More than 800 buildings of all kinds open their doors to the public this weekend as part of the 26th Open House London. Highlights of this year’s event include new entries such as the US Embassy, the Royal Opera House and Bloomberg’s new HQ as well as returning favourites such as the BT Tower, The Shard and 10 Downing Street. There’s also a programme of activities “lifting the lid” of Old Oak and Park Royal – the heart of ‘making’ in London, explorations of new London districts such as Wembley Park, Hackney Wick and Barking Riverside, the chance to view RIBA Award-winners including the Belvue School Woodland Classrooms, Hackney Town Hall and No.1 New Oxford Street, the new COS HQ, and 100 “must-see” homes. The full programme of events – which also highlights the contribution women have made in shaping today’s London – can be found at www.openhouselondon.org.uk and there’s a free app to download. PICTURED: Top – Bloomberg European Headquarters (Nigel Young/Foster + Partners) and right – Valetta House (French & Tye) are among properties open to the public.

A multi-screen art installation remembering the millions of African men and women who served in World War I and an immersive sound installation featuring personal reflections on the Armistice are among four exhibitions opening at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth on Friday. Projected onto three screens, African Soldier combines a powerful sound score, historic footage and newly created film which has been shot by artist John Akomfrah in various locations around the world to speak to the African experience of World War I while the sound installation, I Was There: Room of Voices, features 32 people who fought and lived through war sharing their personal stories of the Armistice. The exhibitions also include Renewal: Life after the First World War in Photographs – a display of more than 100 black and white photographs showing how lives, landscapes and national identities recovered, evolved and flourished after the war – and Moments of Silence, an immersive installation commissioned from 59 Productions. The exhibitions, which can be seen until 31st March, are part of the IWM’s Making A New World, “a season of art, photography, film, live music, dance and conversations exploring how the First World War has shaped today’s society”. For more see www.iwm.org.uk.

The role of science in the lives – and deaths – of the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, and his family is explored in a new exhibition opening at the Science Museum in South Kensington which marks 100 years since the end of the Romanov dynasty. The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution explores the influence of medicine on the Imperial Family –  everything from how they treated conditions such as the heir Alexei’s haemophilia through to the Tsarina’s fertility and the Red Cross medical training the Tsar’s daughters received – as well as recent advances in medicine and forensic science which have been deployed to transform the investigation into their disappearance. Objects on show include personal diaries, an Imperial Fabergé Egg presented to the Tsar by his wife a year before the fall of the Imperial house and photograph albums created by an  English tutor to the Imperial Family. There’s also evidence from the scene of the family’s execution including the dentures of the Imperial physician, a diamond earring belonging to the Tsarina and an icon peppered with bullet holes. Opening on Friday, the exhibition runs until 24th March. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/thelasttsar.

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LondonLife – Snoozing…

September 19, 2017

Palmerston, the ‘chief mouser’ to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall, captured by photographer Steve Way during the Open House London weekend, apparently oblivious to the crowds. Palmerston was recently the subject of a Freedom of Information release which stated that since his arrival at the FCO in April, 2016, he had been seen capturing 27 mice (although the Office of the Permanent Under-Secretary at the FCO reports the actual figure is “likely to be much higher as these are only reported sightings”). The FOI document also revealed Palmerston eats a variety of food brands, usually ‘Whiskas’ and is cared for by a number of volunteers from across the FCO.

PICTURE: Steve Way/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Open House London marks its 25th anniversary this weekend, with free entry into more than 800 of the city’s buildings. For the first time, every London borough is participating in the event which sees the doors flung wide on buildings including the recently revamped New Scotland Yard (right), the skyscraper One Blackfriars nick-named ‘The Vase’ (above), an urban farm in Waterloo and the Francis Crick Institute at King’s Cross as well as traditional crowd-pleasers like BT Tower, William Morris’s Red House and the office towers known as the Cheesegrater and the Gherkin.  The weekend also features some 66 walks and talks. Open House have this year  launched a free app which, available for both Android and Apple, allows users to plan their weekend, view nearby buildings, and filter results by day, architectural type and period. To download the app and to see the full programme of events, head to www.openhouselondon.org.uk. PICTURES: Top – CGI/Right – Tim Soar (Open House London).

