10 historic London homes that are now museums…5. The Freud Museum…

The Freud Museum. PICTURE: A Peace of London (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

The last residence of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, is located in Hampstead and is now a museum dedicated to his work and that of his daughter, pioneering child psychoanalyst Anna Freud.

The Freuds moved into the property at 20 Maresfield Gardens (having initially briefly stayed at a flat at 39 Elsworthy Road, Primrose Hill) in September, 1938, having left their home in Vienna to escape the Nazi annexation of Austria earlier in the year.

The house dates from 1920 and was built in the Queen Anne Revival Style. A small sun room was added a year after to the rear of the property.

Freud finished his final works Moses and Monotheism and An Outline of Psychoanalysis while at the property and also saw patients there as well as some high profile visitors including Princess Marie Bonaparte, writer HG Wells and literary couple Leonard and Virginia Woolf. Already aged in his 80s when they moved in, he died in the home just a year after on 23rd September, 1939. But his daughter Anna remained in the property until her death in 1982.

As per her wishes, it was subsequently turned into a museum and opened to the public in July, 1986, as The Freud Museum.

Among the rooms which can be visited today are Freud’s study, the library, hall and dining room but some areas – such as Anna Freud’s consulting room – are used as offices and not open to the public.

Freud’s couch. PICTURE: John Kannenberg (licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0)

The star sight inside is undoubtedly Freud’s famous couch. Located in the study, it was originally the gift of a patient, Madame Benvenisti, in 1890, and is covered with a Qashqa’i carpet which Freud added.

Other items which can be seen in the house include several paintings collected by Freud and a series of photographs by Edmund Engelman which depicted Freud’s apartment in Vienna just weeks before he fled. There’s also a portrait of Freud by Salvador Dali who visited him in London, his collection of antiquities and his painted Austrian furnishings as well as many mementoes related to Anna Freud.

The premises also hosts temporary exhibitions and a range of other events.

The garden outside – much loved by the Freuds – has been left largely as Sigmund Freud would have known it.

The house is one of the rare properties in London which features two English Heritage Blue Plaques – one commemorating Sigmund and the other Anna.

There’s a famous statue of Sigmund Freud by Oscar Nemon just a couple of minutes walk away at the corner of Fitzjohns Avenue and Belsize Lane.

WHERE: The Freud Museum, 20 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead (nearest Tube stations are Finchley Road, Finchley Road & Frognal and Belsize Park); WHEN: 10:30am to 5pm, Wednesday to Sunday; COST: £14 adults/£12 concessions/£9 young persons (aged 12 to 16, under 12s free); WEBSITE: www.freud.org.uk.

10 historic London homes that are now museums…4. Leighton House Museum…

PICTURE: Jeff Hitchcock (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

This extraordinary west London property is an artistic treasure trove thanks to its once being the residence and studio of Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton.

The red brick home at 12 Holland Park Road was purpose-built by Leighton. He acquired the land in 1864 and commissioned his architect friend George Aitchison, who had never before designed a home, to draw up plans (along with his own input).

Work started on the property in 1865 and Leighton, who spent some of the year in Spain and Rome, was able to move in late in in the year. The property, which was rather plain on the outside, featured a large studio – with large window overlooking the garden – and his bedroom on the second floor.

Leighton was to subsequently undertake a series of extensions – the first, to enlarge the size of the studio, after just three years.

The Arab Hall. PICTURE: Kotomi_ (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

In 1877 he began construction of the domed Arab Hall which was inspired by his trips to Turkey and Syria and the interior of a 12th-century palace in Palermo, Sicily. Craftsmen were sourced from across London and the new room featured a gold mosaic frieze made in Venice and shipped in sections and wall tiles which mostly come from Damascus and which mostly date from the late 16th and early 17th century. It wasn’t fully completed until 1881.

A large “winter studio” featuring a glass roof for light was added in 1889-90 and the final addition was the Silk Room which, built on the first floor, was designed as a picture gallery for the works of Leighton’s contemporaries including the likes of John Everett Millais, George Frederic Watts and John Singer Sargent. It was completed just months before Leighton’s death in 1896.

After Leighton’s death, his collection of art was auctioned off. But his house was retained and in 1900 it opened as a museum run by a committee lead by Leighton’s neighbour and biographer Emilie Barrington to display art by Leighton and others.

