One of the most famous plumbers in the world, Thomas Crapper was the founder of London-based sanitary equipment company, Thomas Crapper & Co, and a man whose name has become synonymous with toilets (although he was not, contrary to popular belief, the inventor of the flushing toilet).
Crapper was born in the town of Thorne in Yorkshire in 1836, the son of Charles Crapper, a sailor (his exact birthday is unknown but he was baptised on 28th September, so it’s thought to have been around that time).
In 1853, he was apprenticed to his brother George, a master plumber based in Chelsea, and, having subsequently gained his own credentials, established himself as a sanitary engineer in Marlborough Road in 1861 (he had married his cousin, Maria Green, the previous year).
Sometime in the late 1860s, in a move some saw as scandalous, his company became the first to open public showrooms displaying sanitary-related products. He was also a strong advocate for the installation of flushing toilets in private homes.
While not the inventor of the modern flushing toilet (that is often credited to Sir John Harington, godson of Queen Elizabeth I, in 1595, although there are even earlier examples), he was responsible for a number of advances in the field including making design improvements to the floating ballcock, a tank-filling mechanism, and the U-bend, an improvement on the S-bend.
Crapper’s company did have some high profile clients – in the 1880s it supplied the plumbing at Sandringham House in Norfolk for then Prince Albert (later King Edward VII). This resulted in Crapper’s first Royal Warrant and the company would go on to receive others from both Albert, when king, and King George V.
Crapper’s branded manhole covers, meanwhile, can still be seen in various parts of London, including around Westminster Abbey where he laid drains. His name can also be found on what are said to be London’s oldest public toilets.
Crapper retired in 1904 (his wife had died two years earlier) and the firm passed to his nephew George (son of his plumber brother George) and his business partner Robert Marr Wharam (the firm, Thomas Crapper & Company, continues to this day – now based in Huddersfield, it still sells a range of vintage bathroom products).
Having spent some time commuting from Brighton, Thomas lived the last six years of his life at 12 Thornsett Road, Anerley, in south-east London (the house now bears a plaque). He died on 27th January, 1910, of colon cancer and was buried at Elmer’s End Cemetery nearby.
While it is often claimed that it’s thanks to Thomas Crapper and his toilets that the word ‘crap’ came to mean excrement, the word is actually of Middle English origin and was already recorded as being associated with human waste when Crapper was just a young boy.
But there is apparently more truth to the claim that toilets became known as ‘crappers’ thanks to Thomas Crapper’s firm. It was apparently American servicemen who, when stationed overseas during World War I, encountered Crapper’s seemingly ubiquitous branding on toilets in England and France and, as a result, started referring to toilets as such.
News this week that spy turned novelist John Le Carré has died at the age of 89. His family reportedly confirmed the author had died of pneumonia at the Royal Cornwall Hospital on Saturday night. Born as David Cornwall, Le Carré worked as an intelligence officer for the British Foreign Service and, drawing in his work, began writing Cold War spy thrillers under the pseudonym of Le Carré with his first, Call for the Dead, published in 1961. It was in this novel – Le Carré went on to write others – that his most famous character, George Smiley, made his first appearance. Initially a minor character, Smiley went on to become a star in three novels published in the 1970s, the most famous of which is Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Smiley’s last appearance was in a later book, 2017’s A Legacy of Spies). In tribute to Le Carré and George Smiley, pictured is 9 Bywater Street in Chelsea, the fictional home of Smiley (albeit a very real property!)
This tradition, the origins of which go back centuries, centres on a ceremony at the Royal Hospital Chelsea which involves the blessing and cutting of a ‘Christmas Cheese’ with a sword.
The origins of the tradition go back to 1692 when a local cheesemonger donated cheese to the Chelsea Pensioners – retired members of the British Army – for Christmas. Since 1959, it’s been organised by industry body Dairy UK and sees cheesemongers from across the UK donate cheeses to the hospital.
The ceremony involves the largest cheese among those donated being blessed and then cut with a sword by a selected pensioner. The cheese is then distributed to the pensioners at meal times in the run-up to Christmas.
This year a special COVID-safe ceremony was held and some 258 kilograms of cheese were donated to the hospital. The largest cheese – a 25 kilogram Montgomery Cheddar – was cut by Chelsea Pensioner George Reed who had a 25 year career in military as well as a career at the BBC.
