• The V&A is celebrating 150 years since the opening of the Bethnal Green Museum (now known as the Young V&A) with the launch of a year long celebration on Friday. The museum, which opened in 1872 as the first ever museum in east London, is currently undergoing a major redevelopment and is scheduled to reopen in summer, 2023, as a new national museum dedicated to children to the age of 14. To mark the 150th – and a year until Young V&A’s opening – the museum has launched a year-long ‘Reinvent Festival’ with the first event – an online summit called Sparking Creative Futures headlined by children’s author, Ed Vere, and live-illustrated by Beano’s youngest ever artist, Zoom Rockman – on Friday. On Sunday, Young V&A will celebrate its birthday with families at Rich Mix’s ‘Everyone a Maker’ event with free, fun activities. Further events will be held over the year including pop ups at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s Great Get Together on 23rd July featuring large-scale, creative construction and making sessions for children and families using playful building materials by Hackney-based architect Emilie Quene. For more (including the full programme of events), see www.vam.ac.uk/blog/museum-life/reinvent-festival-young-va-summer-family-events.
• Europe’s biggest free musical theatre festival – West End LIVE – will transform Trafalgar Square into an open-air theatre this weekend. A joint production by Westminster City Council and the Society of London Theatre, the event will feature hundreds of performers, creatives and production staff, showcasing the best the West End has to offer. No tickets are required for the free event. For more, head to www.westendlive.co.uk.
• An English Heritage Blue Plaque has been unveiled on a house in Hackney, commemorating the hundreds of stranded and sometimes abandoned South and East Asian nannies, known as ayahs, who sheltered there in the early 20th century. The Ayah’s Home at 26 King Edward’s Road housed around 100 women a year between 1900 and 1921 after which the home moved to another address nearby. The ayahs were women who served the British in India and other colonies as children’s nannies, nursemaids and ladies’ maids and who were sometimes required to care for babies, children and their sea-sick mothers on the long sea voyage from the colonies to England but who were generally not expected to serve the families once they arrived, instead either contracted to wait until needed for the return journey or take a passage home. The Hackney shelter, which also welcomed ‘amahs’ – nursemaids of East Asian origin, appears to have been the only one of its kind in Britain for almost the whole of its existence. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.
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Famed as the founder of homes for disadvantaged children, Dr Thomas Barnardo’s impact is still making a difference to the lives of children today.
Barnardo was born in Dublin, Ireland, on 4th July, 1845, the son of a furrier, John Michealis Barnardo, who had emigrated from Hamburg, and his second wife Abigail, an Englishwoman who was a member of the Plymouth Brethren.
Largely brought up by a half-sister due to his mother’s ill-health, he was educated in Dublin before, at the age of 14, becoming apprenticed to a wine merchant.
Barnardo had a life-changing experience of faith in 1862, was baptised and eventually, working with a local mission, started preaching and visiting people.
Inspired by Hudson Taylor’s reports of the work of the China Inland Mission, Barnardo – against his father’s wishes – left for London in 1866 with the intention of joining the mission’s work.
In London, while he waited for the mission’s leaders to consider his candidacy, Barnardo enrolled to study at the London Hospital (studies he would never complete, despite taking the title of ‘Dr’).
But faced with the poverty he encountered on arriving in London – poverty which had been exacerbated by a recent cholera outbreak in the East End in which 3,000 had died, he put aside his intentions and instead, in 1867, founded a “ragged school” in two cottages in Hope Place Stepney – the East End Juvenile Mission.
After one of the school’s pupils – Jim Jarvis – showed him some of the ‘lays’ where some of the children were passing their nights, he set about fundraising (donors include Lord Shaftesbury) and in 1870, opened a home for boys.
Two years later, in 1672, Barnardo, who was an adovcate for the temperance movement, bought a notorious pub – the Edinburgh Castle in Limehouse – and transformed it into the British Working Men’s Coffee Palace. He would later open another coffee house in Mile End Road.
Barnardo married Sara Louise Elmslie, known as ‘Syrie’, in June, 1873, who shared her husband’s interests in evangelism and social work.
As a wedding present they were given a 60 acre site in Barkingside and it was on this land that they made a home at Mossford Lodge. It was also on that property where they, after an initial less-than-successful experiment with dormitory-style accommodation, opened a home for girls based on a village model.
This grew over the following years so that by 1900 the “garden village” had 65 cottages, a school, a hospital and a church, and provided a home – and training – to some 1,500 girls.
The family, meanwhile, later left the property for a home in Bow Street, Hackney. In 1879, they moved to The Cedars in Banbury Road, Hackney and later lived in Buckhurst Hill, Essex, and Surbiton.
