The Ranger’s House in Greenwich – home to a world class art collection known as the Wernher Collection – reopened to the public this week after a makeover by English Heritage. The property – a Georgian villa located on the edge of Greenwich Park – displays the collection – which includes more than 700 works gathered by diamond magnate Julius Wernher in the late 1800s – across 11 period rooms. Highlights include a gold earring in the shape of Victory (the Greek goddess of war) which dates from 2BC, a carved pendant in the shape of a skull from around 1500, a silver gilt, steel and nautilus shell cup dating from 1660 (pictured) and an enamelled jug depicting the Greek god Triton. The collection was originally displayed at Wernher’s London townhouse – Bath House in Piccadilly – and at his country estate, Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire, but after Luton Hoo closed in the 1990s, English Heritage agreed to display the collection at the Ranger’s House (which it had acquired in 1986) on a 125 year loan. Photographs showing how Wernher displayed his collection in his own homes have informed how the objects are presented in the house today. The house is open from Sunday to Wednesday until the end of September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/rangershouse. PICTURE: © English Heritage

 The Great Pagoda at Kew has been reopened to visitors for the first time in years following a four year restoration project. Built in 1762, the pagoda was used by the Georgian Royal Family to entertain visitors and was for the first 20 years famously adorned with 80 brightly coloured wooden dragons (until, that is, they disappeared in the 1780s when they were rumoured to have been used as payment for the Prince Regent’s gambling debts). Thanks to a major restoration project by Historic Royal Palaces in conjunction with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, dragons have returned to the structure and for the first time in decades visitors are being allowed access to the upper floors from where they can gain a birds-eye view of the gardens. They will also be able to learn about the role the pagoda played in planning for the D-Day landings and try out the automata on the ground floor for a tour in miniature of Kew’s Georgian ‘royal route’. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk.

The art of Germany’s Weimar Republic goes on show at Tate Modern on South Bank from Monday. Magic Realism: Art in Weimar Germany 1919-1933 features about 70 paintings and works on paper drawn from The George Economou Collection – some of which have never seen in the UK before – and the Tate’s own collection. The display explores the “paradoxes” of the Weimar era, a time when liberalisation and anti-militarism flourished amid political and economic uncertainty (the title draws on the coining of the phrase ‘magic realism’ – today often associated with the literature of Latin America – by artist and critic Franz Roh in 1925 in an effort to describe the shift from the emotional art of the expressionist era, toward the unsettling imagery of this inter-war period). Works by artists like Otto Dix, George Grosz and Max Beckmann will be presented alongside those of under recognised artists such as Albert Birkle, Jeanne Mammen and Rudolf Schlichter and others whose careers were curtailed thanks to the rise of Nationalist Socialism and its agenda to promote art that celebrated its political ideologies. Admission is free. Runs until 14th July, 2019. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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The Science Museum is marking the 40th anniversary of IVF (in vitro fertilisation) with a special exhibition opening today. IVF: 6 Million Babies Later tells the story of the development of IVF from the work of early pioneers like Robert Edwards, Patrick Steptoe and Jean Purdy through to the birth of Louise Brown on 25th July, 1978, and on to the latest research in reproductive science. Items on show include one of the ‘Oldham Notebooks’ in which the scientific data collected by Purdy and Edwards between 1969 and 1978 was recorded along with examples of the equipment they used such as the glass desiccator used by Edwards to incubate embryos. The display also includes press coverage and personal correspondence and gifts received by Louise’s parents from around the world. A special late night opening will take place on 25th July. Runs at the South Kensington museum until November. Admission is free. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/ivf.

The City of London Beerfest returns to Guildhall Yard today with musical performances and the chance to enjoy some of the UK’s finest ales, beers and ciders. Now in its sixth year, City Beerfest runs from 12.30pm to 9pm with proceeds going toward The Lord Mayor’s Appeal, which supports the Lord Mayor’s dedicated charities, and the City Music Foundation, which helps young musicians gain valuable entrepreneurial skills for successful careers. For more, see www.citybeerfest.org.

On Now: The Great British Seaside. This major exhibition of photography at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich features more than 100 photographs taken by some of Britain’s most popular photographers, including Tony Ray-Jones, David Hurn and Simon Roberts, as well as new works by Martin Parr. Runs until 30th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/see-do/Great-British-seaside.

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Another project to celebrate the new Millennium, the O2 – originally known as the Millennium Dome – is the largest domed structure in the world.

Occupying a prominent site at the northern tip of the Greenwich Peninsula (on the south bank of the River Thames), the building is 365 metres in diameter, 50 metres high at its highest point and features 12 100 metre high masts which hold up the Teflon-coated glass fibre dome using some 45 miles of steel cable.