The London Design Festival, now in its 15th year, also kicks off this weekend with a programme of 450 projects and events across the coming week. The V&A will once again form the festival hub with iconic spaces within the museum transformed by a series of special commissions and displays including an immersive coloured light experienced known as Reflection Room and a 21.3-metre-long uid and free-standing three dimensional tapestry called Transmission. Somerset House will host a new group exhibition called Design Frontiers featuring 30 leading international designers while the Oxo Tower Wharf Courtyard will host a specially created micro house, called URBAN CABIN – one of many ‘landmark projects’ to be seen during the week. The festival runs until 24th September. For more – including the full programme of events, see www.londondesignfestival.com.

The rediscovery of Roman London under the modern city is the subject of a new exhibition which opened at the Guildhall Library in the City this week. The Discovery of Roman London, with a display of objects, archives and 19th century illustrations, looks at the early pioneers of Roman London archaeology over the past three centuries and the establishment of the Guildhall Museum – the precursor to the Museum of London – in 1826 to provide a suitable place for the found artefacts. Runs until 30th November. Entry is free. For more, follow this link.

The story of ancient nomadic tribes known as the Scythians is told in a new exhibition at the British Museum. Scythians: warriors of ancient Siberia features more than 200 objects, many of which have been preserved under permafrost, providing fascinating insights into the lives of the Scythian tribes who lived between 900 and 200 BC. The objects include fur-lined clothes, headgear for horses, gold jewellery, weapons, wooden drinking bowls and even tattooed human remains. There are also a series of painted clay death masks decorated to resemble the faces of the dead which are being shown alongside a reconstructed log-cabin tomb in which they were found. Runs until 14th January in the Sainsbury Exhibition Gallery. Supported by BP, the exhibition has been organised in partnership with the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

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The-Leadenhall-Building• Open House London is finally here with some 800 buildings across the city – some of them rarely accessible to the public – open for free this weekend, from grand historical institutions and modern skyscrapers through to ‘green’ schools, engineering projects, parks and gardens, and private homes. The weekend – which is being run this year under the theme of ‘revealing’ – also includes a programme of walks, engineering and landscape tours, cycle rides, a bus tour, childrens’ activities and expert talks as well as a moonlit ‘culture crawl’ through London on Friday night and into Saturday morning (a fundraiser for Maggie’s Centres). Among the buildings opening their doors in the festival – created by London-based architecture organisation Open-City – are the ever popular 30 St Mary Axe (aka ‘The Gherkin’), the Foreign and India Office in Whitehall, the Bank of England, Portcullis House and City Hall along with everything from The Leadenhall Building (aka ‘The Cheesegrater’ – pictured), and Temple Church in the City to the Admiral’s House in Greenwich, the Dutch Embassy in Kensington and the steam coaster, the SS Robin, in Tower Hamlets. As mentioned in a previous week, some visits required pre-booking so make sure you check the programme before heading out. For a full copy of the programme of events, see www.londonopenhouse.org. PICTURE: © R Bryant.

A major new exhibition focusing on China during the “pivotal” 50 years of Ming Dynasty rule between 1400-1450 opens at the British Museum in Bloomsbury today. Ming: 50 years that changed China features some of the finest objects ever made in China – loaned from institutions in China and elsewhere – as it explores some of the “great social and cultural changes” that saw Beijing established as the capital and the building of the Forbidden City. It includes objects from the imperial courts along with finds from three regional “princely tombs”. Four emperors ruled during the period and the display will feature the sword of Yongle Emperor, “the warrior”, the handwriting of the Hongxi emperor, “the bureaucrat”, the paintings of the Xuande emperor, “the aesthete”, and portraits of the regents who ruled while the Zhengtong emperor was a boy. The exhibition runs until 4th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

The work of 19th century artist John Constable and its debt to 17th century masters is the focus of a new exhibition opening at the V&A on Saturday. Constable: The Making of a Master – which features more than 150 works including celebrated pieces by Constable like The Hay Wain (1821), The Cornfield (1826) and Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows (1831) as well as oil sketches, drawings, watercolours and engravings – will juxtapose his works with those of 17th century landscape masters like Ruisdael, Rubens and Claude. Among those of their works on display will be Rubens’ Moonlight Landscape (1635-1640) and Ruisdael’s Windmills near Haarlem (c.1650-62). The exhibition runs until 11th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/constable.

