LondonLife – Call for change…

PICTURE: Richard Laxa/Unsplash

LondonLife – Oxford Street…

Looking east down Oxford Street from Oxford Circus. PICTURE: Joe Stubbs/Unsplash

10 (lesser known) National Trust properties in London…6. 575 Wandsworth Road…


Only acquired by the National Trust in 2010, this property features a series of uniquely fashioned interiors created by Kenyan-born poet, novelist, artist and British civil servant Khadambi Asalache.

Asalache (1935-2006), who had trained as an architect, purchased the then dilapidated 1819 terraced house while working at the Treasury in 1981 (he apparently spotted it from a passing bus and ended up buying it for less than the asking price).

Confronted with a damp patch in the basement that resisted treatment, he initially covered it with wood and then, deciding that was bit drab, created fretwork to put over the top.

It was the beginning of a massive undertaking which saw the property transformed. Over the next 20 years, Asalache used a fretsaw to turn the home into an extraordinary work of art, eventually embellishing almost every wall, ceiling and door in the house with Moorish inspired fretwork patterns and motifs, hand-carved from reclaimed pine doors and floorboards which he’d found in skips.

The rooms, which are also influenced by African, Ottoman, and British design, are filled with Asalache’s handmade fretwork furniture and his eclectic collections of objects such as pressed-glass inkwells, pink and copper lustreware, postcards and his typewriter.

The Clapham property, which appears unassuming from the front, was left to the National Trust in Asalache’s will.

Only a select number of visitors can visit the property each year on pre-booked tours (although it’s currently closed due to the coronavirus outbreak). For updates on its opening status, head to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/575-wandsworth-road.

PICTURES: Interiors of the property (Shakespearesmonkey (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0))

Lost London – The Royal Bagnio…

A Turkish bath located off Newgate Street, the Royal Bagnio was a London fixture for almost 200 years.

Said by some to be the first Turkish bath in London, it opened in 1679 in what became known as Bagnio Court (among other names, the alley which led northward off Newgate Street was also at one stage called Roman Bath Street) and was apparently built by Turkish merchants in an eastern style with a cupola roof over the main bath hall as well as Dutch tales and marble steps.

The facilities offered patrons a range of treatments including, according to one 17th century commentator, “sweating, rubbing, shaving, cupping and bathing” (cupping being a reference to using heated glasses to create blood-blisters and so extract blood) . And there were separate days (naturally!) for ladies and men.

The baths apparently later changed its name to the Old Royal Baths – by this time it had a cold bath only – and continued to be used until 1876 when the building was demolished for offices.

The bath was one of a number of Turkish bathhouses which appeared in the late-Stuart and Georgian eras and not a few of them bore the same or similar names (and carried a somewhat seedy reputation). And like some of the others, this particular one was also associated with a nearby coffee house enabling patrons to attend the baths and find refreshment at the same time.

10 (lesser known) monuments featuring animals in London – A recap…

Before we move on from our recent series on animal monuments, we pause for a recap…

10 (lesser known) monuments featuring animals in London – 1. Dick Whittington’s cat…

10 (lesser known) monuments featuring animals in London – 2. Tom Sayer’s dog, Lion…

10 (lesser known) monuments featuring animals in London – 3. Hodge…

10 (lesser known) monuments featuring animals in London – 4. Trump…

10 (lesser known) monuments featuring animals in London – 5. Jamrach’s Tiger…

10 (lesser known) monuments featuring animals in London – 6. Sam the cat…

10 (lesser known) monuments featuring animals in London – 7. Jim and Tycho…

10 (lesser known) monuments featuring animals in London – 8. The elephants of the Tower…

10 (lesser known) monuments featuring animals in London – 9. Old Tom…

10 (lesser known) monuments featuring animals in London – 10. Jacob the horse…

We kick off a new Wednesday series next week…

LondonLife – And so Brexit Day passes…an ending or a new beginning?…

PICTURE: Marcus Lenk/Unsplash

Merry Christmas to all our readers!

Hoping you have a wonderful Christmas! PICTURE: johnc001 (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Favourite Places – Andrew Baker, author and chocolate lover

Andrew Baker, author of the recently published From Bean To Bar: A Chocolate Lover’s Guide to Britain, talks about some of his favourite chocolate spots in London…

London is full of secret and out-out-the-way chocolate spots – some of them destined to remain out of the public eye. 

