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A scene from Chinese New Year celebrations heralding the Year of the Rooster held in central London last weekend. PICTURE: Garry Knight/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Lemuel Gulliver, the ‘hero’ of Jonathan Swift’s 1726 book, Gulliver’s Travels, wasn’t a native Londoner but moved to the city for work and lived in several different locations before embarking on his famous voyage to the land of Lilliput.

lemuel-gulliverAccording to the book, the Nottinghamshire-born Gulliver studied at Emanuel College (sic) in Cambridge before he was apprenticed to London surgeon known as James Bates after which he spent a couple of years studying in the Dutch town of Leiden (spelt Leydon in the book).

Returning to England briefly, he spent the next few years voyaging to the “Levant” before returning to London where he “took part of a small house in Old Jewry” (Old Jewry lies in the City of London runs between Poultry and Gresham Street) and married Mary Burton, daughter of a Newgate Street hosier.

His master Bates dying, however, a couple of years later and with a failing business, he took up the position of surgeon on two different ships and it was when he eventually returned to London that he moved to Fetter Lane – which runs north from Fleet Street – and then from there to Wapping where hoping to retire from the sea and “get business (presumably he meant medical cases) among the sailors”.

But it was not to be and so, in 1699, Mr Gulliver set off on the voyage accounted in the famous book.

The name Fetter Lane, incidentally, has nothing to do with fetters (ie chains) – see our earlier post for more. And it’s also worth noting that the author, Jonathan Swift, also visited and lived in London at various times of his career – we’ll take a more in depth look at his experiences in a later post.

PICTURE: Lemuel Gulliver, depicted in a first edition of Gulliver’s Travels/Wikipedia.

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Trafalgar Square at Christmas. PICTURE: London & Partners

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A gasometer built in 1886 as part of the South Metropolitan Gas Company’s East Greenwich works.

PICTURE: Sérgio Rola/Unsplash

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The effects of industrialisation on Londoners and the diseases that affected them is the subject of a new ground-breaking research project being conducted by the Museum of London. Led by Jelena Bekvalac, based at the Museum of London’s Centre for Human Bioarcheology (pictured above, right), the researchers will examine the skeletal remains of more than 1,000 adult men and women from industrial-era London, 500 skeletons from the medieval metropolis and a further 500 medieval and post-medieval skeletal human remains from areas outside of London with the latter to be used for comparison purposes. In the project, made possible through a City of London Archaeological Trust grant from a bequest made by the late Rosemary Green, the museum will employ the latest clinical techniques – including direct digital radiography, CT scanning and 3D modelling – to examine the bones. “The most tangible evidence we have for the long-term consequences of the industrialisation process upon us is, quite simply, written in our bones,” says Dr Bekvalac. The project will result in the creation of an extensive new interactive digital resource that will be able to be explored online. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.ukPICTURE: Courtesy of Museum of London.

Winston-ChurchillFormer British PM, Sir Winston Churchill, died 50 years ago tomorrow, so we thought it was a good time to take a look at one of London’s most iconic statues.

Standing tall among some of the towering figures of British politics (and others), the over life-sized bronze statue of Sir Winston Churchill on Parliament Square in Whitehall was designed by Welsh sculptor Ivor Roberts-Jones and is located on a site on the square’s north-east corner chosen by the great man himself.

Standing 12 feet (3.6 metres) high on an eight foot (2.4 metre) high pedestal opposite the Houses of Parliament (which he faces), Churchill, who was 90 when he died, is portrayed during the years of World War II wearing a navy greatcoat but wears no hat and leans on a cane.

The full length, Grade II-listed statue, which Roberts-Jones was commissioned to create in 1970, was unveiled by Lady Churchill with the aid of Queen Elizabeth II in 1973.

Interestingly, it’s said that there’s a mild electric current which runs through the statue to ensure pigeons don’t perch and snow doesn’t gather on his head. Another quirky fact – Roberts-Jones was subsequently commissioned to make another Churchill statue in 1977 – this one for New Orleans.

PICTURE: Adam Carr

Where-is-it--#79

Can you identify where in London this picture was taken? If you think you can, leave a comment below. We’ll reveal the answer next week. Good luck!