In 1927, ownership of the house was transferred to current managers, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Further additions to the house followed including a new wing for exhibition space.

Many of the home’s fittings and fixtures were lost during the 20th century but in the 1980s curator Stephen Jones began restoring the interiors, a process which continued in 2008-10 in what was known as the Closer to Home project. A further project of restoration was commenced in 2019 to refurbish the home’s 20th century additions and create new visitor facilities including a cafe.

The home’s garden, meanwhile, remains largely unchanged from Leighton’s design.

The rear of the property with the second floor studio window (before the latest refurbishment). PICTURE: David Adams

As well as the artistry contained in the house itself, the museum hosts a significant collection of art including paintings by Leighton himself as well as Pre-Raphaelites including Edward Burne-Jones, Millais and Watts. There’s also several of Leighton’s sculptures.

The Grade II*-listed house, which features an English Heritage Blue Plaque on the facade, has been seen in numerous films, TV shows and music videos including the Poirot TV series and the 2020 film, Rebecca.

WHERE: Leighton House Museum, 12 Holland Park Road (nearest Tube stations are Kensington (Olympia) and High Street Kensington; WHEN: 10am to 5:30pm Wednesday to Monday COST: £11 adults/£9 concession/£5 children (six to 18 years; five and under free); WEBSITE: www.rbkc.gov.uk/museums/leighton-house.

10 historic London homes that are now museums…3. Keats House…

Briefly the home of Romantic poet John Keats, this Hampstead premises is a now a museum dedicated to the writer and exhibition space.

Constructed in around 1815 as a pair of semi-detached dwellings, the now Grade I-listed house was one of the first to be built in the area. The two residences were initially occupied by critic Charles Wentworth Dilke and his family, and by the writer Charles Armitage Brown.

PICTURE: It’s No Game (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Keats, a friend of Dilke and Brown, began visiting the Regency-era villa, then named Wentworth Place, soon after. He was then living with his two younger brothers nearby in Well Walk but after George married and emigrated to America and Tom died of tuberculosis and, Brown invited Keats to move in as a lodger.

He did so in December, 1818, and it was while living at the property that he composed La Belle Dame sans Mercians, completed The Eve of St Agnes and write his famous odes, including Ode to a Nightingale.

The Dilkes family moved out in April, 1819, and Mrs Brawne and her daughter moved in. Keats developed an intimate relationship with the daughter, Fanny, and the couple were secretly engaged but owing to his premature death, never married.

In September, 1820, with his health failing, Keats left the property and headed to Rome (the trip was funded by friends who hoped the warm climate would help improve his health). He died in the eternal city on 23rd February, 1821, and was buried in the city’s Protestant cemetery.

Brown, meanwhile, left the property in June, 1822 (he also left for Italy) and Keats’ sister Fanny – who had become friends with Fanny Brawne – moved into Brown’s half of the house with her husband Valentin Llanos between 1828 and 1831. The Brawnes left in early 1830.

Subsequent occupants included actor Eliza Chester who converted the two residences into one.

The property was threatened with demolition in the early 20th century but saved by public subscription. It opened to the Keats Memorial House on 9th May, 1925. In 1931, a new building was erected nearby house artefacts related to Keats.

Since 1998 the property has been under the management of the City of London Corporation. It underwent a restoration project in the mid-1970s and again between 2007 and 2009. The Keats Foundation was established in November, 2010, and is involved in educational initiatives, both at Keats House and elsewhere.

Visitors to the house today are taken on a journey through Keats’ short life and legacy. Among the artefacts which can be seen there are items related to his time as a medical student, portraits of some of the famous people Keats met while living at the property including the poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Percy Bysshe Shelley as well as Shelley’s wife Mary (author of Frankenstein), a bust of Keats which stands at his actual height – just over five feet tall, and a mask of Keats’ face made by his artist friend Benjamin Haydon. 

There’s also portraits of both Keats and Fanny, Fanny’s engagement ring, and a volume of Shakespeare’s plays Keats gave her before leaving for Rome as well as busts of Charles Brown and editor Leigh Hunt (it was through Hunt that Keats met Dilke and Brown).

