We finish our series looking at notable English Heritage blue plaques with a look at a plaque which not only commemorates a prominent Londoner but, unusually, also displays there for all to see the reason (well, an important part of it, anyway) for his prominence.
Yes, we’re talking about Edward Johnston (1872-1944), a master calligrapher who was not only credited with starting the modern revival of the art but is also noted for having created the famous Johnston typeface which he developed for London Transport in the early 20th century.
In a lovely touch, the sans serif typeface he created is that used on the plaque – located at premises at 3 Hammersmith Terrace in Chiswick where he lived from 1905-1912 – itself.
The plaque, which was erected on the building in 1977 by the Greater London Council, was the first to feature the typeface but isn’t the only one: in fact there are four, all of which commemorate people related to London Transport.
The other three commemorated include Frank Pick (1878-1941), a London transport administrator who steered the development of London’s corporate identity – he’s commemorated with a plaque on his former property at 15 Wildwood Road, Hampstead Garden Suburb, with a Greater London Council plaque erected in 1981).
They also include Albert Henry Stanley, Lord Ashfield (1874-1948), the first chairman of London Transport (placed on his former home at 43 South Street, Mayfair, in 1984 by London County Council); and, the most recent plaque commemorating Harry Beck (1902-1974), designer of the London Underground map (placed by English Heritage in 2013 on his former property at 14 Wesley Road in Leyton).
PICTURE: Edwardx/CC BY-SA 4.0
July 13, 2016
The fact the properties can have many residents with the passing of the years means that there’s a select number of properties in London (18 to be exact) which bear more than one English Heritage blue plaque – among them 4 Carlton Gardens in St James’s (home to 19th century PM Lord Palmerston and where General Charles De Gaulle set up the headquarter of the free French forces in 1940).
But among that group is an even more select group – properties which bear two blue plaques with both of those people commemorated coming from the same family. The home at 20 Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead (pictured above) falls into this group.
Now a museum, the home’s celebrated occupants have included psycho-analyst Sigmund Freud, who lived here briefly in the final years of his life (between 1938 and his death on 23rd September, 1939), and his daughter Anna Freud, the youngest of his six children and herself a pioneering psycho-analyst, who lived here from 1938 until her death in 1982.
Both occupants have their own blue plaques on the property: Sigmund’s original London County Council blue plaque was unveiled on the site by his daughter Anna – then still occupant in the home – in 1956, the 100th anniversary of his birth. It had deteriorated and was replaced in 2002, at the same time a plaque to Anna herself was unveiled.
When Freud had moved to London from Vienna in June, 1938 – following the annexation of Austria by the Third Reich, he had initially lived in Primrose Hill before settling in the property in Maresfield Gardens along with his family and a significant collection of furniture from his Vienna consulting rooms.
In 1986, four years after Anna’s death, property was reopened as the Freud Museum and the public can still go inside and see Freud’s study, including his famed consulting couch, just as it was when he lived there.
The Freuds aren’t, of course, the only family members commemorated by English Heritage Blue Plaques – others include suffragette mother and daughters Emmeline and Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst (the first two commemorated on a single plaque at 50 Clarendon Road in Notting Hill and the latter at 120 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea), and father and son Prime Ministers William Pitt the Elder and his son William Pitt the Younger (at 10 St James’s Square in St James’s and 120 Baker Street in Marylebone respectively).
WHERE: Freud Museum London, 20 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead (nearest Tube stations are Finchley Road and Swiss Cottage); WHEN: Noon to 5pm, Wednesday to Sunday; COST: £7 adults; £5 seniors; £4 concessions (including children 12-16); children under 12 free; WEBSITE: www.freud.org.uk.
June 8, 2016
Much has been made about the dearth of women featured on blue plaques in this 150th year of the scheme – according to English Heritage, only 13 per cent of the 900 odd blue plaques in London commemorate a woman.
The oldest surviving blue plaque commemorating a woman, however, is that commemorating what is today a less well-known name, that of Fanny Burney.
Burney (1752-1840), who was known as Madame D’Arblay after she married, was a widely applauded novelist who was also noted for her diaries which record her involvement in the literary circles around Samuel Johnson and the Bluestocking Group.
The blue plaque commemorating her residence at 11 Bolton Street in Mayfair was erected in 1885 by the Society of Arts (which means that like others erected by the society, later the Royal Society of Arts, it’s brown not blue).
