Wishing all of our readers a very Happy Easter!

Six special eggs designed by six top children’s book illustrators have been hidden at English Heritage sites across the country for Easter. The illustrators – including Ian Beck, Polly Dunbar, Olivia Lomenech Gill, Trisha Kraus, Lydia Monks and Grahame Baker Smith – have all designed eggs inspired by English Heritage properties. Young visitors taking part in the Easter Adventure Quests – which will be held at 20 English Heritage properties including London’s Eltham Palace and Gardens and Down House – will need to hunt for a special “chicken token” hidden in the undergrowth with those who find one presented one of the six “eggsclusive” eggs. The tradition of decorating Easter eggs has been recorded as far back as 1290 in England when King Edward I purchased 450 of them to be decorated and covered in golf leaf for his courtiers. In the early 16th century, King Henry VIII received a silver-mounted egg as an Easter gift from the Pope. The Easter Egg Adventure Quest will be held from 30th March (Good Friday) through to 2nd April (Easter Monday). For more on what’s happening at Easter, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/easter/.

Peter Rabbit and his furry friends are visiting Kew Gardens this Easter. From tomorrow until 15th April, the Peter Rabbit themed festival – A big day out with Peter Rabbit – will see visitors presented with a copy of Mr McGregor’s garden notebook so they can follow a Peter Rabbit-themed trail to the Secluded Garden where they can find life-sized selfie boards of Peter and other characters and take part in a range of activities including games, craft activities and workshops (including how to build their own rabbit warren). The nearby Kitchen Garden will also be on display with mini-tours for families to show off the growing produce. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.kew.org.

An Easter Egg Hunt will take place at The Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace, on Saturday. Between 11am and 3pm, children are invited to hunt for pictures of Rex the corgi and the royal horses Majesty and Scout among the carriages as well as dress up as a footman, learn how to harness a horse, take part in art activities and find out what it’s like to ride in a royal carriage. Each child will be able to claim an Easter egg to take home. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk.

The Science Museum’s free Frankenstein Festival – celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus – kicks off on 3rd April. Featuring immersive theatre, experiential story-telling and hands-on activities, the festival will encourage visitors to examine the ethical scientific questions surrounding the artificial creation of life and allow them to step into Dr Frankenstein’s shoes and create a creature which they can bring to life using stop-motion animation. There’s puzzles and experiments to do, a Frankenstein-themed audio tour of the museum called It’s Alive, a choose-you-own-adventure experience – Pandemic – in which visitors decide how far Dr Frankenstein should go to tackle a virus sweeping across the world, and, Humanity 2.0, a play performed by Emily Carding which examines what could happen if a benevolent AI recreated humanity in an apocalyptic future world. There’s also the opportunity to meet researchers at the cutting edge of science including bio chemists who manipulate DNA and engineers creating artificial intelligence. The festival runs daily between 3rd and 8th April (some activities have limited availability so tickets can be found at sciencemuseum.org.uk/Frankenstein). A Promethean Tales Weekend will be held on 27th to 28th April, featuring panel discussions and special screenings of Terminator 2: Judgement Day and The Curse of Frankenstein in the IMAX cinema. For more, head to sciencemuseum.org.uk/Frankenstein.

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battle-of-hastings

A temporary ‘Saxon’ camp will appear in Hyde Park this Saturday as Battle of Hastings’ re-enactors pause on their journey south to meet the forces of William, the Duke of Normandy, in an event marking the battle’s 950th anniversary. English Heritage is recreating the hurried march south of the Saxon King Harald and his followers following the Battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire to Battle Abbey where they will join in an annual re-enactment of the world famous Battle of Hastings on 15th and 16th October. Having already visiting British landmarks like Lincoln’s Roman arch, Peterborough Cathedral, and Waltham Abbey, they will be found at a free “pop-up living history encampment” near Apsley House in Hyde Park between 11am and 3pm on Saturday. People are invited to visit the encampment and meet the re-enactors, learn how the armies lived and ate while on the march, discover which weapons they used and play some Norman games as well as see the Battle of Hastings recreated using vegetables. Later on Saturday, the re-enactors will head across London to the Jewel Tower in Westminster and then on, Sunday, on to Eltham Palace in the city’s south-east, before setting off for Battle to the south. For more – including a day-by-day calendar of the march – head to www.english-heritage.org.uk/learn/1066-and-the-norman-conquest/the-1066-march/. PICTURE: An earlier re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings/David Adams.

