Roman Fort discovered in the City
Archaeologists from Museum of London have uncovered a Roman fort which was built in 63AD. It was raised in direct response to the Boudicca raids a few years previously when Londinium was destroyed by fire. The fort was discovered at Plantation Place in Fenchurch Street in preparation for a new building development. It is a typical example of a strong temporary defensive fort on the road north prior to the erection of ancient London’s permanent stone defensive wall. MOLA have published a book about the project.
— 18 May 2016
London Stone Goes on Display
The mythical London Stone was put on display today in the Museum of London. It is expected to remain there for over a year while the building where it usually resides, in Cannon Street, undergoes major refurbishment. The limestone rock – a designated historical monument – dates from at least 1100, although a cobbled-up Victorian myth linked it to the city’s foundation story from circa 1000 BC. It was held for centuries at St Swithin’s Church until the building was destroyed in the Blitz. It is said that London’s very existence relies on that of the stone.
More on the London Stone.
— 13 May 2016
Porters' Rest Returns to Piccadilly
Westminster Council today unveiled a porters’ rest in its original position in Piccadilly, near the Bomber Command Memorial. Before efficient freight services, fruit, vegetables and other mainly perishable goods were literally carried into London markets each day by hundreds of porters. Porters’ rests were a common sight on all the capital’s trunk roads. The final example mysteriously disappeared in 2012. Following a campaign led by leading Westminster tour guide Peter Berthoud (also a London Historians member), the council installed this one, albeit a replica.
— 12 May 2016
Charterhouse to Open to the Public
Charterhouse, the former Carthusian priory in Clerkenwell, is to open its doors to the public for the first time this September. The estate of mainly Tudor buildings was originally established in 1371, but violently dissolved in 1537 under Henry VIII. The merchant Thomas Sutton purchased the site in 1611, establishing alms houses and a prestigious school. It is still the home to this day of 40 ‘brothers’, essentially retired Christian gentlemen.
— 9 May 2016
Layers of London Wins Heritage Lottery Fund Support
The first tranche of funding towards an £1 million cost has been awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to the historic mapping project – Layers of London – which will launch in May of this year. The fund has pledged £103,000 to the Institute of Historic Research (IHR), part of University of London’s School of Advanced Studies. IHR will lead the project in partnership with British Library, London Metropolitan Archives, Historic England, The National Archives and MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology). They will bring all their relevant assets to bear in creating a rich interactive website featuring maps and other topographical information of London through the ages.
— 20 January 2016
Mayor Johnson Overturns Heritage Planning Decision for Norton Folgate
London Mayor Boris Johnson has sided with developers British Land who wish to build on a historic area of land near Bishopsgate: Norton Folgate. Despite Tower Hamlets council rejecting the developers’ plans twice – siding with conservation groups including the Victorian Society – the mayor invoked his executive power to overturn their decisions. TV Historian Dan Cruickshank , who is a nearby resident, joined with local groups to push for the Georgian era streets to be given over to new housing and retail rather than the tower-style office blocks, considered by many to be architecturally oppressive. Campaigners were supported by over 6,500 signatures in a public petition.
— 19 January 2016
"New Visscher" to be displayed at Guildhall Art Gallery
A contemporary version of the 1616 Visscher Panorama is to displayed at the Guildhall Art Gallery through most of 2016.
Detail from Visscher redrawn for 2016
Artist Robin Reynolds has spent several years painstakingly planning and redrawing a contemporary Thames panorama to commemorate the famous version created 400 years ago by the Dutch artist Claes Jansz Visscher. The modern work will be displayed alongside the gallery’s own original copy of the Visscher engraving from 20 February until 20 November 2016.
Guildhall Art Gallery.
— 7 December 2015
Samuel Foote Comes Home
It has been announced this morning that Ian Kelly’s play Mr Foote’s Other Leg will transfer to Theatre Royal Haymarket after its sell-out run at the Hampstead Theatre.
The play is about the 18C satirical comedy actor and impresario Samuel Foote (1720 – 1777), who was all but forgotten until Kelly’s 2012 biography drew him out of the shadows. The West End run could hardly be more significant: the Theatre Royal Haymarket was Foote’s own playhouse and the royal warrant was awarded to him personally.
Kelly told London Historians: “I am chuffed to bits, of course as a playwright and actor, but mainly, in truth, for Mr Foote – who returns to HIS OWN theatre 240 years on….and if I do nothing else, as a historian, I am proud as punch of that – one of London’s great lost figures re-found”. The play is directed by Richard Eyre and stars Simon Russell Beale as Samuel Foot.
— 5 October 2015
Britain's leading print history archive closes
The St Bride Foundation near Fleet Street has made the shock announcement that it is to close its library and workshop and has laid off two members of staff. The institution, endowed by Victorian philanthorpist and newspaper entrepreneur, John Passmore Edwards, has been a teaching institution and archive for thousands of print workers and print historians since its foundation in 1895. It has a vital role in the history and heritage of print in London. Chief Executive Glyn Farrow, quoted in yesterday’s Evening Standard, said that the institution had been unable to generate sufficient income to stay viable, suffering an annual shortfall of around £150K.
Update: Glyn Farrow has been in touch with London Historians to assure us that much reporting on the current situation has been inaccurate. He assures us that this is a temporary yet essential measure and that there are funding solutions in the pipeline which will restore the library to service in the fullness of time, although when that might be is difficult to predict right now.
— 13 August 2015
Grosvenor Calls Time on Pimlico Traders
Grosvenor Estate, owned by the Duke of Westminster and his family, has given notice to a group of independent shops in Pimlico Road to quit their premises by the end of the year. The landowner wishes to use the area for larger stores and luxury flats. One of the outlets, a Victorian timber yard owned by Travis Perkins, has been in continuous business since 1840 and in fact celebrated its 175th anniversary a matter of weeks ago. While for them the news is especially bitter, all the shops are angry at the plans. Grosvenor Estate abandoned a similar scheme in 2001 following stringent local opposition.
— 23 July 2015
Reprieve for KCL Strand Buildings
Plans to demolish a row of five historic buildings on the Strand have been put on hold. Belonging to King’s College London, the structures were to be swept away and replaced by a modern block as part of KCL’s plan to expand the Strand Campus. But in the face of determined opposition by conservation groups including the Victorian Society, the college has shelved the plan, it has been announced.
