City of London-managed open spaces Epping Forest, Burnham Beeches and Ashtead Common have been selected to be part of a nationwide network of 70 ancient woodlands to be dedicated to The Queen in celebration of the Platinum Jubilee. At almost 6,000 acres, Epping Forest is London and Essex’s largest green space and is known as the “green lungs” of London. Burnham Beeches, located in Buckinghamshire, is only a square mile in size but is described as a “New Forest in miniature” while Ashtead Common in Surrey’s 200 hectares of open public space is home to more 1,000 living ancient oak pollards. For more on The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative, see www.queensgreencanopy.org. For more on the City of London’s green spaces, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do.
• The extraordinary story of 18th century foundling and sailor George King, who fought in the Battle of Trafalgar, is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury tomorrow. Fighting Talk: One Boy’s Journey from Abandonment to Trafalgar features King’s hand-written account of his life, a fragment of the flag from Nelson’s coffin, letters between the Foundling Hospital’s matron and Lady Emma Hamilton (annotated by Nelson himself) and two rare Naval General Service Medals, of which only 221 were awarded retrospectively when the medal was first issued in 1849, belonging to King and the foundling William South, who served aboard HMS Victory. There is also a display of works by contemporary artist and photographer Ingrid Pollard – Ship’s Tack – which reflects on the Foundling Hospital’s connections with Empire, trade and the Navy and which includes newly commissioned work responding directly to George’s autobiography. Runs until 27th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.
• Two Guildhall statues portraying figures with links to the slave trade will be retained but have information added detailing those links. The City of London Corporation’s Court of Common Council voted last week to keep the statues of William Beckford and Sir John Cass which will have plaques or notices placed alongside them containing contextual information about the two men’s links to slavery. William Beckford was an 18th century slave owner and two-time Lord Mayor of London, while Cass – an MP and philanthropist – was a key figure in the Royal African Company, which traded in slaves in the 17th and 18th centuries. Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School in the City and the nearby Cass Business School have already changed their names to remove the association with their founder and his links to slavery.
• French underwater photographer and biologist Laurent Ballesta has won the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year for an image showing camouflage groupers exiting their milky cloud of eggs and sperm in Fakarava, French Polynesia. The image was selected out of 50,000 entries from 95 countries and is being displayed with 100 images in an exhibition opening at the museum on Friday. Meanwhile 10-year old Vidyun R Hebbar, who lives in Bengaluru, India, was awarded the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 for his colourful image, Dome home, showing a tent spider as a tuk-tuk passes by. The exhibition can be seen until 5th June next year. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/wildlife-photographer-of-the-year.
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Commonly used as an alternative for the City of London, the term ‘Square Mile’ comes from the amount of land in the heart of the city which is under the jurisdiction of the City of London Corporation.
The City (with a capital ‘c’, it’s another commonly used term for the City of London) contains the core of the ancient city which has stood here since Roman times and is still the financial centre of the city. While called the ‘Square Mile’, it actually encompasses 1.12 square miles (equivalent to 716.80 acres or 2.90 square kilometres).
While the City has been roughly that size since medieval times (the City has long included land both within the medieval city walls as well as some without), the term ‘Square Mile’ is understood to have been a relatively recent invention, created in the Victorian era.
It’s interesting to note that the Square Mile was slightly smaller – just 1.05 square miles – up until the mid-1990s when some boundary changes increased it to its current size.
Below is a map showing the outline of the ‘Square Mile’ today…
• Statues of two prominent men with links to the trans-Atlantic slave trade will be removed from Guildhall, the City of London has said. The City of London Corporation’s policy and resources committee voted to remove statues of William Beckford and Sir John Cass following a recommendation from the corporation’s Tackling Racism Taskforce. The statue of Beckford, a two-time Lord Mayor of London in the late 1700s who accrued wealth from plantations in Jamaica and held African slaves, will be replaced with a new artwork while the likeness of Sir John Cass, a merchant, MP and philanthropist in the 17th and 18th centuries who also profited from the slave trade, will be returned to its owner, the Sir John Cass Foundation. The corporation will now set up a working group to oversee the removal of the statues and replacement works and will also consider commissioning a new memorial to the slave trade in the City.
