Located at 39 Dartmouth Street – between St James’s Park and Parliament Square, this pub is understood to be the oldest in Westminster and dates from at least 1729.

The name is fair self-explanatory – it refers to the two men needed to carry a sedan chair which wealthy patrons would use for transportation about the city (and save their dainty feet from the muddiness of the streets). There’s a picture of two chairmen at work in the bar.

This pub, which was rebuilt in the mid-18th century, was apparently a hub where sedan chair carriers would wait for their next fare – its location opposite the Royal Cockpit Theatre, a cockfighting arena, meant it was well-suited for that purpose. There’s a suggestion that the cry used to attract carriers – ‘Chair ho!’ – is where the word of greeting ‘Cheerio’ came from.

Its proximity to the Houses of Parliament meant the Grade II-listed pub has also seen its fair share of politicians over the years.

Original features include the ornate fireplaces, oak beams and a mural on the back wall.

Now part of the Greene King chain. For more, follow this link.

PICTURE: RedJulianG40 licenced under CC BY-SA 4.0

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It’s perhaps the most famous of the visits that Jane Austen made during her London stays and while the property no longer exists, we thought it was worth mentioning. 

But first, let’s explain. The Prince Regent (later King George IV) was an admirer of Jane’s novels, so much so that when he was aware of the author’s presence in London, he issued – via his librarian and chaplain Rev James Stanier Clarke – an invitation for her to visit the library and tour his palatial London property, Carlton House.

The grand, lavishly decorated property, created from an existing property between 1783 and 1812 by the architect Henry Holland, was among the grandest in London at the time. Facing on to the south side of Pall Mall, the building sat across what is now Waterloo Place while its gardens abutted St James’s Park.

Jane visited on 13th November, 1815, and in the company of Rev Clarke toured the library. During her visit, it was suggested she could dedicate her next novel to the Prince Regent, an idea which didn’t sit that well with Jane who was a supporter of his estranged wife, Princess Caroline.

After her initial equivocation, her publisher John Murray apparently managed to prevail upon Jane to do so and she eventually capitulated, dedicating her novel Emma to him (a special copy of the novel was sent to the Prince at Carlton House).

Carlton House, meanwhile, didn’t last for much longer. King George IV, on his accession to the throne, decided to create a property more fitting for a king and ordered works to be carried out on Buckingham House so it could be his main London residence (as Buckingham Palace).

Carlton House, despite the exorbitant sums the Prince had spent transforming it, was demolished in 1825 and the John Nash-designed Carlton House Terrace built upon the site. Columns from the Carlton House were reused in creating the portico of the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square.

PICTURE: Carlton House (via Wikipedia).

The Queen Victoria Memorial, looking from Buckingham Palace across to St James’s Park. PICTURE: Robin Bilney/Royal Parks

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).

Charlotte-BrontePaintings and drawings by Charlotte Bronte, the first of famous “little books” she ever made, and a pair of her ankle boots worn will go on show at the National Portrait Gallery on Monday. Celebrating Charlotte Bronte 1816-1855 is being held to mark the 200th anniversary of the author’s birth and features 26 items loaned from the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth. As well as portraits from the gallery’s collection (including the only painted portrait of Charlotte), the display will also feature first editions of her novel Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography, Life of Charlotte Bronte, as well as chalk drawings George Richmond made of both women. The exhibition, which is free to enter, is in Room 24 and runs until 14th August. For more, see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE: National Portrait Gallery, London.

Find out what the buzz is all about in London this week when The Royal Park’s A Right Royal Buzz exhibition is held across three venues – Duck Island Cottage in St James’s Park, The National Gallery and the Mall Galleries. The community arts project features art created in a series of workshops under the guidance of artist Alex Hirtzel – all in a bid to teach the public about the importance of pollination. The installations a blacked out box in the Mall Galleries where you can discover how bees see, a room of 3D flowers at the National Gallery inspired by Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and Jan Van Huysum’s Flowers in a Terracotta Vase, and a four foot high beehive and bug hotel made of ceramic tiles on Duck Island in St James’s Park. For more on the project – which can only be seen until 20th February – see www.royalparks.org.uk/arightroyalbuzz.

