Thinking of all those affected by the London Bridge/Borough Market attack. PICTURE: http://www.freeimages.com

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Taken at the Long Water, Kensington Gardens. PICTURE: Ungry Young Man/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Serpentine-2015This year’s Serpentine Pavilion, marking the 15th anniversary of the annual summer commission by the Serpentine Galleries in Kensington Gardens, is a polygonal multi-coloured structure designed by Spanish architects selgascano. Made from a fluorine-based polymer, the pavilion has multiple entry and exit points and takes as its inspiration the site itself as well as the way in which people move through London, notably via the web-like network of the London Underground. Say selgascano: “We sought a way to allow the public to experience architecture through simple elements: structure, light, transparency, shadows, lightness, form, sensitivity, change, surprise, colour and materials. We have therefore designed a pavilion which incorporates all of these elements.” The architects say the pavilion was also designed as a tribute to the previous pavilion commissions, designed by the likes of Frank Gehry, Oscar Niemeyer and Zaha Hadid. For more, see www.serpentinegalleries.orgPICTURE: © Iwan Baan

Lambeth-palaceThe London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Palace was first acquired by the archbishopric in around the year 1200 with Archbishop Stephen Langdon – an important figure in the whole Magna Carta saga – believed to be the first to have lived there.

Lambeth-Palace2The complex built in the early 13th century included a chapel, a great hall, a ‘great chamber’ where the archbishop would receive guests, and private apartments for Archbishop Langdon, who was appointed to the archbishopric in 1207 and remained in the post until his death in 1228 (his appointment was a major point of contention between King John and Pope Innocent III and a key factor in the dispute which led to the creation of the Magna Carta).

Not much remains of the original palace but the sections that do include the originally free-standing Langdon’s Chapel (although now much altered and connected to the rest of the complex) and the crypt beneath it (described as one of the best preserved medieval stone vaults in London it is now a chapel but was originally used for the storage of wine and beer).

They are both believed to have been completed in about 1220 with the other buildings now present added later over the centuries.

These include the formidable red brick gatehouse that fronts the complex today – known as Morton’s Tower, it is named after Archbishop Cardinal John Morton and dates from 1490 – while the Guard Room, which has its origins in the archbishop’s ‘great chamber’, dates from the 14th century and the infamous Lollard’s Tower – used as a prison in the 17th century – from the 15th century.

The Great Hall – now used as a library, first established in 1610 – was rebuilt in the mid 17th century although it is believed to stand on the site of that first used by Langdon (we’ll deal more with the later history of Lambeth Palace in a later post).

WHERE: Lambeth Palace, corner of Lambeth Palace Road and Lambeth Road (nearest tube stations are Westminster, Waterloo, Vauxhall, and Lambeth North); WHEN: Guided tours (90 minutes) only – check website for details; COST: £12 a person plus £2.95 booking fee (under 17s are free); WEBSITE: www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/pages/about-lambeth-palace.html.

Christmas-2014

Wishing all of Exploring London’s readers, a very Merry Christmas!

 

 

Known as the “Father of Fleet Street”, Wynkyn de Worde was key figure in the early use of the printing press in England.

Wynkyn_de_WordeBorn on the continent (candidates include Wœrth in Alsace in north-east France and Wœrden in The Netherlands), Wynkyn – whose name comes in various spellings, although it is said to have originally been Jan van Wynkyn – is believed to have become apprenticed to a printer in Cologne before meeting with famed pioneering English printer William Caxton in the early 1470s.

He apparently accompanied Caxton from Cologne to Bruges and then back to London in the late 1470s or early 1480s where he started working with Caxton at his premises in Westminster. During this period he is said to have lived with his English wife Elizabeth in a premises located with the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey (they are known to have attended St Margaret’s Church and even rented a pew there until Elizabeth’s death in 1498, after which Wynkyn is believed to have remarried.)