It was designed by Sir Richard Rogers and his firm with construction commencing in 1997 after the project, conceived by the Conservative Government, was endorsed (and expanded) by the new Blair Labour Government.

The Dome was officially opened on 31st December, 1999, at a ‘New Millennium Spectacular’ attended by, among others, members of the Royal Family and government.

Throughout the following year the venue hosted what was known as the ‘Millennium Experience’, a celebration of the beginning of the new millennium which attracted more than six million visitors (a big figure but apparently only half of what was projected initially).

A controversial project since its very inception due to its cost and speculation about its use after the year 2000, the facility was largely devoid of life for several years after the year 2000 (apart from a few major events) but the site, which was eventually sold to consortium Meridian Delta Ltd which turned to then consortium member the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) to oversee the transformation of the facility into a sports and entertainment complex.

The building, rebranded O2 following a deal with the telco company of the same name, reopened in 2007 (the first band to play there in a public show was Bon Jovi and more than 600 bands had played there as of last year) and has since been used for a range of events including music concerts and sports, the latter including some of the indoor sports played at the 2012 Olympic Games including gymnastics and basketball.

As well as a more than 20,000 seat sports arena, the O2 now features music venues, a cinema, bars, restaurants and shops as well as an exhibition space. There’s also a 90 minute climb over the top of the Dome for the adventurous.

More than 60 million people visited the O2 since it opened in 2007.

WHERE: O2, Greenwich Peninsula (nearest Tube station is North Greenwich); WHEN: 9am to 1am daily; COST: Various; WEBSITE: www.theo2.co.uk

Recapping our recent Wednesday series. We kick off a new series next week…

10 subterranean sites in London – 1. The Greenwich Foot Tunnel…

10 subterranean sites in London – 2. The London Silver Vaults…

10 subterranean sites in London – 3. The Banqueting House undercroft…

10 subterranean sites in London – 4. St Paul’s Cathedral Crypt…

10 subterranean sites in London – 5. Whitefriars Priory crypt…

10 subterranean sites in London – 6. Guildhall crypts…

10 subterranean sites in London – 7. Alexander Pope’s Grotto…

10 subterranean sites in London – 8. Priory of St John of Jerusalem church crypt…

10 subterranean sites in London – 9. The Mail Rail…

10 subterranean sites in London – 10. Chislehurst Caves…

It was 90 years ago this month – 6th and 7th January, 1928 – that the River Thames flooded disastrously in what was the last major flood in central London.

Fourteen people are reported to have died and some 4,000 made homeless when the river burst its banks and spilled over the top of the Thames Embankment. Part of the Chelsea Embankment collapsed.

The flood – which was blamed on a range of factors including a sudden thaw upstream, heavy rain, a tidal surge and the impact of dredging – peaked at about 1.30am on 7th January at a height of 18 foot, three inches (5.56 metres) above ordnance datum.

The city saw extensive flooding on the City of London itself as well as in Southwark and as far upriver as Putney and Hammersmith and downriver in Greenwich and Woolwich as well as beyond.

Most of the deaths occurred when the embankment gave way near Lambeth Bridge and a wall of water swept through the slums on the Westminster side of the bridge with 10 people losing their lives.

Among the buildings flooded were the Tate Gallery at Millbank – where many works including some by JMW Turner were damaged, parts of the Houses of Parliament including Westminster Hall and the House of Commons, numerous Underground stations and Blackwall and Rotherhithe tunnels. The moat of the Tower of London, dry for 80 years, was filled.

While the flood waters receded by the end of the day, the damage took years to repair with many buildings in Millbank, the worst affected area, demolished. Embankments were raised in the wake of the flooding but it wasn’t until after the North Sea flood of 1953 that authorities took action to build the Thames Barrier (it was eventually completed in 1982).

Above – A marker recording the height of the flood outside Trinity Hospital in Greenwich (the plaque below right records the details).




An institution linking the Isle of Dogs to Greenwich underneath the Thames for more than a century, the Greenwich Foot Tunnel was built to provide an alternative to a sometimes unreliable ferry service – thanks to weather – and was principally aimed at workers making their way from their homes in London’s south to docks and shipyards.

It was one of two tunnel crossings – the other being at Woolwich – which were lobbied for by Will Crooks, chair of the LCC’s bridges committee and later MP for Woolwich.

Designed by engineer Sir Alexander Binnie for the London County Council, the project – which reportedly cost some £127,000 – commenced in June, 1899, with the tunnel completed and opened, with very little fanfare (there was apparently no opening ceremony) on 4th August, 1902.