London Historians warmly applauds this decision.
— 22 June 2015
Museum of London to Unveil Crime Objects for the First Time
The Museum of London has announced a major exhibition starting in October which will display many objects from the Metropolitan Police’s Crime Museum. This is the Met’s internal training museum, rarely accessible to the public, which means these artifacts will be seen by most people for the first time. Without resorting to sensationalism, the museum will place them in the personal context of the victims, the perpetrators and police investigators. Dr Crippen, the Krays and the Great Train Robbery will be among the dozens of cases featured.
— 5 June 2015
Developers Ordered to Re-build Illegally Demolished Pub
Westminster Council have ordered an Israeli property company to re-build brick-by-brick an attractive community pub in Maida Vale which they demolished without planning permission.
Locals were shocked when bulldozers moved in on 8 April and demolished most of the Carlton Tavern with unseemly haste it would seem, since the building still contained furniture and fittings. The public reacted with demonstrations at the site and an online petition demanding retribution from the council. CLTX’s appeal against refusal of consent is still pending.
More on this story
— 29 April 2015
Museum of London to Move to a New Home
The Museum of London has announced that it is to move premises to the derelict Smithfield General Market, recently subject of a controversial proposed redevelopment which was quashed at the eleventh hour by government minister Eric Pickles. The museum, which has been at its current London Wall home since 1976, is desperately short of space for both display and storage.
Smithfield General Market today
The announcement was made last night at the Museum of London’s annual fundraising dinner. Director Sharon Ament explained that with massive growth of visitor numbers and increased pressure on curators and researchers alike, action was essential. It is expected that the plan will take until 2021 to implement.
— 27 March 2015
Last Porter's Rest in London Disappears
Picture: Peter Berthoud
The last porter’s rest on the streets of London has mysteriously disappeared from Piccadilly. Eagle-eyed Westminster Guide and London historian Peter Berthoud noticed that the structure was missing and raised the alarm on his blog and on social media. Yesterday evening it was picked up by the BBC News. He also started a petition to demand that Westminster Council return the Grade II-listed porter’s rest to its site. The council meanwhile are claiming to be unaware of the situation, that is to say that the outrage must have been perpetrated by another party. Developing…
— 27 March 2015
Heath Robinson Collection Saved
Thanks to more that £300K of grants a collection comprising over 400 William Heath Robinson drawings has been prevented from being sold off and potentially broken up. The images, whose future has been in doubt for several years, has been acquired by the William Heath Robinson Trust (WHRT), who will open a museum dedicated to the artist in 2016 in Pinner, the London suburb where he lived for many years.
Golf club testing
The bulk of the funding came from The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) who gave a £250,000 grant to assist the purchase. The Art Fund chipped in and additional grant of £50,000 to make up the balance.
— 23 March 2015
Met Police display coming to Museum of London
The Museum of London has announced a forthcoming exhibition featuring objects from the Metropolitan Police’s so-called “Black Museum”, which normally has extremely restricted access to the likes of us. The Crime Museum Uncovered will reveal the secrets of the Crime Museum’s collection, created by serving police officers since its establishment in 1875. It will take visitors on a journey through some of the UK’s most notorious crimes, from Dr Crippen (1910) to the Krays (1969), the Great Train Robbery (1963) and the Millennium Dome diamond heist (2000).
More on this story.
— 19 March 2015
New Museum and Gallery to Open at 'Bedlam'
‘Raving and Melancholy Madness’ by Cibber which adorned the second Bethlem hospital in Moorfields.
On 19 February, a new home for Bethlem Gallery and Museum of the Mind will open at the world’s oldest psychiatric institution, Bethlem Royal Hospital at Beckenham, south London. ‘Bedlam”, as the hospital became known in popular culture, has existed in various London sites since 1247. Displays will be filled with the personal stories – both historic and contemporary – of those who have experienced mental health difficulties and will explore the long, controversial and often misunderstood history of Bethlem. The Museum will house significant art and historical artefacts, almost all of which will be on display for the first time, as well as works by current artists and hospital service users. Among the highlights of the collections are paintings and drawings by Richard Dadd and others.
Entry to the new Gallery and Museum will be free.
— 11 February 2015
Help shape the future of the Parliamentary Archives, the oldest collection of its kind in the world.
The Parliamentary Archives contain four million records, including all acts of Parliament from 1497 onwards, and important historical documents such as the Death Warrant of Charles I.
Since 1860 the Parliamentary Archives have been housed in the Victoria Tower, part of the iconic Palace of Westminster. While this site provides an historic backdrop for the collections, space for research, exhibitions and tours is severely limited. In addition, the layout of the Tower makes collections storage both inefficient and cramped.
As the Palace looks to carry out significant and much-needed restoration work over the coming years, there is an opportunity for the Archives to consider finding a new home. This would reduce risk to the collections, allow more people to engage with the archives, and generate a deeper understanding of the work of Parliament in the past and today.
A survey is being carried out to help determine the most suitable location for a new archive centre. Your views will be very welcome, enabling them to make the best decision about the future of the Parliamentary Archives.
You do not need to have visited the Parliamentary Archives to complete this survey. You can participate here
— 5 February 2015
Freud, Cooper and Winehouse added to DNB
In the January 2015 update to the Dictionary of National Biography online, Lucien Freud, Sir Henry Cooper and Amy Winehouse are among the Londoners who have been included. The list:
Shirley Becke, the first woman commander at the Met
Brian Haw, anti-war campaigner
Mario Cassandro, restaurateur
Sir Henry Cooper, boxer
Lucian Freud, painter
Emanuel Litvinoff, author
Sir Simon Milton, leader of Westminster City Council and advisor to Boris Johnson as mayor
Jane Packer, florist
John Sullivan, scriptwriter and creator of Only Fools and Horses
Amy Winehouse, singer
There’s a page of highlights, together with a full list of new additions and an Introduction to the latest update. 152 of the new additions are recorded as having some connection with London; 56 were born in the capital; 79 were one-time residents.
Note that the DNB requires subscription access which is available for free at many public libraries and archives.
