8 structures from the London that never was – 4. Whitehall Palace (remodelled)…

Banqueting-House

Still on designs for royal palaces and today we’re looking at two designs for the same palace. Both Inigo Jones (1573-1652) and Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) drew up designs for the remodelling and expansion of Whitehall Palace.

Inigo-Jones-proposalFirst up was the neo-classical architect Jones who drew up plans for a vast complex of buildings (pictured left) which would replace the Tudor palace King Henry VIII had created when he transformed the grand house formerly known as York Place into a residence suitable for a king (York Place had previously been a residence of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and prior to that, the London residence of the Archbishops of York).

Jones’ complex – which apparently featured seven internal courts – covered much of what is now known as Whitehall as well as neighbouring St James’s Park with a magnificent River Thames frontage.

The first part of Jones’ grand scheme – the Banqueting House (see our earlier post here) – opened in 1622. It still survives today – pictured above – and gives a taste of the grandeur of his overall scheme.

Yet, despite the eagerness of King James I for the project, it failed to materialise. English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley told the BBC in 2012 that the hall represented only five per cent of what Jones had planned.

King James I died in 1625 and his son King Charles I was apparently keen to continue the project – so much so that Jones submitted new plans in 1638 – but he didn’t find the funds the project needed (and, of course, as we know, then became consumed by the events of the Civil War before being beheaded outside the Banqueting House in 1649).

Following the Restoration, in the 1660s King Charles II apparently had Sir Christopher Wren quietly draw up plans to redevelop the palace but these weren’t follow through on although during the reign of King James II he did work on several projects at the palace including a new range of royal riverside apartments, terrace (remains of which can still be seen) and a chapel.

In 1698, much of the bloated Whitehall Palace – then the largest palace in Europe with more than 1,500 rooms – burnt down although the Banqueting House, though damaged, survived basically intact (in fact there’s an interesting anecdote, its veracity questionable, which has it that on hearing of the fire Wren rushed to the site and had an adjacent building blown up to create a firebreak and ensure the Banqueting House was saved).

The then king, King William III, approached Wren and he again submitted plans for its rebuilding (prior to the fire, he had already worked on several aspects of the palace including a new range of royal apartments and a chapel for King James II).

But Wren’s plans – images show a grand domed building – were largely never realised (although he did convert the Banqueting House into a chapel) and the destroyed palace never rebuilt (no doubt in large part due to the fact that King William III preferred a more rural and less damp location – such as that of Kensington Palace – thanks to his asthma).

For more on the history of the Palace of Whitehall, see Simon Thurley’s Whitehall Palace: The Official Illustrated History.

Lost London – The General Post Office (aka GPO East)…

While the history of the General Post Office dates back to the reign of King Charles I, London’s first purpose-built facility for mail was constructed on the east side of St Martins-le-Grand in the 1820s.

GPOThe post office headquarters had hitherto been located in the area of Lombard Street but in 1814 it was decided that the site here couldn’t be developed any further. The site in St Martins-le-Grand was subsequently acquired and plans for the building commenced.

Designed by Sir Robert Smirke (famous for his design of the British Museum), the grand structure was built on the site of what were slums between 1825 and 1829 and featured a 400 foot long “Grecian-style” street frontage. The exterior of the building was lit with 1,000 gas burners at night.

As well as serving as the post office’s administrative headquarters, the building also contained the sorting office and the main London public post office. Along with a grand public hall and offices, it contained rooms – including an armoury – for the guards who protected mail coaches and accommodation for clerks charged with receiving foreign mail (obviously at all hours!).

A new building was added to house the telegraph department on the west side of the street in the 1870s and further buildings followed, leading Smirke’s initial building to become known as ‘GPO East’.

In 1910, the facility was bursting at the seams and so the headquarters was moved to the King Edward VII Building. Smirke’s grand building was somewhat controversially demolished in 1912. A fragment – one of the capitals which topped one of the external columns – is apparently located in Vestry Road in Walthamstow.

For more on London’s postal heritage, visit the British Postal Museum & Archive.

PICTURE: Thomas Shepherd/Wikipedia

What’s in a name?…Bond Street…

Bond-Street

No, the name of the famous Bond Street in Mayfair has nothing to do with James Bond. Rather, the street – in fact, two streets named Old and New Bond Street – takes its name from a 17th century courtier, Sir Thomas Bond.

Bond was the comptroller of the household of Queen Henrietta Maria, then the Queen Mother thanks to being the widow of King Charles I and the mother of King Charles II. He was also something of a land developer – the head of a consortium that purchased Albermarle House from Christopher Monck, the 2nd Duke of Albermarle, in 1683.

The house was promptly demolished and the area redeveloped with what is now Old Bond Street – which runs from Piccadilly to Burlington Gardens – laid out in 1686 and given Sir Thomas’ surname (he’d died the previous year).

AlliesThe northern extension of Old Bond Street (which runs from Burlington Gardens to Oxford Street) – named New Bond Street – was developed in the 1720s. Caroline Taggart, in The Book of London Place Names, says it was residents of Old Bond Street who insisted on the use of ‘new’ in the name, no doubt to differentiate between themselves and the newcomers or, as Taggart suggests, ‘upstarts’.

Traditionally known as a location for art dealers (Sotheby’s auction house – identified by an ancient Egyptian bust of the goddess Sekhmet which sits on the facade – has stood there for more than a century), the street has become increasingly known for its luxury fashion and accessories retailers such as Asprey’s, Chanel, Cartier, Dolce & Gabbana, Bulgari and Tiffany & Co (see the Bond Street Association for more). Other landmark buildings in the street include the home of the Fine Art Society and the Royal Arcade.

Bond Street is also home to US sculptor’s Lawrence Holofcener’s work, Allies (pictured above), depicting former British PM Winston Churchill and US President Franklin D Roosevelt, and at the northern end stands the Bond Street Underground Station which opened in 1900.

