Day 52 – Houses of Parliament – Westminster Abbey – Parliament Square

A pretty meaty one this to the say the least; with two of inarguably the three most iconic and important buildings in London to cover off (the third being St Pauls’ Cathedral – sorry, Buckingham Palace). So most of today’s excursion is taken up with visits to the Houses of Parliament (or, more precisely, the Palace of Westminster) and Westminster Abbey, though we did manage to fit in a few actual streets to the south and west of those behemoths before circling back to Parliament Square.

Day 52 Route

Starting out from Westminster tube station we cross Bridge Street and head along the south side of Parliament Square to the public entrance of the Houses of Parliament at Cromwell Green. After an inspection of my ticket – I’ve booked the audio guide tour – I make my way down the ramp at the bottom of which the airport-style security check awaits. En route we pass the statue of Oliver Cromwell (1599 – 1658), one of only two in the grounds of the Palace of Westminster. The statue was erected in 1899 in the face of fierce opposition from the Irish National Party owing to Cromwell’s ravages against the Catholic population of Ireland. In the end Parliament only approved the statue because an anonymous benefactor, later revealed to be ex-Prime Minister Lord Roseberry, agreed to fund it. After his death Cromwell was originally buried, with great ceremony, in Westminster Abbey. However, following the restoration of Charles II, his body was exhumed and subjected to a posthumous execution and his severed head displayed on a pole outside Westminster Hall (for twenty-four years).

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Given the scaffolding in evidence in the picture above, including the complete coverage of Big Ben, this is perhaps the time to note that, after series of protracted debates, both the House of Commons and the House of Lords voted in early 2018 in favour of a temporary decampment from the PoW to allow a long overdue so-called Restoration and Renewal programme to take place.  They won’t be vacating the premises until 2025 however so you’ve still got plenty of time to visit before it’s closed down for six years (at least).

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First port of call, and where you pick up the audio guide, is Westminster Hall (on the right above minus Cromwell’s severed head). This is the oldest part of the PoW and has, miraculously, survived intact since it was built by William II (aka William Rufus) son of William the Conqueror in 1097. The magnificent oak hammer-beam roof, commissioned in 1393 by Richard II, is the largest medieval timber roof in Northern Europe measuring 68ft by 240ft. In addition to the new roof, Richard also installed statues of every king of England from Edward the Confessor to himself in niches in the walls (only 6 now remain). Ironically, the first event to take place in the hall after Richard’s redevelopments was his own deposition by Henry IV in 1399. On 16 October 1834 a fire broke out in the Palace when two underfloor stoves that were injudiciously being used to destroy the Exchequer’s stockpile of tally sticks ignited panelling in the Lords Chamber. The two Houses were both completely destroyed but Westminster Hall was saved, partly by its thick Medieval walls  and partly because the PM, Lord Melbourne, directed the fire fighters to focus their efforts on dousing the Hall’s timber roof.

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There are a number of brass plaques embedded in the floor of the Hall commemorating events of historic significance that have taken place there, including the passing of the death sentence on Sir Thomas More in 1535. The stairs at southern end of the Hall were created by architect Charles Barry in 1850 along with a new arch window as part of his post-fire renovations. Turning left at the top of these stairs brings us to the entrance to St Stephen’s Hall above which can be seen the light sculpture New Dawn created by, artist-in-residence, Mary Branson, in commemoration of the campaign for women’s suffrage and unveiled in 2016.

St Stephen’s Hall started life as St Stephen’s Chapel in 1292 and was the in-house place of worship for the reigning Kings of England up to Henry VIII. In 1550, two years after the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry’s son Edward IV gave the chapel over to the House of Commons for use as their debating chamber. The chapel was destroyed by the fire of 1834 and was reconstituted as St Stephen’s Hall as part of Charles Barry’s restoration work. Following the destruction wrought during WWII the hall once again became the venue for sessions of the Commons from 1945 to 1950 while the Commons Chamber was being rebuilt.

On either side of the Hall are statues of famous parliamentarians including John Hampden, Robert Walpole, William Pitt and Charles James Fox and on either side of the doorways are statues of early Kings and Queens of England. The paintings on the walls depict various important events in British history, while the ten stained-glass windows, five on either side, depict the arms of various parliamentary cities and boroughs; these were damaged in air raids during the Second Word War and since restored.

