This Week in London – Sherlock Holmes at the MoL; Rembrandt’s latter years; and, William Morris’ legacy..
October 16, 2014
• Sherlock Holmes and his relationship to London, the city in which he lived, is the focus of a new exhibition which opens at the Museum of London from Friday. Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die, the first major temporary exhibition on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous character to be held in London in more than 60 years, will look at his literary origins and his relationship with late 19th century London, through to his portrayal in popular culture including through stage and screen performances starring everyone from Peter Cushing to Jeremy Brett and Robert Downey, Jr. Highlights of the exhibition include Conan Doyle’s notebook containing the first ever lines of a Sherlock Holmes story and notes in which he experimented with names for his to leading characters (later Holmes and Dr John Watson), a rare oil on canvas painting of Conan Doyle painted by Sidney Paget in 1897 which has never before been on public display in London, the original manuscript of 1903’s The Adventure of the Empty House, the Belstaff coat and the Derek Rose camel dressing gown worn by Benedict Cumberbatch from the BBC series and original pages from Edgar Allan Poe’s 1841 hand-written manuscript of The Murders in the Rue Morgue (Poe was an important influence on Conan Doyle’s writings). The exhibition will also include paintings, drawings, illustrations and photographs of Victorian London along with a vast collection of objects from the period. Runs until 27th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/sherlock. PICTURE: Two editions of A Study in Scarlet in which Conan Doyle introduced Holmes and Watson, Beeton’s Christmas Annual 1887.
• The first ever in-depth exploration of Rembrandt’s final years of painting opened at the National Gallery off Trafalgar Square yesterday. Rembrandt: The Late Works features about 40 paintings, 20 drawings and 30 prints with key works including moving The ‘Jewish Bride’ (from Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam), An Old Woman Reading (The Buccleuch Collection in Scotland), Bathsheba with King David’s Letter (Musee du Louvre in Paris) and Lucretia (National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC) as well as the last minute loan of The Conspiracy of the Batavians under Claudius Civilis (from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Sweden). The exhibition provides new insights into some of the artist’s most famous works including The Sampling Officials of the Amsterdam Drapers (aka The Syndics), and brings together a number of self-portraits usually seen in different galleries. The exhibition runs in the Sainsbury Wing until 18th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.
• The first exhibition devoted to Pre-Raphelite William Morris and his influence on 20th century life opens at the National Portrait Gallery off Trafalgar Square today. Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy, 1860-1960 explores the ‘art for the people’ movement which Morris and the artists of the Pre-Raphelite Brotherhood initiated, reveals the work of Arts and Crafts practitioners inspired by Morris, and shows how Morris’ “radical ideals” influenced the Garden City movement and post-war designers like Terence Conran. Highlights include Morris’ handwritten Socialist Diary, his gold-tooled hardbound copy of Karl Marx’s Le Capital and Burne-Jones’ handpainted Prioresses Tale wardrobe. Admission charge applies. The exhibition runs until 11th January. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.
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August 26, 2014
Eduardo Paolozzi’s 1995 statue of Isaac Newton which stands on the British Library’s piazza in King’s Cross has been granted a ‘voice’ as part of a new project called Talking Statues. Visitors who swipe their smartphones on a nearby tag will receive a call from the famous scientist – voiced by Simon Beale Russell – as part of the initiative which is being spear-headed by Sing London. It is one of 35 different statues across London and Manchester which will be brought to life by a range of public identities. Among the other statues in London which have been brought to life are Samuel Johnson’s cat Hodge in Gough Square (voiced by Nicholas Parsons) and Dick Whittington’s Cat in Islington (Helen Lederer), John Wilkes in Fetter Lane (Jeremy Paxman), the Unknown Soldier at Paddington Station (Patrick Stewart) and Sherlock Holmes outside Baker Street Underground (Anthony Horowitz). The British Library and Sing London are also holding a competition to give William Shakespeare a voice by writing a monologue for the statue in the library’s entrance hall which will then be read by an as yet unannounced actor. Entries close 17th October. For more, visit www.talkingstatues.co.uk.
