Canal-MuseumDescend into ice wells at the London Canal Museum; delve into the archaeological archives of the Egypt Exploration Society; discover the history of the Spitalfields Charnel House; and, tour the remains of London’s Roman military fort with experts from the Museum of London. The British Festival of Archaeology kicked off last weekend and there’s a plethora of events happening across London as part of the more than 1,000 taking place across the country. For a full programme of events – many of which are free – head to www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk. The festival runs until 26th July.

Follow Alice down the rabbit hole in a new exhibition which opened at the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury yesterday. Marking the 150th anniversary of the book’s publication, Alice in Cartoonland looks at how cartoonists, caricaturists, satirists, animators and graphic artists adapted and used author Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Lutwidge Dodson) and original illustrator John Tenniel’s work in social and political commentaries as well as just to have fun. The display features posters, cartoon strips, comic and graphic novels and artwork from TV and film versions of Alice with Low, Vicky, Shepard, Steadman and Gilroy among the artists represented. Runs until 1st November (with some events held in conjunction with it). Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org.

Exploring the National Gallery’s art collection is usually done with the eyes but thanks to an innovative project which kicked off last week, it’s now also about listening. A series of contemporary sound artists and musicians including Nico Muhly, Gabriel Yared, Susan Philipsz, Jamie xx, Chris WatsonJanet Cardiff and George Bures Miller have created sounds and musical pieces in response to works they have chosen from the gallery’s collection. Selected works include the late 14th century The Wilton Diptych (Muhly), Hans Holbein’s 1533 painting The Ambassadors (Philipsz) and Paul Cézanne’s painting Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses) (Yared). Soundscapes runs until 6th September in the Sainsbury Wing. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

Advertisements

Hans-of-AntwerpRecently conserved, Hans Holbein the Younger’s portrait Hans of Antwerp is one of 27 works by the painter on display in the exhibition, The Northern Renaissance: Durer to Holbein, at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. The portrait was first recorded in the Royal Collection in 1639 when it was said to have been hung in King Charles I’s Chair Room at Whitehall (it was painted in the 1530s by Holbein, best known as King’s Painter to King Henry VIII). While it has been previously thought the sitter was a goldsmith (a close friend of Holbein and witness to his will in 1543), Royal Collection Trust conservators have now definitively ruled it to be that of a merchant, possibly a German of the Hanseatic League based at the London Steelyard. You’ll have to be quick to see the exhibition – it winds up on 14th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalcollection.co.uk.

PICTURE: Royal Collection Trust/ © 2012, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Built in the 16th century for King Henry VIII, Bridewell Palace only had a short-lived life as a royal residence before it was handed over to the City of London and used as a poorhouse and prison.

Located on the western bank of the Fleet River (the site is now occupied by Unilever House and remembered in the place names of Bridewell Place and Bridewell Court), the palace – named for a holy well located nearby which was dedicated to St Bride  (St Brigid) – was built on the direction of the king’s key advisor Cardinal Thomas Wolsey between 1510-15 on land which had previously been the site of St Bride’s Inn.

In 1515 Cardinal Wolsey gave it to King Henry VIII after taking up residence at Hampton Court and York Place  – Henry was looking for a royal residence in London after the Palace of Westminister was largely destroyed in a fire in 1512. Work continued on the palace until its completion in 1523.

The palace, the site of which is now marked with a plaque on the approach to Blackfriars Bridge, consisted of two courtyards surrounded by brick buildings with the three storey royal lodgings (separate quarters for the king and queen) located around the inner courtyard and entered by a grand staircase from the outer courtyard. It also featured a watergate was located on the Thames and, interestingly, Bridewell was the first royal palace not to have its own great hall.

Among historic events hosted here was the visit of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1522 (the emperor did not stay here but his entourage did). In 1528 meetings of the papal delegation took place at Blackfriars (located next door and joined by a specially built gallery) to discuss the king’s divorce from Queen Katherine of Aragon – it’s here that the Queen made her most famous speech declaring her fidelity to the king – and for its duration the king and queen lodged at Bridewell. It’s also said that it was at Bridewell Palace that artist Hans Holbein the Younger painted his famous work – The Ambassadors (see our earlier post on this here).

Following Cardinal Wolsey’s fall from favor in 1529, King Henry VIII no longer used the property (he took over the Palace of Whitehall, then known as York Place, as his main residence in 1530 – for more on this see our earlier post here). It was leased for much of the following decade to the French ambassador in London before, following petitioning for a new hospital for the poor from Nicholas Ridley, the Bishop of London, King Edward VI gave it to the City of London in 1553. They took over fully in 1556 and converted the palace into a prison, hospital and workrooms (we’ll deal in detail with the prison in an upcoming post).

Palaces aside, the Queen also owns a series of chapels – the Chapels Royal – in London which, although not as grand as Westminster Abbey, have each played an important role in the history of the monarchy. 

The term Chapel Royal originally referred to a group of priests and singers dedicated to serving the Sovereign’s personal spiritual needs and as such would follow the monarch around the country. It was in Stuart times that they became more settled establishments with the two main Chapels Royal – the Chapel Royal and the Queen’s Chapel – located in St James’s Palace.

