Following on from last week’s post, we look at a couple more London memorials to The Bard,  playwright William Shakespeare…

Shakespeare-Leicester-SquareLeicester Square: Returned to the West End square last year following its restoration (and the square’s redevelopment), this statue of Shakespeare – claimed to be the only outdoor one in London – was designed by architect John Knowles in 1874 when the square was constructed. Now Grade II-listed, it depicts Shakespeare leaning on a pedestal, pointing to a scroll which reads “There is no darkness but ignorance”, a quote from Twelfth Night. An inscription on the plinth upon which Shakespeare stands, refers to the laying out of the square by Albert Grant and doesn’t mention the playwright at all. The statue stands in the middle of a fountain, upgraded  as part of the recent overhaul of the site. PICTURE: Carcharoth/Wikipedia.

Primrose Hill: Shakespeare’s Tree on Primrose Hill was originally planted in April, 1864, to mark the 300th anniversary of his birth. An estimated 100,000 people marched to the site to watch the tree planting by poet Eliza Cooke and actor Samuel Phelps which was organised by the Workingmen’s Shakespeare Committee – apparently in response to the lacklustre efforts of a government-backed committee to mark the anniversary. The tree stood for 100 years before it died and was replaced with an oak sapling planted in 1964 actress Dame Edith Evans. A plaque which was attached to the tree detailing when it was planted has long since gone but there is talk of some sort of a permanent new memorial on the site.

There are other numerous places in London where Shakespeare – and his works – are remembered in London. One of our favourites is based in Love Lane and recalls the work of John Heminge and Henry Condell is getting Shakespeare’s works out to the world (for more on this, see our previous post here).

In our final post in this series next week, we take a look at some of the key London locations mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays.

Today we’re taking a look at a couple of still extant London buildings which have strong associations with playwright William Shakespeare…

George-InnThe George Inn, Southwark. Located at 75-77 Borough High Street, the George Inn is London’s last remaining galleried inn. The current building has its origins in the late 17th century after the original inn, which can be traced back to at least the mid-1500s – was destroyed in a fire in 1676. Now owned by the National Trust, it is leased out and remains open as a public house – part of the Greene King chain. While its known for its connections with 19th century writer Charles Dickens – he was a patron of this establishment and mentions it in Little Dorrit (a fact we mentioned in our series on Dickens back in 2012), the inn (or at least the previous version of it) also has Shakespearean connections with its prime Southwark location meaning it’s quite possible Shakespeare himself may have visited. Whether that’s the case or not, it is known that the premises served at time as a theatre of sorts in his day with acting troops performing in the courtyard while audience members could stand in the courtyard and watch or pay extra for a seat in the gallery. For more on the inn, see www.gkpubs.co.uk/pubs-in-london/the-george-inn-pub/.

Middle-Temple-HallMiddle Temple Hall. Built between 1562 and 1573 by Edmund Plowden (memorialised with monuments in both the hall and nearby Temple Church), this magnificent Tudor hall has survived both the Great Fire of London and the Blitz and continues to serve the legal profession today. It too was used as a theatre/concert hall in Elizabethan times and later as a site for Inigo Jones’ masques but in terms of the Shakespearean connection, it is known for being where the first recorded performance of Twelfth Night took place – on the night of Candlemas (2nd February) 1602. The Lord Chamberlain’s Men performed the play and it is thought that Shakespeare himself was among the players. For more on the hall, which is only rarely opened to the public, you can visit our earlier posts here and (on ‘Drake’s Cupboard) here or the official website at www.middletemple.org.uk/home/.

For more on the George Inn, check out Pete Brown’s social history Shakespeare’s Local: Six Centuries of History Seen Through One Extraordinary Pub.

 

First up, apologies that we were unable to launch our new Wednesday series yesterday due to some technical difficulties (stayed tuned for next week). And now, on with the news…

Sarah_Bernhardt_by_Lafayette_Ltd_1899_c__Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London__William Shakespeare’s influence on successive generations of theatrical performance is the subject of a new exhibition at the V&A to mark the 450th anniversary of his birth on 23rd April. Shakespeare: Greatest Living Playwright centres on the Bard’s First Folio which, published in 1623, contains 36 plays including 18 works – Macbeth, The Tempest and Twelfth Night among them – which would be unknown without it. The display includes interviews, archive footage and photography and objects from the V&A collections as well as an audio-visual presentation by Fifty Nine Productions featuring interviews with contemporary theatre practitioners such as actors, directors and designers. Objects on display include a skull used by Sarah Bernhardt when playing Hamlet in 1899, an embroidered handkerchief used by Ellen Terry when playing Desdemona in 1881 at the Lyceum Theatre, and a pair of red boots worn by actor-manager Henry Irving in an 1887 production of Richard III. Runs in the V&A’s Theatre and Performance Galleries until 21st September. Admission is free. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk. PICTURE: Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet, 1899, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

A skeletal horse and a giant hand giving a thumbs up will adorn the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square during 2015-16. Hans Haacke’s Gift Horse is derived from an etching by painter George Stubbs and, while being a comment on the equestrian statue of King William IV which was intended for the plinth, also features an electronic ribbon displaying a live ticker of the London Stock Exchange on its front leg. Meanwhile David Shrigley’s Really Good is a 10 metre high hand giving a thumbs up – sending a positive message to those who see it. For more, see www.london.gov.uk/priorities/arts-culture/fourth-plinth.

