Queen Victoria’s childhood and later life are being re-examined in two new displays which open this week at Kensington Palace to mark the 200th anniversary of her birth. Victoria: A Royal Childhood features objects related to her early years – such as a scrapbook of mementos created by her German governess, Baroness Lehzen (on public display for the first time) – shown along a newly presented route through the rooms she once occupied in the palace. Visitors will experience how her childhood was governed by the strict rules of the ‘Kensington System’ and see how she escaped isolation and family feuding into a fantasy world of story writing, doll making and drawing inspired by her love of opera and ballet. Her education, family life, closest friendships and bitter struggles are explored with interactive displays helping visitors bring to life the rooms in which she lived. Meanwhile, the palace is also hosting another new exhibition – Victoria: Woman and Crown – which looks at the private woman behind the public monarch and examines her later life, including her response to the death of Prince Albert, her role in shaping royal dynasties and politics across Europe and her complex love affair with India. Among objects on show here are rare survivals from the Queen’s private wardrobe including a simple cotton petticoat dated to around the time of her marriage, and a fashionable pair of silver boots, both of which were recently acquired by Historic Royal Palaces with support from Art Fund. Entry to the two exhibitions is included in the standard admission charge. The palace gardens, meanwhile, are being planted with a special floral display in celebration of the anniversary centred on plant species connected to the Victorian period  including heliotrope, canna, pelargonium and begonia. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/Victoria2019. PICTURES: Top  – The Birth Room in ‘Victoria: A Royal Childhood’; Right – Queen Victoria’s Highland dress in the ‘Victoria: Woman and Crown’ exhibition (Both images © Historic Royal Palaces/Richard Lea-Hair)

A newly identified sketch of the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci goes on public view for the first time at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, from tomorrow. Marking 500 years since the artist’s death, Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing also features the only other surviving portrait of Leonardo made during his lifetime as well as 200 of his drawings in which is a comprehensive survey of his life. The newly identified sketch was discovered by Martin Clayton, head of prints and drawings at the Royal Collection Trust, while he was undertaking research for the exhibition and has been identified as a study of Leonardo made by an assistant shortly before da Vinci’s death in 1519. The other contemporary image of Leonardo, by his pupil Francesco Melzi, was produced at about the same time. Other highlights of the exhibition include Leonardo’s Studies of hands for the Adoration of the Magi (c1481) – also on public display for the first time, studies for The Last Supper and many of the artist’s ground-breaking anatomical studies, such as The Fetus in the Womb (c1511). The drawings in the Royal Collection have been together since Leonardo’s death and are believed to have been acquired in the reign of King Charles II. Runs until 13th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.rct.uk/leonardo500/london.

The use of sound in the art of William Hogarth is being explored in a new exhibition opening in The Foundling Museum on Friday. Hogarth & the Art of Noise focuses on the work The March of the Guards to Finchley and unpacks the social, cultural and political context in which it was created including the Jacobite uprising, the plight of chimney boys and the origins of God Save the King. It uses sound, wall-based interpretation, engravings and a specially commissioned immersive soundscape by musician and producer Martin Ware to reveal how Hogarth orchestrated the natural and man-made sounds of London. Complementing the exhibition is a display of works from contemporary British artist Nicola Bealing which takes as its starting point subjects and narratives found in 18th century broadside ballads. Runs until 1st September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

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Queen Elizabeth II posted her first Instagram photo while visiting the Science Museum in South Kensington last Thursday in a promotion for its exhibition on computers. Under the account @theroyalfamily, the Queen posted two images of a letter at the museum which comes from the Royal Archives. It was written to Prince Albert and Queen Victoria by Charles Babbage and in it, the 19th century inventor and mathematician spoke of his invention of an “Analytical Machine” upon which the first computer programs were written by Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron. Having explained the origins of the letter, the Queen added: “Today, I had the pleasure of learning about children’s computer coding initiatives and it seems fitting to me that I publish this Instagram post, at the Science Museum which has long championed technology, innovation and inspired the next generation of inventors. Elizabeth R.” The Royal Family’s Instagram account has some 4.9 million followers. For more on the Science Museum, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk.

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Today, as I visit the Science Museum I was interested to discover a letter from the Royal Archives, written in 1843 to my great-great-grandfather Prince Albert.  Charles Babbage, credited as the world’s first computer pioneer, designed the “Difference Engine”, of which Prince Albert had the opportunity to see a prototype in July 1843.  In the letter, Babbage told Queen Victoria and Prince Albert about his invention the “Analytical Engine” upon which the first computer programmes were created by Ada Lovelace, a daughter of Lord Byron.  Today, I had the pleasure of learning about children’s computer coding initiatives and it seems fitting to me that I publish this Instagram post, at the Science Museum which has long championed technology, innovation and inspired the next generation of inventors. Elizabeth R. PHOTOS: Supplied by the Royal Archives © Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

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This five star Mayfair establishment owes its origins and name to William Claridge, possibly a former butler, and his wife Marianne, who took over management of a small hotel at 51 Brook Street in 1853.