• A recreation of Claes Jansz Visscher’s iconic 1616 engraving of London goes on show in the Guildhall Art Gallery from Saturday as part of commemorations of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Artist Robin Reynolds has recreated the work and depicts London, reaching from Whitehall to St Katharine’s Dock, on four large plates. In recognition of the Shakespearean commemoration, the new drawing also features references to the Bard’s 37 plays, three major poetic works and sonnets. Visscher Redrawn: 1616-2016 can be seen until 20th November and is part of a full program of events being held as part of the commemoration (including the Shakespeare Son et Lumiére show in Guildhall Yard on 4th and 5th March). For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/visscher and www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/shakespeare400.

The first major presentation of the art of Eugene Delacroix to be held in the UK in more than 50 years has opened at the National Gallery’s Sainsbury Wing. Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art celebrates the career and legacy of the artist, arguably the most famous and controversial French painter of the late 19th century and one of the first “modern masters” yet whose name today is overshadowed by those of many of his contemporaries. The display features more than 60 works borrowed from 30 public and private collections around the world with highlights including Delacroix’s Self Portrait (about 1837), The Convulsionists of Tangiers (1838), and Bathers (1854) as well as works by other artists which pay tribute to the impact he had: among them, Bazille’s La Toilette, Van Gogh’s Pieta and Cezanne’s Battle of Love. Organised by the National Gallery in conjunction with the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the exhibition runs until 22nd May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

Downing-Street

One of the most famous streets (and photographed) in London (though sadly not open to the public), Downing Street in Whitehall is these days most well-known for being the location, at Number 10, of the official residence of the British Prime Minister.

But Downing Street’s history dates back to a time before the first British PM moved in (this was Sir Robert Walpole in the 1735 and even after that, it didn’t become a regular thing for Prime Ministers to live here until the Twentieth century). And its name bears testimony to its creator, Sir George Downing, a soldier and diplomat described as “a miserly and at times brutal” man who served first under both Oliver Cromwell and, following the Restoration, King Charles II (and was, coincidentally, one of the first graduates of Harvard University).

In the 1650s, Sir George took over the Crown’s interest in land here, just east of St James’s Park, and intended to build a row of townhouses upon it. His ambitions were delayed, however, due to an existing lease with the descendants of Elizabethan courtier Sir Thomas Knyvet who had once lived in a large home on the site of what is now Number 10 Downing Street.

By the 1680s, however, the lease had expired and between 1682-84, Downing was able to construct a cul-de-sac, closed at the St James’s Park end, featuring either 15 or 20 two storey terraced townhouses with stables and coach-houses, designed by no less than Sir Christopher Wren.

While the homes were apparently of shoddy craftsmanship and stood upon poor foundations (Churchill famously wrote that Number 10 was “shaky and lightly built by the profiteering contractor whose name they bear”), the street apparently attracted some notable residents from the start.

These included the Countess of Yarmouth, who briefly lived at Number 10 in the late 1680s, Lord Lansdowne and the Earl of Grantham, and even, briefly, apparently the diarist James Boswell in the mid 1700s. Downing himself isn’t thought to have ever lived here – he retired to Cambridge a few months after the houses were completed.

The houses between Number 10 and Whitehall – on the north side of the street – were taken over by the government and eventually demolished in the 1820s to allow for the construction of offices for the Privy Council, Board of Trade and Treasury while the houses on the south side remained until they were demolished in the early 1860s to make way for the Foreign, India, Colonial and Home Offices.

The numbers in the street have changed since Downing’s houses were first built. Of the original homes in the street only Number 10 (home of the PM) and Number 11 (home of the Chancellor of the Exchequer) survive.

Access to the street has been restricted since the 1980s with the current black steel gates put in place in 1989.

An underground tunnel apparently runs under the street connecting number 10 with Buckingham Palace and the underground bunker, Q-Whitehall, built in the 1950s in the event of nuclear war.

