City of London
This Week in London – Luxury and power in the ancient world; St Francis of Assisi; and, St Bart’s 900 year history…
• The relationship between luxury and power in the ancient world is explored in a new exhibition at the British Museum. Luxury and power: Persia to Greece focuses on the period between 550-30 BC in the Middle East and south-east Europe, a period during which the Persian empire of ancient Iran clashed with the cities and kingdoms of Greece before it was conquered by Alexander the Great. Highlights include Bulgaria’s Panagyurishte Treasure which, on loan, consists of nine richly decorated Persian gold vessels including eight rhyta used to pour wine and one bowl to drink it. There’s also a Persian gilt silver rhyton shaped as a griffin, Athenian examples of drinking vessels, and, a gold wreath from Turkey which consists of two branches with a bee with two cicadas and showcases how styles evolved into the period after the death of Alexander in 323 BC. The exhibition in the Joseph Hotung Great Court Gallery can be seen until 13th August. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/luxuryandpower.
• The first major art exhibition to explore the life and legacy of Saint Francis of Assisi has opened at The National Gallery. Saint Francis of Assisi, which features works spanning the period from the 13th century to today, includes 40 works, ranging from medieval painted panels to relics, manuscripts and even a Marvel comic book. Highlights include Francisco de Zurbarán’s Saint Francis in Meditation (1635‒9), Antony Gormley’s Untitled (for Francis) (1985), Sandro Botticelli’s Saint Francis of Assisi with Angels (about 1475‒80 – pictured), El Greco’s Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata (1590‒5), Giovanni Costa’s Frate Francesco e Frate Sole (1878‒86), and Matthew Paris’ drawings in the Chronica maiora, which present some of the earliest English depictions of Saint Francis. There’s also a relic of Francis’s habit from Santa Croce, Florence, and a small section of the exhibition is dedicated to Saint Clare, one of the first followers of Francis. The exhibition in the Ground Floor Galleries can be seen until 30th June. Admission is free. For more, see nationalgallery.org.uk.
• England’s oldest hospital, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, is being celebrated in an outdoor exhibition in the City of London. Founded in 1123 – 900 years ago this year, the history of the hospital is being being told using photographs, art, and history drawn from Barts Health NHS Trust Archives’ extensive collections. The display can be seen in Guildhall Yard until 6th June after which it will move to Aldgate Square until 5th July before finally moving to St Bartholomew’s Hospital Square until 1st August. The exhibition is part of Barts900. For more on the programme of events, see Barts900 website.
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This Week in London – Three of London’s oldest charters on show and other coronation celebrations; Sir Christopher Wren’s life explored; and, a Pre-Raphaelite model and artist honoured…
• Three of the City of London’s oldest charters go on display at the City of London Heritage Gallery on Saturday as part of a series of events commemorating the coronation of King Charles III. On display will be the William Charter, which, drawn up in 1067 following the coronation of King William the Conqueror, was the earliest known royal document in Europe to guarantee the collective rights of all people in a town and not just a select few. Also to be seen is the Shrievalty Charter, which, issued by King John in 1199, confirms the rights of Londoners to elect their own sheriffs, and the Mayoralty Charter, which, also issued by King John – this time in 1215, confirmed that the Mayor of London could also chosen by Londoners with the proviso that they were publicly presented. Visitors can also see the beautifully illustrated Cartae Antiquae which records charters and statutes covering laws enacted from the reign of Edward III (1327 onwards) to the accession of Henry VII in 1485 and was used as an essential reference tool by City officials, as well as prints of the 19th century coronations of Queen Victoria, King William IV and King George IV. Admission is free but booking is recommended. Runs until 5th October. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/events/heritage-gallery-exhibition.
• Other events marking the coronation kick off in the City of London in the coming week. Among the extensive list of activities is a pop-up well-being garden in Seething Lane where you can pose for pictures with a floral crown installation, a guided walking tour of the City entitled ‘1000 Years of Royalty – the Best, the Worst and the Very Horribilus’, and a “Cockney knees-up” with Pearly King and Pearly Prince at Leadenhall Market. For more details and the full list of events, head to www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/events/coronation.