In 1854, they purchased the adjoining Mivart’s Hotel, first established in 1812, and substantially expanded the premises. It apparently combined the two names – Mivart’s and Claridge’s – for a short time before the reference to Mivart’s was dropped.

The hotel, which stands on the corner with Davies Street, was bought by Richard D’Oyly Carte (owner of The Savoy) in 1893 and subsequently rebuilt in red brick to the designs of CW Stephens (of Harrods fame) with interiors by Sir Ernest George and the inclusion of modern amenities including en suite bathrooms and lifts. The hotel, which is now Grade II-listed, reopened in 1898, with some 203 rooms and suites.

It was extended in the late 1920s with the addition of 80 new rooms and a ballroom while the lobby was redesigned by art deco pioneer Oswald Milne (much of that decoration, including work by Basil Ionides, remains).

The hotel’s reputation as a place to stay among the well-to-do was given a significant boost when Empress Eugenie, wife of French Emperor Napoleon III stayed in 1860 and entertained Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

It was also favoured by exiled royals during World War II including King Peter II and Queen Alexandria of Yugoslavia all staying here. In fact, their son, Crown Prince Alexander II, was born in suite 212 in 1945 (now named the Prince Alexander Suite).

The story goes that Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared the suite Yugoslav territory for a day (although evidence supporting the story about Churchill’s involvement is apparently scarce). It’s also said that a spadeful of dirt from Yugoslavia was placed under the bed so the Crown Prince could literally be born on Yugoslav soil (but there’s no mention of this aspect of the story on Crown Prince Alexander II’s official website).

Churchill and Clementine stayed in a suite here on the sixth floor after the wartime PM’s unexpected defeat in the general election of 1945.

Other luminaries to have stayed here include American actors Cary Grant, Katharine (and Audrey) Hepburn, Yul Brynner and Bing Crosby (Spencer Tracey famously said he didn’t want to go to heaven when he died but to Claridge’s) as well as director Alfred Hitchcock, Aristotle and Jackie Onassis, and, more recently, everyone from Mick Jagger and Madonna to Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. Kate Moss celebrated her 30th birthday here.

And, of course, royals including the late Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip have all been regular diners.

The hotel, which underwent a major restoration from 1996 and saw 25 new suites designed by David Linley opened in 2012, is now part of the Maybourne Hotel Group, having parted ways with the Savoy Hotel in the mid-noughties.

Current facilities include the restaurant Fera at Claridge’s (this opened in 2014 after the closure of Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s in 2013) as well as The Foyer & Reading Room (where afternoon tea is served), The Fumoir cocktail bar, Claridge’s Bar and a health club and spa.

The Claridge’s Christmas Tree is a much anticipated part of London’s festive season, with recent years seeing a different world-renowned designer taking on the task of decorating it, including the likes of John Galliano, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, and Christopher Bailey of Burberry.

The hotel was the subject of a three part documentary, Inside Claridges, in December, 2012.

For more, see www.claridges.co.uk.

PICTURE: Tim Westcott (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

This gothic drinking fountain located in the centre of the Broad Walk in The Regent’s Park takes its name from Sir Cowasjee Jehangir, whose nickname, thanks to his business success, was ‘Readymoney’.

A wealthy industrialist from Bombay, Sir Cowasjee donated the four-sided fountain to the park in 1869 as a thank-you for the protection he and fellow Parsees received from British rule in India (hence why the fountain is also sometimes called the Parsee Fountain).

Made from 10 tonnes of Sicilian marble and four tonnes of red Aberdeen granite, it was designed by Robert Keirle – architect to The Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association – and made by sculptor Henry Ross (at a cost of £1,400).

Set on an octagonal stepped base, it features a basin on each of the four sides. Decorative elements above the basins include carved marble panels featuring a lion and a Brahmin bull.

Three of the gables feature a small bust – one of Queen Victoria, another of Prince Albert and another of Readymoney himself. The fourth has a clock instead.

The now Grade II-listed fountain was erected by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association and unveiled by Princess Mary of Teck (later Queen Mary, wife of King Edward VII) on 1st August, 1869 (she also has some gardens in the park named after her).

The fountain was restored in 1999-2000 and again in 2016-17. The water no longer flows but it remains as a memorial to Sir Cowasjee’s story.

PICTURES: Top – Peter Smyly (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0); Right – Chmee2 (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0) Images cropped.

Erected around the turn of the 19th century to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 (some put the date  of its erection at about 1897; others in about 1905), the clocktower replaced an obelisk that had previously stood in the centre of St George’s Circus in  Southwark.