A free exhibition celebrating all things punk has opened at the Museum of London to mark the end of a year long festival commemorating 40 years of the movement’s influence. Punks, which tells the stories of “ordinary punks” living in London in the late 1970s, features artefacts like handmade mixtape sleeves, DIY fanzines and the radical clothes sold on the King’s Road. The exhibition, which runs until 15th January, is accompanied by what is promised to be a “no holds barred” debate centred on the punk phenomena in November. For more information, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk and for more about other events related to the 40th anniversary of punk, see www.punk.london.

On Now – Bridget Riley: Learning from Seurat. This exhibition at The Courtauld Gallery explores Riley’s breakthrough encounter with Georges Seurat’s 1887 work Bridge at Courbevoie. For the first time, it brings together a copy Riley made of the painting in 1959 with the original work as well as presenting a small group of Riley’s seminal works to show how her understanding of Seurat’s art led her to create what are described as “some of the most radical and original abstract works of the past five decades”. Part of the gallery’s ongoing series of displays focusing on major contemporary artists, it runs until 17th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.courtauld.ac.uk/gallery.

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Wishing all of our readers a very happy Easter! 

Hampton-Court

It’s party time at Hampton Court Palace this weekend as the palace celebrates its 500th anniversary with festivities including a spectacular (and historic) light show. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights the palace will be open for an evening of festivities including the chance to taste-test pork cooked in the Tudor kitchens, enjoy a drink at a pop-up bar in the Cartoon Gallery, listen to live performances of period music in the state apartments and watch a 25 minute sound and light show in the Privy Garden taking viewers on a journey through the palace’s much storied past culminating in a fireworks finale. The nights run from 6.30pm to 9.15pm. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace/. PICTURE: HRP/Newsteam

A luxury wartime bunker, a map room dating from the 1930s and a walk-in wardrobe complete with vintage fashion are among five new rooms at Eltham Palace in south London which are opening to the public for the first time this Easter. The rooms also include a basement billiards room and adjoining bedrooms, one of which features one of the first showers ever installed in a residential house in the UK. They have been restored as part of English Heritage’s major £1.7 million makeover of the property – the childhood home of King Henry VIII which was converted into a stunning Art Deco gem in the 1930s. Visitors will be invited to join one of Stephen and Virginia Courtauld’s legendary cocktail party’s of the 1930s while children can take part in an interactive tour exploring the story of the animals that lived at the palace including Mah-Jongg, the Courtauld’s pet lemur (who had his own heated bedroom!). Admission charge applies. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/eltham. Meanwhile, anyone wishing to donate to support the renovation of the map-room can do so at www.english-heritage.org.uk/donate-eltham.

• A new exhibition showcasing the latest scientific displays concerning the life and death of King Richard III has opened at the Science Museum. King Richard III: Life, Death and DNA, which opened last Wednesday – the day before the king’s remains were reinterred at Leicester Cathedral, features an analysis of Richard III’s genome, a 3D printed skeleton (only one of three in existence) and a prototype coffin. It explores how CT scans were used to prove the king’s fatal injuries at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 were caused by a sword, dagger and halberd (a reproduction of the latter is on display). The exhibition will run until 25th June. Entry is free. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/RichardIII.

Shaun-the-Sheep• Join Shaun the Sheep and friends for Kew Garden’s annual Easter Egg hunt this Sunday. The hunt will take place from 9.30am to noon (or when the eggs run out!) with participants needing to find three sheep and collect a token/chocolate dropping from each before finding the Easter bunny and claiming eggs supplied by Divine chocolate. Shaun, meanwhile, who hit the big screen for the first time this year, will be found in the Madcap Meadow until 12th April. Admission charge applies. For the full range of events taking place at the gardens this Easter season, check out www.kew.orgPICTURE: RBG Kew.

London’s Boroughs are turning 50 and to celebrate London councils – working with the London Film Archive – have released a short film telling the story of the past half century. Follow this link to see it. Councils across the city, meanwhile, are holding events throughout the year to mark the occasion – check with your local council for details; some, like Barking and Dagenham, and Camden have dedicated pages.