The design features a glass-topped dome at either end with steps spiralling downward (reported as 87 steps to the north and 100 to the south). Lifts were installed in 1904 and then upgraded in the 1990s and more recently in 2012. The tunnel itself. which is positioned at a depth of about 50 feet, is made of cast-iron and lined with 200,000 glazed white tiles. It measures 1,215 feet long with an internal diameter of nine feet.

The northern end of the tunnel was damaged by bombs during World War II and repairs include  a thick steel and concrete lining that substantially reduce the interior size of the tunnel for a short distance.

The tunnel, which has its own friends group, is classed as a public highway and so as a matter of law is kept open 24 hours a day. Its depth means it remains a cool place even on a hot day.

WHERE: Greenwich Foot Tunnel (nearest DLR (northern end) is Island Gardens and (southern end) is Cutty Sark; WHEN: Always; COST: free; WEBSITE: www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/info/200102/walking/693/foot_tunnels.

PICTURES: Top – James Stringer under licence CC BY-NC 2.0; and below – Neil Turner under licence CC BY-SA 2.0


The remains of two rooms, which once formed part of the splendid Greenwich Palace – birthplace of King Henry VIII and his daughters Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I, were discovered during works being undertaken ahead of the construction of a new visitor centre under the Old Royal Naval College’s famed Painted Hall, it was revealed last week.

The rooms, set well back from the river Thames, are believed to have formed part of the service range, believed to be the location of kitchens, a bakehouse, brewhouse and laundry.

As well as the discovery of a lead-glazed tiled floor, one of the rooms, which was clearly subterranean, featured a series of unusual niches where archaeologists believe may have been ‘bee boles’ – where ‘skeps’  (hive baskets) were stored during winter when the bee colonies were hibernating and where, when the bees were outside during summer, food and drink may have been stored to keep cool.

Discussions are reportedly now underway over the possibility of displaying the Tudor finds in situ. Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, hailed the find as “remarkable”.

“To find a trace of Greenwich Palace, arguably the most important of all the Tudor palaces, is hugely exciting,” he said. “The unusual and enigmatic nature of the structure has given us something to scratch our heads over and research, but it does seem to shine a light on a very poorly known function of the gardens and the royal bees. The most exciting aspect is that the Old Royal Naval College is able and willing to incorporate this into the new visitor centre, so everyone can see a small part of the palace, for the first time in hundreds of years.”

Greenwich Palace was built by King Henry V’s brother, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, in 1426 and rebuilt by King Henry VII between about 1500 and 1506.

Substantially demolished at the end of the 17th century (and with plans to build a new Stuart palace on the site never realised), it was replaced with the Greenwich Hospital which became the Royal Naval College designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor between 1692 and 1728.

The Painted Hall, located in the Old Royal Naval College, is currently undergoing an 18 month transformation which includes the creation of a new visitor centre, Sackler Gallery and café. Visitors to the hall currently have the unique opportunity to get up close to the famous ceiling of the hall, described as the “Sistine Chapel of the UK”, on special tours. Visit www.ornc.org/painted-hall-ceiling-tours-tickets for more.

PICTURES: © Old Royal Naval College

The 25.2 metre long skeleton of a blue whale named Hope along with that of an American mastodon, a meteorite which is one of the oldest specimens in Earth, a taxidermal display of a giraffe and giant coral are among items on display in the Natural History Museum’s newly transformed Hintze Hall from tomorrow. Selected from the museum’s more than 80 million specimens, the sometimes historic items are at the heart of 10 new displays which go on show in the ground floor alcoves known as ‘wonder bays’ as part of what is being described as a “once-in-a-generation” transformation of the 136-year-old museum. The 10 ‘wonder bays’ include five on the eastern side of the building focused on the origins and evolution of life on earth while those on the western side show the diversity of life on earth today. Elsewhere in the museum, hundreds of new specimens have been introduced including those in two new displays on the first floor balconies: the ‘Rocks and Minerals Balcony’ on the east side which features almost 300 rocks, ores and minerals and the ‘Birds Balcony’ on the west side which features more than 70 birds from as far afield as New Zealand and the Falkland Islands. To coincide with the new displays is the launch of a new summer exhibition – Whales – which features more than 100 specimens showing the diversity of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Featuring species ranging from the double-decker bus sized sperm whale – the largest toothed predator on Earth – to the 1.5 metre long harbour porpoise – one of the smallest cetaceans, the exhibition’s highlights include skulls revealing how whales sense and their eating habits, organs showing how they breathe and digest food and flippers which reveal swimming styles. For more on the exhibition and the transformation of the South Kensington museum, see www.nhm.ac.uk. PICTURE: Blue whale in Hintze Hall © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London.

