Chinese or Lunar New Year celebrations in London – the largest outside Asia – were held at various West End sites including Chinatown, on Sunday to welcome in the Year of the Pig.

PICTURES: Garry Knight (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

This Soho pub, located not far from Piccadilly Circus, takes its name from the blue posts which once stood out front.

A pub is believed to have stood on this site at 28 Rupert Street – now in Chinatown – since at least 1739 and is believed to have been updated substantially in about 1850. While the blue posts themselves are long gone, the building itself is now painted blue.

It has been suggested that the blue posts were simply placed out the front to mark the pub’s location before street numbering systems were introduced – as in, “it’s the place with the blue posts out the front”, but there are a number of other suggestions for the origins of the name.

One is that the blue posts were used as border markers for the royal hunting ground which once stood or Soho. Another, perhaps more likely than the aforementioned, that they marked locations where you could hire sedan chairs from in times gone by.

Whatever the reason for its name, this small, Grade II-listed pub, which is located on the corner with Rupert Close, underwent a complete transformation in early 2018 by the team behind the Israeli eatery, The Palomar.

As well as a small pub in ground floor of the building, it also boasts a cocktail lounge on the upper floor called the Mulwray (apparently named for the character, Evelyn Mulwray, played by Faye Dunaway in the movie Chinatown) and a small restaurant in the cellar called Evelyn’s Table (another Chinatown reference).

The Rupert Street establishment is one of several pubs with the same name in West End – others include one located nearby in Berwick Street, another in Newman Street, and yet another in Bennet Street in St James’s. And that’s just those in near proximity. So whatever the blue posts represented, it was clearly a relatively common feature in the area.

For more, see http://theblueposts.co.uk.

PICTURE: Ewan Munro (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

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A scene from Chinese New Year celebrations heralding the Year of the Rooster held in central London last weekend. PICTURE: Garry Knight/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Limehouse

This part of East London is believed to take its name not from lime trees nor from a house bearing that name. Rather it owes its origins to the process by which chalk shipped from Kent was converted into lime.

The process of ‘lime burning’ – which took place in these parts on the northern bank of the River Thames – involves heating the chalk in a bottle-shaped kiln, also known as an oast. Hence ‘lime oast’ became corrupted into Limehouse.

St-Anne's-LimehouseThe earliest reference to the name comes from the early medieval era but in later centuries the area was noted not so much for its lime-burning but its links with shipping – particularly following the opening on the Limehouse Cut in 1770 which linked the Thames with the River Lea and allowed goods to taken from the north of London directly to ships on the Thames without the need to navigate around the Isle of Dogs (see our earlier post on the Limehouse Cut). Limehouse Basin (pictured above, from the Limehouse Cut) opened in the early 19th century.

The area, which became increasingly industrialised as a result, is also known for its links to the Chinese community – and this included, in the Victorian era, opium dens, but the association ended around the 1950s by which time the Chinese community had largely moved to Soho (where Chinatown still stands today).

Among the area’s most prominent buildings are the Nicholas Hawksmoor-designed church, St Anne’s Limehouse (pictured), and the historic pub, The Grapes.

Chinese New Year celebrations will go off with a bang in Chinatown in the West End this Saturday. The festivities, which are the largest outside Asia, will include a lion dance, fireworks, and a variety of performers – all gathered to herald the start of the Year of the Snake. The celebrations will kick off with a parade which will leave Trafalgar Square at 10am and end at Rupert Street in Chinatown at 11am. At 12pm, dignitaries will gather in Trafalgar Square for the Dotting of the Eye ceremony which will bring the dragons and lions to life and performances will the take place until 5.30pm. At 5.55pm a fireworks display will mark the end of the day’s celebrations. For more, see www.chinatownlondon.org/page/chinese-new-year-2013/378.

Like orchids? Want to escape the gloom of winter? Kew Gardens are celebrating the exotic plant with a dazzling display in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. Thousands of orchids will be on show as part of ‘Orchids at Kew’ and the plants will be used to recreate the giant waterlily flower, Victoria amazonica, which can normally be seen in the conservatory in the summer months. There are special behind the scenes tours, food and an adult education course for the truly interested. Charges apply. Opening on Saturday, 9th February, the display can be seen until 3rd March. For more, see www.kew.org.

The late artist Lucian Freud has donated a treasured portrait – Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot’s L’Italienne ou La Femme à la Manche Jaune (The Italian Woman, or Woman with Yellow Sleeve) – to the nation in gratitude for the welcome his family received when they arrived as refugees from Berlin. The Corot has been allocated to the National Gallery by the Arts Council England and was done under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, which allows people to transfer works of art into public ownership instead of paying inheritance tax.  The painting – which was last seen in a show at the Louvre, Paris, in 1962, and was previously owned by Hollywood Golden Age star Edward G. Robinson – is on display on Room 41 of the gallery. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

On Now: Man Ray Portraits. The first museum exhibition to focus on the photographic portraiture of the 20th century artist Man Ray, this display at the National Portrait Gallery features more than 150 vintage prints taken between 1916 and 1968. Subjects include everyone from Catherine Deneuve and Ava Gardner to Salvador Dali and Aldous Huxley. The majority of works have never been exhibited in the UK before. Runs until 27th May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

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