Burney, whose most profitable work, Camilla, was published in 1796 after she had spent five years as Second Keeper of the Robs to Queen Charlotte, lived in the house following the death of her husband, the Frenchman Alexandre D’Arblay.
She spent 10 years here – from 1818 until 1828 – and had apparently thought it would be her last residence but she went on to move into three further properties after this one.
English Heritage are celebrating 150 years of the blue plaque scheme this year – the oldest of its kind in the world – and so to celebrate we’re looking at 10 of the most notable among them.
First up, it’s the oldest surviving blue plaque. Located in King Street in Mayfair, just off St James’s Square, it commemorates the last French Emperor, Napoleon III, who lived at the property while a prince in 1848.
It was only a brief stay for the then soon-to-be emperor. The nephew and heir of Emperor Napoleon I, he , like other members of his family was exiled from France after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and spent the following years in various other countries in Europe as well as, finally, London where he lived firstly at Carlton Gardens and then at the King Street property.
He took the lease on this newly built house in February, 1847, and created what English Heritage has called a “shrine to the Bonapartes” inside, displaying such relics as Napoleon I’s uniforms and a portrait of his famous uncle by the celebrated French artist Paul Delaroche.
The prince was something of a society favourite during his time in London and was invited to join various of St James’s clubs and apparently even enrolled as a special constable during the Chartist riots of 1848.
When the Bourbon monarchy – in the person of King Louis Philippe – was overthrown in France in September that year, the prince abandoned the house to rush back to France (apparently in such a hurry that the story goes that he left his bed unmade and his bath still full of water).
The prince was elected first President of the Second Republic on his return to Paris and in 1852 took his place as Emperor Napoleon III on the restoration of the empire (incidentally, he ended up returning to England in exile following his defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and died in Kent in 1873).
The plaque, installed in 1867, also has the distinction of being the only one installed while the person it commemorates was still alive. The rule now is that those commemorated by a blue plaque need to have been dead for at least 20 years before the honour can be bestowed.
The plaque, which is rather more elaborate than modern versions, was put up by the Society of Arts (they’re mentioned on it) and the design features a French imperial eagle. It was manufactured by Minton Hollins & Co.
For more on Blue Plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.
April 4, 2016
Queen Elizabeth II, the oldest British monarch, celebrates her 90th birthday later this month and, although we’ve run a piece on the Queen’s birth before, we thought it only fitting to take a second look at what proved to be a momentous birth.
The then Princess Elizabeth (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary) was born at 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair – the London home of her maternal grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore (they also owned Glamis Castle in Scotland) – at 2.40am on 21st April, 1926.
She was apparently delivered by Caesarian section and the Home Secretary, Sir William Joynson-Hicks, was in attendance to ensure everything was above board (the custom, which has since been dropped, was apparently adopted after what was known as the ‘Warming Pan Scandal’ when, following the birth of Prince James Francis Edward, son of King James II and Queen Mary of Modena, in June, 1688, rumours spread that the baby had been stillborn and replaced by an imposter brought into the chamber inside a warming pan).
The first child of the Prince Albert, the Duke of York (Bertie) and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth), she was third in line to the throne at her birth but thanks to the abdication of King Edward VIII, became her father’s heir.
The event apparently drew a crowd to the property (although none could yet suspect how important this princess was to become) and among the well-wishers who visited the newborn that afternoon were her paternal grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary, who had apparently been woken at 4am to be informed of the birth of their second grandchild.
The property was to be Princess Elizabeth’s home for the first few months of her life (named after her mother, paternal great-grandmother, Queen Alexandra, and paternal grandmother, Queen Mary, she was christened in the private chapel at Buckingham Palace five weeks after her birth).
The home of her birth and a neighbouring townhouse have both since been demolished and replaced by an office building. A plaque commemorating it as the Queen’s birthplace was installed in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Year of 1977 and another to mark the Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
The Queen’s birthday will be officially commemorated in June.
PICTURE: Via London Remembers
January 18, 2016
Famous around the world as the home of bespoke tailoring in London, Savile Row owes its name – like so many other streets in Mayfair – to landowner Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington.
Burlington (1612-98) resided at Burlington House (now home of the Royal Academy of Arts) on Piccadilly and after his death the land around his former home was developed and the streets named for Burlington and members of his family.
Among them was his wife, Lady Burlington, née Lady Dorothy Savile, after whom Savile Row was named. Laid out in 1695, the street was actually located on the site of the former kitchen gardens of Burlington House and was given its name (originally Savile Street) in the 1730s.