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St Stephen’s Hall represents the last opportunity to take photographs inside the Palace of Westminster; beyond here it’s strictly verboten. As a consequence I won’t dwell too long on the rest of the tour which takes us into the Central Lobby where we turn right to pass through the Peers Lobby, the Lords Chamber, the Royal Gallery and the Robing Room and back again. Traversing the Central Lobby for a second time gains access to the Members Lobby and the Commons Chamber. Now on the day of my visit neither of the Houses was sitting so it was possible to get right in among the green and red benches (though of course you’re not allowed to sit on them). When either of the Chambers are in session visitors can, of course, view the debates from the respective public galleries – no tickets required except for PMQs. The visitor’s gallery in the Commons is formally known as the Strangers’ Gallery. Back in the 1930’s according to my guidebook “any Foreigners desirous of listening to a debate” needed to apply to their Ambassadors”. There was also a separate Ladies’ Gallery back then though persons of the female persuasion had recently also been granted access to the main viewing gallery. The grilles referred to below were installed over the windows in the Ladies’ Gallery (earning it the nickname “the Cage”) so the women could see out but men could not see in, and therefore not be distracted by the women watching them. They were removed in 1917 following a petition from the London Society for Women’s Suffrage and just a couple of months after the passing of the bill giving the vote to women over the age of 30.

Galleries

Once the tour is over we leave the HoP and head across to the South-West corner of Parliament Square and follow Broad Sanctuary down to the entrance to Westminster Abbey.  As ever my timing is the complete opposite of impeccable since if I’d just waited a couple more weeks then the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries would have been open. Reached via the newly-built Weston Tower, the first major addition to the abbey since 1745, these apparently offer stunning views down into the nave of the church as well as housing 300 treasures from the Abbey’s collection selected to reflect it’s thousand-year history. Still, I expect the queues are going to be absolutely horrendous. It’s busy enough on the day of my visit though having pre-booked a ticket online I get in pretty quickly. At £20 a time (£22 if you buy on the day) the revenue from visitors to the Abbey is probably sufficient to keep the Church of England solvent all on its own. Despite the crowds it’s not that unpleasant shuffling round; I suspect it’s the free audio guides rather than piety that keeps the noise to a minimum and the no-photography rule is universally adhered to.

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Westminster Abbey can trace its origins back to the middle of the eleventh century when Edward the Confessor built a new stone church dedicated to St Peter alongside an existing Benedictine monastery founded around a hundred years earlier. This church became known as the “west minster” to distinguish it from St Paul’s Cathedral (the east minster) in the City of London. Unfortunately, when the new church was consecrated on 28 December 1065 the King was too ill to attend and died a few days later, his mortal remains being entombed in front of the High Altar. This set something of a trend since when King Henry III (1207 – 1272) had the Abbey rebuilt in the new Gothic style he died before the nave could be completed. Henry did however have time to transfer the body of Edward the Confessor (by then sanctified as Saint Edward) into a more magnificent tomb behind the High Altar in the new church. This shrine survives and around it are buried a cluster of medieval kings and their consorts including Henry III himself, Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, Richard II and Anne of Bohemia and Henry V. Westminster Abbey is of course irrevocably linked with the history of the English/British monarchy. Every monarch since William the Conqueror has been crowned in the Abbey, with the exception of Edward V and Edward VIII (abdicated) who were never crowned. The ancient Coronation Chair can still be seen in the church. Elizabeth I was buried in the vault of her grandfather, Henry VII, in the so-called Lady Chapel which he had constructed in 1516. Her successor, James I, didn’t attend her funeral service but he later had a white marble monument erected in her memory in a chapel adjacent to the Lady Chapel. Although a few years after that he had a taller and grander memorial installed for his mother, Mary Queen of Scots.

But it’s not just royalty that’s buried and/or commemorated in the Abbey of course. When Geoffrey Chaucer was buried here in 1400 it was because he was Clerk of The King’s Works not for his literary achievements. However, nearly 200 years later, when Edmund Spenser (of Faerie Queene fame) asked to be buried next to Chaucer the concept of Poet’s Corner was born and continues to this day. Deciding which dead writers merit the honour of being immortalised in Poet’s Corner is the prerogative of the Deans of Westminster.  Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Handel and Laurence Olivier are among those whose actual remains lie here while Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Lord Byron and a host of others are memorialised in brass or stone. The most recent additions to the pantheon include Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin and David Frost.

As I noted already there’s no photography allowed inside the abbey so the next selection of photographs are all of or from within the College Garden and the Little Cloister Garden. Before we get to that those though I just wanted to record one personal highlight of the tour which is the murals in the Chapter House. These were painted in the late 14th century at the instigation of one of the monks of Westminster, John of Northampton, and depict scenes from the New Testament’s Revelation of St John the Divine (otherwise known as the Apocalypse). Only fragments of the paintings remain and many of those that do are extremely faint but this ghost-like appearance only adds to their macabre impact.

