• A photograph of the Milky Way taken from the Cave of the Wild Horses in the southern Utah desert has won the Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year: People’s Choice Awards 2020. The stunning image by Bryony Richards was captured in the cave after a long hike through the desert. It was selected from 25 images short-listed by the Royal Observatory Greenwich. ‘Reflection of the Stars’ by Linh Nguyen won second place award and Qiqige (Nina) Zhao won third for ‘Anniversary of Apollo 11 Mission’. Meanwhile, the deadline for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 13 competition run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in association with BBC Sky at Night Magazine is looming – photographers need to have submitted their images by 12pm on 5th March. The overall winner of the competition will take home a top prize of £10,000 and see their image in the accompanying exhibition, which is scheduled to open at the National Maritime Museum on 18th September. For more details, see www.rmg.co.uk/astrocomp.
• The Mayor of Lambeth’s homemade ceremonial chain has been acquired by the Museum of London as part of its ‘Collecting COVID’ initiative. The chain was made by the mayor, Councillor Philip Normal, for the virtual ceremony in which he was created mayor on 22nd April, 2020, during the first national lockdown. Made of card and plaited t-shirt fabric, it features Lambeth’s coat of arms painted within a fluorescent pink oval with the words ‘Spectemur Agendo’ meaning, ‘Let us be judged by our acts’. For more on ‘Collecting COVID’, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
• An oil painting of Sir John Maitland by an unknown Anglo-Dutch artist, part of the art collection at Ham House in London’s south-west, is among artworks which are to undergo restoration thanks to a £3 million gift to the National Trust from American charity, the Royal Oak Foundation. The gift will support the Trust’s conservation work for the next five years mainly based at its specialist conservation studio in Knole, Kent. It was made in honour of the 125th anniversary of the National Trust, which cares for more than 200 historic properties containing more than a million objects – everything from artworks to furniture, textiles and ceramics. The painting of Sir John came to public attention in 2017 when X-ray analysis revealed what is believed to be an unfinished portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots, hidden underneath it. For more, see www.nationaltrust.org.uk.
• Looking further afield and a keepsake box containing mementos associated with Charles Darwin – including shells gathered on his famous voyage in the HMS Beagle – have been donated to English Heritage. The charity announced the gift this week to mark the 150th anniversary of the 1871 publication of his book, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. The red leather box and its contents will go on display at Down House in Kent later this year following conservation work. Charles and Emma Darwin initially gave the box to their eldest daughter Annie but, following her death at the age of 10 in 1851, it passed to her sister Henrietta, known as “Etty”. Among the souvenirs placed in it were locks of hair belonging to different members of the Darwin family (including Emma and Henrietta), a silk handkerchief embroidered with Charles’ initials CD, and the shells which his daughters later carefully labelled using scrap paper from the naturalist’s draft manuscripts. English Heritage is appealing for donations for the care and display of the box. To support the work, head to www.english-heritage.org.uk/support-us/.
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Part of the garden at the historic Thames-side mansion Ham House has been redesigned with the aim of bringing some new life to the manicured lawns. Rosie Fyles, head gardener at the 17th century property in Richmond – now in the care of the National Trust, has overseen the planting of a series of “plats” – each the size of a tennis court – with some 500,000 bulbs and wildflowers to create a “pageant of colour” from early spring and throughout summer. The plats have also been created with wildlife and diversity in mind, using naturalising bulbs to attract bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. Fyles hopes the project will prove inspirational for home gardeners. “You can easily use pots, planters or a small area of border to create a pollinator-friendly bulb display over a few early spring months; in fact you can curate your own sequence of flowering from February to May at least,” she said. “We have used Crocus ‘Ruby Giant’, four types of species tulips (including bright red Tulipa linifolia) and Muscari latifolium to create a bright, deep blue carpet of colour.” For more, head to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ham-house-and-garden. ALL PICTURES: National Trust/Chris Davies.
• Ham House near Richmond in London’s south west is making a star appearance in the new Disney movie, John Carter. The 17th century mansion, located on the Thames, is doubling as a New York mansion on the Hudson River and the cast and crew spent six weeks filming there in January last year. The film is an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1912 sci-fi comic-book John Carter of Mars, about a civil war veteran who is magically transported to a turbulent new life on the red planet. For more on Ham House, see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ham-house/. PICTURE: ©2011 Disney.
• North London born poet John Hegley has been appointed poet-in-residence at Keats House in Hampstead for this summer. Hegley, whose poetry collections include Glad to Wear Glasses, The Sound of Paint Drying and My Dog is a Carrot, will host workshops and readings during his residency which takes place from 1st May to 31st October. He will also host the launch and closing event of the Keats House Festival, held at the house between 1st and 10th June, and present a series of meetings, entitled Sunday Tea with John (Keats), on the last Sunday of each month. These will include music and a 20 minute lecture about a particular aspect of Keats’ life. For more, see www.keatshouse.cityoflondon.gov.uk.