The mysterious fate of Sir John Franklin and his 128 man crew – last seen in Baffin Bay in July, 1845, as they sailed in search of the North-West Passage – is the subject of a new landmark exhibition opening at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich tomorrow. Death In The Ice: The Shocking Story of Franklin’s Final Expedition tells the story of the disappearance of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror and the largely unsuccessful expeditions which were launched in the following 30 years to find them as well as the more recent work of forensic anthropologist, Dr Owen Beattie, and the 1845–48 Franklin Expedition Forensic Anthropology Project (FEFAP), and the eventual discovery of the remains of the HMS Erebus in 2014 and the HMS Terror in 2016. At the heart of the exhibition are objects found by Parks Canada’s archaeological teams including personal items, clothing and ship components with those from the Erebus, including the ship’s bell, being shown for the very first time since their discovery and some items found in earlier searches. Along with an examination of the Victorians fascination with the fate of the men, the exhibition will also show the significant role the Inuit played in learning their fate as well as in relation to recording the European exploration of the Arctic more generally and includes numerous Inuit objects, some of which incorporate materials of European origins traded from explorers or retrieved from abandoned ships. Developed by the Canadian Museum of History in partnership with Parks Canada and the National Maritime Museum and in collaboration with the Government of Nunavut and the Inuit Heritage Trust, the exhibition runs until 7th January. Admission charge applies. For more see www.rmg.co.uk/franklin.

Fifty drawings from Britain’s finest collections by artists including Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Durer, Peter Paul Rubens and Rembrandt van Rijn and eight portraits by Hans Holbein the Younger from the Royal Collection have gone on show at the National Portrait Gallery. The Encounter: Drawings from Leonardo to Rembrandt includes many rarely seen works with all those on show chosen because they captured an apparent moment of connection between the artist and a sitter. While some of those pictured in the portraits can be identified – such as the emperor’s chaplain or the king’s clerk, many are simply faces seen in the street, such as those of a nurse or a shoemaker or an artist’s friend or student. The display also includes the types of tools and media used to create the artworks and shows how the artists moved away from using medieval pattern books to studying figures and faces from life. Runs until 22nd October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk/encounter.

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We have finished our series on 10 of the most memorable (and historic) views of London. And while there’s plenty of views we didn’t mention (we’ll be featuring more in an upcoming series at some point), we think we have captured 10 worth seeing. So, in case you missed any, here they are again…

1. View from St Paul’s Cathedral’s dome…

2. The city skyline from Primrose Hill…

3. View from General Wolfe, Greenwich…

4. View from King Henry’s Mound, Richmond Park…

5. View from the top of The Monument…

6. View from Parliament Hill…

7. View of the Houses of Parliament from across the Thames…

8. View from Point Hill, Greenwich…

9. High level views from Tower Bridge…

10. View of Maritime Greenwich…

We’ll kick off our new special Wednesday series next week…

For the final in our series of memorable (and historic) views of London, we’re returning to Greenwich, except this time we’re looking across the River Thames from the southern end of the Isle of Dogs at some of the historic buildings of maritime Greenwich.

The splendid view from Island Gardens on the north bank of the Thames today reveals Sir Christopher Wren’s Old Royal Naval College, the Queen’s House and beyond that the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park. But it wasn’t always so.

Prior to its demolition by King Charles II in 1660, this was the site of a royal palace known Greenwich Palace or the Palace of Placentia which had occupied the site since the mid-15th century (and was rebuilt by King Henry VII in the late 15th/early 16th centuries).

Charles decided to demolish it to build a new palace on the site but only a section of it was ever completed and it was never used as a royal palace. In the late 17th century, Greenwich Hospital – incorporating what was built of Charles’ palace – was constructed on the site as a home for retired sailors from the Royal Navy. From 1869, it was used as the Royal Naval College and now houses a range of organisations (see our previous post here for more).

The Queen’s House, which lies at the centre of the view, was designed by Inigo Jones and started on the orders of Anne of Denmark, wife of King James I. But it remained unfinished when Queen Anne died in 1614 and it was Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I, who completed it. The house these days serves as a gallery (for more, see our earlier post here).

Behind the Queen’s House can be seen the Royal Observatory, home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian (see our previous post here) – as well as, of course, the (previously aforementioned) statue of General Wolfe. Also in the modern view from Island Gardens is the Cutty Sark and the National Maritime Museum.

It’s believed that the view from where Island Gardens now stands is that replicated in Canaletto’s painting, Greenwich Hospital from the North Bank of the Thames (although, oddly, whether Canaletto ever actually visited the site is apparently a matter of some dispute).

