This Week in London – Coining the Queen’s portrait; the UK’s first Stolperstein; pioneering female landscape gardener honoured; and Picasso and Ingres…

Plaster model for the obverse of a coin.  Mary Gillick, 1952.  Bust of Queen Elizabeth II r., wearing laurel wreath. © The Trustees of the British Mu

A free display featuring the first coin bearing a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II has opened at the British Museum. Part of the celebrations marking the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, The Asahi Shimbun Display Mary Gillick: modelling The Queen’s portrait showcases the production and reception of the coin which was designed in 1952 and released the following year. Gillick’s portrait – which remained in circulation on coins in the UK until the 1990s and was also adapted for use on commemorative stamps – combined modern design with Italian Renaissance influences. Can be seen until 31st July. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

The UK’s first Stolperstein or “stumbling stone” has been installed in Soho as part of an initiative to remember the victims of the Nazis. The small brass plaque commemorates former resident Ada van Dantzig, a Dutch-Jewish paintings conservator for the National Gallery who came to London in the 1930s and worked and resided in Golden Square in Soho (where the plaque has been installed). She later re-joined her family in the Netherlands and was arrested in France in early 1943 along with her mother, father, sister and brother. Deported to Auschwitz, Ada, along with her parents, was murdered there on 14th February, 1943. Artist Gunter Demnig created the project almost 25 years ago to commemorate victims of Nazi Persecution during the Holocaust. More than 100,000 of stones have now been laid in 26 countries throughout Europe with the location of the stones the last address of those being remembered.

A pioneering female landscape gardener has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at her former flat in Shaftesbury Avenue. Fanny Wilkinson, who is believed to be Britain’s first professional female landscape gardener, was also a campaigner for the protection of open space in London. She lived and worked at the flat, which overlooks an open space she laid out herself, between 1885 and 1896. Wilkinson began her career as an honorary landscape gardener to the Metropolitan Public Boulevards, Gardens and Playgrounds Association – an organisation whose mission was the formation of gardens and public parks that would create playgrounds and green ‘lungs’, especially in poor districts of the capital. In June, 1885, it was agreed that she could charge five per cent on all her MPGA payments, leading her to drop the ‘honorary’ title and become Britain’s first professional female landscape gardener. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

A painting by Pablo Picasso – Woman with a Book (1932) from the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California – and a painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres – Madame Moitessier (1856) – are being shown together for the first time at The National Gallery. Picasso admired Ingres and referred to him throughout his career and this connection can be seen not only in his paintings but in drawings and studies he made during his ‘neoclassical’ phase in the 1920s. He encountered Madame Moitessie at an exhibition in Paris in 1921 and 11 years later painted Woman with a Book. The paintings, which are being show under a collaborative initiative between the two institutions, can be seen in Room 1 until 9th October. Admission is free. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

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This Week in London – Disney’s French influence; Eid in the Square; and, Sir Isaiah Berlin’s Blue Plaque…

Beauty and the Beast, 1991, Peter J Hall, Concept art, gouache, marker and ink on paper © Disney

• The connection between Disney’s animated films and French 18th-century art is explored in an exhibition at the Wallace Collection. Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts, which is being held in collaboration with New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, features more than 120 examples of production artwork and works on paper from the Walt Disney Animation Research Library and the Walt Disney Archives alongside approximately 30 18th-century artworks. The latter include Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s much-loved painting, The Swing (c1767), which provided inspiration for Disney films including Beauty and the Beast (1991), Tangled (2010) and Frozen (2013) and which is being showcased for the first time since its recent conservation. The exhibition, which was previously at the New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, can be seen until 16th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.wallacecollection.org.

• Eid in the Square returns to Trafalgar Square this Saturday for the first time since 2019. The day, held from noon to 6pm to mark the celebration that follows the end of Ramadan, features Islamic inspired art, culture and comedy on the main stage alongside a feast of food stalls from across the world. Performers include Baha Yetkin Sufi Ensemble, Nafees Ifran & Qalandar Qawwali Band, Dur Dur Band, Star Children’s Choir, spoken word poet Hussain Manawer, comedy sketch show favourites, ‘The Halalians’, Alif New Beginnings, and award-winning music producer Naughty Boy who will present his Naughty Boy Kitchen pop-up serving signature dishes fusing his British upbringing and Pakistani heritage. Other family-friendly activities being held on the day including calligraphy, storytelling, mehndi, face painting, and drama and poetry workshops, as well as a variety of sports activities including Muslim Girls Fencing and Sisterhood FC.