• A new exhibition commemorating the expansive career of Sir Christopher Wren opens today in St Paul’s Cathedral – the extraordinary building designed by Wren to replace the medieval cathedral destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 Part of a series of events marking the 300th anniversary of the death of Sir Christopher in 1723, Sir Christopher Wren: The Quest for Knowledge explores not only his early life and career as an architect but also his lesser-known contributions to the fields of mathematics, astronomy and physiology. The display, located in the north aisle of the crypt, features drawings, photographs and objects from the cathedral’s collections. Entry to the exhibition is included in general admission. For more, see www.stpauls.co.uk/whats-on/exhibition-christopher-wren-quest-for-knowledge.
• The Pre-Raphaelite model and artist, Marie Spartali Stillman, has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at what was her family home in Battersea. It was while living at The Shrubbery – a 1770s Grade II-listed property now located on Lavender Gardens – that Stillman first modelled for Pre-Raphaelite artists. Tutored by Ford Madox Brown, she went on to become one of a small number of professional women artists in the late 19th century, creating more than 150 works over a period spanning 50 years. Stillman is the first female Pre-Raphaelite artist and one of only very few female artists to receive a Blue Plaque. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.
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What’s in a name?…Amen Corner…
Located off Ave Maria Lane in the City of London is a tiny thoroughfare named Amen Corner.
This location of this short laneway – which leads to the U-shaped (and gated) Amen Court – makes the name no great surprise. It lies just to the north-west of St Paul’s Cathedral and is one of a number of religiously named streets in the area (others include Paternoster Lane, Paternoster Square, Paternoster Row and Canon Alley).
The corner apparently became so-named in relation to a prayer chanted by monks. It’s said that on the day of the Feast of Corpus Christi, the monks would process through the streets, chanting prayers as they did so.
The first prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, was started in Paternoster Row – itself named after the first couple of words in the prayer when recited in Latin (“Pater Noster” which translates as “Our Father”). The monks would then process westward and by the time they reached the corner of Paternoster Lane and Ave Maria Lane, they would be at the end of the prayer – “Amen”. Hence Amen Corner.
Amen Corner was, from 1614 until the Great Fire of London in 1666 when it was destroyed, the location of a three storey house which served as the headquarters of the the Royal College of Physicians.
Ave Maria Lane, meanwhile, is named after the next prayer the monks would recite after turning the corner – “Ave Maria” (Hail Mary”).
Amen Court, which isn’t accessible to the public, is home to a short terrace of 17th-century houses where the cathedral’s canons have traditionally lived.
At its western end is a wall which once marked the boundary of Newgate Prison and which itself has an interesting history. The spectral ‘Black Dog of Newgate’ was said to have been sighted crawling along its top just prior to an execution taking place in the prison.
This Week in London – The Van de Veldes at the Queen’s House; Young V&A to open in July; Roman pottery kiln to return to Highgate Wood; and, welcome to ‘Kyiv Road’…
• The work of 17th century marine painters Willem van de Velde the Elder and Willem van de Velde the Younger is the subject of a new exhibition at the Queen’s House in Greenwich – the location of a studio King Charles II granted to them. The Van de Veldes: Greenwich, Art and the Sea features the newly conserved painting, A Royal Visit to the Fleet, which they worked on in their studio at the Queen’s House in the 1670s and which, at almost four metres across, was the largest seascape Van de Velde the Younger had painted to date (pictured after conservation above). Also on show is the The Burning of the Royal James at the Battle of Solebay, 28 May 1672, otherwise known as The Solebay Tapestry and originally one of six, along with a selection of some of the more than 1,400 drawings from the National Maritime Museum’s collection. The exhibition, which is free to visit, runs until 14th January, 2024. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/van-de-velde.
