Kew Gardens was last month recognised as holding the world’s “largest collection of living plants at a single-site botanic garden” by Guinness World Records. The 320 acre site in west London, which is home to 16,900 species of plants from all over the world, is actually no stranger to Guinness World Records. Its plants include the world’s largest waterlily species – Victoria amazonica (found in the Princess of Wales Conservatory), the world’s smallest water lily species – Nymphaea thermarum (also found in the conservatory) and the plant with the world’s tallest bloom – the titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) which also holds the record as the world’s smelliest plant. In 2020, Kew was also home to the world’s longest Nepenthes plant trap which measured 43 centimetres from the base to the lid. For more on Kew, head to www.kew.org.
The oldest continuously operating film studio in London also happens to be the oldest in the world, according to Guinness World Records.
Ealing Studios in West London has been operating at the same site – the White Lodge on Ealing Green – since 1902.
Originally founded by silent film pioneer Will Barker (and so originally known as the Will Barker Studios), the studios were further developed by Associated Talking Pictures who opened the sound stages in 1931.
In 1938, film producer Michael Balcon took over and it was he who named them Ealing Studios. Later owners included the BBC and then in 2000 the studios were bought by a consortium including independent production company Fragile Films and the Manhattan Loft Corporation.
Among the famous films made there was one of first screen versions of Hamlet in 1910, as well as classics such as The LadyKillers, The Lavender Hill Mob, and Passport to Pimlico. More recent films and TV shows have included the St Trinian’s franchise, The Importance of Being Earnest (2002), Shaun of the Dead (2005), and The Theory of Everything (2014), as well as recent TV series The Durrells and Downton Abbey.
The White Lodge bears an English Heritage Blue Plaque commemorating Sir Michael Balcon’s time working here between 1938 and 1956.
• The British Library has paid £9 million for a 7th century text, the St Cuthbert Gospel, which is also the oldest intact European book. The acquisition follows the library’s most successful fund-raising effort ever – it included a £4.5 million grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. The book – a Gospel of John bound in beautifully tooled red leather – was produced in north-east England in the late 7th century and was placed in the saint’s coffin after his death on the Isle of Lindisfarne in 698. It was retrieved when the coffin was opened at Durham Cathedral in 1104. The Gospel is on display in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery at the library in St Pancras and following a conservation review, it is anticipated it will soon be displayed with the pages open for the first time. There will be a public event celebrating the acquisition on 15th May. For more, see www.bl.uk/whatson/events/may12/index.html.
• London this week marked 100 days until the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games. This included unveiling the latest installation of the Olympic rings – made of 20,000 plants the 50 metre long rings are located in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in the city’s west and can be seen from planes on the Heathrow flight path. The organising committee also announced the Red Arrows aerobatic display team will perform a nine-ship flypast in ‘big battle’ formation on the day of the Opening Ceremony (27th July) and stated that the games motto will be ‘Inspire a Generation’. For more, see www.london2012.com.
• The Museum of London’s archaeological archive – known as the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC) – is officially the largest in the world according to Guinness World Records. The archive contains more than five million artefacts and the records of almost 8,500 excavations dating back to 1830. Items in the archive include shoes dating back to Roman times, a 200-year-old set of false teeth, ‘witching bottles’ including one with human hair and toenails, and coffin plates from London’s cemeteries. The world record has been recorded as part of World Record London, a series of world record breaking events being held in the run-up to the Olympics. Others have included the Faberge Big Egg Hunt.
• Thousands of people are expected to take part in the Virgin London Marathon this Sunday. The 26.2 mile route starts in Blackheath, passes through Woolwich and Greenwich and crosses the Thames at Tower Bridge before looping around the east end of London, through Canary Wharf, and the west along The Highway (formerly known as The Ratcliffe Highway) and Embankment to Parliament Square, Birdcage Walk and finally to Buckingham Palace. The first London marathon was run in 1981. For more, see www.virginlondonmarathon.com.
• On Now: Turner Inspired – In the Light of Claude. The first major presentation of 17th century artist Claude Gellée’s influence on the English romantic artist J M W Turner, the exhibition focuses on Claude-inspired themes which run through Turner’s work including “the evocation of light and air in landscape, the effect of light upon water and his often radical reworking of contemporary scenes”. The display includes works from large scale oils on canvas through to leaves from Turner’s pocket sketchbooks. Interestingly, the exhibition also explores the story behind the so-called Turner Bequest – that on his death, Turner linked himself to Claude forever by leaving the National Gallery two pictures – Dido building Carthage (1815) and Sun rising through Vapour: Fishermen cleaning and selling Fish (before 1807) – on condition that they were hung between two pictures by Claude, Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba (1648) and Landscape with the Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca (1648). Runs until 5th June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.
Launched this week, the hunt aims to raise £2 million for children’s charity Action for Children and the Asian elephant conservation charity Elephant Family as well as to set a couple of new Guinness World Records, including one for the most participants in an Easter egg hunt.
Each of the eggs have been specially designed by leading artists, architects, jewellers and designers including Mulberry, Sir Ridley Scott, Bruce Oldfield, Zaha Hadid, and Zandra Rhodes.
Those participating in the hunt have the chance to win the £100,000 Diamond Jubilee Egg which has been crafted from 500 grams of rose gold and features 60 gemstones – one for each year of the Queen’s reign.
Simply locate the unique SMS keyword located on each egg and text it to 80001 to enter (you’ll be entered in the prize draw each time you SMS through a different egg keywords – it costs £3 to enter the hunt plus 25p for each egg collected plus usual phone costs).
There will also be the chance to bid online and at auction for the hand-crafted eggs along with an exclusively designed, stunning 127ct emerald, a gold egg pendant ‘Le Collier Plume d’Or’ created by Fabergé, and a chocolate egg designed by William Curley.
It is hoped the auction of the latter will set another new Guinness World Record, this time for the world’s most expensive non-jewelled chocolate egg sold at auction – both world record attempts are part of World Record London, which involves attempting more than 20 Guinness World Records.
Members of the public are also invited to take part in The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt Photo Competition, held in conjunction with the World Photography Organisation, with the best photographs to go on display at Somerset House within the prestigious Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition from the 27th April to 20th May.
For more information, see www.thebigegghunt.co.uk. PICTURE: Charlie Clift.