This Week in London – Revamped National Army Museum opens; butterflies return to the NHM; and World War I reimagined…
March 30, 2017
• The National Army Museum opens today following a massive three year, almost £24 million redevelopment. Designed by architects BDP and exhibition design agency Event (with £11.5 million in funding from The National Lottery), the main site of the museum at Chelsea features five new permanent galleries and a temporary exhibition space. Laid out over four floors, the new galleries feature more than 2,500 objects arranged under the themes of ‘Soldier’, ‘Army’, ‘Battle’, ‘Society’ and ‘Insight’. Among the objects on display are Crimean Tom, a cat found during the Crimean War and brought back as a pet (‘Soldier’), a portrait of Khudadad Khan VC, the first Indian soldier to win the Victoria Cross (‘Army’), the famous ‘Siborne Model’ of the Battle of Waterloo (‘Battle’), the flak jacket, helmet, identity discs and press pass of journalist Kate Adie (‘Society’), and a cup from the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion (‘Insight’). The new 500 square metre temporary exhibition space, meanwhile, is initially hosting the exhibition War Paint: Brushes with Conflict which features more than 130 paintings and objects explores the complex relationship between war and the men and women who map, record, celebrate and document it. Other features at the museum include a new cafe, shop and play area for children known as Play Base. Entry to the museum is free. For more, see www.nam.ac.uk.
• Butterflies return to the Natural History Museum this week with the immersive exhibition, Sensational Butterflies. The experience, now in its ninth year, takes visitors on a trail through a tropical habitat as they encounter each aspect of the life-cycle of the butterfly with highlights including watching them hatch from delicate chrysalises and seeing them feed and engage with each other. The Butterfly House team will be on hand to answer questions and give advice and tips. Admission charge applies. Runs from Friday until 17th September. For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk/sensational-butterflies.
• A new exhibition exploring the personal stories of those who fought in World War I as well as those back home opens at the Guildhall Art Gallery tomorrow. Echoes Across The Century, conceived and delivered by the Livery Schools Link in partnership with the gallery, takes visitors on a “multi-sensory journey” exploring craftsmanship, memory and separation. It features Jan Churchill’s installation, Degrees of Separation, and the work of 240 students who were guided and inspired by Jane as they explored the impact of the war and imagined what life was like for those 100 years ago. Admission is free. Runs until 16th July. For more follow this link.
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This Week in London – Festival of Archaeology; exploring colour and vision at the NHM; and the City’s Summer Community Fair…
July 14, 2016
• The 25th annual Festival of Archaeology has kicked off across the UK this week and, of course, there’s events taking place across London. They include a walk exploring the moat at Fulham Palace this Sunday, the opportunity to join Inspector of Ancient Monuments Jane Siddell on a walk along the route of the former London wall in the City of London next Thursday, a tour of the remains of London’s Roman amphitheatre beneath Guildhall Yard on 28th July, and the chance to investigate ancient poo at the Museum of London Docklands over the week from 25th to 29th July. Some of the events are free to attend and require no booking; others charge an admission price and require advance booking. For all details, head to www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk.
This Week In London – Artists and gardens at the RA; London tattoos; and, out of this world photos at the Natural History Museum…
January 28, 2016
• A major exhibition looking at the role of gardens in the paintings of Claude Monet and his contemporaries opens at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly on Saturday. Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse spans the period from the 1860s to the 1920s and includes more than 120 Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Avant-Garde works including 35 by Monet as well as “rarely seen” masterpieces by Paul Klee, Emil Nolde, Gustav Klimt and Wassily Kandinsky. Highlights include Monet’s Agapanthus Triptych (1916-1919) as well as his Water Lilies (1904) and Lady in the Garden (1867), Auguste Renoir’s Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil (1873) , Kandinsky’s Murnau The Garden II (1910) and Pierre Bonnard’s Resting in the Garden (1914). The exhibition, which has previously been at The Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio, runs until 20th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk. PICTURE: Claude Monet, Lady in the Garden, 1867; © The State Hermitage Museum/Vladimir Terebenin.
• The world of professional tattooing is the subject of a new display at the Museum of London. Tattoo London, which opens at the City-based museum tomorrow, looks at the history of tattooing in the capital – which dates back to a time before Captain Cook – as well as life inside four contemporary tattoo studios. Also on display will be newly commissioned artworks by tattooists from the studios – Lal Hardy at New Wave, Alex Binnie at Into You, Claudia de Sabe at Seven Doors, and Mo Coppoletta at The Family Business. A series of events are being held in conjunction with the display which runs until 8th May. Entry is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
• A new photographic exhibition exploring the solar system has opened at the Natural History Museum. Otherworlds: Visions of our Solar System features 77 composite images pieced together from date collected on NASA and ESA missions by artist, curator and writer Michael Benson. Highlights include A Plutonian haze – a colourised image of Pluto created from data captured during New Horizon’s flyby of the dwarf planet in July last year, Enceladus vents waters into space – captured in 2009 by NASA’s Cassini mission it shows Saturn’s sixth largest moon Enceladus spraying water into space, and, A Warming Comet – a picture of the twin-lobed comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko venting gas and dust captured by ESA’s Rosetta probe in July last year. The exhibition can be seen until 15th May at the South Kensington museum. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk/otherworlds.