Famous residents have included Admiral Horatio Nelson – who stayed at number 147 in 1797-98 while he recovered after losing his arm at Tenerife, eighteenth century satirist Jonathan Swift and politician William Pitt the Elder, as well as twentieth century spy Guy Burgess, who lived at Clifford Chambers before his defection to USSR.

Around Christmas, the street plays host to a rather special display of lights (pictured top).

London Pub Signs – The Hung, Drawn and Quartered…

Hung-longThe rather grisly name of this pub (and there’s some debate over whether hanged or hung is grammatically correct) relates to its location close by the former public execution ground of Tower Hill.

While for many Tower Green inside the Tower of London is synonymous with beheadings, only seven people, including Anne Boleyn, were ever actually executed there. Far more people were executed outside the Tower’s walls at nearby Tower Hill, just to the north.

HungSome of the names of those executed here are recorded on a memorial at the site – everyone from Simon Sudbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was beheaded here by an angry mob in 1381, through to Sir Thomas More in 1535 (gracious King Henry VIII commuted his sentence from being hung, drawn and quartered to mere beheading), and Simon Fraser, the 11th Lord Lovat, a Jacobite arrested after the Battle of Culloden and the last man to be executed here when his head was lopped off in 1747.

While, as you can see above, many of those executed at Tower Hill were beheaded (and most were of the nobility), there were some executions there which did involve the guilty party being hung, drawn and quartered – a punishment reserved for those being convicted of high treason and also enforced at other sites in London including at Tyburn and Smithfield. Among them was William Collingbourne in 1484 for supporting the cause of Henry Tudor against that of King Richard III.

A plaque on the external wall of the nearby pub quotes a passage from the famous diarist Samuel Pepys after he witnessed an execution in Charing Cross on 13th October, 1660: “I went to see Major General Harrison. Hung drawn and quartered. He was looking as cheerful as any man could in that condition”.

Thomas Harrison fought with Parliament during the Civil War and was among those who signed the death warrant of King Charles I. Found guilty of regicide after the Restoration, he was hung, drawn and quartered (though as Pepys tells us, not here).

The pub, located at 26-27 Great Tower Street, is part of the Fuller’s chain. For more, see www.hung-drawn-and-quartered.co.uk.

London Pub Signs – The Globe…

GlobeNo, this pub on Moorgate is not related to William Shakespeare. Its name actually comes from the globe which was used as the emblem of Portugal and advertised the fact that fine Portuguese wines were on sale at the premises.

According the pub’s website, there were eight pubs with the sign of the Globe in London during the reign of King Charles I (when this pub was apparently founded). By the middle of the 19th century, the number had risen to more than 30.

There are still a few other Globe pubs in London – as well as this one, others include the Globe in Marylebone Road and The Globe Bow Street (although we’re not sure whether their names were derived in the same way).

The pub, which is located at 83 Moorgate – close to where Moorgate once punctured London’s city wall and gave access to the fens known as Moorfields. In 2008, the pub merged with the neighbouring pub, the John Keats, now commemorated in the name of the bar (that pub was named for the Romantic poet John Keats, who it has been speculated was born in a pub on the site in 1795).

The pub is now part of the Nicholson’s group. For more, check out its website at www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/theglobemoorgatelondon/.

Lost London – The Blackfriars Playhouse…

Located on the site of the former Blackfriars Monastery which has closed during the Dissolution (see our earlier post here), the origins of the Blackfriars Playhouse or Theatre go back to the mid-1570s when children connected with the Queen’s Chapel Choir performed plays in part of the former monastery.

While those plays were performed in order to practice for those performed before Queen Elizabeth I, the organisers did also apparently use the theatre for paying audiences. This first theatre ceased operation in 1584.

In 1596, part of the priory and an adjoining building were bought by James Burbage in 1596 who created a playhouse within them. It was used by the Children of the Chapel, a group of choristers and other boys, until 1608 when the King’s Men took over – with Burbage’s son Richard and Shakespeare among those who had a share in the theatre – and used it as their winter playhouse.

The theatre – where Shakespeare himself is believed to have performed – was apparently the first commercial premises of its type to used artificial lighting and, usually for the time, featured music between acts.

The wife of King Charles I, Queen Henrietta Maria, is known to have attended the theatre later in its life in 1634 and again a couple of years later.

The theatre closed with the commencement of the English Civil War and the theatre was demolished in 1655.

The candle-lit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, which opened in January at the Globe Theatre on Bankside, was designed based on drawings of indoor theatres of the era (there’s also a recreation of the Blackfriars Playhouse in the US which is home to the acting troupe of the American Shakespeare Center).

While nothing remains of the playhouse today, it lives on in the name Playhouse Yard.

Famous Londoners – Ben Jonson…

Often noted as the second greatest English dramatist of his generation (after that Shakespeare guy), the playwright Ben Jonson stands tall in his own right as one of the leading literary figures of the late 16th and early 17th century.

Born in 1572, Jonson was educated at Westminster School in London and possibly went on to Cambridge before he started work as a bricklayer with his stepfather and later served as a soldier, fighting with English troops in The Netherlands.

It was on his return to London that he ventured into acting – among his early roles was Hieronimo in Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedie – and by 1597 he was employed as a playwright.

While one of his early play-writing efforts (The Isle of Dogs, co-written with Thomas Nashe) led to a term of imprisonment in Marshalsea Prison in 1597 (he was also briefly imprison about this time for killing another actor in a duel, escaping a death sentence by pleading “benefit of the clergy”), the following year – 1598 – the production of his play Every Man In His Humour  established his reputation as a dramatist. Shakespeare, whom some suggest was a key rival of Jonson’s during his career – is said to have been among the actors who performed in it.

Further plays followed including Every Man Out Of His Humour (1599), his only tragedy Sejanus (1603), the popular Volpone (1606) and The Alchemist (1610), and Bartholomew Fair (1614) and it was during these years, particularly following the accession of King James I in 1603, that he became an important figure at the royal court).