PICTURE: British Library
This Week in London – Notting Hill Carnival; St Paul’s treasures on show; Sherlock Holmes on film; and more…
August 21, 2014
• The August Bank Holiday is upon us which means it’s carnival time! The Notting Hill Carnival kicks off this Sunday with an extravaganza of costumes, dancing, music and food. The carnival’s origins go back to the late Fifties and early Sixties (the exact date is somewhat controversial!) when it started as a way of Afro-Caribbean communities celebrating their cultures and traditions, drawing on the tradition of carnivals in the Caribbean. The carnival is now Europe’s largest street festival and this year’s parade signifies the start of a three year celebration in the lead-up to the Golden Jubilee year of 2016. The carnival kicks off at 9am on Sunday – children’s day – and the same time on Monday – adult’s day – and organisers say the procession should be completed by 7pm. For more, see www.thelondonnottinghillcarnival.com. PICTURE: Wayne G Callender/Notting Hill Carnival.
• A pop-up display of some of St Paul’s Cathedral’s treasures will appear today and tomorrow (Thursday, 21st August, and Friday 22nd August) in the cathedral’s crypt. Put together by Museum Studies students from Leicester University, the display will feature items relating to a royal event from each of the first three centuries of Wren’s church. They include images and objects from the Thanksgiving Service for the recovery of King George III in 1789 as well as items from Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981. The display will be shown from 1pm to 2pm each day – entry is free via the cathedral’s north west crypt door. Meanwhile, the cathedral is offering a private, behind the scenes evening photography tour of the building for the winner of a photography competition looking for “the most surprising image” of the cathedral. The winner – and five friends – will also be treated to a meal at the Grange Hotel’s Benihama restaurant. The Surprise St Paul’s competition runs until 26th September and entrants just need to tweet or post their images to the church’s Twitter or Facebook pages with the hashtag #SurpriseStPauls. For more, see www.stpauls.co.uk.
• The National Gallery has made free wi-fi available throughout the building. The Trafalgar Square-based gallery says it’s now also welcoming visitor photography and is encouraging visitors to check in on Facebook and comment on Twitter using the hashtag #MyNGPainting. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.
• Fancy yourself a detective? The Museum of London and the BFI are asking for the public’s help in tracking down a copy of the first ever feature film starring the fictional character Sherlock Holmes. A Study in Scarlet was released 100 years ago this autumn and was directed by George Pearson with then unknown James Bragington playing the part of Holmes. An adaption of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story of the same name, it is based around Brigham Young’s trek across America with his Mormon followers and sees Holmes solve a series of murders. The film was made at Worton Hall studios and on location in Cheddar Gorge and Southport Sands in 1914. The organisations are seeking the film in the lead-up to the Museum of London’s landmark exhibition on Holmes which opens in October. If you do happen to find the film, you can write to Sherlockholmes@bfi.org.uk or make contact via social media using the hashtag #FindSherlock.
• A public ballot has opened for tickets to attend the art installation Fire Garden by renowned French troupe Carabosse at Battersea Power Station this September. The event – which will be held on the nights of Friday 5th and Saturday 6th September – is one of the highlights of Totally Thames, a month-long celebration of London’s great river, and is presented as a tribute to the power station before it’s closed to the public for redevelopment. A free event, it’s expected to be so popular that organisers are holding a ballot for tickets. The ballot closes midday on 27th August. To enter via the Totally Thames website, head here.
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October 28, 2013
Given our current Wednesday series, we thought it only fitting that we take a quick look at the life of Scottish-born Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a physician and author most famous for his creation of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.
Born in Edinburgh on 12 May, 1859, to a wealthy Irish-Catholic family, Doyle was educated at a Jesuit preparatory school in England before undertaking a medical degree at the University of Edinburgh. It was there where he met his mentor, Dr Joseph Bell, a figure who at least partly inspired the creation of Holmes, and it was also during his time here that he first began writing – his first short story was The Mystery of Sasassa Valley. Having taken a voyage to the Arctic Circle in the post of ship’s surgeon and worked in Birmingham as a doctor’s assistant, he was awarded a medical degree in 1881 (he became MD in 1885).
His first job after graduation was aboard another ship – this time sailing to Africa – and after the voyage he settled back in England, briefly in Plymouth and then in Portsmouth where he opened his first medical practice. For the next few years, he continued practising as a doctor while writing and in 1885 married his first wife Louisa Hawkins.
In 1886, he started writing A Study in Scarlet. Introducing Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson to the world, it was eventually published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1888. Doyle went on to write some 60 stories about Holmes over the ensuing years but also wrote other books including historical novels, fantasy and science-fiction stories (The Lost World), romances (The White Company), plays (including one about Sherlock Holmes), poetry and written works which reflected his interest in Spiritualism – an interest which had started while he was at university.