The rather ornate tower was designed by architect and engineer Jan F Groll and featured four oil lamps to help light the intersection, described as the first purpose-built traffic junction in England.

It survived until the late 1930s when it was demolished after being described as a nuisance to traffic.

Meanwhile, the Robert Mylne-designed obelisk had been first erected in 1771 and marked one mile from Palace Yard, one mile 40 feet from London Bridge and one mile, 350 feet from Fleet Street (Mylne, incidentally, was the architect of the original Blackfriars Bridge).

Following its removal, it was taken to Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park where it stood until 1998 when it was moved back to its position in St George’s Circus where it now stands. It was Grade II*-listed in 1950.

There’s a replica of the obelisk in Brookwood Cemetery – it marks the spot where bodies taken from the crypt of the Church of St George the Martyr, located in Borough High Street, in 1899 were reinterred to ease crowding.

PICTURE: Once the site of a clocktower, the obelisk has since been returned to St George’s Circus (Martin Addison/licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/image cropped)


An ornate turreted building in South Kensington, construction of the Imperial Institute began in 1887 – the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.

Designed by Thomas Edward Collcutt and paid for almost entirely by public subscription, the huge 213 metre long building featured three “Renaissance-style” towers with copper covered domes. Foremost among them was the 87 metre high Queen’s Tower (initially known as the Collcutt Tower after the architect).

Officially opened by Queen Victoria in 1893 (although the building was apparently never completed), the building – which was built to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee – was intended as an exhibition space to showcase the Empire’s industrial and commercial resources and also as a location for research and meetings.

The idea for a permanent exhibition space for colonial “produce” had apparently been enthusiastically backed by the Prince of Wales (and the Queen herself) following a series of exhibitions showcasing the wares of India and the colonies in preceding years.

But the enthusiasm for the institute, said to have cost more than £350,000, quickly waned (perhaps because of a vagueness over its purpose) and despite efforts to encourage people to use it through introducing “attractions” like a billiards room, the financial position of the institute became somewhat straitened.

Help came from the University of London which took over half of the building just six years later in 1899 and other tenants followed in attempt to keep money for maintenance flowing. Various government departments took on responsibility for the building in the following years.

With its purpose increasingly questioned by the middle of the 20th century, when Imperial College needed to expand, it was decided to demolish the building. Demolition started in 1957 and ran into the mid-1960s. Thanks to public protests led by Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman, the Queen’s Tower, however, was preserved and is now part of Imperial College.

The tower, which once had a public viewing gallery (now closed) contains 10 bells, known as the Alexandra Peal, which are hung about halfway up the tower. They given by a Mrs Elizabeth A Miller, of Melbourne, Australia, in 1892 as a gift and are named after Queen Victoria, the then Prince and Princess of Wales, and other children and grandchildren of the Queen. They are rung on important college occasions.

Meanwhile, the institute, renamed the Commonwealth Institute, relocated to Kensington High Street. It later went into liquidation. That site now houses the recently unveiled Design Museum.

PICTURE: Top – Imperial Institute during the Edwardian era (public domain); Below –  The Queen’s Tower is all that now remains of the institute (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

No prizes here for guessing that this pub owes its name to the long serving 19th century monarch, Queen Victoria.

There’s apparently a story that the Queen stopped off here on her way to Paddington Station and that, as a result, the pub was named in her honour.

Whatever the truth of that, the now Grade II-listed pub – located at 10a Strathearn Place (on the corner with Surrey Place) – was apparently built in 1838 – the first year if Victoria’s reign (and possibly a more valid reason for its name) and remodelled around the turn of the 20th century.

It features a luxuriously decorated interior with fireplaces, mirrors, and an original counter as well as paintings of the Queen, Prince Albert and their family.

The upstairs Theatre Bar features decorative elements taken from the former Gaiety Theatre which were installed in the late 1950s.

The pub, which was apparently patronised by the likes of author Charles Dickens (he is said to have written some of Our Mutual Friend here), Sir Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin as well as David Bowie – who did a live performance when launching an EP here in the 1960s.

It’s also been associated with more recent celebs like musicians Ronnie Wood and Liam Gallagher, artist Damien First and actor Keira Knightley.

There’s also a story that in 1960s one of the paintings on the walls was found to be a valuable portrait of a member of the Royal Family. It’s now apparently in the Royal Collection.

The pub is now part of the Fuller’s group – and has twice won their ‘Pub of the Year’ award. For more, see www.victoriapaddington.co.uk.

PICTURE: Ewan Munro (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

A towering figure of the scientific world, Faraday made significant contributions to understanding the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry and was a key figure at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in the 19th century.

