This rather long square in Pimlico was laid out in the mid-19th century and is, like the church parish in which it stands (St George Hanover Square), named after the patron saint of England.

Development of the area, owned by the Marquess of Westminster, was underway by 1835 and by the early 1840s, the formal square had been laid out. The construction of homes – and the lay-out of the square itself – was supervised by Thomas Cubitt and the first residents moved in the 1850s.

The north end of the square is home to the Church of St Saviour, designed by Thomas Cundy the Younger and constructed in 1864, which shields the remainder of the square from Lupus Street.

The square, now looked after by the City of Westminster, was apparently popular thanks to its being the only residential square open to the Thames (across Grosvenor Road. Until 1874, it had its own pier for watercraft to pull up to.

Famous residents in the square include Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, who died at number 26 in 1912, author Dorothy L Sayers, albeit briefly, and Nobel laureate and scientist Francis Crick, who lived at number 56 between 1945 and 1947.

The Thames is located opposite the square’s southern end, across Pimlico Gardens. The gardens feature a statue of MP William Huskisson, the first person to be run over and killed by a railway engine. The work of John Gibson, the Grade II-listed statue, which depicts Huskisson in Roman dress, is a copy of one which was originally placed in Huskisson’s mausoleum in St James’s Cemetery. It first stood in Liverpool Customs House but Gibson wasn’t satisfied with the location so it was moved to the office of Lloyds of London in the Royal Exchange and then again to its current location in 1915.

PICTURE: Top – Homes in St George’s Square (James Stringer/licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0); Below – The north of the square looking towards St Saviour Church (Philip Halling/licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)  

 

 

Advertisements

PICTURE: Harshil Gurka/Unsplash

One of the key contenders for the oldest school in London must be St Paul’s Cathedral School, originally established in the 12th century to cater for the education of choristers attending St Paul’s Cathedral (although there had apparently been a school associated with the cathedral since the 7th century).

The school, which has been described as one of the oldest educational institutions in the Western world, dates its establishment to about 1123 and started with just eight boys who were given a home and education in exchange for singing in the cathedral.

The school gradually became two separate institutions – a choir school and a grammar school – with the choristers graduating from the choir school to finish their education at the grammar school.

But in 1511, the grammar school was refounded by Dean John Colet as Saint Paul’s School. It’s now located in Barnes.

The former choristers school, now known as the St Paul’s Cathedral School, became known more for its acting in the 16th and early 17th centuries when the children performed regularly for Queen Elizabeth I at Greenwich Palace.

The original school building, which stood in St Paul’s Churchyard, was destroyed in the fire of 1666.

In 1874, the school was re-established in Carter Lane. It moved to its present location in New Change in the 1960s.

While now independent of the cathedral, the establishment now offers a preparatory school for boys and girls aged four to 13 and a residential choir school for the boy choristers of St Paul’s Cathedral. New boarding accommodation is expected to open on the site next year.

PICTURE: The concrete buildings of St Paul’s Cathedral School on the right with the surviving tower of St Augustine’s Church, Watling Street, and St Paul’s Cathedral behind (Google Maps)

An altar cloth which may have once been part of a dress worn by Queen Elizabeth I goes on show at Hampton Court Palace (pictured) this Saturday. The Bacton Altar Cloth, which was discovered in a church in Bacton in rural Hertfordshire, has undergone two years of conservation work and will be displayed alongside a portrait of the “Virgin Queen” featuring a dress of similar design. The altar cloth has long been associated with Bacton-born Blanche Parry, one of Queen Elizabeth’s servants who became her Chief Gentlewoman of the Bedchamber. Records show the Queen regularly gave her discarded clothing to Parry and for years there has been speculation that the altar cloth was part of one such discarded item. Historic Royal Palaces curator Eleri Lynn, an expert in Tudor court dress, was able to identify previously unseen features and studied the seams of the fabric to show it had once been part of a skirt. Further research – including an examination of the dyes used in the item – have added weight to the theory it was once part of a dress. The altar cloth, on loan from St Faith’s Church in Bacton, can be seen until 23rd February. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk. PICTURE: David Adams.

