April 19, 2017
We kick off a new series this week looking at 10 of most memorable (and historic) views of London and to kick it off, we’re looking at the views from one of London’s most prominent historic institutions, St Paul’s Cathedral.
There are two external galleries at St Paul’s – the first is the Stone Gallery which stands at 173 feet (53.4 metres) above ground level. Encircling the dome, it is reached, via a route which takes the visitor through the internal Whispering Gallery, upon climbing some 378 steps.
Located above it, encircling the cathedral’s famous lantern (which sits on top of the dome), is the Golden Gallery. It stands some 280 ft (85.4 metres) above the cathedral floor, and can be reached by a climb of 528 steps.
From it – and the Stone Gallery below it – can be seen panoramic views of the City of London and across the Thames to Southwark.
The lantern above, meanwhile, weighs some 850 tonnes and on its top sits a golden ball and cross – the current ball and cross, which weigh about seven tonnes, were put there in 1821, replacing the original ball and cross which had been erected in 1708.
St Paul’s Cathedral was the tallest building in London from 1710 into the 1960s (when it was surpassed by Millbank Tower and what is now known as the BT Tower). Sir Christopher Wren’s St Paul’s is not as tall as the original medieval cathedral which reportedly had a spire reaching 489 feet (149 metres) into the sky compared to St Paul’s as it is now, standing to a height of some 365 feet (111.3 metres) above ground level.
WHERE: St Paul’s Cathedral, St Paul’s Churchyard (nearest tube station is St Paul’s); WHEN: The galleries are open from 9.30am to 4.15pm, Monday to Saturday; COST: £18 an adult/£16 concessions and students/£8 a child (6-18 years)/£44 a family of four; WEBSITE: www.stpauls.co.uk
PICTURES: Top – Looking up at the lantern with the Golden Gallery around the base; Below – View looking west from St Paul’s down Fleet Street (the spires of St Brides and St Dunstan-in-the-West can be seen).
This Week in London – Maritime Greenwich lights up; garden memorial to Diana; and, Ecce Homo at St Paul’s…
April 13, 2017
Wishing all our readers a very happy Easter!
• Maritime Greenwich will celebrate 20 years of UNESCO World Heritage Listing with a “spectacular” lighting event next Tuesday night. The lights will be switched on at 8.30pm on 18th April, illuminating landmarks including the Cutty Sark, the Queen’s House, National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory as well as the Old Royal Naval College. The event, the first in a series to mark the 20 year anniversary this year, is the first time all the buildings have been lit up in unison and is a one night only event. Greenwich Park and the grounds of the National Maritime Museum and Old Royal Naval College will be kept open until 10pm to give visitors more time to witness the historic event. Maritime Greenwich was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1997 due to its role in the progression of English artistic and scientific endeavour in the 17th and 18th centuries. The event takes place from 8.30pm to 11pm (Cutty Sark will be lit until 11pm) and is free to attend. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk. PICTURE: RMG
• A memorial garden to Princess Diana has opened at Kensington Palace, marking 20 years since her death. The temporary ‘White Garden’ – located in what was formerly the Sunken Garden which often featured floral displays admired by the Princess – features flowers and foliage inspired by memories of the Princess’s life, image and style. The garden, which can be seen from a public walkway, complements the exhibition, Diana: Her Fashion Story, currently on show in the palace. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/.
• Mark Wallinger’s work, Ecce Homo – a life-sized sculpture of Jesus Christ with his hands bound behind his back and a crown of barbed wire on his head, has been placed at the top of St Paul’s Cathedral’s west steps for Easter. The sculpture, which will be at the cathedral for six weeks, represents Christ as he stands alone, waiting for judgement and a sentence of death. The sculpture is being presented by the cathedral in partnership with Amnesty International and the Turner Prize winning artist to highlight the plight of all those currently in prison, suffering torture or facing execution because of their political, religious or other conscientiously-held beliefs. The statue first appeared on the Trafalgar Square Fourth Plinth in 1999. For more, see www.stpauls.co.uk.