Duke-of-YorkA monument commemorating Prince Frederick, the Duke of York and Albany and commander-in-chief of the British Army during the French Revolutionary wars – the Duke of York Column in St James’s Park – has had a makeover. The monument, which was erected in 1834, is the tallest in the Royal Parks. It features a 124 foot tall column of pink and grey Aberdeen granite designed by Benjamin Wyatt and is topped by a 14 foot tall bronze statue of the duke (thought to be the ‘Grand Old Duke of York’ referred to in the nursery rhyme), designed by Sir Richard Westmacott. The column has been cleaned while the statue, which had developed a green pigment thanks to the oxidation process which also gives the Statue of Liberty its green patina, has been repatinated, rewaxed and buffed. The monument, which cost £100,000 to refurbish, originally cost £15,760 and was funded with a day’s pay from every serving soldier. For more on St James’s Park, check out www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/st-jamess-park. PICTURE: Courtesy of Royal Parks.

Horse-Guards1

Known around the world for the stoic mounted troopers which stand guard here, this rather fanciful building straddling a site between Whitehall and St James’s Park was built in the early 1750s on land which had previously served as a tiltyard for King Henry VIII.

In the 1660s King Charles II had a barracks built here for the guards manning the entrance to what was then the Palace of Whitehall, but in 1749 it was demolished and the present building constructed.

William Kent had apparently drawn up designs but it was architect John Vardy who oversaw construction of the neo-Palladian building after Kent’s death in 1748. The windows on the St James’s Park side of the building are said to have been based on a drawing by Lord Burlington (he of Chiswick House fame – see our earlier post here).

While the site previously marked the entrance to the Palace of Whitehall, it is now considered the formal entrance to St James’s Palace (although the palace is located some distance away) and, as a result, only the monarch can drive through the central archway without displaying a pass.

Horse-GuardsUntil 1904, the Grade I-listed building housed the office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces but the title was then abolished and replaced with Chief of the General Staff, who relocated to the War Office Building. Horse Guards subsequently became the home of the army commands of London District and the Household Division, a role it still fulfils.

As well as being the site of the daily Changing of the Queen’s Life Guard (this free event takes place at 11am every day; 10am on Sundays), Horse Guards is also now home to the Household Cavalry Museum.

Among treasures in the museum are two silver kettledrums presented to the regiment in 1831 by King William IV, a cork leg used by the first Marquess of Anglesey after his real leg was amputated following the Battle of Waterloo (and subsequently became a tourist attraction in its own right) and silverware by Faberge. Visitors to the museum can also see into the working stables via a glazed petition.

The parade ground behind the building is the site of the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony which officially celebrates the Sovereign’s birthday. Although the ceremony has only been held since 1748, it’s interesting to note that some of the birthday celebrations of Queen Elizabeth I were held in the same place.

WHERE: The Household Cavalry Museum, Horse Guards, Whitehall (nearest Tube stations are Westminster, Embankment, St James’s Park and Charing Cross); WHEN: Open 10am to 5pm (November to March)/10am to 6pm (April to October); COST: £6 adults/£4 children (aged 5-16) and concessions/£15 family ticket; WEBSITE: www.householdcavalrymuseum.co.uk.

Night

Controversial when first unveiled in the late 1920s, Jacob Epstein’s sculptures of Day and Night adorn the facade on the Grade I-listed building at 55 Broadway – home, for the present at least, to the London Underground HQ and St James’s Park Underground station.

It was the nudity and, no doubt, the stark modernist styling which provoked outrage (and newspaper campaigns) when the two sculptures – Day, depicting a seated smiling male figure with a naked boy standing in front of him and the other, Night, depicting a cowled female seated and cradling a prone, apparently resting, figure (pictured above) – were unveiled.

Such was the outcry that Frank Pick, the then head of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London (predecessor to London Underground and the organisation for whom the building was constructed), even apparently offered his resignation over it. But a compromise was reached – Epstein agreed to alter the naked figure of the boy (a rather painful snip) and the fuss soon died down. These days many people pass the building without even noticing the sculptures upon it.