As well as last year’s 60th anniversary ceremony aside, other milestones have taken place in 2016 – when Chelsea Pensioner Mary Johnston became the first woman to cut the ceremonial cheese – and in 2009, when two members of Territorial Army London Regiment bound for Afghanistan joined the ceremony for the first time.
• A landmark exhibition on the work – and times – of JMW Turner opens at the Tate Modern in Millbank today. Turner’s Modern World features some 160 works and attempts to show how the landscape painter found “new ways to capture the momentous events of his day, from technology’s impact on the natural world to the dizzying effects of modernisation on society”. Highlights include war paintings such as The Battle of Trafalgar (1806-8) and Field of Waterloo (1818), works capturing political events like The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons (1835) and maritime disasters like A Disaster at Sea (1835) and Wreck of a Transport Ship (c1801), as well as works related to the industrial advances taking place such as Snow Storm (1842), The Fighting ‘Téméraire’ (1839), and Rain, Steam and Speed (1844). Admission charge applies. Runs until 7th March (online booking required). For more, see www.tate.org.uk.
• An exhibition at the National Army Museum in Chelsea marks the 100th anniversary of the Unknown Warrior being laid to rest in Westminster Abbey. Using objects, paintings, photography and personal testimony, Buried Among Kings: The Story of the Unknown Warrior tells the story of the creation of this symbolic memorial dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of British servicemen who died during World War I. Highlights include a union flag on loan from the Railton family (it was Chaplain David Railton who conceived the original idea for an Unknown Warrior following an encounter in 1916 with a wooden cross on the Western Front which was inscribed ‘An Unknown British Soldier’), a Bible carried by Chaplain George Kendall during the selection of the Unknown Warrior, a fragment of the original wooden Cenotaph erected in 1919-1920, and Frank O Salisbury’s large scale painting, The Passing of the Unknown Warrior, which depicts the procession of the Unknown Warrior from Victoria Station to Westminster Abbey. In connection with the exhibition, Victoria Station is hosting a pop-up display between 9th and 16th November on the journey of the Unknown Warrior from the Western Front to Westminster Abbey (the coffin actually arrived in London on 10th November, 1920). Admission charge applies (at Chelsea). Runs until 14th February (online booking required). For more, see www.nam.ac.uk.
• Model making in the “age of the railways” is the subject of a free exhibition now on at the Science Museum in South Kensington. Brass, Steel and Fire features intricate models from the Science Museum Group Collection as well as stunning miniature locomotives and a display of almost 200 tools used by model-maker Keith Dodgson. Highlights include ‘Salamanca’, the world’s oldest model locomotive (on loan from Leeds Museums and Galleries), a model of ‘Fire King’ – made in the 1840s by apprentice Josiah Evans who used his experience to later build full size locomotives, and the world’s oldest working model steam engine, the Etherley winding engine model. The exhibition is free and runs until 3rd May. Online booking required. For more, see sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/brass-steel-and-fire.
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This hall was originally constructed in Bishopsgate as the great hall at the heart Crosby Place, the mansion of wealthy merchant and courtier Sir John Crosby.
Built over the decade from 1466 to 1475 on land which had previously been part of St Helen’s Convent, the property became famous for royal connections.
Richard, Duke of Gloucester, had apparently acquired the property from Sir John’s widow by 1483 and it was one of his homes when the Princes in the Tower – Edward V and his younger brother Richard – were murdered, leading to his coronation as King Richard III (as a result the hall is the setting for several scenes in Shakespeare’s Richard III).
Catherine of Aragon, meanwhile, resided in the hall with her retinue after she arrived from Spain on her way to marry Prince Arthur, King Henry VII’s eldest son and then heir (and King Henry VIII’s older brother).
The property was later – in the 1530s – owned by Sir Thomas More (although he probably never lived here), and subsequently, from about 1576 to 1610 by Sir John Spencer, a Lord Mayor of London (Queen Elizabeth I was apparently among his guests) while Sir Walter Raleigh had lodgings here in 1601.
It served as head office of the East India Company from 1621 to 1638 and, having survived the Great Fire of London, was used in various capacities including as a Presbyterian Meeting House and for various commercial uses, including as a warehouse and restaurant.