Greenwich Park and the buildings on the other side of the river can be accessed from the park Island Gardens by the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

WHERE: Island Gardens on the north bank of the River Thames (nearest DLR is Island Gardens); WHEN: Anytime; COST: Free; WEBSITE: (For Greenwich Park across the river – www.royalparks.gov.uk/Greenwich-Park.aspx).

PICTURE:Top –  Paul Hudson/Flickr/CC BY 2.0; Below – David Adams

Another of London’s protected views, though perhaps lesser known, is the panoramic vista from the top of Point Hill in Blackheath towards the City.

The view from a small park known as The Point (reached via Point Hill, just to the west of Blackheath) takes in modern City skyscrapers as well as Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral and even the dome of the Old Bailey.

While there is a danger the growth of plants along the brow of the hill can partially block the view (which stretches as far as Essex), it remains a splendid site from which to view the city and no doubt was a vantage point for those, such as the leaders of the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, who historically gathered on Blackheath before marching to London.

The park, meanwhile, is host to a memorial stone erected to mark the site where an Australian-born RAF pilot, Flight Lieutenant Richard Carew Reynell, fell to his death on 7th September, 1940, after his Hurricane fighter was shot down over Blackheath on the first day of the Blitz.

PICTURE: © Mike Mojopin/Flickr

irving-street

The rather grim Adolf Verloc, the smut purveyor-come-spy and main protagonist of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent (recently made into a BBC series starring Toby Jones), lives in a residence attached to a small shop in Soho.

sir-henry-irvingThe residence, where he lived with his wife Winnie, her mother and young, mentally affected brother Stevie, and shop, where he sold scandalous publications, photographs and other bric-a-brac, was located at 32 Brett Street in Soho.

Except there is no Brett Street in Soho.

While it has been suggested Conrad may have taken the name Brett Street from Brett Road in Hackney – near where Conrad had lodgings at one stage, it’s also been put forward that Conrad based the streetscape on Irving Street (previously apparently known as Green Street) which runs between Leicester Square and Charing Cross Road (pictured above).

The street itself was named after actor Sir Henry Irving, whose statue stands at the junction with Charing Cross Road (pictured, it’s located at the rear of The National Gallery), and is these days filled with eateries and cheap theatre ticket box offices aimed at tourists.

Conrad’s book, which was set in 1886 but published in 1907, was loosely based around a bombing which took place in Greenwich in 1894.

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A new exhibition celebrating the life of John Lockwood Kipling – described as an “artist, writer, museum director, teacher, 2-_lockwood_kipling_with_his_son_rudyard_kipling_1882__national_trust_charles_thomasconservationist and influential figure in the Arts and Crafts movement” as well as being the father of world famous writer Rudyard Kipling – opens at the V&A in South Kensington on Saturday. The exhibition is the first exploring the life and work of Kipling (1837-1911) who campaigned for the preservation of Indian crafts as well as being a craftsman himself (his terracotta panels can still be seen on the exterior of the V&A) and an illustrator of his son’s books. Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London features paintings of the Indian section of the 1851 Great Exhibition as well as objects which were on display (the exhibition was visited by Kipling while a teenager), Kipling’s sketches of Indian craftspeople observed during his many years living in India as well as objects he selected for the V&A while there, designs and illustrations for books, and furniture he helped his former student architect Bhai Ram Singh design for royal residences Bagshot Park and Osborne. The free exhibition, a collaboration between the V&A and the Bard Graduate Centre in New York, runs until 2nd April (it will be on display at the Bard Graduate Center, New York, from 15th September this year). For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/kipling. PICTURES: Top: The Great Exhibition, India no. 4, by Joseph Nash/Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016 ©; Right: Lockwood Kipling with his son Rudyard Kipling, 1882/© National Trust, Charles Thomas

Anyone named Emma will receive free entry into the National Maritime Museum’s exhibition on Emma Hamilton this weekend in honour of the 202nd anniversary of her death on 15th January, 1815. Emma Hamilton: Seduction and Celebrity shines a light on the remarkable woman who overcame poverty to become one of the most famous international celebrities of her age. The display features more than 200 objects on loan from public and private collections as well as from the museum’s own collection including paintings, personal letters, prints and caricatures, costumes and jewellery. Simply bring proof that your name is Emma – such as a passport, driver’s licence or utility bill – and gain free entry on 14th and 15th January. The exhibition runs until 17th April. Admission charges usually apply. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/emmahamilton.

Members of the public will be granted a close-up look of the ceiling of the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich this April. The hall, described as the “Sistine Chapel of the UK” is undergoing a two year transformation which includes conservation of Sir James Thornhill’s famous painted ceiling. As part of the project, a series of ceiling tours will be launched on 1st April this year with visitors taken up close via a lift where they can see the conservators at work. For more, see www.ornc.org.