In 1890, having studied opthalmology in Vienna, he established a practice at 2 Upper Wimpole Street, Marylebone, London (the location lies only a short distance from his creation’s famous address at 221b Baker Street) and, with his family, took up residence in Montague Place and later at 12 Tennison Road in South Norwood (marked by a Blue Plaque). But with no patients, he spent his time writing, deciding to kill Holmes off in 1893 but subsequently bringing him back to life after a public outcry. He toured the US in 1894 (other countries he visited during his life included Australia) and later served as a surgeon in the Boer War (1899-1902), for which he was knighted in 1902.
Following the death of his first wife form tuberculosis in 1906 (with whom he had two children), Doyle married Jean Elizabeth Leckie in 1907. Moving to Windlesham in Sussex (it was here Doyle would live for the rest of his life while keeping a flat in London), they had three further children. Meanwhile his interest in Spiritualism continued to grow, particularly following the death of his son, Kingsley, in World War I.
His final 12 stories about Sherlock Holmes were published in 1928 in a compilation called The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. The following year, despite poor health, he embarked on a Spirtualism tour on the continent but had to break it off and return home to Crowborough, East Sussex, in England. There he died on 7th July, 1930, leaving behind a literary legacy which has continued on unchecked. His grave can be found in Minstead Churchyard in New Forest.
For more on Sherlock Holmes, see our earlier posts Famous Londoners – Sherlock Holmes and 10 fictional character addresses in London – 1. 221b Baker Street….
October 23, 2013
Today we kick off our new Wednesday series with a look at some of the most famous addresses in London where fictional characters once lived. Most, if not all, of the addresses we’ll look at are not fictional in themselves – they do actually exist – but the characters said to have lived there owe their lives solely to the imaginations of their creators and the readers and audiences who have loved and admired them.
To kick it off, we take a quick look at what is certainly the most visited address of a fictional character in London – 221b Baker Street, the home of Sherlock Holmes and his associate Dr John Watson.
So, to somewhat recap, the writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has Holmes and Watson living at this address from 1881 (it becomes their address in the first book featuring them – A Study in Scarlet, published in 1887) to 1904 when Holmes retired (Watson was not a continual presence here, moving in and out a couple of times).
What’s interesting is that the address now belongs to the Sherlock Holmes Museum, although in terms of the other numbers in the street, this is actually located between numbers 237 and 241 (in a street which was, prior to the 1930s, known as Upper Baker Street).
What is now number 221 is a 1930s art deco building formerly known as Abbey House (but this would have been 41 Upper Baker Street in 1887). It was the headquarters of Abbey National which had a long-running dispute with the museum over the right receive mail at the address 221b (since the closure of Abbey House in the early Noughties, the museum has received the mail).
It should be noted that there are also numerous other theories over the ‘real’ location of 221b Baker Street – in particular one which suggests the real address is opposite the former location of Camden House in Baker Street, thanks to a reference in The Empty House.
The museum, which is located in a house built in 1815, is set up as it was in Holmes’ day and contains his first floor study, filled with artefacts relating to the many cases he solved – including his famous pipe as well as his deerstalker hat, magnifying glass, violin, and the wicker chair which was used in Sidney Paget’s famous illustrations.
Other rooms include Dr Watson’s small second floor bedroom and the housekeeper Mrs Hudson’s room.
Worth noting is that there is also reconstruction of Holmes’ study at The Sherlock Holmes pub, located at 10-11 Northumberland Street in Westminster. This had been created for the Festival of Britain in 1951 by the Marylebone Borough Library and Abbey National and was located at Abbey House. For on this, check out the Westminister Libraries & Archives site.
WHERE: The Sherlock Holmes Museum, 221b Baker Street (nearest Tube station is Baker Street); WHEN: 9.30am to 6pm daily; COST: £8 adults; £5 children (under 16); WEBSITE: www.sherlock-holmes.co.uk.
February 25, 2013
Synonymous with Sherlock Holmes, where does the name Baker Street actually come from? Not from a baker located there, as some might expect. Rather, Baker Street was apparently named after a Dorset luminary, Sir Edward Baker.
Sir Edward, created 1st Baronet Baker of Ranston in Dorset in 1802, was a friend and neighbour of the Portman family who developed the area in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Sir Edward (who later changed his name to Sir Edward Baker Baker) had apparently lent the Portmans a helping hand in developing the area.
A fashionable place to live when it was created, Baker Street remains famous for the house at number 221b, which, according to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, served as the home to literary characters Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson between 1881-1904. The Sherlock Holmes Museum, which actually sits between numbers 237 and 241 Baker Street, now claims the address.
