This Week in London – ‘After Impressionism’; a new woodland for Richmond Park; and, a new exhibition at the Heath Robinson…
• Paintings and sculptures by artists including Cézanne, Van Gogh, Rodin, Picasso, Matisse, Klimt, Kandinsky and Mondrian opens at The National Gallery on Saturday. After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art features more than 100 paintings and sculptures from museums and private collections around the world spanning the period between 1886 and 1914. Highlights include André Derain’s La Danse, Edgar Degas’s Dancers in the Foyer, Paul Cézanne’s Grandes Baigneuses, Edvard Munch’s The Death Bed, Paul Gauguin’s Vision of the Sermon, Camille Claudel’s Imploration / l’Implorante, and Lovis Corinth’s Nana, Female Nude. Admission charge applies. Runs until 13th August. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/after-impressionism-inventing-modern-art.
• Sir David Attenborough has planted an English oak tree to officially open the Platinum Jubilee Woodland, a new woodland in Richmond Park. The woodland has been created as part of The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative to celebrate and honour the late Queen Elizabeth II’s lifetime of service. Some 70 young trees have been planted in the woodland, including oak, Dutch elm-disease-resistant elm, small-leaved lime, and sweet chestnut trees, planted around a focal point which will later incorporate a seating area. Sir David’s tree is one of the last to be planted as part of The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative which concludes on 31st March. The project invited people from across the nation to plant trees in honour of Queen Elizabeth II to mark the Platinum Jubilee and benefit future generations. For more on the park, see www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond-park.
• Illustrative works by William Heath Robinson, Charles Robinson and Thomas Health Robinson, many of which have not be exhibited before, are on show in a new exhibition at the Heath Robinson Museum in Pinner. The works, which come from the collection of Martin and Joanne Verden, include original drawings for Railway Ribaldry and William Heath Robinson’s How to… series of books. Admission charge applies. Runs until 21st May. For more, see www.heathrobinsonmuseum.org.
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This Week in London – Stephen Lawrence and Dick Whittington remembered; Museum of London seeks Jewish-fashion items for new display; and, become a volunteer ranger at The Regent’s Park…
• Stephen Lawrence, a London teenager who was killed in a racially motivated murder in 1993, and four-times medieval Mayor of London, Richard Whittington, are both remembered in a new display at the City of London Heritage Gallery. Among the items on show is a report by the headteacher of John Roan School in Greenwich which was created following Lawrence’s death along with the last will and testament of Whittington and a book recording his third election as mayor in 1406 and showing his decorated coat of arms. Also on show in the gallery is a Bomb Damage Map which, produced by London County Council, shows the extent of damage to Rotherhithe and part of the Isle of Dogs following a German Luftwaffe raid in September, 1940. The display can be seen until 28th April. Admission is free but booking is recommended. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/events/heritage-gallery-exhibition.
• The Museum of London is seeking information on high-profile items of clothing created by leading Jewish fashion designers ahead of an exhibition running later this year. Fashion City: How Jewish Londoners Shaped Global Style, scheduled to open in October, will explore the major contribution of Jewish designers had in making London an iconic fashion city during the 20th century. It will feature pieces from the museum’s own collections but those behind the exhibition are also looking for a range of other high profile items. These include menswear made by Mr Fish and Cecil Gee which were worn by famous names such as Sean Connery, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Muhammad Ali, Michael Caine and The Beatles, womenswear made by Rahvis in the 1930s and 1940s and worn by Hollywood film stars, hats made by Otto Lucas and worn by the likes of Greta Garbo and Wallis Simpson, a theatre costume made by Neymar for Cecil Landau’s 1949 production of Sauce Tartare, and 1930s gowns made by dressmaker Madame Isobel (Isobel Spevak Harris). Anyone who has information about the location of these objects are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org with any information. More information on the exhibition will be provided closer to the date.