After Caxton’s death in 1492, Wynkyn took over his printing business and, around 1500, he relocated his office from Caxton’s Westminster premises to the “sign of the Sun” in Fleet Street near Shoe Lane – in fact, he is credited as being the first printer to locate in the street which becomes famously associated with publishing. There’s a plaque (pictured below), on the wall of the hall of the Worshipful Company of Stationers, located off Ave Maria Lane near St Paul’s Cathedral, commemorating the move (although Shoe Lane is located some distance away). Wynkyn later also ran a shop in St Paul’s Churchyard.

Wynkyn-de-Worde2While Wynkyn, like Caxton before him, relied on the patronage of the rich and famous (Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII among them), he also printed relatively inexpensive books in a bid to capture a wider market. In all he published more than 400 different books in at least 750 editions ranging from religious texts and poetry to fictional romantic works, educational textbooks and books aimed at children. He is noted for his use of woodcuts illustrations while his other claims to fame include being the first English printer to use italic type and the first to print music from moveable type.

De Worde died around 1534 but his legacy lives on through the mass media publishing of today (albeit not longer from Fleet Street). There is a Wynkyn de Worde Society based in Suffolk which is aimed at furthering the printing industry.

PICTURE: Wikipedia

Happy New Year!

January 20, 2014

We’re back after an extended break with posts to resume as normal this week. This year we’ll continue with many of our usual features but will also be looking to introduce some new ones including A Moment in History in which we’ll look at some snapshots in London’s past.

To kick us off – and to launch our celebration of the 300th anniversary of the first Hanoverian king, King George I – we’re running a snap poll in which we’re asking which of the Hanoverian rulers of Great Britain you think was the best ruler?

 

Oriental The UK’s first major exhibition on the work of the innovative but violent 17th century artist Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione opens tomorrow at the Queen’s Gallery next to Buckingham Palace. The exhibition, which features 90 drawings and prints from the Royal Collection, is aimed at re-establishing Castiglione as one of the greatest artists of the Baroque period, thanks to his being credited with creating huge drawings in oil directly on paper, producing about 60 etchings and inventing the technique of monotype. Works include his monotype prints Head of an oriental (late 1640s) and The Nativity with angels (about 1655), a translation of Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love and drawings like Circe with the companions of Odysseus transformed into animals. Castiglione’s “nomadic” career was marred by his violent temperament – he was repeatedly before the courts for assaulting people, apparently tried to throw his sister off a roof and was forced to leave Rome because, it is believed, he had committed murder. Castiglione: Lost Genius runs with Gifted: From the Royal Academy to The Queen, an exhibition of prints and drawings given to the Queen by Royal Academicians to mark her Diamond Jubilee, until 16th March. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk. PICTURE: Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, The head of an oriental, late 1640s. Royal Collection Trust/©Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013.

The restored Met Locomotive 1 and the Victorian Jubilee Carriage 353 will be on show this weekend as part of the London Transport Museum’s Open Weekend at its Acton Depot. Visitors will be able to explore the depot’s vast collection of more than 400,000 objects along with a range of other activities including miniature tram and railway rides, heritage bus rides, talks and film screenings, and costumed interpreters as well as the chance to watch artist Ross Ashmore paint the locomotive and Jubilee Carriage. The weekend kicks off tomorrow. For more information and bookings, see www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/museum-depot/events.

On Now: Australia. This landmark exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts at Burlington House in Piccadilly features more than 200 works including paintings, drawings, photography, watercolours and multimedia pieces by 146 Australian artists. Spanning the period from 1800 until today, the display includes works by Aboriginal artists such as Albert Namatjira, nineteenth century immigrants such as John Glover and Eugene von Guerard, impressionists like Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts, early modernists like Margaret Preston and Roy de Maistre, 20th century painters including Arthur Boyd, Albert Tucker and Brett Whiteley and contemporary artists including Gordon Bennett, Fiona Hall and Shaun Gladwell. Highlights include Frederick McCubbin’s The Pioneer (1904), four paintings from Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series (1946), Rover Thomas’ Cyclone Tracy (1991) and Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s Big Yam Dreaming (1995). Organised with the National Gallery of Australia, the exhibition runs until 8th December. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

Where is it? #70…

October 19, 2013

Where-is-it--#70

Can you identify where in London this picture was taken and what it’s of? If you think you can, leave a comment below. We’ll reveal the answer early next week. Good luck!