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the-queens-houseThe Queen’s House in Greenwich has reopened this week following more than a year long restoration to mark its 400th anniversary. The property was designed by Inigo Jones for King James I’s wife, Queen Anne of Denmark (supposedly it was a gift from the king, given as an apology for swearing in front of her after she accidentally killed one of his dogs while hunting), and, commissioned in 1616 (but not finished until 1636, well after Queen Anne’s death), is regarded as Britain’s first fully classical building. The newly reopened premises houses more than 450 works of art from the National Maritime Museum’s collection and a new gold leaf artwork – inspired by the newly restored Tulip Stairs – on the ceiling of the Great Hall created by Turner Prize-winning artist Richard Wright. Other attractions include Gentileschi’s painting Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, which has returned to the house, where it is on display in the King’s Presence Chamber, for the first time since 1650, and the iconic Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, which is now on permanent display. Entry to the property is free. The property’s reopening is being accompanied by a series of talks. For more, see  www.rmg.co.uk/queens-house.

The first major exhibition to explore the work Italian artist Caravaggio has opened at The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square this week. Beyond Caravaggio features 49 paintings traces the life of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610), from his early years in Rome producing highly original works depicting youths, musicians, cardsharps and fortune-tellers through to his sensational first public commission in 1600 and the many commissioned works which followed, his two trips to the Kingdom of Naples (both times while fleeing the law, the first after committing murder), and how his works inspired – and were reflected in the works of – other painters. Works on show include Caravaggio’s Boy Bitten by a Lizard (1594-95) and The Supper at Emmaus (1601), as well as the recently discovered The Taking of Christ (1602) and Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness (1603-04) along with a host of works from other painters. The exhibition is a collaboration with the National Gallery of Ireland and the Royal Scottish Academy and will head to these institutions after it finishes its run at The National Gallery on 15th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.

egyptian-hallA free exhibition exploring the popular Victorian entertainments which have shaped today’s theatrical traditions opens at the British Library in King’s Cross tomorrow. Victorian Entertainments: There Will Be Fun focuses on five performers who were instrumental entertainers during the 19th century – from mesmerist Annie De Montfort and ‘Royal Conjurer’ Evasion to Dan Leno – the “funniest man on earth”, circus owner ‘Lord’ George Sanger and magician John Nevil Maskelyne of the Egyptian Hall. The display features decorative posters, handbills, musical scores, advertisements and tickets and  includes items drawn from the 6,000 pieces of printed ephemera contained in the library’s Evasion collection as well as original sound recordings, artefacts on loan from The Magic Circle Museum and memorabilia from the Egyptian Hall in London. Five original performance pieces have been commissioned for the exhibition and every Saturday until 17th December, a company of actors and performers will present archive material from the exhibition in a contemporary performance. There’s also an extensive events programme accompanying the exhibition. Runs until 12th March. For more, see www.bl.uk/events/victorian-entertainments-there-will-be-fun. PICTURE: Modern Witchery Maskelyne at the Egyptian Hall; © British Library Board

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commerce-and-sea-power_william-lionel-wyllie

• This year marks the 150th anniversary of the transatlantic cable connecting Europe and America and in celebration of the event, the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Art Gallery is holding an exhibition looking at the impact of cable telegraphy on people’s understanding of time, space and the speed of communication. Victorians Decoded: Art and Telegraphy, a collaboration between the gallery, King’s College London, The Courtauld Institute of Art and the Institute of Making at University College London, features never-before-seen paintings from the gallery’s collection as well as rare artefacts such as code books, communication devices, samples of transatlantic telegraph sales and ‘The Great Grammatizor’, a messaging machine that will enable the public to create a coded message of their own. It took nine years, four attempts and the then largest ship in the world, the Great Eastern, to lay the cable which stretched from Valentia Island in Ireland to Newfoundland in Canada and enabled same-day messaging across the continents for the first time. Displayed over four themed rooms – ‘Distance’, ‘Resistance’, ‘Transmission’ and ‘Coding’, the exhibition features works by artists including Edward John Pointer, Edwin Landseer, James Clarke Hook, William Logsdail, William Lionel Wyllie and James Tissot. The free exhibition, which runs until 22nd January, is accompanied by a series of special curator talks. For more information, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/victoriansdecoded. PICTURE: Commerce and Sea Power, William Lionel Wyllie/Courtesy Guildhall Art Gallery.

• The life of artist Sir James Thornhill – the painter behind the remarkable Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, has opened at The Stephen Lawrence Gallery in Greenwich. A Great and Noble Design: Sir James Thornhill’s Painted Hall explores the story behind the commissioning of the Painted Hall, painted between 1708 and 1727, through a series of preparatory sketches made by the artist, including three newly-conserved original sketches by Thornhill. Also on show will be the results of new research undertaken into the paintings in the light of upcoming conservation work on the hall’s ceiling. The free exhibition runs at the centre at Stockwell Street until 28th October. For more, see www.ornc.org.