A photographic exhibition of the first ‘golden’ decade of Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club – featuring images of legendary British and American jazz singers – opens at the Barbican Music Library on Saturday. Ronnie Scott’s 1959-1969: Photographs by Freddy Warren, which marks the club’s 60th anniversary, features Warren’s photographs of the likes of Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Zoot Sims, Cleo Laine and Tony Bennett. Warren was the in-house photographer at the Soho club from the opening night in 1959, when it was based in Gerrard Street, and documented the construction of the new site in Frith Street in the mid-1960s along with the arrival in London of big American stars. The exhibition includes rare vintage prints – some which were salvaged from the walls when the club was renovated in 2006, Freddy Warren’s original contact sheets, and previously unseen prints specially produced from the original negatives. The exhibition is free. Runs until 4th January. For more, see www.barbican.org.uk/your-visit/during-your-visit/library.

An exhibition exploring how western artists have been inspired by the Islamic world opens at the British Museum today. Inspired by the east: how the Islamic world influenced western art features paintings by leading ‘Orientalists’ including Eugène Delacroix, John Frederick Lewis and Frederick Arthur Bridgman as well as less well-known pieces like British artist Edmund Dulac’s original illustrations for a 1907 edition of the Arabian Nights, and ceramics by Frenchman Théodore Deck, who in the late 19th century created a range of pieces directly inspired by Islamic originals. The display also includes contemporary reactions to the imagery of Orientalism by Middle Eastern and North African female artists such as Lalla Essaydi’s Women of Morocco triptych and Inci Eviner’s 2009 video work Harem. The display can be seen in The Sir Joseph Hotung Exhibition Gallery until 26th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Bloomsbury square is another that’s one of a pair – in this case with Mecklenburgh Square which stands on the other side of the site of the now-demolished Foundling Hospital (across what’s now known as Coram’s Fields).

The three acre square was planned by Samuel Pepys Cockerell, who was appointed to develop the estate around the hospital with the intention of maintaining some open space around the hospital while allowing spare land to be leased for housing (and so raise some much needed funds for the hospital).

The square was over the period 1795-1802 while the gardens in the square’s middle were laid out in in the late 1790s (initially for use by residents only, they’re now open to the public).

The name comes from Caroline of Brunswick, wife of the then Prince Regent (later King George IV).

The square, which is Grade II-listed along with Coram’s Fields and Mecklenburgh Square, was a respectable if not highly fashionable residential location.

Famous residents have included numerous members of the Bloomsbury Group such as siblings Virginia (later Woolf) and Adrian Stephen, economist John Maynard Keynes and Leonard Woolf – all of whom lived in the same property (Virginia and Leonard moved out of the square when they married in 1912) as well as EM Forster. Writer JM Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, also lived for a time in a house overlooking the square.

Jane Austen refers to the square in Emma in which her sister Isabella praises it as “very superior to most others” and “very airy”.

All of the original buildings around the square have since been demolished and replaced – among them number is 40 which was built for the Thomas Coram Foundation for Children in the 1920s and now houses the Foundling Museum (there’s a statue of the hospital’s founder Thomas Coram outside by William MacMillan – pictured right).

The north side of the square is home to the UCL School of Pharmacy, the west side features tiered apartments which form part of the Grade II-listed Brunswick Centre development, which dates from the late 1960s and early 1970s, while on the south side is the university residence known as International Hall.

The gardens were extensively renovated in 2002-03 by Camden Council; works which included restoration of railings apparently taken for munitions during World War II. Its trees include a London plane tree, said to be the second oldest in London, which in 2009 was declared one of the Great Trees of Britain.

On one of the garden’s railings, close to the statue of Captain Coram, is a tiny bronze sculpture of a mitten by artist Tracey Emin, a fitting symbol of the childhoods connected with the Foundling Hospital.

PICTURES: Top – Looking across Brunswick Square Gardens (Google Maps); Right – Thomas Coram (David Adams).