The garden features a 200-year-old mulberry tree and a plum tree which was planted to commemorate Ode to A Nightingale.

A Blue Plaque (although it’s actually brown) was unveiled at the house at 10 Keats Grove by representatives of the Royal Society of Arts on the property as far back as 1896 to commemorate Keats.

WHERE: Keats House, 10 Keats Grove, Hampstead (nearest Overground station is Hampstead Heath; nearest Tube stations are Hampstead and Belsize Park); WHEN: 11am to 1pm and 2pm to 4pm, Thursday, Friday and Sunday; COST: £8 adults/£4.75 concession; 18 and under free; WEBSITE: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/attractions-museums-entertainment/keats-house/visit-keats-house.

10 historic London homes that are now museums…2. Carlyle’s House…

Carlyle’s House frontage. PICTURE: Kotomi_ (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

This Chelsea terraced house, now owned by the National Trust, was once the home of the Victorian literary couple, essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle and his wife (and skilled letter writer) Jane.

The Carlyles moved into the red brick property at 24 Cheyne Row (formerly number 5) in 1834, having left rural Scotland to see what they could make of themselves in London.

As their stars rose – by mid 19th century Thomas, the “sage of Chelsea”, had become an influential social commentator, the home became something of a hub for Victorian literati with the likes of Charles Dickens, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, George Eliot and William Thackeray all visiting them here.

When Thomas died at the property on 5th February, 1881 (Jane had died in 1866), the home reverted to the landlord but a group of admirers decided it needed to be preserved as a memorial to their friend. They raised funds through a public subscription and in 1895 opened it as a shrine to the writer.

The National Trust took over the running of the house, which was built in around 1708, in 1936 with the enthusiastic support of founder Octavia Hill who herself was a Carlyle fan.

The property, which still retains many of its original fixtures and fittings, features a recreation of the couple’s parlour based on Robert Tait’s painting A Chelsea Interior which depicts the Carlyles in the room in 1857.

The property also boasts the attic study that Thomas had constructed in August, 1853, and where he wrote The French Revolution, Latter Day Pamphlets and Fredrick the Great. His attempts at sound-proofing it had failed.

Meanwhile, Jane’s dressing room features a pair of original chintz curtains which she made in the late 1840s.

Inside the parlour at Carlyle’s House. PICTURE: Kotomi_ (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

Among the items on show in the property is a necklace given to Jane by German writer and stateman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe which features a pendant containing a portrait of him. There’s also a a decoupage screen made by Jane using prints in 1849 and wallpapers by William Morris.

The property, which also features a small walled garden and a bust of Thomas Carlyle on the facade, is currently undergoing restoration work and will reopen in March.

WHERE: Carlyle’s House, 24 Cheyne Row, Chelsea (nearest Tube stations are Sloane Square and South Kensington); WHEN: Check website when it reopens; COST: £9 adults/£4.50 children; WEBSITE: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/carlyles-house.

10 historic London homes that are now museums…1. Benjamin Franklin House…

London is replete with historic homes but only a few have become museums. In this series we want to look beyond the more famous ones – think of the Dickens Museum in Bloomsbury or of the John Soane Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, to name two – to some of the lesser known homes that have became museums.

PICTURES: Courtesy of Google Maps

First up, it’s Benjamin Franklin House at 36 Craven Street. While the history of this Georgian terraced house goes back to 1730, Franklin himself is known to have lived in what was a lodging house for some 16 years from 1757 to 1775 (his wife Deborah had apparently refused to come and remained in Philadelphia).

Franklin, who had first lived in London in the mid-1720s while working as a trainee printer and stayed in various lodgings including in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, initially served as an agent for the Pennsylvania Assembly in London but, after a brief time back in Philadelphia, returned to London in 1764, this time as ambassador for the colonies in America. He left the property in 1775 to return to Philadelphia where, shortly after, on 4th July, 1776, he was among the signatories to the Declaration of Independence.

The four storey townhouse, which is the only surviving property lived in by Franklin left in the world, remained a lodging house up until World War II. It later served as the headquarters for the British Society for International Understanding.

The Friends of Benjamin Franklin House was founded by Mary, Countess of Bessborough in 1978 and in 1989 the government gave the friends the freehold to the land. The friends then undertook a major renovation and restoration project.