• The Young V&A will open on 1st July following a three year transformation project, it was announced this week. Formerly known as the V&A Museum of Childhood, the Bethnal Green institution will display “remarkable and optimistic stories of children’s ingenuity” alongside 2,000 works from the V&A’s collection of art, design, and performance. Features will include an interactive Minecraft installation, murals by street artist Mark Malarko, tech solutions created for Raspberry Pi’s Coolest Projects, and, a display of portraits by photographer Rehan Jamil capturing young people expressing what creativity means to them and set alongside self-portraits by the likes of Chila Kumari Singh Burman, Quentin Blake, Kenneth Branagh, Dapo Adeola, and Linda McCartney. Also announced was the first exhibition at the new facility – Japan: Myths to Manga – which will open on 14th October. For more, see vam.ac.uk/young.
•The most complete Roman pottery kiln ever found in Greater London is going on display in a visitor centre at Highgate Wood from September next year. The kiln, which was excavated from the wood in Haringey in the 1960s and 1970s, has been in storage beneath Bruce Castle Museum. But thanks to a £243,550 grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to charity Friends of Highgate Roman Kiln, it will be returned for public display. The kiln is said to be one of the best-preserved Roman pottery kilns found in the UK and is thought to be the last one built by Roman potters who worked in Highgate Wood between 50CE to 160CE to supply Londinium and south-east England with distinctive ‘Highgate Ware’ pottery.
• A small section of Bayswater Road has been renamed Kyiv Road to mark the first anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The new road name was installed last Friday on the road which runs from Palace Court to Ossington Street and is located not far from the Russian Embassy. Councillor Adam Hug, leader of Westminster City Council, said the request for the new name came from the Ukrainian community. “Westminster is home to Ukrainians displaced by the war, and our residents have opened their hearts and their doors to those fleeing Putin’s war machine,” he said in a statement. “As the centre of an international capital, it seemed to us entirely fitting that part of our City should carry a torch for the unbowed defenders of Ukraine. It’s a small stretch of road, but we want to show the people of Ukraine that their struggle has a visible place in our city.”
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LondonLife – London writ large…
A celebration of the artists who have painted London on a monumental scale, The Big City is currently running at the Guildhall Art Gallery. The exhibition, which runs until 23rd April, can be visited on a ‘pay what you can’ basis. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/events/the-big-city.
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London Explained – Livery companies…
The City of London is dotted with halls for the city’s livery companies. But ever wondered what they are?
There are 110 livery companies in the City, representing ancient and more modern trade associations and guilds, including everything from grocers to saddlers, ironmongers to musicians. The newest livery company is the Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars which was created in 2014.
Many of today’s livery companies have their origins in the city’s medieval guilds which were responsible for such things as regulating wages and conditions and setting industry standards (while many of these responsibilities have since passed to other bodies, some – such as the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers and the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths – still play important roles in quality control).
These days the companies are also known for their support of the industries they represent and their philanthropic work.
Livery companies – many of which also traditionally had religious links – built halls as central meeting places – about 40 companies today still own or have a share in a hall.
Members of the livery companies (known as liverymen after the distinctive clothing or uniform they wore) – who are awarded the Freedom of the City of London – have the right to vote for senior offices in the City such as the Lord Mayor of London and sheriffs.
The livery companies of the City of London are listed in an “order of precedence” which was settled in 1515 for the 48 then in existence based on their political and economic power (the Worshipful Company of Mercers comes in at number one). All the companies created since then are ranked according to their date of creation.
The 12 highest ranked companies are known as the Twelve Great City Livery Companies. Among them in the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors which disputes its position at number seven and so once a year at Easter swaps places with the Worshipful Company of Skinners at number six.
The oldest livery company is said to be the Worshipful Company of Weavers while the oldest livery company hall is that of the Worshipful Company of Apothecaries.
LondonLife – City skyline from Hackney…
What’s in a name?…St Swithin’s Lane…
This narrow City of London pedestrian laneway, which runs south from King William Street to Cannon Street, bears the name of the Church of St Swithin London Stone.