World renowned philosopher and historian of ideas, Sir Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997), was commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at his former Holland Park home. Berlin lived at 33 Upper Addison Gardens for nearly six-and-a-half years while attending St Paul’s School, then located in Hammersmith – a period he later referred to as “my golden childhood”. The house, which was purchased by his timber merchant father, was the family’s first permanent home in the UK following their arrival from Latvia. Berlin was also commemorated this week with a plaque on another of his former homes, this one in Hampstead. The Heath and Hampstead Society plaque was placed on the property at number 49 Hollycroft Avenue which was where Berlin’s family moved in October, 1928. While he left for Oxford University that same month, he spent much time there during his university vacations. Oxford was Berlin’s main base for the rest of his life. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

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LondonLife – Astronomers honoured…

69 Tyrwhitt Road, Lewisham. PICTURE: Google Maps

Astronomers Walter and Annie Maunder have been commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at their former home in Lewisham. The couple, known for their work on sunspots, solar photography and the debunking of a myth which suggested there were canals on Mars as well as their aim of making astronomy more accessible to women and amateurs, lived at 69 Tyrwhitt Road from 1907 to 1911 (having previously lived at number 86). It was during their period at the house that they published a sunspot article in 1904 containing a now-famous ‘butterfly diagram’ and wrote The Heavens and its Story, making frequent references to nearby park and favourite stargazing spot, Hilly Fields. For more, see https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

This Week in London – Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots; Ellen and William Craft honoured; and, Kehinde Wiley’s ‘Portrait of Melissa Thompson’…

Ink and pencil drawing of the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots at Fotheringhay Castle, 8th February, 1587 © British Library (Additional MS 48027, f. 650r)

• The complex relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the British Library in King’s Cross tomorrow. Highlights of Elizabeth and Mary: Royal Cousins, Rival Queens, the first major exhibition to consider both women together, include Queen Elizabeth I’s 1545 handwritten translation of her stepmother Katherine Parr’s Prayers and Meditations – a gift for her father King Henry VIII, a sonnet by Mary, Queen of Scots, which was handwritten the night before she was executed in 1587 (possibly the last thing she ever wrote), the ‘Penicuik Jewels’ which she is thought to have given away on the day of her death and Robert Beale’s eye-witness drawing depicting her entering the hall, disrobing, and placing her head on the block (pictured right). Other items on show include King Henry VIII’s Great Bible (dating from 1540, it was later inherited by Elizabeth I), Elizabeth I’s mother-of-pearl locket ring (c1575) containing miniature portraits of herself and her mother Anne Boleyn, and the warrant confining Mary, Queen of Scots, in Lochleven Castle in 1567. The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of events. Runs until 20th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.bl.uk/events/elizabeth-and-mary.

Nineteenth century African-American abolitionists Ellen and William Craft have been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at their former Hammersmith home. The Crafts escaped from enslavement in Georgia in the US in December, 1848, and fled to Britain, settling in a mid-Victorian house at 26 Cambridge Grove where they raised a family and campaigned for an end to slavery. The Crafts returned to the US following the end of the American Civil War and the emancipation of enslaved people and settled in Boston with three of their children. In 1873, they established the Woodville Cooperative Farm School in Bryan County, Georgia, for the children of those who had been emancipated. Ellen died in Georgia in 1891 and William in Charleston in 1900.

Melissa Thompson standing beside Kehinde Wiley’s Portrait of Melissa Thompson, 2020, now on display at the V&A © Victoria and Albert Museum

American artist Kehinde Wiley’s monumental Portrait of Melissa Thompson has gone on display in the V&A’s British Galleries, alongside William Morris’s Wild Tulip designs that inspired it. The massive oil painting, which was created as part of Wiley’s series The Yellow Wallpaper and was first exhibited at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow in 2020, was acquired earlier this year and is being displayed as part of a series of initiatives marking the 125th anniversary of William Morris’s death this October. The painting will be displayed in the William Morris Room (room 125) until 2024, after which it will move to its permanent home at V&A East Museum in 2025. Admission is free. For more, head to vam.ac.uk.

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This Week in London – Japan at Kew; Young V&A; a Blue Plaque for Diana’s flat; and, a new Lord Mayor of London…

Visitors to Kew Gardens are being invited to immerse themselves in the art, plants and culture of Japan in a month long celebration of the Asian nation. The Japan Festival kicks off this Saturday in Kew’s Temperate House and features at its heart a large-scale artistic installation by Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota entitled One Thousand Springs which is constructed of 5,000 haikus submitted by members of the public. There will also be a specially commissioned Chalk Garden – a contemporary response to a Japanese garden showcasing native plants including grasses, shrubs and trees – as well as a display showcasing six different chrysanthemums, Japan’s national flower, and an immersive soundscape by sound artist Yosi Horikawa featuring the natural sounds of the rivers and waterfalls of Kagoshima, atmospheric soundscapes from the Cedar mountains of Gifu and bird calls set across the waves of the Philippine Sea. The Temperate House will also be illuminated for Japan: After hours featuring a varied programme of dance, theatre, and live music performances as well as traditional flower arranging and sake sipping. The festival, supported by Daikin UK, runs to 31st October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.kew.org.

Sky Brown from Great Britain during women’s park skateboard at the Olympics at Ariake Urban Park, Tokyo, Japan on August 4, 2021. PICTURE: Ulrik Pedersen/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Thirteen-year-old Olympian Sky Brown’s skateboard, children’s garments created by sustainable fashion designer, humanitarian and artist Bethany Williams, and Open Bionics’ 3D printed prosthetic, The Hero Arm, are among new acquisitions to be displayed at what was the former V&A Museum of Childhood. Now renamed the Young V&A, the Grade II* Bethnal Green institution is undergoing a £13m transformation ahead of reopening in 2023. The new interior fit-out, by firm AOC Architecture, will include three new galleries –  Play, Imagine and Design – as well as interactive collection displays, a suite of dedicated learning workshops, an in-gallery design studio for visitors, and a new café and shop.