• An 800-year-old stained glass window from Canterbury Cathedral will form the centrepiece of an upcoming exhibition on Thomas Becket. Now scheduled for April after delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, Thomas Becket: murder and the making of a saint will feature more than 100 objects as it tells the story of Becket’s life, death and enduring legacy. The ‘Miracle Window’ – one of seven surviving from an original series of 12 – will be shown in its original arrangement of the first time in more than 350 years. The fifth in the series, it depicts miracles which took place in the three year after Becket’s death including the healing of eyesight and the replacement of lost genitals. The exhibition will represent the first time a complete stained glass window has been lent by the cathedral. Details of tickets will be announced soon. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/becket.
• The Worshipful Company of Weavers this week announced the donation of £100,000 towards the creation of the new Museum of London in former market buildings at West Smithfield. The donation is one of the largest ever awarded by the livery company which, having a Royal charter dating from 1155, is the oldest surviving. The masterplan for the new museum received planning permission in June last year.
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• A statue of slave owner Robert Milligan has been removed from its position outside of the Museum of London Docklands. The Canal and River Trust removed the statue this week in recognition of the “wishes of the community”. The move had the support of the museum which is one of only three museums in the UK to address the history of the transatlantic slave trade. “The Museum of London recognises that the monument is part of the ongoing problematic regime of white-washing history, which disregards the pain of those who are still wrestling with the remnants of the crimes Milligan committed against humanity…” the museum said in a statement issued earlier in the week. “Now more than ever at a time when Black Lives Matter is calling for an end to public monuments honouring slave owners, we advocate for the statue of Robert Milligan to be removed on the grounds of its historical links to colonial violence and exploitation.” Milligan was a prominent British slave owner who, by the time of his death in 1809, owned 526 slaves and two sugar plantations in Jamaica. The statue, the work of Sir Richard Westmacott, was moved to a position outside the museum in West India Quay in 1997. Earlier this week, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced a new Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm which will review landmarks – including murals, street art, street names, statues and other memorials – across the city of London with a view to improving diversity in the public realm.
• The City of London Corporation has launched a competition to redesign the Grade II-listed gardens at Finsbury Circus. The two-stage competition aims to identity creative and sustainable design ideas in a bid to return Finsbury Circus Gardens to being a multifunctional public space with a pavilion as well as a “sanctuary” within the Square Mile. The corporation is seeking a joint bid from an architect and a landscape architect to deliver a new design for the reinstatement of Finsbury Circus Gardens and Pavilion. Some two-thirds of the Finsbury Circus Gardens, one of the oldest parks in the City, have been used by Crossrail for the past 10 years to provide access to a section of tunnel between Farringdon and Liverpool Street. The works required the removal of historic features like the bowling green and historic Grade II drinking fountain and these will now be reinstated into the new design. PICTURE: Looking across Finsbury Circus Gardens in 2006 (David Williams /licenced under CC BY-SA 2.0)
• Tickets for ZSL London Zoo have gone on sale ahead of its planned reopening next week. The zoo will reopen on Monday, 15th June, for the first time since its closure on Saturday, 21st March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The zoo, which is offering pre-allocated, timed entry slots, limited to just 2,000 visitors a day, says its taken numerous measures to ensure the safety of visitors. For more, head to www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo.
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• Hampton Court Palace will on Saturday launch a major representation of its Tudor kitchens with a new display designed to give visitors a ringside seat to preparations for a royal feast. Visitors will be immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of King Henry VIII’s kitchens as they explore the stories of everyone from cooks to liveried pages who made the great court feasts possible and meet the likes of Thomas Cromwell, right-hand man to the king, master cook John Dale and Michael Wentworth, clerk of the kitchen. A specially commissioned play will be launched for the summer and during holiday periods there will be workshops, games and competitions. Admission to the kitchens is included in the palace admission. For more information, head to www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/.