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This Week in London – The Notting Hill Carnival turns 50; St Paul’s marks the Great Fire’s 350th; and, London’s subcultures captured on film…
August 25, 2016
• The Notting Hill Carnival, the largest street festival in Europe, is celebrating its 50th birthday this Bank Holiday weekend. Events at the west London-based celebration of Caribbean culture, music, food and drink include a Children’s Day on Sunday with a parade for children, performances on the World Music Stage at Powis Square as well as food and drink (runs from 10am to 8.30pm); and, the main event, the 3.5 mile long Monday Parade and Grand Finale featuring 60 bands, performances at the World Music Stage as well as food and other activities (runs from 10am to 8.30pm). For more, see www.thenottinghillcarnival.com.
• St Paul’s Cathedral, created after Old St Paul’s was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, has been marking the 350th anniversary of that event with a special programme of walks, talks, tours, special sermons and debates. Running until next April, they include special ‘fire tours’ of the cathedral, a special ‘family trail’ through the cathedral (which you can download for free), and Triforium tours in which you can see carved stones from Old St Paul’s and Sir Christopher Wren’s ‘great model’ of the new cathedral. In addition, an exhibition featuring a collection of pre-Great Fire artefacts, Out of the Fire, opens on 1st September (admission included in cathedral admission charge) and the cathedral will be kept open for two nights next week until 9pm, on 2nd and 3rd September. For the full programme of events, bookings and more information, head to www.stpauls.co.uk/fire.
• On Now – Stomping Grounds: Photographs by Dick Scott-Stewart. This free exhibition at the Museum of London features images taken by the relatively unknown London-based photographer in the late 1970s and early 1980s, depicting everyone from the New Romantics of Covent Garden and Rockabillies of Elephant and Castle to wrestling matches at the Battersea Arts Centre and punks congregating on the Kings Road. The exhibition features 38 photographs and other “ephemera”. Entry is free. Closes on 18th September. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
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This Week in London – Photography and art at the Tate; punk’s 40th birthday; and, Sunday dome openings at St Paul’s…
May 12, 2016
• The “dynamic dialogue” between British painters and photographers is the subject of a new exhibition which opened at Tate Britain in Millbank this week. Painting with Light: Art and Photography from the Pre-Raphaelites to the Modern Age features almost 200 works, revealing their common influences and showing how photography adapted many of the “Old Master traditions” to create new works. Among those whose works are featured in the exhibition are everyone from David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson to JMW Turner, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rosetti and photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. Highlights include examples of three-dimensional photography which used models and props to recreate popular works of the time, including a previously unseen private album in which the Royal Family re-enact famous paintings. Runs until 25th September in the Linbury Galleries. For more, see www.tate.org.uk. PICTURE: Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), Proserpine 1874. Tate.
• The 40th anniversary of punk is being commemorated in a new exhibition which opens at the British Library tomorrow. Punk 1976-78 traces the impact of punk from its roots in the French Situationist movement and New York City art-rock scene through to the rise and fall of the Sex Pistols and looks at the impact punk had on music, fashion and design in the mid-Seventies. Located in the library’s Entrance Hall Gallery, the free display – which includes materials from the UK’s biggest punk-related archive held at Liverpool John Moores University – features a rare copy of the Sex Pistol’s God Save the Queen single, fanzines such as the first punk fanzine Sniffin’ Glue, flyers, posters and gig tickets from venues including the Roxy Club, Covent Garden and Eric’s Club, audio recordings, and original record sleeves such as John Peel’s personal copy of the Undertones’ single Teenage Kicks. There’s a full calendar of events to accompany the exhibition including John Lydon’s only live interview of the year. Runs until 2nd October. For more, see www.bl.uk/events/punk-1976-78.
• Climb St Paul Cathedral’s dome on special Sunday openings during May. And in order not to disturb Sunday services, visitors who wish to climb to the dome’s Stone Gallery and Golden Gallery will see parts of the cathedral not normally open to the public as they enter through a not-normally used side door and climb 22 extra steps. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.stpauls.co.uk.