The Queen’s favourite chocolates, for example, are made by the Prestat company in a marvellous factory crammed with delicious and exotic ingredients – and almost in the shadow of the prison at Wormwood Scrubs. As well as Her Majesty, Prestat’s lovely truffles were a favourite of the author Roald Dahl, of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…but this particular chocolate factory remains off-limits to visitors.

The same goes for the premises in Bethnal Green at which Phil Landers is currently the only person in the entire metropolis making chocolate from scratch, or “from bean to bar” as the technique is properly known. Phil’s lovely bars are available from his website and might be said to be the authentic taste of London chocolate.

But one place where you can both enjoy the finished product and – from time to time – watch it being made and chat with the master behind it is Paul A Young’s eponymous shop at 143 Wardour Street (pictured).

This long-established thoroughfare has existed along its present course since at least the 16th century, and in its time has been justly celebrated as a location for the stars of the music industry (David Bowie and The Jam, among many others) and the movie industry, which still retains a hefty presence.

PICTURE: Google Maps

But Young’s lovely purple corner shop has become a celebrated place of pilgrimage for fans of all things chocolatey.

The ginger-bearded, twinkly and genial Young has become one of Britain’s best-known chocolatiers through frequent appearances in print, online and on television, most notably making the treats of yesteryear in the deliciously nostalgic series The Sweet Makers.

But there is substance behind the fluency and charm: years of training as a pastry chef, working at an early stage with the superstar chef Marco Pierre White, and years of experience in the kitchens of his shops.

There are branches in Camden and Threadneedle Street in the City, but the most substantial outpost of his empire is here in Soho. This is a must-visit location not only for fans of filled chocolates – for Young is one of the finest exponents of those of those in the world – but also for barflys, because he stocks a full range of bars made by the wonderful Cleethorpes bean-to-bar maestro Duffy Sheardown. What is more, Young serves an enormously tempting cup of hot chocolate ladled, in the winter months, from a glorious copper cauldron steaming in the shop window. What better way to lure in customers on a chilly day?

The Barnsley-born Young is often to be found exploring new flavour combinations in the kitchen in the shop’s basement. There are frequent chocolate-making classes here as well, and there is no-one better at imparting, in a kindly and witty manner, the mysteries of tempering and ganache-making.

But he is at his best inventing wonderful new combinations of fine chocolate and delicious fillings, and it would be a foolish visitor to London who departed the capital without sampling at least several of Young’s most celebrated truffles – the Marmite version, for example, which I adore, the beer and crisp version made with Camden’s Brewdog ale, or the homage to his roots in the Yorkshire tea and biscuit truffle.

These and many, many more are laid out in mouthwatering rows in the Wardour Street shop, freshly made and so to be consumed as soon as possible. That is not a difficult piece of advice to heed.

From Bean To Bar: A Chocolate Lover’s Guide to Britain:  is published by AA Publishing.

Lost London – St Chad’s Well…

Located in Gray’s Inn Road at the corner with St Chad’s Place near King’s Cross this was a medicinal well dedicated to St Chad (he was the first Bishop of Lichfield and was said to have been cured of disease by drinking healing waters in the area).

The well – which was one of a number of such healing wells previously in London and which had waters said to resemble those at Lichfield – become popular in the 18th century and at one point was said to have some 1,000 visitors coming every week to sample the healing waters.

Its popularity had declined by the 19th century and it subsequently became a pleasure garden but part of them were built over by St Chad’s Place the following year. A new pump room – where the waters could be sampled – was apparently built in 1830 but just a decade later it was reported as having already fallen into decline.

The last part of the gardens was removed in 1860 thanks to the construction of the Metropolitan Railway Line.

PICTURE: Where St Chad’s Place meets with Gray’s Inn Roadl; St Chad’s Place is said to be the site of St Chad’s Well (courtesy Google Maps).

10 sites from Mary Shelley’s London…8. Chester Square…

One of the still standing properties most associated with Mary Shelley in London (hence the English Heritage Blue Plaque), Shelley lived in this home at 24 Chester Square, on the square’s north-west side, from 1846 until her death in 1851.