OK, so for those who were wondering, this statue, an 1836 marble by John Gibson, depicts William Huskisson, a Tory politician and financier who was present at the fall of the Bastille in Paris on 14th July, 1789, but became best known for being the world’s first railway casualty after he was run over by George Stephenson’s locomotive engine, Rocket, when he failed to see the oncoming train while trying to speak to the Duke of Wellington. The statue is located in the Thames-side park, Pimlico Gardens.

Cheapside-Hoard-1The ‘secrets’ of the Cheapside Hoard – the world’s finest and largest collection of 16th and 17th century jewels – are revealed in a new exhibition opening tomorrow at the Museum of London. The
Cheapside-Hoard-2Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels
 publicly displays the hoard of Elizabethan and early Stuart jewellery and gemstones in its entirety for the first time since its discovery more than 100 years ago. The hoard, consisting of as many as 500 pieces including rings, necklaces, cameos, scent bottles and a unique Colombian emerald watch, was discovered buried in a cellar on Cheapside in the City of London in 1912. The exhibition uses new research and state-of-the-art technology to showcase the hoard as it explores the questions of who owned the hoard, when and why was it hidden, and why was it never reclaimed. New information revealed by the research shows that the hoard was buried between 1640 and 1666 (the critical clue was a previously overlooked intaglio – a gemstone engraved with the heraldic badge of William Howard, Viscount Stafford, who lived between 1612-1680). It also reveals Thomas Sympson was the “dodgy” jeweller responsible for two counterfeit rubies contained within the hoard (he apparently had a trade in selling counterfeit gems for as much as £8,000 each). Entry charge applies. Runs until 27th April. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.  PICTURED: Above: gold and pearl cage pendants from the Cheapside Hoard; and right: a bejewelled scent bottle.

A previously unknown painting of Queen Elizabeth I is on display as part of a new exhibition, Elizabeth I and Her People, opening at the National Portrait Gallery today. The small painting, which has been attributed to miniaturist Isaac Oliver and which is a reworking of the classical story of the Judgement of Paris, was recently acquired by the gallery. It will sit among a selection of other portraits of the “Virgin Queen” in a display which endeavours to show how during her 50 year reign she portrayed the image of a strong monarch. The portraits are just some of the 100 items featured in the exhibition which also includes costumes, coins, jewellery and crafts and examines the rise of new social classes in Elizabethan society. Other portraits in the exhibition feature images of courtiers such as William Cecil and Christopher Hatton along with images of merchants, lawyers, goldsmiths, butchers, calligraphers, playwrights and artists. There is also a little known painting of three Elizabethan children and what may be the first portrait of a guinea pig. The exhibition, supported by the Weiss Gallery, runs until 5th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

Printed objects including replacement body organs, aeroplane parts and a music box have gone on display at the Science Museum in South Kensington as part of a new exhibition, 3D: printing the future. The exhibition looks at the rapidly evolving field of 3D printing and its growing impact on society through stories such as the use of 3D printing by engineers to create lighter aeroplane parts and the ways in which the medical industry is researching the use of the technology to create replacement body parts. The display will also include miniature 3D printed figures created from scans of visitors who took part in workshops during the summer holidays. This free exhibition runs in the Antenna gallery for nine months. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk.

On Now: Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900. On at the National Gallery, the first major UK exhibition devoted to the portrait in Vienna features iconic works by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Richard Gerstl, Oskar Kokoschka and Arnold Schonberg alongside those of lesser known artists such as Bronica Koller and Isidor Kaufmann. Highlights include Klimt’s Portrait of Hermine Gallia (1904) and Portrait of a Lady in Black (about 1894), Schiele’s The Family (Self Portrait) (1918) and Nude Self Portrait by Gerstl (1908). Runs until 12th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