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January 13, 2016
The final in our series looking at London ‘battlefields’, this week we take a look at the so-called Battle of London, the air war fought over London during World War II which, along with the bombing of other British cities, is best known by the phrase The Blitz (it forms part of the greater Battle of Britain).
Taking place from the afternoon of 7th September, 1940, until May, 1941, the Blitz saw London sustain repeated attacks from the German Luftwaffe, most notably between 7th September and mid November when the city was bombed on every night bar one.
The night of 7th September, the first night of the Blitz (a short form of ‘Blitzkrieg’ – German for ‘lightning war’), was among the worst – with more than 450 killed and 1,300 injured as wave after wave of bombers attacked the city. Another 412 were killed the following night.
One of the most notorious raids took place on 29th December when incendiary bombs dropped on the City of London starting what has been called the Second Great Fire of London. Around a third of the city was destroyed, including more than 30 guild halls and 19 churches, 16 which had been rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London in 1666.
The city was only attacked sporadically in the early months of 1941 but the night of the last major raid of the Blitz – that of 10th May, a night subsequently known as The Longest Night – saw the highest casualties of any night with almost 1,500 people reportedly killed.
The Blitz killed almost 30,000 civilian in London, and destroyed more than a million homes with the worst hit districts poorer areas like the East End.
The battle wasn’t one-sided – the RAF fought the Luftwaffe in the skies and did have some wins – on 15th September (a day known as Battle of Britain Day), for example, they shot down some 60 aircraft attacking London for the loss of less than 30 British fighters.
It was this victory which led the Germans to reduce the number of daylight attacks in favour of night-time raids which, until the launch of the RAF’s night-time fighters in 1941, meant they met little effective resistance. This included that of ground defences – throughout December, 1940, it’s said that anti-aircraft fire only brought down 10 enemy planes.
Yet, the Blitz did not lead to a German victory. For the Nazi regime, the purpose of the constant bombing of London (and other cities) was aimed at sapping the morale of its residents to the extent that they would eventually be forced to beg for peace. But the plan failed and Londoners, digging deep, proved their mettle in the face of fear.
Hundreds of thousands of people were involved in Civil Defence working in a range of jobs – everything from air raid shelter wardens to rescue and demolition teams – and worked alongside firefighters whose numbers were supplemented by an auxiliary service. Naturally all suffered a high level of casualties.
As the weeks passed, the carnage mounted in terms of the loss of and damage to life, destruction of property and psychological toll. And yet the Londoners – sheltering Underground, most famously in the tunnels of the Tube – survived and, as had been the case after the first Great Fire of London, the ruined city was eventually rebuilt.
There are numerous Blitz-related memorials in London, many related to specific bombings. But among the most prominent are the National Firefighters Memorial, located opposite St Paul’s Cathedral, which pays tribute to the firefighters who lost their lives in the war (as well as in peacetime), and a riverside memorial in Wapping honouring civilians of East London killed in the Blitz.
The minster – popularly named ‘west’ minster to distinguish it from St Paul’s Cathedral (the ‘east’ minster) – was rebuilt when King Edward refounded the abbey between 1042-52, ostensibly to provide himself with a royal church in which he could be buried.
An abbey had apparently originally been founded on the site in the 7th century during the time of Bishop Mellitus, first Bishop of London (see our earlier post here).
The abbey church isn’t believed to have been completed when it was consecrated – this it’s suggested didn’t take place until 1090, well after the Norman Conquest. Unfortunately Edward was too ill to attend the consecration – he died on the 5th January and was buried a week later in the church (his wife Edith followed nine years later).
King Harold Godwinson – King Harold II – was apparently crowned in the church the day after Edward’s death but the first recorded coronation is that of King William the Conqueror on Christmas Day, 1066.
Very little survives of Edward’s church – most of what was see now is the Gothic masterpiece constructed in the mid 13th century by King Henry III with later additions such as King Henry VII’s Lady Chapel.
November 17, 2015
View looking west from St Paul’s Cathedral down Fleet Street.