• The Royal Parks is looking for volunteer rangers in The Regent’s Park this spring. Following the success of volunteer ranger programmes in Richmond, Bushy and Greenwich Parks, the charity is seeking “friendly and chatty people who are passionate about The Regent’s Park, and keen to inspire and educate visitors”. Volunteers, who need to commit to a minimum of three hours per month, will work in pairs and share facts about the park’s heritage as well as provide tips on the best walking and cycling routes and inform visitors on how everyone can help nature thrive in the parks. Rangers can choose from a range of 90-minute volunteering sessions across weekdays and weekends. Applications close on 26th February. Full training will be provided. To apply, visit www.royalparks.org.uk/rangers.
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King Charles III proclaimed monarch in London…
LondonLife – Greenwich Park restoration…
The Royal Parks announced recently Greenwich Park, here pictured showing the view up to the Royal Observatory, was to undergo a three year project to restore its 17th century landscape. The formal landscape of the park was commissioned by King Charles II and, designed by French landscape architect André Le Nôtre (who also designed the world-famous Versailles gardens), features tree-lined avenues which frame the view up the hill from the Queen’s House as well as “The Grand Ascent”, a series of giant, grass steps leading up the hill, and a terraced layout – known as a parterre. Massive numbers of visitors – some five million annually – have, however, seen the landscape features erode and slump while the trees – Turkey oaks planted in the 1970s to replace the elms wiped out by Dutch elm disease – are now in decline. The restoration work, which begins next month, will see the terraces restored and the declining tree avenues recreated with 92 new, more resilient trees. The work is scheduled to be completed by March, 2025. For more on Greenwich Park, see www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/greenwich-park.
LondonLife – Sunrise silhouette…
This Week in London – Tulips at Hampton Court; new Falklands-related displays at the IWM; and, a new garden for The Regent’s Park…
Hoping you have a wonderful Easter break.
• Hampton Court Palace’s Tulip Festival – the largest of its kind in the UK – is returning following its successful inaugural year in 2021. From Friday until 2nd May (depending on flowering periods), the palace’s 60 acres of formal gardens are expected to be filled with rare, historic and specialist tulip varieties inspired by Queen Mary II’s famous 17th century collection which was once housed at the palace. Some 120,000 tulip bulbs of 60 different varieties have been planted, including breath-taking floating tulip vases located in the palace’s famous fountains, and floral displays which will fill the cobbled courtyards of Base Court and Clock Court. Visitors will be able to find out all about the links between the flower and the palace’s history with a dedicated Tulip Festival Guide. Included with admission. For more, head here.
• New exhibits marking the 40th anniversary of the Falklands Conflict have gone on show at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth. Among the new items on display are drawings by Linda Kitson, the first female artist commissioned by IWM to accompany troops into conflict, and images of the conflict – many of which have never been seen before – taken by photographer Paul RG Haley who covered it for Soldier Magazine. The museum is also exploring the story and legacy of the conflict through a digital programme of events including a series of short films and a new episode of the Conflict of Interest podcast featuring actor Katherine Parkinson. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk.
• The Regent’s Park will soon boast a new 1.5 acre garden at its centre in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. The new garden, to be created on the site of a former plant nursery near the Inner Circle, will include design features that reflect the Queen’s “love of trees and nature”. The Royal Parks will be committing £1 million to the project and will seek external funding and public donations. Designs for the new park will be shared as they are developed. Meanwhile, The Royal Parks have also announced they will be creating a new wood in Richmond Park as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy Initiative. The new woodland, which will be located adjacent to Ham Cross, will be planted with 70 large trees, each one to mark a year of Her Majesty’s reign.
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LondonLife – Spring has arrived…
A parakeet admires the cherry blossom in St James’s Park.
