March 3, 2017
Located on Cheapside (with entrances on Friday and Bread Streets), the Mermaid Tavern is best known for being the home of Elizabethan-era drinking club known as the Mermaid Club (and also as the Friday Street Club or even the ‘Fraternity of Sireniacal Gentlemen’).
Founded in the early 17th century (and meeting on the first Friday of each month), its members included such literary luminaries as Ben Jonson, John Donne and Francis Beaumont.
There are also suggestions it was founded by Sir Walter Raleigh and that William Shakespeare was also a member but modern scholars have cast doubt upon both claims.
The earliest reference to the tavern, meanwhile, dates from the early 15th century.
The tavern, the location of which today corresponds to the corner of Bread and Cannon Streets, burned down in the Great Fire of London but lives on in John Keats’ poem Lines on the Mermaid Tavern.
It wasn’t until four days after the battle which had taken place on 25th October, 1415, that news of King Henry V’s stunning victory over the French reached the English capital.
At 9am, a solemn procession of clergy made their way from St Paul’s Cathedral in the City to the shrine of St Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey (pictured) to give thanks.
Other attendees at the abbey included the Mayor-elect, Nicholas Wotton (this was the first of two occasions on which he was elected Lord Mayor), and the alderman of London, as well as the Queen Dowager, Joan of Navarre.
A few days later, on the 4th November, King Henry V’s brother – John of Lancaster, the Duke of Bedford, announced the news to Parliament.
King Henry V, meanwhile, arrived back in Dover on 16th November (apparently as a great snowstorm was making its presence felt) and headed for London. After pausing in Canterbury to give thanks in the cathedral and St Augustine’s Abbey, he reached the manor of Eltham (now in south-east London) on 22nd November.
He was met the next day on Blackheath by Wotton and City dignitaries who then, along with what were recorded as a crowd of 20,000 citizens, accompanied him and his small retinue, which included some of his most high profile prisoners such as Charles d’Orléans, Duke of Orléans (who spent 25 years as a prisoner in England), and Marshal Boucicaut (he would die six years later in Yorkshire), towards London.
There, welcomed as Henry V, “King of England and France”, he processed through the City which had been elaborately decorated – the decorations included the hanging of various coats of arms from various prominent sites as well as the positioning of statues of the likes of St George – ahead of his arrival.
Travelling down Cheapside, the king – who was modestly dressed in a purple gown and had eschewed wearing a crown for the event – stopped at St Paul’s where he performed his devotions, before proceeding to Westminster where he did the same before taking up residence for the night in the nearby Palace of Westminster.
On the king’s orders, a solemn mass was held in St Paul’s the next day for the fallen of both sides. The victorious king had returned!
September 11, 2015
The Great Conduit (the word conduit refers to column fountains fitted with ‘cocks’ or taps for dispensing the water) gave access to water piped using gravity four kilometres from the Tyburn into the City largely via lead pipes.
It was constructed by the City Corporation from the mid-13th century after King Henry III approved the project in 1237. It was rectangular-shaped timber building with an elevated lead tank inside from which the water was drawn.
It took the name ‘Great’ after further conduits were built further west in Cheapside in the 1390s. There were at least 15 conduits or standards scattered about the City by the time of the Great Fire in 1666.
It was rebuilt several times over its life, notably in the reign of King Henry VI, but after being severely damaged in the fire was deemed irreparable and orders were given for it to be taken down in 1669 (many houses by then had alternate water supplies, notably from the New River project). From the 1360s, management of the conduit was the responsibility of four wardens, maintaining the pipes and charging professional water carriers and tradesmen who required water by allowing free
The Cheapside Conduit was a notable landmark – some executions and other punishments were carried out here, speeches were made from here and the conduit building itself was used as a place for posting information. And to celebrate special occasions it was made to flow with wine – this took place in 1432 when King Henry VI marched through London after being crowned King of France, at the coronation of Queen Margaret in 1445 and at the wedding procession of King Henry VIII’s queen Anne Boleyn in 1533.
The substructure of the Great Conduit was rediscovered at the end of the 19th century and again in the 1990s. A plaque marking the location of the Great Conduit at the eastern end of Cheapside was unveiled in late 1994 by Thames Water and the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators. There’s also a memorial set into the pavement over the substructure.
The current London Bridge, which spans the River Thames linking Southwark to the City, is just the latest in several incarnations of a bridge which originally dates back to Roman times.
This week, we’re focusing on first stone bridge to be built on the site. Constructed over a period of some 33 years, it was only completed in 1209 during the reign of King John, some six years before the signing of the Magna Carta.