The first to reside here were apparently mostly military and politicians (these included PM William Pitt the Younger) and it was only in the early 19th century that the first tailors started to set up shop here. With clients including society dandy Beau Brummell (see our our earlier post here) and the Prince Regent (later King George IV), the street’s fame grew rapidly and continued into the 20th century when customers included some of the biggest names in Hollywood – Cary Grant, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra among them.
Among the famous tailoring firms still operating in Savile Row are Anderson & Sheppard (at number 30, it’s where the Prince of Wales has his suits made), Henry Poole (at number 15, Victorian-era owner Henry Poole is credited as the inventor of the tuxedo), and Hardy Amies.
Headquartered at number 14 (with a shop at number 8), Amies gained an international reputation when appointed dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth II in 1955/the address was previously owned by the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan and was also the address Jules Vernes gave Phileas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days).
One last tailor worth a particular mention is that of Tommy Nutter, who set up shop at number 35 in the late Sixties with a nameplate out front simply reading Nutters and shocked traditionalists with his modern take on tailoring – this modern approach continues among some tailors in the street even today.
The street also has a famous claim in the story of the Beatles – the moved their company Apple Corps Company into number 3 in July, 1968, and it was on the roof of this building that they played their last live gig on 3rd January, 1969.
There are numerous memorials to Sir Winston Churchill around London and today we’ll look at a handful of them (while next week we’ll take a look at a couple of the most unusual memorials). We’ve already looked at the most famous statue of him in Parliament Square (in an earlier post here), but here’s some more…
• Allies, Mayfair. These almost life-size bronze statues, located at the juncture of Old and New Bond Streets, depict Churchill and US President Franklin D Roosevelt in an informal pose, sitting and talking together on a bench. The sculpture was a gift from the Bond Street Association to the City of Westminster and was unveiled by Princess Margaret on 2nd May, 1995 commemorating 50 years since the end of World War II. It is the work of US sculptor Lawrence Holofcener. There’s a space between the two World War II leaders where the passerby can sit and have their picture taken between them.
• Member’s Lobby, House of Commons. We’ve already mentioned this bronze statue (see our previous post here), erected in 1969, which stands just outside Churchill Arch opposite one of another former PM, David Lloyd George. It is the work of Croatian-born sculptor Oscar Nemon who also created numerous other busts of the former PM now located both in the UK (one of which is mentioned below) and around the world.
• Great Hall, Guildhall. Commissioned by the Corporation of the City of London and unveiled in 1955, this bronze statue shows Churchill, wearing a suit and bow tie, seated in an armchair and looking ahead. Another work of Nemon’s, it was commissioned as a tribute to “the greatest statesman of his age and the nation’s leader in the Great War of 1939-1945”.
• Outside former Conservative Club, Wanstead. A very thick-necked bust of Churchill, erected in 1968, sits outside the 18th century mansion in Wanstead High Street, north-east London, which was once the Conservative Club and is now occupied by a restaurant. The bigger than life-sized bust is the work of Italian artist Luigi Fironi and stands on a plinth once part of old Waterloo Bridge. Churchill was the Conservative member for this area between 1924-1964 and based at the club from 1930 to 1940.
Churchill’s association with this landmark Mayfair hotel was a long one – not only did he convene key meetings here during World War II, the hotel also served as his residence.
Entertaining the upper crust since the mid 1800s, Claridge’s was the scene of many meetings during World War II, including all night meetings convened by Churchill with US military intelligence personnel which would only end when Churchill’s barber appeared at 6am.
The Brook Street hotel became something of a haven for deposed heads of state both in the lead-up to and during World War II – King Peter II and his family had moved in after he was exiled in 1941 and it was at the orders of Sir Winston that in 1945 Suite 212 was declared Yugoslavian territory so Crown Prince Alexander II could be born on “home soil” (there’s a story that a clod of earth from Yugoslavia was placed under the bed during the birth).
Alongside the king of Yugoslavia, other heads of state to have stayed here during this period include the kings of Greece and Norway.
The scene of many a Churchill dinner, Churchill and Lady Clementine made Claridge’s – specifically the sixth floor penthouse suite – their home for a period after his election defeat in 1945 (Churchill apparently wasn’t that keen on the idea of living so high up!).
For more on the history of Claridge’s, check out the hotel’s website here: www.claridges.co.uk.
November 7, 2014
This Sunday marks 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall so we decided it was a fitting time to mention the fragment of the wall which accompanies the bronze statue of former US President Ronald Reagan in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair.
