Fictional British spy George Smiley featured in some eight books written by acclaimed author John Le Carré (sometimes as the main protagonist, sometimes as a side character) and is about to appear in a ninth, A Legacy of Spies, which comes out in September.

And that’s not to mention his appearance on small screens and large where he’s been portrayed by everyone from James Mason and Sir Alec Guinness to Denholm Elliott and Gary Oldman.

In the books, Smiley and his wife, Lady Ann, lived at a number 9 Bywater Street in Chelsea – which is an actual address, just off King’s Road (pictured with the red door). The Georgian townhouse was appropriately used to depict his home in the 1979 BBC series of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy although, interestingly, while number nine’s exterior was used, it was apparently number 10, next door – pictured here with the blue door – which provided the interiors.

Le Carré, who was living just over the Thames in Battersea at the time of Smiley’s creation, has reportedly said he chose the location because his literary agent lived nearby (although there is apparently a little fuzziness on whether this is the case) and the mother of one his pupils from Eton (Le Carré – actually David John Moore Cornwell – taught at Eton for two years before he joined MI5 in 1958) lived in the street.

But perhaps the best literary reason is the fact that Bywater Street, despite the name, is actually a cul-de-sac which adds to the difficulty of anyone trying to spy on Smiley. A wise choice for a spy’s residence, in other words.

Other locations associated with George Smiley in London include The Circus, the secret London intelligence HQ where Smiley and his fellow intelligence operatives worked, which was located in an office block in Cambridge Circus, on the corner of Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue.

PICTURE: Google Maps

Sure, it’s quite obvious that this well-known thoroughfare through Chelsea and Fulham in west London was named for a king but which king and why?

kings-roadIt was the Stuart king Charles II who first starting using the road’s course as part of his route to Hampton Court which meant it was closed to the public.

Access was granted only to those whom the monarch permitted – initially via ticket and from the 1720s via a copper pass stamped with the king’s monogram. Entry was controlled by a series of gates located along its length.

King George III was also known to use the route to travel to his palace at Kew and it was only in 1830 that it was finally opened to the public.

The road, which now runs west from Sloane Square for two miles through Chelsea, transforming into the New King’s Road after entering Fulham, is now known for its shopping (not to mention the site of the UK’s first Starbucks in 1999) although in the 1960s and 1970s it served as something of a hub for London’s counter-culture.

The road has been associated with many famous figures over the years – the king aside. Composer Thomas Arne lived at number 215 and apparently composed Rule Britannia while he did, actress Ellen Terry lived in the same property from 1904-1920 and bon vivant Peter Ustinov after her.

Other famous associations include one with Mary Quant, who opened her ground-breaking boutique Bazaar at number 138a in 1955 and Thomas Crapper, toilet entrepreneur, who had a premises at number 120.

PICTURE: Secret Pilgrim/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The largest naval conflict of World War I – the Battle of Jutland – is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich tomorrow. BugleMarking the centenary of the battle, Jutland 1916: WWI’s Greatest Sea Battle explores the battle itself (which claimed the lives of more than 8,500 as the British Grand Fleet met the German High Seas Fleet in what neither side could claim as a decisive victory) as well as its lead-up, aftermath and the experience of those serving on British and German warships through paintings and newspaper clippings, photographs, ship models and plans, sailor-made craft work and medals. Among the objects on display is a 14 foot long shipbuilder’s model of the HMS Queen Mary, which, one of the largest battle cruisers involved,was destroyed with only 18 survivors of the 1,266 crew. Among the personal stories told in the exhibition, meanwhile, is that of boy bugler William Robert Walker, of Kennington, who served on the HMS Calliope and, severely wounded during the battle, was later visited by King George V
and presented with a silver bugle by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe (the bugle, pictured, is on display). A series of events will accompany the exhibition which runs until November. Admission is free. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/national-maritime-museum. PICTURE: © National Maritime Museum, London 