• The late Princess Diana has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at her former flat in Kensington. Flat 60, Coleherne Court, Old Brompton Road, was her home between 1979 and 1981 during her courtship with Prince Charles. She shared it with three friends including Virginia Clarke who was at the unveiling ceremony this week. Diana, who died aged 36 in a Paris car crash in 1997, described her years at the property as “the happiest time of her life”, according to biographer Andrew Morton’s book Diana, In Her Own Words.

Vincent Keaveny was this week elected as the 693rd Lord Mayor of the City of London. Alderman Keaveny succeeds Lord Mayor William Russell, who served a second year in office after his term was extended to ensure continuity of leadership during the current COVID-19 pandemic (the last time a Lord Mayor served a second year in office was in 1861 when William Cubitt was re-elected). The annual Lord Mayor’s Show is scheduled for Saturday, 13th November, and will be followed by Lord Mayor’s Banquet at Guildhall on 15th November.

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This Week in London – Totally Thames turns 25; Muppeteer Jim Henson honoured; and, Beerfest-Lite…

One Night Light Show by Leo Villareall as part of Totally Thames. PICTURE: Totally Thames.

Totally Thames, the annual month-long celebration of London’s river, is celebrating its 25th iteration this month. Highlights this year include Leo Villareal’s Illuminated River which lights up the Thames every night (along with a special three-day celebration including guided tours, talks, sketching workshops and a one-off illumination event on 23rd September) as well as the chance to explore the foreshore with ‘Mudlarking’ at St Paul’s Cathedral, take a deep dive into the history of dockside communities with ‘The Islanders’ and see river-themed art from children across the globe
come together at the National Maritime Museum in Rivers of the World. More than 80 events are included in the programme which runs until the end of the night. For more, see https://thamesfestivaltrust.org/whats-on.

• Muppet creator Jim Henson was honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at his former Hampstead home this week. Henson lived in the home at 50 Downshire Hill between 1979 and 1982 and continued to use it as his base until his death in 1990. It stands opposite the former ‘Jim Henson’s Creature Shop’, where creatures from fantasy films including The Dark CrystalThe Storyteller and Labyrinth were created. Henson’s son Brian,  chairman of the board at The Jim Henson Company, said it was an honour to have the property recognised, “knowing that he so admired and respected the talent in London, and that this is the place he called home when creating some of his most memorable productions.” For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

Beerfest-Lite takes place in Guildhall Yard in the City of London today. The event , which runs from noon to 9pm – features beers from the Meantime, Windsor and Eaton, Hook Norton and Shepherd Neame breweries and a street vendor menu including paella, hot dogs, souvlaki and Caribbean dishes as well as a jazz performance from the Alvar Tree Frogs and Bavarian Oompah band Würst Brass. For more, see www.citybeerfest.org.

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LondonLife – Gertrude Bell and Ronnie Scott commemorated…

Gertrude Bell – an adventurer, archaeologist, mountaineer and diplomat (who was at least partially responsible for the creation of the nation of Iraq) – has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque on the Chelsea home that served as her London based for some 40 years. The three storey Georgian residence at 95 Sloane Street (pictured) belonged to Lady Olliffe, the mother of Bell’s step-mother Florence. Bell, who spent much of her time in the Middle East, used the home as her London base between 1884, when she graduated from Queen’s College, through to her last visit to London in 1925, including during an extended period in 1915 when she managed the Red Cross’s Wounded and Missing Enquiry Department’s office in Arlington Street. Meanwhile, jazz musician Ronnie Scott has also been honoured with a Blue Plaque which marks the site of his first club in Soho. Scott and fellow saxophonist Pete King opened jazz club in the basement of 39 Gerrard Street in Chinatown on 30th October, 1959 – 60 years ago this year. The club remained there for six years before moving to 47 Frith Street in 1965. Musicians including Zoot Sims, Johnny Griffin, Roland Kirk, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, Benny Golson, Ben Webster, and Al Cohn all performed at the club while patrons included Harold Pinter, the Beatles, Peter O’Toole, and Spike Milligan. For more on English Heritage Blue Plaques, visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/. PICTURE: Google Maps

10 sites from Mary Shelley’s London…8. Chester Square…

One of the still standing properties most associated with Mary Shelley in London (hence the English Heritage Blue Plaque), Shelley lived in this home at 24 Chester Square, on the square’s north-west side, from 1846 until her death in 1851.

Mary moved here for the last few years of her life after her son Percy (a child she had with now deceased husband Percy Bysshe Shelley) had come into a substantial inheritance following the death of his grandfather in 1844.

During this period, she spent her time between this house which had been relatively recently built by Thomas Cubitt, and the Shelley’s ancestral home at Field Place, Sussex, where her son Percy Florence and his wife Jane lived.

Shelley was 53 when she died here on 1st February, 1851, of a suspected brain tumour. She had apparently asked to be buried with her parents in the graveyard of St Pancras Old Church but instead was buried at St Peter’s Church in Bournemouth close to her son’s new home in Boscombe. Her son had her parents exhumed and buried with her there.