— 17 January 2015
Guildhall Art Gallery Reopens
The Guildhall Art Gallery has reopened following a £600K overhaul, its first since the new building was opened in 1999. The changes include new LED-based lighting for better control, and increased capacity. The biggest change, however, is a comprehensive rehang which sees the Victorian collection space on the upper floor populated with a 70% change of pieces selected and grouped in dychotomous themes. The London galleries downstairs have a much more considered focus on overlapping topography and chronology.
The Guildhall Art Gallery is open 7 days a week and is free.
— 15 January 2015
JMW Turner's Country House Granted Funds
A house in Twickenham, designed and built by JMW Turner, has been granted £1.4 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards a complete restoration. Known as Sandycombe Lodge, the building was used as a country retreat by the artist and his father between 1813 and 1826. It was bequeathed to the nation by its last owner, Prof. Harold Livermore, who died in 2010. It is in the care of the Turner House Trust. The plan controversially includes the removal of the wings of the building which were added after Turner’s time. The work is expected to be complete in 2016.
More on this story
Turner House Trust
— 9 January 2015
Christina Broom Show for 2015
The Museum of London has announced an exhibition showcasing the work of Christina Broom (1862 – 1939) to start at their Docklands museum next June.
1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, Christmas 1915
Broom, recognised as being the first woman press photographer, took over 40,000 images during her career from 1903 – 1939, many of them featuring WW1 soldiers and suffragettes, the twin foci of this exhibition wish will run from 19 June – 1 November 2015.
— 10 December 2014
Holden Masterpiece to become Luxury Flats
Transport for London has announced that its Charles-Holden designed Art Deco HQ is to become luxury flats.
TfL claims that turning the Grade I-listed 55 Broadway – a purpose-built 10 storey office block – into accommodation, will generate more revenue than keeping it as offices or making it into a hotel, which was the other plan being considered.
The scheme is opposed by heritage groups, chief of whom is the 20th Century Society.
TfL claims that its proposal delivers the best value for tax payers and customers.
— 7 November 2014
Hermione Hobhouse (1934 - 2014)
Hermione Hobhouse, a leading champion of London’s built heritage, has passed away at the age of 80. She was for many years a leading light of the Victorian Society and also the biographer of Thomas Cubitt. In addition, she wrote the acclaimed Lost London and was for over a decade the general editor of the Survey of London.
Obituary, Daily Telegraph
— 3 November 2014
Victorian Society cites Abney Park Chapel
The Victorian Society has published this year’s list Ten Most Endangered Buildings. A notable London inclusion is the chapel of Abney Park Cemetery which is in great danger without urgent attention. Abney Park is one of London’s so-called “Magnificent Seven” public cemeteries built in the mid 19C and its Grade II-listed chapel is the oldest-surviving non-denominational building of its type in Europe. The Victorian Society urges Hackney Council and the Abney Park Trust urgently to work together to alleviate the danger facing the building.
More on this story
— 10 October 2014
Four Magna Cartas to be United
As part of the 800 year anniversary commemorations of Magna Carta (1215), all four original survivors of the ancient are to be on show together for the first time at the British Library next February. The Library, along with Lincoln Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral will unite their copies of the ancient manuscript. However, the momentous occasion will bizarrely be for one day only, 3rd February. Members of the public wishing to see the display must enter a ballot.
More news and the public ballot.
— 9 October 2014
Thames Panorama Web Site Launched
After several years of preparation and hard work, the Panorama of the Thames web site has gone live. It is based on the now fully digitised 60 ft painting of the banks of the Thames, created in 1829. The Leigh Panorama as it is commonly known, features 15 miles of both banks of the river from Richmond to Westminster. By far a more ambitious adjunct to the project has been the addition of modern photographic equivalents of the same stretches of water but from Hampton Court all the way to Tower Bridge.
Panorama of the Thames.
— 29 September 2014
Adrian Tinniswood Delivers Inaugural Lecture
Author, historian and architectural expert Adrian Tinniswood OBE, last night delivered London Historians’ Inaugural Annual Lecture at Gresham College’s ancient Barnard’s Inn Hall in Holborn. Addressing a full house, Tinniswood’s talk was titled Christopher Wren: Extraordinary Genius in which he threw light on the former Gresham College Professor’s scientific achievements in astronomy and medicine and not just architecture. The talk was recorded and has been uploaded to YouTube where it can be viewed here
— 5 September 2014
Transformed Imperial War Museum Re-Opens
Image: Imperial War Museum
As part of the World War One Centenary, the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth will reopen on Saturday 19 July after a major transformation. The main change is the addition of the First World War Galleries which tell the story of the experience of the war by both the combatants and those on the home front. The re-opening will also see the start of a major art exhibition: Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War which runs until March 2015. Imperial War Museum is free admission.
— 17 July 2014
Artillery Museum in Woolwich to Close
Firepower, our oldest military museum, is to close at the end of 2016, in a move which allows Woolwich council to squeeze a more attractive return from the site. A statement, issued by the Royal Artillery Museum Board on 26 May, stated that the root of the problem is “the Museum will be unable to live within the available income and it is also clear that the location is very unlikely to be able to deliver the number of visitors in the timescale needed for financial sustainability.” It went on to say that a new home will be identified locally to house some of the collection. The staff of the museum are unable to comment. A petition to save the museum has been set up here.
— 4 June 2014
Pitzhanger Manor Awarded Lottery Grant
Pitzhanger Manor, once the Ealing “country house” of architect Sir John Soane, has won a £4.42 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a total restoration of the Grade I-listed building. Soane designed the building himself on the site of a house built by his mentor George Dance the Younger, a wing of which remains intact. It was used by the architect’s family in the first decade of the 19C as a weekend retreat from his city residence in Lincolns Inn Fields, now the Soane Museum.
The work will commence in January 2015 until 2018, so do visit the property this year while you can. Entrance is free.
— 3 June 2014
Official Tour Guides Association for Camden is Launched
Up until recently, there have been associations for qualified guides in the City, Westminster, Clerkenwell & Islington, and Greenwich, but none for Camden, a central London borough with hugely significant heritage. This has been put to rights with the launch of the Camden Tour Guides Association, at the behest of the council. The project is led by a group of highly-experienced existing guides, including Peter Twist as Chair and David Brown as Vice-chair. Both are active London Historians Members.