• Two ‘lost’ Egyptian cities and their watery fate are the subject of a new exhibition which opens at the British Museum today. Sunken cities: Egypt’s lost worlds is the museum’s first exhibition of underwater discoveries and focuses on the recent discoveries of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus – submerged at the mouth of the Nile for more than 1,000 years. Among the 300 objects on display are more than than 200 artefacts excavated between 1996 and 2012. Highlights include a 5.4 metre statue of Hapy, a sculpture excavated from Canopus representing Arsine II (the eldest daughter of the Ptolemaic dynasty founder Ptolemy I) who became a goddess after her death, and a stela from Thonis-Heracleion which advertises a royal decree of Pharaoh Nectanebo I concerning taxes.  The exhibition runs until 27th November. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

New English Heritage Blue Plaques marking the homes of comedian Tommy Cooper and food writer Elizabeth David have been unveiled this month as part of the 150th anniversary of the scheme. Tommy Cooper lived at his former home at 51 Barrowgate Road in Chiswick between 1955 to 1984 and while there entertained fellow comedians such as Roy Hudd, Eric Sykes and Jimmy Tarbuck. Elizabeth David, meanwhile, is the first food writer to ever be commemorated with a Blue Plaque. She lived at the property at 24 Halsey Street in Chelsea for some 45 years until her death in 1992. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

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.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

 

Duke-of-Wellingtons-CloakRecently acquired by the National Army Museum (fittingly given this is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo), this cloak was worn by the Duke of Wellington during the Waterloo Campaign.

Spattered with mud, the cloak is made from blue wool and trimmed with a navy collar and facings. Purchased by the museum at auction for £38,000, it will now form part of a collection of other Waterloo and Napoleonic items in the museum’s permanent collection.

The cloak can apparently be traced back to Lady Caroline Lamb, who had an affair with Wellington in the summer of 1815 and is believed to have been given the cloak as a memento. The first documented owner was Grosvenor Charles Bedford who was given the cloak in 1823 by the surgeon and anatomist Anthony Carlisle.

On presenting Bedford with the cloak, Carlisle had commented that it had been given to him by Lady Caroline who had received it from the duke. The cloak has been passed down within Bedford’s family ever since.

The National Army Museum in Chelsea already possesses a portrait of Wellington by Edward Stroehling (1768-1826) which depicts him wearing a similar cloak.

The cloak will go on display when the museum reopens next year. For more on the museum in the meantime, see www.nam.ac.uk.

PICTURE: Courtesy National Army Museum.

East-India-HouseThe headquarters of the East India Company, the ‘New’ East India House, was built in the 1720s at the corner of Leadenhall and Lime Streets on the site of what had been a late Elizabethan mansion known as Craven House.

The company, which was founded in 1600, was housed in several different properties (including Crosby Hall – now located at Chelsea) until it moved into Craven House in 1648 – built by a former Lord Mayor, Sir Robert Lee, and named after one of its later occupants Sir William Craven. In 1661 an ornamental wooden structure featuring paintings of some of the Company’s ships and a wooden sculpture of a seaman, was added to the facade of the building.

By the 1720s, the mansion was crumbling and so construction began on a new building on the site designed by Theodore Jacobsen (the Company was relocated to a temporary premises in Fenchurch Street while it was built).

The three storey building on Leadenhall Street was designed with five bays and beyond the facade featured grand meeting rooms including the Directors’ Court Room, offices for the directors as well as a hall, courtyard, garden and warehouses. Famous art works inside included the fresco The East Offering its Riches to Britannia by then little known Greek artist Spiradone RomaThe East Offering its Riches to Britannia which once adorned the ceiling of the Revenue Committee Room (it’s now in the collection of the British Library).

The building was renovated and extended significantly in the 1790s creating what was essentially a grand new neo-classical building. Among the new additions – although it seems a matter of some debate the building was apparently designed by Henry Holland with the work was overseen by the Company’s surveyor Richard Jupp until his death in 1799 – were a museum and library. A new pediment topped by Brittania dominated the facade.

When the East India Company was wound up in 1858 after the Indian Mutiny its assets were transferred to the government and the building briefly became home to the India Office (which subsequently moved to a new purpose-built building which still stands in Whitehall).

In 1861, the building was sold for redevelopment and subsequently demolished. Many of its fittings, art collection and furnishings were transferred elsewhere including the British Library, V&A and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall where many of the fittings of the Directors’ Court Room – including a great marble chimneypiece – were reused.

The location of the property is now covered by the landmark Lloyd’s building with little to indicate such a grand premises had once stood here.