The Blue Plaque was installed on this property in 2003 and unveiled by her biographer Miranda Seymour.

PICTURE: Spudgun67 (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0).

 

This Week in London – Totally Thames, and, Cooper Car Company commemorated…

• Totally Thames – London’s annual celebration of its river – kicks off on Saturday with a packed programme of walks and talks, performances, exhibitions, and the chance to explore the waterway itself. Among the exhibitions are one focusing on the history of the annual Doggett’s Coat and Badge race and another featuring river-inspired artwork created by young people from across the globe, while variously themed walks include a series taking place along the Thames foreshore at low tide. Other events include a concert series in Tower Bridge’s Bascule Chamber, tours of the Billingsgate Roman House and Baths, and talks including one on the “scandalous” history of whitebait and another on the connections between Florence Nightingale, St Thomas’ Hospital and the river. There’s also the chance this Saturday to see the tall ship, STS Lord Nelson, arrive in London to cross the finish line in ‘Lord Dannatt’s Round Britain Challenge’, the Classic Boat Festival at St Katharine’s Docks (running from 7th to 9th September), and the Great River Race (held on 8th September). For the full programme of events, head to www.totallythames.org. PICTURE: The Thames in central London (NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team)

Iconic car manufacturer, The Cooper Car Company, has been commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque. The plaque, unveiled earlier this month at the company’s former works in Hollyfield Road in Surbiton, makes mention of the company’s success in winning two Formula One World Championships in 1959 and 1960. The former works building, the site where Charles Cooper and his son John created a company which became part of motoring history, is a rare surviving purpose-built and architect-designed 1950s motor workshop. It features an unusual curved frontage – described as a “striking example of ‘Thunderbirds’ architecture” – in what is perhaps an intentional homage to the curved design of the Cooper racing cars, something English Heritage believes is quite possible given its architect, Richard Maddock, was the father of the late Cooper chief designer Owen ‘The Beard’ Maddock. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

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This Week in London – The history of women in Parliament; Michael Jackson portraits; and, Nevinsons honoured…

The campaign for women to be able to vote and stand as representatives in Parliament is the subject of an exhibition opening at the Houses of Parliament. Staged in Westminster Hall, Voice & Vote: Women’s Place in Parliament features historic objects, pictures and archives from Parliamentary collections and elsewhere with the “immersive” recreation of some of the lost historical spaces in the Palace of Westminster among the highlights. These include ‘The Ventilator’ – a space above the House of Commons Chamber where women, banned from the public galleries, watched and listened to Parliamentary debates, ‘The Cage’ – a ladies gallery closed off by brass grills built as part of the House of Commons when it was reconstructed after the 1834 fire, and ‘The Tomb’ – a room for women MPs after the 1918 decision allowing them to stand for Parliament. The exhibition, which is free to attend, runs from until 6th October. Tickets have to be pre-booked via Parliament’s website. PICTURE: Michael D Beckwith/Unsplash

The final commissioned portrait of popstar Michael Jackson is among images on show in a new National Portrait Gallery exhibition exploring his influence on contemporary art. Along that work – Kehinde Wiley’s 2010 work Equestrian Portrait of King Philip II (Michael Jackson), the exhibition Michael Jackson: On the Wall features American artist and activist Faith Ringgold’s story quilt Who’s Bad?, a series of collages by Isaac Julien, and a ‘dinner jacket’ covered with forks, spoons and knives made by costume designer Michael Lee Bush as well as a pop-graffiti style portrait by Keith Haring, on show for the first time in 30 years. Among new works created specially for the exhibition are a line drawing by artist Michael Craig-Martin which is based on the image of 11-year-old Michael used for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in April, 1971, and a large-scale painting by Yan Pei Ming, In Memory of Michel Jackson. Opening today, the exhibition can be seen until 21st October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

World War I artist CRW Nevinson and his father, journalist Henry Nevinson, have both been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque. The plaque was unveiled at a property at 4 Downside Crescent in Hampstead where the Nevinson family lived between 1903 and 1941 before bombing raids made the home uninhabitable. Richard “CRW” Nevinson (1889-1946) was one of the most famous artists of the Great War and used a variety of styles, including Futurism and Cubism, to capture the brutality of the war based on his experience while serving briefly with the  Royal Army Medical Corps in France (before he was sent home in 1915 for rheumatic pain). His father, who reported on the Boer War and World War I, was known as “the king of war correspondents” and was a champion of universal suffrage. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

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This Week in London – WWI impact on art explored; recalling Windrush; ‘Sounds Like London’; and, John Thelwall commemorated…