More homes and schools followed the first – Barnardo had adopted an “ever open door” policy after the death of a boy who had been turned away for lack of room – and by his death in 1905, it was said that his institutions cared for more than 8,500 children in 96 locations across the country.
The “ragged school” in Mile End, now a museum. PICTURE: Google Maps.
Barnardo’s efforts were not without controversy – he introduced a scheme whereby poor children were sent overseas to live, primarily to Canada as well as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – a practice which went on until the 1970s and for which then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a public apology in 2010.
Barnardo and his wife had seven children, of whom only four survived. One of the children – Marjorie – had Down syndrome and it’s said that she strongly influenced his care for disabled children.
Barnardo died of a heart attack at his home – St Leonard’s Lodge in Surbiton – on 19th September, 1905. He was buried on the property at Barkingside which is now where the head office of Barnardo’s, the charity he founded, is located. His tomb features a memorial by Sir George Frampton.
At the time of his death, Barnardos was caring for more than 8,500 children in 96 homes. It’s said that from 1867 until his death, the charity had taken in almost 60,000 children, most them trained and placed out in life.
Interestingly, one of Barnardo’s daughters – Gwendolyn Maud Syrie – first married wealthy businessman Henry Wellcome and, then to the writer Somerset Maugham.
There are two English Heritage Blue Plaques commemorating Barnardo in London – one at a property in Bow Road, Hackney, where the Barnardos lived between 1875 and 1879 and another in Stepney commemorating where he began his work in 1866.
We decided to continue with our Wednesday series. While the properties are all currently closed, we hope you’ll still enjoy exploring them with us online until the day they reopen…
Hackney property Sutton House – originally known simply as ‘the bryk place’ – was built by Ralph Sadleir (or Sadler), a courtier who started out in the service of Thomas Cromwell but rose to become Principal Secretary of State to King Henry VIII. Sadleir, who had married a cousin of Cromwell, had the property constructed in 1535 as his family home.
Sadleir – who makes an appearance in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell novels and who, as well as being of service to King Henry VIII, also served King Edward VI, Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I – sold the property just 15 years later. The red brick house – now said to be the oldest surviving domestic building in Hackney – subsequently passed through numerous hands with its owners apparently including merchants, a sea captain and French Huguenot refugees. In 1751, it was divided into two residences – Ivy House and Milford House.
The property housed a boy’s school in the early 1800s – novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton was among those who attended – and later became a girl’s school. The rector of Hackney bought the premises in 1891 and used it as a base for the St John at Hackney Church Institute, a social and recreational centre for young men. His modifications included turning part of the cellars into a chapel.
Mistakenly named after the founder of the Charterhouse School, Thomas Sutton (he actually lived in a now demolished adjacent property), Sutton House was bought by the National Trust in the 1930s using the proceeds of a bequest made in memory of two men killed in World War I.
Among its various roles, the building served as a centre for fire wardens during World War II and, from the 1960s, serving as the offices of a trade union. After the union left in the 1980s, the house fell into disrepair and in 1982 squatters moved in and it was renamed ‘the Blue House’. Several murals from this period – when rock concerts were held in the barn – are preserved into the house.
The squatters were evicted and in the late Eighties, a society was formed with the aim of saving the house. Following renovations, the house opened to the public in 1994. These days the Grade II*-listed home is used as a museum and art gallery. There’s also a shop and cafe.
While the facade of the house underwent some changes during the Georgian era, the property’s interior remains essentially Tudor. Highlights include the kitchen, oak panelled chambers, carved fireplaces and, of course, the cellars.
The National Trust reclaimed some adjacent land to create an award winning garden known as the Breaker’s Yard. The name comes from the fact the land was once occupied by a car breaker’s yard.
There’s said to be a couple of ghosts who reside in the house including wailing dogs and a mysterious ‘blue lady’.
The property, which stands in Homerton High Street, is temporarily closed but for more information, check the website at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sutton-house-and-breakers-yard.