• Kew’s iconic Temperate House – the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse – will reopen on Saturday after the biggest renovation project in its history. The five year restoration project has seen its entire framework repaired and thousands of panes of glass replaced. Some 500 plants were taken out and housed in a temporary nursery and some 10,000 plants, consisting of 1,500 species, have gone back in. A programme of events will take place involving the Temperate House, which dates from 1863, over the summer and there are special preview openings on Friday and Saturday night. For more, see www.kew.org. PICTURE: Gareth Gardner/Kew.
• The City of London Corporation is marking the centenary of the end of World War I with a new open-air exhibition highlighting the global nature of conflict. Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace: 1918-2018, which opened on Monday, is the third and final display by photographer Michael St Maur Sheil to go on show in Guildhall Yard. The display can be seen until 28th May. Accompanying the exhibition is a free guided walk – The City’s Great War Heroes – which enables people to walk in the footsteps of City men and women who went off to the Great War. It departs from Bishopsgate every Monday and Saturday at 11am and 2pm until 28th May with an extra walk at 1.30pm on the final day. For more, follow this link.
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• Stories including that of Catherine Eddowes, one of the victims of the notorious Jack the Ripper whose tale is brought to life through a virtual hologram (pictured), that of the Houndsditch Murders which claimed the lives of three police officers, and those of the more than 70 horses which have served in the City of London Police are among those told in the new purpose-built City of London Police Museum. A collaboration between the City of London Police and the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Library, the new facility covers the 177 year history of the men and women charged with policing the Square Mile. Other stories highlighted in the museum include that of the recruitment of women into the force, the impact of the two World Wars on policing in the capital (featuring photographs taken by City of London police officers Arthur Cross and Fred Tibbs), the force’s tackling of terrorism and the progress of its communications, uniforms and kit and the victory of the City of London Police as the winner of the Olympic gold medal for the tug of war in 1920 (which, given the event was dropped, leaves them as the current champions). Entry to the museum, which opened this week at Guildhall, is free. For more, see www.cityoflondon.police.uk/about-us/history/museum/Pages/default.aspx. PICTURE: Courtesy City of London Police Museum.
• The Lord Mayor’s Show takes place this Saturday, kicking off with a river pageant followed by the grand procession through City streets and fireworks over the Thames. The 801st Lord Mayor’s Show celebrates the election of Andrew Parmley as the 689th Lord Mayor of the City of London. This year’s procession, which kicks off at 11am and runs from Mansion House down Cheapside to the Royal Courts of Justice – where the Lord Mayor swears allegiance to the Crown – and back again at 1pm via Victoria Embankment, features 6,500 participants, 180 horses and 164 vehicles including steam engines, fire engines and a tank. The Show’s Pageantmaster, Dominic Reid, is celebrating his 25th consecutive show this year (his father organised 20 shows before him). The river pageant, featuring the QRB Gloriana, sets off from Westminster at 8.30am with Tower Bridge opening in salute at 9.25am. The fireworks display, which takes place over the Thames between Blackfriars and Waterloo, starts at 5.15pm. The tradition dates back to 1215. For more, see https://lordmayorsshow.london.
• A major new exhibition looking at the history of the 20th century through maps has opened at the British Library in King’s Cross. Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line features maps ranging from the first sketch of the London Underground dating from 1931, to declassified Ministry of Defence maps from the Cold War era, John Betjeman’s personal set of Ordinance Survey maps from the 1920s, a Russian moon globe from 1961 and EH Shepard’s first map of the Hundred Acre Wood (home of Winnie the Pooh). Other highlights include 3D relief models of the Western Front from 1917, a dress made of World War II escape maps printed on silk, an aerial photograph of Liverpool with targets marked used by the Luftwaffe, a map of the Atlantic Ocean floor from 1968. The exhibition, which runs to 1st March, is running in conjunction with a series of events exploring how maps continue to shape and influence our world. Admission charge applies. For more, follow this link.