Faraday was born in Newington Butts in Surrey (now in south London, part of the Borough of Southwark) on 22nd September, 1791, and, coming from a poorer family, received only a basic education before, at the age of 14, he started an apprenticeship as a bookbinder.

The job proved, however, to be something of a godsend, for Faraday was able to read a wide range of books and educate himself – it was during this time that he began what was a lifelong fascination with science.

In 1812 at the end of his apprenticeship, he attended a series of lectures at the Royal Institution by the chemist Sir Humphry Davy. Subsequently asking Sir Humphry for a job, he eventually was granted one the following year – in 1813 – when Sir Humphry appointed him to the post of chemical assistant in the laboratory at the RA (the job came with accommodation).

Faraday’s ‘apprenticeship’ under Davy – which included an 18 month long tour of Europe in his company – was critical to his future success and from 1820 onward – having now settled at the RA, he made numerous contributions to the field of chemistry – including discovering benzene, inventing the earliest form of Bunsen burner and popularising terms like ‘cathode’ and ‘ion’.

But it was in physics that he made his biggest impact, making discoveries that would, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “revolutionise” our understanding of the field.

Faraday, who married Sarah Barnard, the daughter of a silversmith, in 1821 and was thereafter an active member of the Sandemanian Church to which she belonged, published his ground-breaking first work on electromagnetism in 1821 (it concerned electromagnetic rotation, the principle behind the electric motor). His discovery of electromagnetic induction (the principle behind the electric transformer and generator) was made in 1831 and he is credited with having constructed the first electric motor and the first ‘dynamo’ or electric generator.

Faraday, who would continue his work on ideas concerning electricity over the next decade, was awarded numerous scientific appointments during his life including having been made a member of the Royal Society in 1924, the first Fullerian Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution, from 1833 until his death, scientific advisor to lighthouse authority for England and Wales – Trinity House, a post he held between 1836 and 1865, and Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, a post her held between 1830 and 1851.

He also, in 1825, founded the Royal Institution’s famous “Friday Evening Discourses” and the “Christmas Lectures”, both of which continue to this day. Over the ensuring years, he himself gave many lectures, firmly establishing himself as the outstanding scientific lecturer of the day.

Faraday’s health deteriorated in the early 1840s and his research output lessened although by 1845 he was able to return to active research and continued working until the mid 1850s when his mind began to fail. He died on 25th August, 1867, at Hampton Court where he had been granted, thanks to Prince Albert, grace and favour lodgings by Queen Victoria (she’d also apparently offered him a knighthood which he’d rejected). He was buried in Highgate Cemetery.

Faraday is commemorated with numerous memorials around London including a bronze statue at Savoy Place outside the Institution of Engineering and Technology, a Blue Plaque on the Marylebone property where he was an apprentice bookbinder (48 Blandford Street), and a rather unusual box-shaped metallic brutalist memorial at Elephant and Castle. And, of course, there’s a famous marble statue of Faraday by John Henry Foley  inside the RI (as might be expected, the RI, home of The Faraday Museum, have a host of information about Faraday including a ‘Faraday Walk’ through London’s streets).

PICTURE: Adambro/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

 

the-albert2This pub’s name isn’t too mysterious – it is, of course, named after Albert, Prince Consort to Queen Victoria, and given the date on which the building that now occupies the site was built – between 1862 and 1867, nor is the motivation to name it so – Prince Albert died on 14th December, 1861, leaving a bereft queen and a nation in mourning.

There had been a pub on this site at 52 Victoria Street prior to the current building – it was called The Blue Coat Boy and named after the nearby Blue Coat school – but in the mid-19th century the Artillery Brewery, which was located next door, bought the premises and renamed it.

The four storey building, which is now Grade II-listed (and dwarfed by the glass towers surrounding it), survived the Blitz and is the only building remaining from the first phase of the development of Victoria Street (and redevelopment of the area which had been a slum known as Devil’s Acre), only a stone’s throw from Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament.

Inside, the Victorian features include ornate ceilings and hand-etched frosted windows and wrought iron balconies. Also of note is the Prime Minister’s gallery – including some who were patrons here – as well as memorabilia including a House of Commons Division Bell and one of Queen Victoria’s napkins.

For more, see www.taylor-walker.co.uk/pub/albert-victoria/c6737/.

PICTURE: Patche99z/Wikimedia

Now a Piccadilly institution, Fortnum and Mason’s origins (which we dealt with in 2011 in a London’s oldest post but couldn’t resist looking at again) famously go back the early 17th century when Hugh Mason rented out a spare room to William Fortnum, a Footman in the household of Queen Anne.

fortnum-masonThe entrepreneurial Fortnum decided to supplement his income by selling Queen Anne’s half-used candle wax (new candles were required every night) for a small profit. It was he who convinced his landlord, who also had a small shop in St James’s Market, to join with him in a joint venture – the first Fortnum & Mason – in Duke Street in 1707.