The plaque also features quotes from President Reagan – including the famous line from his 1987 Brandenburg Gate speech, “Mr Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall” – and other figures including former UK PM Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev as well as information about the wall itself.
In a dedication to the president, it further reads: “Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States of America, was a principled fighter for freedom. With a clear vision and will, he gave hope to the oppressed and shamed the oppressors. His contribution to world history in the 20th century, culminated in his determined intervention to end the Cold War. President Reagan has left a lasting legacy as a campaigner for global peace.”
The memorial was unveiled on 4th July, 2011, outside the US Embassy by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, to mark the 100th birthday of the former president. Among those present at the unveiling of the statue were then Foreign Minister William Hague and former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
There are also larger sections of the wall outside the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth and in the National Army Museum in Chelsea (closed for redevelopment until 2016).
For more on London’s monuments, check out Andrew Kershman’s aptly named London’s Monuments.
This Week in London – Hogarth cartoons; Daniel O’Connell blue plaque; and, Peder Balke paintings on show…
November 6, 2014
• The works of famed 18th century chronicler of London, William Hogarth, are on show at the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury. Marking the 25oth anniversary of his death on the night of 25th/26th October, 1764, the display Hogarth’s London features more than 50 of the artist’s best known satirical prints including A Harlot’s Progress, A Rake’s Progress, The Four Times of Day, Industry and Idleness and Gin Lane and Beer Street. A series of events – including an evening of Baroque dance & music, gin, beer and cartooning on 28th November – accompanies this exhibition which runs until 18th January and is supported by The William Hogarth Trust. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org/exhibitions/current-exhibitions/hogarth-s-london.
• Nineteenth century Irish political leader Daniel O’Connell has been honoured with an English Heritage blue plaque as his former London home. Known as ‘The Liberator’, O’Connell was an abolitionist who successfully campaigned for civil and Catholic rights – including the right for Catholics to sit in the British Parliament. The first popularly elected MP since the Reformation, he lived in the property at 14 Albermarle Street in Mayfair with his family for several months in 1833 – a year in which a number of his supporters were elected to the House of Commons and in which the act to abolish slavery was given royal assent. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blue-plaques/.
• On Now: Peder Balke. The first ever UK exhibition focused on the paintings of this 19th century Norwegian artist is underway at the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square. Held in conjunction with the Northern Norway Art Museum, the exhibition features more than 50 paintings, the majority of which have never been seen in the UK before. The display includes works from across Balke’s career, including The Tempest (c 1862), the only painting by a Norwegian artist in the gallery’s collection. This free exhibition runs in the Sunley Room until April. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.
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July 28, 2014
No, the name of the famous Bond Street in Mayfair has nothing to do with James Bond. Rather, the street – in fact, two streets named Old and New Bond Street – takes its name from a 17th century courtier, Sir Thomas Bond.
Bond was the comptroller of the household of Queen Henrietta Maria, then the Queen Mother thanks to being the widow of King Charles I and the mother of King Charles II. He was also something of a land developer – the head of a consortium that purchased Albermarle House from Christopher Monck, the 2nd Duke of Albermarle, in 1683.
The house was promptly demolished and the area redeveloped with what is now Old Bond Street – which runs from Piccadilly to Burlington Gardens – laid out in 1686 and given Sir Thomas’ surname (he’d died the previous year).
The northern extension of Old Bond Street (which runs from Burlington Gardens to Oxford Street) – named New Bond Street – was developed in the 1720s. Caroline Taggart, in The Book of London Place Names, says it was residents of Old Bond Street who insisted on the use of ‘new’ in the name, no doubt to differentiate between themselves and the newcomers or, as Taggart suggests, ‘upstarts’.
Traditionally known as a location for art dealers (Sotheby’s auction house – identified by an ancient Egyptian bust of the goddess Sekhmet which sits on the facade – has stood there for more than a century), the street has become increasingly known for its luxury fashion and accessories retailers such as Asprey’s, Chanel, Cartier, Dolce & Gabbana, Bulgari and Tiffany & Co (see the Bond Street Association for more). Other landmark buildings in the street include the home of the Fine Art Society and the Royal Arcade.
Bond Street is also home to US sculptor’s Lawrence Holofcener’s work, Allies (pictured above), depicting former British PM Winston Churchill and US President Franklin D Roosevelt, and at the northern end stands the Bond Street Underground Station which opened in 1900.