This Week in London – Lord Mayor’s Show marks 800 years; Dutch masters and Thomas Rowlandson at Queen’s Gallery; and, Alexander Calder on show at Tate…
November 12, 2015
• The Lord Mayor’s Show will mark its 800th anniversary on Saturday as the newly elected Jeffrey Mountevans – the 688th Lord Mayor of the City of London – makes his way through the City to Westminster to swear loyalty to the Crown. The procession of 7,000 people, some 180 horses and 140 vehicles will set off on its way along a three-and-a-half mile route at 11am, starting at Mansion House and traveling down Cheapside to pause at St Paul’s Cathedral (which is open for free all day) before heading on via Ludgate Hill and Fleet Street to the Royal Courts of Justice before returning the City via Queen Victoria Street from 1.10pm. In a special nod to the 800th anniversary, the famous bells of St Mary-le-Bow will ring out a special 800-change at noon. The day will conclude with fireworks over the River Thames kicking off at 5.15pm (for the best view head down to the riverside between Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges, either on Victoria Embankment or on the South Bank). The show’s origins go back to 1215 when, in exchange for a Royal Charter granting the City of London the right to elect its own mayor, King John insisted the newly elected mayor travelled to Westminster each year to swear loyalty to the Crown. For more (including a map to print out), see https://lordmayorsshow.london. PICTURE: From a previous show.
• Vermeer’s The Music Lesson is among 27 of the finest 17th and 18th century Dutch paintings in the Royal Collection which will go on display in a new exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace from tomorrow. Masters of the Everyday: Dutch Artists in the Age of Vermeer also features works by the likes of Gerrit Dou, Pieter de Hooch and Jan Steen, all produced during what is known as the Dutch ‘Golden Age’. The exhibition is being shown alongside another display – High Spirits: The Comic Art of Thomas Rowlandson – which will focus on the work of 18th and early 19th century caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson. Around 100 of Rowlandson’s works feature in the display with highlights including The Two Kings of Terror featuring Napoleon and Death sitting face-to-face after Napoleon’s defeat at Leipzig in 1813, The Devonshire, or Most Approved Method of Securing Votes depicting Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, kissing a butcher (it was claimed she had claimed kisses for votes in the Westminster election of 1784), and A York Address to the Whale. Caught lately off Gravesend in which the Duke of York thanks a whale for distracting attention from accusations that his mistress was paid by army officers to secure promotions from the Duke. Admission charge applies. Both exhibitions run until 14th February, 2015. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk.
• The first major UK exhibition of the works of kinetic sculpture pioneer Alexander Calder opened at the Tate Modern this week. Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture features more than 100 of the ground-breaking 20th century artist’s works which trace how Calder turned sculpture from the idea of a static object to a continually changing work to be experienced in real time. Works on show include figurative wire portraits of artists – Joan Miró and Fernand Léger (both 1930), works exploring the idea of forms in space – Red Panel, White Panel and Snake and the Cross (1936), motorised mobiles such as Black Frame and A Universe (1934), and chiming mobiles such as Red Gongs (1950) and Streetcar (1951). It closes with the large scale Black Widow (c.1948), shown for the first time ever outside Brazil. Runs until 3rd April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.
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It wasn’t until four days after the battle which had taken place on 25th October, 1415, that news of King Henry V’s stunning victory over the French reached the English capital.
At 9am, a solemn procession of clergy made their way from St Paul’s Cathedral in the City to the shrine of St Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey (pictured) to give thanks.
Other attendees at the abbey included the Mayor-elect, Nicholas Wotton (this was the first of two occasions on which he was elected Lord Mayor), and the alderman of London, as well as the Queen Dowager, Joan of Navarre.
A few days later, on the 4th November, King Henry V’s brother – John of Lancaster, the Duke of Bedford, announced the news to Parliament.
King Henry V, meanwhile, arrived back in Dover on 16th November (apparently as a great snowstorm was making its presence felt) and headed for London. After pausing in Canterbury to give thanks in the cathedral and St Augustine’s Abbey, he reached the manor of Eltham (now in south-east London) on 22nd November.