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A showcase of flora inspired by the gardens of the City of London, The City Garden features fresh flowers which, entwined with copper wire, hang from the ceiling of the newly opened gallery and exhibition space known as The City Centre. The work of East London-based artist Rebecca Louise Law, the display is the first public art installation at the premises – located next to the Guildhall at 80 Basinghall Street, it’s being managed by New London Architecture on behalf of the City of London Corporation – and the flowers can be seen there as they dry out until 25th September. The exhibition also features two films on the City of London’s gardens as well as a map of those that inspired the artwork (this is also available in an app which details some of the history, horticulture and design of some of the Square Mile’s most iconic gardens). For more, see www.thecitycentre.london. PICTURE: Courtesy of The City Centre.
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 history of this City of London garden can be immediately spotted in the garden’s name.
It’s named for Richard (Dick) Whittington, a four time medieval mayor of London whose name (and cat) has been immortalised in stories and rhymes which continue to be retold in Christmas pantomimes every year (you can read more about the real Dick Whittington in our earlier post here).
The reason for the garden’s name is in its proximity to the church of St Michael Paternoster Royal – it stands on the other side of College Street – which he poured money into rebuilding during his lifetime and where he was buried (you can read more about the building here). You can also see a Blue Plaque on the former site of Whittington’s house further up College Hill.
The garden (pictured above looking across to the church) stands on what was the river bank during the Roman era at the bottom of College Hill. It was previously the site of buildings connected with the fur trade but these suffered bomb damage during World War II and were subsequently demolished.
The City of London Corporation acquired the site in 1955 and laid out the gardens in 1960 and the small fountain now found there dates from later that decade.
The gardens, which contain some substantial trees and lawn areas as well as hedges and flower beds, were refurbished in 2005. Features include two granite plinths upon which sit two horsemen (pictured). Sculpted by Italian sculptor Duilio Cambellotti, they were presented to the City of London by the Italian President during a state visit in 2005.
WHERE: Whittington Garden, between College Street and Upper Thames Street, City of London (nearest Tube station is Cannon Street); WHEN: Anytime; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/city-gardens/visitor-information/Pages/Whittington-Garden.aspx.
We interrupt our regular programming today to mark a truly historic milestone – 800 years since King John set his seal to the Magna Carta (Great Charter) in a field at Runnymede to the west of London.
So, where can you see a copy in London?
The British Library actually holds two of the four surviving documents from 1215 (one is pictured above) – the other two are held by Lincoln and Salisbury Cathedrals.
One of the copies in the British Library was damaged in an 18th century fire; the other was found in a tailor’s shop in London in the 17th century – made of sheepskin, it was apparently about to be taken apart to line collars.
The library’s current Magna Carta exhibition, Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy, features the two documents (along with Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence and one of the original copies of the US Bill of Rights). For more about the exhibition, see www.bl.uk/events/magna-carta–law-liberty-legacy (runs until 1st September – for more see our earlier post here).
Meanwhile, the City of London Corporation also possesses a copy of the Magna Carta – although a later one that that issued in 1215.
Issued by King Edward I in 1297, this was the one which saw the document’s clauses, somewhat changed from 1215, written into the statutes for the first time.
Stored at the Guildhall Art Gallery, it is too delicate to be on permanent display but is currently on display in the City of London Heritage Gallery until 1st October (for more follow this link).
You can read more about the Magna Carta and its London connections in our Wednesday series, 10 sites from London at the time of the Magna Carta.
PICTURE: British Library.