His political views continued to cause trouble at times – he was again imprisoned in the early 1600s for his writings and was questioned over the Gunpowder Plot after apparently attending an event attended by most of those later found to be co-conspirators – but his move into writing masques for the royal court – saw his star continue to rise.

All up he wrote more than 20 masques for King James and Queen Anne of Denmark including Oberon, The Faery Prince which featured the young Prince Henry, eldest son of King James, in the title role. Many of these masques saw him working with architect Inigo Jones, who designed extravagant sets for the masques,  but their relationship was tense at times.

In 1616 – his reputation well established – Jonson was given a sizeable yearly pension  (some have concluded that as a result he was informally the country’s first Poet Laureate) and published his first collection of works the following year. Noted for his wit, he was also known to have presided over a gathering of his friends and admirers at The Mermaid Tavern and later at the Devil’s Tavern at 2 Fleet Street (Shakespeare was among those he verbally jousted with).

Jonson spent more than a year in his ancestral home of Scotland around 1618 but on his return to London, while still famous, he no longer saw the same level of success as he had earlier – particularly following the death of King James and accession of his son, King Charles I, in 1625.

Jonson married Anne Lewis – there is a record of such a couple marrying at St Magnus-the-Martyr church near London Bridge in 1594 – but their relationship certainly wasn’t always smooth sailing for they spent at least five years of their marriage living separately. It’s believed he had several children, two of whom died while yet young.

Jonson, meanwhile, continued to write up until his death on 6th August, 1637, and is buried in Westminster Abbey (he’s the only person buried upright in the abbey – apparently due to his poverty at the time of his death).

For an indepth look at the life of Ben Jonson, check out Ian Donaldson’s Ben Jonson: A Life.

Around London: Historic pearls at the V&A; ‘Big Brother’ house opening; aircraft pioneers honoured; and Jonathan Yeo at the NPG…

The_Rosebery_Tiara_QMA_Collection._Photo_c_SothebysA pearl-drop earring worn by King Charles I at his execution in 1649, pearl tiaras worn by European nobles and a pearl necklace given to Marilyn Monroe by Joe DiMaggio in 1954 are among the items on display as part of a new exhibition which opened at the V&A last Saturday. The V&A and Qatar Museums Authority exhibition traces the history of pearls from the early Roman Empire to now and features more than 200 pieces of jewellery and works of art. Other items on display include ‘Queen Mary II’ pearls dating from 1662-1664, a miniature portrait of Queen Charlotte wearing pearl jewellery and a set of buttons, finely enamelled and framed with pearls, worn by George III in 1780. There’s also the Dagmar necklace given to Princess Alexandra when she married the future King Edward VII in 1863. The exhibition is part of the Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture. Admission charge applies. Runs until 19th January. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk. PICTURE: Lady Rosebery’s pearl and diamond tiara (1878) © Christie’s Images.

The Big Brother house – located in Elstree Studios in north London – opens to the public tomorrow and on Saturday as part of a partnership between Initial – an Endemol Company, Channel 5 and the National Trust. Some two million people tuned in to watch the final night of the show this summer leading one TV critic to describe the property as “the most important house in Britain”. The opening is being preceded by an Opening Gala featuring housemates past and present as well as celebrities – but that’s an invitation only event. Sadly, tickets for the opening are already sold out – for returns and your last chance of getting in, follow this link.

The UK’s first aircraft manufacturers – Horace, Eustace and Oswald Short – have been commemorated with an English Heritage blue plaque placed on their former workshop in Battersea. Unveiled this week by Jenny Body – the first female president of the Royal Aeronautical Society, the plaque can be found at the railway arches near Queen’s Circus where the brothers, who lived nearby in the Prince of Wales Mansions, worked on ballooning and first made the transition to aircraft construction. Among their firsts was the construction of the first British powered aircraft to complete a circular mile of flight and the creation of Britain’s first ever purpose-built aircraft factory (it was located on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent). For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blue-plaques/.

On Now: Jonathan Yeo Portraits. New and previously unseen works including a six foot high portrait of controversial artist Damien Hirst and a portrait of Kevin Spacey as King Richard III feature in this exhibition running at the National Portrait Gallery. Other subjects featured in the painted works include media mogul Rupert Murdoch, model Erin O’Connor, artist Grayson Perry and actor Sierra Miller. Runs until 5th January. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

Treasures of London – The Pearl Sword…

Pearl-Sword1

One of five City of London swords, tradition holds that the sword was given to the City Corporation by Queen Elizabeth I when the Royal Exchange opened in 1571.

It takes its name from its pearl-encrusted scabbard – there’s said to be 2,500 of them sewn onto it – and was traditionally used in celebrations. These include a ceremony which takes place when the reigning monarch comes in State to the City.

Pearl-Sword2Seen during last year’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, the ceremony involves the Lord Mayor taking the sword from the Sword-Bearer and offering it hilt-first to the monarch to touch – a symbol of the monarch’s authority over the city. It is then borne aloft in front of the monarch by the Lord Mayor.

Interestingly, the tradition of the monarch touching the sword hilt is said to date from the reign of King Charles I when the king entered the City in 1641 and just touched the sword given to him and handed it back to the Lord Mayor. Prior to that, the sword was handed over to the sovereign for the during the visit.

The City’s other four swords include the State Sword, the Mourning Sword, the Old Bailey Sword and Mansion House Justice Room Sword.

Guided tours of Mansion House – official residence of the Lord Mayor of London and where the Pearl Sword can be seen – are conducted on Tuesdays at 2pm (although it’s closed for August for refurbishments and on selected dates after that). Head here www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/mansionhousetours details. PICTURES Courtesy City of London.