Mary moved here for the last few years of her life after her son Percy (a child she had with now deceased husband Percy Bysshe Shelley) had come into a substantial inheritance following the death of his grandfather in 1844.

During this period, she spent her time between this house which had been relatively recently built by Thomas Cubitt, and the Shelley’s ancestral home at Field Place, Sussex, where her son Percy Florence and his wife Jane lived.

Shelley was 53 when she died here on 1st February, 1851, of a suspected brain tumour. She had apparently asked to be buried with her parents in the graveyard of St Pancras Old Church but instead was buried at St Peter’s Church in Bournemouth close to her son’s new home in Boscombe. Her son had her parents exhumed and buried with her there.

The Blue Plaque was installed on this property in 2003 and unveiled by her biographer Miranda Seymour.

PICTURE: Spudgun67 (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0).

 

10 (lesser known) memorials to women in London – The recap…

We’ve come to the end of our Wednesday series on 10 (lesser known) memorials to women in London, so here’s the recap. We’ll kick off a new Wednesday series next week…

1. Dame Louisa Brandreth Aldrich-Blake…

2. Margaret Ethel MacDonald…

3. Lady Henry Somerset…

4. Noor Inayat Khan…

5. Ada Salter…

6. Sarah Siddons…

7. Catherine Booth…

8. Virginia Woolf…

9. Anna Pavlova…

10. Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst…

LondonLife – Night shopping…

PICTURE: Pete Owen/Unsplash

LondonLife – Cold days…

PICTURE: Jack Finnigan/Unsplash

LondonLife – Lights at Piccadilly…

PICTURE: Clem Onojeghuo/Unsplash

Lost London – The first Blackfriars Railway Bridge…


Two Blackfriars Bridges – a vehicle and pedestrian bridge, and a railway bridge – still span the River Thames from the City of London on the north bank to South Bank. But just beside the railway bridge stand some large red pylons – the remains of the first Blackfriars Railway Bridge. 

This bridge was built in 1864 to accommodate the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) when it was extended north across the river to what was then named St Paul’s Station (at least until 1937 when it became Blackfriars Station).

The ornate bridge was designed by Joseph Cubitt but within 20 years of its being built, the second, still existing, railway bridge was constructed alongside it to provide more space for trains (the original bridge apparently only had four tracks).

The ornately decorated first bridge was supported on three rows of pylons – the third was incorporated into the second bridge (which is why we now only see two rows).

After 1923, when train services began to terminate at Waterloo Station on the south side of the river, the bridge was rarely used but it wasn’t until many years later, in 1985, that it was declared too weak to support the current crop of trains and removed.

As well as the pylons, on the south side of the river can be seen a massive abutment of Portland stone featuring the ornate cast iron insignia of the former LCDR (above right). Grade II-listed, it was restored in about 1990.

PICTURES: Top – The wub/licensed under The wub; Right – SyndVer/licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

LondonLife – Alley flurries…

PICTURE: Clever Visuals/Unsplash

LondonLife – Welcome to 2018!

PICTURE: Kafai Liu/Unsplash

Exploring London’s 10 most popular (new) posts of 2017 – Numbers 4 and 3…

The countdown continues…

4. Lost London – Pasqua Rosee’s Coffee House…

3. Where’s London’s oldest…street sign?

Come back tomorrow for the two most popular posts…

Exploring London’s 10 most popular (new) posts of 2017 – Numbers 6 and 5…

The countdown continues…

6. 10 (more) fictional character addresses in London – 8. A square in Soho?…

5. What’s in a name?…Hanging Sword Alley…

Come back tomorrow for the next two…

 

LondonLife – Christmas takes to central London streets…

Reflections at Trafalgar Square. PICTURE: Raphaël Chekroun (licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0).

 

Carnaby Street ‘Carnival’. PICTURE: Kevin Oliver  (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) (image cropped).

 

Flying high in the West End. PICTURE: Maureen Barlin (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

 

Thrills at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. PICTURE: Kevin Oliver (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

 

Outside St Paul’s at Covent Garden. PICTURE: Kevin Oliver (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).