The medieval church, which was rebuilt after being destroyed in the Great Fire of London only be badly damaged in the Blitz and finally demolished in 1962, was located on the corner of the laneway’s intersection with Cannon Street.
St Swithin (also known as St Swithun) was a ninth century Bishop of Winchester while the other part of the church’s moniker – London Stone – comes from the fact the ancient stone was formerly located opposite the church.
The church was the resting place of Catrin Glyndŵr, wife of the rebel Edmund Mortimer and daughter of Welsh leader Owain Glyndŵr, who, after being held in the Tower of London, died in mysterious circumstances (there’s a memorial to her in a garden on the former site of the church).
Lost London – ‘Charles II trampling Cromwell’…
Originally installed at the Stocks Market in the City of London, this equestrian statue shows a figure atop a horse which is trampling over a prostrate figure lying on the ground.
The marble statue, which stands on a tall plinth, is believed to have been created in Italy by an unknown sculptor. It originally depicted Polish King John III Sobieski riding down a Turkish soldier. But it was bought to London by goldsmith and banker Sir Robert Vyner in the early 1670s.
A strong supporter of King Charles II, he had the sculpture’s head remodelled by Jasper Latham to depict the King (although the figure beneath was left largely untouched, meaning if it is supposed to represent Cromwell, he’s wearing a turban).
Sir Robert, who had been responsible for making the king’s new coronation regalia to replace items lost or destroyed during the Commonwealth, offered to have the statue installed at the Royal Exchange after it was rebuilt following the Great Fire of 1666. When that was rejected, he had the statue installed at the Stocks Market – originally named for being the only location of fixed stocks in the City – near Cornhill in 1675 (Sir Robert served as Lord Mayor around the same time).
The statue was removed in 1739 to make way for the Mansion House. But all was not lost – given back to Vyner’s grandnephew, also Robert Vyner, it reappeared some years later at the Vyner family estate at Gautby Hall. In 1883, it was relocated to Newby Hall in North Yorkshire (which had come into the family via an inheritance) and still remains there today, about 150 metres east of the hall. It received a Grade II listing in 1967.
LondonLife – Sunset over Bishopsgate…
10 (lesser known) statues of English monarchs in London…7. Three Stuart Kings and a Queen…
The equestrian statue of King Charles I at the top of Whitehall is one of London’s most well-known. But less well-known is the statue of the ill-fated King which can be found standing in a niche on the Temple Bar gateway, located at the entrance to Paternoster Square just outside of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Charles is not alone. Part of the gateway’s purpose was as a dynastic statement in support of the Stuarts so the grand portal also features statues of Charles’ father King James I, his mother Queen Anne of Denmark, and his son King Charles II. King James and Queen Anne can be found on the north side of the gateway (originally the east side) and the two Charles’ on the south side (originally the west side).
The design of the gateway, which originally stood at the intersection of Fleet Street and the Strand as a ceremonial entrance into the City of London, is believed to be the work of Sir Christopher Wren who was acting on the orders of King Charles II after the Great Fire of London.
The statues, which cost a third of the total £1,500 spent on the gateway, are said to have been sculpted by one John Bushnell. They are depicted in Roman attire rather than the dress they would have worn during the period.
They were removed when the gateway was dismantled in 1878 and stored in a yard of Farringdon Road and when the gateway was re-erected at Lady Meux’s Hertfordshire estate at Theobold’s Park, they were placed back in their original locations. And they also accompanied the gateway back to the city when it was positioned its current location in 2004.
Where’s London’s oldest…synagogue?
Actually the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the entire UK, the Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City of London was built in 1701.
The synagogue has historical ties to the city’s Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community, known as Sephardic Jews, which first started meeting together in a small synagogue in Creechurch Lane in 1657 after it become possible for Jews to openly practice their religion under the rule of Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell.
Increasing numbers in the community soon meant a larger premises was required and a committee was formed which signed a contract with Quaker builder Joseph Avis in February, 1699, to build a larger premises (tradition holds that Avis returned the money he made on the job to the community, saying he would not profit from building a house of God). In June that same year, the community leased a tract of land at Plough Yard, Bevis Marks, on which the new building would be built. Construction commenced soon after.