A silver trencher plate – one of only three silver pieces in the world known to have belonged to 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys (and the only one on display in the UK, the other two being in the US) – has gone on show in the Museum of London’s ‘War, Plague and Fire’ gallery following its recent acquisition. The plate, which was only recently recognised as belonging to Pepys – a naval administrator and MP, bears his coat-of-arms on the rim while the underside features London hallmarks testifying to the metal’s purity. The plate is also stamped with a “date letter” representing 1681-82 as the year it was made along with an MK in a lozenge, the maker’s mark of the workshop of Mary King in Foster Lane (the date 1681 also appears scratched on the surface but this was done at a later date). Knife and fork scratch marks are also visible on the trencher which may have been among the silver objects Pepys boasted about serving his guests with in his diary instead of the less expensive pewter. Admission to see the plate is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/discover/samuel-pepys-silver-plate. PICTURES: © Museum of London.

Bookseller and philanthropist, Thomas Guy’s memory is still preserved in the London hospital which still bears his name (pictured above).

Guy was born the son of Thomas Guy, Sr, a lighterman, carpenter and coalmonger (and Anabaptist) in Southwark, in about 1644. But his father died when he was just eight-years-old and his mother Anne moved the family to Tamworth, her home town, where he was educated at the local free grammar school.

In 1660, he returned to London where he was apprenticed to a bookseller in Cheapside. Eight years later (and having lived through the Great Plague and The Great Fire), his apprenticeship completed and now admitted as a freeman to Worshipful Company of Stationers, he opened his own bookstore on the corner of Cornhill and Lombard Street  in the City of London where he found success in selling illegal fine quality printed Bibles from what is now The Netherlands.

He went on to obtain a contract from Oxford University for the printing of Bibles, prayer books and other classical works – a move which saw his fortune begin to take off, so much so he apparently renamed his shop the ‘Oxford Arms’.

But Guy also became a noted investor and it was through doing so – particularly his success in investing in and then offloading shares in the booming South Sea Company (before it collapsed) – which, alongside his success as a publisher, helped to create his fortune.

He had a somewhat notorious reputation for frugality (there is a somewhat dubious story that he broke off an engagement with a maidservant following a dispute concerning some paving works she authorised without his permission) but is also known to have been a significant philanthropist.

His giving included funding upgrades to his former school in Tamworth as well the building of almshouses there in 1678. In fact, his connections with the town were still deep – he represented the town as its MP between 1675 to 1707 – he was so angry was he at his rejection in 1608 that he threatened to pull down the town hall and, later, in his will specifically deprived the inhabitants of Tamworth of use of the almshouses.

Guy had, meanwhile, refused the offer of taking up the post of Sheriff of London after he was elected, apparently because of the expense involved, and paid a fine instead.

He was appointed a governor of St Thomas’s Hospital in 1704 which he also funded the expansion of (using the money he’d made through his investment in the South Sea Company), building three new wards. Having obtained permission to build a hospital for “incurables” discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital, he began building his own hospital, Guy’s, near London Bridge in 1722.

Guy never married and died at his home in the City on 27th December, 1724. He laid in state in the Mercer’s Chapel before being buried in the crypt beneath the chapel at Guy’s Hospital (a fine monument by John Bacon now stands over the site).

He left considerable bequeathments to various charitable organisations as well as to relatives but the bulk of his estate went to his hospital – which was now roofed – so that the works could be completed. The bronze statue outside the hospital, by Scheemakers, depicts guy in his livery.

PICTURE: David Adams

Rembrandt’s mastery of light is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the Dulwich Picture Gallery on Friday to mark 350 years since the Dutch artist’s death. Rembrandt’s Light includes 35 of his greatest paintings, etchings and drawings including international loans The Pilgrims at Emmaus (1648) and – shown for the first time in the UK – Philemon and Baucis, (1658), Tobit and Anna with the Kid (1645) and The Dream of Joseph (1645). The works have been arranged thematically and show how he used light and shadow for dramatic effect, focusing on his work during the middle period of his career – 1639-1658 – while he was living in his “dream house” on Breestraat in Amsterdam where the large windows provided ideal access to light. The display will employ a new LED Bluetooth lighting system installed at the gallery while cinematographer Peter Suschitzky, famed for his work on Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back; The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Mars Attacks!, has worked with the curators to create what the gallery promises will be an “atmospheric visitor experience”. Admission charge applies. Runs to 2nd February. PICTURE: Rembrandt van Reign, Philemon and Baucis (1658), oil on panel transferred to panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