Epstein’s statues aren’t the only sculptural works to adorn 55 Broadway – a series of eight smaller relief works representing the winds of each cardinal point can also be seen on the facade. All eight representations are of nude figures of different genders and were created by six different artists –  Eric Gill, Alfred Gerrard, Allan Wyon, Eric Aumonier, Samuel Rabinovitch and Henry Moore (interestingly, it was Moore’s first public commission).

It’s been reported that London Underground will be vacating the building next year with the property to be converted into rather expensive flats.

PICTURE:  Wikipedia

Deckchair-dreams

Summer is fading fast but until the end of October, there’s still time to sit back and relax in one of the 550 “designer deckchairs” which have been placed in five central Royal Parks this summer. Designed by the likes of Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, comedian Harry Enfield and actor Miranda Richardson and artists Michael Craig-Martin, Susan Stockwell and Maggi Hambling under the theme of ‘Nature’s Grand Designs’, the deckchairs can be found in Hyde Park, Green Park, St James’s Park, Kensington Gardens and the Regent’s Park. The chairs join the more than 6,700 deckchairs already in the five Royal Parks which are available for hire (they can also be bought at the Royal Park’s online shop). For more on hiring a deck chair in the Royal Parks, check out http://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park/facilities-in-hyde-park/park-deck-chairs.

Pelicans

Following a tradition that dates back to 1664, three new pelicans have taken up residence in St James’s Park in front of Buckingham Palace. A gift from the City of Prague in the Czech Republic (the birds were donated by Prague Zoo), one of the pelicans is named Tiffany (in honour of New York-based The Tiffany & Co Foundation – which funded transport of the birds) while the other two have yet to be named with the public invited to join in the process by voting for their favourite name for one of the birds from a shortlist published on the Royal Parks Foundation website, www.supporttheroyalparks.org (the poll closes on 16th April). Choices include Bela, Karola, Queenie and Isla. The first pelican to live in the Royal Parks was a gift to King Charles II from the Russian ambassador in 1664 and they have been there ever since. The new arrivals, join the existing ‘scoop’ of pelican residents in the park – Gargi, Vaclav and Louis. PICTURE: Courtesy of Royal Parks Foundation.

Where is it?…#60…

March 15, 2013

Where-is-it--#60
Can you identify where in London this picture was taken and what it’s of? If you think you can, leave a comment below. We’ll reveal the answer early next week. Good luck!

Well done to Jameson, this is indeed located in St James’s Square. Called – rather aptly – Stag, the sculpture dates from 2001 and is the work of Marcus Cornish. The larger-than-life bronze sculpture is located in the south-west corner of the West End square. For more on the work of Mr Cornish, see www.marcuscornish.com. Other statues in the square include an equestrian statue of King William III, the work of John Bacon Senior and Junior, which was installed in 1808.

Arguably the greatest architect of Regency London, John Nash’s imprint can still be seen in numerous sites around the city, from the master-planning of Regent’s Park and Regent Street to the beautiful buildings of All Soul’s Church in Langham Place and Marble Arch on the edge of Hyde Park.

Born the son of a Welsh millwright in Lambeth, London, on 18th January, 1752, Nash – who went on to work in a range of different architectural styles – trained as a draughtsman under the tutelage of architect Sir Robert Taylor and in 1777 established his own business as a builder and surveyor.

John-NashBut he certainly didn’t meet with immediate success and, following failure as a building speculator (he built properties in Bloomsbury Square and Great Russell Street but failed to make enough money from the venture – there’s a blue plaque on one of the houses, which he lived in, at 66 Great Russell Street), was declared bankrupt in 1783.

Meanwhile, his personal life was also in turmoil during these years – in 1775 he had married, Jane Kerr, the daughter of a Surrey surgeon, but separated from her in the early 1780s after various troubles including her eventually apparently having a child with a Welshman named Charles Charles, who is said to have died in prison after he was jailed for adultery.

Brought down by his misfortune, in the mid 1780s Nash moved to Carmarthen in Wales where he had family. Taking up work here, by the late 1780s he was designing prisons – the first was at Carmarthen – and worked on a number of other prominent buildings including St David’s Cathedral and various country houses.