• The first major exhibition to explore the history of Egypt after the pharaohs opens at the British Museum today. Egypt: Faith after the pharaohs spans 1,200 years of history – from 30 BC to 1171 AD – with 200 objects showing how Christian, Islamic and Jewish communities reinterpreted the pharaonic past of Egypt and interacted with each other. The exhibition opens with three significant examples of the Hebrew Bible, the Christian New Testament and the Islamic Qur’an – the texts include the New Testament part of the 4th century AD Codex Sinaiticus, the world’s oldest surviving Bible and the earliest complete copy of the New Testament, which is now part of the British Library’s collection. All three are juxtaposed with everyday stamps associated with each of the three religions in an illustration of the relationship between the institutional side of religion and its everyday practice, both key themes of the exhibition. Other exhibits include a pair of 6th-7th century door curtains featuring classical and Christian religious motifs, a 1st-2nd century statue of the Egyptian god Horus in Roman military costume, and a letter from the Roman Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD) concerning the cult of the divine emperor and the status of Jews in Alexandria. Admission charge applies. Runs until 7th February in Room 35. A programme of events accompanies the exhibition. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/egypt. PICTURE: Codex Sinaiticus, open at John 5:6-6:23. Image courtesy of the British Library.
• Still at the British Museum and a free four day festival of art, performance, storytelling and talks kicks off on Friday night to mark the Mexican tradition of the Days of the Dead. The annual celebration, which draws on both native and Catholic beliefs, is held on 1st and 2nd November and sees families gather to remember relatives and friends who have died. The festival, which is being conducted in association with the Mexican Government, includes a Friday evening event, a weekend of family activities featuring storytelling, films, music and dance, and a study day on Monday featuring lectures, gallery talks and activities. The museum will feature elaborate decorations by Mexican artists – including Betsabeé Romero – throughout the festival with a particular focus on the Great Court and Forecourt. Events – which run from 30th October to 2nd November – are free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/dotd.
• Horrible histories indeed! Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace are both hosting ghost tours from this weekend. The tours focus on some of the more grisly aspects of the history of the palaces with tours at Hampton Court featuring a visit to a shallow grave which was only uncovered in 1870 and those at Kensington Palace encountering the gruesome details of King William III’s fatal horse-riding accident and Queen Caroline’s horrific final hours. Admission charges apply. For more details, head to www.hrp.org.uk.
• Animal welfare campaigner Maria Dickin (1870-1951) and art historian EH Gombrich (1909-2001) have been honoured with English Heritage Blue Plaques. The plaque commemorating Dickin – founder of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) and of the PDSA Dickin medal, awarded to animals associated with the armed forces or civil defence who have shown conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty – has been placed on the Hackney house at 41 Cassland Road where she was born and spent the first few years of her life. Meanwhile the plaque to Gombrich was placed on the house at 19 Briardale Gardens in Hampstead where he lived for almost 50 years, from shortly after publication of his seminal work The Story of Art to his death in 2001. For more see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.
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• A former car breaker’s yard in Hackney has reopened as a “pocket park” of “installations and hidden spaces” following an extensive transformation project. Located next to the National Trust’s Tudor manor house, Sutton House, Breaker’s Yard incorporates elements from the site’s history including car tyres, a bus greenhouse, bespoke metal gates made out of more than 1,000 toy cars donated by celebrities, locals and artists, and a multi-storey caravan sculpture, The Grange, created by landscape designer Daniel Lobb who also designed the park in collaboration with arts-based educational charity, The House of Fairy Tales. The flower-filled park also features an ice-cream van, decorated by Rose Blake – daughter of Sir Peter Blake, which will act as a “playful shop”. The park is one of a 100 ‘pocket parks’ created under a $2 programme by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, in this case in collaboration with the National Trust and a host of volunteers. Entry to the park is free but admission charge applies to the house. For more on the park and Sutton House, see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sutton-house/.
• A photographic exhibition, Exploring London’s First World War Memorials, is running at City Hall near Tower Bridge in Southwark. Organised by the Mayor of London with aid from the War Memorials Trust, English Heritage and others, the exhibition is centred on new images of war memorials by London-based photographer James O Jenkins. As well as more traditional monuments, the memorials take the form of everything from fountains to paintings, buildings and landscape features. Entry is free. Runs until 12th September. For more, see www.london.gov.uk/events. Meanwhile, the Guildhall Library is showcasing images taken by photographer Simon Gregor for the Remembrance Image Project. Runs until 12th November and is part of a series of World War I commemorative events the library is running. Others include an installation by artist Rebecca Louise Law called Poppy made up of 8,000 paper poppies from the Royal British Legion. For more on World War I commemorative events at the Guildhall LIbrary follow this link.
• Open House London’s programme is available for download from tomorrow (Friday, 15th August). The event, which will be held over the weekend of 20th and 21st September, will this year be conducted under the theme of ‘revealing’ and will feature more than 800 buildings, from Open House “favourites” like The Gherkin (aka 30 St Mary Axe) and the Foreign and India Office through to lesser known properties like Wandsworth’s Quaker Meeting House or the Butcher’s Hall in the City (some of which have to be booked before the weekend). There will also be a free programme of neighbourhood walks, engineering and landscape tours, cycle rides and talks by experts. To see the programme, head to www.openhouselondon.org.uk.