Around London – The ‘Line of Kings’ has a makeover; London captured from St Paul’s; and, cycles at the Museum of London…

Line-of-Kings

The Tower of London’s iconic exhibition, the Line of Kings, has had a makeover. Described as the “world’s longest running visitor attraction”, the Line of Kings features more than 500 objects including historic suits of armour – such as those worn by King Henry VIII, King Charles I and King James II – as well as life-sized wooden horses and individually carved king’s heads, many of which were made between 1685 and 1690. The exhibition was originally created following the Restoration in 1660 and was used as propaganda to promote the king’s rule (interestingly omitting queens and featuring only those deemed “good kings”). Rearranged and dispersed over the centuries, it’s been brought back together in the White Tower and reopened last month. Entry to the exhibition – a collaboration between Historic Royal Palaces and the Royal Armouries – is free as part of general admission to the Tower. For more, check out www.royalarmouries.org/line-of-kings. PICTURE: HRP/Newsteam

Four cameras mounted on top of St Paul’s Cathedral’s Golden Gallery have captured a 360 degree time lapse video of the capital. The video, which was shot in early July, captured 36 hours in the life of London and is the work of specialist photographer Henry Stuart who previously completed two projects from the Golden Gallery – a GigaPixel image of London and a Day Meets Night image. The latest project captured some 8,000 panoramic images. The time lapse video, which is set to Kyrie from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Missa in C major ‘Missa solemnis’ K337 being sung by the St Paul’s Cathedral Choir, can be found at http://visualise.com/videos/london-360-time-lapse-from-st-pauls-cathedral.

• On Now: London Cycles. This free exhibition at the Museum of London looks at cycling in the capital with highlights including 10 large scale portraits by Ugo Gattoni, bikes including an 1880s “boneshaker”, a penny farthing, an 1930s Enfield cycle and a ‘Boris’ bike as well as head cam footage from riders including from the annual Tweed Run bike. The free display runs until 22nd September. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

Around London – Celebrating the coronation at Buckingham Palace; Royal births at the MoL; the Fourth Plinth unveiled; Menon remembered; and, manufacturing at the Design Museum…

Norman-Hartnell-sketchThe Queen’s Coronation in 1953 is the subject of a special exhibition opening at Buckingham Palace as part of the palace’s summer opening. Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the coronation, the display features an array of outfits including uniforms and robes worn on the historic event on 2nd June, 1953, as well as a series of paintings recording the event, works of art and objects used on the day and film footage and sound recordings. Among the highlights of the exhibition will be sketches made by Norman Hartnell, the principal designer of the outfits worn at the coronation by the Queen, principal ladies of the immediate Royal Family and the Maids of Honour. The State Rooms of Buckingham Palace open on Saturday and remain open until 29th September. An admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk. PICTURE: Her Majesty The Queen in her Coronation Dress, 1953, Norman Hartnell. Royal Collection Trust/All Rights Reserved.

Meanwhile in this, the week of the birth of Prince George, it’s only fitting that we mention a small display at the Museum of London showcasing memorabilia relating to royal babies of years past. A Royal Arrival features baby clothes and other items worn by future monarchs. They include a embroidered skullcap worn by the future King Charles I, a tiny linen vest and mitten which once was worn by the future King George III and a dress emblazoned with the three feather insignia which belonged to the future King Edward VII, eldest son of Queen Victoria. The free display will be on show until October. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

The new commission for Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth will be unveiled today. The 4.7 metre high sculpture, Hahn/Cock, is the work of contemporary artist Katharina Fritsch. It will sit on the plinth for the next 18 months.  For more details, see www.fourthplinth.co.uk.

Indian statesman VK Krishna Menon has been commemorated by English Heritage with a blue plaque on his former residence in Highgate. A key campaigner for Indian independence, Menon lived at 30 Langdon Road from 1929 to 1931, having moved to England from Madras in 1924. In 1947, Menon was appointed India’s First High Commissioner in London and among his greatest achievements was his work in keeping the country in the British Commonwealth after independence. Having been a local councillor in St Pancras, he later returned to India and embarked upon a political career there. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blueplaques/.

The-Future-Was-HereOn Now: The Future is Here. A major new exhibition examining the changes taking place in manufacturing around the world, opened this week at the Design Museum. The Future is Here looks at how everything from “cars to shoes” is manufactured, funded, distributed and bought. Among highlights is a ‘Factory’ where visitors can discover how 3D printing works and see production in process. There will also be the chance to make your own ‘action doll’ and see a sofa designed through a crowd-sourcing process which involved members of the public. Runs until 3rd November. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.designmuseum.org.

10 Historic London Garden Squares…4. St James’s Square…

A quiet square at the heart of the area known as St James, the square’s origins go back to the 1660s when King Charles II granted what was initially a lease (and later the freehold) over a section of St James’s Field to Henry Jermyn, a favourite of King Charles I’s queen Henrietta Maria who was created the 1st Earl of St Alban.

William-IIIThe earl began developing the residential square (the original design had houses on the south-side fronting onto Pall Mall) and, thanks to its proximity to Whitehall and St James’s Palace, quickly attracted some of the who’s who of London to live there.

Indeed it’s said that by the 1720s, seven dukes and seven earls were in residence in the square – other residents included PMs William Pitt the Elder and William Gladstone (both lived in Chatham House, at numbers 9 and 10, albeit at different times) as well as two of James II’s mistresses, Arabella Churchill and Catherine Sedley, who apparently lived at number 21 in the late 1600s.

Among the architects who designed houses around the square were Robert Adam, Sir John Soane, and, in more recent times, Edwin Lutyens.

The square – which reached its final layout, designed by John Nash, around 1854 – remained a desirable place to live even as in the 19th century, some of the houses gave way to financial institutions, private clubs, offices and even lodging houses. These days it’s dominated by business and other institutional organisations.

Organisations located in the square today include the Naval and Military Club (number four – former home of Nancy Astor), the East India Club (number 16) and the London Library (located at number 14, it was founded by Thomas Carlyle in 1841) as well as the international headquarters of BP.