Initially founded as a grocery store, Fortnum & Mason, which moved to its current site at 181 Piccadilly in 1756, become known for its high quality and rare goods – in particular tea – and during the 18th and 19th centuries supplied the gentry who were in London for the ‘season’. Departments inside the store have included a rather bizarre ‘Expeditions Department’ which apparently supplied King Tut’s finder Howard Carter and a 1922 expedition to Mount Everest.

It has held numerous Royal Warrants since the mid 1800s with the first granted in 1863 when the firm was appointed as grocers to the then Prince of Wales.

A supplier of British officers during the Napoleonic Wars, Fortnums was also active during the Crimean War when Queen Victoria had shipments of “concentrated beef tea” sent to Florence Nightingale for use in her hospitals there.

Other claims to fame include the creation of the first Scotch egg in 1738 as a food for travellers and that in 1886, it became the first store in Britain to stock tins of Heinz baked beans. It also operated a post office between 1794 and 1839 when the General Post Office was founded.

The iconic clock which hangs on the facade of the building was commissioned in 1964 by Canadian businessman Garfield Weston who bought the business in 1951. Every hour models of Mr Fortnum and Mr Mason come forth and bow to each other. Other features on the building itself include four colonies of bees which have lived on the roof since 2008 in uniquely-designed hives.

The store, now famous for its luxury food hampers, underwent a £24 million restoration in the lead-up to its 300th anniversary in 2007. As well as the flagship store, it also now operates stores in St Pancras (2013) and Heathrow Airport (2015) as well as, since last year, in Dubai (it did open a store on Madison Avenue in New York in the 1930s but the business was short-lived thanks to the Depression). Fortnum & Mason products can also be found in a growing number of department stores around the world.

The Piccadilly store houses a number of eateries including The Parlour, The Gallery and The Wine Bar as well as, since it was opened by Queen Elizabeth II herself in 2012, the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon – already famous for its afternoon teas.

See www.fortnumandmason.com.

PICTURE: Gryffindor/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

euston-gardensThe name Euston first makes an appearance in London in the Georgian era when Euston Square was laid out north of the City.

The moniker came from the square’s landlord, the Duke of Grafton, who owned a country seat called Euston Hall near Thetford in Suffolk, and apparently derives from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Efe’s Tun’ meaning the ‘farmstead of a man called Efe’.

The now much altered square (the gardens of which are pictured) was originally developed in the 1820s; in the 1850s the New Road – which had been developed by the second Duke of Grafton, Charles Fitzroy, in the 1730s to take farm traffic off Oxford Street and Holborn – was renamed Euston Road.

It only makes sense then that when the mainline station on that road was developed in the 1830s (it opened in 1837, exactly a month after Queen Victoria became the monarch), it too was named Euston (as was the now long-gone Euston Arch – see our earlier post here).

Euston Underground Station opened in 1907 while Euston Square Underground station, which originally opened as Gower Street in 1863, was renamed Euston Square in 1909.

Interestingly the area around Euston Road also features numerous references to Grafton in honour of the duke – Grafton Street, Grafton Place and Grafton Way among them – while other streets also have links to the names of the dukes’ family – Warren Street (which also lends its name to a Tube station), for example, is named for Anne Warren, the wife of the second duke’s grandson.

PICTURE:  Kevin Gordon/CC BY-SA 2.0

This popular Covent Garden pub lies in the heart of London’s Theatreland and is noted for its popularity with actors.

SalisburyLocated at 90 St Martin’s Lane, the pub was built in the late 1800s on the site of an earlier public house which had been known under various different names including The Coach & Horses and Ben Caunt’s head (the latter after the famed bare knuckle fighter when the pub apparently hosted such bouts).

It was first named the Salisbury Stores – an ‘SS’ motif can still be seen in some of the glasswork, with the origins of the name coming from the fact that the site was leased from Robert Cecil, Lord Salisbury, who was thrice PM in the late 19th and early 20th century, in about 1899.

The Cecil family’s coat-of-arms can be seen above the door on the corner of St Martin’s Lane and St Martin’s Court (Cecil Court is located nearby).

The now Grade II-listed Taylor Walker pub, which dropped the ‘Stores’ off its name in the 1960s, was restored in the mid-20th century and again at the end. It features original etched glass, hand-carved mahogany woodwork and art nouveau candelabra.

The pub, which, as well as its association with actors, has also long had an association with the gay community in London, has appeared in numerous films including Dirk Bogarde vehicle Victim and Travels With My Aunt as well as, in more recent times, The Boat That Rocked.

For more, see www.taylor-walker.co.uk/pub/salisbury-covent-garden/c3111/.