The first ever exhibition devoted to the portraits of Paul Gauguin opens at the National Gallery on Monday. The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Gauguin Portraits shows how the French artist, who was famed for his paintings of French Polynesia, revolutionised the portrait to express himself and his ideas about art. It features more than 50 works including paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings – many of which have rarely been seen together. They include Madame Mette Gauguin in Evening Dress (1884), Young Breton Girl (1889), Tehura (Teha’amana) (1891-93), Young Christian Girl (1894), Père Paillard (1902) and the last self-portrait he ever completed, made in 1903, probably shortly before the end of his life at the age of 55. Runs until 26th January in the Sainsbury Wing. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

Fifteen Buddhist and Shinto sacred images from the Nara Prefecture have gone on show at the British Museum. The works, which include five Japanese National Treasures, date from between 600 and 1300 AD and are displayed with related important Japanese and Chinese paintings from the museum’s collection. The objects include a gilt bronze sculpture, Bodhisattva of Compassion, a gilt-bronze libation dish featuring the birth of the Buddha and a pair of imposing wooden sculptures, Heavenly Kings, all of which date from the 700s. Nara: sacred images from early Japan can be seen in Room 3 (the Asahi Shimbun Displays) and the Mitsubishi Corporation Japanese Galleries (Room 93). Runs until 24th November. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Holborn square was laid out in the 1680s by property speculator Nicholas Barbon and took its name from the Red Lion Inn which once stood here.

The inn, incidentally, is said to be the place where the exhumed bodies of Oliver Cromwell, his son-in-law (and Parliamentarian general) Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw, president of the parliamentary commission to try King Charles I, lay the night before they were taken to Tyburn where they were desecrated (there’s a story that the bodies were switched that night and the real men lay buried in a pit in a square).

The square was laid out on what had been known as Red Lion fields and there were apparently some physical scuffles between the workmen, led by Barbon, and lawyers of Gray’s Inn who objected to the loss of their rural vistas.

The square, meanwhile, soon became a fashionable part of the city – among early residents was Judge Bernard Halle – but by the mid-19th century, its reputation had slumped only to move up again in later years.

Famous residents included Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1851 and William Morris who lived in a flat on the southern side of the square with Edward Burne-Jones in the later 1850s. The art deco Summit House was built in 1925 on the former residence of John Harrison, inventor of the marine chronometer. Jonas Hanway, the first man to walk London’s streets with an umbrella, apparently also lived on the square.

The square today is home to the Royal College of Anaesthetists and Conway Hall, home of the Conway Hall Ethical Society (in fact, it was Conway Hall which was at the centre of one of the most famous incidents in the square – clashes between anti-fascist protestors and National Front members and subsequent police response which took place on 15th June, 1974, and left a university student, Kevin Gately, dead.

The garden in the centre of the square features a statue of anti-war activist Fenner Brockway and a bust of philosopher, essayist and Nobel laureate Bertrand Russell.

PICTURE: Top – View across part of the square (Google maps)/Below – Fenner Brockway statue (Matt Brown/licensed under CC BY 2.0)

The Chelsea property where Jamaican singer-songwriter Bob Marley lived in 1977 has been given an English heritage Blue Plaque. Marley lived at the four storey terraced house at 42 Oakley Street while he and the Wailers were finishing recording their album Exodus which features hits including Jamming, Waiting in Vain, Three Little Birds and One Love. Marley, who often played football with bandmates at pitches in Battersea Park, said he regarded London as a “second base”. Among the evidence considered in deciding to award the plaque was Marley’s arrest for possession of cannabis on 10th March, 1977, along with bassist Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett. Court records have Barrett’s address as 42 Oakley Street while Marley’s is recorded as 27 Collingham Gardens. Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests he gave this address to try and prevent the police from searching Oakley Street for drugs and English Heritage says the unanimous recollection of contemporary witnesses is that Oakley Street was both the band headquarters and Marley’s primary address at the time. Other music-related identities who have been honoured with blue plaques include Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, George Frideric Handel and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/. PICTURE: 42 Oakley Street (before plaque) via Google Maps.