This bronze sculpture is indeed located in Spitalfields. Named A Pear and A Fig, the still life was created by Ali Grant in 2006 and installed in Bishops Square just outside the western end of Spitalfields Market. There’s a suggestion it has been moved – we’ll endeavour to confirm that!

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Where is it? #72…

November 1, 2013

Where-is-it--#72

Can you identify where in London this picture was taken and what it’s of? If you think you can, leave a comment below. We’ll reveal the answer early next week. Good luck!

Well done to Jameson, this is indeed the steeple of the church of St Mary Magdalen Bermondsey, located in Bermondsey Street. The first record of the church dates from about 1290 when the church belonged to the Prior and Convent of Bermondsey, although a church did apparently exist some time prior. The current building largely dates from around 1690.

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View of the top of the Monument from the top of St Paul’s Cathedral. For more on the history of The Monument, see our earlier post here.

Victorian-Christmas The Tower of London is going Victorian this Christmas with visitors able to experience some of what the Yuletide celebrations in the foreboding, much storied buildings were like in the mid-to-late 1800s. Visitors will be shown how many of the Christmas customs we now participate in each year – like writing cards, pulling crackers and the setting up of family Christmas trees – owe their origins to the Victorian era. The Yeoman Warders will be receiving a Victorian makeover and writer of the age – Charles Dickens – will be reciting some of his works before joining in a “raucous” lunch party with some of his fellow writers, artists and benefactors. It’s even rumoured that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert themselves may make an appearance (take that as a given). Bah! Humbug! A Very Merry Victorian Christmas runs from 27th until 31st December. The festivities will all be included in the usual admission price. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk. PICTURE: Nick Wilkinson/NewsTeam.

Kew Gardens are celebrating Christmas with a host of events including a “Twelve trees of Christmas” family trail. The trail, a map of which can be picked up as you enter, includes facts about trees along the route. Volunteer guides are also leading free tours of seasonal highlights and the Kew Christmas tree can be seen at Victoria Gate. Other festive treats at Kew include the chance to see Father Christmas in his grotto (until Sunday only) and a vintage carousel on the Kew Palace Lawn. Many of the Christmas-related events end on 6th January. See www.kew.org for more.

A display focusing on the history of Henry Moore’s sculpture, Draped Seated Woman (better known as Old Flo), has opened at the Museum of London Docklands. Henry Moore and the East End provides a glimpse into 1950s East London and looks at why public art was considered important at the time. It features some of the maquettes (scale models) Moore used in creating the piece. The exhibition was opened following a decision by the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, to sell Old Flo (now at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park) rather than display the artwork in a public space. The move is being contested by the Museum of London Docklands who have offered to put the work on public display. An online exhibition can be seen at www.museumoflondon.org.uk/oldflo and a ‘pop-up exhibition’ on Old Flo will be launched in January. The museum is also encouraging people to tweet their views about the selling of the sculpture under the hashtag #saveoldflo.

On Now: Take Another Look. Still at the Museum of London Docklands, this exhibition focuses on the visual representation of people from the African Diaspora who were living and working in Britain in the late 18th and early 19th century. The display of 17 exhibits in the London, Sugar and Slavery gallery features prints by artists including Thomas Rowlandson and George Cruikshank as well as newspaper cuttings, mostly dating from 1780-1833, which show black Britons in perhaps what were unexpected roles – soldiers, musicians and sportsmen – during what was the period in which the abolition of slavery occurred. There are a series of events planned around the exhibition which runs until 4th August. Entry is free. For more see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Docklands/.

On Now: Mariko Mori: Rebirth. The first major museum exhibition of the New York-based Japanese artist Mariko Mori in London since 1998 has opened at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly. The exhibition features some of the artist’s most acclaimed works from the last 11 years, many of which have never before been seen in the UK, as well as works created just for the exhibition. Highlights include Tom Na H-iu, a five metre high glass monolith lit by hundreds of LED lights and connected back to the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research at the University of Tokyo; Transcircle, described as a “modern day Stonehenge”; and, Flatstone, an installation of “22 ceramic stones assembled to recreate an ancient shrine”. Runs until 17th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.