Rising to prominence in Carmarthen society, by 1797, however, Nash was again working in London, initially in partnership with the renowned landscape architect Humphrey Repton with whom he had formed a business relationship some years earlier (although the partnership had soured over finances by 1800).

He built a substantial home at 29 Dover Street in Mayfair and in 1798, his first wife presumably dead, he married his second wife, Mary Anne Bradley, and soon started work on building a Gothic-inspired residence for them, known as East Cowes Castle, on the Isle of Wight. It was completed in 1802 but enlarged some years later.

Nash designed numerous country properties in the early 19th century, inspired by everything from castles to Italianate architecture, both in England and Ireland and soon came to the attention of the Prince Regent, the future King George IV (there was a rumour his wife was one of the prince’s discarded mistresses).

In 1806 he was officially made Deputy Surveyor General in the Office of Woods and Forests – the office which managed the Crown estate, and from 1815 on, he largely worked for the prince alone. Among the major London commissions from his royal patron were the design of Regent Street (he and his wife moved into number 14 in 1823) and the development of Regent’s Park on land formerly known as Marylebone Park and surrounding housing estates (for more on The Regent’s Park, see our earlier entry here). He also redeveloped St James’s Park.

In 1815, he was commissioned to develop the Prince Regent’s Marine Pavilion in Brighton and by 1822 had transformed the building into the spectacular Royal Pavilion which can be visited there today.

Nash was also involved in the development of The Regent’s Canal – which linked the Grand Union Canal in London’s west to the River Thames in London’s east and was completed in 1820 – and built many of the grand villas which still line it (for more on Regent’s Canal, see our earlier entry here).

Becoming an official architect to the Office of Works in 1813 (an appointment which only ended in 1832, three years before his death), Nash went on to design churches – including All Soul’s in Langham Place (he’s depicted above in a bust at the church) – as well as West End theatres including the Haymarket Theatre and the Royal Opera House (which burnt down in 1867) as well as the adjacent Royal Opera Arcade and residences including Carlton House Terrace and Clarence House (for more on this, see our earlier entry here).

Other major commissions included the redevelopment of Buckingham Palace (parts of the current building are his work but the main facade isn’t – for more on the palace history, see our earlier entry here) and the Royal Mews, and the creation of Marble Arch, originally envisaged as the main gateway to the palace (see our earlier entry here). Nash also designed a conservatory for Kew Gardens.

Nash’s close relationship with the Prince Regent (who become King George IV on 29th January, 1820), meant that when the king died in 1830, he found himself on the outer (and his reputation took many years to recover thanks to his association with the unpopular king). With no knighthood forthcoming for his efforts (unlike many of his contemporaries) and the chance of further work unlikely (his work on Buckingham Palace had been left unfinished due to concerns over rising costs), Nash retired to his house on the Isle of Wight.

He died there on 13th May, 1835, and was buried in the churchyard at St James’s Church in East Cowes. He was survived by his wife who, having settled his debts, retired to Hampstead.

For an in-depth study of Nash, try Geoffrey Tyack’s book, John Nash: Architect of the Picturesque.

• 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.

With Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square stealing much of the limelight, the Duke of York’s Column in Waterloo Place tends to get overlooked. So we thought it was time we took a more in-depth look at its history.

The monument is dedicated to Prince Frederick (1763-1827), the second son of King George III and commander-in-chief of the British Army during wars which were fought between France and European powers including Britain between 1792 and 1802.

The Duke was not a successful military commander on the field – his one outing in Flanders was a disaster and is said to have resulted in him being immortalised in the song, The Grand Old Duke of York – but he is celebrated for reforming the army after his return to England.

The almost 42-metre high monument  features a larger-than-life bronze statue of the Duke dressed in the robes of the Knights of the Garter – the work of Sir Richard Westmacott – standing on the top of a granite column and gazing down a series of steps and over The Mall towards St James’s Park.