Public guided walks will start from 14 June and the first guide training programme begins in September. The Association invites applicants to join their inaugural course. There is a maximum of 24 places.
— 30 May 2014
Fox Talbot image to star in Bridge Exhibition
William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), Hungerford Bridge, c1845. © Museum of London
The Museum of London has announced it is able to display a very early Fox Talbot photograph at its forthcoming exhibition, Bridge, opening at Museum of London Docklands on 27 June. Not only is it the oldest photograph in the museum’s collection, it just so happens to show Brunel’s original Hungerford Bridge in 1845 – the year it opened. Ironically, Brunel’s bridge was demolished within fifteen years after the photograph was taken to make way for a railway crossing.
— 26 May 2014
Branagh backs plan to revive 'lost' Victorian Theatre
Sir Kenneth Branagh has added his voice to support a project to restore a theatre at Alexandra Palace which has been closed for 80 years. The 2,500 seater – designed by John Johnson – opened in 1875. Alexandra Palace hopes to have the space active again by 2017 as part of a £31 million Lottery fund bid. It has been used variously over the years as, among other things, a refugee centre and a storeroom for BBC props.
More on this story.
— 26 May 2014
Ripper Historian Philip Sugden Dies
Philip Sugden, the historian who through academic rigour debunked dozens of flaky theories surrounding “Ripperology”, has died aged 67. His celebrated work, The Complete History of Jack the Ripper (1994), is generally considered the definitive study on the so-called Whitechapel murders of 1888. It was backed by nine years of meticulous research. Sugden’s other areas of interest included Stuart maritime expansionism and the Georgian underworld, in particular the story of notorious jail-breaker Jack Sheppard.
— 18 May 2014
Royal Institution Vows to Keep Albemarle Street Home
Following a period of financial uncertainty, speculation and rumours, the Royal Institution is now confident that its Albemarle Street home has a secure future. Until recently, there was a real possibility that the Ri would have to sell or lease its famous neo-Classical fronted building to make ends meet. But following the 2014 AGM, in a statement to Members and Trustees, Chairman Sir Richard Sykes announced: “I’d like to take this opportunity to let you know that at the most recent meeting of the Trustees in March 2014, it was decided that the sale, or even part–sale, of our property will no longer be considered as part of any long-term plan for the charity. This decision means that the Ri’s historic Albemarle Street home will continue to be the centre of our operations for the foreseeable future.” The Royal Institution has been based at Albemarle Street since its foundation in 1799.
— 28 April 2014
Museum of London acquires historic photo collection
The ‘Bermondsey B’hoys’ from the 2nd Grenadier Guards, Wellington Barracks.
The Museum of London has obtained over 2,500 photographs from the work of Christina Broom, who was active in London from 1903 to 1939. Self-taught, she was a working postcard photographer as well as undertaking major reportage work which included Suffragette protests and coronations. She also had exclusive access to the Household Cavalry with whom she developed a close working bond. The first exhibition featuring this collection starts on Friday 4 April at the Museum. Entrance is free.
— 31 March 2014
Rare Restored Spitalfields Photos Go On Show
Bishopsgate Institute/Jeremy Freedman
100 years ago, photographer C.A. Mathew stepped off the train at Liverpool Street, took a series of pictures around Spitalfields, and left. Nobody knows why. For the first time, the complete series of never before seen images is being shown, fully restored by photographer Jeremy Freedman. It is a remarkable record of the people of the area before the First World War. The show opens at Eleven Spitalfields Gallery in Princlet Street on 7 March.
— 3 March 2014
MoL releases Streetmuseum 2.0
The Museum of London has added over 100 new images to its award-winning Streetmuseum App, now released in version 2.0. They range from 1868 to 2003. The images superimpose historical street views onto today’s exact equivalent. The app allows users to select a destination from a London map or use geo-tagging and Google Maps to pinpoint their location. Once selected, a historical image of their London location appears onscreen, which can be expanded and explored in detail, along with historical information about the subject. The new version includes views from London’s suburbs.
— 27 February 2014
Brentford Lucozade Sign Wins Reprieve
The Brentford Lucozade sign – well-known to generations of travellers along the M4 and A4 arteries – has been saved from being torn down and replaced with a modern liquid screen. The current sign is a replica of the original 1954 version which is the collection of Gunnersbury Park Museum. The move to change the sign was made by outdoor advertising giant JC Decaux whose headquarters are ironically in Brentford. Hounslow Council rejected the planning application on Friday.
— 2 February 2014
Londoners Included in latest ODNB update.
former Met Commissioner Sir Robert Mark
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has released its latest batch of eminent Britons, including prominent Londoners: Malcolm McLaren, Frank Crichlow of the Mangrove Café, Notting Hill; Rose Gray, co-founder the River Café, Hammersmith; the local politician and ILEA leader Frances Morrell; Brian Duffy, East End photographer (one of the so-called ‘Black Trinity’ with David Bailey and Terence Donovan); Jayaben Desai, leader of the Grunwick industrial dispute, Willesden in the mid-1970s; Beryl Bainbridge, long-time resident of Camden Town; Roger Walters, chief architect for the GLC; and Sir Robert Mark, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in 1970s.
More on this.
— 22 January 2014
Over 100K digitised Images released by Wellcome
Section of London panorama, 1845, by Frederick James Smyth
Wellcome Library has announced the release of over 100,000 images from its collection through Wellcome Images. The depictions are all available in high resolution and are free to use with the appropriate accreditation. In the wake of recent similar news from the British Library, this is a fabulous boon to historians, researchers and writers. Many of the images are relating to London.
More on this.
— 20 January 2014
Historic London Fire Stations Closed
Westminster Fire Station
Amid emotional scenes, ten London fire stations closed their doors for the last time at 9:30 am on 9 January. They included the city’s oldest, Clerkenwell, which opened in 1872. The others were Woolwich (1887), Denham, Westminster (1907), Silvertown (1914), Southwark (1878), Knightsbridge (1907), Kingsland, Bow (1974) and Belsize (1915). The closures come as a cost-saving exercise by the London Assembly, led by Mayor Boris Johnson.
More on this story..