Other attractions to have been located in Baker Street include Madame Tussaud’s waxworks which in 1835 set up in premises known as ‘The Baker Street Bazaar’ before moving to its current premises around the corner on Marylebone Road in 1884.
Among the notable buildings still in Baker Street is the London Beatles Store (located at 231/233) where you can purchase all manner of memorabilia related to the group.
Famous residents have included 19th century Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, actress Sarah Siddons, author and politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton, explorer Sir Richard Burton, and singer Dusty Springfield. The street was almost immortalised in Gerry Rafferty’s 1970s hit, Baker Street.
Around London – Of foundling tokens; a French field marshal’s grave marker; behind the scenes at Royal Albert Hall; Tom Daley’s swimming trunks; and, crime fiction at the British Library…
January 24, 2013
• A new exhibition opens at the Foundling Museum tomorrow (25th January) which tells the often heart-breaking stories behind the tokens left by mothers with their babies at the Foundling Hospital between 1741-1760. While hundreds of tokens were removed from the hospital’s admission files in the 1860s, Fate, Hope & Charity reunites the tokens – which range from coins and jewellery to playing cards, poems and even a nut – with the foundlings to whom they were given. A moving exhibition. Museum admission charge applies. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.
• The Duc and Duchesse de La Rochefoucauld-Doudeauville were among those who attended the dedication of a ledger stone marking the grave of their kinsman, Field Marshal Francois de La Rochefoucauld, the Marquis de Montendre, at Westminster Abbey last week. Born in 1672, de La Rochefoucauld served in the British Army during the reign of King William III and Queen Mary II after fleeing France as a Huguenot refugee (he had also succeeded his brother as marquis). He was promoted to field marshal in 1739 but died later that year and was buried in the abbey. The floor stone which was replaced by the new ledger stone will be sent to France for inscription and installation at Montendre. For more on the abbey, see www.westminster-abbey.org.
• One we should have mentioned with our piece on Royal Albert Hall last week. The Royal Albert Hall is running behind the scenes tours of the venue every Monday until 11th February as well as Tuesday 29th January (so you’ll have to be quick!). The tour – which runs as an extension of the front of house tour – takes in the loading bay located under the hall and one of the many dressing rooms (currently in use by Cirque de Soleil who are in residency with their new show KOOZA. The 90 minute Behind the Scenes tours cost £16. Booking in advance is strongly recommended. For more, see www.royalalberthall.com.
• A pair of swimming trunks worn by diver Tom Daley during the 2012 Olympic Games has been donated to the Museum of London. The trunks join an ever increasing collection of Olympics and Paralympics-related outfits in the museum with others including a leotard worn by bronze-medal winning gymnast Beth Tweddle. A display featuring the Olympic kit is being planned for spring. Meanwhile, still aty the museum and an exhibition featuring a series of photographs exploring the city’s major arterial roadways opens on Saturday. The free exhibition, Highways: Photographs by John Davies, features six specially commissioned photographs taken by Davies in 2001-02 – just prior to the introduction of the Congestion Charge in 2003. Routes featured include the Elephant and Castle roundabout, the Hammersmith Flyover, Marble Arch and Hyde Park, St Pancras Station Midland Grand Hotel and the A501, the junction of Poultry and Queen Victoria Street and the Blackwall Tunnel entrance. Runs until 16th June. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.
• On Now: Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction. This exhibition at the British Library looks at the history of crime fiction and features never-before-seen manuscripts, printed books, rare audio recordings, artworks and artefacts. Highlights include Arthur Conan Doyle’s manuscript of the Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Retired Colourman (1926); the first appearance in print of Miss Marple (in Royal Magazine in 1929); John Gielgud’s annotated script for the film Murder on the Orient Express, crime novels from unlikely authors including Pele and burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee and the 1933 book, the Jigsaw Puzzle Murders in which readers had to complete a jigsaw puzzle to solve the crime. A series of events will be taking place alongside the exhibition. Entry to the library’s Folio Society Gallery is free. Runs until 12th May. For more see www.bl.uk.