There are numerous memorials to Sir Winston Churchill around London and today we’ll look at a handful of them (while next week we’ll take a look at a couple of the most unusual memorials). We’ve already looked at the most famous statue of him in Parliament Square (in an earlier post here), but here’s some more…
• Allies, Mayfair. These almost life-size bronze statues, located at the juncture of Old and New Bond Streets, depict Churchill and US President Franklin D Roosevelt in an informal pose, sitting and talking together on a bench. The sculpture was a gift from the Bond Street Association to the City of Westminster and was unveiled by Princess Margaret on 2nd May, 1995 commemorating 50 years since the end of World War II. It is the work of US sculptor Lawrence Holofcener. There’s a space between the two World War II leaders where the passerby can sit and have their picture taken between them.
• Member’s Lobby, House of Commons. We’ve already mentioned this bronze statue (see our previous post here), erected in 1969, which stands just outside Churchill Arch opposite one of another former PM, David Lloyd George. It is the work of Croatian-born sculptor Oscar Nemon who also created numerous other busts of the former PM now located both in the UK (one of which is mentioned below) and around the world.
• Great Hall, Guildhall. Commissioned by the Corporation of the City of London and unveiled in 1955, this bronze statue shows Churchill, wearing a suit and bow tie, seated in an armchair and looking ahead. Another work of Nemon’s, it was commissioned as a tribute to “the greatest statesman of his age and the nation’s leader in the Great War of 1939-1945”.
• Outside former Conservative Club, Wanstead. A very thick-necked bust of Churchill, erected in 1968, sits outside the 18th century mansion in Wanstead High Street, north-east London, which was once the Conservative Club and is now occupied by a restaurant. The bigger than life-sized bust is the work of Italian artist Luigi Fironi and stands on a plinth once part of old Waterloo Bridge. Churchill was the Conservative member for this area between 1924-1964 and based at the club from 1930 to 1940.
• The 13th century’s finest surviving copy of the Magna Carta is taking centre stage at the new City of London Heritage Gallery which opens to the public this Friday. The 1297 document, which bears a superimposed memo reading ‘make it happen’, is being featured as part of the Corporation’s efforts to mark next year’s 800th anniversary of the signing of the landmark document. Other items on display in the new permanent, purpose-built exhibition space at the Guildhall Art Gallery include the medieval Cartae Antiquae, a volume containing transcripts of charters and statues covering laws enacted between 1327 and 1425 – a period which includes the reign of King Richard III, a poster for a World War I recruitment meeting held at the Guildhall in 1914, and a series of paintings depicting the 25 City Aldermen who were in office in the mid-1400s. The gallery, admission to which is free, will in future feature a rotating selection of rare documents from the City of London Corporation’s archives including the purchase deed William Shakespeare signed on buying a home in Blackfriars in 1613. For more, including opening times, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/heritagegallery. For more on events to mark the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta next year, see www.magnacarta800th.com. PICTURE: Copyright London Metropolitan Archives.
• Rare depictions of Tudor monarchs will be seen at the National Portrait Gallery in the most complete presentation of their portraiture to date. The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered features the gallery’s oldest portrait – that of King Henry VII – displayed alongside a Book of Hours inscribed by the king to his daughter, six portraits of King Henry VIII along with his rosary (on loan from Chatsworth), portraits of King Edward VI and a page from his diary in which he relates his father’s death, five portraits of Queen Mary I along with her prayer book (on loan from Westminster Cathedral) and several portraits of Queen Elizabeth I displayed alongside her locket ring (on loan from Chequers, the country residence of the PM). There will also be a discussion surrounding the search for a “real” portrait of the ‘nine days queen’, Lady Jane Grey, alongside a portrait of her that dates from the Elizabethan period. With many of the portraits newly examined as part of the gallery’s ‘Making Art in Tudor Britain’ project, visitors to the gallery will also be able to access a specially created app which allowing them to access the new research while looking at the portraits. The display, which will form the core of a larger exhibition in Paris next year, can be seen until 1st March. Admission to the gallery, off Trafalgar Square, is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.