The food served at the Foundling Hospital comes under scrutiny in a new show at The Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury. Based on new research, Feeding the 400 looks at the impact food and eating regimes had on children at the hospital between 1740 and 1950 through an examination of art, photographs, objects including tableware and the voices of former student captured in the museum’s extensive sound archive. Guest curated by Jane Levi, the exhibition also includes a newly commissioned sound work which evokes the experience of communal eating. A programme of events accompanies the exhibition which runs until the 8th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.

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Greenwich-Park-in-summerThe remains of the 17th century Old Keeper’s Cottage in Greenwich Park are being brought to light in an archaeological dig underway in the park this week. The lodge stood close to Queen Elizabeth’s Oak near the centre of the park and was demolished in 1853. This year’s dig is the final of a three year project to unearth the lodge’s remains, sparked after tiles were discovered near the site of the cottage in 2010. Finds so far include a second century Roman brooch, post-medieval pottery and a Victorian watch-winder. The digs have also revealed remains associated with the lodge including two buildings and part of the boundary of the complex. Toni Assirati, head of education and community engagement at Royal Parks, says while much is already known about the history of Greenwich Park – which dates back to 1427 – much remains to be yet discovered about its social history. “This project will hopefully help us find out more about the lives of the people who worked and lived in the park.” Members of the public are invited to attend from 3pm to 6pm on 13th July to hear more about the project from the archaeologists involved as well as see some of the unearthed artefacts. For more about Greenwich Park, see our earlier post here or head to www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/greenwich-park. PICTURE: Greenwich Park, looking toward Observatory Hill (the site of the dig is to the left of the hill). © Anne Marie Briscombe/Royal Parks.

Spread-your-wings• A “ground-breaking” hands-on exhibition exploring the concept and future of flight and space travel opens at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich this week. Above and Beyond, produced by Evergreen Exhibitions in association with Boeing (and created in collaboration with NASA), features more than 10 interactive displays, allowing visitors to learn to fly like a bird, take an elevator to space, enjoy a view of Earth from above or go on a marathon mission to Mars and see how your body would cope. Runs until 29th August. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/see-do/exhibitions-events/above-and-beyond-exhibition.

Horrible Histories is bringing the world of the ‘Terrible Tudors’ to life at Hampton Court Palace this half-term break. The Birmingham Stage Company is offering the chance for visitors to dip into 100 years of Tudor history, spanning the reigns of the “horrible” Henries to that of the crowning of King James I in 1603. Get behind the dry facts and discover what the role of the Groom of the Stool was, which queen lost her wig as she was executed and decide whether to join in punishing the ‘whipping boy’ or the monarch and which side you’ll be on as the Spanish Armada set sail. The hour long performances will take place on the palace’s historic East Front Gardens (unreserved seating on the grass). Admission charge applies. Runs from today until 2nd June. For more see, www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/.

The Royal Parks is hosting its first ever BioBlitz at Brompton Cemetery this Bank Holiday weekend. For 24 for hours from 5pm on Friday, people are invited to join in the hunt to track down as many species of plants, animals and fungi as possible with events including tree and nature walks, earthworm hunts, bee and wasp counts and lichen recording. There will also be a range of stalls for people to visit with representatives from a range of nature and wildlife organisations present. The BioBlitz is one of several projects linked to the £6.2 million National Lottery-funded facelift of the cemetery. For more, head to www.royalparks.org.uk/events/whats-on/bioblitz.

Sleep with the lions at ZSL London Zoo next to Regent’s Park from this week. The zoo new overnight experience at the Gir Lion Lodge, in which guests can stay in one of nine cabins at the heart of the new Land of the Lions exhibit, opened on Wednesday. Guests will also be taken on exclusive evening and morning tours in which they’ll find out more about how ZSL is working with local communities and rangers in India’s Gir Forest to protect these endangered cats. The private lodges will be available six nights a week until December with designated adults-only and family nights available. For more, see www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo/gir-lion-lodge. 

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Cutty-Sark-pubAnother Greenwich pub whose name references an aspect of maritime history (see our previous posts on the The Gipsy Moth and the Trafalgar Tavern), this riverside establishment takes its name from a former tea clipper (which, not coincidentally, is on display nearby).

The clipper Cutty Sark was constructed in Dumbarton in 1869 to facilitate the transport of tea from China to Britain in as short a time span as possible. It made its maiden voyage the following year and but only ended up working the tea route for a few years before being used to bring wool from Australia.