PICTURE: Garry Knight – Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Sir Joseph Paxton was one of the pre-eminent landscape gardeners and architects of the Victorian age, although his name is remembered today in great part because of his role in creating one of the most famous buildings of the era – London’s Crystal Palace.

Joseph Paxton ILNThe palace opened 165 years ago this year – it was built for the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. But before we get to that, we have to go back a few years to the origins of its designer.

Paxton was born to a large Bedfordshire farming family on 3rd August, 1803 (although the year has been a matter of dispute at times, apparently because, wanting to appear older than he was, early on in his career he claimed that he had been born in 1801).

He attended school locally before venturing into the gardening profession (a number of other family members were already involved in gardening), taking on a number of gardening-related jobs before his first break came in 1823 when he was admitted by the Horticultural Society of London to work as a student gardener in the experimental gardens of Chiswick House in London’s west – then leased by the society from the Duke of Devonshire.

His work was soon noticed and, in 1826, the duke, with whom Paxton would come to have a close friendship, was apparently so enamoured that he appointed him to the position of head gardener at Chatsworth House, his family pile in Derbyshire.

It was something of a dream job for the then still young Paxton, who, over the ensuing years would be responsible for designing gardens as well as fountains (including the Emperor Fountain, named after Emperor Nicholas I of Russia), an arboretum, a model village, a conservatory of unprecedented size – known as the Great Conservatory, and a lily house, the latter featuring a design based on the leaves of the giant Victoria amazonica water lily.

Paxton’s ties to Chatsworth were strengthened further when he married the niece of Chatsworth’s housekeeper, Sarah Bown, in 1827. They would have eight children, six of whom survived.

Chatsworth became the most famous garden in England under Paxton’s watch but for many, it is his instrumental role in the Great Exhibition pavilion which stands out as his greatest achievement.

His involvement was really that of an opportunist – all of the original 245 plans for the main exhibition hall had been rejected when Paxton, on hearing of this while in London on business with regard for his role as a director of the Midland Railway, delivered his own design.

Inspired very much by the lily house he had designed (and which had yet to be completed) at Chatsworth, the design was innovative for a number of reasons, including its modular and prefabricated nature and the copious amounts of glass it used (only possible due to recent technological developments concerning the use of iron and glass).

Following its acceptance (this despite the fact it apparently breached the design competition’s rules), it took some 2,000 men eight months to build the 500 metre long building which, despite some criticism, was such a success at the Great Exhibition that in October of 1851 – some five months after its opening – Paxton was knighted by Queen Victoria. (For more on the Crystal Palace, see our earlier entry here).

Following the Great Exhibition, the building, with Paxton’s aid, was relocated to Sydenham in south London after the exhibition where it remained until it burned down in 1936.

Paxton, meanwhile, returned to his post as head gardener at Chatsworth (a role he fulfilled until 1858), but he is also credited with numerous other projects including the design of public parks in places as far afield as Liverpool and Glasgow, and the design of the London Road Cemetery in Coventry.

He was also involved in the commission charged with improving the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and designed numerous residences, the most famous being Mentmore Towers which he designed for Baron Mayer de Rothschild (among his other contributions to the world of design was a plan for an ‘atmospheric railway in London’ which was never built – for more on that, see our previous post here).

Paxton, who also acted as a Liberal MP for Coventry for the last 11 years of his life and was for many years involving in publishing various gardening-related magazines, general newspapers and writing a couple of books, became wealthy by speculating on the growing railway industry.

He died on 8th June, 1865, at his home, Rockhills, in Sydenham and was buried in St Peter’s Churchyard at Edensor on the Chatsworth Estate. His wife Sarah continued to live at Chatsworth until her death in 1871.

PICTURE: Via Wikimedia Commons.

The-Mall

A view down Constitution Hill looking toward Whitehall, taken from the top of Wellington Arch at Hyde Park corner. To the left is Green Park and to the right, the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Constitutional Hill apparently has nothing to do with a document of any sort but takes its name from the fact that, considered to be a fine “constitutional” walk from St James’s Park to Hyde Park (King Charles II is rumoured to have been among those said to have taken their “constitutional” along this route while Queen Victoria survived a couple of assassination attempts on the road). The pillars at the near end are symbolic gates commemorating those who served Britain in World War I and II from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the Caribbean (more on them in an upcoming post).