• An exhibition of rare maps from London, dating from between 1572 and last year, at gallery@oxo on South Bank, is closing on Sunday. Part of the Totally Thames festival, the Mapping London exhibition shows how the landscape along the River Thames as it passes through the capital has changed over the years. It features the first available map of London, which dates from 1572, as well as a 2013 map of underground London, monumental wall maps, and even a map of London that doubles as fan. The free exhibition at Oxo Tower Wharf is being curated by Daniel Crouch, one of the world’s leading map dealers. For more, see www.totallythames.org/events/info/mapping-london.
• A Crafts Council touring exhibition showcasing the work of 12 contemporary artisans and design studios – each of which uses objects as a means of storytelling – has opened at Pitzhanger Manor House and Gallery in Ealing – its first stop – this week. Crafting Narrative: Storytelling through objects and making explores the potential of objects to reflect on history, culture, society and technology through a combination of new and commissioned works, film text and photography. Works include Hilda Hellström’s The Materiality of a Natural Disaster which consists of food vessels made of soil from a field belonging to the last resident inside the Japanese Daiichi nuclear plant exclusion zone, Onkar Kular and Noam Toran’s archive of objects belonging to the fictional Lövy-Singh clan – an East London family of mixed Jewish and Sikh descent, and Hefin Jones’ The Welsh Space Campaign which features objects such as astronaut boots in the form of traditional Welsh clogs in an attempt to show how Wales has the capacity to explore space. The free exhibition is at the manor until 19th October. For more, see www.pitzhanger.org.uk.
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Apologies we didn’t post a new instalment in our Wednesday series yesterday – it will resume next week!
• Inspired by a spectacular month of partying by King William III in December, 1699, Kensington Palace is celebrating Christmas with a month of family-friendly entertainment in the Georgian State Apartments. Historic Royal Palaces has joined with games makers Hide & Seek to create Game of Crowns, transforming Kensington into a play palace with games, mummery and the chance to proclaim yourself king or queen for a day. On the weekends, there’s also the chance to join in parlour games from 1700 onward and a Christmas Day sensory room which brings to life King William III and Queen Mary II’s Christmas morning (by which time they must have been exhausted!). The palace will also play host to its largest ever Christmas tree – 30 feet tall – and on December 16th, you can join in Carols by Candlelight. Admission charge applies. Runs until 6th January. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/.
• Epping Forest is expanding and this weekend, you have a chance to help by planting some new saplings. The City of London Corporation, which runs the forest, is creating a new area of woodland, named Gifford Wood in honour of former Lord Mayor Roger Gifford, after purchasing 30 acres of land at Upshire last year. Members of the public are invited to join City of London staff and the Friends of Epping Forest at Upshire Village Hall, Horseshoe Hill (EN9 3SP) between 11am and 1pm on Saturday to plant 2,000 new oaks and hornbeam as well as a mix of alder, birch, beech, cherry, field maple, rowan, small lime, wild apple, wild service, holly and yew. Bring your spade. For more, phone 0208 532 1010 or email email@example.com.
• A memorial to the Long Range Desert Group was dedicated in Westminster Abbey this week. The LRDG was formed in 1940 by Major Ralph Bagnold to act as the forward intelligence arm of the British army in North Africa. The group later shared their expertise in desert navigation with the fledgling SAS (Special Air Service) who also carried out offensives in the desert from 1941. The memorial is located in the west cloister below that of the SAS. For more, see www.westminster-abbey.org.
While the designation of London’s oldest public library depends on your definition, for the purposes of this article we’re awarding the title to the Guildhall Library.
Its origins go back to about 1425 when town clerk John Carpenter and John Coventry founded a library – believed to initially consist of theological books for students, according to the terms of the will of former Lord Mayor, Richard (Dick) Whittington (for more on him, see our previous post here).
Housed in Guildhall (pictured above), this library apparently came to an end in the mid-1500s when Edward Seymour, the Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector for the young King Edward VI, apparently had the entire collection loaded onto carts and taken to Somerset House. They were not returned and only one of the library’s original texts, a 13th century metrical Latin version of the Bible, is in the library today.