Famous residents have included Admiral Horatio Nelson – who stayed at number 147 in 1797-98 while he recovered after losing his arm at Tenerife, eighteenth century satirist Jonathan Swift and politician William Pitt the Elder, as well as twentieth century spy Guy Burgess, who lived at Clifford Chambers before his defection to USSR.
Around Christmas, the street plays host to a rather special display of lights (pictured top).
The adventurous, wealthy and rather mysterious Phileas Fogg, the hero of Jules Verne’s 1873 novel Around the World in Eighty Days, is noted in the book’s first line as living at “No. 7 Saville Row, Burlington Gardens, the house in which Sheridan died in 1814”.
It’s from there that he and his delightfully named French valet, Passepartout, set off on their breakneck trip around the world after Fogg, a “doubtful” Londoner who was a member of the Reform Club based nearby in Pall Mall (“and that was all” – his history was something of an unknown), makes a £20,000 bet that he can travel around the world in just 80 days – a bet which sees him travel by everything from trains to elephants and overcome all sorts of obstacles as he attempts the feat.
But back to London and Savile Row in the inner west London area of Mayfair. The Irish-born playwright and MP Richard Brinsley Sheridan did indeed live in Savile Row – but at number 14 rather than at number 7 (and he died in 1816, not 1814 as claimed in the book).
There is a plaque on the townhouse mentionig Sheridan’s residence (but not Fogg’s) which today is occupied by tailors Hardy Amies. Amies himself purchased the property, which was restored in 2009, in 1947, reportedly with the backing of Cary Grant’s ex-wife, actress Virginia Cherril.
For more on Savile Row’s history, see Henry Poole: Founders of Savile Row – The Making of a Legend.
November 18, 2013
The origins of this Thames-side district of London are as obvious as they sound – it was the site of a mill which stood on the west bank of the river.
The mill, which had served Westminster Abbey since at least the 16th century, stood here until about 1735 when it was demolished and replaced by a mansion built by Sir Robert Grosvenor, a member of the Grosvenor family responsible for developing parts of Mayfair.
The house was pulled down in 1809 to make way for Millbank Prison, which was the country’s first national prison and which was where prisoners were held before their transportation to Australia.
The prison closed about 1890 (a buttress which once stood at the top of the prison’s river steps commemorates the prison – pictured above).
The site is now occupied by some of the more interesting buildings in the area – including the Chelsea College of Arts (buildings formerly used by the Royal Army Medical School, Tate Britain (which opened in 1897 as the National Gallery of British Art), and a housing development known as the Millbank Estate, constructed to providing housing for 4,500 members of the working class.
While the area was previously known for having been dominated by marshland, land was eventually reclaimed along the waterfront and an embankment established, defining the course of the river.
As well as the district, the name Millbank is also the name of the street which runs along the riverbank between the Houses of Parliament and Vauxhall Bridges.
For more on London’s prisons, check out Geoffrey Howse’s A History of London’s Prisons.
June 3, 2013
This upmarket square in west London is named in honor of Sir Hans Sloane, the physician come botanist who bought the manor of Chelsea in 1712 and, in doing so, provided grounds for the Chelsea Physic Garden.
Sloane Square was developed by architect Henry Holland Sr and his son Henry Holland Jr in 1771 as part of a residential development they called Hans Town (also named after Sir Hans, it’s still a ward in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea). For more on Sir Hans Sloane, see our earlier post here.
The square, pictured above as it looks decorated for Christmas, initially consisted of a village green bordered with posts and chains and the surrounding buildings were all residential. Apparently the square initially failed to attract the right sort of residents (it was a little too far from Mayfair) but despite this initial setback, it gradually became the centre of a desirable residential precinct.
Private houses began making way for other buildings in the square in the nineteenth century – in 1810, the New Chelsea Theatre opened, subsequently renamed the Royal Court Theatre (this was later moved to another site still on the square and remains there today), and in 1812, the Chelsea, Brompton and Belgrave Dispensary was established for the relief of the sick and the poor.
The Sloane Square Underground station opened in 1868 and rebuilt after it was damaged by bombs in World War II (it’s interesting to note that the River Westbourne actually runs through some iron conduit over the top of the platforms on its way to the River Thames).
Other notable buildings in the square today include the Peter Jones department store which first arrived in the square in the late nineteenth century.
The square itself was redesigned in the 1930s when the war memorial was put in its current position. The Venus Fountain (pictured above) which now stands there – the work of Gilbert Ledward – was erected in 1953.
Located in the south-west of Mayfair in London’s West End, Berkeley Square was originally laid out by architect William Kent in the mid 1700s.