The property’s design is said to emulate, at least in part, that of the 1675 Portuguese Synagogue of Amsterdam (it’s also thought the design was influenced by the works of Sir Christopher Wren). There’s also a story that the building included an oak beam from one of the Royal Navy’s ships presented by Queen Anne.
The rectangular building, which features three galleries inside, was eventually completed and dedicated in September, 1701.
The roof of the now Grade 1-listed building was replaced following a fire in 1738 and the synagogue only suffered minor damage during the Blitz. It also suffered some collateral damage from the IRA bombing in 1992 and the 1993 Bishopsgate bombing but remains mostly intact.
Sermons at Bevis Marks were in Portuguese until 1833 when they changed to English.
Features inside include an oak Renaissance-style ark containing the Torah scroll which, painted to resemble coloured Italian marble, is located at the centre of the eastern wall. There are also seven hanging brass candelabra which symbolise the seven days of the week. The largest, which hangs in the centre of the synagogue – represents the Sabbath and was donated by the community of the Great Synagogue of Amsterdam. There are also 10 large brass candlesticks representing the Ten Commandments. While the upright oak seats are said to “reflect the Puritanism of 17th century England”, the backless oak benches at the back are the original seats which were brought from the Creechurch Lane premises.
Twice Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s 1804 birth is recorded in the register but after his father had a falling out with the synagogue officials, Disraeli was in 1817 baptised at St Andrew’s Holborn.
The synagogue is temporarily closed to visitors and tour groups. For more information, head to www.sephardi.org.uk/bevis-marks/visit-bevis-marks/.
10 historic stairways in London – 3. The Monument stairs…
Running up the centre of the tallest free-standing stone column in the world, this 311 step stairway takes the visitor straight to the top of the Monument erected to commemorate the Great Fire of 1666.
The Monument – actually a Doric column – was built close to Pudding Lane in the City – where the fire is believed to have started – between 1671 and 1677. It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in collaboration with City Surveyor Sir Robert Hooke.
The cantilevered stairway – each step of which measures exactly six inches high – leads up to a viewing platform which provides panoramic views of the City. Above the platform stands is a large sculpture featuring a stone drum topped with a gilt copper urn from which flames emerge as a symbol of the fire (King Charles II apparently squashed the idea of an equestrian statue of himself lest people think he was responsible for the fire).
Interestingly, the circular space in the centre of the stairway was designed for use as a zenith telescope (a telescope which points straight up). There is a small hatch right at the top which can be opened up to reveal the sky beyond and a subterranean lab below (reached through a hatch in the floor of the ticket both) where it was envisaged the scientist could take measurements using a special eyepiece (two lenses would be set into the actual telescope). But it wasn’t successful (reasons for this could have been vibrations caused by passing traffic or the movement of the column in the wind).
Hooke also apparently attempted to use the staircase drop for some other experiences – including measuring differences in air pressure.
Among those who have climbed the stairs was writer James Boswell who visited the Monument and climbed the stairs in 1763. He suffered a panic attack halfway up but was able to complete the climb.
WHERE: The Monument, junction of Fish Street Hill and Monument Street (nearest Tube station is Monument); WHEN: Check website; COST: £5.40 adults/£2.70 children (aged five to 15)/£4.10 seniors (joint tickets with Tower Bridge available); WEBSITE: www.themonument.org.uk
A Moment in London’s History – The ‘Cock Lane Ghost’ appears…
It’s 260 years ago this month that a supposed poltergeist known as the ‘Cock Lane Ghost’ was at the centre of an infamous scandal.
There had been several reports of strange sounds and spectral appearances at the property prior to January, 1762, but it was the events which took place that month which were to elevate the hauntings to the national stage.