The gardens feature an equestrian statue of King William III at their centre (the work of John Bacon Sr and Jr, it was installed in 1808 and is pictured above). Other monuments include The Stag (located in the south-west corner, it is the work of Marcus Cornish and was installed in 2001) and, just outside the garden railings in the north-east corner, a memorial to WPC Yvonne Fletcher who was killed when a gun was fired from the Libyan Embassy (known as the Libyan People’s Bureau, it was located at number 5) during a demonstration on 17th April, 1984. The pavilion on the south side was designed by John Nash.

The gardens are private – managed by the St James’s Square Trust – but open to the public on weekdays from 10am to 4.30pm.

Around London – Tudor and Stuart fashion; Wellington Arch treasures; Hunterian celebrates 200 years; Regent Street and the world; and, Kaffe Fassett at the FTM…

Queen-Henrietta-Maria-(Royal-Collection)A landmark exhibition looking at fashion in the Tudor and Stuart eras opens at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, tomorrow. In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion features everything from a diamond ring given by King Charles I to his then 19-year-old wife Henrietta Maria, an ornate set of armour which belonged to 13-year-old Henry, Prince of Wales (the older brother of King Charles I – he died of typhoid fever at the age of 19), and a diamond-encrusted box in which Queen Mary II kept black fabric patches worn to conceal blemishes or highlight the creaminess of skin. A 58.5 carat pearl, named ‘La Peregrina’ (‘The Wanderer’) and given to Queen Mary I as an engagement gift from Philip II of Spain (and later presented to Elizabeth Taylor by Richard Burton on Valentine’s Day, 1969), is also among the objects on show along with a pendant featuring a miniature of Queen Elizabeth I. The exhibition also features more than 60 portraits from the Royal Collection showing the fashions of the time, including a portrait by Sir Peter Lely of court beauty Frances Stuart, Duchess of Richmond, who famously refused to become King Charles II’s mistress. Admission charge applies. Runs until 6th October. For more, see www.royalcollection.co.uk. PICTURE: Sir Anthony van Dyck, Queen Henrietta Maria, 1609-69. Royal Collection Trust/© 2013, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

A medieval crozier and bejewelled ring discovered in Cumbria in 2010 are on public display for the first time in a new exhibition at Wellington Arch. The artefacts, which were discovered at Furness Abbey, are featured in an English Heritage exhibition, A Monumental Act: How Britain Saved Its Heritage, which explores how the Ancient Monuments Act of 1913 helped protect Britain’s historical fabric. Other objects in display include some of the historic artefacts found in the 20 years following the act – a Roman bronze weight from Richborough Roman Fort in Kent and a 13th century sculpture of Christ found at Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire. Admission charge applies. The exhibition runs until 7th July. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/wellington-arch/.

The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons is celebrating its bicentenary this year and to mark the occasion, they’re holding a free exhibition focusing on the museum’s collections of human anatomy and pathology; natural history and artworks. The display will consider how the objects in the collection have informed the medical world and fallen under the gaze of visitors who have included surgeons as well as monarchs. The exhibition in the Qvist Gallery at the museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields opens on Tuesday, 14th May, and runs until 9th November. For more, see www.rcseng.ac.uk/museums/hunterian.

The world comes to Regent Street this Sunday with the ‘InsureandGo The World on Regent Street’ festival. Representatives from countries including Argentina, Egypt, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey and China as well as the UK will showcasing the best of each country’s culture, music and dance, art, food and fashion. Activities will include tango lessons from Argentina, professional henna drawing from Egypt, a steel band from Trinidad and Tobago, and a Chinese drumming performance and lion dancing. The street will be closed for the day. For more, see www.regentstreetonline.com.

On Now: Kaffe Fassett – A Life in Colour. This exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey Street celebrates the work of American-born artist Kaffe Fassett and features more than 100 works including nine foot wide knitted shawls, coats and throws, patchwork quilts and a ‘feeling wall’ where visitors can touch the textiles on display. Admission charge applies. Runs until 29th June. For more, see www.ftmlondon.org.

10 Historic London Garden Squares…1. Leicester Square…

In the first of a new Wednesday series looking at historic London garden squares, we take a look at what next to Trafalgar Square, is the most famous square in the entire city – Leicester Square.

Located in the heart of the West End, Leicester Square’s history finds its origins back in the 17th history when Robert Sidney, the 2nd Earl of Leicester acquired property on the site where the square now stands. Then known as St Martin’s Field and located within the parish of St Martin’s, Sidney purchased four acres in 1630 and constructed Leicester House on land now located at the square’s northern end.

Leicester-SquareThe earl raised the ire of locals, however, when – having subsequently fenced off the land to prevent people from wandering on to his property – he enclosed what had previously been common land.

The people appealed to King Charles I who appointed three members of the Privy Council to look at the issue. Their decision? That the earl keep a section of his land open for the use of the parishioners of St Martin’s.

First known as Leicester Field, it was this land which later became known as Leicester Square. Fine homes were built around the square (its proximity to the Royal Court and centre of government made it a desirable place to live for the well-to-do and those seeking influence) with the centre enclosed with rails (it’s pictured here in 1750).

The square’s reputation also had a royal boost when, in 1717/1718, Leicester House became home to Prince George (later King George II) and his wife Princess Caroline along with their court after the prince fell out with his father King George I and was banished from St James’ Palace (this story is recounted in marvellous detail in Lucy Worsley’s terrific book, Courtiers: The Secret History of the Georgian Court).

The prince remained at the house for 10 years and was proclaimed King George II after his father’s death at its gate. Interestingly, King George II’s eldest son, Prince Frederick, also lived here for a time after he too fell out with his father (King George II). Apparently their relationship was even worse than the previous generation’s had been.

Despite its royal attractions, even at this stage the square apparently had it’s darker side with some less than savoury characters attending the hotels and livery stables that were built there. But things were to get worse as the wealthy moved out – a situation not helped when Leicester House was demolished in the 1790s.