Marking 100 years since the end of World War I, a new exhibition opening at the Tate Britain on Tuesday explores the immediate impact of the war on British, German and French art including an examination of how artists responded to Europe’s new physical and psychological scars. Aftermath: Art in the Wake of World War One features more than 150 works spanning the period from 1916 to 1932 by artists including George Grosz, Fernand Léger and CRW Nevinson. They range from battlefield landscapes and images of soldiers’ graves – such as William Orpen’s A Grave in a Trench (1917) and Paul Jouve’s Tombe d’un soldat serbe a Kenali (1917) – to sculptural public memorials commemorating the conflict by the likes of Käthe Kollwitz, André Mare and Charles Sargeant Jagger and more personal memorials created using battlefield relics like shrapnel and mortar shells as well as images depicting the wounded and disabled in the post-war world such as George Grosz’s Grey Day (1921) and Otto Dix’s Prostitute and Disabled War Veteran (1923). The display also features works relating to the birth of dada and surrealism – among those featured are Hannah Höch’s data photomontages – and looks at how the rebuilding of post war society inspired artists like Georges Braque, Christian Schad and Winifred Knights to return to classicism and tradition while pushing others, like Léger, Paul Citroen and Nevinson to create visions of a technological future. Opening on 5th June, it runs until 16th September at the Millbank site. For more, see www.tate.org.uk. PICTURE: George Grosz (1893-1959), Grey Day (1921), Oil paint on canvas, 1150 x 800 mm, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie. Acquired by the Federal State of Berlin. © Estate of George Grosz, Princeton, N.J. 2018.

The story of Jamaican feminist poet Una Marson – the first black woman employed by the BBC, Trinidadian JJ Thomas’ scathing rebuttal of English colonialism, and, manuscripts of Andrea Levy’s novel Small Island are among highlights of a new exhibition at the British Library. Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land marks 70 years since the MV Empire Windrush first carried hundreds of migrants to London and explores why they came, what they left behind and how they came to shape Britain. The free exhibition in the library’s Entrance Hall on Euston Road, which opens Friday, also features Benjamin Zephaniah’s poem What Stephen Lawrence Has Taught Us, personal reflections from some of the first Caribbean nurses to join the NHS and sounds of the Caribbean including jazz to calypso music. Runs until 21st October. For more, see www.bl.uk.

Join in a celebration of London’s ‘grassroots music’ in June. Sounds Like London features more than 200 gigs across the capital including a series of gigs aimed at raising money for the Music Venue Trust’s Emergency Response service which supports grassroots music venues threatened by closure, 11 ‘Airbnb Concerts’ and X-pose, an event showcasing the capital’s leading deaf musicians and DJs. The full programme of events can be found at www.london.gov.uk/sounds-like-london.

The political orator, writer and elocutionist John Thelwall (1764-1834) has been commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque located on the site of his pioneering institution of elocution. Thelwall, described as one of the most popular and effective orators of his day and known as a champion of free speech and universal suffrage as well as being a fierce critic of the French Revolution, opened his ‘Seminary for the cultivation of the science and practice of elocution, and the cure of impediments of speech’ at 40 Bedford Place in Bloomsbury in 1806. The Grade II-listed property, now in use as a hotel, was newly built at the time. The institution remained at the site for seven years before moving to Lincoln’s Inn Fields. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/

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This Week in London – Uncovering the history of the West India Regiments; Blue Plaques for Francis Bacon and Sister Nivedita; and, Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela…

Soldiers of African and Caribbean descent who fought for the British Empire in the 19th century as part of the West India Regiments are the subject of a new display at the Museum of London Docklands. Fighting for Empire: From Slavery to Military Service in the West India Regiments focuses particularly on the story of Private Samuel Hodge, the first soldier of African-Caribbean descent to receive the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military honour. Central to the display in the museum’s ‘London, Sugar & Slavery’ gallery, is Louis William Desanges’ painting, The Capture of the Tubabakolong, Gambia 1866 (pictured above), which gives greater prevalence to the British commanding officer Colonel George D’Arcy than to Hodge and which was never displayed with Desanges’ other military paintings in the Victoria Cross Gallery at the Crystal Palace in the 1870s. The exhibition also includes prints, ephemera and maps. Runs until 9th September next year. Admission is free. Meanwhile, this weekend the museum is hosting a Maritime Music Festival celebrating the Docklands’ proud maritime heritage. The festival offers the opportunity to try your hand at a poetry rhyming session, learn knot tying skills and listen to sea shanty crews performing. The festival runs from noon to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday. Entry is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands.

An English Heritage Blue Plaque has been unveiled at the former South Kensington home of artist Francis Bacon. Bacon moved to the converted Victorian coach house at 7 Reece Mews in 1961. He kept a studio on the first floor and lived at the property, described as “insanely eccentric”, until his death in 1992. Among significant works he completed there was his first large-scale triptych, Three Studies for a Crucifixion, in 1962 as well as portraits including his 1966 work Portrait of George Dyer Talking. Six years after Bacon’s death in 1992, his studio and its entire contents – including the walls, doors, floor and ceiling – were removed and recreated in The Hugh Lane Gallery in the city of his birth, Dublin. The property is today in the care of  The Estate of Francis Bacon. Meanwhile, another Blue Plaque was unveiled this week, this time commemorating Sister Nivedita. She was one of the most influential female figures in India, an Indian independence campaigner and someone who helped introduce Hindu philosophies to a western audience. The plaque can be found at 21A High Street in Wimbledon, where Nivedita stayed with Swami Vivekananda in 1899. For more on Blue Plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

