Did you know that 2020 marks 10 years since Exploring London first began…well…exploring London?

We’ll be celebrating our anniversary across the year in a number of ways including counting down our 100 most read stories ever…

So let’s kick off the countdown with numbers 100 and 99…

100. LondonLife – A new crown for King Henry VIII…

99. 10 sites of significance in Jane Austen’s London…1. 10 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden…

PICTURE: Adi Goldstein/Unsplash

Happy New Year!

December 31, 2019

Wishing you a great start to 2020 from Exploring London! PICTURE: Alexander London/Unsplash

2. Treasures of London – The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I…

and the most popular post of 2019…

1. Where’s London’s oldest…door?

4. 10 of London’s most curious (and historic) graves – A recap…

3. Lost London – The Mappin & Webb building…

6. 10 historic London hotels…5. The Great Western Hotel (Hilton London Paddington)…

5. This Week in London – City of London’s biggest rooftop viewing platform opens; Rembrandt at the British Museum; and, Franz West at the Tate…

8. Lost London – The Jerusalem Coffee House…

7. Lost London – South Sea House…

And so we come to our annual countdown of the most popular stories published in 2019. Without further ado here’s the first two…

10. 10 of London’s most curious (and historic) graves – 7. Ben Jonson (Westminster Abbey)…

9. 10 of London’s most curious (and historic) graves – 2. Hannah Courtoy…  

We’ll publish the next two tomorrow…

Hoping you have a wonderful Christmas! PICTURE: johnc001 (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This City of London street is named for a church which once stood to the east of the thoroughfare.

The church was founded as part of a monastery the 11th century by brothers Ingelric and Girard – the former was apparently a man of some influence in the courts of King Edward the Confessor and King William the Conqueror (although there is apparently a tradition that the church was founded earlier, by the Saxon King Wihtred of Kent, in the 7th or 8th century).

The collegiate church, which had the job of sounding the curfew bell in the evenings to announce the closing of the city gates during the reign of King Edward I (the right later moved to another church), gave special rights to the precinct in which it stood including that of sanctuary for certain types of criminals. Indeed, by the 14th century, it was the largest area of sanctuary in England.

This was particularly useful for those making what was supposed to be their final journey from Newgate to their execution at Tower Hill – the precinct lay along the route and, yes, some were said to have escaped into the district as they passed by. But perhaps the most famous said to have sought sanctuary in the precinct were Miles Forrest, one of those accused of murdering the so called “Princes in the Tower” – King Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York.

The institution was dissolved during the reign of King Henry VIII and demolished in the mid-16th century but the name lived on in the precinct where it once stood – during the Elizabethan era it was apparently famous for its lace.

The site of the church was later the site of the General Post Office, built in 1829, which was eventually demolished in 1911 and replaced by a premises located to the west.

The street, which becomes Aldersgate Street in the north and runs into Cheapside in the south, was also once home to the The Bull and Mouth Inn, destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, and a French Protestant Church. The latter was built in 1842 but demolished in 1888 to make way for more Post Office buildings.

PICTURES: Looking south (top) and north (below) from St Martin-le-Grand (Google Maps).

This famous cat, belonging to lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-84), is memorialised outside his former home in Gough Square.

Johnson was known for his fondness of this particular cat – his biographer James Boswell, reports, for example: “I recollect him one day scrambling up Dr Johnson’s breast, apparently with much satisfaction, while my friend smiling and half-whistling, rubbed down his back, and pulled him by the tail.”

According to Boswell, Johnson told him that while he had had finer cats, Hodge – who is believed to have been a black cat – was a “very fine cat indeed”. Such was the cat’s renown that poet Percival Stockdale wrote an Elegy on The Death of Dr Johnson’s Favourite Cat.