During the works some 1200 bones fragments – believed to be the remains of 15 people, at least six of them children – were found buried in the cellar. They were dated to about the time Franklin had been living there.

But, fear not, the bodies were not of Franklin’s doing. It is believed that William Hewson, an early anatomist and friend of Franklin (as well as being married to Polly, the daughter of the property’s landlady Margaret Stevenson), was responsible for the remains.

Hewson, who was among tenants at the property between 1770 and 1774, ran a small anatomy school here where he conducted secret dissections to avoid any legal complications. The bodies were thought to have been buried in the back garden which, when the property was expanded, later became part of the basement.

The Grade I-listed property – which contains many original features including the floorboards, ceilings and staircases – finally opened as a museum for the public in January, 2006.

These days, the history of the property – including its architecture and Franklin’s residency – can be explored through an ‘historical experience’ and ‘architectural tour’. There’s also a virtual tour available online recreating what the property may have looked like in Franklin’s time.

Among the artefacts on show in the house are Franklin’s leather wallet (inscribed with the Craven Street address and his name), a bust of Franklin dating from about 1800, and what is believed to be the property’s original door-knocker.

The house also features an English Heritage Blue Plaque – although the plaque, which was erected in 1914, is grey, not blue and rectangular, not circular.

WHERE: Benjamin Franklin House, 36 Craven Street, Westminster (nearest Tube stations are Embankment and Charing Cross); WHEN: Various times for tours – check the website for details; COST: Historical Experience – £9.50 adults/£8 concessions/free for under 12s; Architectural Tour – £7.50 adults/£6 concessions/free for under 12s; WEBSITE: https://benjaminfranklinhouse.org.

10 most popular posts for 2022 – Numbers 2 and 1…

And the final two in our annual countdown (drum roll please)…

2. 10 historic stairways in London – 6. The Geometric Staircase, St Paul’s Cathedral…

1. 10 historic stairways in London – 7. Wapping Old Stairs…

10 most popular posts for 2022 – Numbers 4 and 3…

4. 10 historic stairways in London – 4. The Nelson Stair…

3. Treasures of London – Wren’s Great Model of St Paul’s Cathedral…

10 most popular posts for 2022 – Numbers 6 and 5…

6. 10 historic stairways in London – 3. The Monument stairs…

5. 10 historic stairways in London – 8. The King’s Staircase, Kensington Palace… 

10 most popular posts for 2022 – Numbers 8 and 7…

8. 10 historic stairways in London – 2. Queen Mary’s Steps, Whitehall…

7. 10 historic stairways in London – 3. The Monument stairs…

10 most popular posts for 2022 – Numbers 10 and 9…

It’s that time of year again – our annual countdown of our 10 most read posts for the year!

First up are numbers nine and ten… 

10. Where’s London’s oldest…pharmacy?

9. LondonLife – Greenwich Park restoration…

8 locations for royal burials in London…A recap…

Before kicking off a new series, here’s a recap of our last…

1. (Old) St Paul’s Cathedral…

2. St Clement Danes…

3. St Edward’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey…

4. Christ Church Greyfriars…

5. Henry VII’s Lady Chapel, Westminster Abbey…

6. St Peter ad Vincula…

7. Westminster Abbey (near the High Altar)…

8. Kensal Green Cemetery…

8 locations for royal burials in London…8. Kensal Green Cemetery…

Princess Sophia’s grave at Kensal Green Cemetery. PICTURE: Stephencdickson (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

The oldest of London’s so-called ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries established in the 19th century, Kensal Green is the burial place of a few members of the royal family dating from the Georgian and Victorian eras.

The ninth child and sixth son of King George III, Prince Augustus Frederick, the Duke of Sussex, died at Kensington Palace at the age of 70. In his will, he specifically requested he not have a state funeral and so was buried at Kensal Green on 4th May, 1843. His rather plain grey monument which is surrounded by concrete bollards, is located in front of the cemetery’s main chapel.

Opposite his grave is the tomb of his sister Princess Sophia, the 12th child of King George III. She, too, died at Kensington Palace – on 27th May, 1848 – and wished to be buried near her brother instead of at Windsor.