Construction on the bridge began in 1176, only 13 years after the construction of an earlier wooden bridge on the site (the latest of numerous wooden bridges built on the site, it had apparently built of elm under the direction of Peter de Colechurch, chaplain of St Mary Colechurch, a now long-gone church in Cheapside).
It was the priest-architect de Colechurch who was also responsible for building the new bridge of stone, apparently on the orders of King Henry II. While many of the wealthy, including Richard of Dover, the Archbishop of Canterbury, gave funds for the construction of the bridge, a tax was also levied on wool, undressed sheepskins and leather to provide the necessary monies – the latter led to the phrase that London Bridge was “built upon woolpacks”. King John, meanwhile, had decreed in 1201 that the rents from several homes on the bridge would be used to repair it into perpetuity.
The bridge, which featured 20 arches – a new one built every 18 months or so, was apparently constructed on wooden piles driven into the river bed at low water with the piers of Kentish ragstone set on top. It was dangerous work and it’s been estimated that as many as 200 men may have died during its construction.
The bridge was almost completely lined with buildings on both sides of the narrow central street. These included a chapel dedicated to St Thomas á Becket – a stopping point for pilgrims heading to the saint’s shrine in Canterbury, as well as shops and residences (although, apart from the chapel, we know little about the original buildings). There was also a drawbridge toward the southern end and the Great Stone Gate guarding the entrance from Southwark.
Peter de Colechurch died in 1205, before the bridge was completed. He was buried in the undercroft of the chapel on the bridge.
Three men subsequently took on the task of completing the bridge – William de Almaine, Benedict Botewrite and Serle le Mercer who would go on to be a three time Lord Mayor of London. All three were later bridge wardens, the City officials charged with the daily running of the bridge itself.
One of key events on the bridge in the years immediately after its completion was the arrival of Louis, the Dauphin of France, in May, 1216. Louis had been invited to depose John by the rebellious barons after the agreement sealed at Runnymede fell apart and in 1216, he and his men marched over London Bridge on their way to St Paul’s Cathedral. (We’ll deal with this in more detail in a later post).
What became known as ‘Old London Bridge’, which stood in line with Fish Street Hill, survived the Great Fire of 1666, albeit badly damaged, but was eventually replaced with a new bridge, known, unsurprisingly as ‘New London Bridge’, which opened in 1831. Designed by John Rennie, this bridge was later replaced by one which opened in 1971 (Rennie’s bridge was sold off and now stands in Lake Havasu City, Arizona).
For a detailed history of Old London Bridge, check out Old London Bridge: The Story of the Longest Inhabited Bridge in Europe.
November 12, 2014
Designed as London’s response to the Eiffel Tower, Watkin’s Tower was the brainchild of railway entrepreneur and MP Sir Edward Watkin.
He apparently first approached Gustave Eiffel himself to design the tower which was to be located as the centrepiece for a pleasure park development at Wembley Park in London’s north (which, incidentally, would be reached by one of Sir Edward’s railway lines – he opened Wembley Park station to service it). But Eiffel declined the offer and Watkin subsequently launched an architectural design competition.
Among the 68 designs received from as far afield as the US and Australia were a cone-shaped tower with a railway spiralling up its exterior, a Gothic-style tower (also with a railway), a tower topped with a 1/12 scale replica of the Great Pyramid, one modelled on the spire of Bow Church in Cheapside and one topped by a giant globe (you can see the catalogue of all entries here).
The winning entry was submitted by Stewart, MacLaren and Dunn who proposed a steel eight legged tower soaring 1,200 feet (366 metres) into the sky. To be lit with electric lighting at night, it came with two observation decks with restaurants, theatres and exhibition space as well as winter gardens, Turkish baths, shops, promenades and a 90 room hotel as well as an astronomical observatory. The top of the tower would be reached by a series of elevators.
The first stage of the project – formally known as London Tower or the Wembley Park Tower – had still not been completed when Wembley Park opened in May, 1894 – standing 154 feet (47 metres tall), it was finally finished in September the following year.
It was to never rise higher. The project become mired in problems – Watkin retired through ill health (and died in 1901), the structure started to subside and the construction company went into liquidation. Dubbed Watkin’s Folly and the London Stump, what there was of the tower was eventually demolished between 1904-1907.
While the dream of the tower never came to be, the site nonetheless became a popular vehicle for recreation and the site was later used for the 1924 British Empire Exhibition with Wembley Stadium built over the spot where the tower had once stood.