Located at 9 Stoney Street (on the corner with Park Street) in Borough, overlooking Borough Market, this establishment is the latest incarnation of the pubs which have occupied this site since the early part of the 17th century.

Previously called The Harrow, the current name, which dates from the 1890s, no doubt owes at least part of its story to the proximity to the market and the patronage of the porters that worked there.

It may also have something to do with being the site of the killing of market porter Alfred Howe. He was slain by Edward Lamb outside the pub on 15th February, 1890, when he plunged an umbrella into Howe’s eye during an altercation. Lamb, indicted on manslaughter charges, was subsequently acquitted.

It’s been suggested the subsequent name change might have been due to the notoriety the incident attracted but, whatever the truth of the story behind the name, the pub is now famed for its ales as well as for doubling as the location for the ‘Third Hand Book Emporium’ in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

The pub is part of the Market Taverns group. For more, see www.themarketporter.co.uk.

PICTURES: Top – Ewan Munro (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0); Right – Google Maps

The history and culture of the Krio people of Sierra Leone are the subject of a new display opening at the Museum of London Docklands tomorrow. The Krios of Sierra Leone explores the dress, architecture, language, lifestyle, traditions and history of the Krio community with contemporary objects from Krio Londoners on show as well as items related to the history of British colonial rule of Sierra Leone from the museum’s collections. Highlights include a large carved wooden printing block dating from around 1800, known as a ’tillet block’, that bears the crest of the Sierra Leone Company, a silver entrée dish which was presented to Thomas Cole, acting colonial secretary of Sierra Leone and assistant superintendent of Liberated Africans, who was responsible for assisting people freed from slave ships when they arrived in the colony, and, a typical Krio dress ensemble wore by Krio women. The free exhibition can be seen until 27th September next year. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/krios.

Portraits of everyone from Sir David Attenborough to actor Tilda Swinton are on show as part of the largest ever exhibition of the work of photographer Tim Walker at the V&A. The display, Tim Walker: Wonderful Things (pictured above), features more than 150 new works inspired by the V&A’s collections and boasts more than 300 objects, encompassing photographs and the objects that inspired them as well as images of some of the biggest names in fashion – Lily Cole, Lindsey Wixson, Stella Tennant and Alexander McQueen among them – and portraits of such luminaries as Margaret Atwood, David Hockney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Claire Foy, Saoirse Ronan, Kate Moss, and artist Grayson Perry. Runs until 8th March. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.

Writers Angela Carter and Martha Gellhorn were both commemorated with English Heritage Blue Plaques earlier this month. Carter, an award-winning novelist, spent the last 16 years of her life at the property at 107, The Chase, in Clapham, and it was there she often tutored her then-student Kazuo Ishiguro and received fellow writers like JG Ballard, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie. Meanwhile, Gellhorn, a war correspondent who reported on conflicts ranging from the Spanish Civil War to the Vietnam War, was commemorated with a blue plaque on her former top floor flat in Cadogan Square where she spent the last 28 years of her life. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

The final release of tickets for this year’s New Year’s Eve fireworks go on sale from midday on Friday. Those who wish to attend the fireworks in central London must purchase a ticket priced at £10. To sign up for ticket updates and more information go to www.london.gov.uk/nye

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Bloomsbury garden square, a pair with Tavistock Square located a short distance to the north-east, was developed in the 1820s with residences designed by master builder Thomas Cubitt and his company.

Its name comes from the family of the then land-owner, John Russell, the Duke of Bedford – Lady Georgina Gordon was the second wife of the 6th Duke of Bedford (her father was Alexander Gordon, the fourth Duke of Gordon).