He was met the next day on Blackheath by Wotton and City dignitaries who then, along with what were recorded as a crowd of 20,000 citizens, accompanied him and his small retinue, which included some of his most high profile prisoners such as Charles d’Orléans, Duke of Orléans (who spent 25 years as a prisoner in England), and Marshal Boucicaut (he would die six years later in Yorkshire), towards London.
There, welcomed as Henry V, “King of England and France”, he processed through the City which had been elaborately decorated – the decorations included the hanging of various coats of arms from various prominent sites as well as the positioning of statues of the likes of St George – ahead of his arrival.
Travelling down Cheapside, the king – who was modestly dressed in a purple gown and had eschewed wearing a crown for the event – stopped at St Paul’s where he performed his devotions, before proceeding to Westminster where he did the same before taking up residence for the night in the nearby Palace of Westminster.
On the king’s orders, a solemn mass was held in St Paul’s the next day for the fallen of both sides. The victorious king had returned!
A short-lived addition to Old St Paul’s Cathedral before it burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, the classical-style portico was designed by Inigo Jones as part of makeover King James I ordered him to give the cathedral in the first half of the 17th century.
St Paul’s, which was completed in the early 14th century in the Early English Gothic style (see our post here for more on its earlier history), had fallen into a state of disrepair by the 1620s, thanks in part to a fire caused by lightning which had brought the spire – 489 feet (149 metres) high when built – crashing down through the nave roof in 1561.
The spire wasn’t rebuilt and repair works undertaken to the cathedral roof were apparently shoddy, meaning that by the early 1600s, things were in a parlous state.
Jones started work in the 1620s, cleaning and repairing the massive structure and adding a layer of limestone masonry over the exterior to give the building a more classical look inspired by the temples of ancient Rome he had seen in that city and in Naples and the work of Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio.
This was complemented by the grand portico he added to the west front in the 1630s (and which was paid for by King James’ son, King Charles I). Featuring 10 columns across its breadth and four deep (these, it has been suggested, stood about 45 feet tall), it was topped by a frieze of lions’ heads and foliage with plans for a series of statues which some say were to be saints and others kings to be placed along the top (in the end only statues of King Charles I and King James I were ever placed there). The facade also featured turrets at either side.
Work on the repairs came to a halt in 1642 thanks to the Civil War, during which Parliamentarian forces famously used the cathedral’s great nave for stables.
Following the Restoration in 1660, with Jones now dead (he died in 1652), Sir Christopher Wren was invited by King Charles II to restore the grand old building but Sir Christopher proposed it be demolished instead, a decision which lead to an outcry among London’s citizens.
Wren then changed his plans to instead restore the existing build but replace the spire with a dome. His scaffolding was in place around the cathedral when the Great Fire broke out in 1666 and badly damaged the building (although the portico apparently remained standing until 1687-88 when Sir Christopher had it demolished to make way for his new western front).
Interestingly, it is said Wren used blocks from the portico to create the foundations for the building which now stands on the site.
PICTURE: Wenceslaus Hollar’s rendering of Inigo Jones’ West Portico/Wikipedia
For more on the history of St Paul’s Cathedral see Ann Saunders’ St Paul’s Cathedral: 1,400 Years at the Heart of London.
This church in the shadow of 30 St Mary Axe (aka The Gherkin) is all that remains of a Benedictine nunnery that was founded here during the reign of King John in 1210.
Established by one “William, son of William the goldsmith” after he was granted the right by the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral, the priory was built to the north of a previously existing church with a new church for the nuns to use built right alongside the existing structure (thus accounting for the rarely seen side-by-side naves of the current building).
While the new church was built longer than the existing church, the latter was then lengthened to give them both the same length. A line of arches and a screen separated the nun’s choir and the parish church.
The church which stands today has been much altered over the centuries and what we now see there largely dates from the 14th and 15th centuries (although the bell turret which sits over the west front is an 18th century addition).
One of the priory’s claims to fame in medieval times was that it apparently was once home to a piece of the True Cross, presented by King Edward I in 1285.