Around London: Talking rubbish; Conan Doyle’s lost manuscript; John Martin’s apocalypse; and, Postmodernism at the V&A…
September 29, 2011
• Twenty-five talking rubbish bins will be installed in Westminster City Council area as part of a campaign to encourage people to use them more. The rubbish bins, which will look no different from normal bins, will start chatting from 13th October and will be in London for two months before embarking on a UK tour after which they may become permanent fixtures. Each bin will have a unique respond when used – from singing a part of the Hallelujah Chorus to a blast of the trombone and will be tailored to suit their location (Covent Garden’s, for example, will be operatic in nature). The talking bins, which are also being trialled in Liverpool, are being put on the streets as part of Keep Britain Tidy’s Love Where You Live initiative.
• A hitherto unpublished novel by Arthur Conan Doyle – creator of Sherlock Holmes – was published by the British Library this week. The Narrative of John Smith was Conan Doyle’s first novel and was written between 1883 and 1884 but the manuscript was lost on the way to the publishers. Conan Doyle rewrote it from memory but never resubmitted the work for publication. It serves as a rare insight into his creative development prior to his writing of more famous works like those featuring Holmes (the new book and an audio CD featuring Robert Lindsay, are available from the library shop). The library is also hosting an exhibition of related items in the Treasures Gallery, including one of the four notebooks that comprise the manuscript of The Narrative of John Smith, letters Conan Doyle wrote to his mother, and a “scientific and monthly magazine” he created when he was just 16. The exhibition is open until 5th January. The library is also hosting an event in which author Anthony Horowitz – commissioned by the Conan Doyle Estate to write a new Sherlock Holmes novel, The House of Silk, which will be published in November – will talk about his work and the new novel. To be held on 27th November from 2.30pm to 4pm (admission charge applies). For more, see www.bl.uk.
• On Now: John Martin: Apocalypse. The Tate Britain is hosting an exhibition featuring the works of nineteenth century British artist John Martin, in the first show dedicated to his works in more than 30 years. While something of an outsider, Martin was a key figure in the art world of his day, known for his “dramatic scenes of apocalyptic destruction and biblical disaster”. The exhibition brings together some of his most famous paintings as well as previously unseen and newly restored works. Admission charge applies. Runs until 15th January. For more, see www.tate.org.uk/britain/.
• On Now: Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990. An “in-depth survey of art, design and architecture of the 1970s and 1980s”, this exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum shows how postmodernism evolved from being merely a provocative architectural movement in the 1970s through to ideas that went on to broadly influence popular culture – everything from art and film to music and fashion. The exhibition is divided into three broad chronological sections – the first focuses on architecture, the second on the “proliferation of postmodernism through design, art, music, fashion, performance, and club culture during the 1980s” and the third on the “hyper-inflated commodity culture of the 1980s”. Admission charge applies. Runs until 15th January, 2012. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.
January 18, 2011
The world’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes is one of London’s most widely known characters.
While Holmes’ early life is something of a mystery, it is known that he lived at his most famous address, 221B Baker Street, from 1881 until his retirement in the early 1900s (when he moved to Sussex and took up beekeeping). It was from there that he lived and worked along with his colleague, Dr John H. Watson (Dr Watson lived with Holmes at the address both prior to his marriage and following his wife’s death).
Baker Street is these days home to the Sherlock Holmes Museum where the rooms have been reconstructed as they would have been in Holmes’ day – including his famous study where you can sit in his chair by the fire – and filled with artefacts from his many cases (there is however some confusion over the address as the current location of 221B Baker Street is located in what was, prior to the 1930s, known as Upper Baker Street).
Nearby – just out the front of the Baker Street tube station – stands a statue of Holmes, commissioned by the Sherlock Holmes Society in 1999 and sculpted by John Doubleday (see picture).
Holmes has numerous associations with locations and buildings in London and while there’s far too many to mention here, there are a couple of addresses worth noting. Among them is:
• the Criterion Restaurant at 224 Piccadilly, site of Holmes’ and Watson’s first meeting on New Year’s Day, 1881 (there’s a commemorative wall plaque inside);
• the former site of Scotland Yard, headquarters of the metropolitan police, in the Westminster street now called Great Scotland Yard;
• the Sherlock Holmes pub, just off Northumberland Avenue near Craven Avenue – formerly known as the Northumberland Arms, it featured in the book The Hound of the Baskervilles and now contains a large collection of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia;
• the historic restaurant Simpson’s-in-the-Strand at 100 Strand, where Holmes and Watson dined;
• and, The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden – one of Holmes’ favorite ways to pass the time.
Holmes’ contribution to the art of detection has rippled across the globe and following the first recounting of his exploits in the 1887 book A Study in Scarlet, his deeds have provided the inspiration for countless books, films, and TV series.