LondonLife – Gun salutes mark Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee…
The Honourable Artillery Company fires a 62 gun salute at the Tower of London to mark the 70th Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne. The gun salute at the Tower was one of a number which took place across the UK on Monday – while the date of the Queen’s accession was the 6th February, gun salutes do not traditionally take place on a Sunday. The gun salutes are traditionally comprised of 21 rounds with a further 20 rounds fired at Royal Parks and palaces and a further 21 at the Tower to show the respect the City of London has for the Queen. Below, the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery can be seen firing 41 rounds in Green Park.
Where’s London’s oldest…public Holocaust memorial?
Amid controversy over plans for a new Holocaust memorial in London and the marking of Holocaust Memorial Day this week, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at where the oldest public memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in London, which actually isn’t that old, is located.
Unveiled in 1983 in Hyde Park at site just to the east of the Serpentine, it consists of a grouping of boulders surrounded by white-trunked birch trees. Designed by Richard Seifert and Derek Lovejoy and Partners, the largest of the boulders is inscribed with a text, in Hebrew and English, from the Biblical Book of Lamentations. It reads: “For these I weep. Streams of tears flow from my eyes because of the destruction of my people.”
The Holocaust Memorial Garden, which was actually the first such memorial dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust in Britain, was erected by the Board of British Jews.
Plans for a new memorial to the victims of the Holocaust – to be located in Victoria Tower Gardens, just to the south of the Houses of Parliament – were approved by the government in the middle of last year following a controversial public inquiry. But a High Court judge subsequently granted the London Historic Parks And Gardens Trust permission to appeal that decision.
Treasures of London – The pelicans of St James’s Park…
Pelicans were first introduced to St James’s Park in 1664 when a pair of the rather large birds were presented as a gift from the Russian Ambassador to King Charles II. They’ve been there ever since.
More than 40 pelicans have apparently made their home at the park over the years. Past pelicans have included the solitary Daphne – nicknamed the ‘Lady of the Lake’, she lived alone at the park in the early 1970s as well as Astra and Khan, who came from Astrakhan in Russia and were presented by the Russian Ambassador in 1977. There’s also been a Louis, who came from Louisiana in 1982, and Vaclav and Rusalka, who were a gift from Prague Zoo in 1995.
There are currently six members of the ‘scoop’ or ‘squadron’ (just two of the collective nouns used for pelicans) in the park. They include Isla and Tiffany – gifted from Prague in 2013 – and Gargi (gifted in 1996 after he was found in a Southend garden) as well as newer arrivals, brothers Sun and Moon, and a female named Star, all of whom came from Prague Zoo in 2019. Five are Eastern Whites and one is a South American White.
The pelicans are fed fresh fish each day between 2:30pm and 3pm, next to Duck Island Cottage, and while they are free to go where they wish, they rarely go far from the almost 57 acre park. But they did make headlines for eating a pigeon in 2006.
Royal Parks are offering a walking tour of St James’s Park which ends with watching the daily feeding on 5th November. Head here for details.
London Explained – The Royal Parks…
One of the most beautiful features of London are its Royal Parks.
The parks, which covers some 5,000 acres, are owned by the Crown and managed by a charity, The Royal Parks. They include eight of London’s largest open spaces – Hyde Park, The Green Park, Richmond Park, Greenwich Park, St James’s Park, Bushy Park, The Regent’s Park, and Kensington Gardens – as well as some other important open spaces such as Brompton Cemetery, Victoria Tower Gardens, Canning Green and Poet’s Corner.
All eight of the Royal Parks have historically been owned by the Crown with St James’s Park considered the oldest (while Greenwich Park is the oldest enclosed park).
Under an Act of Parliament passed in 1851, the Crown transferred management of the parks to the government. These powers were originally vested in the Commissioners of Works and later transferred to the Minister of Works in 1942. They now rest with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
The Royal Parks charity was created in 2017 when The Royal Parks Agency – a former executive agency of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport – and the Royal Parks Foundation came together. It is governed by a board led by chairman Loyd Grossman.