The nunnery was dissolved in 1538 during the Great Dissolution of King Henry VIII and the buildings, excepting the church, sold off to the Leathersellers’ Company (all were eventually demolished by the 18th century). The screen separating the nun’s choir and the parish church, meanwhile, was removed, leaving the main body of the church as it can be seen today.
The now Grade I-listed church, which was William Shakespeare’s parish church when he lived in the area in the 1590s, survived both the Great Fire of London and the Blitz but was severely damaged by two IRA bombs in the early 1990s leading to some major – and controversial – works under the direction of architect Quinlan Terry.
Inside the church today is a somewhat spectacular collection of pre-Great Fire monuments including the 1579 tomb of Sir Thomas Gresham, founder of the Royal Exchange, the 1636 tomb of judge, MP and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Julius Caesar Adelmare, and the 1476 tomb of merchant, diplomat, City of London alderman and MP, Sir John Crosby.
It was also once the site of the grave of 17th century scientist Sir Robert Hooke but these were apparently removed from the church crypt in the 19th century when repairs to the floor of the nave were being made and placed in an unmarked common grave. Their location apparently remains unknown.
WHERE: St Helen’s Bishopsgate, Great St Helens (nearest Tube stations are Aldgate, Bank and Liverpool Street); WHEN: 9.30am to 12.30pm weekdays daily (also usually open Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons but visitors are advised to telephone first); COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.st-helens.org.uk.
This Week in London – Marking VE Day’s 70th; Rut Blees Luxemburg at the Museum of London; and India’s Sidi community on show at the NPG…
May 7, 2015
• Three days of events kick off in London tomorrow to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day. Events will include a Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in Whitehall at 3pm tomorrow (Friday) coinciding with two minutes national silence while Trafalgar Square – scene of VE Day celebrations in 1945 – will host a photographic exhibition of images taken on the day 70 years ago (the same images will be on show at City Hall from tomorrow until 5th June) and, at 9.32pm, a beacon will be lit at the Tower of London as part of a nation wide beacon-lighting event. On Saturday at 11am, bells will ring out across the city to mark the celebration and at night, a star-studded 1940s-themed concert will be held on Horse Guards Parade (broadcast on BBC One). Meanwhile, on Sunday, following a service in Westminster Abbey, a parade of current and veteran military personnel will head around Parliament Square and down Whitehall, past the balcony of HM Treasury where former PM Sir Winston Churchill made his historic appearance before crowds on the day, to Horse Guards. A flypast of current and historic RAF aircraft will coincide with the parade and from 1pm the Band of the Grenadier Guards will be playing music from the 1940s in Trafalgar Square. Meanwhile, starting tomorrow, special V-shaped lights will be used to illuminate Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament as a tribute. For more information, see www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/ve-day-70th-anniversary.
• The works of leading London-based photographer Rut Blees Luxemburg are on show in at new exhibition at the Museum of London in the City. London Dust will feature three major newly acquired works by Luxemburg including Aplomb – St Paul’s, 2013, Walkie-Talkie Melted My Golden Calf, 2013, and the film London/Winterreise, 2013. Blees Luxemburg’s images – others of which are also featured in the exhibition – contrast idealised architectural computer-generated visions of London that clad hoardings at City-building sites with the gritty, unpolished reality surrounding these. In particular they focus on a proposed 64 floor skyscraper, The Pinnacle, which rose only seven stories before lack of funding brought the work to a halt. The free exhibition runs until 10th January next year. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
• The Talk: The Cutting Edge – Weapons at the Battle of Waterloo. Paul Wilcox, director of the Arms and Armour Research Institute at the University of Huddersfield, will talk about about the weapons used at Waterloo with a chance to get ‘hands-on’ with some period weapons as part of a series of events at Aspley House, the former home of the Iron Duke at Hyde Park Corner, to mark the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo. To be held on Monday, 11th May, from 2.30pm to 4pm. Admission charge applies and booking is essential – see www.english-heritage.org.uk/apsley for more.
