This Grade II-listed pub owes its name to the fact it was from where “medicinal waters” taken from nearby springs were taken to be bottled before being sold to coffee houses and taverns across London at threepence a flask.

The business was established by the Wells Trustees which had initially intended the waters to be solely for the use of the Hampstead poor. That idea, however, soon developed into a lucrative trade in bottled water with distribution across the city apparently handled by an apothecary, a Mr Philips, from his base at a Fleet Street tavern.

Known initially as the Thatched House due to its roofing material (and later as the Lower Flask to distinguish it from The (Upper) Flask in Highgate), the pub was famously mentioned in Samuel Richardson’s novel, Clarissa.

The current premises at 14 Flask Walk was built in 1874 – designed by Cumming and Nixon – and among its public rooms are a grand saloon bar and a conservatory.

Part of the Young & Co’s chain since 1904. For more, see www.theflaskhampstead.co.uk.

The Flask in an image taken in 2014. PICTURE: Adam Bruderer/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

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Tipus_Tent_c_National_Trust_ImagesA spectacular tent used by the Tipu Sultan, ruler of the 18th century Kingdom of Mysore (pictured), is among highlights in an exhibition exploring the “incomparably rich world” of handmade textiles from India which opens at the V&A in South Kensington on Saturday. Part of the V&A’s India Festival marking the 25th anniversary of the opening of the museum’s Nehru Gallery, The Fabric of India has exhibits ranging from the earliest known Indian textile fragments (dating from the 3rd century) through to contemporary fashions. Among the around 200 handmade objects – which include everything from ancient ceremonial banners and sacred temple hangings to modern saris and bandanna handkerchiefs – are a Hindu narrative cloth depicting avatars of Vishnu dating from about 1570, an 18th century crucifixion scene made for an Armenian Christian church in south-east India, block-printed ceremonial textiles from Gujarat – made in the 14th century for the Indonesian market, bed-hangings originally belonging to the Austrian Prince Eugene (1663-1736), and a selection of clothing made using Khadi, a cloth which Mahatma Gandhi promoted using in the 1930s when he asked people to make the fabric as a symbol of resistance to colonial rule. Admission charges apply. Runs until 10th January. For more see, www.vam.ac.uk/fabricofindia. PICTURE: © National Trust Images.

Westbury Road in Bounds Green, Haringey, is the subject of a new photographic and art exhibit which opened at the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch this week. A Street Seen: The Residents of Westbury Road is a collaborative exhibition featuring the works of photographer Andrew Buurman and artist Gabriela Schutz as they document the homes, gardens and residents of what is described as a “typical London street”. The display includes a six metre long panoramic drawing of Victorian houses by Schutz and a series of photographs depicting residents in their back gardens taken over a two year period by Buurman. Runs until 3rd April. For more, see www.geffrye-museum.org.uk.

One of the founding fathers of sports medicine, Nobel Prize winner AV Hill, has been honoured with an English Heritage blue plaque unveiled at his former home in Highgate in London’s north last month. Hill, as well as being noted for his work in the field of physiology, was also an independent MP during World War II and a humanitarian who is credited with helping more than 900 academics – including 18 Nobel laureates – escape persecution by the Nazis. He lived at the property at 16 Bishopswood Road for 44 years, between 1923 and 1967, 10 years before his death. For more on blue plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

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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

Norman-Hartnell-sketchThe Queen’s Coronation in 1953 is the subject of a special exhibition opening at Buckingham Palace as part of the palace’s summer opening. Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the coronation, the display features an array of outfits including uniforms and robes worn on the historic event on 2nd June, 1953, as well as a series of paintings recording the event, works of art and objects used on the day and film footage and sound recordings. Among the highlights of the exhibition will be sketches made by Norman Hartnell, the principal designer of the outfits worn at the coronation by the Queen, principal ladies of the immediate Royal Family and the Maids of Honour. The State Rooms of Buckingham Palace open on Saturday and remain open until 29th September. An admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk. PICTURE: Her Majesty The Queen in her Coronation Dress, 1953, Norman Hartnell. Royal Collection Trust/All Rights Reserved.

Meanwhile in this, the week of the birth of Prince George, it’s only fitting that we mention a small display at the Museum of London showcasing memorabilia relating to royal babies of years past. A Royal Arrival features baby clothes and other items worn by future monarchs. They include a embroidered skullcap worn by the future King Charles I, a tiny linen vest and mitten which once was worn by the future King George III and a dress emblazoned with the three feather insignia which belonged to the future King Edward VII, eldest son of Queen Victoria. The free display will be on show until October. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

The new commission for Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth will be unveiled today. The 4.7 metre high sculpture, Hahn/Cock, is the work of contemporary artist Katharina Fritsch. It will sit on the plinth for the next 18 months.  For more details, see www.fourthplinth.co.uk.