This statue to Hodge was erected in 1966 by then Lord Mayor of London, Sir Roger Cook. The work of Jon Bickley (who apparently modelled Hodge on his own cat Thomas Henry), it depicts Hodge sitting on top of Johnson’s famous (and massive) dictionary and next to some empty oyster shells (the latter a reference to Johnson’s habit of feeding oysters to Hodge – while this wasn’t unusual, Johnson’s going out himself to fetch them himself – lest his servants resent Hodge – was).

The monument, which has Hodge looking towards his former home, features a plaque which has Johnson’s quote about Hodge – “a very fine cat indeed” – as well as his famous quote about the city in which they lived – “Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford.”

Dr Johnson’s former house and workplace at number 17 Gough Square, where he lived for 11 years, is now a museum.

 

Christmas came early at ZSL London Zoo on Monday when animals woke to find their presents had been delivered. Among them was a new Christmas climbing frame decorated with edible gifts for the ever-popular Bolivian black-capped squirrel monkeys, turkey wings for Sumatran tiger Asim and hanging stockings stuffed with vegetable trimmings for the ring-tailed lemurs. “Just like children all over the country when they wake up on Christmas morning, Asim loved tearing into his brightly wrapped presents to get at the meaty snacks inside, while our squirrel monkeys and lemurs enjoyed finding the festive treats hidden in their stockings,” said Angela Ryan, the Zoo’s animal manager. The zoo is open every day with the exception of Christmas Day itself. For more, see www.zsl.org/London. ALL PICTURES: © ZSL London Zoo

Last month marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of leading English novelist George Eliot – actually the pen name of Mary Ann Evans. 

Born in Warwickshire on 22nd November, 1819, Evans was the third child of Robert Evans, an estate manager, and Christiana Evans, daughter of a local mill owner.

Described as a “voracious reader” from an early age, she was a boarder at various schools up until the age of 16 when, following the death of her mother, she returned home to act as housekeeper (she apparently continued her education in the library of Arbury Hall, the property her father managed).

In 1841, when her brother Isaac married and took over the family home, she moved with her father to Foleshill near Coventry. There, they met Charles and Cara Bray – Charles was a wealthy ribbon maker and religious free-thinker who used his wealth to establish schools and hospitals to help improve conditions of the poor.

Thanks to her friendship with the Brays, Evans came into contact at their house, Rosehill, with the likes of Welsh social reformer Robert Owen, Harriet Martineau, often described as the first female sociologist, and American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson as well as German theologian David Friedrich Strauss and German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach (in fact, her first major literary work was the completion of an English translation of Strauss’ The Life of Jesus Critically Examined and she also later translated Feuerbach’s The Essence of Christianity).

Evans, who was a devout evangelical Christian in her youth, lived with her father until his death in 1849. She had questioned her faith some years before but after she’d informed her father she would no longer go to church, they had reached a compromise under which she had been free to think as she wished as long as she continued to attend church.

Following her father’s death, Evans – now 30 – had visited Switzerland and, following her return to England, moved to London to pursue a career in writing.

In London, Evans initially stayed in the Strand home of radical publisher John Chapman, whom she’d met through the Brays. She eventually went on staff at his left-wing journal, The Westminster Review – becoming, in time, Chapman’s right-hand, the editor in fact if not in title, at publication by the time she left in 1854.

At that time she moved in with journalist George Henry Lewes, who had met her several years earlier. He was still married to Agnes Jervis, despite her having born to children to another man, and the new couple’s relationship caused a great scandal, leading many to shun Evans. The couple travelled together to Germany for research and thereafter Lewes and Evans apparently considered themselves married.

While she had stories published in magazines in the years earlier, her first novel, Adam Bede, was published under the pseudonym George Eliot in 1859 (she’d first used the pseudonym on a short story, The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton, published in 1857). Much acclaimed, the public interest surrounding the novel led Evans – who now called herself Marian Evans Lewes – to acknowledge the work as hers – a revelation which came as a shock to many given her unconventional private life but which, despite that, failed to dent the novel’s popularity.