— 9 January 2014
British Library Releases over a Million Images
The British Library has uploaded more than a million images to its Flickr Commons account for free use for academics and the general public alike. They include maps, drawings and illustrations from the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries.
The library plans to launch a crowd sourcing project in 2014 to build descriptions of all the images.
More on this story.
— 18 December 2013
Kenwood House Reopens After six million pound refurb
Following extensive, much-needed restoration and re-decoration, the wraps have been removed from Kenwood House as it opens to the public again for the first time since March 2012. The Robert Adam town house, built in the 1770s for celebrity judge Lord Mansfield, has been returned to its original interior designs and colours to make it more like its original purpose and less resembling a museum. The project – part of the Caring for Kenwood programme – cost £5.9 million pounds with contributions from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Woolfson Foundation. Most exciting for some will be the re-hang of Kenwood’s 63 paintings from the Iveagh Bequest which include many acknowledged masterpieces.
More on this story
— 27 November 2013
Pristine Roman eagle discovered at City building site
Museum of London Archaeologists (MOLA) have discovered an almost perfectly preserved statue of a Roman eagle dating from the first or second century AD. Working at a site which is to become a 16 storey hotel in the City of London, the team discovered what is one of the best of examples of its type anywhere. The crouched eagle, which is devouring a serpent, will go on display at the Museum of London for six months from 30 October.
More on this story.
— 29 October 2013
England's First Football Captain Remembered
A new gravestone was unveiled today for Cuthbert Ottoway, England’s first football captain, who died in 1878 at just 27 while his wife was expecting their first child. Ottoway captained England against Scotland firstly in 1872, then again in 1874.
Photo courtesy www.playedinbritain.co.uk
He was an outstanding sportsman, representing Oxford University at not only football, but also cricket, athletics, real tennis and racquets. Ottoway was buried at Paddington Old Cemetery where in the early 2000s his biographer Mick Southwick discovered his grave in a pitiful condition. This sparked a campaign, led by England fan Paul McKay, to raise money for a fitting replacement.
The rededication service was conducted by Rev Christine Cargill of St Anne’s Brondesbury, and attended by a congregation which included the Mayoress of Marlow (Ottoway played for Marlow FC), the Etonian Association (Ottoway was a King’s Scholar), Cllr Roxanne Mashari of Brent Council, the Football Association, Englandfans FC and other supporters. Abide With Me and Jerusalem were sung.
— 13 August 2013
The old In and Out to be Luxury Mansion
Grade I-listed Cambridge House in Piccadilly – more famously known as the In and Out – has been atrophying for a decade and more since its former owners the Naval and Military Club moved to new premises in St James’s Square.
Its current owners, billionaire property developers David and Simon Reuben have announced that it is to be fully restored as an 45 room palace and placed on the market with a probably £250+ million price tag. This is good news for historically-minded Londoners saddened by the delapidated state of former Prime Minister Lord Palmerston’s once magnificent home.
More on this story.
— 2 July 2013
Wilton's Future Assured with Lottery Grant
Wilton’s Music Hall has received a £1.75 million National Lottery grant which will secure its future, which has been in doubt for some years. Wilton’s is the only London survivor of this historic form of entertainment. The grant will secure the five Georgian houses that make up Wilton’s Front of House (including the bar, foyer and offices) and will complete the full preservation of the building. Following the re-opening of the fabulously repaired Grand Hall in February 2013, the Grade II*, listed internationally significant building is saved from ruin.
— 23 June 2013
Spectator Archive Published Online
The Spectator – Britain’s longest-running political periodical – has published its entire archive online, 185 years of magazines, dating back to 1828. There was an unrelated title of the same name dating back to the 18C. Considered a publication of the Right, the magazine has historically often supported distinctly liberal agendas such as the 1832 Reform Act and abolishing anti-homosexual laws in the mid-20C. It also famously attacked Charles Dickens, although for literary rather than political reasons.
More in this story.
— 18 June 2013
Cheapside Hoard: Overlooked Gem Reveals Important Clue
The Cheapside Hoard – an eclectic collection of precious jewels from around the world – was discovered during excavations in 1912. For over a century experts have been uncertain about the date of the stash, in particular when the burial may have taken place. But very recent examination revealed a gem to bear the badge of Viscount Stafford, a known jewellery collector. This dates the hoard to around 1640, no earlier, and suggests its burial to perhaps have been caused by the English Civil War.
The Cheapside Hoard will be at the centre of a forthcoming exhibition at the Museum of London starting in October this year.
— 9 June 2013
New Historic Mint Exhibition at Tower of London
A small and ongoing exhibition which celebrates the role of the Royal Mint at the Tower of London opens to the public tomorrow, 24 May.The Royal Mint operated here for over 500 years until 1812. Its buildings were in Mint Street just inside the curtain wall.
The exhibition, Coins and Kings: The Royal Mint at the Tower, shows the development of coin-making from that practised for thousands of years with hammer and stamp, through the introduction of milled coins in the 17C to just prior to the use of steam power. Key objects from the Tower itself have been united with items from the Royal Mint Museum in Wales, the British Museum and other institutions to give a compelling narrative of coin production down the centuries. The great and the good – kings, scientists, forgers and brigands – all are featured.
Entrance to the exhibition is included in the Tower of London entry ticket.
— 23 May 2013
Massey Shaw Returns to the Water
A major step has been taken in the project to restore 20C fireboat Massey Shaw to the Thames. The vessel was placed back in the water for the first time last weekend, in Gloucestershire. After fitting and testing her engines and pumps, she will finally return to the London Thames in June.
Massey Shaw – named after London’s first fire chief Captain Eyre Massey Shaw – was commissioned in 1935 and served with distinction during the evacuation of Dunkirk and the Blitz. She worked as a fireboat on the Thames until decommissioned in favour of new vessels in 1971.
— 30 April 2013
Museum and Library in Southwark Damaged by Fire
The roof of Newington Library and Cuming Museum in Southwark was destroyed by fire on Monday afternoon. It started at about 12:30 GMT and took 120 firemen using 20 engines several hours to bring it under control. It is unknown at this stage what damage has been sustained by books, documents and the museum’s precious artifacts, which include loans from the British Museum.