Later sold to a Portuguese company, the vessel continued to be used as a cargo ship until she was sold in 1922 and used as training ship, first in Cornwall, and later at Greenhithe in Kent.

In 1954, the vessel found a new permanent dry dock at Greenwich and was put on public display. Damaged by fire in 2007, the ship underwent extensive restoration and is now displayed in a state-of-the-art purpose-built facility which allows you to walk underneath the vessel.

The three level Cutty Sark pub, located at 4-6 Ballast Quay (formerly known as Union Wharf), features a Georgian-style bow windows on the first and second floors (the first floor is home to the Willis Dining Room which has great views of the Thames).

The present Grade II-listed building apparently dates from the early 19th century (although the sign out the front suggests 1795 and it’s been suggested the building was substantially altered in the mid-19th century) but there is evidence of a public house on the location by the early 18th century.

Known at one stage at the Green Man, in 1810 it became the Union Tavern – a reference, apparently, to the union of England and Ireland which took effect in 1801. It took its current name after the Cutty Sark arrived in Greenwich in the 1950s.

For more on the pub, see www.cuttysarkse10.co.uk. For more on the ship, see www.rmg.co.uk/cutty-sark.

Old-Royal-Naval-College

When the makers of the 2010 Jack Black movie Gulliver’s Travels were looking for suitably grand buildings to represent the Lilliputian capital, they turned to the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.

Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the World Heritage-listed site made a grand backdrop for the film in which a supersized Black plays Gulliver, the hero of Jonathan Swift’s book (incidentally Blenheim Palace near Oxford also makes an appearance in the film).

It’s not the first time, of course, that the location has featured in recent films – in fact, such has been its popularity that Empire asked last year whether it was the most popular film location in the world.

Other films in which the Old Royal Naval College appears have included The Dark Knight Rises (where it features in the epilogue), Les Miserables (where the buildings represent a part of a Paris featuring a gigantic wooden elephant which is home to the street urchin Gavroche), and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (where the spectacular Painted Hall, designed by Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor, represents the King’s palace).

It has also appeared in both of the recent Sherlock Holmes films as well as a host of others – everything from The Mummy Returns to The Madness of King George and Charlotte Gray.

For more on the history of the Old Royal Naval College, check out our previous post here and here.

Samuel-PepysThe largest exhibition ever mounted about the life of 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys opens at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich tomorrow. Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution features more than 200 paintings and objects brought together from museums, galleries and private collections which explore the life of the famous diarist (depicted here in a bust outside the Guildhall Art Gallery) against the backdrop of the tumultuous events of Stuart London, from the execution London of King Charles I in 1649 through the Great Fire of London and the Glorious Revolution on 1688. Objects on show include the famous painting, Portrait of Charles II in Coronation Robes, objects connected to Pepys’ mistresses including one of his love letters to Louise de Kéroualle (aka ‘Fubbs’ or ‘chubby’) and other personal items such as a lute owned by Pepys. The exhibition is accompanied by a series of events including Pepys Show Late: Party like it’s 1669 (26th November) and a series of walks and talks. Admission charge applies. The exhibition runs until 28th March. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/national-maritime-museum.

Cycles are in the spotlight at the Design Museum in Shad Thames with a new exhibition, Cycle Revolution, opening yesterday. The display, which focuses on the world of contemporary cycling, features dozens of bicycles from key manufacturers as well as high end accessories, items belonging to celebrated cyclists Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Paul Smith and specially commissioned films and photography. It looks at cycling subcultures – everyone from the “high performers” to the “cargo bikers”, examines manufacturing techniques and innovations in the use of materials and design with exhibits including a large scale recreation of a bespoke bicycle making workshop, and tackles questions about the future of cycling particularly in relation to the urban environment. The exhibition is being accompanied by a ‘cycle cafe’, large scale installations and a series of public events. Runs until 30th June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.designmuseum.com.

The jewellery traditions of the Indian sub-continent are set to sparkle at a new exhibition opening at the V&A in South Kensington this Saturday. Part of the V&A India Festival, Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection features 100 items, drawn from a single private collection, including a Golconda diamond given to Queen Charlotte by the Nawab of Arcot in South India in 1767, a jade-hilted dagger that belonged to the 17th century emperor Shah Jahan (builder of the Taj Mahal), and a jewelled gold tiger’s head from the throne of the Tipu Sultan of Mysore. As well as showcasing the types of jewels collected by the Mughal emperors, the exhibition reveals the influence of India on European jewellery houses in the early 20th century and the ongoing impact of Indian influences on more modern pieces. The exhibition runs until 28th March. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/BejewelledTreasures.

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