The impact of the car on England’s landscape and the listed buildings of motoring history are the focus of a new exhibition in Wellington Arch. Carscapes: How the Motor Car Reshaped England features archive photographs, historic advertising, cartoons and motoring magazines as well as a 1930s traffic light, a petrol pump and other accessories and memorabilia. Wellington Arch, which is managed by English Heritage, is a fitting location for the exhibition – it was moved to its current position due to increasing traffic back in 1883. Admission charge apply. For more, see www.english-heritage.co.uk.

A new exhibition exploring some of the true and not-so-true stories inspired by and produced in London opens at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden tomorrow. London Stories features the best entries from The Serco Prize for Illustration 2014 with more than 50 works of art on display depicting a well-known or obscure London narrative. The short-listed illustrations tackle everything from ghost buses to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show of 1887, a Pearly King and Queen, Lenin’s ‘Love letter to London’ and an escaped monkey jazz band. There’s also a host of musical and literary references – everything from Mary Poppins to Sweeney Todd and Oranges and Lemons. Tomorrow there will be a late opening of the exhibition complete with cash bar, DJ and story-telling for adults as well as the chance to create your own London story with illustration workshops and a photo-booth. Organised by London Transport Museum in partnership with the Association of Illustrators, it runs until 6th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.ltmuseum.co.uk.

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

• London landmark, the 19th century tea clipper Cutty Sark, will reopen to the public on 26th April following a five year, £50 million conservation project. Visitors to the ship will now be able to explore the vessel as well as, for the first time, walk under the ship after it was raised three metres above the dry dock. A glass canopy has been designed to protect the base of the ship’s hull. The Cutty Sark was built in 1869 by ship-builders Scott & Linton at Dumbarton, Scotland, and, one of the last tea clippers built, was designed to move very fast through the water. After the tea trade was taken over by steamers, the Cutty Sark was used to carry more general trade including wool from Australia. Later sold to a Portuguese company and renamed Ferriera, in 1922 Captain Dowman of Falmouth bought the ship and used her in the floating nautical school. Following his death, the clipper was donated to the Thames Nautical Training School at Greenhithe. After the formation of the Cutty Sark Preservation Society in the early 1950s, the ship was moved to Greenwich and permanently installed in a stone dry-dock where the clipper’s appearance restored to that of an active sailing vessel. In November 2006, the ship rig was dismantled in preparation for a full restoration project – this received a set back the following 21st May a fire broke out aboard the ship. But with the restoration now complete, the ship will once again accommodate visitors wishing to explore its 140 year history. For more on the Cutty Sark, see www.cuttysark.org.uk. PICTURE: © Cutty Sark London

• A treasure of the V&A Museum, the 16th century Great Bed of Ware, is being loaned to the Ware Museum, located not surprisingly in the Hertfordshire town of Ware, for a year from early next month. Believed to date from around 1590 and to have been made in Ware, the bed is believed to have been created as a tourist attraction for people traveling the pilgrim route between London and Walsingham or Cambridge University. More than three metres wide, it was said to be able to sleep 12 people and was such an attraction that people apparently stopped in Ware for the night just to sleep in the bed.  It’s even mentioned in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night – the author has Sir Toby Belch describe a piece of paper as “big enough for the Bed of Ware”. The bed was acquired by the V&A in 1931 and hasn’t left the museum since. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.

• Now On: Quentin Blake – As large as life. This exhibition at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury features more than 60 works by artist Quentin Blake, best known for his illustrations of Roald Dahl’s books and Britain’s first Children’s Laureate. The works – which are recent commissions by UK and French hospitals – are contained in four series of pictures which are displayed throughout the museum. They include Our Friends in the Circus – a 2009 series featuring circus performers, Ordinary Life – a 2o10 series celebrating the “pleasures of everyday life”, the 2007 work Planet Zog – a 2007 series in which aliens and young people swap doctor and patient roles, and Mothers and Babies Underwater – a 2011 series created for a French maternity ward. Admission charge applies. The event draws on the long history of artists’ aiding the work of hospitals and child welfare organisations – including William Hogarth who donated paintings to the Foundling Museum. Runs until 15th April. For more information, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.