Some 300 years passed until the library was re-established by the City of London Corporation. Reopened in 1828, it was initially reserved for members of the Corporation but the membership was soon expanded to include”literary men”.
By the 1870s, when the collection included some 60,000 books related to London, the library moved into a new purpose-built building, located to the east of Guildhall. Designed by City architect Horace Jones, it opened to the public in 1873.
The library lost some 25,000 books during World War II when some of the library’s storerooms were destroyed and after the war, it was decided to build a new library. It opened in 1974 in the west wing of the Guildhall where it remains (entered via Aldermanbury).
Today, the 200,000 item collection includes books, pamphlets, periodicals including the complete London Gazette from 1665 to the present, trade directories and poll books as well as the archive collections such as those of the livery companies, the Stock Exchange and St Paul’s Cathedral and special collections related to the likes of Samuel Pepys, Sir Thomas More, and the Charles Lamb Society.
The library also holds an ongoing series of exhibitions.
Where: Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury; WHEN: 9.30am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday; COST: Entry is free and no membership of registration is required but ID may be required to access rarer books; WEBSITE: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visiting-the-city/archives-and-city-history/guildhall-library/Pages/default.aspx.
Regular watchers of London’s Lord Mayor’s Show parade will be familiar with the two giants Gog and Magog who for centuries have been an integral part of the procession. But just who are the two stern figures who strike fear into the hearts of all they pass (well, perhaps not so much the fear)?
While the names Gog and Magog appear several times in different contexts in the Bible came t0 epitomise the enemies of God, legend has it that the Gog and Magog seen in this context were leaders of a race of giants who inhabited Britain in times of prehistory.
Defeated by Brutus, a descendent of the Trojan Aeneas and the founder of London and first king of Britain, they were then chained to the gate of his palace which stood on the site of where Guildhall – home of the City of London Corporation – now stands.
Seen as guardians of the City of London, figures of the giants have been carried in the Lord Mayor’s Show – the annual procession surrounding the election of the new Lord Mayor – since as far back as the reign of King Henry V (originally made of ‘wickerwork and pasteboard’, they were later replaced with wooden ones).
The seven foot high wicker versions of the giants which are now carried in the parade were donated by the Worshipful Company of Basketweavers in 2006 (pictured here in the 2010 parade) and are the just latest in a series of effigies and statues of the two giants which have been associated with Guildhall.
These include pair of nine foot high limewood statues of the giants which currently stand in Guildhall – carved in 1953 by David Evans, they replaced two earlier, 14 foot high oak versions made by Richard Saunders in the early 1700s which were destroyed in the Blitz during World War II. They, in turn, were created to replace earlier papier mache versions.
As well as being found in numerous cities around the world, figures of the two giants also famously feature as the clock’s bell ringers on the facade of the Church of St Dunstan-in-the-West in Fleet Street. The clock, incidentally, was the first public clock in London to have a minute hand.
A now long gone Franciscan friary located in the north-west of the City of London near Newgate (just to the north of St Paul’s Cathedral), Greyfriars, so known for the color of the friars’ clothing, was the second Franciscan religious house to have been founded in England.
The foundations of the friary date from the early part of the 13th century – the Franciscans, as members of the Order of Friars Minor were known, had arrived in 1224 and are recorded as settling on land granted to them by a rich mercer, John Iwyn, just inside the City wall, in 1225, in the butcher’s quarter of the city.
King Henry III apparently gave them some oak to build their own friary in 1229 and by the mid 1200s, there were more than 80 friars living on the site which was gradually extended over the ensuing years to the north and the west.
Using funds given them by Sir William Joyner, Lord Mayor of London in 1239, they built a chapel which was later extensively enlarged and improved in the late 13th and early 14th centuries – the new church was said to be 300 feet long – with much of the work funded by Queen Margaret, second wife of King Edward I, and later in the 14th century, Queen Isabella, wife of Edward III. It apparently suffered some damage in a storm in 1343 but was restored by King Edward III.