And don’t forget, Totally Thames continues to run throughout this month which an extensive programme of river-related events. Those on during the coming week include Londonist Afloat: Terrific Tales of the Thames, a series of discussion sessions on aspects of the River Thames being held aboard the HMS President and London’s River – The City’s Ebb and Flow, a guided walk along the river (held on every Saturday and Monday during September), and Hospital and Troop Ships – Transporting the walking and wounded in the First World War, an exhibition held aboard the HQS Wellington (open Sundays and Mondays in September). For the full programme of events, see www.totallythames.org.

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Tower 42_external It’s finally here. Open House London kicks off on Friday and with more than 800 buildings opening their doors, the only difficulty you’ll have this weekend will be choosing what you end up doing! This year’s theme is ‘celebrating architecture, people and place’ and among the highlights will be the opening of landmark structures like Battersea Power Station, Tower 42 (pictured), and the Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe) as well as 100 private homes, architects’ homes and “ground-breaking” housing developments and everything from the Shri Swaminarayan Temple in Brent to Horse Guards in Whitehall (certain buildings, like 10 Downing Street and The View from the Shard, are only open to people who won tickets in an earlier ballot). This year’s festivities also include a moonlit “culture crawl” through London on Friday night. If you haven’t ordered a hardcopy programme, you can check the listings online at www.openhouselondon.org. There’s also an Open House iPhone app available from the appstore.

A series of works by Yinka Shonibare – including some never before seen in the UK – went on display at Greenwich yesterday, thanks to Royal Museums Greenwich. The works, which explore notions of “Britishness, trade and empire, commemoration and national identity”, can be found inside and around buildings including the Queen’s House, National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory and include Fake Death Pictures – a series of five vision of the death of naval hero Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson, Wind Sculpture – a gravity-defying object located on the Queen’s House lawn, Cheeky Little Astronomer – a specially commissioned sculpture located in the Flamsteed House at the Royal Observatory, and Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle – last seen on Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth. Yinka Shonibare MBE at Greenwich, which is supported by a range of talks, debates and tours, runs until 23rd February. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk.

Bankside will be transformed this weekend as artists will be transforming disused hoardings and derelict buildings with original artworks as part of the Merge Festival. The work’s include Candy Chang’s Before I Die, Alex Chinnick’s Miner on the Moon, and Marcus Lyall and Mark Logue’s House of Pain. Until 20th October. For more on the festival celebrating Bankside, see www.mergefestival.co.uk.

On Now: Michael Peto Photographs: Mandela to McCartney. This new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery just off Trafalgar Square features a previously unexhibited photo of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, taken at the beginning of their love affair. It’s one of 10 portraits taken by the late Hungarian-born photographer Michael Peto in London during the 1950s and 1960s – others feature Samuel Beckett, Jennie Lee, Paul McCartney and Ian McKellen. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

Battersea-Power-StationThe weekend of 21st and 22nd September represents the final chance to go inside and explore the Grade II*-listed Battersea Power Station before it is transformed as the centrepiece of a new £8 billion riverside development featuring a blend of residences, offices, shops, leisure and hospitality facilities. The former power station, built on the south bank of the River Thames in the 1930s, is one of the highlights of this year’s Open House London and will take visitors on a walking route which starts at the 2.5 acre ‘pop up park’ which appeared on the riverside earlier this year and then leads through to the remains of vast central boiler house and the 1950’s turbine hall B. It’s the first time the building has taken part in Open House London and the last chance to see inside before works begin in October. The power station will be open from 11am to 4pm on both days with last entries at 3pm. Entry is free. For more, see www.batterseapowerstation.co.uk or check out www.londonopenhouse.org.

