Built in 1905, this south London bandstand, which was recently awarded Grade II heritage status, is famous for being the site where David Bowie performed at the Growth Summer Festival in August, 1969. Bowie and friends had organised the free festival soon after his first hit single, Space Oddity, and the bandstand, located in Croydon Road Recreation Ground, was used as the stage for the day. As well as compering the festival, Bowie was among the performers who played here to a crowd of several hundred people. The festival, which was inspired by the feel of Woodstock and is believed to have been the first of its kind in Britain, inspired Bowie to write the seven minute long Memory of a Free Festival for his second album which was released later that year. It’s also suggested that he may have penned the lyrics to Life on Mars from the bandstand steps. The ironwork bandstand, which is referred to locally as the ‘Bowie Bandstand’, is thought to be the last bandstand from the foundry of Glasgow’s McCallum and Hope Iron Foundry still standing in Britain today. The Borough of Bromley, which owns the bandstand, is currently raising funds for its restoration.
We finish our series on subterranean London with a visit to the Chislehurst Caves in the outer south-east.
The ‘caves’, located in Chislehurst in Kent, are actually 22 miles of man-made tunnels which were dug out in the search for chalk – used in lime-burning and brick-making – as well as, in later years, flint for use in tinder boxes and flintlock guns.
There’s considerable debate over the age of the caves but it’s claimed the earliest mention of the complex apparently dates back to the 13th century and they are believed to have been last worked in the 1830s. The three main sections of the caves are named after the Druids, Romans and Saxons in a reference to who some believed helped to create them.
They were first opened to the public at the turn of the 20th century and have since been used for munitions storage (during World War I, to cater for overflow from the Woolwich Arsenal), mushroom growing, and, during World War II provided accommodations for some 15,000 people as one of the largest deep air-raid shelters in the country.
They also hosted music events in the 1960s when the likes of David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin and Pink Floyd were among those who performed there and have appeared in several episodes of Dr Who
These days the caves are visited only on lamplit, 45 minute guided tours, which take in about a mile of the tunnels.
WHERE: Chislehurst Caves, Caveside Close, Old Hill, Chislehurst, Kent (nearest railway station is at Chislehurst); WHEN: 10am to 4pm everyday during school holidays and Wednesday to Sunday outside those periods; COST: £6 an adult/£4 seniors and children aged three to 15 (children under three free); WEBSITE: chislehurst-caves.co.uk.
No prizes here for guessing that this pub owes its name to the long serving 19th century monarch, Queen Victoria.
There’s apparently a story that the Queen stopped off here on her way to Paddington Station and that, as a result, the pub was named in her honour.
Whatever the truth of that, the now Grade II-listed pub – located at 10a Strathearn Place (on the corner with Surrey Place) – was apparently built in 1838 – the first year if Victoria’s reign (and possibly a more valid reason for its name) and remodelled around the turn of the 20th century.
It features a luxuriously decorated interior with fireplaces, mirrors, and an original counter as well as paintings of the Queen, Prince Albert and their family.
The upstairs Theatre Bar features decorative elements taken from the former Gaiety Theatre which were installed in the late 1950s.
The pub, which was apparently patronised by the likes of author Charles Dickens (he is said to have written some of Our Mutual Friend here), Sir Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin as well as David Bowie – who did a live performance when launching an EP here in the 1960s.
It’s also been associated with more recent celebs like musicians Ronnie Wood and Liam Gallagher, artist Damien First and actor Keira Knightley.
There’s also a story that in 1960s one of the paintings on the walls was found to be a valuable portrait of a member of the Royal Family. It’s now apparently in the Royal Collection.
The pub is now part of the Fuller’s group – and has twice won their ‘Pub of the Year’ award. For more, see www.victoriapaddington.co.uk.
• The President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, attending a wreath-laying ceremony at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday night to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Scottish missionary and explorer Dr David Livingstone. The ceremony took place at the grave of Dr Livingstone – his body was repatriated to London following his death in Zambia in 1873 from malaria and dysentery. The Very Reverand Dr John Hall, the Dean of Westminster, said the ceremony honored a “Scot of humble origins, but clear determination and courage”. “140 years after his death, he remains respected throughout these islands, and especially in Africa, where, for 30 years, he laboured to spread the Gospel, to explore the land’s secrets, and to map what he discovered,” he said. “Treating all people as his equals, he worked to abolish the slave trade in Africa.” Livingstone conducted several expeditions into the interior of Africa – while they included a failed attempt to find the source of the Nile, he is credited with documenting numerous geographical features including Victoria Falls (he named it after Queen Victoria) and Lake Malawi. Celebrated as a hero of the Victorian age, his meeting with Henry Stanley in October 1871 – Stanley had been sent to find him after he had lost contact with the outside world – gave rise to the expression “Dr Livingstone, I presume?” (though whether he actually said the phrase remains a matter of debate).
• A landmark exhibition on the career of David Bowie opens at the V&A on Saturday. David Bowie is features more than 300 objects including handwritten lyrics, costumes, photographs, films, Bowie’s instruments and album artwork selected by the V&A’s theatre and performance curators, Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh. The exhibition takes an in-depth look at Bowie’s music and how it and his “radical individualism” has influenced and been influenced by wider movements in art, design and contemporary culture. Among the more than 60 costumes on display will be a Ziggy Stardust bodysuit (1972) and costumes made for the 1973 Aladdin Sane tour as well as some of Bowie’s own sketches, musical scores and diary entries. This exhibition, which is sponsored by Gucci and Sennheiser, runs until 11th August. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/davidbowieis.