November 8, 2013
Tomorrow is the Lord Mayor’s Show and once again the great procession will make its through London’s streets so the Lord Mayor may swear their loyalty to the Crown. So, to celebrate, we thought we’d interrupt our regular programming and bring you 10 facts about the Lord Mayor’s Show…
1. The origins of the Lord Mayor’s Show go back to 1215 when King John granted the city the right to elect their mayors but only on condition that they made their way to Westminster to swear their loyalty each year. There is evidence that by the late 14th century, the journey had turned into something of a procession.
2. Lawyer Fiona Woolf is the 686th Lord Mayor, formally taking on the job when outgoing mayor Roger Gifford hands the City insignia to her in what is known as the Silent Ceremony held at Guildhall today. She is only the second woman to ever hold the post; Mary Donaldson was the first to do so in 1983.
3. The person responsible for organising the day is the Pageantmaster. The current Pageantmaster is Dominic Reid – he gets to travel in a ceremonial Landrover.
4. The day was originally held on 28th October, the Feast of St Simon and St Jude, but was moved to 9th November in 1751 when Britain adopted the Gregorian Calendar. Because this meant it call be held on any day of the week, to simplify matters in 1959 it was decided that the Show would be held on the second Saturday in November.
5. Effigies of Gog and Magog, seen guardians of the City of London, have appeared in the Lord Mayor’s Show since at least 1554, during the reign of King Henry V. For more on Gog and Magog, see our Famous Londoners post.
6. Since the early 15th century the Lord Mayor had travelled to Westminster via a pageant on the River Thames. This was dropped in favour of travelling on horseback. The magnificent State Coach used in tomorrow’s procession, meanwhile, was first used to convey the Lord Mayor to Westminster in 1757 (the mayors had ridden in coaches since 1712 after Sir Gilbert Heathcote fell off his horse in 1711). For more on the State Coach, see our Treasures of London article. As happened last year, before the Show starts, the Lord Mayor will once again travel upriver in the QRB Gloriana accompanied by a procession of 24 traditional Thames boats from London’s livery companies and port authorities. The flotilla will leave Vauxhall at 8.30am and travel past Tower Bridge to HMS President.
7. The modern route of the show – which takes in Cheapside, Ludgate Hill, Fleet Street going out from Mansion House to the Royal Courts of Justice and then returns back along Queen Victoria Street – was fixed in 1952 (although occasionally it has been disrupted due to things like roadworks). It apparently features 3,500 manholes, all of which have to be checked before the big day.
8. The modern Lord Mayor’s Show parade, which kicks off at 11am, is three-and-a-half miles long. This year’s procession features more than 7,000 participants.
9. Among those in the parade are representatives of the livery companies including that of the “great 12” – the Mercers, Grocers, Drapers, Fishmongers, Goldsmiths, Merchant Taylors, Skinners, Haberdashers, Salters, Ironmongers, Vintners and Clothworkers – as well as other companies including some distinctly “new world”.
10. The fireworks display was canceled last year but is back for this year’s festivities. It kicks off at 5pm.
For more on the show – including a downloadable timetable and map – head to www.lordmayorsshow.org.
October 25, 2013
Once a visible sign of London’s legal system, the city had several pillories which were used to degrade and humiliate those offenders put within them.
Originating in medieval times, the pillories were wooden contraptions in which a standing person’s head and hands were held in place and exposed to the ridicule of the crowd (not to mention their rotten foodstuffs and other less savoury things). They were a similar form of punishment to the stocks and were designed to humiliate those put within them.
They were used to punish a broad range of offenders including everyone from con-men and forgers to traders who didn’t play fair with their customers, people publishing unlicensed literature, and homosexuals.
Some people were pilloried repeatedly and additional punishments could be handed out to some put in the pillory – such as the nailing of the offender’s ears to the structure. There was cases of enraged mobs injuring the person locked in the pillory so badly that they died and the journey to the pillory – a formal parade of the malefactor before the people – was another chance for people to shout abuse and throw things at the offender.
As well as in Charing Cross where the pillory was located just to the south of Trafalgar Square, pillories were found at locations in Cheapside, Cornhill and Old Bailey in the City as well as Old Palace Yard and Tyburn in Westminster.
Among the most famous occupants of London’s pillories was the writer Daniel Defoe. The author of Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders, he was placed here on 31st July,1703, due to his publication of pamphlets criticising the church. It didn’t prove the harshest of punishments, however – Defoe was greeted with flowers, not stones, by a crowd rather sympathetic to his cause.