PICTURE: The extended East India House in about 1800, by Thomas Malton the Younger (1748-1804)/via Wikipedia.

For more on the history of the East India Company, see John Keay’s The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company.

Chelsea4

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show opened in London’s west this week so we thought we’d take a look at some of the treasures on show. The show, which is in its 102nd year, has been held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea since 1913 (except during the two World Wars) and while its claim to be Britain’s largest flower show has been lost to the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, it remains the nation’s most prestigious. The five day show runs until Saturday. From the top – Chelsea pensioners look at ‘Peter Beales Roses’ in the Great Pavilion; the Inter-flora display in the Great Pavilion; a model poses in front of the Thailand, Land of Buddhism display; and, award-winning garden sculptor David Harber hosts the Mad Hatter’s tea party. For more on the show, visit www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show PICTURES: RHS/Hannah McKay and RHS.

 

Chelsea3

Chelsea2

Chelsea1

Daffodils

Daffodils blooming outside the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

The final in our series on Winston Churchill will be published a day late this week on Thursday and This Week in London will be published on Friday.

Churchill-with-a-Spitfire-from-Castle-Bromwich,-credit-Philip-Insley,-CBAF-Archive-Vickers-ArchiveSyndics Marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill, a new exhibition at the Science Museum in South Kensington looks at his passion for science and the influence that had on bringing World War II to an end. Churchill’s Scientists celebrates the individuals who flourished under Churchill’s patronage (and , as well as helping to bring about the end of World War II, also launched a post-war “science renaissance”) – from Robert Watson-Watt (inventor of radar) through to Bernard Lovell (creator of the world’s largest telescope) – and also delves into more personal stories of Churchill’s own fascination with science and tech. The display include objects from the museum’s collection as well as original archive film footage, letters and photographs. Highlights include the high speed camera built at Aldermaston to film the first microseconds of the detonation of the UK’s first home grown atomic bomb, the cigar Churchill was smoking when he heard news of his re-election as PM in 1951, and a one-piece green velvet “siren suit” designed by Churchill to wear during air raids (only one of three originals known to exist, it’s never been on public display outside of the tailors who created it). The free exhibition runs until 1st March and is part of the Churchill 2015 programme of events. Visit www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/churchill for more. PICTURE: Churchill with a Spitfire from Castle Bromwich (Philip Insley, CBAF Archive Vickers ArchiveSyndics).

The National Army Museum and Waterloo2oo have launched an online gallery which will eventually comprise images and information on more than 200 artefacts associated with the Battle of Waterloo ahead of the 200th anniversary in June. Among the objects featured on Waterloo200.org are the Duke of Wellington’s boots, a French eagle standard captured in battle and the saw used to amputate the Earl of Uxbridge’s leg. One hundred items – drawn from the Army Museum’s collection as well as from European museums and private collections – can already be seen on the site with a further 100 to be added before the bicentenary on 18th June.

The Talk: Death in Disguise: The Amazing True Story of the Chelsea Murders. On 12th February, the Guildhall Library in the City of London will host Gary Powell as he examines the facts of this double murder which took place in Chelsea in May, 1870, and left Victorian society reeling. For more events at the library, follow this link.

On Now: Breakthrough: Crossrail’s tunnelling story. This exhibition at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden brings a new perspective on the massive Crossrail project currently underway in the city. Visitors will experience the tunnel environment through a five metre high walk-through installation featuring a computer simulation of a giant boring machine as well as learn about how the project is shaping up, play interactive tunnelling games and hear firsthand from those who work underground. Admission charge for adults applies. Runs until August. For more, see www.ltmuseum.co.uk.

Extended: Astronomy Photographer of the Year Exhibition. This exhibition at the Royal Observatory Greenwich features the winning images from last year’s competition. They include the Briton James Woodend’s image of a vivid green aurora in the Icelandic night sky; American Patrick Cullis’ view of earth taken from 87,000 feet above ground; and, New Zealander Chris Murphy’s image of dusty clouds dancing across the Milky Way. The exhibition can be seen for free in the Observatory’s Astronomy Centre until 19th July. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/astrophoto.

• Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com. 