It was in that month that Elizabeth Parsons, the 11-year-old daughter of Richard Parsons, the officiating clerk at St Sepulchre Church, reported hearing knockings and scratchings while she was lying in bed. Her father, Richard Parsons, the officiating clerk at nearby St Sepulchre, enlisted the aid of John Moore, assistant preacher at St Sepulchre and a Methodist, to find their cause and the two concluded that the spirit haunting the house was that of Fanny Lynes, who had formerly lived in the property before apparently dying of smallpox in early February, 1760.
The two men devised a system for communicating with the spirit based on knocks and based on the answers they received, concluded that Lynes had not died of smallpox but actually been poisoned with arsenic by her lover (and brother-in-law) William Kent.
Kent had been married to Fanny’s sister Elizabeth and after her death, he had lived with Lynes as man and wife despite prohibitions on them being married due to their status as in-laws. Parsons, who was their landlord at the time, had taken a loan from Kent while they were living at the property but subsequently refused to pay it back leading Kent to successfully sue him for its recovery.
It was against that backdrop – and earlier reports that the ghost of Fanny’s sister Elizabeth had haunted the property after her death – that the story of ‘Scratching Fanny’ began to spread and led to crowds gathering in Cock Lane to witness the phenomena. Writer Horace Walpole was among them – he attended along with Prince Edward, the Duke of York and Albany, and, apart from not hearing the ghost (he was told it would appear the next morning at 7am), noted that the local alehouses were doing a great trade.
Such was the case’s fame that the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Samuel Fludyer, ordered an investigation – among those who was involved was famed lexicographer Samuel Johnson. They concluded that the girl had been making the noises herself (Dr Johnson went on to write an account of it which was published in The Gentlemen’s Magazine). Further investigations were held – Fanny’s body even exhumed – and Elizabeth was later seen concealing a small piece of wood (apparently to make the sounds), subsequently confessing that her father had put her up to it.
Kent, however, was determined to clear his name and Moore, along with Parsons, Parson’s wife Elizabeth, Mary Frazer, a relative of Parsons, and a tradesman Richard James, were all subsequently charged with conspiracy to take Kent’s life by alleging he had murdered Frances. The trial, which took place at Guildhall before Lord Chief Justice William Murray, on 10th July, 1762, saw guilty verdicts returned for all five defendants. Moore and Richards agreed to pay Kent a sum of more than £500 but the others refused and so in February the following year they were sentenced – Parsons to three turns in the pillory and two years imprisonment, his wife Elizabeth to a year in prison and Frazer to six months hard labour in Bridewell.
The case, which also caused controversy between the new Methodists and Anglicans over the issue of ghosts, was widely referred to in literature of the time including by satirical poet Charles Churchill in his work The Ghost. It was also referenced by William Hogarth in his prints and Victorian author Charles Dickens even alluded to the story in A Tale of Two Cities.
Where’s London’s oldest seafood restaurant?…Sweetings…
London’s oldest seafood restaurant is generally said to be Sweetings, the origins of which go back to the opening of John S Sweetings, Fish and Oyster Merchant, in Lad Lane, Islington, in 1830.
Additional premises at 159 Cheapside and 17 Milk Street soon followed, promoted as “Very Superior Oyster Rooms”. In 1889, Sweetings Restaurant opened at its present site at 39 Queen Victoria Street, inside the Grade II-listed Albert Buildings which was constructed in 1871 and the shape of which (if not the scale) has been compared to New York City’s Flatiron Building.
The food aside, Sweetings is famous for its signature ‘Black Velvet’, a mix of champagne and Guinness which was created in 1861 in response to the death of Prince Albert.
Famous patrons have reportedly included the French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as well as the late George Francis, reportedly an associate of the Kray twins, who is said to have offered £1 million to buy the restaurant (an offer which was refused).
For more, see www.sweetingsrestaurant.co.uk.
London Explained – The Lord Mayor of London…
Not to be confused with the Mayor of London (a position currently held by Sadiq Khan, the Mayor is the head of the Greater London Authority – more on that in a later post), the Lord Mayor of London serves as the head of the City of London Corporation which governs the Square Mile.