It takes its name from the Berkeley family of Gloucestershire (the first Lord Berkeley of Stratton was a Royalist commander in the Civil War) whose London residence, Berkeley House, stood on what is now the south side of the square until it was destroyed in a fire in 1733 (Devonshire House, whose residents included the 5th Earl of Devonshire and his somewhat notorious wife Georgiana, was subsequently built on the site and remained there until it was demolished in the 1920s).
The gardens, which feature some of the city’s oldest London Plane trees (dating from 1789), have a pump house at the centre which was built in 1800 and is now Grade II listed (it stands on the site of an earlier equestrian statue of King George III). Other features including the statue Lady of Sumaria (Water Carrier) – pictured above – which was made by Pre-Raphaelite sculptor Alexander Munro in 1858 and stands at the garden’s southern end.
Among notable buildings which face onto the square are Lansdowne House – located on the south-west corner of the square, it was designed by Robert Adam and now home of the Lansdowne Club – and number 50 Berkeley Square, home of short-lived early 19th century PM George Canning (and said to be the most haunted house in London). The square was also the home of society favorite, Gunter’s Tea Shop, which dated from the mid-1700s.
Famous residents have included wartime PM Sir Winston Church (he lived at number 48 as a child); Horace Walpole, some of the first Prime Minister Robert Walpole (he lived at number 11 during the 1700s), Robert Clive (more famously known as Clive of India, he committed suicide in number 45 in 1774), and the fictional Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves (creations of author PG Wodehouse). The square also featured in the famous wartime song, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.
The square is open from 8am daily with closing times varying based on the season.
March 4, 2013
It’s probably a bit of a stretch to call Jane Austen a ‘famous Londoner’ (although the city does make a fairly regular appearance in her books) but she did have some strong associations. Given the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice earlier this year, we thought it was only fitting to take a quick look at a five places associated with the author in London…
• 10 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden: Austen stayed in a flat here during the summer of 1813 and during March 1814. The premises was the home of her older brother Henry, then a banker, who moved here after the death of his wife Eliza. While here, Austen visited theatres including The Lyceum and The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. The building is now occupied by offices.
• 23 Hans Place, Belgravia: The home of her brother Henry (after he moved from Covent Garden), Austen lived for two years in a house here in 1814-15 and is said to have particularly enjoyed the garden. The current building on the site apparently dates from later in the 19th century. There’s a blue plaque located on the house.
• 50 Albemarle Street, Mayfair: The former office of publishers John Murray who counted Austen among their first clients were located here.
• Westminster Abbey: Austen is not buried here but in Winchester Cathedral. However, you will find a small memorial to her in Poet’s Corner, put here in 1967. It simply reads ‘Jane Austen 1775-1817’.
• The British Library, St Pancras: Austen’s rather tiny writing desk can be found here, usually on display in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery. It was donated to the library in 1999 by her Canadian descendents.
February 4, 2013
Arguably the greatest architect of Regency London, John Nash’s imprint can still be seen in numerous sites around the city, from the master-planning of Regent’s Park and Regent Street to the beautiful buildings of All Soul’s Church in Langham Place and Marble Arch on the edge of Hyde Park.
Born the son of a Welsh millwright in Lambeth, London, on 18th January, 1752, Nash – who went on to work in a range of different architectural styles – trained as a draughtsman under the tutelage of architect Sir Robert Taylor and in 1777 established his own business as a builder and surveyor.
But he certainly didn’t meet with immediate success and, following failure as a building speculator (he built properties in Bloomsbury Square and Great Russell Street but failed to make enough money from the venture – there’s a blue plaque on one of the houses, which he lived in, at 66 Great Russell Street), was declared bankrupt in 1783.
Meanwhile, his personal life was also in turmoil during these years – in 1775 he had married, Jane Kerr, the daughter of a Surrey surgeon, but separated from her in the early 1780s after various troubles including her eventually apparently having a child with a Welshman named Charles Charles, who is said to have died in prison after he was jailed for adultery.
Brought down by his misfortune, in the mid 1780s Nash moved to Carmarthen in Wales where he had family. Taking up work here, by the late 1780s he was designing prisons – the first was at Carmarthen – and worked on a number of other prominent buildings including St David’s Cathedral and various country houses.
Rising to prominence in Carmarthen society, by 1797, however, Nash was again working in London, initially in partnership with the renowned landscape architect Humphrey Repton with whom he had formed a business relationship some years earlier (although the partnership had soured over finances by 1800).