St-John's-GateHidden Treasures – the national initiative to celebrate the UK’s museum and archive collections – kicks off for its second year next Thursday, 22nd August, and runs over the bank holiday weekend until 27th August. Among the London institutions taking part this year are the British Library, the British Postal Museum and Archive in Houghton, the Museum of the Order of St John in Clerkenwell (pictured) and Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham. Hidden Treasures is an initiative of the Collections Trust and the Independent newspaper. All events are free but some have to be pre-booked and have limited spaces so make sure you check out the details at www.hiddentreasures.org.uk/?page_id=118.

The programme for Open House London – held over the weekend of 21st and 22nd September – will be made available online from today (or alternatively you can order a hard copy via the Open House London website). It’s important to note that a few of the buildings involved can only be entered by those successful in a ballot – they include 10 Downing Street, The View from The Shard, EDF Energy London Eye and Gray’s Inn. Head to the website – www.londonopenhouse.org – to enter the ballots which close on 13th September.

The Isabella Plantation – a 40 acre ornamental woodland garden located in the south west area of Richmond Park – is celebrating 60 years since its creation and they’ve kicked off a fortnight’s programme of free events community to mark the occasion. The events, which will be focused around the yurt by Peg’s Pond in the plantation,  include guided walks, a showcase of art for young people and a Teddy Bears picnic on the bank holiday weekend. One of the most visited parts of Richmond Park, the plantation is home to the Wilson 50 National Collection of Evergreen Azaleas, more than 150 hardy hybrid Rhododendrons, 50 species of Rhododendron and a large collection of camellias and magnolia as well as many rare and unusual trees and shrubs. While the plantation can be dated as far back as 1771 (then named Isabella Slade), it was planted for timber in 1831, and in 1953 the present garden was established and the old name Isabella adopted for it. For more on the events, see www.royalparks.org.uk.

As Muslims mark the end of Ramadan this weekend, the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr will be celebrated in Trafalgar Square on Saturday. As well as the chance to sample foods from across the Islamic world, there will also be entertainment on stage, exhibitions and children’s activities. The festival, put on by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, runs between 1.30pm and 6pm. For more, see www.london.gov.uk/eid.

On Now: Take One Picture – Discover, Imagine, Explore: Children Inspired by Willem Kalf. This display at the National Gallery focuses on Willem Kalf’s Still Life with Drinking-Horn (about 1653) and features alongside it responsive works created by children from 25 schools across the UK and as far afield as Turkey with works from other schools captured in a slide-show. Located at the Annenberg Court (Getty Entrance), admission is free. Runs until 12th September. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

One of the foremost seafarers of the Elizabethan age, Sir Francis Drake became the second sea captain to circumnavigate the globe when he did so in his renamed vessel, The Golden Hind, between 1577 and 1580.

Drake's-CupboardWhile it is not believed he was a member of the Middle Temple – one of the Inns of Court, he certainly had some connections and a visit to Middle Temple Hall is recorded in August, 1586, when he was congratulated having just returned from a voyage to the Spanish Indies.

His ongoing connection to the inn can be found in two objects which remain at the hall today.

The first is a ‘cupboard’, known as Drake’s Cupboard (cup board being an alternative for table), it is reputedly to have been made from a hatch cover off the Golden Hind (there’s a replica of this ship in Southwark). Replacing an earlier table, the cupboard is used in various ceremonial aspects of life at the Inn such as, for example, being the table on which members sign a book when they are called to the Bar.

The second, meanwhile, is a lantern which hangs over the entrance to the hall and was reputedly taken from the poop deck of the ship (this was destroyed during the bombings of World War II and a replica now hangs in its place).

Both items can only be viewed when the hall is opened to the public on rare occasions like the annual Open House London event. For more on Middle Temple Hall, see our earlier entry here and www.middletemple.org.uk.