• Writers Jean Rhys and Elizabeth Bowen have been commemorated with English Heritage blue plaques. Caribbean-born Rhys (1890-1979) lived at Paultons House, Paultons Square, in Chelsea in the 1930s and it was while here that she developed her career as a novelist and penned Good Morning, Midnight (1939), now considered one of her finest works. Meanwhile the Anglo-Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) lived at 2 Clarence Terrace, Regents Park, for 17 years and during her time there wrote her two most celebrated works, The Death of the Heart (1938) and The Heat of the Day (1949). Last month blue plaques were unveiled commemorating the home of singer Elisabeth Welch (1904-2003) – described by her biographer as “Britain’s first black star” – at Ovington Court in Kensington and that of florist to royalty Constance Spry (1886 – 1960) on the site of her Mayfair shop at 64 South Audley Street. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blue-plaques/.
• Now on: Mapping the London Blitz. This exhibition at the London Metropolitan Archives in Clerkenwell centres on a series of bomb damage maps made during the dark days of World War II. Created by the London County Council, the 110 large maps used a color code to indicate the extent of damage in individual buildings and covered 117 square miles. Now in its last days – exhibition closes on 29th March. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/lma.
• Richmond’s historic Ham House will be appearing in the forthcoming film Never Let Me Go, based on the best-selling novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. The historic house – which was built in 1610 for Sir Thomas Vavasour, Knight Marshal to James I – was transformed into a fictional English boarding school named Hailsham for the movie which stars Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley. The house site, which is owned by the National Trust, was ‘let go’ for the film meaning lawns for left unmown for several weeks and weeds encouraged to grow while inside an institutional atmosphere was reportedly created by the installation of flourescent lighting and removal of objects usually displayed there. For more information on Ham House, see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-hamhouse/w-hamhouse-history.html
• Leaflets showing the route of this year’s Lord Mayor’s Show have been released by the City of London. The ‘show’, to be held on 13th November, is the world’s oldest civic procession and has been held for 795 years. It commemorates the day when the newly elected Mayor had to make the journey from the City to Westminster to declare his allegiance to the monarch (this year’s Lord Mayor of the City of London – the City’s 683rd – is Alderman Michael Bear (not to be confused with the Mayor of London Boris Johnson)). The procession kicks off at 11am, with the route going from Mansion House to the Royal Courts of Justice and back. This year it will involve from than 6,500 people from livery companies, military units, marching bands, local schools and businesses and community groups. For more about the event, see www.lordmayorsshow.org.
• Now on: London’s contemporary art fair, the Frieze Art Fair, is off and running in Regent’s Park until Sunday, while at Primrose Hill, The Museum of Everything has launched Exhibition #3 which features the bizarre animal tableaux of Victorian taxidermist Walter Potter. At the National Gallery, meanwhile, the new exhibition of Canaletto and his Rivals has opened (it runs until 16th January), while the city has been abuzz with the Tate Modern‘s latest exhibitions, Gauguin, and Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds.
• This year marks the 400th anniversary of Ham House in south west London. Located on the south bank of the Thames, between Richmond and Kingston, the property was built for Sir James Vavasour, Knight Marshall to James I with later owners including William Murray, the ‘whipping boy’ of Charles I (that is, the boy who took Charles’ punishment if he was naughty – let’s hope they got on well!), and his daughter, Elizabeth, Countess of Dysart. To find out more about the property, now under the care of the National Trust, and how they’re celebrating the 400th anniversary, see http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-hamhouse.
• The former treasury in the crypt beneath St Paul’s is hosting a new exhibition – Oculus: An Eye Into St Paul’s – which aims to bring 1400 years of the history of the church and surrounding streets of London to life through a 270 degree film experience. The film takes visitors from the streets of Saxon London in 604 AD when the first cathedral was constructed on the site to the its destruction in the Great Fire in 1666 and the days of the Blitz in World War II when it stood as a symbol of English defiance. The exhibition also opens up access of areas of the cathedral to the less mobile – with virtual tours of the dome including the Whispering Gallery and the view from the Golden Gallery. See www.stpauls.co.uk.
• The Monument has won the City of London’s City Heritage Award for 2010. The city has recently spent £4.5 million in a restoration project which included a new balustrade on the viewing platform of the memorial to the Great Fire of 1666, regilding the flaming orb, and the installation of a real-time feed of the panoramic views from the top to web with updates every minute. See www.themonument.info.