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This Week in London – Gallery of Japanese art reopens; Botticini’s Assumption back on show; Bonfire Night; and, celebrating wildlife photography…
November 5, 2015
• A Hello Kitty! rice cooker, a selection of mobile phones designed by Naoto Fukasawa and a group of kimono from the 1920s and 1930s are among recent acquisitions on show in the V&A’s Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art which reopened to the public following a refurbishment this week. The gallery, which first opened at the South Kensington premises in 1986 and was the first major gallery of Japanese art in the UK, now has about 550 items on show including 30 or so recent acquisitions. Spanning the period from the sixth century to the present day, the display features swords and armour, lacquer, ceramics, cloisonné enamels, textiles and dress, inro and netsuke, painting, prints and illustrated books. They include everything from modern objects such as the first ever portable stereo Walkman designed and manufactured by Sony in 1979 and a pair of gravity-defying shoes designed by Noritaka Tatehana through to historic items such as the Mazarin Chest, made in Kyoto around 1640, a late 17th century six fold screen depicting the Nakamura-za Kabuki theatre in Edo (Tokyo), and a group of high quality cloisonné enamels dating from 1880 to 1910. Admission to the gallery is free. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.
• Francesco Botticini’s monumental Palmieri Altarpiece is at the centre of a new exhibition, Visions of Paradise: Botticini’s Palmieri Altarpiece, which opened in the National Gallery off Trafalgar Square yesterday. The altarpiece, depicting the Assumption of the Virgin, was completed in about 1477 for the funerary chapel of Matteo Palmieri (1406-1475) in the church of San Pier Maggiore in Florence, Italy. The exhibition, based on years of research, explores Palmieri’s life with special attention to his friendship with the Medici rulers of Florence and the King of Naples and his creative collaborations with Botticini including both the altarpiece and Palmieri’s epic poem of 1465, Citta di Vita (City of Life) – which he had Bottinci provide illustrations for. Along with the altarpiece panel (which has been off display since 2011), the exhibition features around 30 works including paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints and manuscripts as well as a polyptych by Jacopo di Cione and his workshop made for the high altar of the same church in which Botticini’s altarpiece sat – Florence’s San Pier Maggiore. The polyptych includes a painted representation of the church and was later moved to the same chapel as Botticini’s Assumption. The exhibition is being held in the Sunley Room until 14th February. Admission is free. See www.nationalgallery.org.uk for more.
• Bonfire Night will be celebrated across the UK tonight as we “Remember, remember, the fifth of November” and burn effigies of “the guy” (Guy Fawkes) (for more on the background, see our earlier story here). Find your local bonfire event in London via Visit London or Time Out.
• On Now: Wildlife Photographer of the Year. This annual exhibition at the Natural History Museum features works selected out of the more than 42,000 entries to this year’s awards including the winning image, Tale of two foxes, taken by Canadian amateur photographer Don Gutoski at Cape Churchill in Canada. Other images on show include Fighting ruffs which won 14-year-old Ondrej Pelánek from the Czech Republic the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year award. The exhibition at the museum in South Kensington runs until 10th April next year. Admission charge applies. Entries for next year’s competition open in December. For more, see www nhm.ac.uk.
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This Week in London – Greek sculpture at the British Museum; Hew Locke at HMS Belfast; an interactive high seas adventure at the National Maritime Museum; and, coral reefs at the Natural History Museum…
March 26, 2015
• The ancient Greek “preoccupation with the human form” is the subject of a new exhibition which opens at the British Museum in Bloomsbury today. Defining beauty: The body in ancient Greek art features about 150 objects dating from the prehistoric to the age of Alexander the Great. Highlights include a newly discovered bronze sculpture of a new athlete scraping his body with a metal tool after exercise before bathing, six Parthenon sculptures from the museum’s collection including a sculpture by Phidias of the river god Ilissos, and copies of Greek originals including the Towny Discobolus (discus-thrower – pictured) – a Roman copy of Myron’s lost original – and Georg Romér’s reconstruction of Polykleitos’ Doryphoros (spear-bearer) . Runs until 5th July. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/definingbeauty. PICTURE: © The Trustees of the British Museum.
• London-based contemporary artist Hew Locke has transformed an entire deck of the HMS Belfast in a major new work, ironically titled work, The Tourists. The installation – which is on show until 7th September – depicts imaginative events in which the crew of the ship are preparing to arrive at Trinidad in time for Carnival in 1962 (the ship’s last international journey – to Trinidad – actually arrived three months after the celebration). Free with general admission charge. For more see www.iwm.org.uk/visits/hms-belfast. Meanwhile, the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth is hosting a free exhibition of Locke’s work in which he explores the idea of naval power through a series of ship sculptures. This free exhibition can be seen until 4th May. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-london.