It’s Open House London weekend and that means your chance to enter scores of buildings not normally open to the public. More than 750 buildings are taking part in this, the 20th year the weekend has been held and there’s also an extensive program of free talks, walks and specialist tours. Among the buildings open this year are the iconic Gherkin building in the City (formally known as 30 St Mary Axe, pictured), Heron Tower in Bishopsgate, numerous livery company halls including that of the Apothecaries, Fishmongers and Carpenters, government buildings including Marlborough House, Westminster Hall, and the Foreign Office and numerous historic residences from the Mansion House, home of the Lord Mayor of London to Osterley Park House in west London. Among the events on offer is a moonlit hike through London tomorrow night to raise money for Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres and rides on the new Emirates Airline cable car as well as boat tours to the Thames Barriers. If you didn’t order a guide, you can see the program online at the Open House London website – www.londonopenhouse.org. PICTURE: (c) Grant Smith/VIEW Pictures

A 16th century wooden tankard, found by a mudlark on the Thames foreshore near Ratcliff in London’s east, has briefly gone on display at the Museum of London Docklands. The large vessel, capable of holding three pints, has the initials RH inscribed on the base. It’s unknown for what purpose it was used, perhaps serving as a decanter rather than for individual use and may have been used on a ship. The vessel will be on display at the museum only until 27th September. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

On Now: Renaissance to Goya: Prints and drawings from Spain. Opening at the British Museum today is this new exhibition featuring important prints and drawings by Spanish and other European artists working in Spain and spanning a period from the mid 16th century through to the 19th century. While all the works are drawn from the museum’s collection, many have never been on display before. The artists represented include Diego Velazquez, Alonso Cano, Bartolome Murillo, Francisco Zubaran and Jusepe de Ribera as well as Francisco de Goya. Held in room 90. Admission is free. Runs until 6th January. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

• It includes everything from the iconic Lloyd’s Building in the City to the former Strand Union Workhouse in Fitzrovia which may have inspired scenes in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist and the red phone boxes which sit outside the British Museum in Bloomsbury. English Heritage this week released it’s London List 2011 which documents the more than 100 sites in London which have been awarded listed status by the organisation last year. They include 19 Underground stations (among them that of Oxford Circus, St James’s Park and Aldwych), four war memorials (including the grand Central Park War Memorial in East Ham) and two schools as well as various cemetery monuments (including at Highgate and Brompton Cemeteries, and Bunhill Fields Burial Ground) and parks (the status of Green Park was upgraded to Grade II*), religious and commercial premises, public libraries and homes. To download a copy, visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/london-list-2011/.

It’s just one week to go until the Open House London weekend when more than 750 buildings of all sorts open their doors to you. We’ll be talking more about some of the special places open this year in next week’s update – this is, after all, one of our favorite London events of the year, and while, if you haven’t already entered, you’ve missed on the balloted openings, there’s still plenty of places where you can simply turn up on the day (and entry to all is free). If you haven’t already bought one, you can buy the Guide online – just follow the links from www.openhouselondon.org.uk. It can also be picked up free at some participating London libraries.

• Dame Ida Mann, Oxford’s first female professor and a pioneering ophthalmologist, has been honored with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at her childhood home in West Hampstead. The plaque, which was unveiled by an Australian opthalmologist who worked with Mann, Donald F. Ezekial, last week, has been placed on a house at 13 Minster Road where Mann lived from 1902-1934. Mann was born in West Hampstead and lived there for 41 years before eventually emigrating to Australia. For more on blue plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk.

• On Now: Motya Charioteer at the British Museum. Best be quick for this one, the charioteer, on loan from the Museo Giuseppe Whitaker on Motya, is only around until 19th September (that’s next Wednesday). The stunning statue, displayed near the sculptures from the Parthenon, dates from about 460-450 BC and is generally credited as one of the finest examples of Greek marble sculpture to have survived down the ages. It is believed to depict the winner of a chariot race and is likely to have been commissioned to commemorate a victory by a participant from one of Sicily’s Greek cities. It was found in Sicily in 1979. Admission is free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