When it was finally completed in 1348, the church is said to have been the second largest in London. A library was later added to the buildings, founded by the famous Lord Mayor of London, Richard “Dick” Whittington.
Such was the fame of the church that, the heart of Queen Eleanor, wife of King Henry III, was buried here after her death in 1291 while, despite dying at her castle in Marlborough, Queen Margaret was also buried here in 1318 (apparently wearing a Franciscan habit).
But perhaps the most notorious person to be buried here was Queen Isabella, wife of King Edward II and known by many as the “She-Wolf of France”, after her death in 1358. In fact, it’s said that the ghost of Isabella still haunts the former location of Greyfriars, driven forth from the grave for her role in deposing her husband.
Other non royal luminaries said to have been buried here include the 15th century writer Sir Thomas Mallory, author of Le Morte d’Arthur and 16th century Catholic nun Elizabeth Barton, the so-called ‘mad maid of Kent’ who was executed for her rather unwise prophecies predicting King Henry VIII’s death if he married Anne Boleyn.
The end of the friary, pictured above in the sixteenth century, came in 1538 when it fell victim to King Henry VIII’s policy of dissolving monasteries and was surrendered to his representatives.
Some of the houses were subsequently converted for private use and the church, which was somewhat damaged during this period with many of the elaborate tombs destroyed, was briefly closed before it and other buildings were given to the City of London Corporation who reopened it again in 1547 as Christ Church Greyfriars, a parish church serving the now joined parishes of St Nicholas Shambles and St Ewen.
Only a few year’s later King Edward IV founded a school for poor orphans in some of the old friary buildings known as Christ’s Hospital or informally as The Bluecoat School thanks to the uniforms students wore. Some of the school buildings, along with part of the church which was also used by the school, was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666, but the school was rebuilt and remained in use until the late 1800s when the last of the students were relocated to a new facility in Sussex (where the school still exists today).
The church (also known as Christ Church Newgate Street), meanwhile, was also rebuilt after the Great Fire – it was one of Sir Christopher Wren’s designs and was completed in 1704. The church remained in use until World War II when a firebomb struck it during a German raid on 29th December, 1940, all but destroying it.
The church was not rebuilt and the parish merged with the nearby St Sepulchre-without-Newgate – the largest parish church in London – and eventually what’s left of the church – the tower with rebuilt steeple and the west and north walls – were converted into a public garden (rose beds were planted where the pews once stood and there are wooden towers representing the church’s pillars). Pictured right, it’s now a terrific place to sit and have lunch pondering the past which the bustle of the city goes on about you.
PICTURE: (top) Wikipedia
For a great biography of Isabella, the She-Wolf of France, see Alison Weir’s Isabella: She-Wolf of France, Queen of England. For more on Sir Christopher Wren’s churches in London, see John Christopher’s Wren’s City of London Churches.
• 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.
Dating from the early 1600s, London’s oldest public park is Finsbury Circus Gardens, located just to the north of London Wall and east of Moorgate.
The now heritage-listed gardens were open as a public park from 1606 (and was originally known as Moor Fields – the moors were drained and gravel walks laid out in 1527 but it wasn’t until 1606 that the area was laid out with elm trees and benches).
The park wasn’t enclosed until 1815-17 when City of London surveyor William Montague laid the area out according to the designs of prominent London architect George Dance the Younger.
The gardens were acquired by the City of London Corporation in 1900 and in 1909 were replanned. The oval-shaped park, the largest of the City’s gardens, is these days home to the City of London Bowling Club, the only bowling club in the City (founded in 1924; the bowling green dates from the following year and the current pavilion from 1968).
During World War II a barrage balloon was anchored here to deter low level air raids. Among it’s other claims to fame is the Tudor era bat (apparently a forerunner of the modern cricket bat) found on the site in the 1980s and skulls which have also been found dating from the Roman period.
The gardens are currently partly closed due to the Crossrail development.