• Families are invited to take part in a new interactive experience on the “high seas of maritime history” which launches at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich on Saturday. The museum has joined with Punchdrunk Enrichment to take six to 12 year-olds and their families on an adventure, Against Captain’s Orders: A Journey into the Uncharted. Visitors don life jackets as they become part of the crew of the HMS Adventure and take on various seafaring roles as they navigate their way through the exhibition. Admission charge applies. Runs until 31st August. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/againstcaptainsorders.
• See a real coral reef and take a virtual dive in new exhibition at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea – which opens tomorrow on World Oceans Day – also features more than 200 specimens including coral, fish and fossils. These include examples collected by Charles Darwin on the voyage of the HMS Beagle in the 1830s, giant Turbinate coral and creatures ranging from the venomous blue-ringed octopus to tiny sponge crabs. For more see www.nhm.ac.uk.
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February 27, 2015
A new addition inside the Natural History Museum’s Exhibition Road entrance in South Kensington, the 150 million-year-old Stegosaurus stenops – the first complete dinosaur specimen to go on display in the museum in almost 100 years – is the only Stegosaurus on display in a public museum outside of the US.
Featuring more than 300 bones, the 5.6 metre long and 2.9 metre high specimen was found in the US about 11 years ago. Missing only the base of the tail and the left arm, it is the most complete Stegosaurus skeleton in the world. It had been excavated from a site on the Red Canyon Ranch in Wyoming after being discovered in 2003 by Bob Simon, who runs a dinosaur quarry on the property.
The skeleton, which took three weeks to excavate, had 18 months of ‘preparation’ work carried out at the Swiss Saurier Museum before arriving at the NHM in December, 2013.
The new acquisition now forms part of the museum’s collection of 80 million specimens, including eight million fossils, which is actively studied by the museum’s 300 scientists and 9,000 visiting researchers from institutions around the world each year.
WHERE: Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London (nearest Tube stations are South Kensington, Gloucester Road and Knightsbridge); WHEN: 10am to 5.50pm daily; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.nhm.ac.uk/stegosaurus.
PICTURE: Natural History Museum.
This Week in London – Science Museum’s new IT gallery; Hornchurch skatepark protected; NHM’s ice rink opens; and Emily Carr at Dulwich…
October 30, 2014
• Queen Elizabeth II opened the new Information Age gallery at the Science Museum this week by sending her first tweet. Following a tour of the new gallery exploring the way technologies – including everything from the telegraph through to the world wide web – have transformed the way we communicate, the Queen tweeted: “It is a pleasure to open the Information Age exhibition today at the @ScienceMuseum and I hope people will enjoy visiting. Elizabeth R.” The gallery in the South Kensington museum explores the growth of communications technologies through important events such as the sinking of the Titanic in the Atlantic in 1912, the first BBC broadcast in 1922, the TV broadcast of the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the creation of the first international link on the ARPANET network – the forerunner of the internet – by University College London in 1973. Entry to the new gallery is free. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk.
• In a European first (and only the second time it’s occurred around the world), an East London skatepark has been given heritage protection. Known as ‘the Rom’, the Hornchurch structure was purpose-built in 1978 by leading skatepark designers Adrian Rolt and G-Force. It has been listed as Grade II and is only the second skatepark to in the world to win such protection with the first being the ‘Bro Bowl’ in Tampa, Florida, added to the US National Register of Historic Places in October last year. Heritage Minister Ed Vaizey said the listing is testament to the park’s design. The listing was carried out on the advice of English Heritage.
• The Natural History Museum’s ice rink opens today, the 10th year it’s been positioned outside the stunning South Kensington building. The 1,000 square metre rink has been decorated with 80,000 fairy lights and a 40 foot high Christmas tree, and this year has been joined by an interactive Lindt Christmas chalet where you’ll be able to sample complimentary truffles and join in activities. The rink is open to 4th January. For more, see www.nhmskating.com.
• The works of pioneering Canadian artist Emily Carr are the focus of a new exhibition opening at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London’s south on Saturday. From the Forest to the Sea: Emily Carr in British Columbia is the first major solo exhibition in Europe dedicated to the modernist artist who lived between 1871 and 1945. It features more than 140 works and indigenous artefacts as well as a recently discovered illustrated journal, Sister and I in Alaska, in which Carr documented her pivotal trip up and down the north-west coast of Canada in 1907. Highlights include Totem and Forest, (Untitled) Seascape and View in Victoria Harbour, one of a number of momentary records left behind in her trunk after her death. Runs until 8th March. Admission charge applies. See www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk for more.
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This Week in London – Dr Livingstone’s beetles; the Great River Race; Snowdon at the NPG; and Foundlings at War…
September 25, 2014
• From Dr Livingstone, I presume? A recently unearthed collection of beetles gathered together by Dr David Livingstone during his Zambezi expedition of 1858-64 will go on display in its original box at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington on Friday night. The specimens were found among the museum’s 10 million beetles by beetle curator Max Barclay who stumbled on an unusual box received from a private collector. The collector was later found out to be amateur entomologist Edward Young Western (1837-1924) who apparently bought the specimens from a member of Livingstone’s expedition. The 20 beetles found inside the box are believed to the only surviving specimens known to have been collected by Livingstone. The specimens will be on show as part of Science Uncovered, a free annual after hours event – part of European Researcher’s Night – which will take place at the museum between 3pm and 10.30pm Friday night. Other highlights of the night include the chance to extract DNA from strawberries and bananas, create your own earthquake and chat live with NASA about chasing asteroids. For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk/scienceuncovered. PICTURE: Giant Predatory Ground Beetle, Termophilum alternatum © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London.