A4605B1E7E3F-21Brompton Cemetery in London’s west is to undergo a major renovation thanks to a £6.2 million  project. Designed by Benjamin Baud and consecrated by the Bishop of London in 1840, the 39 acre cemetery – one of the oldest Grade I listed cemeteries in the country and known as one of London’s “magnificent seven” cemeteries – was strongly influenced by landscapes around St Peter’s in Rome. Among the 205,000 people buried there are suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, Sir Thomas Spencer Wells – Queen Victoria’s surgeon, and thousands of former Chelsea pensioners. The project will see the chapel, central colonnades and catacombs restored and the transformation of North Lodge into a visitor’s centre with shop and cafe as well as other conservation and improvement works. It is funded by an almost £4.5 million grant from the BIG Lottery Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as a £1.2 million investment from The Royal Parks, managers of the site, and £500,000 from The Royal Parks Foundation, only half of which has been raised. Those looking to donate to the foundation’s appeal, can visit www.SupportTheRoyalParks.com. PICTURE: © The Royal Parks

Christmas is looming and that means Christmas themed events happening all over London. Here’s a couple worth considering:

Kensington Palace: Head back into the Victorian era where so many of the Christmas traditions we know and love find their origins. The palace and gardens have been decorated with period-inspired decorations while inside decorations include the beautifully decorated tables where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert showcased their Christmas gifts. There’s talks on the origins of Christmas foods such as plum pudding, music and carolling, and the cafe is serving up seasonal food and drink while on Saturday, a special brunch time lecture will look behind the curtains into the world of Victorian pantomime and performance. Admission charges apply – check the website for dates. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/.

The Geffrye Museum: This Shoreditch institution is once again celebrating Christmas traditions of the past in its annual display showcasing the past 400 years of Christmas traditions. Christmas Past has taken place at the museum for the past 25 years and is based on ongoing, original research. It provides insights into everything from traditional Christmas feasts to kissing under the mistletoe, playing parlour games, hanging up stockings, sending cards, decorating the tree and throwing cocktail parties. A series of related events, including a concert by candlelight, are being held over the Christmas season. The display, which has free entry, closes on 3rd January. For more, see www.geffrye-museum.org.uk.

 

Ebola and the fight against ISIS are the subject of a new exhibition which opened at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth last month. Fighting Extremes: From Ebola to ISIS looks at the experiences of British personnel serving on recent operations including the response to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and the fight against ISIS in the Middle East. The display features behind the scenes interviews such as an in-depth talk with Corporal Anna Cross, a British Army nurse who contracted Ebola, photographs, and recently acquired objects such as the Wellington boots worn by healthcare worker Will Pooley, the first Briton to contract Ebola who was evacuated from Sierra Leone by the RAF, a headset used by an RAF drone pilot, and a shooting target depicting a silhouette of an ISIS suicide bomber used by the British Army to train Peshmerga troops. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk.

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Prince-of-WalesAnother Drury Lane pub, the origins of this one go back to 1852 when it was established by Henry Wells on the site of what was once a potato warehouse. 

The name, in this case, comes from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s eldest son, Albert Edward.

Only about 11-years-old when this West End pub was first built, he remained Prince of Wales until succeeding his mother as King Edward VII (nonetheless, the location proved somewhat prescient – Albert Edward was to become known for his bon vivant lifestyle including his love of the theatre (along with, of course, his love of philandering.))

Located close to theatres and the Royal Opera House, the pub at 150-151 Drury Lane (on the corner of Long Acre) was rebuilt in Portland stone in the early 20th century when the street was widened.

Now part of the Taylor Walker group, it remains a popular pub for theatre goers (and even hosts its own events). For more, see www.taylor-walker.co.uk/pub/prince-of-wales-covent-garden/c0659/.

Princess-LouiseThis historic High Holborn pub is named in honour of the sixth child and fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyle.

The Grade II*-listed pub, which has been described by Peter Haydon and Tim Hampson in their book London’s Best Pubs as a “national treasure” and “the finest, most complete, most original, best preserved, most authentic high-Victorian pub interior in London”, was apparently built in the early 1870s and then remodelled in 1891.

While rather plain externally, this “monument to 19th century craftsmen” boasts a much-vaunted, richly detailed Victorian interior dating from this remodelling which features polychromatic tile work, stained and etched glass and mahogany bar fittings as well as a staggering amount of decoration. The heritage listing even makes reference to the men’s toilets and its marble urinals in the basement.

The pub, at 208 High Holborn, is part of the Samuel Smith Brewery chain who restored it to its former glory in 2007 (including reintroducing glass walled cubicles). It’s also been notable, apparently, for its significant role in hosting folk clubs as part of a revival which occurred in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Why exactly the pub was named after Princess Louise is something of a mystery and it has been suggested that, thanks to the fact pubs aren’t usually named after living members of the Royal Family, the pub must have originally had a different name.

Princess Louise, meanwhile, is notable for having briefly lived in Canada when her husband served as the Governor-General of that nation. She spent her retirement years at Kensington Palace.

For more, see www.princesslouisepub.co.uk.

PICTURE: Edwardx/Wikipedia

Postman's-ParkHousing one of London more unique memorials, Postman’s Park in the City’s north is located on what were once the churchyards and burial grounds of three different churches.