The first chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, Sir Mansfield Cumming, has been commemorated with an English Heritage blue plaque at his former home in Westminster. Known as ‘C’ thanks to his habit of initialling papers (a tradition which has been carried on by every chief since), Cumming was chief of the Foreign Section of the Secret Service Bureau from 1909 until his death in 1923. Flats 53 and 54 at 2 Whitehall Court – now part of Grade II*-listed The Royal Horseguards Hotel – served as Cumming’s home and office at various times between 1911 and 1922. The plaque was unveiled by current Secret Intelligence Service chief, Alex Younger. Meanwhile, Amelia Edwards, pioneering Egyptologist, writer, and co-founder of the Egypt Exploration Fund, has also been honoured with a blue plaque on her former home in Islington. Edwards lived at 19, Wharton Street in Clerkenwell between 1831 and 1892. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

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Eltham-PalaceAnnie Kemkaran-Smith, curator at Greenwich’s art deco masterpiece Eltham Palace, examines the 1930s ‘map room’, one of five new rooms to be opened at the palace this spring following a major renovation by English Heritage. Alongside the map room – to be opened for the first time in a decade following a renovation for which English Heritage has launched a £25,000 appeal – other rooms include the luxury wartime bunker, a basement billiards room, a walk-in wardrobe and two new bedrooms. The project, work on which started earlier this month, also includes restoration of the gardens, the creation of a new visitor centre, shop and cafe in former glasshouses. The former childhood home of King Henry VIII, Eltham Palace was transformed in the 1930s by art collectors and philanthropists Stephen and Virginia Courtauld and features an interior now boasting a mix of art deco, ocean-liner styles and Swedish design with then cutting-edge features such as under-floor heating, multi-room sound systems and a centralised vacuum system. The palace will remain open to the public on Sundays over winter with the new rooms to be opened in April. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/eltham-palace-and-gardens/.

BusesAlmost 50 buses, from a horse-drawn model of the 1820s to the New Routemasters of today, will come to Regent Street on Sunday in celebration of the Year of the Bus. The ‘Regent Street Bus Cavalcade’ – which will stretch from Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Circus and will see the iconic West End street closed to traffic – will also feature a variety of free family events including Lego workshops (there will be a bus shelter and bus stop made entirely out of Lego outside Hamley’s toy shop), children’s theatre performances, a pop-up London Transport canteen and the chance to have a personal message recorded by the voice of London’s buses, Emma Hignett. There will also be an exhibition – Battle Bus – which provides information about the B-type bus (a newly restored version of which will be on display) which was used during World War I to carry soldiers to the frontline as well as ambulances and mobile pigeon lofts while jewellery company Tatty Devine will feature a special range of bus-inspired jewellery and hold jewellery-making workshops on board a London bus. The cavalcade, supported by the Regent Street Association and The Crown Estate, is part of Transport for London’s celebrations marking the Year of the Bus, organised in partnership with the London Transport Museum and the capital’s bus operators. The free event runs from 11.30am to 6pm. For more information, see www.tfl.gov.uk/yearofthebus and www.ltmuseum.co.uk.

A new exhibition of materials showing how people coped at home and on the front during World War I opens at the British Library in King’s Cross today as part of efforts to mark the war’s centenary. Enduring War: Grief, Grit and Humour features personal objects such as letters, a handkerchief bearing the lyrics of It’s A Long, Long Way to Tipperary, Christmas cards, school essays about airship raids over London sit and recruitment posters, humorous magazines and even a knitting pattern for balaclavas. Highlights include a letter in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle expresses his concern over his son serving at the front, manuscripts by war poets such as Rupert Brooke as well as Wilfred Owen’s manuscript for Anthem for Doomed Youth, Vaughan Williams’ A Pastoral Symphony and Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen. A specially commissioned video and ‘soundscape’, Writing Home, features personal messages contained on postcards written to and from the front. A range of events accompanies the free exhibition. Runs until 12th October. For more on the exhibition, see www.bl.uk.