• Totally Thames – the month long celebration of the great river – is going out with a bang this weekend with more than 300 crews expected to take part in the Great River Race. Running from Millwall to Ham in Surrey, the 21.6 mile long event attracts entries from across the globe. The first boats leave Millwall at 12.40pm. Head to the riverbank between Richmond and Ham at approximately 3.40pm to see the winners cross the line to a cannon broadside. For more on the Great River Race, see www.greatriverrace.co.uk. Other events on as part of Totally Thames this weekend include historic riverside walks – one focused on Brunel and another on London’s ports before the Great Fire of 1666 as well as exhibitions including Richmond’s River at Orleans Gallery House in Twickenham and your last chance to see Florentijn Hofman’s HippopoThames. For more on Totally Thames, see www.totallythames.org.
• Some of Snowdon’s most iconic images will be on show as part of a new exhibition opening at the National Portrait Gallery near Trafalgar Square on Friday. Snowdon: A Life in View will feature studio portraits spanning a period from the 1950s to the 1990s alongside images from Private View, Snowdon’s 1965 examination of the British art world, created in collaboration with art critic John Russell and then director of Whitechapel Gallery, Bryan Robertson. More than 40 black-and-white portraits are included in the display including some works acquired by the gallery last year. To be held in Room 37 and 37a of the ground floor Lerner Contemporary Galleries until 21st June. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.
• On Now: Foundlings at War: World War I. This display at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury reveals for the first time the stories of foundlings who fought as well as those of the mothers forced to leave their children at the hospital as a result of bereavement or abandonment of those serving abroad. A free digital ibook, The Foundlings at War: World War I, containing expanded background information was published to coincide with the opening of the display earlier this month and can be downloaded from iTunes. The exhibition is part of a major research project, Foundlings at War, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and is the first of several displays examining the institution’s historic links with the military. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.co.uk.
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This Week in London – Woolly mammoths star at the NHM; the Ceremony of the Constable’s Dues; mummies at the British Museum; and, Rupert Potter’s photographs…
May 22, 2014
• The most complete woolly mammoth ever found is the star attraction at a new exhibition opening at the Natural History Museum tomorrow. Lyuba – a one month old mammoth – was found by a reindeer herder in Siberia in 2007 and was named after the reindeer herder’s wife. Thought to be 42,000-years-old, the young mammoth was thought to be healthy when it died and still has remnants of its mother’s milk in its stomach. It is the first time the mammoth – normally housed at the Shemanovsky Museum-Exhibition Complex in Salekhard, Russia, is being shown in Western Europe. Mammoths: Ice Age Giants will also feature life-sized models and skeletons of mammoths. Runs until 7th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk.
• The German naval ship FGS Niedersachsen will take part in the Ceremony of the Constable’s Dues at the Tower of London tomorrow, having saluted the Tower with a gun salute yesterday – the first time a gun salute has taken place in honour of the ceremony in 40 years. The ceremony dates back to the 24th century and while past offerings have included barrels of rum, oysters, cockles and mussels, this year the Tower’s constable, General the Lord Dannatt, will be presented with a barrel of wine. The ceremony will see the ship’s Commander Kurt Leonards led his crew to the Tower’s West Gate where they will be challenged by the axe wielding Yeoman Gaoler before marching on to Tower Green to “present the dues” or deliver the wine, to the Constable. The ceremony takes place at noon. For more on the Tower, see www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/.
• A new exhibition about ancient lives in Egypt and Sudan has kicks off at the British Museum today. Ancient lives, new discoveries will reveal new research about one of the museum’s most popular collections – that of ancient Egyptian and Sudanese mummies – and uses state-of-the-art technology to take you inside the mummy cases and bring you face-to-face with eight people who lived in the Nile Valley thousands of years ago. The selected mummies come from a period spanning 4,000 years, from the Predynastic period to the Christian era, and come from sites in both Egypt and Sudan. They include an adult male from Thebes mummified about 600 BC and a female singer called Tamut who lived in Thebes around 900 BC. The museum received its first mummy in 1756 and hasn’t unwrapped any of them relying on increasingly advanced technologies to see inside. The exhibition runs until 30th November. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.
• On Now – The World of Rupert Potter: Photographs of Beatrix, Millais and Friends. The amateur photography of Rupert Potter, father of children’s author Beatrix Potter, is on show in his exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. The display features selected works from the gallery’s extensive collection of his works including two new acquisitions which show Beatrix Potter on holidays both before and after her publishing success. Other photos depict the sitters and paintings of artist Sir John Everett Millais, who was a friend of Rupert Potter’s. The free exhibition runs until 16th November in Room 28. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.
