PICTURE: Rotana Ty (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Amid the many institutions which have closed their gates in London thanks to the COVID-19 crisis is one which has 18,000 live inhabitants to keep fed and cared for. ZSL London Zoo closed on 21st March for the first time since World War II but a core team including zookeepers, vets, security and grounds staff have remained on site to keep life as normal as possible for the animals within. Images released today show the zookeepers – some of whom are now living on site in the Zoo’s Lion Lodge guest accommodation – caring for the animals. The 200-year-old charity has launched a new fundraiser to support the care of the animals while it’s closed. Head to zsl.org/support-our-zoos. PICTURES: Top – Zookeepers feed the meerkats; Below – Keeper Martin Franklin cleans Penguin Beach; Far below – A Western lowland gorilla.

As seen at Chancery Lane Underground station. PICTURE: duncan c (licensed under CC-BY-NC 2.0)

Images of London from the 1960s showing, top, a view of Whitehall ad the Cenotaph, and below, looking across the Thames to the Houses of Parliament. PICTURES: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

A forgotten door built for festivities surrounding the coronation of King Charles II in 1661 has been rediscovered in the Houses of Parliament. 

The door, hidden behind panelling in cloister formerly used as offices by the Parliamentary Labour Party, was originally constructed to allow guests at the coronation to make their way to his celebratory banquet in Westminster Hall.

It was subsequently used by the likes of Robert Walpole, often referred to as the first Prime Minister as well as architect-led rivals Charles James Fox and William Pitt the Younger, and diarist Samuel Pepys.

The door and passageway behind it survived the fire which destroyed much of the Palace of Westminster in 1834 but it was thought the passage had been filled in during restoration works after the Palace of Westminster was bombed in World War II.

Liz Hallam Smith, an historical consultant from the University of York who is working with the team undertaking the renovations, said they were trawling through “10,000 uncatalogued documents relating to the palace at the Historic England Archives in Swindon, when we found plans for the doorway in the cloister behind Westminster Hall”.

“As we looked at the paneling closely, we realised there was a tiny brass key-hole that no-one had really noticed before, believing it might just be an electricity cupboard,” she said. “Once a key was made for it, the paneling opened up like a door into this secret entrance.”

In the small room behind the door, the team discovered the original hinges for two wooden doors some three-and-a-half meters high that would have opened into Westminster Hall. They also found graffiti, scribbled in pencil by bricklayers who worked on the restoration of the palace in 1851 following the 1834 fire.

One section reads “This room was enclosed by Tom Porter who was very fond of Ould Ale” and another, “These masons were employed refacing these groines…[ie repairing the cloister] August 11th 1851 Real Democrats”, the latter a reference suggesting the men were part of the working class male suffrage Chartist movement.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the House of Commons Speaker, described the find as “part of our parliamentary history”: “To think that this walkway has been used by so many important people over the centuries is incredible.”

PICTURE: Sir Lindsay Hoyle and the door (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor)

 


A startling image revealing two mice battling it out over a crumb on a platform at a London Underground station has won the Natural History Museum’s ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year LUMIX People’s Choice award’.
Taken by Bristol-based photographer Sam Rowley, the image was voted the winner from a shortlist of 25 images selected by the Natural History Museum out of the more than 48,000 entries. Rowley, who visited multiple platforms over the course of week to get the image, said it the encounter between the two mice lasted for just a split-second before one scurried away, triumphant with the crumb. ‘I’m so pleased to win this award. It’s been a lifetime dream to succeed in this competition in this way, with such a relatable photo taken in such an everyday environment in my hometown,” he said. “I hope it shows people the unexpected drama found in the most familiar of urban environments.” Four other images were highly commended including Aaron Gekoski’s image of an Orangutan being exploited for performance, Michel Zoghzhogi’s picture of a mother jaguar and cub with a captured anaconda, Martin Buzora’s portrait of a special moment between a conservation ranger and a baby black rhino, and Francis De Andres’s image of a group of curious white arctic reindeer. The images can all be seen at the Natural History Museum until 31st March. For more, head to www.wildlifephotographeroftheyear.com.

 


Looking down Brushfield Street towards Christ Church Spitalfields. Designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, the church was built between 1714 and 1729. PICTURE: Jack Bassingthwaighte/Unsplash

PICTURE: Marcus Lenk/Unsplash

Looking for something to brighten up those grey wintry days? The VAULT Festival returns to Waterloo from today with the launch of eight weeks of shows including everything from theatre and comedy, to cabaret, immersive experiences and late night parties. One of the largest curated arts festivals in the world, it takes place over 18 different spaces located across Waterloo and South Bank with the central hub located underground in The Vaults on Leake Street. This year’s festival, which runs until 22nd March, features more than 600 shows including a diverse range of both experienced and emerging artists and, according to directors and producers Mat Burt and Andy George, “offers a platform for “underrepresented voices and stories to be heard”. The full programme and tickets are available at vaultfestival.com. PICTURES: Images fro VAULT Festival 2019.