Encouraged by Lewes, she wrote several novels over the next 15 years including The Mill on the Floss in 1860, Silas Marner in 1861, Romola in 1863, Felix Holt, the Radical in 1866 and her most acclaimed novel (sometimes described as the greatest English novel ever written), Middlemarch in 1871-72. Her final novel, Daniel Deronda, was published in 1876.

Celebrated for the depth of her characterisations and her descriptions of English rural life, she was recognised as the greatest English novelist of her time.

The couple, meanwhile, lived in several properties in London – including one in Richmond, ‘Holly Lodge’ in Wimbledon Park Road, Wandsworth (it was the first property south of the Thames to be marked with an English Heritage Blue Plaque), and ‘The Priory’ near Regent’s Park in Marylebone.

Eliot’s success as a novelist saw the couple gradually gain social acceptance – in an indication that can be seen in that Charles Darwin, Aldous Huxley, Henry James and Frederic Leighton were all among those entertained at The Priory in the couple’s latter years together.

Lewes died in 1878 and two years later, on 16th May, 1880, Lewes married John Cross – a longstanding friend who was 20 years younger and who had provided comfort following the loss of her husband.

Following their honeymoon in Venice, the couple returned to London where they lived at a property in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea (an English Heritage Blue Plaque marks the property).

It was to be a short-lived marriage – soon after moving into their new home, Mary Ann (now) Cross fell ill with a throat infection and coupled with the kidney disease she had suffered for several years, she died on 22nd December of that year at age 61.

Eliot was buried in Highgate Cemetery beside Lewes. A memorial stone was erected in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner in 1980.

PICTURES: Top – George Eliot, replica by François D’Albert Durade, oil on canvas, 1850-1886, based on a work of 1850, 13 1/2 in. x 10 1/2 in. (343 mm x 267 mm), Purchased 1905, Primary Collection, NPG 1405; Below – The English Heritage Blue Plaque on the Cheyne Walk property (Spudgun67 (licensed under CC BY 2.0))

A major exhibition on the legendary city of Troy has opened at the British Museum. Troy: myth and reality showcases works of art inspired by the “tales of war, love and loss” connected to the Trojan cycle of myths and follows in the footsteps of archaeologists and adventurers who have sought to find evidence of the ancient city. Among the almost 300 objects on show are original finds – such as pottery, silver vessels, bronze weapons and stone sculptures – found by Heinrich Schliemann’s work at the site between 1870 and 1890, a Roman sarcophagus lid picturing a wheeled – and armed – wooden horse (on loan from Oxford’s Ashmolean), Filippo Albacini’s (1777–1858) marble sculpture, The Wounded Achilles, and a Roman silver cup from the National Museum of Denmark depicting the meeting of Priam and Achilles as described in Homer’s The Iliad (pictured). Admission charges applies. Runs until 8th March. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/Troy. PICTURE: Priam and Achilles, Roman silver cup, 1st century AD, National Museum of Denmark Photograph: Roberta Fortuna and Kira Ursem © National Museet Denmark.

Queen drummer, Roger Taylor, unveiled a Westminster City Council Green Plaque commemorating the site of Europe’s earliest recording studio in Covent Garden earlier this month. The studio was opened on Maiden Lane, one street north of the Strand, in 1898 by audio pioneer Fred Gaisberg and The Gramophone Company, a precursor to EMI – the same company which opened the world-famous Abbey Road Studios 33 years later. The campaign for the plaque – located on a building now housing a pizza restaurant – was led by music journalist and author James Hall with support from the EMI Archive Trust. For more, see www.westminster.gov.uk/green-plaques.