Leicester Square became known as an entertainment venue in the 19th century (among attractions was the short-lived Royal Panopticon of Science and Art which showcased the best in science and art and Wyld’s Great Globe which contained a gigantic model of the earth) and received a new injection of life when theatres and music halls moved in, bringing the crowds back with them.

Shakespeare-StatueMeanwhile, the status of the square – and whether it could be built upon – remained a matter of debate well into the 19th century. That ended in 1874 when businessman Albert Grant bought the freehold of the land, had the garden created upon it and then donated it to the Metropolitan Board of Works as a gift to the city.

Responsibility for the management of the square now rests with the City of Westminster. The square area – which is now known for hosting film premieres as well as the tourists who inevitably gather there – was pedestrianised in the 1980s and has just undergone a redevelopment and modernisation which was unveiled last year.

Meanwhile, work to restore the 19th century Shakespeare statue and fountain in the square’s centre is about to be completed (pictured). The square also contains a statue of actor Charlie Chaplin in the square as well as busts of scientist Sir Isaac Newton, painter and first president of the royal Academy Sir Joshua Reynolds, 18th century pioneer surgeon John Hunter, and painter William Hogarth.

The tradition of the entertainment continues in the modern era through the cinemas which now stand in the square and regularly host film premieres (an interesting, if oft-repeated, film-related anecdote connected to the square is that it was in a phone booth located at the square that during the 1960s a young actor Maurice Micklewhite saw a poster for The Caine Mutiny and decided to change his name to Michael Caine).

PICTURES (top) Wikipedia and (below) City of Westminster.

Lost London – Mrs Salmon’s Waxworks…

Before Madame Tussaud arrived in London, there was Mrs Salmon and her famous waxworks, one of several such establishments in London.

Prince-Henry's-RoomsFirst sited at the Sign of the Golden Ball in St Martin’s Le Grand – where it filled six rooms – in 1711, the display was relocated to the north side of Fleet Street where it remained until 1795 when it moved across the road to number 17 Fleet Street, now housing Prince Henry’s Room (pictured, room takes its name from Prince Henry, eldest son of the king, who died at the age of 18 and was apparently the inspiration for an inn which previously occupied the building called The Prince’s Arms).

The waxworks were apparently originally run by Mr Salmon – there are references to him being a “famous waxwork man” – but his wife, Mrs Salmon, continued it alone after his death in 1718 until her own death, variously said to have been in 1760 or as late as 1812. At some point after his death, Mrs Salmon is said to have remarried, to a Mr Steers.

Described in a handbill published soon after its initial move to Fleet Street, the exhibitions were said to include a scene of King Charles I upon the scaffold, another of the ill-fated Queen Boudicea, and more exotic tableaux including one showing Canaannite ladies offering their children in sacrifice to the god Moloch, another of a Turkish seraglio, and another of Margaret, Countess of Heningbergh with the 365 children she is said to have given birth to (all at once!). There was also a mechanised figure of the “famous English prophetess” Old Mother Shipton, who is said to have given a boot to visitors as they left.

While some accounts say the waxworks – which, according to the City of London website remained at the site until 1816 – were taken over by a Chancery Lane surgeon named Clarke after Mrs Salmon’s death (and by his wife after his death), it is also suggested that at some point they moved to Water Lane in east London where they were ruined by thieves.

Whatever its fate, it’s generally accepted that the famous waxworks were visited by the likes of James Boswell and artist William Hogarth. They were also mentioned by author Charles Dickens in David Copperfield. 

For more of London’s past, see Philip Davies’ Lost London 1870-1945.

Where’s London’s oldest…Catholic church?

Hidden away to the north-west of the City of a quiet cul-de-sac, the oldest still-in-use Roman Catholic church in London (indeed, in England) is St Etheldreda’s Church in Holborn.

St-EtheldredaLocated in Ely Place, this atmospheric church – named for Etheldreda, seventh century female abbess of Ely – opened as a Roman Catholic Church in 1878, although the building in which it is lodged is much older, indeed a rare survivor from the 13th century. It was built in 1290 by John De Kirkeby, the Bishop of Ely and Treasurer of England during the reign of King Edward I, as a chapel to a residence he constructed on the site.

It and the adjoining palace remained in use by subsequent bishops and other nobles (including John of Gaunt who lived here after his own residence, Savoy Palace , was burnt down during the Peasant’s Revolt) up to and after the Reformation – the first reformer Bishop to use it was Thomas Goodrich, who built the nearby Mitre Tavern. (Worth noting is that the church also has some strong links to Shakespeare – there’s a great article on the church’s website exploring these).

In 1620, the Spanish Ambassador, the Count of Gondomar, moved into Ely Place and the chapel was used once again for Catholic masses (the residence was considered part of Spanish territory) – this was a relatively short-lived development for, thanks to deteriorating relations between England and Spain following a failed match between Prince Charles (later King Charles I) and the Infanta of Spain, the next ambassador was refused permission to live there.

Having escaped destruction in the Great Fire of London, the chapel was requisitioned by Parliament as a prison and hospital during the Civil War and subsequently fell into disuse before in 1772, the property – including the chapel – was sold to the Crown who in turn sold it to a surveyor and builder, Charles Cole.

Cole demolished the palace buildings with the exception of the chapel and had the current Ely Place built with neat rows of Georgian homes, modernising the chapel for the use of residents as an Anglican place of worship. The church attracted few worshippers, however, and in 1820 was taken over by the National Society for the Education of the Poor.

In 1873, the chapel was again to be sold and following a somewhat controversial auction was bought by the Catholic Institute of Charity (aka the Rosminians) and restored under the eye of Father William Lockhart (the Catholic Emancipation Act had been passed in 1829, allowing Catholics to have churches and say mass).