King George III’s grandson, Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, was also buried at Kensal Green. A military man (and ally of Queen Victoria), he served as commander-in-chief for 39 years before being forced to resign in 1895. He died in 1904 at Gloucester House, Piccadilly, in 1904 and was buried at Kensal Green with his wife the following day.

WHERE: Kensal Green Cemetery, Harrow Road, Queen’s Park (nearest Tube station is Kensal Green); WHEN: Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm, Sundays 10am to 5pm; COST: Free: WEBSITE: www.kensalgreencemetery.com.

8 locations for royal burials in London…7. Westminster Abbey (near the High Altar)…

We return to Westminster Abbey for the location of yet another royal tomb – this time that of another of King Henry VIII’s wife, Anne of Cleves.

The back of the tomb with inscription. PICTURE: VCR Giulio19 (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0/image lightened)

Anne, who lived in England for some 17 years after her marriage to King Henry VIII was annulled after just six months in July, 1540, died at Chelsea on 17th July, 1557, during the reign of Queen Mary I (she was the last of King Henry VIII’s wives to die).

Queen Mary ordered her funeral to be held at Westminster Abbey and she was laid to rest on the south side of the high altar. The unfinished stone monument, believed to have been the work of Theodore Haveus of Cleves, features carvings which depict her initials AC with a crown. There are also depictions of lions’ heads and skulls and crossed bones (believed to represent the idea of mortality).

An inscription on the back of the tomb was added in the 1970s. It can be viewed from the south transept and reads: “Anne of Cleves Queen of England. Born 1515. Died 1557” but this was not added until the 1970s.

HERE: Lady Chapel, Westminster Abbey (nearest Tube stations are Westminster and St James’s Park); WHEN: Times vary – see the website for details; COST: £27 adults/£24 concession/£12 children (discounts for buying online; family rates available); WEBSITE: www.westminster-abbey.org

8 locations for royal burials in London…6. St Peter ad Vincula…

The Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula. PICTURE: David Adams

Officially the The Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula, this small church is located in the Inner Ward of the Tower of London.

Under the direct jurisdiction of the monarch as a “royal peculiar”, the current building – and the name means “Peter in Chains”, a reference to St Peter’s imprisonment at the hands of King Herod – dates from 1520 and was constructed on the orders of King Henry VIII.

As well as being the burial place of officers who served at the Tower, the chapel – which is located only a few steps away from the execution site on Tower Green – is also the final resting place of many who were executed within the Tower’s precincts including the likes of Thomas Cromwell and Bishop John Fisher.

Those buried here include two of King Henry VIII’s wives who both suffered the ignominy of being beheaded. Queen Anne Boleyn and Queen Catherine Howard – respectively the second and fifth wives of the king – were both interred here after their executions.

Memorial stone for Queen Anne Boleyn in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. PICTURE: AloeVera95 (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

Anne Boleyn, who was executed on 17th May, 1536, was buried under the floor in front of the high altar (along with her brother George who was executed two days before the Queen). Catherine Howard was executed several years later on 13th February, 1542, and was also buried beneath the floor.

The other royal figure buried in the Chapel was Lady Jane Grey, the “Nine Day Queen” who was executed on Tower Green on 12th February, 1554, at just the age of 17 on the orders of Queen Mary I. She was buried beneath the chapel’s altar (along with her husband, Lord Guilford Dudley, who was also executed on Tower Green).

The chapel fell into some neglect by the mid-19th century and in 1876 works were carried out under the direction of architect Anthony Salvin to restore the building. This included replacing the floor which had collapsed owing, it’s said, to the large number of burials that had taken place under it since the 16th century.

Many of the bodies were exhumed and identified, including that of Queen Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey, and moved into a newly created crypt underneath.

The marble floor which was installed over the top features memorials commemorating those interred underneath. These include individual memorial stones for Henry VIII’s two Queens and a stone commemorating several of other prominent figures buried beneath including Lady Jane Grey.

WHERE: St Peter ad Vincula, Inner Ward, Tower of London (nearest Tube station Tower Hill); WHEN: 10am to 4.30pm (last admission 3.30pm), Tuesday to Saturday, 9am to 4.30pm (last admission 3.30pm) Sunday to Monday; COST: £29.90 adults; £14.90 children 5 to 15; £24 concessions (family tickets available; discounts for online purchases/memberships); WEBSITE: www.hrp.org.uk/toweroflondon/.