The overall monument was designed by Benjamin Dean Wyatt. His design was selected by a committee from among other submissions and erected between 1830-33. While the Duke was an inveterate gambler and died deeply in debt, the British Army is said to have voted to forgo a day’s pay to fork out the £25,000 required to build the commemorative monument. It was said in jest that the height of the monument allowed the Duke to escape his creditors.

Interestingly, the hollow column contains a spiral staircase which originally gave access to a viewing platform at the top. Access was apparently prohibited after a spate of suicides.

Looking for more on statues and monuments around London – why not check out Peter Matthews’ London’s Statues and Monuments?

For many Londoners, an opportunity to see the Queen means heading to Buckingham Palace to watch her wave from the balcony – or standing in the Mall to watch as her carriage goes by.

Given that, we thought we’d take the time to have a quick look at the history of The Mall, an important player in events like the annual Trooping the Colour.

This one kilometre long grand processional route which links Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace, was originally cut through St James’s Park in 1660 when King Charles II was looking for a new paille-maille pitch (see our earlier entry on Pall Mall for more on this). Two long avenues of trees were planted on either side, giving it a leafy feel that’s still in evidence today.

The Mall had become notorious by the 18th century and was spruced up in 1911 under the eye of Sir Aston Webb (who also designed other elements in the area including a new facade for Buckingham Palace, the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of the palace, and Admiralty Arch at the western end of the route) to become the grand avenue, complete with red-carpet like surface (this was done later), that it is today.

It is bordered by St James’s Park on the south side and on the north side is overlooked by various grand buildings – including Clarence House and the Institute of Contemporary Arts – as well as, toward the western end, Green Park.

These days the Queen publicly processes down The Mall for a number of events throughout the year – among them are the State Opening of Parliament (held earlier this month) as well as military ceremonies like Trooping the Colour and events like last year’s Royal Wedding when is it said that more than a million people were said to have filled the broad street.

The Mall is also the route along which Heads of State process in a horse drawn carriage during official visits (the road is then decorated with Union Jacks and flags of the visitor’s country). During the Olympics, it will be the start and end location of the marathons and cycling road races.

Apart from the Queen Victoria Memorial at the eastern end of The Mall, statues and monuments lining the road include the Queen Mother Memorial, a statue of explorer Captain James Cook, and a recently installed statue of cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin.

There are apparently a series of tunnels underneath with link Buckingham Palace with Whitehall.

We should also briefly mention Horseguards, which is at The Mall’s eastern end and where Trooping the Colour and Beating Retreat takes place. This was formerly the site of a tiltyard of the Palace of Whitehall and jousting tournaments were held here during the time of King Henry VIII. It has been used for parades and ceremonies since the 17th century. While cars were parked here for much of the 20th century, this practice was stopped in the mid-1990s.

Located in Hyde Park (not far from the Lido), this memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales, is designed as a ring of water – rather like a stream bed – with two cascades tumbling down to meet in a pool at the bottom.

The fountain, which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in July, 2004, also features three bridges which lead into the heart of the fountain – a symbol, apparently, of Diana’s openness to people.

Designed by US architect Kathryn Gustafson, the fountain – which cost £3.6 million – is made of 545 pieces of Cornish granite, each of which was shaped using laser cutting technology before being pieced together using traditional skills.

Gustafson’s design was selected after more than 10,000 plans were submitted to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain Committee in 2002. The architect has been reported as saying she wanted the design to reflect Diana’s inclusive “personality”.

The fountain was briefly closed to the public shortly after opening in 2004 because of safety concerns but reopened with new guidelines soon after.

The fountain is located on the route for the the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Walk, which takes on four of the royal parks – Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park and St James’s Park.

Diana, whose divorce from Prince Charles had only been finalised the previous year, died in a car crash in Paris in August, 1997, along with Dodi Al Fayed.

WHERE: Hyde Park (nearest Tube stations are Knightsbridge and Hyde Park Corner); WHEN: 10am to 8pm until end of August (check website for times after that); COST: Free; WEBSITE: http://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park/diana-memorial-fountain

The fourth in a line of parks stretching from Kensington Palace to Westminster, St James’s Park largely owes its foundation to King James I. 