In 1908, it was bought by the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China who wanted to build new offices on the site. The hall was saved from demolition and in 1910 moved stone-by-stone and, under the eye of Walter Godfrey, reconstructed on its present location in Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, a Thames-side site which had formerly been part of Sir Thomas More’s Chelsea garden which was provided by the London County Council.
Having been used to house Belgian refugees during World War I, it was formerly opened by Elizabeth, Duchess of York (later the Queen Mother), in 1926.
Around that time, the property was leased by the British Federation of University Women which had WH Godfrey build a tall Arts and Crafts residential block at right angles to the great hall (the residential block has subsequently bene adapted to appear Jacobean to fit with the hall).
The now Grade II*-listed hall – which, although not complete, is the only surviving example of a City of London medieval merchant’s house – was purchased by philanthropist and businessman Sir Christopher Moran in 1988 and is now part of an expansive private residence designed with the hall as its centrepiece (recent visitors have included Prime Minister Boris Johnson).
• It’s Open House London this weekend and, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, this programme features a host of documentary films, online events and self-led walking tours. Highlights from the festival, which runs over Saturday and Sunday with some additional events taking place until 27th September, include online tours of the HM Treasury in Whitehall (pictured) and Dorich House Museum in Kingston-upon-Thames, a self-guided walking tour of Fosters + Partners buildings in London’s centre, and the chance to visit Rochester Square in Marylebone. The programme features a series of collections of related events – such as those related to ‘colonial histories’ or ‘architecture for the climate emergency’ – to help make it easier for people to access. For the full programme of events, head to https://openhouselondon.open-city.org.uk. PICTURE: HM Treasury Building taken from the London Eye (Dave Kirkham/licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0/Image cropped)
• The work and lives of the more than million British Army soldiers who have served in Germany following World War II is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the National Army Museum in Chelsea next Tuesday. Foe to Friend: The British Army in Germany since 1945 charts how the Army helped to rebuild a broken nation in the aftermath of the war, provide protection during the Cold War and, later, how they used Germany as a base to deploy troops all around the world. It will include stories of family life as well as those involving espionage and massive military training exercises. The free exhibition can be seen until 1st July, 2021. For more, see www.nam.ac.uk.
• Christine Granville, Britain’s first and longest-serving female special agent, has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque. The plaque is located at the 1 Lexham Gardens hotel (previously known as the Shelbourne Hotel) in Kensington which was Granville’s base after the war. Granville, who was once described by Churchill as his “favourite spy”, was born in Warsaw as Krystyna Skarbek. She joined British intelligence after Germany invaded Poland in 1939 and undertook missions including skiing over the snow-bound Polish border in temperatures of -30 degrees Celsius, smuggling microfilm revealing Hitler’s plans to invade the Soviet Union across Europe and rescuing French Resistance agents from the Gestapo (in fact, it’s said she was also the inspiration for Vesper Lynd, a spy in Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale). Christine Granville was one of her aliases she had been given during her time with intelligence and it was a name she decided to keep after the war. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.
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Newly awarded upgraded heritage status, Ropers Garden in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, was created in the wake of World War II.
The buildings which had formerly stood here were destroyed on 17th April, 1941, thanks to a parachute mine.
Shepheard used the basements of the terraced housing previously on the site to create a sunken garden, maintaining a link with the history of the site and reducing the noise of traffic from nearby Chelsea Embankment.
The centrepiece of the now Grade II-listed gardens – which were recently added to the Register of Parks and Gardens – is a sculpture called “The Awakening”. The work of Gilbert Ledward, who lived and worked in the area, it depicts a bronze standing nude figure of a woman (apparently modelled on the artist’s wife and cast in the 1920s).
The sculpture (pictured at the top with Chelsea Old Church in the background) was recently added to the garden’s Grade II listing.
Other features of the garden include an unfinished stone relief by Jacob Epstein (pictured, right) who had a studio nearby in the early 20th century (the sculpture was unveiled in 1970) and a cherry tree which commemorates Gunji Koizumi the father of British Judo (1885-1965).
And the garden’s name? That comes from the history of the land on which it lies – once an orchard and part of the marriage gift of Sir Thomas More to his daughter Margaret and son-in-law William Roper in 1521.
PICTURES: Top – David Adams; Right – Andy Scott (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)
Having been granted the honour of having an English Heritage Blue Plaque unveiled at her former Chelsea home last year, Gertrude Bell is actually famous for the time she spent elsewhere.