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• London Open Garden Squares Weekend will see more than 200 “hidden and little known” gardens swing their gates open to the public this Saturday and Sunday. Featuring 20 more gardens than last year’s event, the gardens range from classic London square parks to rooftop gardens, community allotments and ecology centres as well as gardens attached to restaurants and historic properties. They include Highbury Square – former home of the Arsenal Football Club, Barnsbury Wood – London’s smallest nature reserve, the Cordwainers community garden in Hackney, Garden Barge Square which will see a floating garden created on the decks of barges, the garden at the PM’s home of number 10 Downing Street, and The Roof Gardens, located above the former Derry & Toms department store in Kensington. One £12 ticket gains access to all gardens (excepting those with special conditions) while National Trust members are half-price and children under 12 go free. For more and a full programme of open gardens, head to www.opensquares.org.
• Comics created during World War I are the focus of a new exhibition which opened at the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury this week. Never Again! World War I in Cartoon and Comic Art features works by British cartoonists Alfred Leete, Bruce Bairnsfather, William Heath Robinson and Donald McGill and includes more than 300 images ranging from political and joke cartoons taken from newspapers and periodicals and children’s comics to comic cigarette cards and publications produced in the trenches by serving soldiers. There are also some more recent works such as the 1980s comic strip Charley’s War and drawings from the Horrible Histories series. The exhibition runs until 19th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org.
• Explore the world of garbage in this new exhibition opening at the Science Museum in South Kensington on Monday. The Rubbish Collection aims to use 30 days worth of the Science Museum’s waste to “expose the beauty, value and volume of what we call ‘rubbish'”. Visitors are able to take part by collecting, sorting and documenting the rubbish generated by the museum which will then be photographed by artist Joshua Sofaer before going on to be processed for recycling or to generate electricity. During a second phase of the exhibition, Sofaer will bring the rubbish back into the museum at different stages of processing. The exhibition is part of the museum’s Climate Changing programme. Runs until 14th September. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk.
Can you identify where in London this picture was taken? If you think you can, leave a comment below. We’ll reveal the answer early next week. Good luck!
If you’ve been living in suspense for the past couple of weeks, then you need wait no longer. This coffin-shaped object is actually an interactive musical artwork commemorating clown Joseph Grimaldi (1776-1837), credited as the father of modern clowning, and the man remembered in the annual clown service held at Holy Trinity Church in Hackney each February. The artwork (and another next to it dedicated to theatre proprietor Charles Dibdin the Younger) was created by Henry Krokatsis and is located in Joseph Grimaldi Park on Pentonville Road in Clerkenwell – the site of the churchyard of the former Pentonville Chapel. The memorial is actually located on the site of Grimaldi’s grave (the gravestone has been moved and now stands nearby) and is tuned so that his popular song Hot Codlins can be played by standing on it.
• Royal Parks are celebrating the 160th anniversary of the opening of London’s Royal Parks to the public with a season of events including Trooping the Color (St James’s Park, this weekend), BBC Proms in the Park (Hyde Park) and various sporting events being held in the lead-up to the London Olympics next year. Last month also saw the unveiled of a new permanent art project in Hyde Park commemorating the Great Exhibition of 1851. Organised by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 in conjunction with Royal Parks, it marks the site where the exhibition was held. London’s Royal Parks were opened to the public in 1851 after the passing of the Crown Lands Act which transferred management of the parks to the government. For more, see www.royalparks.org.uk.
• Who could pass up a chance to feel whether a cow is pregnant? The British Library will be hosting staff from The Royal Veterinary College on 28th June for a day of hands-on demonstrations including the chance to use haptic technology and “feel” whether a cow is pregnant as well as opportunity to create a virtual, touchable 3D model using interactive software. The demonstrations are part of the library’s Growing Knowledge Exhibition showcasing innovative research tools. Spaces are limited so get in quick. To book your place, visit http://cowlooseinthelibrary.eventbrite.com/%3C/a%3E
On Now – The Lost Collection. In conjunction with Transport for London’s Lost Property Office, KK Outlet in Hackney is running an exhibition of unclaimed art that was left on London’s tube, buses, overground trains and black cabs. The work by nameless artists includes drawings, painting and photographs and, in some cases, whole portfolios. Runs until 30th June (42 Hoxton Square). For more information, see www.kkoutlet.com