LondonLife – Prince Albert keeps his lonely vigil…






The Albert Memorial, South Kensington. For its history, see our earlier post here.

LondonLife – Hazy days of summer…


Hazy-days-of-summerLooking from Kensington Gardens to the Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington.


10 of London’s greatest Victorian projects – 10. The final wrap-up…

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?

Where is it?…#46

The latest in the series in which we ask you to identify where in London this picture was taken and what it’s of. If you think you can identify this picture, leave a comment below. We’ll reveal the answer early next week. Good luck!

Well done to Carol Stanley – this is indeed located at 20 Eastcheap in the City of London. The building on the facade of which this relief of a camel train sits was formerly the offices of Peek Bros & Co, dealers in tea, coffee and spices. Peek House was built in 1883 after the previous structure, along with others on this side of Eastcheap, was demolished to make way for the Underground’s Metropolitan Line. The picture was carved by William Theed the Younger, who also sculpted the Africa group – including camel – on the Albert Memorial.

The Royal Parks – 2. Kensington Gardens

Once the western part of King Henry VIII’s hunting ground, the 111 hectare Kensington Gardens is now primarily associated with the palace which sits at its heart.

The origins of the gardens go back to 1689 when King William III and Queen Mary II decided to make Kensington Palace (which, as we mentioned last week, was formerly known as Nottingham House) their home. Queen Mary oversaw the creation of a formal, Dutch-style garden featuring hedges and flower beds.

Queen Anne expanded the gardens after King William III’s death and commissioned landscape designers Henry Wise and George Loudon to create an English-style garden. She also ordered the construction of the Orangery which still stands to the north of the palace complex today (and houses a fine restaurant).

But it’s to Queen Caroline, wife of King George II, to whom Kensington Gardens owe its current form for it was she who in 1728, scythed off 300 acres of Hyde Park and employed Charles Bridgeman to create a new garden. His designs included damming the Westbourne stream to create the Long Water and the adjoining Serpentine in Hyde Park. He was also responsible for the creation of the Round Pond in front of the palace and, a landscape-history making move, used a ditch known as a ha-ha to separate the gardens from Hyde Park.

By the reign of King Charles II, the gardens had become fashionable for the elite to stroll in with the Broad Walk a popular promenade. But the gardens gradually fell from favour – a move exacerbated when Queen Victoria, who was born in Kensington Palace, moved to live at Buckingham Palace.

There were some changes made during the era, however. They included the creation of the ornamental Italian water gardens at the northern end of the Long Water and the Albert Memorial (see our previous story here) on the southern edge of the gardens.

Other highlights there today include the Peter Pan statue (see our earlier story on this), the Serpentine Gallery (with, in summer, a temporary pavilion), the Peter Pan-themed Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground (opened in 2000), and the Elfin Oak, a stump which originally came from Richmond Park and is carved with tiny figures of woodland animals and fairies.

There’s also a statue of Queen Victoria directly outside of Kensington Palace which, interestingly, was sculpted by her daughter Princess Louise in celebration 50 years of her reign, as well as statues of Edward Jenner, creator of the small pox vaccine, and John Hanning Speke, discoverer of the Nile.

Other facilities include a cafe and, next to the magazine, an allotment.

WHERE: Kensington Gardens (nearest tube stations are that of Queensway, Bayswater, Lancaster Gate, South Kensington, Gloucester Road and Kensington High Street); WHEN: 6am to dusk; COST: Free; WEBSITE:

PICTURE: Courtesy of Royal Parks. © Giles Barnard

Curious London memorials – 2. The Albert Memorial

No list of London’s memorials could ever be complete without mentioning the extravagant Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens.

Completed in 1876 at a cost of £120,000, the monument – officially known as the Prince Consort National Memorial – was commissioned by the Queen after Prince Albert died of typhoid in 1861. Queen Victoria, devastated at his loss and wanting a public memorial for Albert, invited seven leading architects to submit designs. In the end she chose the designs of Sir Gilbert Scott which featured an ornate canopy and spire standing to a height of 176 feet (54 metres) over a larger-than-life gilded bronze figure of Prince Albert sitting in regal splendour.

The resulting memorial – described “visual feast” – is an exemplar monument of the Victorian era’s Gothic Revival style. It highlights Albert’s role as a patron of the arts. Around the base of the podium is a frieze containing images of sculptors, composers, painters, architects and poets while at the four corners of the canopy are four clusters of statuetry relating to agriculture, commerce, engineering and manufacturing.

Further out, on the corners of the base, stand another four groups of statues – these relate to the continents of Europe, Asia, America and Africa. The canopy itself features mosaics and statues depicting historical figures associated with the arts as well as statues depicting the artistic and scientific disciplines, and angels and virtues.

The statue of Albert, sculpted by John Henry Foley, gazes benevolently towards Royal Albert Hall – another monument dedicated to the Prince Consort – and holds in its hand a catalogue of the Great Exhibition of 1851 (Albert was a key player in the exhibition’s organisation).

The monument, which was apparently used as a landmark by German bombers and Zeppelin pilots in World War I, underwent an extensive restoration in the 1990s which involved dismantling its entire upper half and then reassembling it.

While entry to the memorial is free, there are paid for tours available for those keen to find out more about the monument. For more information about the tours, see

WHERE: Kensington Gardens (nearest tube station is High Street Kensington or South Kensington); WHEN: Accessible when the park is open (6am to dusk) but it can be seen from Kensington Gore; COST: Entry is free (there are paid tours, see above); WEBSITE: Royal Parks has a page on its website,

Around London – Strawberry Hill to reopen; ‘Films on Foot’ festival; and images of a London menagerie…

• Horace Walpole’s Georgian Gothic villa Strawberry Hill will reopen its doors this weekend after a £9 million restoration project. The house at Twickenham in west London was built between 1747 and 1792 had fallen into such a state of disrepair that it had been listed as one of the world’s most endangered heritage sites in 2004. The son of Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister, Walpole built the house as a summer getaway and created an architectural masterpiece incorporating the features of cathedrals into the property. For more information, see

• Walking charity, the Ramblers is holding a Films on Foot festival celebrating London’s film heritage this October. The festival, which runs from 13th to 28th October, coincides with the 54th Times BFI London Film Festival and will feature 16 free “films on foot” walks taking in different areas around London which have been used in films. The walks will start every weekday at 7pm and every weekend at 1.30pm (you simply have to turn up at the starting place to take part). There is also a self-guided film walk along South Bank available for download. For more about the festival, see

Animals from across London feature in a new exhibition at National Theatre. A London Bestiary features the work of photographer Ianthe Ruthven who has captured some of the most famous and lesser known animals around London – everything from the lions guarding Nelson’s Column to the statue of a dog in Highgate cemetery and an elephant and camel from the Albert Memorial. Runs until 31st October. For more information, see