• On Now: Two Last Nights! Show Business in Georgian Britain. This interactive display throughout the entire Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury features more than 100 objects which highlight the similarities and differences between theatre going in the Georgian era and now. It explores key venues in London and beyond and is divided into four sections focusing on Georgian theatres like Drury Lane and Covent Garden, the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, the importance of the Foundling Hospital Chapel as a music venue, and the provincial music festivals held in other major cities in Britain. Runs until 5th January. Free with museum admission. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

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Formerly housing the The Pride of Tottenham, this revamped pub’s name now reflects the building’s previous use as The Blue Coats School for Girls.

Located at 614 Tottenham High Road, the current “chapel-shaped” building – which represents a “Jacobean” style – dates from 1835 but the Blue Coats School which inhabited it, originally opened in 1735.

It was one of numerous such charity schools built around England between the 16th and 18th centuries. The name comes from the blue uniforms students wore, a colour typically associated with charity.

The school, which apparently taught up to 120 students at its peak, moved across to All Hallows School in 1930.

The building then underwent several different guises, including a nightclub, before it became The Pride of Tottenham, a known haunt of Hotspurs fans and among buildings affected by the 2011 riots.

The new Bluecoats pub, which spans two floors, was opened last year following a restoration of the building.

For more, see https://thebluecoatspub.com/

PICTURE: Alan Stanton (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/image cropped)

Hampton Court Palace is once again holding its ‘Festive Fayre’ this weekend. More than 80 stalls will fill the palace’s historic courtyards serving Christmas-related treats like mince pies and mulled wine. Included in entry price. Hampton Court will also host carol singing in the courtyards between 6pm and 7pm, 8pm and 9pm on 16th, 22nd and 23rd of December. Meanwhile, Kensington Palace is offering the visitors on select dates between 7th December and 5th January to take part in Princess Victoria’s Christmas by assisting her in staging a Christmas panto, joining in the type of seasonal crafts she enjoyed as a child and discovering the history of the festive food Victoria would have enjoyed growing up at Kensington. Included in palace admission. And, of course, the ice rinks at Hampton Court Palace and in the Tower of London’s moat are now open. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk.

More than 500 lanterns made by local children and adults will feature in this year’s Aldgate Lantern Parade tomorrow afternoon. The parade will launch from Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School at about 4.45pm and through streets north of Aldgate High Street to the beat of the Barbican’s Drum Works ending in a festive fete in the new Aldgate Square. A Winter Fair will simultaneously take place between Aldgate Square and St Botolph without Aldgate, complete with an array of performances, art, food, drink and festive activities.

On Now: Dora Maar. The first UK retrospective of the artist Dora Maar (1907-97) whose provocative photographs and photomontages became celebrated icons of surrealism is on at the Tate Modern. It features more than 200 works spanning the six decades of her career. Among highlights are The years lie in wait for you (c1935), Portrait of Ubu (1936), photomontages 29, rue d’Astorg (c1936) and The Pretender (1935), rarely seen works like The Conversation (1937) and The Cage (1943), and a substantial group of camera-less photographs that she made in the 1980s. Runs until 15th March. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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From a cat to a dog – this week we’re looking at the grave of Victorian-era bare knuckle prize fighter Tom Sayers which features a statue of his faithful hound, Lion.

Sayers – widely considered the first boxer to hold the World Heavyweight Champion after he defeated American John Camel Heenan in 1860 – had a career spanning more than a decade in the the mid-19th century and was able to retire in 1860 thanks to a generous public. But he died only five years later at the age of 39 in 1865.

His burial at Highgate Cemetery – where this tomb is located – is said to have been attended by 10,000 people, such was his fame. Lion, a mastiff, was described as the “chief mourner” at his funeral.

Lion had been Sayers’ dog since at least early 1861 when mentions of the brown dog accompanying the pugilist started to appear in the press. The newspapers noted the apparent bond between the two but when Sayers failed bid to create a circus saw him auction off various associated animals and paraphernalia, that didn’t stop Lion being on the auction list.

Sayers apparently had a change of heart, however, as Lion’s turn to go under the hammer came up and stepped in to buy back the dog – but not before the price had apparently run up to 20 guineas.