— 26 March 2013
Tube Map Designer Beck is Honoured Today
At 10 am today, Sam Mullins, the director of the London Transport Museum will unveil an English Heritage Blue Plaque to Harry Beck (1902 – 1974) at his birthplace in Leyton. It is the 80th anniversary of the first publication of the draughtsman’s famous Tube diagram (more commonly called “map”). And, of course, this is also the Tube’s 150th anniversary year.
The design was an immediate hit with the public and has survived in updated forms to this day. Beck himself updated it until 1960. The plaque will break from practice and be written in London Underground’s typeface, Johnston Sans.
— 25 March 2013
Royal Institution Under Threat
The Royal Institution (Ri) has announced that it may have to sell its home in Albermarle Street to meet a potentially ruinous financial shortfall created, ironically, by an over-ambitious refurbishment of the same building. The magnificent Grade 1-listed neoclassical edifice has been the Institution’s only home.
The Ri – not to be confused with the Royal Society – was founded in 1799. Its early leading lights included Humphry Davy and Michael Faraday. It is a working laboratory to this day, and also houses a library, priceless archive and the theatre where the famous Christmas lectures are delivered, begun by Faraday in 1825. It’s also the home to the wonderful Faraday Museum (founded 1973, free entry, open Mon-Fri).
The Royal Institution has issued this statement. London Historians will vigorously support any campaign to prevent the institution being separated from its building.
— 17 January 2013
Death of Well-Loved City of London Guide
Picture: Miles Twist
City of London Guides were shocked when their Vice-Chairman Paul Taylor suffered a fatal heart attack last Wednesday, 9 January. He was actually researching a walk at the time. Paul’s knowledge of the City was “legendary” and he was always available for fellow guides who sought advice. Many City of London Guides are supportive London Historians Members. Our condolences go to them and their colleagues and also to Paul Taylor’s family.
— 14 January 2013
English Heritage to Suspend Blue Plaque Scheme
English Heritage has announced that, beyond existing commitments, it will not be undertaking further blue plaque commissions. This is in response to 2010’s 34% cut in its funding from central government by Chancellor George Osborne. The scheme was introduced in 1867; English Heritage has run it since 1986. Dr Emily Cole, who is in charge of blue plaques at the organisation says that its future is uncertain.
— 7 January 2013
Charles Dickens Museum reopens
After a nine month overhaul controversially scheduled during the novelist’s bicentenary, London’s Charles Dickens Museum reopens to the public on Monday 10 December. The project – code-named Great Expectations – involved a complete refurbishment and integration with the property next door in Doughty Street, Bloomsbury. The whole programme, supported by Heritage National Lottery, cost £3.1 million. Entrande to the museum is £8 adults, £4 children. Concessions apply.
— 6 December 2012
Rose Theatre Project Granted Funding
The Rose Theatre Trust, which runs the archaeological projects relating to Philip Henslowe’s 1587 Elizabethan theatre on Bankside, has announced further funding to continue its Rose Theatre Revealed project. The grant from Heritage Lottery Fund will go towards architectural, conservations and public engagement work.
— 14 November 2012
London Historian Campaigns to Save Animal Art
London Historians member Peter Berthoud has on his own initiative kicked off a campaign to save some attractive stone sculptures in Victoria. Ironically – in the circumstances – featuring endangered species, they are part of the Allington House which is owned by property company Land Securities. They were originally sculpted by British artist Barry Baldwin. Land Securities claims that it is not feasible cost-effectively to save the work. Berthoud has set up an online petition and urged English Heritage to become involved.
More on this story
— 24 October 2012
London Mayor overturns council in favour of developers
Campaigners were left distraught after a long and hard-fought campaign to prevent the re-development of the Fruit and Wool Exchange in Spitalfields came to naught when Boris Johnson last night came out in favour of the developers. Tower Hamlets council had turned down three successive applications from Exemplar but it was overturned when the developer turned to the executive powers to overrule granted to the mayor in 2008. Apart form its frontage, the body of the unlisted 1929 building will be demolished.
More on this story.
— 11 October 2012
Elephant & Castle medieval burial ground discovered
Archaeologists have uncovered over 500 skeletons in 25 crypts in Elephant and Castle. The experts were invited to explore the site by developers prior to commencing construction of a £20million sports complex. The bones date from as early as the 11th Century right up to the 19th.
More on this story
— 4 October 2012
George Orwell Plaque Unveiled in Kilburn
George Orwell was celebrated in Kilburn today with a plaque which was unveiled by his adopted son, Richard Blair. The writer lived in a property with his wife Eileen and infant Richard in Mortimer Crescent NW6 during the early years of the World War II until it was destroyed by a V1 flying bomb. Orwell had to retrieve his only manuscript for Animal Farm from the wreckage. The new George Orwell plaque was placed by the Historic Kilburn Plaque Scheme which was set up in 2010 to recognise Kilburn’s rich heritage of historical residents.
— 11 September 2012
Lord Byron's Copy of Frankenstein Found
A copy of Frankenstein, dedicated to Lord Byron by the author herself, Mary Shelley, has been discovered in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. It was found among the papers and documents belonging to the late Labour politician Lord Jay by his grand-son, Sammy. The authenticated dedication reads: “To Lord Byron from the Author.” The book is in the safekeeping of London antiquarian booksellers Peter Harrington and is expected to attract over £400,000 at auction.
More on this story.
— 6 September 2012
Petition demands protection for Mendham Collection
A petition has been launched in an attempt to prevent the Law Society from auctioning part of the Mendham Collection, an 1869 bequest of rare books and manuscripts. Some items date from the 13th Century. The collection has been in the care of Canterbury Cathedral since 1984. The Law Society wishes to sell a selection of books from the collection.
More on this story here
Sign the petition here
— 5 August 2012
William Morris Gallery Re-opens
The William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow reopened today following a 15 month, £10million complete makeover. Once Morris’s own home between 1848 and 1856, the former Water House was first opened as a gallery by local MP Clement Attlee in 1950. The refurbishment included substantial enlargement of the display areas which now show over 600 objects.
The gallery is open Wednesdays to Sundays between 10am and 5pm. Entrance is free.