The square initially contained a private garden, designed by the 6th Duke of Bedford himself, which was reserved for residents. Now open to the public, the garden underwent a refurbishment, restoring the original railings, in the early 2000s and was reopened by Princess Anne in 2007.

Originally residential (although while it attracted some professionals and their families, it was never as popular as nearby Russell Square), the buildings on the square are now predominantly occupied by departments and institutes of the University of London. The university purchased the square, along with Woburn Square, in 1951.

On the west side of the square stands the university church, the Grade I-listed Church of Christ the King, which dates from the 1850s, while nearby is Dr Williams’s Library, founded in 1729 and moved here in 1890.

The square is generally considered the epicentre of the Bloomsbury Group of writers, artists and intellectuals with Virginia Woolf (then Stephens) among its residents. She lived at number 46 between 1904 and 1907, with her sister Vanessa, who, following her marriage to Clive Bell, continued to live there until 1917.

Another member of the Bloomsbury Group, economist John Maynard Keynes, lived in the house after that. Writer Lytton Strachey, another member of the group, lived at number 51 from 1909 to 1924.

Philosopher and essayist Bertrand Russell lived at number 57 between 1918-19.

PICTURES: Top – Gordon Square (Jay Bergesen/licensed under CC BY 2.0) Right – 46 Gordon Square (Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 & GFDL)

PICTURE: Greg Jeanneau/Unsplash.

This year marks 125 years since the opening of Tower Bridge.

The bridge, which took eight years to build and was designed by City of London architect Sir Horace Jones in collaboration with engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry, was officially opened on 30th June, 1894, by the Prince and Princess of Wales (the future King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra).

Others among the tens of thousands who turned out to mark the historic event were the Duke of York (later King George V), Lord Mayor of London Sir George Robert Tyler and members of the Bridge House Estates Committee.

A procession of carriages carrying members of the royal family had set out from Marlborough House that morning, stopping at Mansion House on its way to the bridge.

Once there, it drove back and forth across before official proceedings took place in which the Prince of Wales pulled a lever to set in motion the steam-driven machinery which raised the two enormous bascules and allowed a huge flotilla of craft of all shapes and sizes to pass under it.

The event was also marked with a gun salute fired from the Tower of London.

Plaques commemorating the opening can be found at either end of the bridge. The event was also captured in a famous painting by artist William Lionel Wyllie who had attended with his wife. The painting is now held at the Guildhall Art Gallery.

Tower Bridge has been running a series of special events to mark the anniversary this year. For more, see www.towerbridge.org.uk.

Tower Bridge today. PICTURE: Charles Postiaux/Unsplash

 

This Greenwich statue, which stands on King William Walk to the left of the entrance to the Pepys Building – once part of the Royal Naval College, depicts the Elizabethan adventurer and court favourite (well, at times) in a suitably heroic pose. The life-sized bronze of Raleigh (1552-1618), which stands on a stone plinth, was designed by William McMillan. It was originally unveiled by then-US Ambassador John Hay Whitney in 1959 on Raleigh Green outside the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall to mark the 350th anniversary of the foundation of the Commonwealth of Virginia (it was apparently originally suggested it be placed in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square but that didn’t eventuate). Grade II-listed, it stood in Whitehall until 2001 until, deemed as out of scale with other statues, was moved to its current location. PICTURE: Loco Steve (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0).

 

It’s Open House London weekend and that means your chance to explore behind what are normally closed doors. More than 800 buildings are opening up to the public over the two day festival – this year’s theme is ‘social’ – and there’s an extensive programme of walks and architect-led tours with all events free to attend. While some buildings – like Number 10 Downing Street, BT Tower and the US Embassy London – are only open to those who were successful in already-held public ballots, there’s still plenty to see for those who have’t scored a place. Highlights include a chance to see inside first-time participants like Millennium Mills in Royal Docks (pictured above), the new Museum of London in West Smithfield and the new social housing estate, Kings Crescent Estate in Hackney, as well as a Tokyo Bike cycle tour, and By Beck Road 19 – a Bethnal Green terrace serving as an open-door art gallery. There’s also the chance to see inspiring residences like Open Practice Architecture’s Gin Distillery and Nimtim Architect’s Block House, family activities and the Open House ‘Elements’ photography competition to take part it. For the full programme of events, head to www.openhouselondon.org.uk.