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We exit the Abbey on its west side opposite the Crimea and Indian Mutiny memorial which sits inside a triangular island created by Victoria Street and The Sanctuary. Turning south we pass through the gatehouse of the octagonal turreted building  known as The Sanctuary built to the design of Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1853-54. Nowadays this accommodates the Deanery of the Abbey and also the Attorney Generals’ Office.

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On the other side of the gatehouse is Dean’s Yard which comprises most of the remaining precincts of the former monastery of Westminster, not occupied by the Abbey buildings. The East side consists of buildings occupied by Westminster School, the South by Church House, the headquarters of the Church of England and the West by Westminster Abbey Choir School.
Historically the Abbey was one of the last ecclesiastical sanctuaries to surrender its ancient rights, with the result that the precincts were largely occupied by the most undesirable and dangerous of inhabitants. They were held in check by the Abbot’s own penal jurisdiction, and by the knowledge that the Abbot could instantly expel them to their fate at the hands of the Common Law. Westminster School displays a royal pardon of Charles II for the King’s Scholars who murdered a bailiff harassing the mistress of one of the scholars in Dean’s Yard, allegedly in outrage at the breach of traditional sanctuary although it had been legally abolished by then.

After a circuit of Dean’s Yard we leave the same way we came in, head back up to Victoria Street and after a few steps to the left turn south down Great Smith Street. Take a right next into Abbey Orchard Street past the Department of Education building and down to the end where it forks in two by Companies House. This unprepossessing building is just the London office and information centre; the actual Registrar of Companies (for England & Wales) is down in Cardiff.

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Taking the left fork we drop down onto Old Pye Street and continue west. On reaching Strutton Ground we turn south as far as Great Peter Street where we head back eastward. On the corner with Perkin’s Rents we have today’s pub of the day (the first in a long while), The Speaker. Aptly-named given its location of course and though it doesn’t look much from the outside the interior is salubrious enough and they do a damn fine bacon, brie and onion chutney bagel to go with a decent selection of beers. Used by male House of Commons researchers as a venue for mansplaining to their female colleagues (on the evidence of this one visit).

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In Victorian times, the area round here was a notorious slum known as the Devil’s Acre.  The houses were mostly occupied by what a contemporary described as “mendicants, hawkers, costermongers, lodging house keepers, thieves and abandoned females of irregular and intemperate habits” and it wasn’t unusual for 10 to 12 people to share a room. The slum was cleared from 1877 onward and the Peabody Trust built one of their estates to replace a large part of it.

We pass through the middle of the estate up Perkin’s Rents back to Old Pye Street then follow that east to its junction with St Ann’s Street and turn south back down to Great Peter Street. Here we turn east as far as Great Smith Street and head north towards the Abbey again. On the west side of the street is the Westminster Library which when it was built in 1891 incorporated a public baths and wash house. The baths themselves were removed in 1990 when that part of the building was turned into the Westminster Archive Centre but if you look in the top left corner of the picture below you can see the original sculpted panels of swimmers created by Henry Poole (1873 – 1928).
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We turn right opposite into Little Smith Street which runs through to Tufton Street. At no.11 resides J. Wippell & Company, suppliers of clerical vestments and church furnishings. The Wippell family set up in business in the West Country in 1789 but this London shop was established just over a hundred years later.

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Proceeding north up Tufton Street brings us to Great College Street where we turn right briefly, past the southern end of Westminster School, before diverting into Barton Street. Barton Street and Cowley Street, which comes off it at a right angle, are fertile ground for blue plaque hunters. No.14 Barton Street is the one-time home of T.E Lawrence (1888 – 1935) better known of course as Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence lived here while writing Seven Pillars of Wisdom and account of his experiences working for British Military Intelligence in the near east during WW1.

Round the corner at no.6 Cowley Street Lord Reith (1889 – 1971), the first Director-General of the BBC, lived from 1924 – 1930. Despite having no broadcasting experience (though it’s hard to see where he would have got any at that time) he got the job as general manager of the newly formed BBC in 1922 and stayed in the lead role until 1938. He is memorialised by the BBC’s annual series of Reith Lectures which began in 1948.

Across the road no.16 was the home of legendary luvvie Sir John Gielgud (1904 -2000) from 1945 to 1976. Gielgud’s career spanned almost 80 years, ranging from leading roles in Hamlet and King Lear on the stage to playing the butler to Dudley Moore’s Arthur for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Nothing to do with these famous ghosts but if I could have my pick of somewhere to live in London then Barton Street / Cowley Street would be very high up on the list.