Born on 14th July, 1868, in Washington, County Durham, Bell was the daughter of affluent and progressive mill-owner Sir Hugh Bell and Mary Shield Bell, who died just three years after she was born. Her paternal grandfather was industrialist and MP Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell whose role in international policy-making undoubtedly influenced her interest in the world and politics.
Bell was educated at Queen’s College in London and then at Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford University and was the first woman to graduate in modern history at Oxford with a first class honours degree. Following her graduation in 1892, he travelled to Persia to visit her uncle, Sir Frank Lascelles, a British ambassador based in Tehran.
It was the start of more than a decade of travels which included mountaineering in Switzerland – where she conquered peaks including La Meije and Mont Blanc and recorded 10 new paths or first ascents in the Bernese Alps (one previously uncharted peaks was named after her) – and visits to the Middle East including to Palestine and Syria.
During this period, Bell became fluent in Arabic along with a number of other languages and developed an interest in archaeology, working with Sir William M Ramsay on excavations in Binbirkilise in what was then the Ottoman Empire (and is now modern Turkey).
In 1909 she traveled to Mesopotamia, mapping and describing the Hittite city of Carchemish and visiting Babylon and Najaf. Her last journey across the Arabian Peninsula – a 1,800 mile trek – took place in 1913 during which she travelled from Damascus in Syria to Ha’il in Saudi Arabia.
Bell volunteered with the Red Cross in France during World War I before British intelligence put her to work using her expertise to get soldiers through the deserts, working in places including Basra, Damascus and Baghdad.
Following the war she was involved in mediating between Arab and British officials and played a significant role in the creation of the nation of Iraq, becoming an advisor to Faisal bin Hussein, the first King of Iraq, who named her director of antiquities. She was also among attendees at the 1921 Conference in Cairo.
Bell, who wrote a number of books about her travels, including Safar Nameh: Persia Pictures (1894) and Syria: The Desert and the Sown (1907), returned to Britain in 1925 where she faced family problems and ill-health before returning to Iraq where she died in Baghdad on 12th July, 1928, apparently from an overdose of sleeping pills. She was buried at the British Cemetery there.
PICTURE: An image of Gertrude Bell in Iraq in 1909. (Wikimedia Commons)
This Chelsea home, at 24 Cheyne Row, was that of Victorian philosopher, historian and writer Thomas Carlyle and his wife Jane.
They continued to rent the property until their deaths – Janes in 1866 and Thomas, the “Chelsea Sage” in 1881 – and during their time in the home, it became a hub for writers and thinkers with Charles Dickens, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, George Eliot, and William Makepeace Thackeray all among those who visited.
The property was where Carlyle wrote his most famous book, The French Revolution, A History, which almost never made it into print – he lent the only copy to John Stuart Mill and while in his possession, one of his servants accidentally threw it on the fire meaning Carlyle had to start writing the entire book again from scratch.
The four level property’s interiors are typical of those of a 19th century townhouse and include a parlour (captured as it was in 1857 in a painting by Robert Tait which hangs on the wall), drawing room, basement kitchen (where Carlyle smoked with Tennyson) and a specially designed “sound proof” attic study (it isn’t).
Inside can be found Carlyle’s original manuscripts and possessions as well as part of his original library (his hat still hangs on a peg in the entrance hall). Outside there’s a small walled garden which featured flowers and vegetables as well as plants to remind Jane of Scotland.
The Grade II*-listed property, which dates from 1708, was first opened to the public in 1895. It was taken over the by the National Trust in 1936.
For more, see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/carlyles-house/
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
The Chelsea property where Jamaican singer-songwriter Bob Marley lived in 1977 has been given an English heritage Blue Plaque. Marley lived at the four storey terraced house at 42 Oakley Street while he and the Wailers were finishing recording their album Exodus which features hits including Jamming, Waiting in Vain, Three Little Birds and One Love. Marley, who often played football with bandmates at pitches in Battersea Park, said he regarded London as a “second base”. Among the evidence considered in deciding to award the plaque was Marley’s arrest for possession of cannabis on 10th March, 1977, along with bassist Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett. Court records have Barrett’s address as 42 Oakley Street while Marley’s is recorded as 27 Collingham Gardens. Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests he gave this address to try and prevent the police from searching Oakley Street for drugs and English Heritage says the unanimous recollection of contemporary witnesses is that Oakley Street was both the band headquarters and Marley’s primary address at the time. Other music-related identities who have been honoured with blue plaques include Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, George Frideric Handel and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/. PICTURE: 42 Oakley Street (before plaque) via Google Maps.