City-of-London-FestivalThe City of London Festival kicked off last Sunday and runs for the next month in what is being billed as an “extravaganza of music, dance, art, film, poetry, family and participation events” in the Square Mile. Among the highlights of this year’s festival – the 51st – is a series of musical performances at St Paul’s Cathedral and a range of other locations including livery halls, churches and Mansion House – home of the Lord Mayor of London – as well as walks and talks including a two-day conference this Friday and Saturday, Worlds in Collision, which will explore questions surrounding the healing power of music in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorders resulting from conflict. There’s also a range of free events such as a family day on Hampstead Heath celebrating Northern Irish culture and heritage and artistic installations such as that by artist Konstantin Dimopoulos which this week saw the trees of Festival Gardens near St Paul’s turn bright blue. Trees around Devonshire Square are also expected to be ‘coloured’ and both sites will form part of a ‘Tree Trail’ in the square mile which is aimed at revealing the ‘secret stories’ of some of the city’s trees and the locations they inhabit. The festival, which runs until 26th July, will be reflecting on a number of significant historical landmark anniversaries taking place this year, including the 400-year relationship between the City of London and the Northern Irish community of Derry-Londonderry, the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht and the 100th anniversary of the birth of composer Benjamin Britten. For more information and a full programme of events, see www.colf.org. PICTURE: London Symphony Orchestra at St Paul’s Cathedral, © City of London Festival/Robert Piwko

The next month represents the last chance to visit Kew Gardens’ historic Temperate House – the world’s largest surviving Victorian glasshouse – for five years. The Grade I-listed building is about to undergo a five year restoration project, funded by a £14.7 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is home to Kew’s rarest plant, the South African cycad Encephalartos woodii while other rarities include the St Helena ebony (Trochetiopsis ebenus). The Temperate House will close on 4th August and won’t reopen until May 2018. For more, see www.kew.org.

On Now: Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure. Opened yesterday, this landmark exhibition at the National Gallery explores the motif of music in Dutch painting, in particular in the works of Johannes Vermeer and his contemporaries. Displayed alongside actual examples of 17th century virginals, guitars, lutes and other instruments, visitors will be able to see for themselves how accurate the painters were and discover why they may have taken artistic liberties. At the centre of the exhibition are three works by Vermeer – A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal and A Young Woman seated at a Virginal (both of which form part of the gallery’s collection) and The Guitar Player (on loan from Kenwood House). A fourth Vermeer, The Music Lesson, has been loaned from the Queen. Other artists featured in the exhibition include Gerard ter Borch, Gabriel Metsu, Jan Steen, Pieter de Hooch and Godfried Schalcken. Live musicians from the Academy of Ancient Music will be playing at the gallery three days each week. Runs until 8th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

Americus-Backers-piano

The oldest surviving English grand piano, built in London in 1772 by Americus Backers, has gone on display at Apsley House in London, home of the 1st Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley.

Known to have been played by the Iron Duke’s wife Kitty (nee Pakenham), it has been suggested (although remains unconfirmed) that the piano belonged to the Iron Duke’s father, Lord Mornington, who was politician and a composer.

The piano, which has been loaned to English Heritage by Lord and Lady Douro and is expected to remain at the house for the foreseeable future, is the earliest example of a piano with loud and soft pedals and is illustrative of the impact Backers, described by some as “the father of the English grand pianoforte style”, had on the development of piano design.

While much of the detail of Backers’ life  remains obscured, he was apprenticed to a piano builder in Saxony before coming to England in the 1750s and taking up residence in Jermyn Street in 1763 where he apparently lived until his death in 1778. He is known to have built both pianofortes and harpsicords.

The piano, the only known pianoforte by Backers still existing, was previously on loan to the Russell Collection in Edinburgh.

In celebration of the return of the piano to Apsley House, the residence is hosting a special concert this Tuesday (21st May), between 7pm-9pm – the first time the piano will have been heard for at least 5o years (albeit for a short period only with most of the concert performed on a 1781 Ganer. ‘The Duke of Wellington’s Music of the French Wars’ will be held in the Waterloo Gallery. Tickets are £45 each and limited seats are available. Call English Heritage Customer Services on 0870 333 1183 for bookings or see www.english-heritage.org.uk. PICTURE:  Professor David Owen Norris, who has researched and devised the programme has been devised the programme for the evening, playing the piano.He will be joined by the soprano Amanda Pitt. Image courtesy of English Heritage.