Given its early history is covered in our earlier post, we’ll skip forward to the time of King Charles II when, under to instruction of Frenchman Andre Mollet, the park was redesigned with new landscaping including wide lawns, avenues of trees and a wide, centrally positioned canal. It was King Charles II who also opened the park up to the public (he even mingled with them there along with his mistress Nell Gwynn). Interestingly the first pelicans were also introduced to the park around this time when the Russian ambassador presented a pair of pelicans to the king.

In the 18th century, Horse Guards Parade was added to the park by filling in one end of the park’s canal and was later used for parades. The ceremonies of Beating Retreat and Trooping the Colour are still held there today.

The next major changes came in the 19th century when in 1827-28, architect John Nash oversaw a more romantically inspired renovation, including the transformation of the canal into a natural looking lake and the addition of winding paths, as part of his grand scheme which still shapes much of London today.

It was also at this time that The Mall (which like Pall Mall takes it name from the game of Pelle Melle – see our earlier post) was transformed into a grand processional route (it was opened to traffic later, in 1887). The park, bounded to the west by Buckingham Palace, also takes in the Queen Victoria Memorial – completed in 1914 to replace the Marble Arch which was moved to its current location at the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane in 1851 – and flower beds which are planted annually with 12,000 geraniums, the color of which is chosen to match the guardsmen’s tunics.

Meanwhile, in 1837, the Ornothological Society of London erected a cottage for the birdkeeper (the thatched cottage can still be seen there today and the post of birdkeeper still exists). The first bridge was placed across the lake in 1851 (and replaced in 1951 with the one that now stands there).

Little has changed in the 23 hectare (58 acre) park since Nash’s day. Newer facilities include a restaurant and a playground at the western end.

WHERE: St James’s Park (nearest tube station is St James’s Park); WHEN: 5am to midnight daily; COST: Free entry; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.gov.uk/St-Jamess-Park.aspx 

PICTURE: © Anne Marie Briscombe  (courtesy Royal Parks)

Perhaps the most overlooked and least celebrated of central London’s Royal Parks, Green Park (officially The Green Park) is a peaceful oasis of leafy trees between the bustle of Piccadilly and traffic of Constitution Hill and part of an unending swathe of green which connects Kensington Gardens with, eventually, St James’ Park.

Originally meadowland used for hunting, the earliest known mention of the area where the park now stands was apparently in 1554 when it was believed to be a staging point for Thomas Wyatt (the younger) who led a group of rebels protesting against the marriage of Queen Mary I to King Philip II of Spain. The unfortunate – and unsuccessful (in terms of his rebellion at least) – Wyatt was later beheaded for treason.

In 1668, King Charles II had the park enclosed with a brick wall and stocked with deer, as well as having a ranger’s lodge and icehouse built (to keep his drinks cool when entertaining in summer). While it was initially known as Upper St James’s Park, by 1746 Green Park had its own name. It’s not really known what prompted the name change but the unofficial story is that Queen Catherine of Braganza, wife of King Charles II, found out that her philandering husband had picked some flowers there for another woman – a milkmaid. In revenge, she had every flower in the park pulled up with orders they were not to be replanted. To this day, while some 250,000 daffodils bloom here in spring, there remain no formal flowerbeds in the park.

The 47 acre (19 hectare) park, which was also used on occasion as a duelling ground, underwent further development at the beginning of the following century with the creation of the ornamental Tyburn Pool near the centre of the park.

Queen Caroline, the wife of King George II, meanwhile, had a reservoir built to supply water to St James’s Palace and Buckingham Palace (it was known as the Queen’s Basin) as well as a library and the Queen’s Walk. Planted in 1730, this runs along the eastern side of the park and helped to turn it into a fashionable place in which to be seen (and led to the building of many a mansion in nearby Piccadilly).

Other buildings in the park have included two temporary ‘temples’ – the Temple of Peace (erected in 1749 to mark the end of the War of Austrian Succession) and the Temple of Concord (erected in 1814 to mark 100 years of the rule of the Hanoverian dynasty). Both of these, believe it or not, burnt down during the celebrations they were built for.