Images of London’s street food and hawkers, spanning the 16th to the 19th centuries, have gone on show at a new open-air exhibition in Aldgate Square. Hot Peascods! explores how selling food, which could require little more investment than buying basket and the first batch of pies or eels or gingerbread, provided an income for those who couldn’t find other work and was relied upon as a source of food for those who were so poor they couldn’t afford cooking facilities at home. As well as images, it features interviews recorded in the 1850s by pioneering social reformer Henry Mayhew. The exhibition, which is curated by the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Library, can be seen in Aldgate Square until 29th September and then moves to Guildhall Yard where it can be seen between 1st and 16th October. Free.

The work of acclaimed British sculptor Antony Gormley is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the Royal Academy of Arts on Saturday. Antony Gormley, which spans all 13 rooms in the RA’s Main Galleries, brings together both existing and specially conceived new works. They include Iron Baby (1999) located in the Annenberg Courtyard, works from the 70s and 80s like Land, Sea and Air (1977-79) and Fruits of the Earth (1978-79) in which natural and man-made objects are wrapped in lead (these evolved into Gormley’s ‘body case’ sculptures), and a series of concrete works from the 1990s including Flesh (1990). There are a series of whole-of-room installations including Lost Horizon I (2008) which features 24 cast-iron figures, and Host in which an entire gallery is filled, to a depth of 23 centimetres, with seawater and clay, while at the centre of the exhibition are two of Gormley’s early ‘expansion’ works, Body and Fruit, both from 1991-3. The exhibition also includes a selection of works on paper including Mould (1981), the Body and Light drawings, Linseed Oil Works (1985-1990), Double Moment (1987), and the Red Earth drawings (1987-1998). Runs until 3rd December. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.


This Soho square was laid out in the late 17th century, possibly by Sir Christopher Wren, and by the early 1700s most of the buildings surrounding the square were complete.

The name of the square is said to be a corruption of ‘gelding’ – the area, once apparently known as Gelding Close, was previously used for the grazing of geldings (there’s also a story that the gelding was featured on a nearby inn sign which locals objected to, renaming it ‘golden’).

It was, at first, the place to be among the well-to-do – among early residents were Barbara Villiers, the Duchess of Cleveland and mistress of King Charles II, James Bridges, who became the 1st Duke of Chandos, and Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke, a favourite of Queen Anne.

By the mid 18th century, however, the trendy crowd had moved to developments further west and the square subsequently became noted for the high number of foreign delegations which made their base here, including those of Bavaria, Russia, Genoa and Portugal, as well as foreign artists including Swiss painter Angelica Kauffmann – the first female member of the Royal Academy, and Anglo-Irish painter (and later Royal Academy president) Martin Archer Shee.

Other famous residents have included dancer Elizabeth Gamberini, singer Caterina Gabrielli and Scottish anatomist John Hunter (his former home is one of two marked with English Heritage Blue Plaques in the square). Thomas Jefferson, later a US president, stayed in Golden Square during March and April, 1786, in his only visit to London.

A couple of houses in the square – then occupied by the Bavarian minister Count Haslang – were attacked during the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots. These properties were bought by James Talbot, the Roman Catholic Bishop for London, in 1788, so the Roman Catholic Church in Warwick Street could be build in the gardens behind.

The square had deteriorated somewhat by the time Charles Dickens placed it in his late 1830s story Nicholas Nickleby as the home of Ralph Nickleby, and it become the location of numerous boarding houses and small hotels as well as various professionals.

By 1900 the square had become closely connected with the wool trade with as many as 70 firms connected with it located here. Several such firms are apparently still located here but the square is better known these days for companies associated with the movie business.

The middle of the square was dug up for an air raid shelter in World War II but it was paved afterwards and the statue of King George II, attributed to John Van Nost and erected here in 1753 as part of beautification project (it has been suggested the statue actually represents King Charles II but that remains a matter of conjecture), returned to its place in the middle.