We’ve entered a new year but before we leave 2019 completely behind, here’s quick look at four sites in London that were put on the National Heritage List for England last year…

1. Sainsbury Supermarket, Camden TownListed at Grade II, it was the first purpose-built supermarket to be placed on the National Heritage List. The store was built in 1986-88 as part of Grand Union Complex designed by architectural practice Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners.

2. The Curtain Playhouse, Shoreditch. A scheduled monument, the theatre dates from about 1577 and hosted performances of Romeo and Juliet during Shakespeare’s lifetime, as well as Ben Jonson’s Every Man in His Humour with Shakespeare himself listed as a performer. Archaeological investigations in the years from 2011-16 revealed parts of the stage as well as the wings, galleries and yards and 17th century structures which showed the later use of the site as tenement housing.

3. Nursemaid’s Tunnel, Regent’s Park. Grade II listed, this is one of the earliest surviving pedestrian subways in London. It was built under New Road (now Marylebone Road) – linking Park Crescent with gardens in Park Square – in 1821 after residents campaigned for its construction due to the dangers of navigating the busy road (especially for children being taken to the playground by their nursemaids).

4. Cabman’s Shelter, corner Northumberland Avenue and Embankment Place. Grade II-listed, this still-in-use shelter was built in 1915 on the orders of the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund. It was based on Maximilian Clarke’s original design of 1882 and is one of just 13 examples to survive in London.

PICTURE: Google Maps.

Laurel & Hardy, Bugs Bunny, Mr Bean and Mary Poppins are among the big screen icons who are coming to Leicester Square as part of a new art installation taking up residence from late February. Scenes in the Square, an initiative of the Heart of London Business Alliance in partnership with Westminster City Council and major film studios, celebrates a century of cinema with a “trail” of interactive bronze statues. Other characters include Gene Kelly – hanging off a lamp-post as he appeared in 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain – and more modern heroes like Batman and Wonder Woman. Paddington will also be present with visitors able to sit on a bench and have lunch beside him. Several of the eight statues will be illuminated at night and the trail will be enhanced with interactive content including maps, video and music. It is hoped further characters will be introduced following a six month pilot period. PICTURES: Above – An artist’s impression of what the square will look like; Below – Models of Laurel and Hardy with the life-size Laurel and sculptor David Field in the background.

 

Woodlands, former churches and secluded city parks are all among the top 10 most tranquil places in London, according to the Tranquil City Index. According to a list published by the London Evening Standard, the top 10 puts Woodberry Wetlands in Stoke Newington (pictured above) at number one followed by the church ruins (now a park) of St Dunstan-in-the-East in the City of London (below), Cody Dock at Bow Creek and Beckenham Place Park. Postman’s Park in the City of London comes in at number five, followed by the Red Cross Garden in Southwark, Myatt’s Fields Park in Camberwell, Southmere Lake at Thamesmead, the Japanese Garden in Hammersmith Park (pictured) and, at number 10, the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal. The index is the work of Tranquil City, an organisation which explores “our relationship with tranquillity in the urban environment to promote health, wellbeing and balance”. PICTURE: Top – diamond geezer (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0); Below – James Stringer (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0).

Did you know that 2020 marks 10 years since Exploring London first began…well…exploring London?

We’ll be celebrating our anniversary across the year in a number of ways including counting down our 100 most read stories ever…

So let’s kick off the countdown with numbers 100 and 99…

100. LondonLife – A new crown for King Henry VIII…

99. 10 sites of significance in Jane Austen’s London…1. 10 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden…

PICTURE: Adi Goldstein/Unsplash

Christmas came early at ZSL London Zoo on Monday when animals woke to find their presents had been delivered. Among them was a new Christmas climbing frame decorated with edible gifts for the ever-popular Bolivian black-capped squirrel monkeys, turkey wings for Sumatran tiger Asim and hanging stockings stuffed with vegetable trimmings for the ring-tailed lemurs. “Just like children all over the country when they wake up on Christmas morning, Asim loved tearing into his brightly wrapped presents to get at the meaty snacks inside, while our squirrel monkeys and lemurs enjoyed finding the festive treats hidden in their stockings,” said Angela Ryan, the Zoo’s animal manager. The zoo is open every day with the exception of Christmas Day itself. For more, see www.zsl.org/London. ALL PICTURES: © ZSL London Zoo