Others to suffer the punishment of the pillory included Titus Oates, who fabricated a plot to kill King Charles II, and puritan William Prynne, who lost both his ears when pilloried for libelling Queen Henrietta Maria (although they were apparently sewed back on before he lost them again for a subsequent offence).
The punishment was formally abolished in 1837 – the last time it was used was in 1830.
PICTURE: Wikipedia. Image is from Robert Chambers’ Book of Days, 1st edition.
Around London – The Cheapside Hoard revealed; Queen Elizabeth I at the NPG; 3D printing at the Science Museum; and, Viennese portraits…
October 10, 2013
• The ‘secrets’ of the Cheapside Hoard – the world’s finest and largest collection of 16th and 17th century jewels – are revealed in a new exhibition opening tomorrow at the Museum of London. The
Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels publicly displays the hoard of Elizabethan and early Stuart jewellery and gemstones in its entirety for the first time since its discovery more than 100 years ago. The hoard, consisting of as many as 500 pieces including rings, necklaces, cameos, scent bottles and a unique Colombian emerald watch, was discovered buried in a cellar on Cheapside in the City of London in 1912. The exhibition uses new research and state-of-the-art technology to showcase the hoard as it explores the questions of who owned the hoard, when and why was it hidden, and why was it never reclaimed. New information revealed by the research shows that the hoard was buried between 1640 and 1666 (the critical clue was a previously overlooked intaglio – a gemstone engraved with the heraldic badge of William Howard, Viscount Stafford, who lived between 1612-1680). It also reveals Thomas Sympson was the “dodgy” jeweller responsible for two counterfeit rubies contained within the hoard (he apparently had a trade in selling counterfeit gems for as much as £8,000 each). Entry charge applies. Runs until 27th April. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk. PICTURED: Above: gold and pearl cage pendants from the Cheapside Hoard; and right: a bejewelled scent bottle.
• A previously unknown painting of Queen Elizabeth I is on display as part of a new exhibition, Elizabeth I and Her People, opening at the National Portrait Gallery today. The small painting, which has been attributed to miniaturist Isaac Oliver and which is a reworking of the classical story of the Judgement of Paris, was recently acquired by the gallery. It will sit among a selection of other portraits of the “Virgin Queen” in a display which endeavours to show how during her 50 year reign she portrayed the image of a strong monarch. The portraits are just some of the 100 items featured in the exhibition which also includes costumes, coins, jewellery and crafts and examines the rise of new social classes in Elizabethan society. Other portraits in the exhibition feature images of courtiers such as William Cecil and Christopher Hatton along with images of merchants, lawyers, goldsmiths, butchers, calligraphers, playwrights and artists. There is also a little known painting of three Elizabethan children and what may be the first portrait of a guinea pig. The exhibition, supported by the Weiss Gallery, runs until 5th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.
• Printed objects including replacement body organs, aeroplane parts and a music box have gone on display at the Science Museum in South Kensington as part of a new exhibition, 3D: printing the future. The exhibition looks at the rapidly evolving field of 3D printing and its growing impact on society through stories such as the use of 3D printing by engineers to create lighter aeroplane parts and the ways in which the medical industry is researching the use of the technology to create replacement body parts. The display will also include miniature 3D printed figures created from scans of visitors who took part in workshops during the summer holidays. This free exhibition runs in the Antenna gallery for nine months. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk.
• On Now: Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900. On at the National Gallery, the first major UK exhibition devoted to the portrait in Vienna features iconic works by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Richard Gerstl, Oskar Kokoschka and Arnold Schonberg alongside those of lesser known artists such as Bronica Koller and Isidor Kaufmann. Highlights include Klimt’s Portrait of Hermine Gallia (1904) and Portrait of a Lady in Black (about 1894), Schiele’s The Family (Self Portrait) (1918) and Nude Self Portrait by Gerstl (1908). Runs until 12th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.
July 26, 2013
The only real estate he was to buy in London, the purchase of the gatehouse – which may have stood on the junction of St Andrew’s Hill and Ireland Yard – was apparently made as an investment (Shakespeare never lived there).
The deed which recorded the sale (dated 10th March, 1613) – only one of six documents in the entire world which bears Shakespeare’s authenticated signature – is in the care of the London Metropolitan Archives.
According to the deed, he bought the property from Henry Walker, a minstrel, paying £140 for the property (he mortgaged £60 of it the next day – the document for this is located in the British Library).
Other parties mentioned on the document are William Johnson, a London-based vintner and possibly landlord of the Mermaid tavern in Cheapside, and two ‘gentlemen’ John Jackson and John Heminges, an actor, manager and editor of Shakespeare’s first folio.