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Located in the South Kensington estate – known to some during the Victorian era as Albertopolis (see previous entry in this series) – each of the two museums mentioned here represents an architectural and cultural feat in its own right, for the sake of space (and to allow us to explore a wider range of buildings as part of this series) we’re grouping them together…
Initially known as the Museum of Manufactures, it was founded with the three aims of making art accessible, educating people and inspiring British designers and manufacturers.
Renamed the South Kensington Museum after moving to its current site in 1857, its collections – which now include everything from metalwork, furniture and textiles to fine art such as paintings, drawings and sculptures from a range of contemporary and historical periods – continued to expand.
Located in what were only meant to be temporary exhibition buildings – factory-like structures which become known as the ‘Brompton Boilers’, in 1899 Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone for the grand new facade and entrance that we see today (it was at this point that that the museum took on its current name).
The Science Museum – the third major museum of Albertopolis – initially formed part of this museum and only gained its independent status in 1909.
WHERE: Victoria and Albert Museum (nearest Tube stations are South Kensington and Knightsbridge); WHEN: 10am to 5.45pm daily (late opening Fridays); COST: Free (apart from special exhibitions); WEBSITE: www.vam.ac.uk.
• Natural History Museum: Created to house what was previously the natural history collection of the British Museum (itself founded out of the collections of Sir Hans Sloane), the museum was founded thanks largely to the efforts of Sir Richard Owen.
The superintendent of the natural history department at the British Museum and later the founder of the NHM, it was he led the campaign for a separate premises for the museum’s natural history collections which had outgrown the museum’s home in Bloomsbury.
It first opened its doors on Easter Monday, 1881, but the museum legally remained part of the British Museum until 1963 and continued to be known as British Museum (Natural History) until 1992.
Known as the Waterhouse Building (after Alfred Waterhouse, the young architect who designed it following the death of the original designer, engineer Captain Francis Fowke, who was also involved in the initial design of Royal Albert Hall), the museum’s main structure – faced in terracotta – is said to be one of the finest examples of a Romanesque structure in Britain.
The premises and collections of the Geological Museum – now the ‘red zone’ of the NHM – merged with the Natural History Museum in 1985.
WHERE: Natural History Museum (nearest Tube stations are South Kensington and Knightsbridge); WHEN: 10am to 5.50pm daily; COST: Free (apart from special exhibitions); WEBSITE: www.nhm.ac.uk.
Around London – The Shard celebrates; Crossrail archaeology; new sheriffs named; and, Blackpool at Wellington Arch…
July 5, 2012
• Europe’s tallest building marks the completion of its exterior structure today with a spectacular light show. The Shard, a £450 million development located over London Bridge Station in Southwark, stands 310 metres tall and was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano. The controversial glass clad structure, work on which commenced in 2009, features a jagged top with the design reportedly referencing the city’s many church spires. While the exterior of the building is now complete, work is expected to continue on the building’s interior – which will contain offices, luxury shops and restaurants, a five star hotel and 10 top-end apartments (the highest in the UK) – until next year. It is expected that the building’s viewing decks – which offer panoramic 360 degree views over the city – will become a major new tourist attraction in the city. The Shard will be formally opened today by Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani and Prince Andrew, Duke of York. The hour long light show, which features lasers and searchlights, kicks off at 10pm and those who can’t see it in person can watch it streamed live at the-shard.com.
• A skeleton from the St Bethlehem Burial Ground and 55 million-year-old fragments of amber are among the artefacts which will go on display this Saturday at a special public exhibition of archaeological discoveries made during the construction of Crossrail. Almost 100 objects found at 10 different sites will be in the Bison to Bedlam – Crossrail’s archaeology story so far exhibition which marks the halfway point of the Crossrail archaeology program, first launched in 2009. Finds have dated from prehistoric times through to the Industrial Revolution and, as well as those aforementioned, also include some medieval ceramic wig curlers, 17th century gravestone markers and stakes made out of animal bone. All the items will be eventually donated to the Museum of London or Natural History Museum. The exhibition will be held from 10am to 5pm this Saturday at the Music Room, Grays Antiques, 26 South Molton Street (nearest Tube station is Bond Street). For more, see www.crossrail.co.uk.
• Alderman Jeffrey Evans (Ward of Cheap) and Nigel Pullman have been elected the new sheriffs of the City of London in a poll held late last month. The office of the sheriffs dates back to the Middle Ages – current duties include assisting the Lord Mayor of London in his official duties and attending sessions of the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey. The two new sheriffs take up their post in late September.
• On Now: Blackpool: Wonderland of the World. A new exhibition held in the Quadriga Gallery at the Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, this looks at how Blackpool transformed in the 19th century from a small village to become became the first resort in the world to cater for the working classes. Focusing on two of the town’s key attractions – the Winter Gardens and the Blackpool Tower – the exhibition’s highlights include a silver model of Blackpool Tower dating from 1893, rare Victorian and vintage posters advertising performances by some of the stars who shone there, and early 20th century photographs of the interiors of the Winter Gardens. In addition, two crowns will illuminate the top of Wellington Arch in a taste of Blackpool’s famous light show. Organised by English Heritage in partnership with Blackpool Council, it runs until 27th August. Admission fee applies. See www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/wellington-arch/exhibitions-at-the-arch/current-exhibition/ for more.