Berlin-WallThis Sunday marks 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall so we decided it was a fitting time to mention the fragment of the wall which accompanies the bronze statue of former US President Ronald Reagan in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair.

Reagan2The remnant of the wall, recorded as taken from the “east side”, can be seen through a window in a bronze plaque which commemorates the role President Reagan played in the coming down of the wall.

The plaque also features quotes from President Reagan – including the famous line from his 1987 Brandenburg Gate speech, “Mr Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall” – and other figures including former UK PM Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev as well as information about the wall itself.

In a dedication to the president, it further reads: “Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States of America, was a principled fighter for freedom. With a clear vision and will, he gave hope to the oppressed and shamed the oppressors. His contribution to world history in the 20th century, culminated in his determined intervention to end the Cold War. President Reagan has left a lasting legacy as a campaigner for global peace.”

The memorial was unveiled on 4th July, 2011, outside the US Embassy by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, to mark the 100th birthday of the former president. Among those present at the unveiling of the statue were then Foreign Minister William Hague and former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

There are also larger sections of the wall outside the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth and in the National Army Museum in Chelsea (closed for redevelopment until 2016).

For more on London’s monuments, check out Andrew Kershman’s aptly named London’s Monuments.

Tower-Bridge

Some of 16 hybrid images showing London’s bridges old and new which have been released by the Museum of London Docklands to mark the recent opening of the museum’s new free art exhibition Bridges. The images have been created using historic photographs showcased in the exhibition which opened last Friday and runs until 2nd November. The photographs were taken by renowned late 19th and 20th century photographers, including Henry Grant, Henry Turner, Sandra Flett, Christina Broom, Roger Mayne and George Davison Reid. Above is Tower Bridge, taken by Christina Broom (c. 1903–10) from Shad Thames Jetty. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands/PICTURE © Christina Broom/Museum of London.

Albert-bridge

Albert Bridge (unknown photographer), Chelsea. Glass lantern slide, c. late 19th century. © Museum of London.

Vauxhall-bridge

Vauxhall Bridge from Cambridge Wharf (taken by Albert Gravely Linney), 1928. Taken from the north bank of the Thames. © Albert Gravely Linney/Museum of London

London-Bridge

Looking north across London Bridge (taken by George Davison Reid), c. 1920s. Taken from inside on the 5th floor of No1 London Bridge. © George Davison Reid/Museum of London

Richmond-Bridge

Richmond Bridge, glass lantern slide, c. late 19th century. Taken from the south side of the river. © Museum of London.

Bridge-ExhibitionA new exhibition on London’s bridges commemorating the 120th anniversary of the opening of Tower Bridge opens at the Museum of London Docklands tomorrow. The largest art exhibition ever staged at the museum, Bridge features rarely seen contemporary and historical works, photography, films and maquettes of London’s bridges and explores the role they play in the city. Highlights include Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s 1766 etching A view of the intended bridge at Blackfriars, London, Charles Ginner’s 1913 work London Bridge, and Ewan Gibbs’ 2007 linocut London. The exhibition will also feature a rare photograph taken by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1845, Old Hungerford Bridge. The oldest photograph in the museum’s collection, it will only be on display for one month from tomorrow. The exhibition, entry to which is free, runs until 2nd November. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands/. (PICTURE: © Museum of London Docklands).

Don’t forget there is a special admission entry offer of just £1.20 to the Tower Bridge Exhibition this Monday, 30th June – 120 years to the day since the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) opened the iconic structure. Tickets must be bought at the door. There will be some Victorian re-enactors at the bridge on the day including police, tourists and engineers and each visitor will receive a special ticket which replicates the design of the invite to the 1894 ceremony (a limited edition commemorative badge will also be available to buy). For more, see www.towerbridge.org.uk.

The Australian-born nurse responsible for the entire nursing operation on the Western Front during World War I has been commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque unveiled at her former home in Chelsea. Maud McCarthy, one-time Army Matron-in-Chief, was in charge of more than 6,000 British, Imperial and American nurses in 1918. Her accolades included the Florence Nightingale Medal – the highest international distinction a nurse can receive. McCarthy lived at 47 Markham Square for almost 30 years after the war, from 1919 until shortly before her death in 1949. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blue-plaques/.