They were appointed as trustees in Shakespeare’s interest and handled the sale of the property after Shakespeare’s death in 1616. The copy of the deed held by the LMA was that of Henry Walker (Shakespeare’s copy is in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington).
The deed is currently on display as part of an exhibition surrounding the 400th anniversary of its signing. ‘Shakespeare and London’, a free exhibition, also features other documents from the period as well as maps, prints and models and runs at the LMA (40 Northampton Road) until 26th September. Due to the age and importance of the deed, the deed itself will only be displayed at specific times – check the LMA website for details.
Around London – Lord Mayor’s Show; Remembrance Sunday; Ansel Adams at the NMM; and, Mughal India at the British Library…
November 8, 2012
• The 2012 Lord Mayor’s Show is just about upon us and while you may not have a grandstand seat, there’s still plenty of places you can stand and watch the parade of more than 6,500 people pass by. Saturday’s parade – which celebrates the election of the 685th Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Roger Gifford – leaves Mansion House at 11am and travels via Poultry and Cheapside to St Paul’s Cathedral where it pauses for the Lord Mayor and his officials to receive a blessing – before continuing on via Ludgate Hill and Fleet Street to the Royal Courts of Justice, arriving there at about 12.30pm. There the Lord Mayor gives his oath of loyalty to the Crown (while in the surrounding streets the participants and 125 horses are fed and watered) before the parade reassembles and sets off from Embankment at 1pm, heading back to Mansion House via Queen Victoria Street – the Lord Mayor arrives sometime between 2pm and 2.30pm. (The website has a terrific one page map of the route you can download and print). There’s no fireworks display after the parade – although there’s a host of other activities taking place in the City of London – but if you’re up and about early enough, you may want to watch the Lord Mayor as he boards the barge QRB Gloriana at the Westminster Boating Base in Vauxhall at 8.30am and, escorted by a flotilla, makes his way up the Thames to HMS President, just below St Katharine Docks, arriving at about 9.35am after Tower Bridge opens in salute. For more, head to www.lordmayorsshow.org.
• The annual Remembrance Sunday service – commemorating the contribution of British and Commonwealth servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts – will take place at the Cenotaph on Whitehall at 11am this Sunday. While no tickets are required to watch the event, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, who organise the service, advise arriving early if you wish to secure a good viewing space (and leave time for security checks at the entrance to either end of Whitehall). Whitehall opens at 8am. For more details, see www.culture.gov.uk/what_we_do/honours/3333.aspx.
• A new exhibition of the work of US photographic pioneer Ansel Adams opens at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich tomorrow (Friday). Ansel Adams: Photography from the Mountains to the Sea, which comes from the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, will feature more than 100 original prints, many of which have never been exhibited before in the UK. It is said to be the first exhibition to focus on his “lifelong fascination” with water and the display features some of Adams’ finest images based on this subject including what are some of the most famous photographs of the 20th century. Highlights include the first photograph Adams’ ever image – taken at age 14 – which features a pool located at the Panama Pacific Exhibition at the 1915 World’s Fair, the three American Trust murals produced in the 1950s on an “unprecedented scale”, Adam’s favorite work – Golden Gate before the Bridge – which hung above his desk, and iconic images such as Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite and Stream, Sea, Clouds, Rodeo Lagoon, Marin Country, California. There is an admission charge. Runs until 28th April. For more details on the exhibition, see www.rmg.co.uk.
• Also opening tomorrow (Friday) is the British Library’s major autumn exhibition – Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire. The exhibition focuses on the Mughal dynasty – which once ruled over much of the Indian sub-continent – and is the first to document the period spanning the 16th to 19th centuries. Featuring more than 200 manuscripts and paintings, most of which come from the library’s own collection, highlights include Akbar ordering the slaughter to cease in 1578 – a work attributed to the artist Miskina in 1595, Abu’l Hasan’s early 17th century painting Squirrels in a plane tree, the historically important illustration Prince Aurangzeb reports to the Emperor Shah Jahan in durbar, and a portrait of Prince Dara Shikoh, favorite son and heir-apparent of 17th century Emperor Shah Jahan. Runs until 2nd April. Admission charge applies. For more on the exhibition and accompanying events, see www.bl.uk.
August 24, 2012
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 (and try and be as precise as possible), leave a comment below. We’ll reveal the answer early next week. Good luck!