• On Now: On Belonging: Photographs of Indians of African Descent. A selection of ground-breaking photographs depicting the Sidi community – an African minority living in India – is on show at the National Portrait Gallery off Trafalgar Square. The works, taken between 2005 and 2011, are those of acclaimed contemporary Indian photographer Ketaki Sheth and the exhibition is his first solo display in the UK. They provide an insight into the lives of the Sidi, and include images of a young woman named Munira awaiting her arranged wedding, young boys playing street games, and the exorcism of spirits from a woman as a young girl watches. Admission is free. Runs in Room 33 until 31st August. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.
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March 2, 2015
We’re delving back a long way into London’s history here to the Anglo-Saxon period when London was known as Lundenwic. Credited as the first bishop of London in the Anglo-Saxon period, Mellitus is perhaps most famous for having founded the precursor to today’s St Paul’s Cathedral.
Tradition holds that Mellitus was a priest – perhaps an abbot – of noble birth who was among a group of missionaries, known as the Gregorian mission, sent from the monastery of St Andrew on the Coelian Hill in Rome to England by Pope Gregory the Great in response to a call from St Augustine – the first archbishop of Canterbury – for people to help convert the Saxons to Christianity.
The mission was dispatched to England in 601 AD (apparently Mellitus brought with him a number of books, including possibly the St Augustine Gospels now at Cambridge University) coming via Gaul where the mission paused to deliver letters to various Frankish kings.
The group reached England sometime prior to 604 AD for that year St Augustine, with the permission of Saxon King Æthelberht of Kent (aka Ethelbert), consecrated Mellitus Bishop of the East Saxons with London as his seat, making him the first post-Roman-era bishop of the city.
Records are scant about Mellitus’ time as bishop but he is believed to have constructed a simple wooden church dedicated to St Paul (the first ‘version’ of St Paul’s Cathedral) in 604 with King Æthelberht as his patron (the ruler of Lundenwic was King Sæberht but, while he was then a pagan and unlikely to welcome the building of a church, he apparently owed his allegiance to Æthelberht as his overlord (Sæberht was later baptised by Mellitus). It was apparently constructed in the ruins of a temple dedicated to the Roman goddess Diana as per the instructions Mellitus had carried from Rome to convert rather than destroy pagan temples.
Mellitus is known to have left the city in 610 to attend a council of bishops called in Italy by Pope Boniface IV. He returned with letters from the Pope for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Laurentius (or Laurence), and one for King Æthelberht.
There was a crisis following the death of both kings Æthelberht and Sæberht some time around 616-618. Sæberht’s three sons inherited and subsequently drove Mellitus out of the city into exile (Bede suggests it’s because he refused them a ‘taste’ of the sacramental bread but its also suggested he was exiled from his bishopric because the overlordship of the East Saxons passed from the now dead King Æthelberht of Kent to the pagan East Anglian King Raedwald and thus the brothers felt there was no need to allow a Christian bishopric in the city any longer).
Mellitus fled first to Canterbury but King Æthelberht’s successor Eadbald was also a pagan and so he continued to Gaul. He was eventually recalled – some suggest his exile was only a year – after Archbishop Laurentius converted Eadbald. Mellitus was not to return to Lundenwic, however, and the bishopric remained vacant for some years thereafter (it wasn’t until 654 that Cedd reclaimed the bishopric).
Mellitis, meanwhile, went on to greater things – he succeeded Laurentius as the third Archbishop of Canterbury following Laurentius’ death in 619. During his time as archbishop, legend has it that Canterbury was saved from fire due to his prayers which summoned a strong wind that kept the flames from the town.
He eventually died on 24th April, 624. He was buried at St Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury (the ruins of the abbey remain in the city today).
Mellitus, who has a stone memorial at Canterbury Cathedral (pictured), was later elevated to sainthood within the Roman Catholic Church and there was a shrine to Mellitus in Old St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
The world recently paused to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of former British PM, Sir Winston Churchill (see our earlier post here), so we’re launching a new series looking at 10 sites associated with Churchill in London.