• Londoners are celebrating St Patrick’s Day with events taking place across the city over this weekend. They include a series of specially commissioned walking tours focusing on London’s Irish history, Irish poets and musicians busking at Underground stations, and a series of open air gigs featuring Irish women artists at Camden Market on Saturday. Cinemas in the West End, meanwhile, are showing Irish films in connection with the weekend while exhibitions to mark the event include #IamIrish, a celebration of mixed race Irish people by artist Lorraine Maher featuring the work of photographer Tracey Anderson, which runs at London City Hall until 13th April. On Sunday, the culmination of the festive weekend, a procession featuring Irish marching bands and dance troupes kicks off at noon from Green Park while in Trafalgar Square there will be a series of stage performances – including a tribute to Dolores O’Riordan, the Cranberries frontwoman who died in London earlier this year – as well as a special zone for families and an Irish street for market. For the full programme of events, head to www.london.gov.uk/stpatricks. PICTURE: A St Patrick’s Day celebration in years past. (Garry Knight (licensed under CC BY 2.o))
• The work of the UK’s Special Forces are the subject of the first major exhibition at the National Army Museum in Chelsea since it reopened in March last year. Special Forces: In the Shadows examines of the history of the Special Forces from its creation during World War II up until today and looks at the unique role each of the six units – the Special Air Service (SAS), Special Boat Service (SBS), Special Forces Support Group (SFSG), Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), 18 (UKSF) Signals Regiment – play in security and military operations. Among objects on show in the exhibition’s seven distinct areas are a compass that Paddy Mayne wrenched from an enemy plane cockpit and a complete SAS Counter Terrorist Kit from 2007 as well as personal testimonies, video and photography. There’s also interactive exhibits to help visitors understand the challenges soldiers in the field face. Admission charge applies. Runs until 18th November. For more, see www.nam.ac.uk.
• Two exhibitions celebrating the work of British-European artist Tacita Dean have opened this week. Tacita Dean: PORTRAIT at the National Portrait Gallery focuses on portraiture primarily through the medium of 16mm film and, the first in the gallery’s history to be devoted to the medium of film, features works including the six screen installation from 2008, Merce Cunningham performs STILLNESS…, as well as Dean’s film of Claes Oldenburg, Manhattan Mouse Museum and a film diptych of Julie Mehretu, GDGDA – all seen in the UK for the first time. Meanwhile Tacita Dean: STILL LIFE has opened at the neighbouring National Gallery and features a selection of the gallery’s works curated by Dean as well as some by the artist herself and her contemporaries. There’s also a new film, Ideas for Sculpture in a Setting, made especially for the exhibition. A third exhibition on Dean will be held at the Royal Academy of Arts. For more, see www.npg.org.uk, www.nationalgallery.org.uk and www.royalacademy.org.uk.
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The countdown continues…
Come back tomorrow for the next two!
Still a favourite at tea rooms across the world, the Chelsea bun – a squarish, sticky spiced fruit bun – owes its origins to Richard Hand’s establishment in what was Jew’s Road and is now Pimlico Road in what is now Pimlico, on the border with Chelsea.
The single storey premises opened early in the 18th century and in the interior Mr Hand, apparently known as “Captain Bun”, kept a curious collection of clocks, models, paintings, statues and other curiosities.
The bun house, known variously as the Old Chelsea Bun House and the Original Chelsea Bun House, was a huge hit, attracting a clientele which included royalty – King George II and Queen Caroline visited with their daughters as did King George III and Queen Charlotte – and also, famously, the political figure and Jonathan Swift, who bought a stale one for a penny in 1711 and recorded that he didn’t like it.
The tradition of eating a hot cross bun on Good Friday lead to huge crowds at the bun house on that day in particular – said to number more than 50,000 some years – and such were that crowds that in 1793, Mrs Hand, following complaints from her neighbours, declared in a public notice that she would only be selling Chelsea buns, and not cross buns, on Good Friday that year.