8 locations for royal burials in London…5. Henry VII’s Lady Chapel, Westminster Abbey…

Located just to the east of St Edward the Confessor’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey is the lavishly ornate Lady Chapel built on the orders of King Henry VII.

Described as the “last masterpiece of English medieval architecture”, the chapel is the resting place of King Henry VII and his wife Queen Elizabeth of York.

Effigies of King Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth of York. PICTURE: Ann Longmore-Etheridge/Public domain

The couple were the first to be buried in a vault under the floor rather than a tomb but still features an elaborate monument above the floor.

The monument was designed in the Renaissance style by Italian sculptor Pietro Torrigiano and features gilt bronze effigies of the King and Queen lying side-by-side above a black marble base decorated with six medallions representing the Virgin Mary and Henry’s patron saints (who included St Edward the Confessor). At either end of the base are coats of arms supported by cherubs.

A fine grille, designed by Thomas Ducheman, surrounds the monument – once gilded, it featured 30 statues in niches but only six – depicting saints – now remain. The lengthy Latin inscription written on the grille lauds King Henry as “a wise and watchful monarch, a courteous lover of virtue” among other superlatives. There are further inscriptions on the monument.

They’re not the only kings and queen’s buried in the chapel. King James I is buried in the vault under the King Henry VII’s tomb and his wife Queen Anne of Denmark is buried nearby.

Tomb of Elizabeth I. PICTURE: Wikimedia Commons (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

Queen Elizabeth I is buried in the chapel’s north aisle with a monument above depicting her effigy. Her coffin was placed on top of her half-sister Queen Mary I whose body had been placed there after her death in 1558. The monument was installed on the orders of King James I who, while commissioning a depiction of Queen Elizabeth, didn’t order an effigy of Mary to be made. Instead, she is commemorated with an inscription translated as “Partners both in throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of the Resurrection.”

The religious differences of the two Queens – Elizabeth being a Protestant and Mary a Catholic – are meanwhile commemorated in an inscription on the floor which reads: “Remember before God all those who divided at the Reformation by different convictions laid down their lives for Christ and conscience sake.”

Buried in a vault beneath the south aisle of the chapel – with just simple inscriptions on stones above (no monuments were erected due to the lack of space apparently – are the remains of the Stuart monarchs King Charles II, Queen Anne (and her husband Prince George), Queen Mary II and King William III.

The rather flamboyant tomb of Mary, Queen of Scots, is also in this aisle. King James I had her remains brought to the abbey from Peterborough Cathedral in 1612 and laid to rest in a marble tomb featuring an elaborate canopy and a white marble effigy at the feet of which stands a crowned Scottish lion. The eldest son of King James I, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, was also buried in the Queen’s vault (she was his grandmother), probably due to lack of space.

The young king Edward VI is buried beneath the floor in front of the altar and the last monarch to be buried in the abbey – King George II – lies in a vault under the central aisle along with his wife Queen Caroline and some of their children as well as other family members. On the King’s orders, the sides of the coffins of King George II and that of Queen Caroline were removed so their remains could mingle.

Several other royals – including Princess Mary of Orange, eldest daughter of Charles I and Henrietta Maria, and Prince Rupert of the Rhine – are also buried in the chapel.

HERE: Lady Chapel, Westminster Abbey (nearest Tube stations are Westminster and St James’s Park); WHEN: Times vary – see the website for details; COST: £27 adults/£24 concession/£12 children (discounts for buying online; family rates available); WEBSITE: www.westminster-abbey.org

8 locations for royal burials in London…4. Christ Church Greyfriars…

We’ll return to Westminster Abbey shortly but first we’re heading into the City of London.

Christ Church Greyfriars, also known as Christ Church Newgate Street, was the burial site of several queens in the medieval era.

Christ Church Greyfriars. PICTURE: Karmakolle (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0).

These include the second wife of King Edward I, Queen Marguerite, who partly financed construction of the church which commenced in the 1290s and finished well after her death in the 1360s.

Marguerite, who was the first uncrowned queen since the Norman Conquest (apparently due to the expense), was only 26 when she was widowed in 1307 (having married the king in 1299 when he was at least 40 years her senior).