— 2 August 2012
BBC Abandons Bush House
Today marks the last day of broadcasting from Bush House, whence the BBC had been conducting overseas broadcasts since 1940. The corporation’s landmark premises in Aldwych was originally opened in 1925. The World Service (previously Foreign Service) has now relocated to new premises at Broadcasting House in Portland Place. The service – funded directly by the Treasury rather than from the licence fee – suffered severe cuts last year as a result as part of the government’s deficit reducing programme.
— 12 July 2012
Bentham Project lands large Grant from Mellon Foundation
Transcribe Bentham and the Bentham Project have been awarded a $538,000 grant by the Andrew W Mellon Foundation to help continue research, digitisation and related work. The projects already collaborate heavily with various UCL humanities departments; this will now be extended to the British Library. Hence the project will now encompass for the first time the digitisation of all of Bentham’s works, a massive undertaking, for the philosopher and political scientist was long-lived and had a prodigious output. More on this story.
— 2 July 2012
Wilton's to Close for repairs until 2013
Beginning 2 July, Wilton’s Music Hall is to close for essential repairs to the auditorium which are expected to take at least six months. There will be two free talks about the project on Saturday and Sunday this coming weekend. More info
— 27 June 2012
Stunning historical aerial photos go on-line
The Britain From Above project today published online thousands of aerial photographs dating from between 1919 and 1953. The images are from the Aerofilms Collection, comprising 1.26 million negatives and over 2,000 photograph albums. There may be difficulty visiting the site today (25 June) due to overwhelming traffic, but you may be lucky ; whenever you wish to try, it is here
— 25 June 2012
London Fire Brigade Museum Reprieved
The London Fire Brigade Museum, which has had the threat of closure hanging over it for the past year, is to stay open to the public, it has been announced, although probably not at the same site in the long term.
More on this story.
— 21 June 2012
Ragged School Museum Vandalised
The Ragged School Museum in Mile End had several dozen windows smashed by vandals over the weekend, causing thousands of pounds in damage and more lost revenue through cancelled bookings. Londoners who cherish our small museums which are run on a shoe-string mainly by volunteers will be appalled by this mindless atrocity.
More on this story.
— 22 May 2012
Sculptures recovered in South London scrap metal raid.
A raid on a scrap metal merchant by Croydon police on Monday 14 May has recovered valuable bronze sculptures and a large number of memorial plaques. Two men have been arrested for receiving and processing stolen goods and will appear at Croydon Magistrates’ Court tomorrow.
— 17 May 2012
Lord Ashcroft plugs Bomber Memorial Funding hole
The ongoing funding difficulties of the new Bomber Command Memorial which is being constructed in Green Park could be over. Lord Ashcroft has stepped forward and pledged the final £1 million needed to complete the project.
— 10 May 2012
Footprints of London Announces Shakespeare Walks
Guided walks co-operative Footprints of London – comprising 28 London guides – have launched Shakespeare-themed walks: Shakespeare In London. Follow Shakespeare’s path to fame and fortune on three separate but connected guided walks. From seedy Shoreditch to the City’s affluent West End via outlaw Southwark. Footprints of London guides read between the lines at theatres, inns and other sites which played key roles in William’s development into England’s foremost playwright. 20% discount to London Historians members.
— 23 April 2012
Museum of London World's Biggest Archive
It’s official. According to the Guinness Book of Records, Museum of London has the largest archaeological archive in the world, comprising over five million artifacts from more than 8,500 excavations. Roy Stephenson, Head of the Museum of London’s Archaeological Collections and Archives, said: “The water-logged environment is perfect for preserving organic objects from leather clothes to wooden waterfronts as well as pottery, coins and bones, all of which and more are represented in our archive.”
Museum of London
— 17 April 2012
England Fans Raise Money to Remember Ottaway
Cuthbert Ottaway was England’s first football captain who died at the tragically young age of 27. Yet the man was a sporting phenomenon, a true legend. He would be worth millions in today’s world. In honour of Cuthbert’s memory Englandfans FC will play a match against Belgiumfans FC on Saturday 2nd June at Bedfont Town. The match will be played for The Cuthbert Ottaway Memorial Cup. A further match against Marlow FC will be played in due course. Funds raised will be put towards a headstone and general improvement of Ottaway’s grave site at Paddington cemetery.
— 16 April 2012
Creeping VAT Threatens Heritage
Following fierce criticism of the Budget for so-called Granny Tax and Charity Tax, it emerges that introducing VAT on certain categories of improvements to listed buildings will add tens of millions of pounds to the bills of churches and other heritage sites. The government has claimed that the aim is to “simplify” taxation in these areas, but the extra cost will have to be carried by church congregations and heritage trusts, or quite possibly important work will be cancelled altogether.
More on this story.
— 16 April 2012
Cutty Sark Reopens 26 April
The restoration is complete. After a lengthy project which nearly saw the tea clipper lost through devastating fire, the iconic Cutty Sark will be open to visitors at last on 26 April. In addition to the repairs and re-fit, the boat has been raised three metres above the bed of her dry dock so that her hull can be better appreciated in its entirety.
© Cutty Sark Trust
Open Tues – Sun 09:00 – 16:00. Initially pre-booking only.
Adults, £12.00, children £6.50, concessions apply
— 13 April 2012
Bloody Tales of the Tower - National Geographic Channel
This three part series about the Tower of London, filmed earlier this year, premieres on National Geographic Channel on 16 April at 8pm. The episodes are titled Traitors, Executions and Scandal! The programmes are fronted by Tudor academic Dr Suzannah Lipscomb and Joe Crowley.
— 10 April 2012
Kew Bridge Steam Museum lands Lottery Grant
The Kew Bridge Steam Museum has been awarded a £1.845 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a restoration project to improve its facilities and displays. The museum is the nation’s leading facility dedicated to heritage public water management and working historic steam engines. The funds will be allocated to Project Acquarius which is also being supported by The National Lottery and Thames Water.
— 6 April 2012
Ziggy Stardust Site Gets Plaque
A plaque has been unveiled in Heddon Street, W1 to commemorate David Bowie’s iconic 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The singer was photographed for the famous cover in his Ziggy guise with guitar, outside the long-gone K West nightclub.
More on this story.
