A statue of Russian cosmonaut and first man in space Yuri Gagarin has been relocated to the newly named Yuri Gagarin Terrace outside the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. First unveiled in The Mall, not far from Admiralty Arch, on 14th July 2011, the statue was a gift from the Russian federal space agency, Roscosmos, to mark the 50th anniversary of manned space flight (you can read more at our earlier post here). But it was only granted permission to remain on the site for 15 months and so has now been relocated to Greenwich where it as officially unveiled last Thursday in the week of Gagarin’s birthday by his daughter Elena Gagarina (pictured here with Royal Museums Greenwich director Dr Kevin Fewster). The statue – a 3.5 metre high zinc alloy figure – shows Gagarin dressed in a spacesuit and standing on a globe. It stands just outside the observatory’s Astronomy Centre. For more on the Royal Observatory Greenwich – the “home” of Greenwich Mean Time, see www.rmg.co.uk.
For many Londoners, an opportunity to see the Queen means heading to Buckingham Palace to watch her wave from the balcony – or standing in the Mall to watch as her carriage goes by.
This one kilometre long grand processional route which links Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace, was originally cut through St James’s Park in 1660 when King Charles II was looking for a new paille-maille pitch (see our earlier entry on Pall Mall for more on this). Two long avenues of trees were planted on either side, giving it a leafy feel that’s still in evidence today.
The Mall had become notorious by the 18th century and was spruced up in 1911 under the eye of Sir Aston Webb (who also designed other elements in the area including a new facade for Buckingham Palace, the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of the palace, and Admiralty Arch at the western end of the route) to become the grand avenue, complete with red-carpet like surface (this was done later), that it is today.
It is bordered by St James’s Park on the south side and on the north side is overlooked by various grand buildings – including Clarence House and the Institute of Contemporary Arts – as well as, toward the western end, Green Park.
These days the Queen publicly processes down The Mall for a number of events throughout the year – among them are the State Opening of Parliament (held earlier this month) as well as military ceremonies like Trooping the Colour and events like last year’s Royal Wedding when is it said that more than a million people were said to have filled the broad street.
The Mall is also the route along which Heads of State process in a horse drawn carriage during official visits (the road is then decorated with Union Jacks and flags of the visitor’s country). During the Olympics, it will be the start and end location of the marathons and cycling road races.
Apart from the Queen Victoria Memorial at the eastern end of The Mall, statues and monuments lining the road include the Queen Mother Memorial, a statue of explorer Captain James Cook, and a recently installed statue of cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin.
There are apparently a series of tunnels underneath with link Buckingham Palace with Whitehall.
We should also briefly mention Horseguards, which is at The Mall’s eastern end and where Trooping the Colour and Beating Retreat takes place. This was formerly the site of a tiltyard of the Palace of Whitehall and jousting tournaments were held here during the time of King Henry VIII. It has been used for parades and ceremonies since the 17th century. While cars were parked here for much of the 20th century, this practice was stopped in the mid-1990s.
• Earlier this month it was former US President Ronald Reagan’s turn to be honored with statue in Grosvenor Square. Last week it was the turn of former Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin – the first man in space – to be so honored with a new statue located outside the British Council’s offices in the Mall (opposite another explorer, Captain James Cook). The statue, a gift of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, was unveiled to mark the 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s celebratory visit to London on 14th July, 1961, just three months after he completed his orbit of the earth on 12th April that year. The 3.5 metre high zinc alloy figure stands close to Admiralty Arch which was where Gagarin met then Prime Minister Harold MacMillan after he was invited to the UK by the National Union of Foundrymen. Among those present for the unveiling of the statue – which is a replica of one in the town of Lubertsy where Gagarin worked as a foundryman as a teenager – was Gagarin’s daughter Elena Gagarina, now director of the Kremlin Museums, and Vladimir Popovkin, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency. The British Council is running an exhibition, Gagarin in Britain, which looks at the life of Gagarin and the early Soviet space programme, until 14th September – among the objects on display is the first space suit and an ejector seat similar to that Gargarin used when he ejected out of Vostok 1. Entry is by registration only and space is limited – email email@example.com is you’d like to register for a place. For more information, see www.britishcouncil.org. PICTURE: Frank Noon/British Council
• A new iPhone app which directs people to key sites in what was Roman London (Londinium) will go live on Monday. Developed by the Museum of London and the History Channel, Streetmuseum Londonium will bring to life some of the city’s most significant Roman sites, such as the amphitheatre at Guildhall, using “augmented reality video” which will overlay scenes of Roman London over the modern city while soundscapes will allow users to listen to a ritual at the Temple of Mithras or traders at the forum. In addition, users will be able to ‘digitally excavate’ Roman artifacts including leather bikini briefs and an ancient manicure set. Navigation to these “immersive experiences” will be via a specially created new map of Roman London which will be superimposed on a modern map of the capital, allowing users to see how the city has changed. The launch follows the earlier creation of the Streetmuseum app which guides people to more than 200 sites across the city. More than 200,000 people from across the world have so far downloaded this. Streetmuseum Londinium will be available free to download from 25th July. See www.museumoflondon.org.uk/apps for more.
• London will mark one year to go until the Olympic Games next Wednesday with a ceremony in Trafalgar Square which will be broadcast live on BBC1. Among those present with be the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge, London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) chairman Sebastian Coe and Mayor of London Boris Johnson. The event will also feature a live cross to the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park where Olympic hopeful Tom Daley will make the first dive into the pool.
• The British Library hopes to raise £2.75 million to acquire the world’s earliest surviving intact European book, the 7th century St Cuthbert Gospel. A copy of the Gospel of St John, the book was buried with St Cuthbert on the isle of Lindisfarne in 698 and later found in the saint’s coffin in Durham Cathedral in 1104. The National Heritage Fund Memorial has already awarded £4.5 million to obtain the St Cuthbert Gospel and the Art Fund and The Garfield Weston Foundation have donated £250,000 each. The book has been on long-term loan to the library since 1979 and is regularly on view in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery. The library was approached last year and given first option to acquire the text after the Society of Jesus (British Province) decided to sell it. A price of £9 million has been agreed, of which £2.75 million remains outstanding. For more, see www.bl.uk.