She died on 14th February, 1318, while at her castle at Marlborough but her remains were brought to London where she was buried in Greyfriars wearing a Francisan habit. Her tomb, sadly, was destroyed during the Reformation.

Also buried in Greyfriars was Queen Isabella, the widow (and adversary) of the ill-fated King Edward II. Isabella, who was also known as the ‘She-wolf of France’, is said to have been buried in the clothes she wore at her wedding to the King 50 years earlier. Despite rumours to the contrary, her lover, Roger Mortimer, was not buried with her (although Isabella’s daughter – Joan of the Tower, who was the wife of King David II of Scotland – was).

While their predecessor as Queen, Eleanor of Provence, wife of King Henry III, was buried at Amesbury Priory in Wiltshire where she had died (the grave is unmarked), her heart was brought to London and buried in Greyfriars.

Others buried in the church include King Henry III and Eleanor’s daughter, Beatrice of England, and King Edward III’s daughter Isabella, Countess of Bedford.

There’s not much left of Greyfriars these days – the medieval church, one of the largest then in London, burned in the Great Fire of London of 1666 and following a rebuild under Sir Christopher Wren’s supervision, it was again all but destroyed during the Blitz in World War II.

It was decided not to rebuild and what remained of the church – some of the outer walls and tower – were designated a Grade I-listed building in 1950. Plantings inside are laid out to resemble the pews of the church in plan.

WHERE: Christ Church Greyfriars, King Edward Street (nearest Tube station is St Paul’s); WHEN: Anytime; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/city-gardens/find-a-garden/christchurch-greyfriars-church-garden

8 locations for royal burials in London…3. St Edward’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey…

This chapel at the heart of Westminster Abbey is so named for the first king that was buried there – St Edward “the Confessor” – in early 1066.

The abbey, which had been constructed on the site of a Saxon Church at the behest of King Edward in fulfilment of a vow, was newly built when the King died. It had been consecrated on 28th December, 1065, but the king had been too ill to attend the service.

He died just a few days later some time on the night of 4th to 5th January. His burial took place on 6th January (the burial procession is actually depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry) with his body laid to rest beneath the floor of the new church (archaeologists using ground-penetrating radar believe they located the exact location of his original tomb in 2005).

He wasn’t to rest there for long. King Edward’s saintly reputation grew over the ensuing years and miracles began to be reported at the tomb – it’s also said said that when the tomb was opened in 1102, a “wonderful fragrance” is said to have filled the church suggesting that it he wasn’t embalmed the body was packed with aromatic herbs.

In 1163, two years after Edward had been made saint by Pope Alexander III, the king’s body was transferred from the tomb to a specially made shrine.

In the 13th century, King Henry III rebuilt St Edward’s church in the new Gothic-style of architecture, spending extravagant sums on the new building. His rebuilding programme culminated in 1269 when the bones of St Edward was translated into a new shrine featuring mosaics on a stone base created by Italian workmen in which the king’s coffin was placed with a wooden canopy over the top (such was his veneration of St Edward that King Henry III, his brother Richard, Duke of Cornwall, and the king’s two sons bore the coffin to the new shrine).

Shrine of St Edward the Confessor. PICTURE: VCR Giulio19 (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

The shrine became a place of pilgrimage during King Henry III’s reign but his cult declined in the later years (and St Edward, who had for a time been considered patron saint of England was eventually replaced by St George).

The shrine was despoiled during King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of 1540 – the jewels were removed and presented to the King – and Edward’s body removed to another location in the abbey. But Queen Mary I had the Purbeck marble base reassembled (with new jewels added) and Edward’s body returned. The tiered wooden canopy which stands above the stone stone dates from the 16th century (and was heavily restored in the 1950s).

St Edward isn’t the only king buried in the chapel space. Others buried there – around the outer edges of the chapel – included King Henry III, King Edward I and his wife Eleanor of Castile, King Edward III and his wife Philippa of Hainault, King Richard II and his wife Queen Anne of Bohemia, King Henry V and Catherine of Valois (King Henry V had a chantry chapel built above his tomb at the eastern end of St Edward’s Chapel). Matilda, the wife of King Henry I, is also buried there.