An exhibition featuring more than 400 photographs taken by the late US actor, film director and artist Dennis Hopper opened at the Royal Academy of Arts off Piccadilly today. Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album is the first time the body of work – first shown in Texas in 1970 – has been displayed in the UK. The photographs document the social and cultural life of the American Sixties and cover a range of themes and subjects. They include portraits of the likes of Paul Newman, Andy Warhol and Jane Fonda, and images depicting members of counter-cultural movements as well as events such as the 1965 march civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Admission charge applies. Runs until 19th October. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

Send all items of interest for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

Rooftops-in-ChelseaAngular rooftops stacked one upon the other in Chelsea in London’s west.

Houses-near-Sloane-Square

Colourful terraced homes located in Bywater Street, a pretty cul-de-sac just off King’s Road, in Chelsea. Incidentally, number 9, was the fictional home of spy George Smiley in John le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Number 10 as used as the home in the BBC TV series of the same name dating from 1979.

A new exhibition looking at the London that might have been opened at Wellington Arch near Hyde Park Corner yesterday. Almost Lost: London’s Buildings Loved and Loathed uses digital technology to look at how several redevelopment proposals – including a 1950s conceptual scheme for a giant conservatory supporting tower blocks over Soho and a 1960s plan to redevelop Whitehall which including demolishing most of the Victorian and Edwardian buildings around Parliament Square – would have changed the face of the city. The exhibition also looks at how the latest developments in digital mapping can be used in the future and features ‘Pigeon-Sim’ which provides a bird’s-eye view of the city’s buildings with an interactive flight through a 3D photorealistic model of the city. The exhibition runs until 2nd February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/wellington-arch/.

A specially commissioned Christmas tree has been unveiled at the V&A in South Kensington. The 4.75 metre high ‘Red Velvet Tree of Love’ is the work of artists Helen and Colin David and will stand in the museum’s grand entrance until 6th January. The design of the tree – which is coated in red flocking and decorated with 79 sets of hand cast antlers and 67 white, heart shaped baubles – was inspired by an 1860 HFC Rampendahl chair in the V&A’s collection which features a real antler frame and velvet upholstery. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.

The annual Christmas Past exhibition is once again open at the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch. Festive decorations have transformed the museum’s rooms and give an insight into how the English middle classes celebrated in times gone past. The exhibition runs until 5th January. Admission is free. Accompanying the exhibition are a series of events including an open evening celebrating an Edwardian Christmas between 5pm-8pm tonight. For more, see www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/whatson/christmas-past-2013/.

The World War II experience of Chelsea Pensioners are being commemorated in a new display in the White Space Gallery at the National Army Museum in Chelsea. The Old and the Bold is the culmination of a year long collaboration between the museum and the Royal Hospital Chelsea and features nine interviews with 14 In-Pensioners. Their accounts span iconic moments in World War II history – from D-Day to North Africa and the Falklands and are supported by items from the museum’s collection. Runs until 3rd January. Admission is free. For more, see www.nam.ac.uk.

Stuart-masque-at-Banqueting-HouseThe sights and sounds of the elaborate masques of the early Stuart Court – described as a cross between a ball, an amateur theatrical, and a fancy dress party – are being recreated at the Banqueting House in Whitehall. Historic Royal Palaces have joined with JB3 Creative to create an “immersive theatrical experience” for visitors to the building – one of the last surviving parts of the Palace of Whitehall – with the chance to try on costumes, learn a masque dance and witness performance rehearsals for Tempe Restored, last performed in the building in 1632. Inigo Jones will be ‘present’ as masque designer to talk about his vision for the performance. Weekends will also see musicians performing period music and on 27th July there will be a one-off evening event at the Banqueting House based on Tempe Restored. Admission charge applies. Performing for the King opens tomorrow and runs until 1st September. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/BanquetingHouse/. PICTURE: HPR/newsteam.

A new exhibition looking at how some of London’s great Georgian and Victorian buildings were lost to bombs and developers before, after and during World War II – and how people such as poet John Betjeman campaigned to save them – opened in the Quadriga Gallery at Wellington Arch near Hyde Park Corner yesterday. Pride and Prejudice: The Battle for Betjeman’s Britain features surviving fragments and rare photographs of some of the “worst heritage losses” of the mid-20th century. They include Robert Adam’s Adelphi Terrace (1768-72) near the Strand, the Pantheon entertainment rooms (1772) on Oxford Street, and Euston Arch (1837). The English Heritage exhibition runs until 15th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/wellington-arch/.

IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) will be ‘uncovered’ in a new exhibition opening tomorrow at the National Army Museum. Unseen Enemy will tell the stories of the men and women in Afghanistan who search for, make safe and deal with the impact of the IEDs through personal interviews, images and mementoes. The exhibition has been developed with “unprecedented access” from the British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy and will include a range of equipment used in detecting and disarming the devices, such as bombsuits and robots as well as medical equipment used to help those injured in explosions. The exhibition is free. For more, see www.nam.ac.uk.

On Now: Club to Catwalk – London Fashion in the 1980s. This exhibition at the V&A explores the “creative explosion” of London fashion during the decade and features more than 85 outfits by designers including John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood and Katherine Hamnett as well as accessories by designers such as Stephen Jones and Patrick Cox. While the ground floor gallery focuses on young fashion designers who found themselves on the world stage, the upper floor focuses on club wear, grouping garments worn by ‘tribes’ such as Fetish, Goth, High Camp and the New Romantics and featuring clothes such as those worn by the likes of Boy George, Adam Ant and Leigh Bowery. The exhibition also includes a display of magazines of the time. Entry charge applies. Runs until 16th February, 2014. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk. Meanwhile, tomorrow (Friday) night the V&A will celebrate the 25th anniversary of designer Jenny Packham with a series of four free catwalk shows in its Raphael Gallery. Booking is essential. Head to the V&A website for details.

Sloane-SquareThis upmarket square in west London is named in honor of Sir Hans Sloane, the physician come botanist who bought the manor of Chelsea in 1712 and, in doing so, provided grounds for the Chelsea Physic Garden.

Sloane Square was developed by architect Henry Holland Sr and his son Henry Holland Jr in 1771 as part of a residential development they called Hans Town (also named after Sir Hans, it’s still a ward in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea). For more on Sir Hans Sloane, see our earlier post here.

The square, pictured above as it looks decorated for Christmas, initially consisted of a village green bordered with posts and chains and the surrounding buildings were all residential. Apparently the square initially failed to attract the right sort of residents (it was a little too far from Mayfair) but despite this initial setback, it gradually became the centre of a desirable residential precinct.

Private houses began making way for other buildings in the square in the nineteenth century – in 1810, the New Chelsea Theatre opened, subsequently renamed the Royal Court Theatre (this was later moved to another site still on the square and remains there today), and in 1812, the Chelsea, Brompton and Belgrave Dispensary was established for the relief of the sick and the poor.

The Sloane Square Underground station opened in 1868 and rebuilt after it was damaged by bombs in World War II (it’s interesting to note that the River Westbourne actually runs through some iron conduit over the top of the platforms on its way to the River Thames).

Other notable buildings in the square today include the Peter Jones department store which first arrived in the square in the late nineteenth century.

The square itself was redesigned in the 1930s when the war memorial was put in its current position. The Venus Fountain (pictured above) which now stands there – the work of Gilbert Ledward – was erected in 1953.

Chelsea2

Queen Mary (wife of King George V) with group at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 1913. The show, which was first held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, in 1913, is celebrating its centenary this year. The 244 exhibitors at the inaugural event have grown to more than 500 today with 161,000 visitors now attending the show each year. Other pictures released to mark the centenary include (see below) gardeners carrying pots at the show in 1931; visitors looking at a display of cacti at the 1964 show; and, an aerial view of the show in the 1990s. The show runs from today until 25th May. For more on the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, see www.rhs.org.uk/Shows—events/RHS-Chelsea-Flower-Show/2013PICTURES: RHS Lindley Library. 

Gardeners-carrying-pots-at-the-Show.-Date-1931.-Credit,-RHS-Lindley-Library

Chelsea3

Chelsea4

An amazing feat of model-making, Siborne’s Large Model is a painstakingly detailed model reconstruction of the Battle of Waterloo on display at the National Army Museum. Controversial even to this day, the story behind the model’s creation is an incredible tale of one man’s perseverance.