Interestingly, it was during this work that 18 bodies were discovered buried in the crypt – they had died in the ‘Fatal Vespers’ of 1623 when, during a secret meeting of Catholics at the French ambassador’s house in Blackfriars, the floor collapsed and more than 100 were killed. Not able to be buried publicly due to anti-Catholic feeling, they were buried in secret with some of them buried here.

A mass commemorated the completion of the restoration work on 23rd June, 1878, and the church has been in use as a Roman Catholic Church ever since (although years of repairs were needed following significant bomb damage in World War II). Further restoration work was carried out in the 1990s when Flemish tiles from the original cloister were discovered.

These days the church – which features a relic of St Etheldreda contained in a bejewelled cask sitting by the altar – is a quiet oasis in the midst of the bustling city – a great place to take some time out in the midst of a busy day. Also of note is the east window – the work of Joseph Edward Nuttgens, it was completed in 1952 and, like all the other windows, replaced a Victorian window destroyed in the Blitz (look for the image of St Etheldreda) – and the  west window – the work of Charles Blakeman, it is apparently the largest stained glass window in London and depicts a series of English Catholic martyrs.

WHERE: St Etheldreda’s Church, Ely Place (nearest Tube stations are Chancery Lane and Farringdon); WHEN: 8am to 5pm Monday to Saturday; 8am-12.30pm Sunday; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.stetheldreda.com.

Around London – John Snow’s legacy; a spotlight on the music hall; Alice Kettle at the Queen’s House; and, Sydney Lee at the RA…

A new exhibition on the work and legacy of John Snow – who traced the source of a deadly cholera outbreak in the 1850s to a Soho water pump – opened at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine this week. Cartographies of Life & Death – John Snow and Disease Mapping – part of a series of events planned for the bicentenary of Snow’s birth – features both historical treasures, such as disease maps from the school’s archives, and new artworks inspired by science with the entire display presented as a disease mapping ‘detective trail’. There will be a pop-up water bar and street lectures and performances. Snow (1813-1858) is considered the founder of modern epidemiology, the study of patterns and causes of health and disease in populations. His work remain influential even today. Admission is free. The exhibition runs until 17th April at the school in Keppel Street. For more, see www.johnsnow.org.uk.

A new installation at the V&A opening on Saturday will explore the rise – and fall – of the music hall. Music Hall: Sickert and the Three Graces picks up on artist Walter Sickert’s obsession with the New Bedford Music Hall in Camden Town and features film, music and objects presented in a ‘theatrical narrative’ which focuses on the world of the Edwardian Music Hall. Highlights include filmed extracts of Tanika Gupta’s specially produced play The Boy I Love (directed by Katie Mitchell) which takes its name from George Ware’s celebrated music hall song The Boy I Love is Up in the Gallery. Admission is free. The exhibition, which is in the Theatre and Performance Galleries of the V&A, runs until 5th January next year. For more see www.vam.ac.uk.

Three specially commissioned artworks by British textile artist Alice Kettle will be unveiled today at the Queen’s House in Greenwich. The Garden of England – Royal Museums Greenwich’s first contemporary arts program – features Flower Helix (hanging in the Tulip Stairs), Flower Bed (a “textile garden” found in the North West Parlour), and Queen Henrietta Maria (a stitched portrait of the wife of King Charles I also found in the North West Parlour). The display is accompanied by a program of events – for more on them, see www.rmg.co.uk. Entry is free – the exhibition is on show until 18th August.

On Now – From the Shadows: The Prints of Sydney Lee RA. This exhibition at the Royal Academy represents a reappraisal of the work of painter-printmaker Sydney Lee (1866-1949) and features more than 50 prints and two major paintings. Lee studied in Manchester and Paris before coming to London where he lived in a house and studio in Holland Park Road in Kensington. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1930 and served as Treasurer from 1932-1940. The first exhibition devoted to his art since 1945, the event coincides with the publication of the first book on Lee written by its curator Professor Robert Meyrick, head of the School of Art at Aberystwyth University. Runs until 26th May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

Lost London – The Cockpit at Whitehall…

Once part of the Palace of Whitehall, the Cockpit (also referred to as Cockpit-in-Court or the Royal Cockpit) was initially built as a pit in which to watch cockfighting as part of renovations carried out by King Henry VIII after he “acquired” Cardinal Wolsey’s former property of York Place and before transforming it into a royal palace.

It was one of a number of entertainment related buildings constructed by the king in the new palace precinct – others included a real tennis court, bowling alley and a tiltyard.

By Jacobean times, the use of the octagonal-shaped cockpit – located between today’s Downing Street and Horse Guards Parade – had changed into that of a private royal theatre and in 1629 Inigo Jones was given the task of redesigning it to accommodate King Charles I’s elaborate court masques (Jones had previously redesigned the Cockpit Theatre in Drury Lane).

Following the Restoration in 1660, the Cockpit again returned to its use as a theatre and King Charles II had new dressing rooms added and the decor given an overhaul (the ever-present diarist Samuel Pepys was among those who attended theatrical presentations during this period and Ben Jonson among those whose work was presented here).

The theatre building is believed to have been demolished around 1675 and the site subsequently used to house government officials including those of the Foreign Office (see our earlier post here) and Privy Council.

In the 1730s, William Kent designed the building (which although since expanded and modified) now stands on the site and is currently the home of the Cabinet Office.

While the Cockpit is long gone, its name lives on in ‘Cockpit Passage’ – a gallery inside the Cabinet Office from where one could once watch tennis being played.