Yes, you guessed it, these are indeed the 3.7 metre high statues which sit above the south transept of St Paul’s Cathedral. The statues include those of St Andrew and St Thomas, both of which are attributed to Caius Gabriel Cibber (1630-1700) and Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721). We had originally said they were the work of Francis Bird (1667-1731), who also completed the famous panel depicting the Conversion of St Paul on the cathedral’s west front and the original version of the statue of Queen Anne outside the main entrance (more on that another time), but while he was responsible for other statues on the cathedral, turns out he wasn’t for these two. The image was taken from the viewing deck of One New Change on Cheapside.
Around London – Of a dramatic Boat Race; celebrating bluebells; Cockney slang; WT Stead; and, Titian’s early masterpiece…
April 12, 2012
• Cambridge took the line honours over Oxford in this year’s Boat Race on the Thames in what has been billed as one of the most dramatic races in its 158 race history. The race was interrupted when a swimmer, described as an anti-elitist protestor, was spotted in the water and, following a restart near the Chiswick Eyot, the boat crews clashed oars and one of the Oxford crew lost his oar’s spoon. Cambridge pulled steadily ahead with Oxford an oar down and was declared the winner by four and a quarter lengths. The presentation ceremony was subsequently not held after Oxford’s bow man collapsed and was rushed to hospital where was reported to be recovering well. The win takes Cambridge’s victories to 81 compared to Oxford’s 76. For more, see http://theboatrace.org. (For more on the history of the Boat Race, see our entry from last year).
• Epping Forest’s bluebells are out in force and to celebrate the City of London Corporation is holding a series of events including an art exhibition at The Temple in Wanstead Park. The exhibition, Out of the Blue, celebrates the bluebells of Chalet Wood and features a “miscellany of bluebell images, artwork, folklore and fairies”. A free event, it runs until 27th May. This Sunday the Temple will also host an art afternoon with local artist Barbara Sampson and on 29th April photographer Robert Good will hold a course on photography around the forest. Both are free events. For more details, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/epping.
• “Porky pies” (lies) is the most used Cockney phrase, according to a survey of Britons on their knowledge and use of Cockney. The Museum of London survey of 2,000 people, including 1,000 from London, also found that “apples and pears” (stairs) was the most well-known Cockney phrase and that while a majority of people knew what common phrases like “brown bread” meant (in this case dead), only small percentages of people used them. And while 63 per cent of respondents believed Cockney slang was crucial to London’s identity, 40 per cent were convinced it is dying out and 33 per cent were sad at its passing. Strictly speaking, a ‘Cockney’ is someone who was born within the sound of bow bells at the church of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside, but according to Alex Werner, head of history collections at the museum, “people from all corners of London identify themselves as being Cockney”. He said that while for many people “Cockney rhyming slang is intrinsic to the identity of London”, the research the Cockney dialect “may not be enjoying the same level of popularity”. The research found that among the least known Cockney rhyming slang phrases included “white mice” (ice), “donkey’s ears” (years), and “loop de loop” (soup). For more from the museum, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
• The life of influential newspaper editor and Titanic victim, William Stead, will be celebrated at a two day conference next week. Hosted by the British Library, in association with Birkbeck College and the University of Birmingham, the conference will feature 40 speakers from around the world. Stead, who was editor of The Pall Mall Gazette, was a controversial figure who is credited with being one of the inventors of the modern tabloid. He died on the Titanic‘s maiden voyage – the 100th anniversary of which is being marked this month. W.T. Stead: A Centenary Conference for a Newspaper Revolutionary takes place from 16th to 17th April, 2012. Tickets (£45 for one day or £85 for two days) can be booked by visiting the box office in the St Pancras building or phoning 01937 546546. The programme for the conference can be found at https://sites.google.com/site/stead2012/.
• On Now: Titian’s First Masterpiece: The Flight into Egypt. The National Gallery is hosting a new exhibition focused on the then young artist’s creation of the magnificent painting The Flight into Egypt in the 16th century. The artwork, lent to the National Gallery by the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, has recently been restored and the exhibition represents the first time the painting has been seen outside Russia since 1768 when Empress Catherine the Great purchased it in Venice. Admission is free. Runs until 19th August. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.
March 22, 2012
• The Museum of London is calling on Londoners to submit images showing “Roman influences in London today” as part of its forthcoming Our Londinium 2012 exhibition, a revamping of the museum’s Roman gallery. In what is the largest update made to the museum’s Roman gallery since it opened in 1994, the reworked gallery looks at parallels between Roman London and the city today and features important Roman artifacts such as a bust of the Emperor Hadrian found on the Thames foreshore (part of the British Museum’s collection, this will be displayed for six months before being replaced by a replica) alongside modern objects such as the V for Vendetta masks worn by protestors in the Occupy movement. The exhibition is being co-curated by young people from Junction, the Museum of London’s youth panel, and they’re calling on people to submit their images showing how the city’s Roman past still resonates even today (see example pictured). For details on how to submit images via email of Flickr, head to www.museumoflondon.org.uk/ol2012map.