The largest of the eight Royal Parks is Richmond Park which covers some 2,500 acres in London’s south-west (it’s followed by Bushy Park which is just over 1,000 acres). The smallest of the parks is Green Park at just 40 acres.
Interestingly, Hampton Court Palace gardens, which are open to the public are not part of The Royal Parks but instead are under the care of Historic Royal Palaces.
Here’s one fact about each of the eight Royal Parks.
- Cardinal Thomas Wolsey gave Bushy Park to King Henry VIII in 1529 (along with Wolsey’s home, Hampton Court Palace).
- Green Park was initially known as Upper St James’s Park after it was enclosed by King Charles II in 1668.
- The Royal Observatory, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, is located in Greenwich Park.
- Hyde Park became the location of the first artificially lit highway in the country when King William III, who had moved his court to Kensington Palace and found his walk back to St James’s rather dangerous, had 300 oil lamps installed upon a route which later became known as Rotten Row.
- Queen Caroline, wife of George II, gave Kensington Gardens much of its present form when, in 1728, she oversaw the creation of the the Serpentine and the Long Water.
- Horse Guards Parade is considered part of St James’s Park.
- Architect John Nash designed a summer palace for the Prince Regent which was to be located in The Regent’s Park but was never built.
- Prime Minister Lord John Russell was given a home in Richmond Park (Pembroke Lodge) by Queen Victoria in 1847.
Lost London – The Reformers’ Tree…
This large oak tree, planted in Hyde Park, was a focal point for protests in 1866 by the Reform League, a group which campaigned for all men to have the right to vote.
The tree was set alight during one protest (on what date and whether it was as an act of protest or simply an act of mischief by some boys during an otherwise orderly rally apparently remains a matter of debate).
The blackened stump was subsequently used a site for people to post notices, as a podium at meetings (including by the Reform League) and, more broadly, as a symbol of the right for people to assemble.
The tree was something of a precursor to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. That owes its formal establishment to an Act of Parliament, passed in 1872, that designated the north-east corner of Hyde Park as a site for public speaking and is now known – and emulated across the world – as Speaker’s Corner.
A circular mosaic depicting the blackened tree – the work of sculptor Harry Gray – now stands at the junction of numerous pathways close to the eastern end of Hyde Park. It was unveiled in the year 2000 by politician Tony Benn.
Whether it stands on the actual site of the original tree is also a matter of debate. The inscription on the memorial mentions that on 7th November, 1977, then Prime Minister James Callaghan planted a new oak tree on the spot where the Reformers’ Tree was thought to have stood. But there’s obviously no oak now where the mosaic is laid.
10 London hills – 5. Primrose Hill…
Standing in a park located just to the north of Regent’s Park in the city’s inner north-west, Primrose Hill stands 63 metres above sea level and, like Parliament Hill, provides panoramic views of the city skyline.
The hill, which features one of six protected views in London, was once part of a chase (unenclosed hunting land) owned by King Henry VIII and was Crown property until 1842 when it became part of a public park through an Act of Parliament.
The name has been in use for at least 500 years and is thought to refer to the flowers that grew here profusely (which it means it can’t have been named for Archibald Primrose, Prime Minister between 1894 and 1895).
The hill forms part of one of Mother Shipton’s “prophecies” – she apparently proclaimed that when London surrounded the hill, its streets would run with blood.
It was for a time known as Greenberry Hill after three labourers – Robert Green, Henry Berry and Lawrence Hill – were found guilty of the murder of magistrate Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey (he had heard Titus Oates’ evidence in the so-called Popish Plot). Sir Edmund was found impaled on his own sword on the hill in October, 1678 – convicted of his murder the three men were hanged on its summit in 1679 (they were later exonerated and the death of Sir Edmund remains something of a mystery).
The hill, which has also apparently been known as Battle Hill, was also the location where the poet and antiquarian Iolo Morganwg (Edward Williams) founded the Gorsedd, a community of Welsh bards, on 21st June in 1792.