He built a substantial home at 29 Dover Street in Mayfair and in 1798, his first wife presumably dead, he married his second wife, Mary Anne Bradley, and soon started work on building a Gothic-inspired residence for them, known as East Cowes Castle, on the Isle of Wight. It was completed in 1802 but enlarged some years later.
Nash designed numerous country properties in the early 19th century, inspired by everything from castles to Italianate architecture, both in England and Ireland and soon came to the attention of the Prince Regent, the future King George IV (there was a rumour his wife was one of the prince’s discarded mistresses).
In 1806 he was officially made Deputy Surveyor General in the Office of Woods and Forests – the office which managed the Crown estate, and from 1815 on, he largely worked for the prince alone. Among the major London commissions from his royal patron were the design of Regent Street (he and his wife moved into number 14 in 1823) and the development of Regent’s Park on land formerly known as Marylebone Park and surrounding housing estates (for more on The Regent’s Park, see our earlier entry here). He also redeveloped St James’s Park.
In 1815, he was commissioned to develop the Prince Regent’s Marine Pavilion in Brighton and by 1822 had transformed the building into the spectacular Royal Pavilion which can be visited there today.
Nash was also involved in the development of The Regent’s Canal – which linked the Grand Union Canal in London’s west to the River Thames in London’s east and was completed in 1820 – and built many of the grand villas which still line it (for more on Regent’s Canal, see our earlier entry here).
Becoming an official architect to the Office of Works in 1813 (an appointment which only ended in 1832, three years before his death), Nash went on to design churches – including All Soul’s in Langham Place (he’s depicted above in a bust at the church) – as well as West End theatres including the Haymarket Theatre and the Royal Opera House (which burnt down in 1867) as well as the adjacent Royal Opera Arcade and residences including Carlton House Terrace and Clarence House (for more on this, see our earlier entry here).
Other major commissions included the redevelopment of Buckingham Palace (parts of the current building are his work but the main facade isn’t – for more on the palace history, see our earlier entry here) and the Royal Mews, and the creation of Marble Arch, originally envisaged as the main gateway to the palace (see our earlier entry here). Nash also designed a conservatory for Kew Gardens.
Nash’s close relationship with the Prince Regent (who become King George IV on 29th January, 1820), meant that when the king died in 1830, he found himself on the outer (and his reputation took many years to recover thanks to his association with the unpopular king). With no knighthood forthcoming for his efforts (unlike many of his contemporaries) and the chance of further work unlikely (his work on Buckingham Palace had been left unfinished due to concerns over rising costs), Nash retired to his house on the Isle of Wight.
He died there on 13th May, 1835, and was buried in the churchyard at St James’s Church in East Cowes. He was survived by his wife who, having settled his debts, retired to Hampstead.
For an in-depth study of Nash, try Geoffrey Tyack’s book, John Nash: Architect of the Picturesque.
November 19, 2012
Sitting above the entrance to Sotherby’s auction house in New Bond Street, Mayfair, is a bust of Sekhmet, a lion-headed Egyptian goddess of war and healing. The half-statue, made from black basalt, was made around 1,320 BC during the 18th dynasty.
It has been sitting above Sotherby’s entrance since the 1880s when it was sold at auction for £40, but never collected.
Sotherby’s, founded by Samuel Baker in 1744, has operated on the site at 34-35 New Bond Street since 1917 when it moved from its previous home at The Strand.
You might be interested in seeing our earlier entry for London’s oldest full length outdoor statue here…
October 31, 2012
We’ve had a quick look at the origins of Covent Garden before (as part of our What’s in a name? series) but it’s worth a recap.
Now a favorite of tourists visiting London, Covent Garden is these days largely known as a specialty shopping and entertainment precinct in the West End. But its beginnings as a market go back at least to the 1600s when a licence was formally granted to hold a market in the piazza.
The land had been formerly owned by the Abbey (or Convent) of St Peter in Westminster which had established 40 acre kitchen garden here (hence ‘Convent Garden’) and had passed into the hands of the Crown at the Dissolution. Later owned by the Earls of Bedford, it was the 4th earl, Francis Russell, who commissioned Inigo Jones to design a great residential square- including St Paul’s Church, known as the Actor’s Church – on the site.