Margaret Thatcher’s funeral will be held next Wednesday at St Paul’s Cathedral from 11am with Queen Elizabeth II among those attending (the first time she has attended the funeral of a British politician since Sir Winston Churchill’s in 1965). The funeral procession of the former Prime Minister, who died on Monday aged 87, will start at the Houses of Parliament and make its way down Whitehall to Trafalgar Square before moving down the Strand, Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill to St Paul’s Cathedral. Baroness Thatcher’s coffin will carried in a hearse for the first part of the journey and will be transferred to a gun carriage drawn by six horses of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery at St Clement Danes church on the Strand for the final part of the journey. There will be a gun salute at the Tower of London. Meanwhile, a Book of Condolence has opened at St Margaret’s Church, beside Westminster Abbey, this morning and will be available for people to pay their respects until 17th April, during the church’s opening hours. St Margaret’s – which stands between Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament – is commonly known as the parish church of the House of Commons.

The story of the Jewel Tower – one of the last remaining parts of the medieval Palace of Westminster – is told in a new exhibition at the historic property. Now in the care of English Heritage, the tower – located to the south of Westminster Abbey, was built in 1365 to house King Edward III’s treasury, later used as King Henry VIII”s ‘junk room’, the record office for the House of Lords, and, from 1869, served was the “testing laboratory” for the Office of Weights and Measures. The exhibition, which opened this month, is part of the English Heritage celebrations commemorating the centenary of the 1913 Ancient Monuments Act. The Jewel Tower is open daily until November. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.english-heritage.co.uk.

See some of the earliest underground trains, a Lego version of Baker Street station and ride the Acton Miniature Railway. The London Transport Museum’s depot in Acton is holding it’s annual spring open weekend this Saturday and Sunday and in celebration of the Underground’s 150th anniversary, attractions will include the Metropolitan Steam Locomotive No. 1 and the recently restored Metropolitan Carriage 353 along with model displays, rides on the miniature railway, film screenings, talks, and workshops. Wales’ Ffestiniog Railway team – celebrating their own 150th anniversary – will also be present with the narrow gauge train, Prince. Open from 11am to 5pm both days. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.ltmuseum.co.uk.

Now On: Designs of the Year. The Design Museum has unveiled contenders for the sixth annual Designs of the Year competition and you can what they are in this exhibition. Consisting of more than 90 nominations spanning seven categories, the nominated designs include the Olympic Cauldron by Heatherwick Studio, The Shard – western Europe’s tallest building – by Renzo Piano, a non-stick ketchup bottle invented by the Varanasi Research Group at MIT, and Microsoft’s Windows phone 8. The exhibition runs until 7th July – the winners will be announced this month. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.designmuseum.org.

For the final in our series on 10 of London’s greatest Victorian projects, we’re taking a quick look at some of the great Victorian projects that we’ve previously examined on Exploring London…

Tower Bridge – An eight year project which opened in 1894. For more, see our earlier post, Treasures of London – Tower Bridge.

Albert Memorial – Completed in 1876, the memorial to the Prince Consort is a masterpiece of the Gothic Revival style. For more, see Curious London memorials – 2. The Albert Memorial.

Trafalgar Square – While plans were drawn up by John Nash, it was Sir Charles Barry who designed the basic layout we see today. See our earlier post – What’s in a Name?…Trafalgar Square for more.

You can see all the previous entries in this series here.

What do you think is the most iconic Victorian building in London?