Armoured knights on horseback can be seen jousting at Eltham Palace in south London this weekend. The former childhood home of King Henry VIII will host a Grand Medieval Joust which will also include displays of foot combat, the antics of a court jester, medieval music performances and a series of children’s events including a knight’s school. Runs from 10am to 5pm on both Saturday and Sunday. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/events. Meanwhile, the Battle of Waterloo is being remembered at the Duke of Wellington’s home of Apsley House near Hyde Park Corner. Visitors will come face-to-face with Wellington’s troops and their wives, having the chance to take a look inside a soldier’s knapsack, see the equipment he used and the drills he performed as well as see the Battle of Waterloo recreated in vegetables. The Waterloo Festival – this year marks 200 years since Napoleon’s abdication and exile to Elba – runs from 11am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/apsley/.

Nominations have reopened for English Heritage’s Blue Plaques scheme in London. In 2012 nominations were temporarily suspended while new funding for the scheme was found and thanks to one individual’s donation and the creation of a new Blue Plaques Club to support the scheme on an ongoing basis, they have now reopened. There are 880 official Blue Plaques on London’s streets – remembering everyone from Florence Nightingale to Fred Perry and Charles Darwin. For more and details on nominations, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blue-plaques/.

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ForeshoreThis month the Festival of Archaeology is being celebrated all across the UK, including in London where about 30 different events are being held. This year they include the chance to visit the remains of the Elizabethan Rose Theatre in Bankside and see for yourself preparations for an excavation to start next year, the opportunity to walk through the London offices of the Egypt Exploration Society, a series of hands-on archaeology-related activities at Eltham Palace in south London, behind the scenes tours of the Museum of London, and the chance (next weekend – 27th/28th July) to go mud-larking along the foreshore of the River Thames outside the Tower of London and then present your findings to archaeologists for identification (pictured above from a previous year). Get in there and have some fun! For more details of events, check out www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk.

London is a vast city and whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned Londoner, there’s probably still many places you haven’t yet visited. So over the next few posts we’re running a list of 10 of the less well-known sites for your perusal…

1. Eltham Palace. While Henry VIII’s final home, Hampton Court Palace, remains among London’s top 10 tourist sites, less well known is his childhood home, Eltham Palace. True, nowhere near as much of it remains from the Tudor and earlier medieval times, but with a later adjoined 1930s mansion housing some amazing Art Deco interiors, the medieval remains are just the start.

The palace’s history can be traced back to the Domesday survey of 1086. It passed into royal ownership in 1305 when then owner, Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham, gave it to King Edward I.

Numerous kings and their families spent time at Eltham including Edward III, Henry IV, and Henry VI, and it was Edward IV who, between 1475 and 1480, ordered the Great Hall built – a treasure which still survives.

Henry VIII was the last English monarch to spend considerable time at Eltham – it was elipsed by Greenwich Palace as a royal residence – and, after falling into disrepair into the seventeenth century, it passed back into ‘non-royal’ hands.

Much of what stands at Eltham today dates from the 20th century when millionaire socialites Sir Stephen and Lady Virginia Courtauld oversaw the restoration of the medieval Great Hall and the construction of an adjoining mansion which is a masterpiece of 1930s style incorporating a combination of Art Deco, “ocean-liner style” and Swedish design.

The Courtaulds left for a new life in Southern Rhodesia in 1944 and from then until the early 1990s the military occupied the property. English Heritage subsequently oversaw a major restoration and opened it to the public in 1999.

It’s well worth a visit to see the medieval Great Hall (which apparently boasts the third largest hammer-beam roof in England) and the 1930s property (aside from the stunning interiors – including Virginia’s gold-plated bathroom and warmed sleeping quarters for the Courtauld’s pet lemur – there’s also some great Courtauld family movies on show which give an amazing insight into the family which once lived there and an audio guide tour fittingly narrated by David ‘Poirot’ Suchet). There’s also 19 acres of gardens to explore, including a magnificent medieval bridge spanning what remains of the moat, and a cafe to while away the afternoon.

WHERE: Off Court Road, SE9. Half a mile from Eltham and Mottingham train stations. COST: £8.30 adult/£7.20 concession/£4.20 child (garden only tickets are available). English Heritage members free. WEBSITE: www.elthampalace.org.uk