It’s Open House London weekend again and there’s scores of properties across the city which will be opening their doors to allow the curious a rare glimpse inside. The properties which will be open include architect’s homes and cutting edge housing as well as historic city landmarks, landscape projects and government buildings (including the Foreign Office & India Office – pictured). Other highlights of this year’s event – conducted under the theme of ‘The Liveable City’ –  include a night hike, a festival aimed at kids and families, talks, walks and cycle tours and competitions. Among the buildings flinging their doors wide are Lambeth Palace, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, livery company halls, the newly reopened St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and the Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City. Most properties can simply be visited on a first come, first in basis but some do require advance booking so check before you go. Open House London was first started 19 years ago and has since spread to many other cities around the world including New York, Jerusalem and Helsinki. For more information and to purchase an online guide, see www.londonopenhouse.org. PICTURE: (c) Nick Woodford.

• King Edward I’s Magna Carta will go on show at the Guildhall Art Gallery in the City this weekend, presenting a rare opportunity to see this pivotal document. The City of London Corporations 1297 Magna Carta – regarded as one of the finest 13th century copies – will be on display in the Roman Amphitheatre during Open House London. The document features King Edward I’s seal and the original writ to the Sheriffs of London ordered that the charter be promulgated within the City. Admission over the weekend is free. For more see, www.guildhallartgallery.cityoflondon.gov.uk/gag/

 

The Museum of London has launched an online collection of early Twentieth century fashion photographs to coincide with London Fashion Week. The more than 3,000 glass negative plates come from the collection of Bassano Limited, founded by Italian-born Alexander B. Bassano, and were taken between 1912 and 1945. They record a wide range of fashions as well as designers and retailers and can be accessed via the Museum’s Collections online web portal. Meanwhile, the museum is hosting it’s first ever professional catwalk show on Friday night. It features the works of Christopher Raeburn. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

A Henry Moore sculpture, Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge, has been returned to Greenwich Park, more than four years after it was removed. The almost five metres tall sculpture, made by Moore in 1976, was originally placed in the park in 1979 but was removed for conservation in early 2007 before joining a Moore exhibition at Kew Gardens and then forming part of the Henry Moore display at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The bronze, on loan from The Henry Moore Foundation for two years, has now been returned to its original location between The Avenue and Croom’s Hill Gate.

Around London…

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.

Around London…

September 9, 2010

• It’s only a week to go until the annual Open House London event. Held on the 18th and 19th September, Open House London is your chance to get inside all manner of buildings – from private homes through to grand edifices – which are often normally closed to the public. Be warned, however, that some buildings, such as the BT Tower (open for the first time) require bookings to be made. These close 15th September, so you’ll have to be quick. The free event, which has run for 18 years, also includes neighbourhood walks, cycle tours and talks. For more information on the event, to purchase the guide (an electronic copy can be downloaded for £3.50) or to find out how to book, head to www.openhouselondon.org.uk.

Looking for a weekend out of the city? English Heritage’s Heritage Open Days program – which doesn’t cover London – runs from today until Sunday and grants free access to properties around the country which are either normally closed to the public or usually charge admission fees. The program includes buildings ranging from medieval castles and Georgian townhouses through to World War II cemeteries and 21st century eco-homes. Among the properties within easy reach of daytrippers from London are Waverley Abbey in Fareham, Surrey – founded in 1128, it was the first in England housing Cistercian monks; an historic ‘net shop’ in Hastings, East Sussex; the Battle of Britain command centre at Bentley Priory in Stanmore, Hertfordshire (see picture of the entrance hall above); and, the new Aardman Animation headquarters in Bristol, home to the creators of Wallace and Gromit. Some places require prebooking so check before heading off. For more information, see www.heritageopendays.org.uk.

• The headless skeleton of a rare North Atlantic right whale recently found in the Thames has gone on display at the Museum of London Docklands. The seven metre long, half tonne skeleton was unearthed at Bay Wharf Greenwich by archaeologists and is believed to be the largest single object ever found at an archaeological dig in the city. The skeleton is only on display in the museum’s foyer until 14th September when it goes to the Natural History Museum. Entry is free. For more information, see www.museumindocklands.org.uk.