Given the recent anniversary, we’re starting at a site close to the end of his story, at St Paul’s Cathedral, where his state funeral was held on 30th January, 1965.
Code-named ‘Operation Hope Not’, the funeral had been thoroughly planned in the years leading up to the former PM’s death and took place just six days after he passed. Having lain in state in Westminster Hall for three days (during which time it’s estimated 320,000 filed past his flag draped body), his coffin, carried on a gun carriage pulled by 120 members of the Royal Navy, was escorted by more than 2,300 personnel from the military as it made its way through city streets lined with thousands of people to St Paul’s for the service.
During the service, the catafalque containing Churchill’s body stood on a raised platform beneath the central dome surrounded by six candlesticks. Among the official pallbearers – who marched before it down the aisle – were another former PM, Clement Attlee, along with military figures like Field Marshal Lord Slim and Admiral of the Fleet Lord Mountbatten of Burma.
A plethora of world leaders representing 112 nations attended the funeral service including six sovereigns, six presidents and 16 prime ministers. Among them – in an unprecedented move for a state funeral – was Queen Elizabeth II (sovereigns do not normally attend non-family funerals) along with Prince Philip and Prince Charles.
It’s estimated that as some 350 million people around the globe tuned in to watch the funeral on TV.
After the service, Churchill’s body was taken to Tower Pier (near the Tower of London) where, to the sound of a 19-gun salute fired by the Royal Artillery, he was loaded on the MV Havengore. Sixteen RAF Lightning aircraft then did a flypast as he was transported upriver to Festival Pier with dockers dipping their cranes in salute as the boat passed (this journey was recreated last week using the original barge in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his death).
On its arrival at Festival Pier, the body was then taken to Waterloo Station from where it went via train in a specially prepared carriage (the refurbished funeral train has been brought back together at the National Railway Museum at York) to be buried in St Martin’s churchyard in Bladon, Oxfordshire – a site not far from his birthplace at Blenheim Palace.
A bronze memorial plaque commemorating where Churchill’s catafalque stood in St Paul’s is set before the Quire steps while in 2004, the Winston Churchill Memorial Screen was unveiled in the crypt where it stands in line with the final resting places of both Admiral Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington.
For more on the state funeral, St Paul’s has a great page of detail which you can find here, including downloadable copies of the Order of Service and other documents.
January 30, 2015
Designed by architect Decimus Burton (he of the Kew Palm House fame), the London Colosseum was a vast, 16-sided domed structure erected in the 1820s to the east of Regent’s Park to house a panoramic view of the city.
Said to be the largest ever painting created at the time, Thomas Hornor – a land surveyor – oversaw the creation of the work which was based on drawings he had made from the top of St Paul’s Cathedral (he had apparently sat in a special, temporary hut or “crow’s nest” positioned where the cross and ball would normally sit – but it was in the process of being replaced). Several artists – led by the renowned ET Parris – were involved in creating the work which took four years to make before it was completed in 1829.
The building – located where Cambridge Gate now stands – had been modelled on the Pantheon in Rome (not the Colosseum as the name would suggest) and was constructed from brick rendered with cement to imitate the appearance of stone. It featured a portico with Doric columns at the front and had inside an “ascending room” or lift to take people to see the panorama.
It’s opening was apparently delayed after Horner and his chief backer, MP Rowland Stevenson, took off to the US after running up rather large debts, leaving the property in the hands of trustees.
The Colosseum changed hands several times over the years and its purpose evolved. At one stage it was reinvented as a museum of sculpture displaying some 180 works while other attractions added to the great rotunda and its surrounding gardens over the years included a “Gothic aviary”, a Swiss chalet from which a visitor could look at a real waterfall and a stalactite cavern as well as a theatre and various other panoramas depicting everywhere from Paris to Lisbon.
Among visitors to the attraction were Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
The Colosseum was put up for auction in 1855 but failed to attract a bid of the size required and, having passed through several hands (with some of the owners at one stage flirting with the idea of turning it into a grand hotel), it was eventually was demolished in the 1870s.
PICTURE: Via Wikipedia.