William the 4th’, Unknown artist, Lithograph on paper, Photo © Tate (licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)); Right – The alcove in Victoria Park (Public Domain).

Located at Denmark Hill in south London, this statue of Catherine Booth (1829-1890), co-founder of the Salvation Army, was apparently dedicated twice.

The first dedication took place in 1929, the centenary of her birth, and the second the following year when an accompanying statue of her husband William Booth – they stand on either side of the entrance to the Salvation Army’s William Booth Memorial Training College, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (he also designed the statue plinths), on Champion Park  – was also being dedicated.

The work of George Edward Wade, the bronze statue depicts Booth in her Salvation Army uniform – complete with bonnet – and has her holding a Bible pressed to her heart and reaching out with an open hand. Her husband William is also shown in his uniform, preaching from an open the Bible.

An inscription on the granite plinth below describes her “The Army Mother”. The larger than life statue was cast at the Morris Art Bronze Foundry.

There are, incidentally, exact replicas of both statues in Mile End Road in London’s east. Donated by the women of the Salvation Army in the US, that of William was unveiled in 1979 and that of Catherine a later addition, unveiled in 2015 on the 150th anniversary of the creation of the Salvation Army.

The statues are located close to the site where the Booths commenced the work of the Salvation Army in July, 1865.

PICTURE: R Sones (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/Image cropped)

Above is a view along Fleet Street in the City of London in 1890, looking east towards Ludgate Hill and St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s one of many early photographic views of London on show in a free exhibition which can be seen in Aldgate Square until Sunday (12th August). Presented by the City of London Corporation’s London Metropolitan Archives, Victorian London in Photographs includes the earliest photograph in the LMA collection (see last Thursday’s entry for that). If you miss it at Aldgate Square, the display will be in Paternoster Square next to St Paul’s Cathedral from 14th to 23rd August. For more on the London Metropolitan Archives, follow this link. ALL PICTURES: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London Corporation

Above – Residents pose for the camera in Market Court, Kensington in 1868.

Above – Following the success of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851, the Crystal Palace was relocated to Sydenham Hill. This photograph by Philip Henry Delamotte taken between 1852 and 1854 shows the South Transept during construction.

Above – Work progresses on the masonry and suspension chains during the construction of Tower Bridge in 1892. 

View of Iron Wharf and Bull Wharf, with St Paul’s Cathedral in the background. The photograph was taken from Southwark Bridge. Anonymous photographer, c. 1855.

Located on Bishopsgate, Woodin’s Shades takes its name from wine merchant, William Woodin, while the ‘shades’ part apparently comes from an old word for a wine vault with a drinking bar.

Woodin acquired the site in 1863 – only 10 years later, in 1874, Liverpool Street Station opened opposite which was no doubt a boon for business.

The current red brick building dates from 1893.

The pub at 212 Bishopsgate, now part of the Nicholson’s chain, is popular with traders from the nearby Petticoat Lane and Spitalfields markets.

For more, see www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/restaurants/london/thewoodinsshadesbishopsgatelondon.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Located on Paddington Green, this statue of 18th century theatrical luminary Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) was unveiled by fellow thespian Sir Henry Irving on 14th June, 1897, who apparently noted that, Shakespeare aside, Siddons was the first actor to be immortalised with a statue in London.

It is also said to be the first outdoor statue erected in London of a non-royal woman.

Seated in a pose apparently inspired by Joshua Reynolds’ 1784 painting, Mrs Siddons as the Tragic Muse (now in California), the marble statue, which sits on a Portland stone plinth, is the work of French sculptor Leon-Joseph Chavailliaud.

The location was apparently selected due to the fact Siddons lived at Westbourne Green from 1805 to 1817 and is buried in St Mary’s Churchyard next to Paddington Green.

The Grade II-listed statue, which was paid for by public subscription, is sadly now need of a makeover – Mrs Siddons is missing a nose.

There is, incidentally, another, earlier, statue of Mrs Siddons in London – this larger-than-life work, is located in the chapel of St Andrew in Westminster Abbey’s north transept.

The work of sculptor Thomas Campbell, it features a standing Mrs Siddons, and dates from 1845.

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

The Serpentine Swimming Club, located on Hyde Park‘s Serpentine, dates its founding from 1864, the year it held the first of its famous Christmas Day Races.

The club, actually the oldest in Britain, was created in response to Londoners’ growing need for recreation – Hyde Park then being at the centre of a heavily built-up area – and came as the mass transit system – London’s Underground – was making it more accessible.

Initial facilities included a shady elm tree and a wooden seat. They’ve since improved somewhat to include changing rooms (although they’re still described as spartan).

These days members are permitted by The Royal Parks to swim in the lake between 6am and 9.30am daily.

While the Christmas Day Race – in which swimmers compete for the Peter Pan Cup (since the first cup was awarded by JM Barrie in 1904) – is the most famous race, the club also hosts numerous other races throughout the year which range in length and include a “bridge to bridge” race from one end of the Serpentine to the other (just held on 14th July).

While members use the Lido – which opened in 1930 – for swimming, it remains a separate entity to the SSC.

For more about the club, see www.serpentineswimmingclub.com.

The Lido on the Serpentine. PICTURE: Phil Russell/The Royal Parks.