Around London – Royal Court treasures at V&A; Sir Michael Caine celebrated; a tunic with a past; and, George Catlin’s American Indian portraits…

Water_potA new exhibition opens at the V&A in South Kensington this Saturday which charts the development of cultural trade and diplomacy between Britain and Russia from the founding of the Muscovy Company in 1555 until the end of King Charles II’s reign in 1685. Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts and the Russian Tsars reveals the “majesty and pageantry” of the royal courts of both countries – from that of King Henry VIII to King Charles II in Britain and from that of Ivan the Terrible (Ivan IV) to the early Romanovs in Russia. The display features more than 150 objects including heraldry and processional armour,  furnishings, clothing, jewellery and portraiture including paintings and miniatures painted by court artists. Highlights include a rarely viewed portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, the Barbor Jewel – a pendant set with an onyx cameo of the queen; a hand-colored map of ‘Muscovy’ dating from 1570, and literature including Shakespeare’s First Folio as well as a showcase of British and French silver given to the Tsars by British merchants and kept in the Kremlin. The 20 pieces include the Dolphin Basin, made by Christiaen van Vianen – said to be a favoured silversmith of King Charles I and II – in 1635. The exhibition marks the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. Admission charge applies. Runs from Saturday, 9th March, until 14th July. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk. PICTURE: Water pot (1604-05), Historic collectino of the Armoury, © The Moscow Kremlin Museums.

The life and work of Sir Michael Caine – who turns 80 this month – is the focus of a new free exhibition at the Museum of London. Michael Caine, which opens tomorrow, features photographs including some never exhibited before as well as iconic portraits by the likes of David Bailey and Terry O’Neill as well as a selection of audio and film clips from movies such as Alfie, The Italian Job, Get Carter, Hannah and Her Sisters and Educating Rita. The exhibition follows Sir Michael’s life from “Cockney rebel, through to Hollywood legend and inspirational Londoner” and looks at how the city influenced his life and career. Runs until 14th July. To coincide with the exhibition, the Museum of London Docklands is running Caine on Screen, a selection of free films which can been voted for by the public (see our earlier post here). The schedule of films will be announced after 14th March. For voting details and more information, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

A bullet-pierced military tunic worn during the Indian Mutiny in the mid 19th century has been donated to the National Army Museum in Chelsea. The tunic, worn by Lieutenant Campbell Clark, of the 2nd Bengal European Fusiliers, at Cawnpore in 1857. The lieutenant was ambushed by rebels Indian infantry and shot at point-blank range. Despite being grievously wounded (the musket ball had passed through his stomach and remained in the wound), he survived the injury and the military hospital he was taken to and went on to have a long career, rising to the rank of colonel. He died in 1896 in Sussex. The tunic was donated to the museum by Clark’s great-great-nephew, John Gordon Clark. For more, see www.nam.ac.uk.

On Now: George Catlin: American Indian Portraits. Opening today, this exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is the first major exhibition of the American artist’s works to be held in Europe since the 1840s and has been designed to demonstrate to the viewer how Catlin constructed a particular view of Native Americans in the minds of his audiences. Catlin made five trips into the western United States in the 1830s before the Native American peoples had been subsumed into the United States and, inspired by those trips, went on to create an Indian Gallery which featured 500 portraits, pictures and indigenous artefacts. He subsequently toured with the gallery in both the US and Europe. The exhibition is organised in collaboration with the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington. Runs until 23rd June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

Around London – Regicides’ rogues gallery; seeing London in extreme detail; Marilyn at the NPG; and, the Middle East at the V&A…

A “rogues gallery of regicides”  – six key parliamentarians who signed the death warrant of King Charles I – has been placed online this week by the National Army Museum to mark Parliament Week. The online gallery presents portraits and “potted histories” of the six men who include Oliver Cromwell (later Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, he died before the Restoration), Henry Ireton, John Hutchinson, John Hewson, John Okey and Thomas Harrison (the latter two were captured after the Restoration and rather brutally executed). In September, the museum placed 643 oil paintings from its collection online at the Your Paintings website – a collaboration between the BBC and the Public Catalogue Foundation. The paintings, which span 400 years of military history, can be viewed here: www.nam.ac.uk/your-paintings.

• While we’re looking at things online, photographer Henry Stuart earlier this month placed a GigaPixel image of London as seen from the top of St Paul’s Cathedral’s Dome – more than 100 metres above street level – as the sun sets over the city. Gigapixel means extreme detail so you can zoom in to pick out the details of individual buildings in greater clarity that the human eye can see from such a distance. Landmarks visible include the Olympic Stadium, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Wembley Stadium. The picture can be seen here. The image can be compared to a similar image taken at sunset earlier this year (you can see this one here). He’s also taken a GigaPixel image of the St Paul’s interior (see it here). To find out more about Stuart’s work, head to www.sphericalimages.com.

• On Now: Marilyn Monroe: A British Love Affair. This display at the National Portrait Gallery – coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Marilyn’s death – puts a spotlight on her links with the UK and features a range of photographic portraits as well as rare magazine covers, vintage prints, lobby cards and film stills. Monroe, then newly married to playwright Arthur Miller, spent four months in the UK in 1956 during which time she was making the film The Prince and the Showgirl opposite Laurence Olivier. Other events recorded include her meeting with the Queen and a private sitting with the film’s cinematographer Jack Cardiff. Among other images on display are Antony Beauchamp’s 1951 images of Marilyn in a yellow bikini and photographs taken by Cecil Beaton in New York’s Ambassador Hotel in 1956. There is also a selection of magazine covers ranging from a 1947 cover of Picture Post featuring then Norma Jeane Baker to the cover of Town magazine published three months after her death and featuring an image from her last official photo shoot. Runs until 24th March. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE: Marilyn Monroe, artwork for The Prince and The Showgirl poster/Courtesy The John Kobal Foundation.

• On Now. Light from the Middle East: New Photography. Described as the “first major museum exhibition of contemporary photography from and about the Middle East”, this exhibition at the V&A features more than 90 works which show creative responses to events which have shaped the region over the past 20 years – including the recent revolution in Egypt. The display is structured around three themes – Recording, Reframing and Resisting – and as many as 30 artists from 13 countries are represented in the display including Abbas (Iran), Youssef Nabil (Egypt) and Walid Raad (Lebanon). Runs until 7th April. Admission is free. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.