WHERE: North Aisle, Westminster Abbey (nearest Tube stations are Westminster and St James’s Park); WHEN: Times vary – see the website for details; COST: £27 adults/£24 concession/£12 children (discounts for buying online; family rates available); WEBSITE: www.westminster-abbey.org

8 locations for royal burials in London…2. St Clement Danes…

This “island church”, located in the middle of the Strand just outside the Royal Courts of Justice, is believed to have been the eventual burial site of King Harold I “Harefoot” who died in 1040.

St Clement Danes today. PICTURE: eltpics (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

The son of King Cnut, Harold’s rule was brief. Following the death of his father, he initially ruled as regent on behalf of his father’s heir and younger half-brother Harthacnut (Harthacnut was in Denmark and threats to the kingdom meant he couldn’t leave).

While Harold had apparently sought to be crowned king from the start of his rule (without success thanks to the opposition of Aethelnoth, the Archbishop of Canterbury), it was only in 1037 that, with the support of Leofric, the Earl of Mercia, and other nobles, he was crowned king.

But Harold (who was known by the name Harefoot apparently due to his speed and skill at hunting) died in 1040 and his brother subsequently returned from Denmark to claim the throne peacefully.

The story goes that King Harold had originally been buried in Westminster but that Harthacnut (clearly not a fan) had his body exhumed and flung into marshlands by the River Thames. The body was said to have been found by a fisherman who then had him buried at the church.

It had been established in the ninth century to serve the Danish community which was established after King Alfred the Great had granted them land.

Of course, the current church was not one King Harold would have recognised, having last been completely rebuilt in the 1680s to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren (and then having had its interior completely restored after it was gutted when bombed during World War II).

St Clement Danes, also known as one of the contenders for the church mentioned in the song Oranges and Lemons, is now the central church of the Royal Air Force. It’s one of two “island churches” in the Strand, the other being St Mary le Strand.

WHERE: St Clement Danes, Strand (nearest Tube stations are Temple, Covent Garden and Holborn); WHEN: 10am to 3:30pm weekdays; 10am to 3pm weekends; COST: Free (donations appreciated); WEBSITE: https://stclementdanesraf.org

8 locations for royal burials in London…1. (Old) St Paul’s Cathedral…

Following the laying to rest of Queen Elizabeth II in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, we’re taking a look at where some royal burials have taken place within London.

St Paul’s Cathedral. PICTURE: Catalin Bot/Unsplash

We start our new series with Old St Paul’s Cathedral which believed to have been the burial site of two Anglo-Saxon kings before it was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.

Aethelred (Ethelred) the Unready, who ruled from 978 until 1013 (and then again from 1014 until his death on 23rd April, 1016) was known to have been buried in the quire of the old cathedral (it’s marked on Wenceslaus Hollar’s 1658 plan of the cathedral as being on the northern side of the quire, just past the north transept) but his tomb was lost in the fire.

His memorial is among those which were lost in the Great Fire mentioned on a modern plaque in the crypt of the St Paul’s of today.

PICTURE: Stephencdickson (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0‘/cropped and straightened)

While his was the last royal burial to take place in St Paul’s, Aethelred wasn’t the only Anglo-Saxon king who was interred there.

Sæbbi, a king of the East Saxons who ruled from 664 to 694 (and is also known as Sebba or Sebbi), is also listed as being buried there (Aethelred was apparently buried close to him) and his grave also lost in the great fire.

There’s a story that when Sæbbi was about to be buried in a stone coffin, it was found it was too short for his body to lie at full length. Various solutions were proposed – including burying him with bent legs, but when they put the body back in the stone coffin this time, miraculously, it did fit.

Following an earlier fire in St Paul’s – in 1087 – Sæbbi body was transferred to a black marble sarcophagus in the mid-1100s and it’s that which was lost in the Great Fire.

10 unusual parks or gardens in London – A recap…

Before we commence our next special series, here’s a recap of the series we’ve just run…

1. Kyoto Garden…

2. Brown Hart Gardens…

3. Crossbones Graveyard and Garden of Remembrance…

4. Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden…

5. Tibetan Peace Garden, Imperial War Museum…

6. The Hill Garden and Pergola, Hampstead…

7. Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Garden…

8. Barbican Conservatory…

9. Sky Garden…

10. The Cloister Garden, Museum of the Order of St John…