None of the original houses now remain but there are a number of residences which still have at least elements dating from late 18th century rebuilds including numbers 11, 21, 23 and 24.

PICTURE: Top – David Iliff (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0); Right – David Adams; Below – RozSheffield (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A “creative and artistic” composition of the 35 phases of the total lunar eclipse that took place on 21st January has won the Royal Observatory Greenwich’s Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year for 2019. The win, which carried a £10,000 prize for Hungarian photographer László Francsics, also means the image is now at the heart of an exhibition featuring all the competition’s winners, runners-up and highly commended, as well as 68 short-listed pictures running at the National Maritime Museum until 26th April. Competition judge Ed Robinson described the Francsics’ work as “nothing short of masterful”. “The colours of our atmosphere projected onto the Moon’s disc during the eclipse are not only artistically pleasing but also offer an understanding of such events that can reveal aspects of our own, thin, yet essential part of our atmosphere,” he said. “In a year that celebrates 50 years since the first lunar landings it is fitting that this year’s overall winning image captures such a dynamic and captivating view of our Moon.” Other images on display include German photographer Nicolai Brügger’s image showcasing the Aurora Borealis over the Lofoten Islands in Norway (winner of the ‘Aurorae’ category), an image featuring UK photographer Ben Bush and his dog Floyd surrounded by Mars, Saturn and the galactic core of the Milky Way galaxy (‘People and Space’), and a sequence of images by Australian Andy Casely following the progress of the great global dust storm on Mars (‘Planets, Comets and Asteroids’). The display also includes an image of the Rosette Nebula by 11-year-old Davy van der Hoeven, of The Netherlands, who won Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year. The Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year, now in its 11th year, is run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in association with Insight Investment and BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/whats-on/astronomy-photographer-year/galleries/2019/overall-winners. PICTURES: Top – ‘Into the Shadow’ © László Francsics (overall winner); Below (from top down) – ‘The Watcher’ © Nicolai Brügger (winner of the ‘Aurorae’ category); and, ‘Shells of Elliptical Galaxy NGC 3923 in Hydra’ © Rolf Wahl Olsen (winner of the ‘Galaxies’ category) .

Yes, the name of this inner north-west London district – which sits between Hampstead and Kentish Town – does originate with an oak.

Up until the early 19th century, the tree was apparently used as a marker between the parish boundaries of Hampstead and St Pancras. So that’s the oak part.

The gospel part comes from the use of the term to describe the medieval custom of ‘beating the bounds’ – an annual event in which residents would walk around their parish boundary and literally beat prominent boundary markers as a way of conveying to a then largely illiterate people where the borders were located. The oak, said to have stood on the corner of Southampton and Mansfield Roads, was one such marker.

As well as the beating part, the event would also involve the singing of hymns and, yes, the reading of sections of the gospels while standing under the oak. Hence Gospel Oak.

The oak was also apparently used as a site for open-air preaching at other times and it’s said that St Augustine, 14th century Bible translator John Wycliffe, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, and fellow evangelist George Whitefield are among the many who preached under the oak (although many of these claims can be taken with a grain of salt).

The area was predominantly rural until the mid-1800s when local landowners  Lord Mansfield, Lord Southampton and Lord Lismore began selling off the land for development. The houses built here were apparently at the more affordable end of the market, perhaps not surprising given the area became criss-crossed with railroad lines. Devastated by bombing during World War II, large parts of Gospel Oak were rebuilt in the mid-20th century.

The (now) London Overground station which bears the name Gospel Oak (pictured below) was opened in 1860, originally with the name Kentish Town (but quickly renamed Gospel Oak when Kentish Town was used elsewhere). Other landmarks include St Martin’s Church in Vicars Road (pictured above), which has been described as one of the “craziest” of London’s Victorian churches, and All Hallows Church in Shirlock Road.

One of the area’s more famous residents, Michael Palin, has lived in the area since the 1960s and reportedly planted a new oak in Lismore Circus in 1998 but the tree has apparently not survived.

PICTURES: Google Maps