Around London: A new pleasure garden for London; music hall star Dame Gracie Fields honored; mystery portraits at the NPG; and, celebrating the Olympics (from a Peruvian perspective)…
December 15, 2011
• A new pleasure garden will be built in the city’s east as part of celebrations for next year’s Diamond Jubilee. London Pleasure Gardens, announced back in March, will be built upon a 60,000 square metre site at Pontoon Dock, opposite the ExCeL Exhibition Centre, and consist of an “ever-evolving creative playground for both resident Londoners and tourists alike”. The gardens, which will feature landscaped walkways, a floating cinema, an ‘adult’s playground’ and a range of facilities such as a ‘glass cafe’ – are expected to be open for the Queen’s Jubilee Weekend on 1st June. It’s expected that more than 40,000 people a day will pass through the site during the Olympics. London has had a long association with the concept of pleasure gardens – places where people gathered to listen to music, see art, eat and drink and talk, the most famous of which was the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. But the Royal Docks also had its own pleasure gardens in the past – these existed between 1851 and 1884 and were named the Royal Victoria Gardens. For more, see www.londonpleasuregardens.com.
• Music hall star Dame Gracie Fields has been honored by English Heritage with a blue plaque on the Islington house where she lived for three years in the 1920s. It was while living at 72a Upper Street with her parents and first husband Archie Pitt, that she consolidated her reputation as one of Britain’s most popular performers and it was also during this time that she recorded for the first time (she was to become a regular on the BBC and by 1933 had cut a massive four million discs) and appeared before King George V and Queen Mary at a Royal Variety Performance. Following her success, Fields and Pitt built a mansion in The Bishop’s Avenue, Hampstead, called ‘The Tower’ in honor of the show which had made her a star – Mr Tower of London. She later separated from Pitt and married an Italian born director Monty Banks. They moved to the US in 1940 amid fears her husband would be interned and, after the war, she settled on the Italian island of Capri where, following Banks’ death in 1950, she married again. She made her final appearance on the London stage in 1978 – closing a Royal Variety Performance – and died back in Capri the following year.
• And, briefly…..A new species of dinosaur – Spinops sternbergorum – has reportedly been discovered at the Natural History Museum, identified from bones previously gathering dust on a shelf at the museum.
• On Now: Imagined Lives: Portraits of Unknown People. This exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery centres on a group of 14 portraits from the 16th and 17th centuries which depict unknown people. Originally thought to represent famous figures like Queen Elizabeth I, the identity of the sitters is now considered unknown. In response to the pictures, eight internationally renowned authors – from Alexander McCall Smith and Joanna Trollope to Julian Fellowes and Terry Pratchett – have written imaginative short stories about the portraits, bringing them to life. The exhibition was originally shown in Somerset but is now running at the NPG until 22nd July. Admission is free. For more information, see www.npg.org.uk.
• On Now: London and the Olympics. The Museum of London is hosting a new display which looks at the 1908 and 1948 Olympic Games held in London but, in twist, looks at not only the experiences of Londoners but those of the 41 man team Peru sent to the 1948 games. Pictures included in the display come from an album made by one of the athletes, Enrique Mendizabal Raig, recording the team’s visit (you can find the images on Flickr here). Entry is free. Runs until September. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
July 12, 2011
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were among those to pay their respects at a new memorial remembering those 155 Britons who were among the 225,000 people died in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami last week. The 115 tonne memorial, located in gardens at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, was designed by architecture studio Carmody Groarke. It is sculpted from granite quarried from France and was funded by a £550,000 grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Carmody Groarke was also involved in the design of the 7 July Memorial which, located in Hyde Park, commemorates the 52 people killed in the suicide bombings which took place in London in 2005. It was unveiled by Prince Charles in 2009.
July 4, 2011
An Ulster-Scots born physician, scientist and avid collector, Sir Hans Sloane served as doctor to no less than three British monarchs during the 17th and 18th centuries and during his life amassed a vast collection of natural specimens and curiosities which after his death were used to form the core of the British Museum’s collection.
Even as a young man, he developed a keen interest in the natural sciences. Having suffered from some ill-health which, at the age of 16 is said to have kept him confined to a room for a year, in 1679, at the age of 19, he moved to London where he studied chemistry at the Apothecaries Hall and botany at the Chelsea Physic Garden – a period during which he befriended the botanist John Ray and chemist Robert Boyle.
Four years later, he travelled through France where he received his Doctorate of Physics. On his subsequent return to London in 1685, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society and in 1687 a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.
Given the chance to travel to Jamaica as physician to the new Governor, Christopher, the 2nd Duke of Albemarle, he only spent 15 months there (the Governor died soon after arrival). But it was an important period during which not only did he document and collect a vast amount of flora and fauna (bringing some 800 specimens back to London), he also came up with the idea of drinking chocolate with milk after witnessing locals drinking the dark chocolate with water but finding the mix made him “nauseous” (back in England, his concoction was first sold as a medicine and was later manufactured as a drink by Cadburys).