Following Sayers’ death, Lion again went to auction and this time was sold to a close friend of Sayers, a former soldier who was the landlord of the Welsh Harp pub where the boxer had held his circus auction.

Following a public subscription, the stone monument – including the statue of Lion – was installed over Sayers’ grave in 1866.

Lion, however, was again sold and apparently ended his life on a country estate.

With thanks to an article by Gary Lucken, ‘A tale of ‘Lion’ hunting: Boxing Monthly turns pet detective’ published in Boxing Monthly.

WHERE: Western Cemetery, Swain’s Lane (nearest Tube is Archway); WHEN: Guided tour only – bookings essential for weekdays/no bookings on weekends (tours run every half hour from 10.30am to 3pm); COST: £12 adults/£6 children eight 17/no children under 8; WEBSITE: www.highgate-cemetery.org

PICTURE: Nick Garrod (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The remains of an adult female and a young child have been discovered beneath the floor of one of the entrances to the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London. Discovered as part of early investigations aimed at enabling better disabled access to the chapel, the two skeletons – the first complete skeletons found at the Tower since the 1970s – were found lying face up with their feet facing east, typical of a Christian burial. The adult, believed to be aged 35 to 45, is believed to have been buried within a coffin (coffin nails were present) while the child, believed to be aged about seven, was simply wrapped in a blanket – typical of later medieval and early Tudor burials – and due to that and further materials and artefacts uncovers, it is believed the two people were laid to rest between 1450 and 1550, a period between the Wars of the Roses and the reign of King Edward VI. The remains were reinterred in the chapel in a special ceremony conducted by the Tower of London’s chaplain, Rev Canon Roger Hall. The Chapel Royal was completed in 1520 and is perhaps most famed for being the burial place of two of King Henry VIII’s wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. The discovery was explored in the the final episode of Inside the Tower of London which aired on Channel 5 in October.

This marks the 100th anniversary – last month in fact – of the entry of the first woman to the British Parliament.

Nancy Astor, who won the seat of Plymouth Sutton on 15th November, 1919, took her seat in Parliament two weeks later on 1st December, about a year after women won the right to stand as an MP.

Astor, whose husband, Waldorf Astor, had previously occupied her seat (but whose seat became vacant when he was elevated to the House of Lords following the death of his father, Viscount Astor), was the first to take her seat in the House of Commons but not the first elected.

That honour goes to Constance Markiewicz, who won for Sinn Fein in 1918 – while she was detained in Holloway Prison – and who never took her seat in the House of Commons.

The American-born Astor met with a somewhat hostile reception from some – Winston Churchill famously told her MPs had hoped to “freeze her out”.

She delivered her maiden speech on 24th February, 1920, warning the MPs that given some women aged over 30 could now vote, they intended to use it and “use it wisely”.

Astor ended up winning seven elections and, despite being seen increasingly as a figure of controversy in part because of her support – along with her husbands and their associates – of Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement with Germany in the lead-up to World War II, remained MP for Plymouth Sutton until 1945.

She decided not to stand again based on the advice of the Conservative Party – who saw her increasingly as a liability, and her husband.

PICTURE: A Blue Plaque commemorating Nancy Astor on a property at 4 St James’s Square, St James’s (Leo Reynolds (licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0/image cropped)

The chapel, which served as the House of Commons from the mid-16th century until it was destroyed in the fire at the Palace of Westminster in 1834, was first recorded as part of the palace in the reign of King John (1199-1216).

It was rebuilt  in the late 13th century, on the orders of King Edward I. The king, apparently impressed by the Sainte Chapelle, built as a royal chapel by King Louis IX in Paris, ordered the chapel rebuilt to rival it.

The two storey, richly decorated stone chapel featured two levels, the upper floor for use of the Royal Family (it could only be entered from the Royal Apartments), the lower for courtiers and the Royal Household – was largely complete by 1348.