The remains of an adult female and a young child have been discovered beneath the floor of one of the entrances to the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London. Discovered as part of early investigations aimed at enabling better disabled access to the chapel, the two skeletons – the first complete skeletons found at the Tower since the 1970s – were found lying face up with their feet facing east, typical of a Christian burial. The adult, believed to be aged 35 to 45, is believed to have been buried within a coffin (coffin nails were present) while the child, believed to be aged about seven, was simply wrapped in a blanket – typical of later medieval and early Tudor burials – and due to that and further materials and artefacts uncovers, it is believed the two people were laid to rest between 1450 and 1550, a period between the Wars of the Roses and the reign of King Edward VI. The remains were reinterred in the chapel in a special ceremony conducted by the Tower of London’s chaplain, Rev Canon Roger Hall. The Chapel Royal was completed in 1520 and is perhaps most famed for being the burial place of two of King Henry VIII’s wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. The discovery was explored in the the final episode of Inside the Tower of London which aired on Channel 5 in October.

MOLA archaeologists have started excavating the site of The Boar’s Head Playhouse in Middlesex Street, Whitechapel, before construction of a new student housing complex. The playhouse, the location of which is known from historical accounts, was created in 1598 when inn owner Oliver Woodliffe converted his establishment by adding tiered galleries, a stage and central open air yard (extra galleries and a roof over the stage were added a year later). The playhouse hosted popular acting troupes including Lord Derby’s Men and the Lord Worcester’s Men, later the Queen’s Men, led by the famous actor and playwright Thomas Greene, and among the plays performed was the comedy No-body and Some-body as well as a chronicle of the life and reign of Elizabeth I, If You Know Not Me, You Know No Bodie. It is hoped the excavations will provide new insights into the theatre. The accommodation, being developed by Unite Students, will provide housing for 915 students and is expected to open in 2021. PICTURES: Top – Archaeologists record an 18th century clay tobacco pipe kiln built against 16th century walls associated with the Boar’s Head playhouse © MOLA; Below – Reconstruction of the Boar’s Head Playhouse from 1598, by C Walter Hodges.

 

Greenwich with the masts of the Cutty Sark in the background. PICTURE: Robert Likovski/Unsplash

Gertrude Bell – an adventurer, archaeologist, mountaineer and diplomat (who was at least partially responsible for the creation of the nation of Iraq) – has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque on the Chelsea home that served as her London based for some 40 years. The three storey Georgian residence at 95 Sloane Street (pictured) belonged to Lady Olliffe, the mother of Bell’s step-mother Florence. Bell, who spent much of her time in the Middle East, used the home as her London base between 1884, when she graduated from Queen’s College, through to her last visit to London in 1925, including during an extended period in 1915 when she managed the Red Cross’s Wounded and Missing Enquiry Department’s office in Arlington Street. Meanwhile, jazz musician Ronnie Scott has also been honoured with a Blue Plaque which marks the site of his first club in Soho. Scott and fellow saxophonist Pete King opened jazz club in the basement of 39 Gerrard Street in Chinatown on 30th October, 1959 – 60 years ago this year. The club remained there for six years before moving to 47 Frith Street in 1965. Musicians including Zoot Sims, Johnny Griffin, Roland Kirk, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, Benny Golson, Ben Webster, and Al Cohn all performed at the club while patrons included Harold Pinter, the Beatles, Peter O’Toole, and Spike Milligan. For more on English Heritage Blue Plaques, visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/. PICTURE: Google Maps

St Bride’s Church in Fleet Street was among the hundreds of historic sites removed from Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register this year. Published last month, the register is an annual inventory of historic sites “most at risk of being lost forever as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development”. It shows that while some 310 items have been removed from the list over the past year, some 247 were added, meaning there were 5,073 entries on the list this year, 87 less than the previous year. The Grade I-listed St Bride’s, which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666, had needed repairs to both its famous steeple – said to have inspired the tiered wedding cake design – and the body of the church itself. Historic England spent almost £8.5 million on grants to help restore some of the country’s most historic sites over the past year. Among London sites still on the list are the Grade II*-listed Crystal Palace Park, the Grade I-listed St Pancras Church and sections of what remains of London’s Roman and medieval wall. For more, see www.historicengland.org.uk/advice/heritage-at-risk/.

PICTURE: Robert Bye/Unsplash