Hans-of-AntwerpRecently conserved, Hans Holbein the Younger’s portrait Hans of Antwerp is one of 27 works by the painter on display in the exhibition, The Northern Renaissance: Durer to Holbein, at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. The portrait was first recorded in the Royal Collection in 1639 when it was said to have been hung in King Charles I’s Chair Room at Whitehall (it was painted in the 1530s by Holbein, best known as King’s Painter to King Henry VIII). While it has been previously thought the sitter was a goldsmith (a close friend of Holbein and witness to his will in 1543), Royal Collection Trust conservators have now definitively ruled it to be that of a merchant, possibly a German of the Hanseatic League based at the London Steelyard. You’ll have to be quick to see the exhibition – it winds up on 14th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalcollection.co.uk.

PICTURE: Royal Collection Trust/ © 2012, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

After a busy year, we’re taking a week off – our usual coverage will resume on 14th January. In the meantime, feel free to browse through our extensive archives. And stay tuned for some new features being launched this year…

Winter-WonderlandHyde Park Winter Wonderland is back for Christmas. As well as attractions including the UK’s largest outdoor ice rink centred on a Victorian bandstand (pictured), a giant observation wheel, Bavarian village, markets and Zippo’s Circus, this year’s event features an ice and snow sculpture experience – The Magical Ice Kingdom – created from more than 200 tonnes of ice and snow and featuring more than 500 snow and sculptures. Winter Wonderland, located at the eastern end of Hyde Park, first opened in winter 2007 and has since attracted more than 10 million visitors. This year’s event is open from 10am to 10pm, every day (except Christmas Day) until 6th January. For more, head to www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.com.

• The first ever exhibition focusing on Henry Stuart, older brother of King Charles I, has opened at the National Portrait Gallery. The Lost Prince: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart features more than 80 exhibits including paintings, miniatures, manuscripts, books and armour gathered from museums and personal collections around the UK and abroad – with some of the objects being displayed in public for the first time. Opened on 18th October – the 400th anniversary of the Prince’s death, among the paintings displayed in the exhibition are works by Holbein, Nicholas Hilliard and Isaac Oliver as well as Robert Peake as well as masque designs by Inigo Jones and poetry  by Ben Jonson. Henry, Prince of Wales, was the eldest son of King James I and Queen Anne of Denmark, and died at the age of 18 of typhoid fever. As well as looking at his short life, the exhibition covers the extraordinary reaction to his premature death (and the end of hope that King Henry IX would sit next upon the throne). The exhibition runs until 13th January. An admission fee applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE:  Henry, Prince of Wales by Isaac Oliver, c. 1610-12; Copyright: The Royal Collection Photo: Supplied by Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2012

The Lord Mayor’s Show – the largest unrehearsed procession in the world – will be held on 10th November. This year’s procession – celebrating the election of the 685th Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Roger Gifford – will feature more than 6,500 people winding their way through the City of London in a three-and-a-half mile-long display including 22 marching bands, 125 horses, 18 vintage cars, 21 carriages, an original American stagecoach, a Sherman tank, a steamroller and a Japanese Taiko drum band. While there will be no fireworks after this year’s parade, following the success of last year’s trial there will be an early morning flotilla with the Lord Mayor conveyed in the barge QRB Gloriana from Vauxhall up the Thames to HMS President, just below St Katharine Docks, from where he will make his way to the Mansion House to join the procession as it heads first to St Paul’s and then on to the Royal Courts of Justice before returning (via a different route). There are no grand stand seats left but plenty of places you can watch it for free (for a chance to win free Grandstand tickets, head to the Lord Mayor’s Show Facebook page and ‘like’ it). We’ll be talking about this more next week, but in the meantime, for maps and details of a new smart phone app, head to www.lordmayorsshow.org.

Two prehistoric Japanese pots have gone on display at the British Museum. Loaned from the Nagaoka Municipal Science Museum, the pots date from the Middle Jomon period (3,500-2,500 BCE) and consist of a ‘flame’ and a ‘crown’ pot which were excavated in Nagaoka city. The pots form part of the Asahi Shimbun Displays in room 3 and will be there until 20th January. Meanwhile, continuing the Asian theme, an exhibition of more than 100 contemporary carved Chinese seals by artist Li Lanqing is on display in room 33 until 15th January. Admission to both is free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

• On Now: Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present. The National Gallery’s first major exhibition of photography, the display looks at the relationship between historical paintings and photography, both its early days in the mid-19th century and the work of contemporary photographers – in particular how photographers have used the traditions of fine art to “explore and justify” their own works. Almost 90 photographs are displayed alongside a select group of paintings for the show. Admission is free. Runs until 20th January in the Sainsbury Wing. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

A mythical figure from early Britain, King Lud is said to have been a pre-Roman king of Britain who rebuilt London (which according to legend had been originally founded by the exiled Trojan Brutus) and from whom London derives its name.