The park, which underwent a redesign in which the first trees were planted in the 1820s as part of architect John Nash’s grand plans for St James’s Park, was opened to the general public in 1826 but by then many of its earlier features – including the ranger’s house, Tyburn Pool and the Queen’s Basin – were already gone.

In more recent times, war memorials have been added to the park – the maple-leaf daubed, Pierre Granche-designed memorial to Canadian soldiers in 1994 (Canada is also remembered in Canada Gate on the park’s south side, installed in 1908 to mark the nation’s contribution to the Empire), and a set of memorial gates on Constitutional Hill at the park’s western end which is dedicated to the five million people from the Indian Sub-Continent, Africa and the Caribbean who served in World War II in 2004. The park also features the ‘Diana fountain’, installed in 1952 by the Constance Fund (and currently undergoing restoration).

On 14th June, a 41 royal gun salute is fired here to mark the Queen’s birthday. Salutes are also fired here for the State Opening of Parliament in November or December, Remembrance Sunday, and for State Visits.

WHERE: Green Park (nearest tube station is Green Park and Hyde Park Corner); WHEN: daily; COST: free; WEBSITE: http://www.royalparks.gov.uk/Green-Park.aspx

PICTURE: Courtesy of Royal Parks. © Anne Marie Briscombe 

A new exhibition has opened at the Tower of London celebrating the Royal Menagerie which was located there for more than 600 years.

Over the years featuring everything from lions and leopards to elephants, camels, kangaroos and crocodiles, the menagerie was founded at the Tower of London during the reign of King John (1199-1216), although as far back as the reign of King Henry I (1100-1135) animals were being presented to the king as gifts. Some notable early animals included a ‘white bear’ believed to be a polar bear from Norway and an African elephant, a gift of King Louis IX of France, both of which were presented to King Henry III.

While the early location of the menagerie – which had a long history of attracting curious sightseers – remains unknown, during the rein of King Edward III (1327-1377) there is reference to it being in a position near the Middle Tower (now the main entrance to the Tower) which suggests it was then already located in what became known as the Lion Tower – a now ruined barbican built by King Edward I in 1276-77.

Animal accommodations in the Lion Tower were substantially upgraded during the reign of King James I (1603-1625) – James was noted to have enjoyed watching the lions fight other animals in the tower’s exercise yard). Further upgrades were made under the watchful eye of Sir Christopher Wren, then Surveyor of the King’s Works, between 1672 and 1675.

The office of the menagerie’s ‘keeper’, meanwhile, had been  formalised in the 1400s with the title awarded for life – it was subsequently held by some important officials.

While in 1687 some of the beasts and birds were transferred to new accommodations at St James’s Park, the menagerie remained at the Tower until 1830 when, following the death of King George IV, the decision to move the animals – then said to number 150 – to the recently founded Zoological Society of London’s zoo at Regent’s Park. Initially only some animals were sold to the zoo but by the end of 1835 the menagerie had been completely emptied with many of the remaining animals apparently sold to an American ‘showman’ Benjamin Franklin Brown who exported them to the US.

The new exhibition, Royal Beasts, is housed in the newly opened Brick Tower (entry via the Martin Tower, itself entered via the wall walk), and gives visitors views from a hitherto closed-off part of the north wall. There are also a series of life-size sculptures of various animals (see the three lions pictured), created by artist Kendra Haste, located around the tower. And, to gain a feel for how the menagerie was viewed during different eras, you can watch the short live action show featuring some of the “rarees” and “curiosities” which were housed within the tower (check with staff for times).

For more on the menagerie’s history, see Geoffrey Parnell’s guide, ‘The Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London’, available for sale at the Tower (£3.99).

WHERE: ‘Royal Beasts’, Tower of London (nearest tube station Tower Hill); WHEN: 9am to 5.30pm, Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5.30pm Sunday to Monday (until 31st October); COST: Included in Tower of London admission – £19.80 adults; £10.45 children under 15; £17.05 concessions; £55 for a family (prices include a voluntary donation); WEBSITE: www.hrp.org.uk/toweroflondon/.