The then 15-year-old King Richard II married Anne of Bohemia in the chapel in 1382 and the ill-fated Richard, Duke of York (the younger of the two so-called Princes in the Tower) married Anne Mowbray here while still young children. Richard’s father, King Edward IV, had laid in state here for eight days after his death in 1483. Thomas Cranmer was consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury here in 1533.

The Palace of Westminster was no longer used as a royal residence following the death of King Henry VIII in   and in 1547 it was deconsecrated under the Abolition of Chantries Act instituted by King Henry’s son, King Edward VI, after which it was used as a debating chamber for the House of Commons (which had hitherto been meeting in xxx).

During the Commonwealth, Oliver Cromwell had the chapel’s crypt white-washed and, so the story goes, used it for stabling his horses.

The chapel’s architecture was amended several times over the ensuing centuries to better accomodate MPs – it included the addition of extra seats and among the architects who worked on it was Sir Christopher Wren – before the fire of 1834 while completely destroyed the main chapel, leaving just the crypt below and adjoining cloisters.

The crypt, now known as the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, was subsequently restored to its original use as a place of worship (it had been used for various purposes over its life). Interestingly, women’s suffragist Emily Davison had spent the night in a broom cupboard in the crypt in 1911 so, as woman banned from the premises, she could address the House of Commons the next day.

The site of the chapel is now covered by St Stephen’s Hall and its porch, constructed as part of the rebuild after the fire.

To see modern revisualisations of what the chapel may once have looked like, head to www.virtualststephens.org.uk.

 

 

The world’s largest museum galleries devoted to the history of medicine have opened at the Science Museum. The £24 million ‘Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries’ cover more than 3000 square metres across five galleries with exhibits all aimed at better understanding how the human body has transformed medicine. More than 3,000 artefacts from the collections of Henry Wellcome and the Science Museum Group are on display including 200-year-old wax anatomical models, the first stethoscope, lancets used by Edward Jenner in his smallpox vaccinations and medicine chests used on expeditions to Mount Everest and Antarctica. There’s also an intricate model of a 1930s hospital, a rare iron lung used by patients with polio and the world’s first MRI scanner, protein model and paramedic bicycle. Visitors also have the chance to step inside a Victorian-era pharmacy, discover what it takes to heart transplant surgery and treat a critically ill patient. There are also four specially commissioned artworks including life-sized portraits by Siân Davey presented along with the stories of individuals impacted by how medicine defines ‘normal’, Marc Quinn’s monumental bronze Self-Conscious Gene – inspired by inspired the tattooed body of model Rick Genest, Bloom – Studio Roso’s aerial sculpture representing the spread of diseases through populations and Santa Medicina, Eleanor Crook’s bronze sculpture of a figure that is both surgeon and saint and which encourages visitors to contemplate their relationship with mortality.  Entry is free. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk. PICTURE: The Medicine and Bodies gallery in Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries © Science Museum Group.  

Nine of British modernist artist David Bomberg’s key works are being shown alongside images that influenced him in a new exhibition at the National Gallery. Young Bomberg and the Old Masters showcases Bomberg’s works including The Mud Bath (1914), Vision of Ezekiel (1912) and the first version of his war painting Sappers at Work: A Canadian Tunnelling Company, Hill 60, St Eloi (c1918-19) alongside the likes of Botticelli’s Portrait of a Young Man and the studio of El Greco’s The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. The display can be seen in Room 1 until 1st March. Admission is free. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

The final 20,000 tickets for London’s New Year’s Eve fireworks are being released from noon today. This year’s display features more than 12,000 fireworks and 2,000 lighting cues choreographed to music and will start with the sound of Big Ben’s chimes (despite them  being silent due to renovation works this year). Tickets, priced at £10, must be purchased in advance to attend the event and those who aren’t lucky enough to get one can watch live on BBC One. To purchase tickets, head to www.london.gov.uk/nye.

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