Located in one of the most prominent sites in London, Parliament Square is these days perhaps best known as a protest site for those wanting to attract Parliament’s eye. And while, unlike say, Trafalgar Square, many visitors to London may not know its name, its proximity to the Houses of Parliament, Whitehall, Westminster Bridge and Westminster Abbey means it’s rarely off anyone’s tourist agenda.

David-Lloyd-GeorgeThe history of the square goes back to 1868 when architect Sir Charles Barry (responsible for the design of the Houses of Parliament) designed a square to improve traffic flow in the area (and demolished many buildings – apparently the area was a slum – in the process).

The roads around the square featured London’s first traffic signals (it used semaphore arms rather than lights and was installed at the meeting of Great George and Bridge Streets) and in addition the square was originally the location for the Buxton Memorial Fountain which moved to its present position in Victoria Tower Gardens in 1940 (see our earlier post on the fountain here). In 1950, the entire square was redesigned by architect George Grey Wornum.

The square is home to a plethora of statues including former PMs Sir Winston Churchill, a relatively recent statue of David Lloyd George (pictured), Sir Robert Peel (also the founder of the Metropolitan Police Force – see our earlier post here), Benjamin Disraeli, the Earl of Derby and Lord Palmerston as well as South African PM Jan Christian Smuts and, (if you count the space in front of Middlesex Guildhall), US President Abraham Lincoln (a replica of a statue in Lincoln Park, Chicago) and former Foreign Secretary and PM George Canning. Among the last statues added was a nine foot high bronze figure of Nelson Mandela which was placed in the square in 2007 after an unsuccessful push to have it located in Trafalgar Square.

Among the most high profile of protests to have been held there is that of the late peace campaigner Brian Haw who camped on the square for 10 years until 2010. Among the most recent protests this year has been a colourful demonstration by beekeepers, calling for a ban on pesticides.

For more on London’s statues, see Peter Matthews’ London’s Statues and Monuments.

A Jacobean mansion located in Kensington’s Holland Park, Holland House was first built in 1605 for Sir Walter Cope, Chancellor of the Exchequer for King James I. 

Sir Walter apparently entertained the king and his wife, Queen Anne of Denmark, at the property – then named Cope Castle – on numerous occasions at the property and reportedly hosted the king the night after his son, Henry Frederick, the Prince of Wales, died in 1612.

Its name came with a later owner – the ill-fated Henry Rich, Cope’s son-in-law, who was made the 1st Earl of Holland in 1624 and was later executed for his role in supporting the Royalist cause during the Civil War during which the house was occupied by parliamentary troops.

The home was later used by various family members – among luminaries associated with the property are the essayist Joseph Addison who died there in 1719 as well as, in later years, the likes of Lord Byron, Benjamin Disraeli, Charles Dickens and Sir Walter Scott, all of whom visited the property during the property’s golden age in the 19th century when it was an important social gathering place.

The house was largely destroyed in a bombing raid in September 1940 and passed into ownership of the local authority. A youth hostel is now housed inside the restored east wing of the building while other buildings are used for a restaurant and function centre – all set within the 22 hectare (55 acre) Holland Park. Some of the ruins provide a backdrop for open-air theatre performances and concerts in summer.

WHERE: Holland Park (nearest tube stations are Holland Park, Kensington High Street and Notting Hill); WHEN: 7.30am to 30 minutes before dusk (check signs by entrance); COST: Park entrance is free (house is not open to the public); WEBSITE: www.rbkc.gov.uk/leisureandlibraries/parksandgardens/yourlocalpark/hollandpark.aspx

Hatchards on Piccadilly (right next to Fortnum & Mason) is generally accepted as being London’s oldest surviving bookshop.

It was founded in 1797 by John Hatchard in Piccadilly (there seems some dispute over whether it still stands on exactly the same site).

The shop currently holds three royal warrants for the supply of books to the Royal Household.

Among high profile past customers have been Queen Charlotte (wife of King George III), former PMs Benjamin Disraeli and  Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, and literary figures such as Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde and Lord Byron.

It remains popular with lovers of literature and is noted for hosting book-signings by prominent authors with many signed book on the shelves.

For more, see www.hatchards.co.uk.