roman-gardening-toolsRoman tools and other artefacts from the era including a stamp for metal ingots and pottery are among objects found in London’s ‘lost’ Walbrook Valley which have gone on display at the Museum of London. Working the Walbrook features objects excavated during the past 170 years of digs around the watercourse which once cut the city in half, running from Finsbury Circus to Cannon Street. Created as part of a PhD project being supervised by the Museum of London and the University of Reading, the objects on show include an iron stamp dating from the Roman period inscribed with the letters MPBR (understood to be an abbreviation for ‘Metal Provinciae Britanniae’ – “the mines of the province of Britannia”) which is believed to have been used by officials to stamp metal ingots passing through London on their way to the Continent. Other items include Roman farming and gardening tools, and a pot decorated with a smith’s hammer, anvil and tongs which was found at the bottom of a well in Southwark and which may have been linked to worship of the god Vulcan. The free display is on show until March. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk. PICTURE: Gardening tools from Roman London. A pruning hook, bailing fork and shears © Museum of London

• A series of prints by Pablo Picasso spanning the period from the late 1940s to the late 1950s form the heart of a new exhibition at the British Museum in Bloomsbury. The prints, which include 16 lithograph prints and three aquatint prints, were recently acquired by the museum in what represents the final part of the museum’s effort to more fully represent the artist’s work as a printmaker. Six of the lithographs were inspired by the beauty of Picasso’s lover Francoise Gilot while others feature Bacchanalian scenes and portraits of German-born dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler. On display from Friday in Gallery 90A, they can be seen in the free exhibition until 3rd March. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

The details of some 160,000 people buried at Highgate Cemetery in north London have been made available online. Deceased Online has announced that all records for the period from May, 1839, to August, 2010 – a total of 159,863 people, are now available, including digital scans of original registers, details of who is buried in each grave and location maps for most graves. Notable people buried at Highgate include author Douglas Adams, philosopher Karl Marx and chemist and physicist Michael Faraday. For more, see www.deceasedonline.com

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One of the highlights of any visit to Highgate Cemetery, the grave of Karl Marx is one of London’s most visited final resting places even though it didn’t attract a crowd at the time of his death.

Karl-Marx2Marx died in London on 14th March, 1883, having battled ill health for many months beforehand. He was buried at Highgate Cemetery just three days later and there were reportedly only between nine and 11 mourners at the funeral (his wife Jenny was not among them – she had died in late 1881 and is buried in the same grave). Among those who did attend was Friedrich Engels, who, in his eulogy, described Marx as “the greatest living thinker” and told of how he had “peacefully gone to sleep”.

While the original tomb was modest, the grander memorial which stands on the grave today was erected in 1954 by the Communist Party of Great Britain. It is inscribed with Marx’s words “Workers of all lands unite” and “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways – the point however is to change it” and topped with a larger-than-life bust of Marx created by Laurence Bradshaw.

As well as Marx’s wife, others buried in the tomb include Marx’s grandson, Harry Longuet, who died only six days after his grandfather at the age of four, Eleanor Marx, his daughter, who died in 1898, and Helene Demuth, the Marx family housekeeper.

The monument was attacked in 1970 by vandals using a home-made bomb, reportedly causing £600 of damage which was quickly fixed. There have been a couple of further attacks on the tomb.

WHERE: Highgate East Cemetery, Swain’s Lane (nearest Tube station is Archway); WHEN: 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday/weekends and public holidays 11am to 5pm (last admission 4.30pm); COST: £4 adults/children under 18 free (tours additional); WEBSITE: www.highgatecemetery.org

The influence of ancient Egypt on English architecture and interiors is under the spotlight in a new English Heritage exhibition inside Wellington Arch’s Quadriga Gallery at Hyde Park Corner. Egypt in England reveals that the Egyptian style, while it has been used in 18th century gardens in England, first rose to popularity after Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798, continued when the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 triggered a new wave of ‘Egyptomania’ and went onto into the later 20th century where its influence can be seen on buildings like cinemas and shops. The exhibition features photographs of Egyptian-style buildings and landmarks from across England – including London sites such as the The Egyptian Avenue and Circle of Lebanon Vaults at Highgate Cemetery and The Egyptian Hall at Harrods – alongside images of the Egyptian sources which inspired them. There are also 19th century travel brochures, a number of shabtis (the small mummy-like figurines placed in tombs which were often taken home by visitors as souvenirs) and Wedgewood ceramics designed in the Egyptian style. The display also tells the story of London landmark Cleopatra’s Needle, a 3,500-year-old obelisk which sits on the north bank of the Thames (see our earlier post on it here). Admission charge applies. Runs until 13 January. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/wellington-arch/.

A new exhibition of photographs taken by celebrated snapper Dorothy Bohm opens at the Museum of London tomorrow. Women in Focus will feature 33 color photographs dating from the 1990s to the present which juxtapose women who work and live in London with the ever-present images of women in advertising, artwork and shop windows. The images show women in their varied roles in society – from parents to professionals – and reflects on how they are seen in London’s public spaces. Runs until 17th February. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

• Now On: Mario Testino: British Royal Portraits. This display at the National Portrait Gallery features eight portraits of Royal Family members taken by Mario Testino between 2003 and 2010. As well an official portrait of Prince Charles taken in 2003, others include a portrait of Prince William taken the same year for his 21st birthday, another of Prince Harry on his 21st birthday, a portrait of Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla commissioned by British Vogue in 2006 and official engagement portraits of Prince William and Duchess Catherine taken in 2010. It is the first time the portraits have all been shown together. The exhibition runs in Room 40 until 3rd February. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

• Now On: A Bigger Splash: Painting after Performance. This newly opened exhibition at the Tate Modern explores the changing relationship between performance and painting, spanning the period from 1950 to today and featuring works from more than 40 artists including David Hockney, Yves Klein, Jackson Pollock and Cindy Sherman. Themes examined in the exhibition include how the painted canvas has been used as an ‘arena’ in which performance is carried out, the use of the human body as a surface and how contemporary artists are using painting to create social and theatrical spaces. Runs until 1st April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

Cemeteries can often provide a fascinating insight into past lives and among the most prominent in London is Highgate Cemetery, located in the city’s north.

With the population of London growing rapidly in the early 1800s, the 17 acre Highgate cemetery was first opened in 1839 with the first burial taking place in May that year.

The cemetery quickly became one of London’s most fashionable and was extended by 20 acres before the opening in 1856 of a new cemetery to the east. These days both are open to tourists although the West Cemetery can only be explored on a guided tour, thanks at least partly to vandalism.

The atmospheric East Cemetery is primarily known for being the resting place of Karl Marx but also features the graves of authors George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) and Douglas Adams, Australian painter Sidney Nolan and co-founder of Foyles – London’s famous Charing Cross bookstore – William Foyle.

Features at the West cemetery, meanwhile, include an avenue of Egyptian-style vaults and the vaults in an inner ring known as the Circle of Lebanon. Among those buried there are physicist Michael Faraday and the parents and brother of Charles Dickens.

The cemetery is now operated by a non-profit charity, the Friends of Highgate Cemetery.

WHERE: Swain’s Lane. Nearest tube is Archway; WHEN: Eastern Cemetery – daily from 10am (11am weekends) to 5pm (4pm between November and February), Western Cemetery – guided tours only (weekdays at 2pm with phone bookings required, weekends hourly from 11am to 4pm (3pm between November and February); COST: Eastern Cemetery – £3 adults/£2 students, Western Cemetery tours – £7 adults/£3 children aged 8-16; WEBSITE: www.highgate-cemetery.org