Siborne's-modelA career soldier, Captain William Siborne was commissioned in 1830 by Lord Rowland Hill, then Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, to construct a model of the Battle of Waterloo, fought between British and allied forces under the command of the Duke of Wellington and Prussian field marshal Gebhard von Blücher and French forces under the command of the Emperor Napoleon on 18th June, 1815.

Siborne, who hadn’t been present at the battle but had previously been involved in the construction of a model of the Battle of Borodino, extensively researched it before beginning work including spending eight months surveying the entire field where the battle took place and corresponding with hundreds of those who had fought there.

The model wasn’t completed until 1838, partly due to the fact that Siborne still had military duties to perform and also due to the fact that he ran out of funds and, when the authorities refused to pay up, ended up financing the project out of his own pocket (and then spent much time trying to recover the funds).

In his fascinating book, Wellington’s Smallest Victory: The Duke, the Model Maker and the Secret of Waterloo (well worth a read if you’re interested in learning more about the history of this amazing model), Peter Hofschroer writes in detail about the acrimonious relationship the Duke of Wellington developed with Siborne, thanks to a clash over the model’s depiction of the battle which shows the crisis point in the battle at 7pm – when the French Imperial Guard attacked Wellington’s centre – and has the Prussians helping to win the day.

The model was placed on public display in October 1838 at the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly after which it went on tour around the UK. He went on to write up his research in a book on the battle, published in 1844, and it was while preparing this – in 1841 – that he announced he had changed his mind and would revise the model, eventually removing figures representing some 40,000 Prussians from the model and thus reducing the role they played at the decisive moment of the battle – a move which could only be seen as a win for Wellington.

It’s also worth mentioning that Siborne created a second, larger scale model of just part of the battlefield, exhibited in 1844 in London and later in Berlin (it’s now on display at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds). Siborne’s subsequent efforts to sell either model didn’t bear fruit before he died, said to have been a “broken man”, on 13th January, 1849.

After his death the large model was subsequently purchased by the United Service Museum and can now be found at the National Army Museum in Chelsea.

WHERE: National Army Museum, Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea (nearest Tube station is Sloane Square); WHEN: 10am to 5.30pm daily; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.nam.ac.uk.

Crosby-HallIn honour of the stunning news this week that a skeleton found under a Leicester carpark last year is indeed that of the King Richard III, here’s a picture of the front of Crosby Hall, London home to the king when he was still merely the Duke of Gloucester.

Now located in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, the Grade II* hall was previously located in Bishopsgate and was the great hall of the 15th century property Crosby Place. As well as being occupied by Richard who rented it from the owner in 1483, a wool merchant named Sir John Crosby (in fact, it also appears in a scene of William Shakespeare’s play, Richard III), the property – built between 1466-75 – was also, from 1523-24, the home of Sir Thomas More, the ill-fated sixteenth century chancellor of King Henry VIII.

The hall was moved piece-by-piece to Chelsea in 1910 when it was threatened with demolition and now stands on land where there was once an orchard owned by Sir Thomas. It served as a dining hall for the British Federation of University Women but is now in private ownership.

The body was confirmed as being, “beyond reasonable doubt”, that of King Richard III, England’s last Plantagenet king, at an extraordinary press conference at the University of Leicester yesterday. Bent by severe scoliosis of the spine, the skeleton’s back had been further twisted to fit into the hole dug for it near the high altar at the church of Grey Friars which had previously stood on the site. Work has now begun a new tomb for the king at nearby Leicester Cathedral.

King Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth on 22nd August, 1485, and was the last English king to die in battle. The researchers found the body was likely to have been killed by one of two fatal wounds – one in which the base of his skull had been sliced off with a weapon believed to be a bladed weapon like a halberd and another from a sword which penetrated his brain. The evidence showed the body had been significantly mutilated after death with a total of 10 wounds on the skeleton.

While radiocarbon dating placed the body in the right time frame and the wounds on the body and burial site were consistent with historical evidence, the key to the identification was the matching of the bones’ DNA with that of a Canadian man, Michael Ibsen, a direct descendant of the king’s sister, Anne of York.

For more on the amazing find, see www.le.ac.uk/richardiii/.