In 1838, a railway tunnel under the hill was completed by the North Western Railway – it was the first in London and connected Chalk Farm and Swiss Cottage. In the 1840s, a proposal to create a cemetery here was put to Parliament but never went ahead. There were also plans to develop the entire hill as a housing estate but nothing came of it.
On top of the hill is York stone edging with an inscription by William Blake: “I have conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill.” There’s also the remains of an anti-aircraft battery from World War II.
On the hill’s slope, meanwhile, is a tree planted in 1964 to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth (it replaced once planted 100 years earlier in honour of the Bard’s 300th).
Primrose Hill gives its name to part of the surrounding area, which remains a sought-after residential district.
For details on when to visit, head to www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/the-regents-park/things-to-see-and-do/primrose-hill.
Treasures of London – Hyde Park’s ‘Grand Entrance’…
This ornate triple stone entrance in the south-east corner of Hyde Park (better known as Hyde Park Corner), was designed by Decimus Burton when he was just 25-years-old.
Made of Portland stone, the gate, also known as the ‘Apsley Gate’ (after the nearby home of the Duke of Wellington) or the ‘Hyde Park Screen’, was installed in the late 1820s and replaced a former tollgate.
Several designs were proposed in the late 18th century but it was only after work started to transform Buckingham Palace from a home into the grand building we know today that Burton, who was already working on designing a series of gates, lodges and railings around Hyde Park for the Office of Woods and Forests, was asked to design the screen alongside plans for a grand memorial arch to serve as an entrance to Green Park which would be located opposite.
Burton’s designs for the Hyde Park gateway were approved by none other than King George IV and it now stands true to his original design. Decorative elements in the gate include scroll-topped columns and friezes by John Henning which were copied from the Elgin Marbles. Burton also designed the classical-style lodge house just inside the gates.
Burton’s initial plans for the Green Park arch, however, were deemed not to be grand enough – after all, this would be one of the approaches to Buckingham Palace – and so he produced a second design which is now largely embodied in what became the Wellington Arch.
While the Hyde Park gateway originally stood in line with Wellington Arch, traffic management matters saw the latter moved to its current position in the 1880s, putting it out of alignment with the gateway.
Treasures of London: The Diana Fountain, Green Park
This fountain and statue ensemble – also known as Diana of the Treetops and the Constance Fountain (and not to be confused with the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park or the Diana Fountain in Bushy Park) – for many years stood at the centre of Green Park.
The fountain replaced an earlier one by Sidney Smirke – installed in 1860 – that had fallen into disrepair.
The Ministry of Works approached the Constance Fund – which had been established by artist Sigismund Goetze and was administered by his wife Constance following his death – to provide finances for a replacement and after they agreed, a competition for the design was held overseen by Sir William Reid.
Escourt J “Jim” Clack, a teacher from Devon, won and designed a bronze statue of the Greek goddess Diana to top the fountain. Depicting a naked Diana unleashing a hunting dog, it sits atop a stylised tree under which sit the fountain basins. The fountain was unveiled in 1954.
In 2011, the statue was removed, restored and some gilding added and then placed near the entrance to Green Park tube station in the north-east corner of the park.
Four unusual London Christmas traditions…3. The Peter Pan Cup…
Postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic this year, the Peter Pan Cup is a swimming event that usually takes place on Christmas Day in Hyde Park’s Serpentine.
The bracing 9am event, which is only open to members of the Serpentine Swimming Club, is a handicapped race across a 100 yard course.
While the tradition of a Christmas Day swimming event goes back to 1864, it became the ‘Peter Pan Cup’ in 1904 when JM Barrie, creator of Peter Pan and a member of the club, presented the first cup to the winner. It was the same year Peter Pan debuted on the London stage (and Barrie would continue to present the cup to the winner until 1932).