• Homeland star Damian Lewis has received the Freedom of the City of London in a ceremony at Guildhall on Tuesday in recognition of his “outstanding achievements in acting”. Lewis, who graduated from the City of London’s Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 1993, has appeared in The Forsyte Saga, US mini-series Band of Brothers and, of course, in Homeland. Interestingly, his maternal grandfather, Sir Ian Bowater, was Lord Mayor of the City of London from 1938 to 1939. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.au.
• Work is underway on the first of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson’s, “pocket parks”. The size of a tennis court, the pocket parks are set to “reinvent some of London’s forgotten nooks and crannies”. Among the first will be an edible park featuring vegetable, herbs, fruit trees and hops located on ‘dead space’ behind a Stockwell bus stop (the hops will be sold to the Brixton Beer Cooperative). All 100 of the pocket parks will be finished by March 2015 at a cost of £2 million. For more, see www.london.gov.uk/priorities/environment/greening-london/parks-green-spaces/pocket-parks.
• It’s the chance to try a new sport for the first time in a day of free games and activities which will be held at the Queen Mother Sports Centre in Vauxhall Bridge Road on Saturday. From 10am to 3pm, visitors will be able to try a range of different sporting activities including football, basketball and swimming with athletes and coaches on hand to offer advice. For more, see www.westminster.gov.uk.
• A West End institution which has hosted a who’s who of Londoners – including the likes of Oscar Wilde, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling and Winston Churchill as well as, more recently, David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Princess Diana – has reopened its doors to the public after a four year redevelopment. Originally opened in 1865 by French wine merchant Daniel Nicholas Thévenon and his wife Celestine, Café Royal at 68 Regent Street – overlooking Piccadilly Circus – has been relaunched as five star hotel featuring more than 150 rooms, six historic suites and a variety of dining venues – including the spectacular Grill Room – as well as a private members club, meeting rooms and wellbeing centre. The redevelopment of this storied building, which centres on the original premises – retaining John Nash’s Grade I-listed facade, has seen the restoration of grand public rooms, originally dating from the 1860s and 1920s, as well as an expansion into neighbouring buildings – all under the watchful eye of David Chipperfield Architects and Donald Insall Associates. For more, see www.hotelcaferoyal.com.
• On Now: Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape. This exhibition, recently opened in the John Madejski Fine Rooms and Weston Rooms at the Royal Academy of Arts, features works of art by three “towering figures” of English landscape painting – John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough and JMW Turner. The 120 works on display includes paintings, prints, books and archival material. Highlights include Gainsborough’s Romantic Landscape (c 1783), Constable’s The Leaping Horse (1825) and Boat Passing a Lock (1826), and Turner’s Dolbadern Castle (1800). There are also works by their 18th century contemporaries and artifacts including letters written by Gainsborough, Turner’s watercolour box, and Constable’s palette. Admission charge applies. Runs until 17th February. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.au.
• A revamped Crown Jewels display opens today at the Tower of London to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The new display features graphics, music and newly restored film footage and will focus on the coronation ceremony as its central theme, exploring how the regalia are used in the ceremony. The regalia – which includes some of the most extraordinary diamonds in the world such as the Star of Africa and Koh-i-Nur – is being displayed in the order in which it is used at the coronation ceremony. The Crown Jewels have been on show to the public at the Tower of London since at least 1661 after they were remade for King Charles II’s coronation. The previous collection had been largely destroyed in the Civil War although some pieces survived including a gilt silver spoon probably made for King Henry II or King Richard I (the “Lionheart”). For more information, see www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/.
• Five dresses worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, have gone on display at Kensington Palace which re-opened to the public this week following a £12 million overhaul. The five dresses include a black silk taffeta gown (designed by Emanuel) which Diana wore to a fundraising event at the Goldsmith’s Hall in 1981 – her first official engagement with Prince Charles as well as a formal dinner dress of ivory silk (Catherine Walker) created for a State Banquet for the King and Queen of Malaysia in 1993 and a black ribbed silk shift evening dress (Gianni Versace) worn to the London premiere of Apollo 13 in Hammersmith in 1995. For more on the revamp of the palace see our earlier post. Or visit www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/.
• A plaque commemorating the site where the iconic image for the cover of David Bowie’s 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars was photographed has been unveiled in the West End. The plaque at the somewhat innocuous site at 23 Heddon Street, just off Regent Street, was installed by the Crown Estate and unveiled this week by Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet. The image for the album cover was shot by the late photographer Brian Ward who managed to persuade Bowie to step outside the ‘studio’ space he had rented upstairs despite the fact it was a cold, wet January night.
• On Now: At Home with the World. This exhibition at the Geoffrye Museum explores the cosmopolitan nature of London’s homes over the past 400 years and looks at how diverse cultures have helped shaped the homes – covering everything from Chinese porcelain and the tea craze of the 1700s to the use of Islamic and Indian patterns in the 1800s, the popularity of Scandinavian and American design in the 1900s and the globalism of today. The period rooms on show at the museum have been reinterpreted to highlight the international influences. This is one of a series of Stories of the World: London exhibitions taking place across the city which are exploring four aspects of life – home, identity, journeys and place – as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad program. Runs until 9th September. Entry is free. For more, see www.geffrye-museum.org.uk.