The Lord Mayor of London is generally elected annually (last year was an exception due to the coronavirus pandemic) by members of the City’s livery companies who are summoned by the previous Mayor to meet at at Guildhall on Michaelmas Day (29th September) or on the closest weekday
The Lord Mayor is subsequently sworn into office in November in an event known as the ‘Silent Ceremony’ because, aside from a short declaration from the incoming mayor, no speeches are made. The following day, the Lord Mayor participates in a procession from the City of London to the Royal Courts of Justice in the City of Westminster, where they swear allegiance to the Crown. The event is known as the Lord Mayor’s Show (this year it’s being held on 13th November).
Lord Mayors must be one of the City of London’s 25 alderman (elected to represent the City’s wards) and must first served as one of the City’s two sheriffs prior to taking on the position – the sheriffs support the Lord Mayor in their role as advisors. They also host dinners for visiting dignitaries, accompany the Lord Mayor in their business travels and look after the judges at the Old Bailey.
The first Lord Mayor is said to have been Henry FitzAilwin, who served between 1189 and 1212. The current Lord Mayor, William Russell, is the 692nd to hold the post. Until 1354, the title was simply Mayor of London.
The role of the Lord Mayor these days is to serve as an international ambassador for the UK’s financial and professional services sector.
The official residence of the Lord Mayor is called the Mansion House. It is used for some of the City’s official events.
This Week in London – Japan at Kew; Young V&A; a Blue Plaque for Diana’s flat; and, a new Lord Mayor of London…
• Visitors to Kew Gardens are being invited to immerse themselves in the art, plants and culture of Japan in a month long celebration of the Asian nation. The Japan Festival kicks off this Saturday in Kew’s Temperate House and features at its heart a large-scale artistic installation by Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota entitled One Thousand Springs which is constructed of 5,000 haikus submitted by members of the public. There will also be a specially commissioned Chalk Garden – a contemporary response to a Japanese garden showcasing native plants including grasses, shrubs and trees – as well as a display showcasing six different chrysanthemums, Japan’s national flower, and an immersive soundscape by sound artist Yosi Horikawa featuring the natural sounds of the rivers and waterfalls of Kagoshima, atmospheric soundscapes from the Cedar mountains of Gifu and bird calls set across the waves of the Philippine Sea. The Temperate House will also be illuminated for Japan: After hours featuring a varied programme of dance, theatre, and live music performances as well as traditional flower arranging and sake sipping. The festival, supported by Daikin UK, runs to 31st October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.kew.org.
• Thirteen-year-old Olympian Sky Brown’s skateboard, children’s garments created by sustainable fashion designer, humanitarian and artist Bethany Williams, and Open Bionics’ 3D printed prosthetic, The Hero Arm, are among new acquisitions to be displayed at what was the former V&A Museum of Childhood. Now renamed the Young V&A, the Grade II* Bethnal Green institution is undergoing a £13m transformation ahead of reopening in 2023. The new interior fit-out, by firm AOC Architecture, will include three new galleries – Play, Imagine and Design – as well as interactive collection displays, a suite of dedicated learning workshops, an in-gallery design studio for visitors, and a new café and shop.
• The late Princess Diana has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at her former flat in Kensington. Flat 60, Coleherne Court, Old Brompton Road, was her home between 1979 and 1981 during her courtship with Prince Charles. She shared it with three friends including Virginia Clarke who was at the unveiling ceremony this week. Diana, who died aged 36 in a Paris car crash in 1997, described her years at the property as “the happiest time of her life”, according to biographer Andrew Morton’s book Diana, In Her Own Words.
• Vincent Keaveny was this week elected as the 693rd Lord Mayor of the City of London. Alderman Keaveny succeeds Lord Mayor William Russell, who served a second year in office after his term was extended to ensure continuity of leadership during the current COVID-19 pandemic (the last time a Lord Mayor served a second year in office was in 1861 when William Cubitt was re-elected). The annual Lord Mayor’s Show is scheduled for Saturday, 13th November, and will be followed by Lord Mayor’s Banquet at Guildhall on 15th November.
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