Having returned to London in 1689, he published the information he had gathered in Jamaica, and in 1693 he become secretary to the Royal Society.
In 1695 he married a Jamaican sugar planter’s widow, Elizabeth Langley Rose (with whom he had several children but of whom only two daughters, Sarah and Elizabeth, survived) and, thanks in part to an ongoing association with the duke’s widow, was able to set up a fashionable medical practice at 3 Bloomsbury Place on the northern end of Bloomsbury Square.
The house, not far from where the British Museum now stands, become something of an attraction in its own right, filled with objects and specimens he had collected on his travels as well as those – in some cases complete collections – given to him by others including friends and patients (in fact, he had to purchase the property next door, number four, to find room for them all – this property is now marked with a Blue Plaque).
The composer Handel is said to have been among those who visited the property and there is a delightful tale that says Sir Hans was outraged when Handel placed a buttered scone on one of his rare books.
With his services as a physician highly prized, in 1696, he was appointed physician to Queen Anne, the first of the three monarchs he would serve. In 1712-13, with his collection still growing, he purchased the Manor of Chelsea to help house it (four acres of which were leased to the Chelsea Physic Garden, which had been founded in 1673 with the idea of providing a training ground for apprentice apothecaries, in perpetuity).
He subsequently moved his collection out to this property and his connection with Chelsea is still celebrated in place names such as name Sloane Square (not to mention Sloane Street, Sloane Gardens, Hans Street, Hans Crescent, Hans Road and Hans Place). There is also a statue of the bewigged man in Duke of York Square (pictured), not far from Sloane Square – this is a 2007 copy of 1737 original by John Rysbrack, another (older) copy of which can be found in the Chelsea Physic Garden.
Following Queen Anne’s death in 1714, in 1716 Sir Hans was appointed physician to her successor, King George I (he was also created a baronet the same year, becoming the first medical practitioner to receive a hereditary title).
Three years later, in 1719, he become president of the Royal College of Physicians, an office he held for 16 years, and in 1727, he was appointed physician to King George II. The same year he succeeded Isaac Newton as president of the Royal Society, an office which he held until 1741.
In 1742, Sir Hans retired to his property in Chelsea.
By the time of his death on 11th January, 1753 at the ripe old age of 93, Sir Hans had collected more than 71,000 objects including books, manuscripts, drawings, coins and medals and plant specimens which he bequeathed to King George II in exchange for a payment of £20,000 to his executors.
Parliament agreed, following a lottery to raise the money, his collection went on to form the basis of the British Museum, first opened to the public in 1759 in Bloomsbury. It was also to form the basis of the museum’s later offshoot, the Natural History Museum at South Kensington.
Sir Hans was buried at Chelsea Old Church with his wife Elizabeth who died in 1724.
June 27, 2011
Now famed for its shopping and proximity to museums, the former village of Knightsbridge takes its name from a bridge which once spanned the Westbourne River (a river now located underground which flows from Hampstead down through Sloane Square to enter the Thames at Chelsea) and linked the village of Kensington with London.
While the origins of the bridge’s name remain shrouded in mystery (the bridge itself reportedly stood at what is today Albert Gate), the anecdotal stories which might explain it include a tale that two knights once fought here and another which attributes the name to the fact that the area was thought so unsafe that to come without a knight was considered foolhardy. Indeed the name Knightsbridge was once synonymous with highwayman and robbers waiting to plunder passersby.
While the name is apparently not mentioned in the Doomsday Book, by the 13th century it is listed as a manor belonging to the monks at Westminster Abbey (this was apparently a gift from King Edward I – in fact some accounts have the area also recorded as King’s Bridge, Kyngesbrigg). One of the key events which the area apparently hosted was the meeting of Empress Matilda with representatives of London’s citizens in 1141 during her ongoing fight for supremacy with King Stephen.
The area remained relatively rural – and as a village in its own right – until the late 18th century when the area finally became joined to the ever-expanding metropolis.
These days Knightsbridge is little more than a road and a strip of highly developed land to the south (Westminster City Council’s Knightsbridge conservation area, which contains more than 275 listed buildings, runs as far east as Queen’s Gate) but it does boast some very high end shopping – think Harrods (pictured), founded in 1824 and opened on the current site almost 30 years later, and Harvey Nichols, founded in 1813.
There’s also some very grand late Victorian residential real estate (much of which is owned by the the Duke of Westminster and Earl Cadogan), which, along with new developments, have made Knightsbridge one of the highest price property markets in London (and indeed, the world).
The eastern end of Knightsbridge – Westminster Council include Royal Albert Hall in its Knightsbridge Conservation Zone – runs into the museum district of South Kensington, home to some of London’s best museums, including the Victoria & Albert Museum and the National History Museum.