The park – which took its name from its popularity with postal workers who came here to escape their job at the nearby former General Post Office (read a Lost London article on the GPO here) – opened in 1880.

It was originally located on the site of the former churchyard of St Botolph’s-without-Aldersgate and was subsequently expanded to incorporate the adjacent churchyard of St Leonard, Foster Lane, and the burial ground of Christ Church, Greyfriars (also known as Christ Church, Newgate Street). Some of the headstones still stand along the park’s boundaries.

Postman's-Park3Its key feature is the G.F. Watts Memorial To Heroic Self Sacrifice (pictured, right). Victorian artist and philanthropist George Frederic Watts proposed the memorial commemorating “heroic men and women” who had given their lives to save others to mark Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887 but the memorial which now stands there wasn’t built until 1900.

The memorial consists of a loggia, the inside of which is lined with glazed tablets. Each of these commemorates acts of bravery by “everyday heroes” as they attempted to rescue people from fires, runaway trains, sinking ships and drowning. There were 13 plaques at the time of his death in 1904 and his wife Mary added a further 34.

The latest of the memorials commemorating 62 individuals was added in 2009 (for more details, head to our earlier post here, part of our Curious London Memorials series; you can also find more about the memorial, including a free app, here).

The park also features a sundial and fountain amid bright flower beds and various species of trees including a large banana tree, a dove tree and Tasmanian tree ferns.

Claims to fame include its role in the 2004 film Closer, which starred Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, Jude Law and Clive Owen (we won’t go into details, just in case you haven’t seen it!).

WHERE: Postman’s Park, between King Edward Street and St Martin’s le Grand (nearest tube stations are St Paul’s and Barbican); WHEN: The park, managed by the Corporation of London, is open 7am to 8pm or dusk (whichever is earlier); COST: Entry is free; WEBSITE: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/city-gardens/visitor-information/Pages/Postman’s-Park.aspx.

Postman's-Park2

Dorothy-Wilding-1952A special photographic display has opened at Buckingham Palace this week to commemorate the fact that Queen Elizabeth II has this week become Britain’s longest-reigning monarch. The outdoor photographic display Long To Reign Over Us features a selection of photographs spanning the period from 1952 to today including informal family moments, official portraits and visits of the Queen to places across the UK and Commonwealth. Highlights include a black and white portrait by Dorothy Wilding from the start of the Queen’s reign in 1952, Cecil Beaton’s official Coronation Day portrait from 1953 and a 2006 image of the Queen with her Highland Ponies. The displays, which are also being shown as Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, can be seen by visitors to Buckingham Palace’s summer opening until 27th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk. PICTURE: Dorothy Wilding. Royal Collection Trust/© William Hustler and Georgina Hustler/National Portrait Gallery, London 

Still celebrating the Queen becoming Britain’s longest reigning monarch, and a new film installation celebrating the reigns of Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria – whose reign she has now surpassed – has opened at Kensington Palace. The film installation explores key moments in the reigns of both – coronations, weddings, births as well as other key moments in their public lives –  and also examines the impact of new technologies in the reigns of both queens. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/kensingtonpalace.

Richmond Park in London’s south-west is holding its annual open day this Sunday with a range of activities for kids including pony rides, the opportunity to see inside a bug hotel with a fibro-optic camera and the chance make pills in a restored Victorian pharmacy. The Holly Lodge Centre, normally reserved for schools and learning groups, will open its doors to the general public will be at the centre of the day, offering a range of activities for children while there will also be a guided walk led by the Friends of Richmond Park, vintage car displays, and a World War I re-enactment. The day runs from 11am to 4pm. Entrance to the Royal Park is free but parking is £5. For more, see www.royalparks.org.uk.

This Saturday is Redhead Day UK 2015 and to mark the occasion, the Guildhall Art Gallery in the City of London is inviting visitors to celebrate by taking a selfie with Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s iconic redhead La Ghirlandata. Painted by Rossetti in 1873, the artwork, said to be one of the finest pre-Raphaelite works in the world, is on permanent display at the gallery. The painting features on the cover of Jacky Colliss Harvey’s new book Red: A Natural History of the Redhead, three copies of which will be given away in a special draw at the gallery. Entry is free. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visit-the-city/attractions/guildhall-galleries/Pages/guildhall-art-gallery.aspx.

A six metre high ceramic installation created for the V&A by artist Barnaby Barford has gone on display in the museum’s Medieval & Renaissance Galleries in South Kensington. The Tower of Babel is composed of 3,000 small bone china buildings, each of which depicts a real London shop. Bamford photographed more than 6,000 shopfronts in the process of making the work, cycling more than 1,000 miles as he visited every postcode in London. The work can be seen until 1st November. Admission is free. See www.vam.ac.uk.

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