The first UK exhibition dedicated to the works Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela has opened at The National Gallery. Lake Keitele: A Vision of Finland centres on the work titled Lake Keitele which, acquired by the gallery in 1999, is one of four versions, all of which have been reunited for the first time in the UK in this display. They are some of the dozen or so works in the exhibition which spans 30 years of Gallen-Kallela’s career. The free show, which can be seen in Room 1 until 4th February, marks the centenary of Finland’s independence. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

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This Week in London – Emma Hamilton’s life explored; artist self-portraits; and, National Trust garnitures…

Emma Hamilton, the mistress of Horatio Nelson – hero of the Battle of Trafalgar, is the subject of a new exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. One of the most famous figures of her time, Hamilton rose from obscure beginnings to the heights of celebrity and is best remembered for the scandalous affair she had with Lord Nelson for the six years prior to his death in 1805. Emma Hamilton: Seduction and Celebrity brings together more than 200 objects, many of which have never been displayed before, including paintings, letters, costumes and jewellery. Highlights include works by artists George Romney, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Thomas Lawrence, letters from Hamilton and her lovers, betrothal rings exchanged between Hamilton and Nelson, her songbooks and decorative objects. The exhibition, which runs until 17th April, is accompanied by a series of events including walking tours and late openings. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/national-maritime-museum.

The first-ever exhibition of portraits of artists in the Royal Collection opens at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, tomorrow. Portrait of the Artist features more than 150 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and decorative arts including a self-portrait by Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1623) which was hung in Whitehall Palace, a portrait of his former assistant Anthony van Dyck (c1627-28), and Cristofano Allori’s work Head of Holofernes (1613) in which the artist appears as the decapitated Holofernes as well as self-portraits by everyone from Rembrandt to Lucien Freud and David Hockney. The exhibition runs until 17th April. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/the-queens-gallery-buckingham-palace.

Sir Joseph Lyons, founder of Lyons tea shops and the ‘Corner Houses’ of London – among the first chain restaurants in England, has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at his former home in Hammersmith. Sir Joseph, who lived at the property in the 1890s close to the now-demolished headquarters of his catering empire at Cadby Hall, opened the doors to his first teashop at 213 Piccadilly in 1894. He was knighted by King George V in 1911. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

On Now: Garnitures: Vase sets from National Trust Houses. Being run in conjunction with the National Trust, the display at the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington explores the history of ‘garniture’ – sets of ornamental vases unified by their design and a specific context. A status symbol for a period between the 17th and 19th century, garnitures fell out of fashion and complete sets are now extremely rare. The display features garnitures loaned from 13 different National Trust houses as well as objects from the V&A’s collection. Highlights include a garniture made in miniature for a doll’s house, an extremely rate 17th century silver set of jars, a Rococo set and Wedgwood ceramics. The free exhibition runs until 30th April. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/garnitures.

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Special – English Heritage blue plaques – And the nomination is…

Last week we finished our series looking at notable English Heritage blue plaques and before we move on to our next special Wednesday series, we’re turning things over to you.

Bearing in mind that the criteria for having a blue plaque includes the fact that the person must have been dead at least 20 years and that at least one building associated with the figure must survive within Greater London (but not the City of London, which isn’t covered by the scheme), who do you think should be commemorated by an English Heritage blue plaque but as yet hasn’t been?

Leave your answer in the comments section below…

Meantime, here’s a recap of the last series (and don’t forget to vote for your favourite below):

10 notable blue plaques of London – 1. The oldest surviving blue plaque…

10 notable blue plaques of London – 2. The (now long gone) first Blue Plaque…

10 notable blue plaques of London – 3. The City of London’s only ‘blue plaque’ (and it’s not even blue)…

10 notable blue plaques of London – 4. Oldest surviving blue plaque commemorating a woman…

10 notable blue plaques of London – 5. Five Londoners with more than one blue plaque…

10 notable blue plaques of London – 6. A blue plaque for a deadly bomb…

10 notable blue plaques of London – 7. A blue plaque for a ship…

10 notable blue plaques of London – 8. A notorious ‘tree’ recalled…

10 notable blue plaques of London – 9. A family affair…

10 notable blue plaques of London – 1. The oldest surviving blue plaque…

Tell us which one you found most interesting here…

10 notable blue plaques of London – 4. Oldest surviving blue plaque commemorating a woman…

Much has been made about the dearth of women featured on blue plaques in this 150th year of the scheme – according to English Heritage, only 13 per cent of the 900 odd blue plaques in London commemorate a woman.

Fanny-Burney-plaqueAmong them are ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn, suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, socialite Nancy Astor, and, in recent times, cookery writer Elizabeth David.

The oldest surviving blue plaque commemorating a woman, however, is that commemorating what is today a less well-known name, that of Fanny Burney.

Burney (1752-1840), who was known as Madame D’Arblay after she married, was a widely applauded novelist who was also noted for her diaries which record her involvement in the literary circles around Samuel Johnson and the Bluestocking Group.

The blue plaque commemorating her residence at 11 Bolton Street in Mayfair was erected in 1885 by the Society of Arts (which means that like others erected by the society, later the Royal Society of Arts, it’s brown not blue).