• Secrets will be revealed, we’re promised, as part of the City of London’s Celebrate the City: four days in the Square Mile event to be held from 21st to 24th June. Events held in the City our the four days, many of which will be free, include a musical extravaganza to launch the event in Guildhall Yard as well as exhibitions, walks and talks, a chance to explore buildings like Livery Company Halls, the Bank of England and the Mansion House, family entertainment at the Cheapside Fayre and music and activities at sites across the Square Mile including the Barbican Centre, Museum of London and churches. We’ll have more to come on this. For now, head to www.visitthecity.co.uk/culture2012 for more information.
• Architectural historian and former director of the Sir John Soane Museum, Sir John Summerson, has been honored with an English Heritage blue plaque at his former home London’s north-west. Sir John (1904-1992) lived at the property at 1 Eton Villas in Chalk Farm for more than 40 years. He was the director of the Sir John Soane Museum from 1945 to 1984. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blue-plaques/.
• Architecture students are being invited to submit designs for a new stone seating area on the City thoroughfare of Cheapside. The winning student will work with trainee masons from the Cathedral Works Organisation and The Mason’s Company with the new seating area unveiled in October. For an application pack and full brief, see For an application pack and full brief, please contact Melanie Charalambous, Department of the Built Environment, City of London Corporation, PO Box 270, Guildhall, London, EC2P 2EJ or call 020 7332 3155 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Now On: Journeys and kinship. This display at the Museum of London Docklands showcases the creative output of a community collaboration project which involved a group of young Londoners working with visual artist Jean Joseph, Caribbean Calypso musician Alexander D Great and Yvonne Wilson from training organisation Equi-Vision. The centrepiece of the exhibition – which explores themes highlighted in the museum’s permanent gallery, London, Sugar and Slavery, on the city’s involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade – is an artwork by Joseph entitled Sales Over Centuries, 2010, which features plaster face casts of 42 people from the African diaspora who were born in or currently live in London. In response to it, the young Londoners have created their own works including face casts, music, film and photography. Runs until 4th November. Entry is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Docklands/.
November 15, 2011
Last Saturday was the Lord Mayor’s Show, the annual three mile long procession through the streets of the City of London celebrating the arrival of the new Lord Mayor – in this case David Wootton, the City’s 684th Lord Mayor…
…and some which don’t, such as the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers and the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators (representatives of which are pictured above), two of the so-called “modern livery companies”.
…before the arrival of Lord Mayor David Wootton in the 18th century State Coach drawn by six shire horses. The Lord Mayor proceded onto St Paul’s Cathedral where he was blessed before moving onto the Royal Courts of Justice where he swore allegiance to the Sovereign (and then returning to Mansion House via Queen Victoria Street). Late in the afternoon, he presided over a stunning fireworks display on the Thames. For more information about this annual event, see www.lordmayorshow.org.
Around London – The Lord Mayor’s Show goes on; London 2012 Festival launched; dowry tradition lives on; and, Leonardo da Vinci at the National Gallery…
November 10, 2011
• On Saturday the annual Lord Mayor’s Show will crawl its way across London’s Square Mile in a three mile long procession that will involve 123 floats and 6,200 people. The show (a scene from last year’s procession is pictured) is held each year as the first public outing of the newly elected Lord Mayor – this year it’s David Wootton, the City of London’s 684th Lord Mayor, who officially takes up his new office tomorrow (11th November). Organisers have said the procession will follow its usual route despite the protestors currently encamped outside St Paul’s. Leaving Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor, at 11am, it will make its way down Cheapside to St Paul’s Cathedral, where the new Lord Mayor will be blessed, before heading onto the Royal Courts of Justice, where the Lord Mayor swears an oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II, and then returning to Mansion House. The the procession, the origins of which date back to 1215, will feature representatives of livery companies, educational and youth organisations, military units and other London-associated organisations and charities like St Bart’s Hospital. There will be a fireworks display at 5pm on the Thames between Blackfriars and Waterloo. For more information, see www.lordmayorshow.org.