Indian statesman VK Krishna Menon has been commemorated by English Heritage with a blue plaque on his former residence in Highgate. A key campaigner for Indian independence, Menon lived at 30 Langdon Road from 1929 to 1931, having moved to England from Madras in 1924. In 1947, Menon was appointed India’s First High Commissioner in London and among his greatest achievements was his work in keeping the country in the British Commonwealth after independence. Having been a local councillor in St Pancras, he later returned to India and embarked upon a political career there. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blueplaques/.

The-Future-Was-HereOn Now: The Future is Here. A major new exhibition examining the changes taking place in manufacturing around the world, opened this week at the Design Museum. The Future is Here looks at how everything from “cars to shoes” is manufactured, funded, distributed and bought. Among highlights is a ‘Factory’ where visitors can discover how 3D printing works and see production in process. There will also be the chance to make your own ‘action doll’ and see a sofa designed through a crowd-sourcing process which involved members of the public. Runs until 3rd November. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.designmuseum.org.

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

In the first in an occasional series on famous Londoners, we take a look at who Dick Whittington really was.

While he’s remembered by many today as a poor boy who made a fortune by cleverly trading his mice-catching cat, Richard Whittington was in fact born into a noble Gloucestershire family around 1350 and, after coming to London, rose in power and influence to become a four time Mayor of London who, after his death, set a new standard in philanthropy.

Sir Richard was born in the 1350s as the youngest son of Sir William Whittington, Lord of the Manor of Pauntley. As the second son, he was not able to inherit and so left home when his father died to seek work in London. There he served as an apprentice, before becoming a mercer (a dealer in costly fabrics) and subsequently became a supplier of valuable materials like silks and cloth of gold to King Richard II and later King Henry IV as well as other members of court.

Growing in wealth and influence (as well as dealing in cloth, he lent considerable sums to both kings and as a result was granted part of the wool tax collected at various ports), Whittington became a city alderman in 1393 and was chosen by the king as mayor in 1397 when the incumbent, Adam Bamme, died. He was subsequently re-elected in 1398, again in 1406, and in 1419.

Whittington died in 1423 and, as he and his wife Alice (who had died before him) had no children, he left his substantial fortune – estimated at some £5,000 – to charity. The money was used to establish almshouses (entrusted to the care of the Mercer’s Company, of which Sir Richard was master three times), as well as libraries and other public works including rebuilding Newgate Gaol and building a public lavatory known as ‘Whittington’s longhouse’. The Charity of Sir Richard Whittington is still operational. It’s undoubtedly his charity which touched so many Londoners which led to his fame.

While many versions of Whittington’s life have been told since the first recorded retellings in the late 16th and early 17th century, the story as we generally know it today (and one which has become a panto favorite) is that he was a poor boy from Gloucestershire who walked to London to seek his fortune and indeed found work there in the home of a rich merchant, Fitzwarren. He slept in the attic and kept a cat to keep down the numbers of mice.

Fitzwarren is said to have invited his servants to invest in a sailing voyage and as Dick had no money, he offered his cat, usually named ‘Tommy’, instead. Some time later he decided to leave London for his home and set out on foot but when on Highgate Hill on his way out, he heard the bells of London summoning him back, saying ‘Turn again, Whittington, three times Lord Mayor of London’. (Although Whittington actually served as mayor four times, the first two times were back-to-back, meaning some may have considered it as three).

So he did and returning to the merchant’s house, he found the ship had returned and that his cat had played a starring role in saving the court of the King of the Barbary Coast from being overrun with mice. The king apparently paid a large sum to buy the cat and Whittington became a wealthy man, marrying Fitzwarren’s daughter Alice and, as the bells prophesised, becoming ‘Lord Mayor of London’ (actually mayors at the time of the real Dick Whittington weren’t given the title Lord).

These days a statue of Whittington’s cat – the Whittington Stone (picture above) – still sits on Highgate Hill, marking the site where he apparently ‘turned again’ (among other references to Dick Whittington in London is the Dick Whittington ‘ale trail’ – a free downloadable pub guide).

As to whether he actually had a cat? While there’s apparently no evidence he did, it’s nice to think there was a real cat behind the myth (even if he didn’t rid the Kingdom of Barbary of its mice)!