The house did, however, return to selling hot cross buns on Good Friday – it is said to have sold an enormous 24,000 on Good Friday in 1839 (some sources have out the figure as high as 240,000 but that may have been a misprint).
Despite the success of Good Fridays, according to The London Encyclopaedia, the closure of the nearby Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens in 1804 had impacted the business.
In 1839, following the death of the Hands’ two sons and with no further family member to take over the business, it was closed and the bakery reverted to the Crown. The building was subsequently demolished.
This month marks 300 years since composer George Frideric Handel premiered his composition (and one of the most famous pieces of classical music in the world) Water Music – and it was in a rather fitting setting.
The first performance of the composition – which was deliberately created for
playing outdoors (and carrying across water) – took place at about 8pm on 17th July, 1717, aboard a City of London barge in the River Thames.
Some 50 musicians played the piece – using everything from flutes and recorders to trumpets, horns, violins and basses – with Handel himself fulfilling the role of conductor.
The barge was part of a rather grand flotilla which made its way up the river from the Palace of Whitehall to Chelsea, at the centre of which was a royal barge upon which King George I and members of the nobility, including various duchesses, rode.
Numerous other Londoners also turned out to hear the performance aboard all manner of watercraft and the king was apparently so impressed with what he heard that he requested several encores both on the trip to Chelsea and on the return journey.
The story goes that the somewhat unpopular king had apparently requested the concert on the river to upstage his son, the Prince of Wales (and future King George II), who was stealing the limelight by throwing lavish parties (the king and his son were famously at odds and it was therefore no shock when the prince didn’t attend the performance).
There’s another story, meanwhile, that suggested Handel composed the piece to regain the favour of the King which he had apparently lost when, seeking to capitalise on his growing fame, he left his employment as conductor at the court of the then Elector of Hanover (a position George held before he was king) and moved from Germany to London during the reign of Queen Anne (although some claim the future king knew he would one day follow Handel to London and actually approved of his decision to move there).
Water Music, meanwhile, has since become part of popular culture – it’s generally said that most people will recognise at least one part of it – but interestingly, no-one is said to be exactly sure how the music, which is generally broken into three separate suites, should be performed, given that the original score has been lost.
PICTURE: Edouard Hamman’s painting showing Handel (on the left) with King George I aboard a barge on 17th July, 1717. Via Wikipedia
Located on the north bank of the River Thames at Chelsea, these 19th century pleasure gardens were only open for about 40 years.
The origins of the gardens go back to the 1830s when a mansion and surrounding estate – previously owned by Thomas Dawson, Viscount Cremorne (hence the name) – was sold to one Charles Random who went by the name of Baron de Berenger or Baron de Beaufain, a convicted stockmarket fraudster. Random established a sports facility called the Cremorne Stadium on the site where people could indulge in swimming, rowing, fencing, boxing and shooting (the ‘baron’ himself was apparently a crack shot).
The venture was not an immediate success however and so management began to diversify and provide other entertainments more synonymous with pleasure gardens including mock tournaments and pony races as well as dances and, of course, balloon ascents. Nonetheless, the venture failed and was sold off to a City coffee house owner of the name of Thomas Bartlett Simpson.
He sublet the 12 acre site to James Ellis who reopened the house and grounds as a pleasure gardens in 1845. Ellis, however, went bankrupt within just a few years – an interesting side note is that he then went to Melbourne in the Colony of Victoria (part of what is now Australia) where he established another Cremorne Gardens beside the city’s Yarra River – although like his London venture that, too, didn’t have a long life.
Back in London, Simpson then took over management of the gardens himself and within just a few years the gardens had become popular among the fashionable.
The gardens featured a dazzling array of facilities including a banqueting hall, theatre, and American-style bowling saloon and provided all manner of entertainments such as balloon ascents, firework displays, dancing, and performances. The site could be entered from the grand entrance on King’s Road or at the Cremorne Pier on the river.
Alongside its regular entertainments, the gardens also hosted numerous spectacular events including, in 1861, being the site from where Madame Genevieve Young, the ‘Female Blondin’, crossed the Thames on a tightrope and where, in 1864, Mr Godard ascended in his Montgolfier Balloon. Other acts – such as a 1855 renactment of the storming of a fort at Sebastapol during which a stage collapsed, and another in which a balloon drifted onto the spire of a nearby church – were less successful.