Club members have to complete a certain number of winter races to be eligible to swim on Christmas Day. These days the race, which usually starts and ends on the southern bank of the Serpentine, is usually quite a spectacle with hundreds turning out to cheer the swimmers on.
LondonLife – Just watching the world go by…
Spotted in St James’s Park. PICTURE: Alexandru Vicol/Unsplash
A Moment in London’s History – The “Petticoat Duel”…
The “Petticoat Duel” was so-called because this late 18th century duel apparently took place between two women – Lady Almeria Braddock and Mrs Elphinstone.
The story goes that the duel, which reportedly took place in 1792, came about after, during a social visit to Lady Braddock’s home, Mrs Elphinstone suggested the aforementioned lady was much older than her 30-odd years. It was clearly a sensitive subject and Lady Braddock demanded satisfaction via a duel.
The two women met in Hyde Park and initially exchanged pistol shots, the only casualty being Lady Braddock’s hat. Swords were then drawn and the women crossed blades until Mrs Elphinstone received a minor wound to her arm.
Following her wounding, Mrs Elphinstone wisely decided to apologise to Lady Braddock for doubting her age (she apparently wrote a lengthy apology later on) and the women put down their weapons. Crisis averted.
Despite the many times the story of the “Petticoat Duel” has been repeated, however, there’s some considerable doubt over whether it actually took place.
The key source appears to be an article in a 1792 edition of Carlton House Magazine and it has been suggested that “Lady Almeria Braddock” may be an invented character perhaps based partly on Georgian actress George Anne Bellamy.
So we apologise for any who have felt misled, for this “moment” may actually be no more than a creative writer’s story. But, whether true or not, it does make for an interesting tale.
Treasures of London – The Diana Fountain…
No, it’s not a memorial to that Diana, but a bronze statue depicting a mythological figure which forms the centrepiece of the Great Basin in Bushy Park.
Commissioned by King Charles I for his wife Queen Henrietta Maria, the statue (and other statuary on the monument) was the work of sculptor Hubert Le Sueur (he was also the sculptor of the famous equestrian statue of King Charles I which sits at the top of Whitehall).
While the 2.38 metre tall bronze statue, which weighs some 924 kilograms, is commonly referred to as Diana – the Roman goddess of hunting, she has none of the usual attributes of Diana, such as a bow, and is believed by some to actually represent Arethusa, a nereid or sea nymph from Greek mythology.
The statue is set on a marble and stone fountain carved with depictions of shells and sea life, and is surrounded, at a lower level, by groups of bronze statues -depicting boys holding fish or dolphins and water nymphs or mermaids astride sea monsters – through which water is discharged into four bronze basins.
The bronze figures were originally commissioned for a fountain, designed by Inigo Jones and built in the 1630s, in the Queen’s garden at Somerset House. Oliver Cromwell had the statues moved to the Hampton Court Palace’s Privy Garden in 1656 where they were incorporated into a fountain designed by Edward Pearce the Younger in 1689-90.
In 1713 the ensemble was moved again, this time to onto a new purpose-built podium in the middle of the Great Basin, located at the end of Bushy Park’s Chestnut Avenue, a grand avenue of trees designed by Sir Christopher Wren. While most of the statuary is believed to be from the original fountain designed by Inigo Jones, it’s thought some of the statues of the boys were recast for the new fountain.
The Grade I-listed monument was restored in 2009 and and during this process a stone which uncovered on its base which had a crown and the date AR 1712 (AR for ‘Anne Regis’) which would have been added when the statue and fountain were installed in the basin.
WHERE: The park lies north of Hampton Court Palace, just west of Kingston and Hampton Wick and south of Teddington (nearest train station is Hampton Wick or Hampton Court). WHEN: 24 hours except in September and November when it’s open between 8am and dusk; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/bushy-park
PICTURE: The Diana Fountain. PICTURE: It’s No Game (licensed under CC BY 2.0)