Burney, whose most profitable work, Camilla, was published in 1796 after she had spent five years as Second Keeper of the Robs to Queen Charlotte, lived in the house following the death of her husband, the Frenchman Alexandre D’Arblay.

She spent 10 years here – from 1818 until 1828 – and had apparently thought it would be her last residence but she went on to move into three further properties after this one.

PICTURE: Simon Harriyott/CC BY 2.0

10 notable blue plaques of London – 3. The City of London’s only ‘blue plaque’ (and it’s not even blue)…

Samuel-Johnson-plaqueThere is only one official blue plaque in the square miles of the City of London – that which marks the property of lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson in Gough Square (he always did like to stand out from the crowd) – and, like many of the plaques in the scheme, it’s not even blue.

Samuel-Johnson-plaque2The plaque was among the 35 erected in the first 35 years of the scheme – this one in 1876 – and was done so by the Society of Arts which then ran the scheme (later the Royal Society of Arts). In common with most of the first 35 plaques, it is brown in colour.

In 1879, just three years after this plaque was erected, the Society of Arts came to an agreement with the Corporation of the City of London that the corporation – the governing body of the square mile – would commemorate sites of historic significance within its boundaries and the agreement has stood ever since.

The hundreds of “blue plaques” since erected by the City of London Corporation are rectangular in nature and commemorate everything from structures like the long-gone historic gate of Aldgate (88 Aldgate High Street) to homes of the notable such as martyred Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas á Becket (86 Cheapside).

There’s a searchable database of all the City of London plaques which can be found here.

And, of course, Dr Johnson’s house, which he lived in from 1748-59 which compiling his famous A Dictionary of the English Language (the first comprehensive English language dictionary), is now a museum – for details of that, see our earlier post here.

10 notable blue plaques of London – 2. The (now long gone) first Blue Plaque…

The concept of a scheme involving placing commemorative plaques on what was once the homes of notable people was first raised by MP William Ewart in 1863 in Parliament.

Byron-plaqueThree years later, in 1866, the idea was adopted by the then Society of Arts (later the Royal Society of Arts) and in 1867 it erected two blue plaques, the first being one commemorating the birthplace of Lord Byron at 24 Holles Street just south of Cavendish Square in Marylebone and the second being that erected to Emperor Napoleon III in King Street (see last week’s post).

But the Byron plaque had the honour of being the first and it remained on the property until it was demolished in 1889 and the plaque, presumably, lost.

It has, however, been replaced several times on subsequent buildings on the site – the latest incarnation, is a “green plaque” erected by Westminster City Council on what is now a John Lewis store and was unveiled on National Poetry Day in 2012 (it replaced a non-standard, rectangular-shaped plaque – pictured above – which was installed after the building was bombed during World War II).

The current plaque describes Lord Byron as “one of the greatest British poets” and quotes him: “Always laugh when you can. It is a cheap medicine.”

Byron is said to have been born at the property on 22nd January, 1788 and was baptised George Gordon Byron at the nearby St Marylebone Parish Church. Interestingly, English Heritage says that recent research has shown there is no clear evidence for which house in Holles Street Lord Byron actually lived in meaning none of the plaques may have actually marked the correct site.

During the first 35 years of the scheme’s existence it erected on some 35 plaques (there are now some 900 in existence, so the pace has quickened since).

Less than half of them now survive but among those that do are plaques to poet John Keats (erected in 1896 on Keats’ House in Hampstead), novelist William Makepeace Thackeray (erected in 1887 on 2 Palace Green in Kensington) and politician and author Edmund Burke (erected in 1876 on 37 Gerrard Street in Soho.

PICTURE:  Wikimedia

10 notable blue plaques of London – 1. The oldest surviving blue plaque…

English Heritage are celebrating 150 years of the blue plaque scheme this year – the oldest of its kind in the world – and so to celebrate we’re looking at 10 of the most notable among them.

Napoleon-III-blue-plaqueFirst up, it’s the oldest surviving blue plaque. Located in King Street in Mayfair, just off St James’s Square, it commemorates the last French Emperor, Napoleon III, who lived at the property while a prince in 1848.

It was only a brief stay for the then soon-to-be emperor. The nephew and heir of Emperor Napoleon I, he , like other members of his family was exiled from France after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and spent the following years in various other countries in Europe as well as, finally, London where he lived firstly at Carlton Gardens and then at the King Street property.

He took the lease on this newly built house in February, 1847, and created what English Heritage has called a “shrine to the Bonapartes” inside, displaying such relics as Napoleon I’s uniforms and a portrait of his famous uncle by the celebrated French artist Paul Delaroche.

The prince was something of a society favourite during his time in London and was invited to join various of St James’s clubs and apparently even enrolled as a special constable during the Chartist riots of 1848.

When the Bourbon monarchy – in the person of King Louis Philippe – was overthrown in France in September that year, the prince abandoned the house to rush back to France (apparently in such a hurry that the story goes that he left his bed unmade and his bath still full of water).

The prince was elected first President of the Second Republic on his return to Paris and in 1852 took his place as Emperor Napoleon III on the restoration of the empire (incidentally, he ended up returning to England in exile following his defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and died in Kent in 1873).