By 1650, fruit and vegetable markets were regularly been held on the site and, interestingly, around this time the market adopted the pineapple, a symbol of wealth, as its emblem (it was also around this time that Punch and Judy shows were introduced to the area (see our earlier post on Mr Punch here)). Covent Garden’s rise to prominence as a market came when the Great Fire of London destroyed many of London’s other markets leaving it as the foremost fruit, vegetable and flower market. In May 1670, the 5th Earl of Bedford, William Russell (later 1st Duke of Bedford), obtained the formal right to hold a market on the site from King Charles II.
The growth of the market and the development of fashionable residential developments further west in Soho and Mayfair saw many of the affluent people who had lived around the market move out and the character of the square changed (in an indication of this, a list of Covent Garden prostitutes was published in 1740).
In 1813, the 6th Duke of Bedford, John Russell, secured an Act of Parliament regulating the market and in the late 1820s began to redevelop the site, commissioning architect Charles Fowler to design new buildings (up until then the market was housed in makeshift stalls and sheds). These include the grand main market building which still stands on the site today.
The market continued to grow – there is said to have been 1,000 porters employed at the market’s peak – and in 1860 a new flower market was built on the south piazza (where the London Transport Museum now stands), while in the 1870s, a glass roof was added to the market building. A “foreign” flower market opened in what is now Jubilee Hall in 1904.
In 1918, the Bedford family sold the market to the Covent Garden Estate Company. The next major installment in the market’s life came in 1974 when the market, which had outgrown the West End site, moved out to a new site in Nine Elms at Vauxhall in London’s inner south.
The Covent Garden site was left to fall into disrepair but, saved from demolition and redevelopment largely through the efforts of Geoffrey Rippon, then Secretary of State for the Environment, it subsequently underwent restoration, reopening as a speciality shopping centre in 1980 with areas including the Apple Market (pictured above), the East Colonnade Market and the Jubilee Market. Now owned by Capital & Counties who purchased it in 2006, the market – along with the larger 97 acre Covent Garden area – remain under the care of the Covent Garden Area Trust.
Around London – Harry Hammond at the V&A; a cabaret star’s blue plaque; and Kerouac at the British Library…
October 11, 2012
• A new exhibition of the works of renowned music photographer Harry Hammond opens at the V&A this Saturday. Halfway to Paradise: The Birth of British Rock features more than 60 portraits, behind the scenes and performance shots showing stars including Roy Orbison, Ella Fitzgerald, Cliff Richard and Shirley Bassey. Hammond’s pictures, which are all drawn from the V&A collection, chronicle the jazz and big band musicians of the 1950s like Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday, visits from American rock ‘n roll stars such as Little Richard and Gene Vincent and early British rock groups – such as the Animals and the Beatles (pictured with Dougie Millings) – of the 1960s. There will also be behind the scenes shots of some of the early days of music television in the 1950s and the exhibition will be accompanied by a soundtrack by the artists depicted. Born in the East End, Hammond was a society portrait photographer before serving as a reconnaissance photographer with the RAF in World War II. It was on his return to London after the war that he started photographing people working in the music business, later becoming one of the primary photographers for the New Musical Express (NME) magazine. Runs until 3rd March next year. Admission is free. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk. PICTURE: V&A Images.
• Still on a musical theme and 1930s cabaret star Leslie Hutchinson (1900 – 1969) has been honored with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at his former home in Chalk Farm. The singer and pianist, better known to many as simply ‘Hutch’, lived at 31 Steele’s Road between 1929 and 1967. The Grenada-born performer lived in New York and Paris before coming to London where he became one of the most popular cabaret performers of the 1930s – one of his signatures was apparently to arrive at nightclubs dressed like an aristocrat with a white piano strapped to his chauffeur-driven car (this was despite the racial prejudice he faced which saw him being asked to enter by the servant’s quarters when performing at some of Mayfair’s grandest homes). Hutch lived at the Steele’s Road property for almost all the years he lived in London, only leaving two years before his death in 1969. The plaque was unveiled by his daughter, Gabrielle Markes, who only discovered her parentage in middle age and who subsequently proposed that the plaque be placed on the house. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk.
• On Now: On the Road: Jack Kerouac’s Manuscript Scroll. This new exhibition at the British Library centres on Kerouac’s 120-foot-long manuscript scroll of On the Road and explores the development of the novel which, written over a period of three weeks in April 1951 using rolls of taped together architect’s paper, came to define the Beat Generation. The exhibition, which relaunches the Library’s Folio Society Gallery, will show the first 50 feet of the scroll in a specially-designed case. Other exhibits include first editions of other Beat classics such as The Naked Lunch and sound recordings featuring the likes of Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. Runs until 27th December. Admission is free. For more, see www.bl.uk.