• Organisers have unveiled plans for the London 2012 Festival, a 12 week nationwide cultural celebration of music, theatre, dance, art, literature, film and fashion held around next year’s Games. We’ll be providing more details in upcoming weeks and months but among the highlights in London will be a British Museum exhibition on the importance of Shakespeare as well as “pop-up” performances by actor Mark Rylance – both held as part of the World Shakespeare Festival, a musical tribute to the history of jazz at the Barbican by the London Symphony Orchestra and Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra, an exhibition of the work of artist Damien Hirst at the Tate Modern and another on Yoko Ono at the Serpentine Gallery, and ‘Poetry Parnassus’ at the Southbank Centre – the largest poetry festival ever staged in the UK. The festival is the finale of the “Cultural Olympiad” – launched in 2008, it has featured a program of events inspired by the 2012 Olympics – and will see more than 10 million free events being held across the country. For more details, see www.london2012.com.
• In a tradition which dates back to the late 1800s, three “poor, honest (and) young” women have been awarded a dowry by the City of London Corporation. Susan Renner-Eggleston, Elizabeth Skilton, and Jenny Furber have each received around £100 under the terms of a bequest Italian-born Pasquale Favale made to the City in 1882. Inspired by the happiness he found is his marriage to his London-born wife Eliza, Favale bequeathed 18,000 Lira to the City in 1882 and stipulated that each year a portion of the money was to be given to “three poor, honest, young women, natives of the City of London, aged 16 to 25 who had recently been or were about to be married”. To be eligible the women must have been born in the City of London or currently reside there.
• On Now: Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan. Billed as the year’s blockbuster art event in London, this exhibition at the National Gallery focuses on Da Vinci’s time as a court painter in Milan in the 1480s-90s and features 60 paintings and drawings. Thanks to a collaboration between the National Gallery and the Louvre, they include two versions of the Virgin of the Rocks (it is the first time the two versions are being shown together). Other paintings include Portrait of a Musician, Saint Jerome, The Lady with an Ermine (an image of Cecilia Gallerani, mistress of Milan’s ruler at the time – Ludovico Maria Sforza, ‘Il Moro’) and Belle Ferronniere as well as a copy of Da Vinci’s painting, The Last Supper, by his pupil Giamopietrino. Runs until 5th February and an admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.
September 12, 2011
One of the major thoroughfares of the City of London, the name is reflective of its role as a marketplace with the medieval English word ‘cheap’ generally been taken to mean market.
Starting from the intersection of Newgate Street and St Martin’s Le Grand through to where it runs into Poultry, the street was apparently originally known as Westcheap – Eastcheap is still located down near the Monument. Cheapside’s surrounding streets – including Poultry, Milk Street, and Bread Street give indication of the sorts of goods that were once sold in the area.
Cheapside was, in medieval times, an important street and was on the processional route royalty would have taken from Westminster to the Tower of London. It is the site of St Mary-le-Bow Church (it’s said that if you’re born within hearing of the Bow bells you’re a true Londoner), and, until the Great Fire of 1666, the eastern end of Cheapside was the site of the end of the Great Conduit where water arrived after being piped in from the Tyburn River in the west.
Key figures associated with Cheapside include slain Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket, born there in 1118, poet John Milton, born on the adjoining Bread Street in 1608, and writer Geoffrey Chaucer. A glimpse into the street’s past was found in 1912 when the Cheapside Hoard was unearthed during the demolition of a building there (you can see our earlier post on that here).
The area was heavily bombed during World War II.
Lined with shops, restaurants and office buildings, Cheapside today remains close to the heart of the city and is currently undergoing significant redevelopment, the recently opened swanky shopping centre at One New Change being an example.
January 19, 2011
Another royalty-related memorial, the Charing Cross – located outside Charing Cross railway station – is actually an embellished Victorian replica of one of a series of medieval memorials the apparently heartbroken King Edward I had erected in memory of his wife, Eleanor of Castile.
The original cross, which was originally located in the south of Trafalgar Square at Charing, was one of 12 built between 1291 and 1294 to mark the nightly resting places of the Queen’s funeral procession as it made it way from Lincoln to Westminster Abbey where she was buried.
The Queen had died at Harby near Lincoln in 1290 while on her way to meet her husband in Scotland. The original monument was demolished in 1647 by Parliamentary order. A plaque on the site indicates it is the point from where all distances on road signs to London were measured.
Only three of the original 12 crosses still stand – at Waltham Cross, Northampton and Geddington – although some remnants of others can be seen. Another London cross – in Cheapside – was demolished in the mid 1600s.
The Victorian era replica outside Charing Cross station dates from 1865. It was unveiled last year following a five year restoration project.