The plaque, installed in 1867, also has the distinction of being the only one installed while the person it commemorates was still alive. The rule now is that those commemorated by a blue plaque need to have been dead for at least 20 years before the honour can be bestowed.

The plaque, which is rather more elaborate than modern versions, was put up by the Society of Arts (they’re mentioned on it) and the design features a French imperial eagle. It was manufactured by Minton Hollins & Co.

For more on Blue Plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

This Week in London – Of Empress Catherine the Great and Capability Brown; a blue plaque double; and, the British graphic novel on show…

A once forgotten collection of watercolour paintings and drawings owned by Empress Catherine the Great of Russia has gone on show at Hampton Court Palace as part of commemorations marking the 300th anniversary of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. The Empress and the Gardener exhibition features almost 60 intricately detailed views of the palace and its park and gardens during the time when Brown worked there as chief gardener to King George III between 1764 and 1783. The works came to be in the collection of the Empress – a renowned fan of English gardens – after Brown’s assistant, John Spyers, sold two albums of his drawings of the palace to the her for the considerable sum of 1,000 roubles. The albums disappeared into her collection at the Hermitage (now the State Hermitage Museum) and lay forgotten for more than 200 years before they were rediscovered by curator Mikhail Dedinkin in 2002. As well as the collection – on public show for the first time, the exhibition features portraits of Brown and the Empress, previously unseen drawings of her ‘English Palace’ in the grounds of the Peterhof near St Petersburg, and several pieces from the ‘Green Frog’ dinner service, created for the Empress by Wedgwood, which is decorated with some of the landscapes the prolific Brown created across England. Runs until 4th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/.

A house in Chelsea has become only one of 19 homes in London to bear two official blue plaques. Number 48 Paultons Square has the honour of having been home to two Nobel prize winners (albeit in different fields) – dramatist Samuel Beckett, who lived there for seven months in 1934 while writing his first novel, Murphy, and physicist Patrick Blackett, noted for his revolutionary work in U-boat detection during World War II, who lived there from 1953 to 1969. Other ‘doubles’ include 20 Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead (home to Sigmund Freud and Anna Freud) and 29 Fitzroy Street in Fitzrovia (home to George Bernard Shaw and Virginia Woolf). This year marks the 150th anniversary of the blue plaques scheme. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

The rise of the British graphic novel is the subject of a new exhibition at the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury. The Great British Graphic Novel features works by 18th century artist William Hogarth as well as Kate Charlesworth, Dave Gibbons (one of the creators of the ground-breaking Watchmen), Martin Row, Posy Simmonds (creator of the Tamara Drewe comic strip) and Bryan and Mary Talbot. It runs until 24th July. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org.

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This Week in London – Indian textiles at the V&A; a “typical London street” on show; and, Nobel laureate given Blue Plaque…

Tipus_Tent_c_National_Trust_ImagesA spectacular tent used by the Tipu Sultan, ruler of the 18th century Kingdom of Mysore (pictured), is among highlights in an exhibition exploring the “incomparably rich world” of handmade textiles from India which opens at the V&A in South Kensington on Saturday. Part of the V&A’s India Festival marking the 25th anniversary of the opening of the museum’s Nehru Gallery, The Fabric of India has exhibits ranging from the earliest known Indian textile fragments (dating from the 3rd century) through to contemporary fashions. Among the around 200 handmade objects – which include everything from ancient ceremonial banners and sacred temple hangings to modern saris and bandanna handkerchiefs – are a Hindu narrative cloth depicting avatars of Vishnu dating from about 1570, an 18th century crucifixion scene made for an Armenian Christian church in south-east India, block-printed ceremonial textiles from Gujarat – made in the 14th century for the Indonesian market, bed-hangings originally belonging to the Austrian Prince Eugene (1663-1736), and a selection of clothing made using Khadi, a cloth which Mahatma Gandhi promoted using in the 1930s when he asked people to make the fabric as a symbol of resistance to colonial rule. Admission charges apply. Runs until 10th January. For more see, www.vam.ac.uk/fabricofindia. PICTURE: © National Trust Images.

Westbury Road in Bounds Green, Haringey, is the subject of a new photographic and art exhibit which opened at the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch this week. A Street Seen: The Residents of Westbury Road is a collaborative exhibition featuring the works of photographer Andrew Buurman and artist Gabriela Schutz as they document the homes, gardens and residents of what is described as a “typical London street”. The display includes a six metre long panoramic drawing of Victorian houses by Schutz and a series of photographs depicting residents in their back gardens taken over a two year period by Buurman. Runs until 3rd April. For more, see www.geffrye-museum.org.uk.

One of the founding fathers of sports medicine, Nobel Prize winner AV Hill, has been honoured with an English Heritage blue plaque unveiled at his former home in Highgate in London’s north last month. Hill, as well as being noted for his work in the field of physiology, was also an independent MP during World War II and a humanitarian who is credited with helping more than 900 academics – including 18 Nobel laureates – escape persecution by the Nazis. He lived at the property at 16 Bishopswood Road for 44 years, between 1923 and 1967, 10 years before his death. For more on blue plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

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