— 30 March 2012
New Crown Jewels Display Unveiled at The Tower
Today the Crown Jewels exhibition at the Tower of London was opened in a new format and display which will show the treasures to better effect and emphasise more their historical and political context with the aid of video footage. The re-vamped display is part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
— 29 March 2012
Boston Manor House Reopening Imminent
One of west London’s less celebrated treasures – Boston Manor House – is to re-open on 7 April. For over a year the three storey Jacobean mansion has been closed for urgent repairs on the south west corner of the building. Built in 1623 for Lady Mary Reade, the house was owned by the Clitherow family for over 250 years from 1670. Today it is run by Hounslow Council. It will be open during the summer on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays only.
More information here and here.
— 25 March 2012
Kensington Palace Reopens
Kensington Palace has reopened after a £12 million makeover. Part of the palace is open to the public and includes displays featuring Queen Victoria as well as William and Mary, its first royal residents. The private part of the building will become the home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as it was for Diana, Princess of Wales.
More on this story
— 21 March 2012
Burlington Arcade shops oppose developers - again.
Having had their first development plan for Burlington Arcade rejected by Westminster Council, its owners have submitted a revised plan. The new submission is to change the existing floor of the arcade to “beige quartzite tiled flooring”, something which shop owners claim can be found in malls throughout the world. Once again, they are vigorously opposing the plan. Objections to the council must be made by 31 March.
— 16 March 2012
Big Ben trip charges postponed until at least 2015.
The House of Commons Commission has backed down over the plan to introduce charges for visiting Big Ben at the summit of the Palace of Westminster’s Clock Tower. A charge of £15 had been suggested. The issue will not be addressed again for the remainder of this parliament.
More on this story.
— 15 March 2012
Battersea Power Station Put Up for Sale
Beleaguered Battersea Power Station has been put on the market for an estimated £500 million. The iconic industrial monolith – a Grade II* listed structure – was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and generated electricity for fifty years between 1933 and 1983. Since then it has changed hands between a succession of developers who have proved big on promise but short on delivery.
More on this story.
— 26 February 2012
Underground Urban Explorers Busted by TfL
Four urban explorers have been issued ASBOs and bound over not to interact with one another for an astonishing ten years or to publish anything relating to their activities. The group were arrested by British Transport Police a matter of days before the Royal Wedding last year while exploring the disused Aldwych “ghost station”. The group, who call themselves the London Consolidation Crew, sparked a terror alert having spent several hours photographing the old station during the small hours of Easter Monday, 2011.
More on this story
— 26 February 2012
£2.5 million needed to save St Bride's
The iconic Wren church St Bride’s, Fleet Street, has announced that unless it can raise more than £2.5 million, it will have to close for safety reasons. Since being restored after World War II, decades of weather damage and pollution have undermined much of the masonry on the building’s exterior. The church houses a famous memorial to news gatherers who have died while reporting from danger zones around the globe and is hence known as the Journalists’ Church.
— 22 February 2012
London Business School to take Charge of Marylebone Town Hall
Westminster Council and the London Business School have announced that they are in negotiations for the school to take over Marylebone Town Hall. The listed early 20th Century neo-Classical building, familiar to many for celebrity civil weddings over the years, was designed by architect Sir Edwin Cooper. As part of the agreement, LBS will commit to undertake much-needed refurbishment of the premises.
— 14 February 2012
Government rescues Bomber Command Memorial
The government has stepped in to cover an £800,000 tax shortfall due on work undertaken on the Bomber Command memorial, scheduled to open in Green Park later this year to commemorate the 55,000 airmen who lost their lives with Bomber Squadron during WWII.
More on this story
— 12 February 2012
Book on Victorian Fern Craze Published
Our congratulations to London Historians member, Dr Sarah Whittingham, whose book Fern Fever The Story of Pteridomania is published today. We review it on the London Historians blog, here
— 2 February 2012
Model of Nonsuch Palace Goes on Show
Archaeologist Martin Biddle has spent a career investigating Henry VIII’s almost mythical Nonsuch Palace near Sutton. A scale model of the Renaissance building has now been created based on Biddle’s finding and will be on show until March at the Nonsuch Palace Gallery in Cheam. Sundays only.
More on this story.
— 30 January 2012
English Heritage Takes Over Great Barn in Harmondsworth
One of England’s most outstanding extant medieval structures had been taken under the wing of English Heritage, in order to ensure its ongoing preservation. The organisation purchased it for £20,000. The 60 metre long wooden barn, dating from 1426, is little known to the public at large, but was dubbed “the Middlesex Cathedral” by Sir John Betjeman. The Harmondsworth Barn is expected to open to the public on a limited scale in the Spring, once emergency repairs have been done.
— 30 January 2012
Property Developers Wish to Move London Stone
Property developer Minerva has announced its intention to move the so-called London Stone – also known as the Brutus Stone – from its current home opposite Cannon Street Station. The artifact is encased in glass behind a grille within the wall of 111 Cannon Street, at pavement level. It often goes unnoticed by passers-by. It is thought to be an old Roman milestone. The myth is that as long as the stone is safe, then London will remain so too. It has been moved from pillar to post many times over the years, the most recent occasion in 1962.
English Heritage and the Victorian Society oppose the proposal.
Evening Standard report.
— 23 January 2012
London Historians to Support LONDONICITY 2012
LONDON HISTORIANS is pleased to announce its participation in LONDONICITY 2012 : The Second Annual London Studies Conference. The conference, organised by Academic Conferences London, will be held at the Institute of Education, University of London in Bloomsbury on Friday to Sunday 22-24 June 2012.
LONDONICITY seeks to explore, to celebrate, and to critique the great world city in the complex context provided by all the varied excitements and pleasures of the London Olympics and Diamond Jubilee Year, and, contrariwise, all the many challenges and difficulties of the new age of austerity. The over-arching theme for 2012 is London: City of Transformations? in relation to which a wide range of contributions is encouraged.
— 18 January 2012
Westminster Council Rejects Burlington Arcade Makeover
Burlington Arcade traders are celebrating victory in an acrimonious battle to prevent new owners from intalling a newly-designed floor. Shopkeepers joined forces with locals and celebrities in a high profile campaign to preserve the heritage character of the 192 year old mall. Westminster Council agrees with them.
Full report in Evening Standard.
— 14 December 2011