• The Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace. Constructed by King Henry VIII, the chapel was decorated by Hans Holbein the Younger in honor of the king’s (short) marriage to Anne of Cleves. Queen Mary I’s heart is said to be buried beneath the choir stalls and it was here that Queen Elizabeth I apparently prayed waiting for news of the progress of the Spanish Armada. King Charles I took the Sacrament of Holy Communion here before his execution in 1649 and the chapel was where Queen Victoria married Prince Albert (her marriage certificate still hangs on the wall). In more recent times, the coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales, was placed before the altar so family and friends could pay their respects before her 1997 funeral. Among the composers and organists associated with the chapel are Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Henry Purcell and George Frideric Handel. The chapel is not open to the public except for services.

• The Queen’s Chapel, St James’ Palace (pictured right). Now located outside the palace walls, this chapel was built by King James I for the Catholic Henrietta Maria, the bride of his son, then Prince Charles (later King Charles I). Designed by Inigo Jones, Grinling Gibbons and Sir Christopher Wren were also involved in its creation. The chapel was used by Henrietta Maria until the Civil War and later became the home of the Danish Church in London. The chapel is not open to the public except for services.For more on this chapel or the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace, follow this link.

• The Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy. Built in the Middle Ages to serve the now long gone Savoy Palace, London home of Count Peter of Savoy (uncle to King Henry III’s wife, Eleanor of Provence, the original building was destroyed in the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381. The current building, located in Savoy Hill, off the Strand, was built on the orders of King Henry VII in the late 15th and early 16th century to serve the hospital he founded on the site of the palace. The chapel since served many other congregations – including a German Lutheran congregation – but remains royal property via the Duchy of Lancaster, which is held in trust for the Sovereign and used to provide an income for the British monarch. It is officially the Chapel of the Royal Victorian Order. For more, see www.duchyoflancaster.co.uk/duties-of-the-duchy/the-queens-chapel-of-the-savoy/.

• Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace (pictured right). There has been a chapel here since the Knights Hospitallers occupied the site in the 13th century but it was Cardinal Wolsey who built the chapel to its present dimensions after acquiring the property in 1518. The current building, however, dates from the later ownership of King Henry VIII – Wolsey surrendered the property to him when he fell from favour – and further works in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Many subsequent monarchs have worshipped here. The chapel, with its stunning ceiling, is open to the public when visiting Hampton Court Palace. For more, see www.chapelroyal.org. PICTURE: Historic Royal Palaces/newsteam.co.uk

• The Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London. Originally a parish church, this was incorporated into the walls of the Tower in the reign of King Henry III. It was subsequently rebuilt at least twice – in the reign of King Edward I and King Henry VIII – and is home to the graves of important personages executed at the Tower including Henry VIII’s one-time wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard as well as Jane Grey, the nine day queen, and Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher. The chapel can be accessed during a Yeoman Warder’s tour of the Tower of London. For more, including details of an appeal for its restoration, see www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/stories/thechapelproject.

• Chapel Royal of St John the Evangelist, Tower of London. Located within the White Tower, this beautiful chapel – arguably the oldest church in London – dates back to the construction of the tower by King William the Conqueror the late 11th century and remains one of the best preserved examples of Anglo-Norman architecture in England. King Henry III added stained glass windows but for much of its later history the chapel was used for records storage. Tradition records that King Henry VII’s wife, Elizabeth of York, was laid in state here following her death in childbirth and that it was here Queen Mary was betrothed by proxy to Philip of Spain. This can be visited as part of a visit to the Tower of London. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/Sightsandstories/Prisoners/Towers/ChapelofStJohns

For more on churches in London, check out Stephen Millar’s London’s City Churches
and Stephen Humphrey’s London’s Churches and Cathedrals: A Guide to London’s Most Historic Churches and Cathedrals, Leigh Hatt’s London’s 100 Best Churches: An Illustrated Guide or the Pevsner Architectural Guide London: City Churches.

London will celebrate Chinese New Year this Sunday as it once again hosts the largest celebrations outside of Asia attracting some 250,000 people from around the globe. The event programme, which celebrates 2011 as the Year of the Rabbit, kicks off at 11am on the main stage in Trafalgar Square with firecrackers at noon, a Lion and Dragon performance at 1.10pm and dance and song during the afternoon culminating in a finale just before 6pm. There will also be a stage in Shaftesbury Avenue with performances throughout the day. Roads in the area will be closed for the event.

You no longer have to be in London to walk through the galleries of the Tate Britain or the National Gallery. Both institutions are among 17 around the world taking part in the Google Art Project which allows web surfers to virtually “walk” around the museum using the organisation’s Street View technology and turn 360 degrees to view the artworks in situ on the walls. The project also allows viewers to look through images of more than 1,000 artworks and, in addition, each institution has selected one artwork which then captured in “super high resolution” and then placed on line (Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors‘ for the National Gallery, Chris Ofili’s No Woman, No Cry for the Tate). See www.googleartproject.com for more.

Cyclists have ridden the distance to the moon and back 13 times – 10 million kilometres – since the launch of Mayor Boris Johnson’s cycle scheme. Transport for London released figures this week showing riders have made more than 2.5 million journeys on the “Boris bikes” since the scheme was launched six months ago. The TfL has announced plans to expand the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme to new areas of east London including all of the Borough of Tower Hamlets, North Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Bow, Canary Wharf, Mile End and Poplar by spring 2012. Almost 110,000 people are now signed up to the scheme. www.tfl.gov.uk.

The youngest Spitfire pilot in the Battle of Britain is to be granted the Freedom of the City of London in a special ceremony next month. Squadron Leader Geoffrey Wellum was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in a front line squadron during the battle.