Lud is said by some to have given his name to the gateway known as Ludgate (although others say it comes from an Old English term meaning swing or postern gate – see our earlier post here for more on Ludgate).

This series of badly weathered statues – depicting King Lud and his two sons, apparently named Androgeus and Theomantius – was originally located on the gate. In fact, the legend goes, the king was buried under it.

Following the gate’s demolition, the statues – said to date from 1586 with the name of the sculptor now lost to time – were moved here at some point to the vestry porch of St Dunstan-in-the West in Fleet Street.

The London Olympics are almost upon us and having completed our series on the Queen to mark her Diamond Jubilee, we’re launching a new special looking at historic sporting events which took place in London and where they were carried out.

To kick it off, however, we thought we’d take a look at Olympics past. London has previously hosted the Games twice – 1908 and 1948. So this week we’re taking a look at the 1908 Games.

The 1908 Summer Olympics – officially recognised as the fourth “modern” Games – were initially to be held in Rome. But the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 1906 devastated the city of Naples and so the funds which were to be used for the Games had to be diverted to help the stricken community.

A number of candidates, including Milan and Berlin, were apparently considered before it was decided to hold the Games in White City in London’s west alongside the Franco-British Exhibition already being held in the area (the white marble clad buildings constructed for the exhibition buildings are what gave the area its name).

A new stadium – the White City Stadium – was constructed in just 10 months for the Games and was designed to accommodate 66,000 people. As well as the running track around the perimeter with which we are familiar today, there was also a cycle track located outside the running track while the infield hosted swimming and diving pools and a pitch where football, hockey, rugby and lacrosse could be played. Wrestling and gymnastics was also conducted in the middle of the stadium.

While many of the 110 events in 22 different sports – including athletics, archery, lacrosse, rugby union, swimming, water polo and  tug of war (the only time run at an Olympics, it was won by a City of London police team) – and were held at the stadium, a number were held elsewhere.

These included tennis (at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon – see yesterday’s post), rowing (at Henley), fencing (at the neighbouring British-Franco Exhibition) and jeu de paume or ‘real tennis’ (at the Queen’s Club in West Kensington).

The Games, which ran for six months from April to October, were noted for being the first in which Winter events were included (four figure skating events were held at the Prince’s Skating Club in Knightsbridge), for being the first at which the Olympic creed – “The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well” – was publicly proclaimed.

They were also the Olympics at which length of the marathon was set at 26 miles, 385 yards (the distance from a window outside the nursery at Windsor Castle, where the event was started to give the Royal Family a good view, to the stadium) and were the first Games in which spectators marching into the arena behind their country’s flag during the opening ceremony.

The marathon, incidentally, was particularly controversial with Italian Dorando Pietri finishing first after being assisted across the finish line by officials when he collapsed (he was disqualified but awarded a special cup for his efforts by Queen Alexandra). There was also controversy when the US team refused to dip their flag before King Edward VII in the opening ceremony. Judging disputes also led to the creation of standard rules and the introduction of neutral judges in subsequent Games.

White City Stadium initially fell into disuse but was subsequently used for greyhound racing and athletics. The site is now occupied by the BBC. There is a ‘Roll of Honour’, unveiled on the site in 2005, which commemorates the 1908 Games.

Oh, and the most medals were won by Great Britain who won 56 gold, 51 silver and 38 bronze while the US came next with 23 gold, 12 silver and 12 bronze.

You can check out the Olympic website for more including images – www.olympic.org/london-1908-summer-olympics.