Around London – 250,000 British Library titles to be available online; summer in Bunhill Fields Burial Ground; funding for church and synagogue repairs; and, the British Museum takes a closer look at relics and reliquaries…
June 23, 2011
• The British Library is to digitise 250,000 books and make them available on the internet under a deal with tech giant Google. The works, which are all out of copyright, date from between 1700 and 1870 and include printed books, pamphlets and periodicals. Among them are feminist pamphlets about the ill-fated French Queen Marie Antionette dating from 1791, blueprints of the first combustion engine-driven submarine dating from 1858, and a 1775 account which tells of a stuffed hippopotamus owned by the Prince of Orange. The works will all be available online via Google Books which has partnered with more than 40 libraries around the world. The project will include material published in a range of European languages and will focus on works not already freely available in digital form online. For more see www.bl.uk.
• A series of events running under the banner of ‘Green Garden Lunchtimes’ will be held at the Bunhill Fields Burial Group (off City Road) in the City of London from next Monday until 1st July. The events include free yoga and tai chi classes, a bike repair workshop, a history tour from City Guides and a wildlife talk courtesy of the Natural History Museum. The Wren Clinic will also be providing free advice and treatments. Bunhill Fields is famous for its connections to the Nonconformists and contains the graves of writers William Blake, Daniel Defoe and John Bunyan. For dates and times, follow this link.
• Six churches and a synagogue in London have been granted £582,000 to carry out repair works under the Repair Grants for Places of Worship scheme. The grants, which are administered by English Heritage and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, include £199,000 for the Church of St Augustine in Honor Oak Park – an early example of the Gothic Revival in the Early English style, £122,000 for Christ Church in Christchurch Park, Sutton, and £111,000 for the Golders Green Synagogue in Barnet. The grants were part of £8 million worth of funding given to 67 of England’s most important Grade II listed churches, chapels and synagogues. For more, see www.hlf.org.uk.
On Now: Treasures of Heaven: saints, relics and devotion at the British Museum. The museum’s major summer exhibition looks at the spiritual and artistic significance of Christian relics and reliquaries in medieval Europe. Among the highlights are: an arm reliquary of St George, which was housed in the treasury of St Mark’s in Venice following its capture in the sack of Constantinople in 1204; the British Museum’s bejewelled Holy Thorn reliquary, dating from 1390-97 and said to contain a relic from the Crown of Thorns; and, a 12th century bust of St Baudime from France, which once contained a vial of the saint’s blood and is being seen for the first time in Britain. Other exhibits come from the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore as well as from the Vatican. Runs until 9th October. There is an admission charge. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.
Around London – Composer Herbert Howells honored; London Eye’s new name; and, the Natural History Museum’s new gallery…
January 20, 2011
• Composer and teacher Herbert Howells has been commemorated with a blue plaque on his former home in Barnes, south west London. Known for composing “recognisably English” works, Howells is considered by man to be the last of the great English Romantic composers and is particularly remembered for this contributions to the Anglican liturgy. According to English Heritage, Howells lived at the house at 3 Beverley Close from 1946 until a few weeks before he died in 1983. For more on Howells, see www.howellstrust.org.uk.
• The London Eye is to have a name change. Having started life as the Millennium Wheel (while still under construction), it was officially named the British Airways London Eye when it first opened in March 2000 and later renamed the Merlin Entertainments London Eye when the BA naming deal expired. Following a new deal, the wheel will be known as the EDF Energy London Eye from the end of this month.
• On Now – The Natural History Museum’s new Images of Nature gallery opens tomorrow. The new permanent gallery showcases the museum’s collection of natural history artworks and includes works by bird illustrator, John Gerrard Keulemans, and botanical artist, Georg Ehret as well as a range of more modern-day creations such as a 3D scan of a shark’s head. The gallery also boasts a temporary annual exhibition with the first, a rotating collection of Chinese watercolors, featuring works by 19th century amateur naturalist John Reeves as well as contemporary works by the museum’s Shanghai-based artist-in-residence. Entry is free. See www.nhm.ac.uk.
September 16, 2010
• A 9 ft (2.7 metre) tall bronze statue of Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park, commander of the RAF in London and the south-east during the Battle of Britain, was unveiled in Waterloo Place, just off Pall Mall, this week. Sir Keith, a New Zealander who joined the RAF after fighting at Gallipoli and the Somme during World War I, was described as the “brain” behind London’s air defences. The unveiling of the statue on Battle of Britain Day (12th September) follows a three year campaign to honor Sir Keith, who died in 1975, with such a monument. A prototype of the statue occupied the Fourth Plinth at Trafalgar Square for six months after it was unveiled in November last year. For more information, see www.sirkeithpark.com.
• Spend a night at the museum (well, part of one anyway). The Natural History Museum is opening its doors for one night only as part of European Researchers’ Night on Friday, 24th September. Scientists will be on hand to chat and there will be opportunities to see rare specimens not usually on display including a giant squid. There will also be three bars offering drinks and food. The event, which we can promise won’t include you being chased down hallways by dinosaur skeletons, runs from 4pm – 10pm. For more information, see www.nhm.ac.uk.
• Don’t forget! Open House London kicks off this weekend. For more information, see last week’s Around London post.