The garden passed through the hands of several other managers over the ensuing years and but by the 1870s has acquired something of a bad reputation. While while then-manager John Baum, who had invested considerable sums in upgrading the gardens’ facilities, won a libel case against a local minister who had published a pamphlet condemning the gardens (in principle at least – he was apparently only awarded a farthing in damages), in 1877 he decided not to reapply for his licence and closed the gardens.
During its final years of operations, the gardens were captured on canvas by artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler, who was a resident in nearby Cheyne Walk.
The modern Cremorne Gardens – located by the Thames near the Lots Road power station – were opened in 1982. Iron gates from the original gardens (pictured), which had been taken to a brewery, were restored and installed in the new gardens.
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show was held in London last week at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea and was once again a celebration of horticultural creativity and beauty. Here’s just a sample of what was on show…
Above, animal sculptures are displayed on the Easigrass exhibit while, below, a visitor listens to an audio recording whilst viewing a floral installation on the Interflora exhibit.
ALL PICTURES: RHS/Luke MacGregor.
Above, a visitor views “Neoteric” a floral installation by Robert Hornsby.
Above, lilies are displayed on the Harts Nursery exhibit.
Above, stilt walker “Mrs Flora” poses on the Big Hedge Co. garden.
We finish this series on fictional London with the home of another of London’s most famous fictional spies – James Bond.
In Ian Fleming’s books about the adventures of 007, he has the spy living in a ground-floor flat in a “converted Regency house” in a “plane tree’d square” off the King’s Road.
While several possibilities have been identified over the years (including in Markham Square), it was Fleming’s former assistant to The Sunday Times, biographer and friend, John Pearson, who is credited with having identified this terrace in Wellington Square as the property Fleming probably had in mind (Pearson apparently had a friend from his college days who lived there at some point).
The five storey terrace, which dates from the early 1830s, was actually close by the address where Fleming lived – number 24 Cheyne Walk – when he commenced writing the first Bond novel, Casino Royale, in 1952.
The property was on the market not that long ago for a reported asking price of £6.35 million.
PICTURE: The terraces where James Bond is said to have lived in Wellington Square.
• The National Army Museum opens today following a massive three year, almost £24 million redevelopment. Designed by architects BDP and exhibition design agency Event (with £11.5 million in funding from The National Lottery), the main site of the museum at Chelsea features five new permanent galleries and a temporary exhibition space. Laid out over four floors, the new galleries feature more than 2,500 objects arranged under the themes of ‘Soldier’, ‘Army’, ‘Battle’, ‘Society’ and ‘Insight’. Among the objects on display are Crimean Tom, a cat found during the Crimean War and brought back as a pet (‘Soldier’), a portrait of Khudadad Khan VC, the first Indian soldier to win the Victoria Cross (‘Army’), the famous ‘Siborne Model’ of the Battle of Waterloo (‘Battle’), the flak jacket, helmet, identity discs and press pass of journalist Kate Adie (‘Society’), and a cup from the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion (‘Insight’). The new 500 square metre temporary exhibition space, meanwhile, is initially hosting the exhibition War Paint: Brushes with Conflict which features more than 130 paintings and objects explores the complex relationship between war and the men and women who map, record, celebrate and document it. Other features at the museum include a new cafe, shop and play area for children known as Play Base. Entry to the museum is free. For more, see www.nam.ac.uk.
• Butterflies return to the Natural History Museum this week with the immersive exhibition, Sensational Butterflies. The experience, now in its ninth year, takes visitors on a trail through a tropical habitat as they encounter each aspect of the life-cycle of the butterfly with highlights including watching them hatch from delicate chrysalises and seeing them feed and engage with each other. The Butterfly House team will be on hand to answer questions and give advice and tips. Admission charge applies. Runs from Friday until 17th September. For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk/sensational-butterflies.
• A new exhibition exploring the personal stories of those who fought in World War I as well as those back home opens at the Guildhall Art Gallery tomorrow. Echoes Across The Century, conceived and delivered by the Livery Schools Link in partnership with the gallery, takes visitors on a “multi-sensory journey” exploring craftsmanship, memory and separation. It features Jan Churchill’s installation, Degrees of Separation, and the work of 240 students who were guided and inspired by Jane as they explored the impact of the war and imagined what life was like for those 100 years ago. Admission is free. Runs until 16th July. For more follow this link.
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