There’s a small second section of Cowley Street, perpendicular to the main stretch, which emerges back out on Great Peter Street. Then the next northward turning is Little College Street which takes us back to Great College Street from where it’s a short hop east to Abingdon Street, on the other side of which are the Victoria Tower Gardens. At the entrance to the gardens stands the memorial to the mother and daughter leading lights of the Suffragette movement, Emmeline (1858 – 1928) and Christabel (1880 – 1958) Pankhurst. The main feature of the memorial is a bronze statue of Emmeline by Arthur George Walker which was unveiled in 1930. Shortly after Christabel’s death the statue was moved to its present location and bronze reliefs commemorating her achievements were added.

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On the river embankment wall is a green plaque in memory of Sir Thomas Pierson Frank (1881 – 1951) who as Chief Engineer for the London County Council during WW2  directed repair operations to public infrastructure including the Thames wall such that although this was hit at least 121 times during the war years the city never flooded.

Above left is a shot of the southern end of the Palace of Westminster showing the Victoria Tower after which the gardens are named. I mentioned earlier that there were just two statues in the grounds of the PoW and we pass the second of those as we return towards the Palace via Abingdon Street and through Old Palace Yard. The equestrian statue of Richard I (popularly known as Lionheart or Coeur de Lion) was created by Baron Carlo Marochetti (who collaborated with Landseer on the Trafalgar Square lions if you remember). The statue was originally produced in clay for the Great Exhibition of 1851 then funds were raised to enable it to be cast in bronze and it was installed in Old Palace Yard in 1860.

Having arrived back at the HoP we cross the road again and set off on an clockwise circuit of Parliament Square. Plans for the Parliament Square Garden were included in Charles Barry’s design for the new Houses of Parliament following the 1834 fire but the gardens weren’t laid out until 1868.  The first batch of statues were erected between 1874 and 1883 as monuments to the nineteenth century Prime Ministers; the Earl of Derby, Viscount Palmerston, Robert Peel and Benjamin Disraeli. Most of the others were installed after the post-WWII redesign of the garden to commemorate both giants of 20th century British parliamentary history and iconic world statesmen. So, in the slides below, we have, respectively :

  • Nelson Mandela, sculpted by Ian Walters (2007) in the foreground with Sir Robert Peel sculpted by Matthew Noble (1876) beyond him and in the background Abraham Lincoln (1920).
  • Mahatma Ghandi sculpted by Philip Jackson (2015) in the foreground and Benjamin Disraeli sculpted by Mario Raggi (1883) behind him.
  • The most recent addition to the pantheon and the first woman to be granted the honour – Dame Millicent Fawcett (1847 – 1929) sculpted by Gillian Wearing (2018). The statue was erected to coincide with the centenary of women being granted the vote. Millicent Fawcett was a leader of the suffragist arm of the campaign for votes for women who were less militant than the suffragettes though unlike the suffragettes they didn’t call a halt to their campaigning during the First World War.  The words on the banner her statue holds are from a speech she made after the death of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison.
  • George Canning sculpted by Sir Richard Westmacott (1832 but moved to its present location in 1949).
  • David Lloyd George sculpted by Glynn Williams (2007)
  • Winston Churchill sculpted by Ivor Robert-Jones (1973)

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Final port of call for today is the Supreme Court Building which stands on Little George Street which runs parallel with the west side of the square. The building, originally known as the Middlesex Guildhall, dates from 1913 and was designed in the neo-gothic style by Scottish architect, James Gibson. The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal in the UK but it has only been in existence since 2009; prior to that the House of Lords (or rather the Law Lords) occupied the top-tier of the British legal pyramid. It was the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005 that led to the creation of the Supreme Court in order to fully separate the legislature from Parliament. The Supreme Court doesn’t conduct trials as such; it sits in order to determine whether the correct interpretation of the law has been applied in civil cases that are referred to it for appeal. The Justices of the SC, currently numbering eleven and appointed by an independent selection commission, determine which cases they will hear based on the extent to which they raise ‘points of law of general public importance’.  The same 11 justices also form The Judicial Committee of The Privy Council (JCPC) which is the court of final appeal for the UK’s overseas territories and Crown dependencies, as well as many Commonwealth countries.

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Day 17 – Mayfair – Bond Street – Berkeley Square –

So we’re back again in the land of luxury that is Mayfair (didn’t previously realise what a wide area it encompasses). I’m afraid this isn’t quite the end of it either. Anyway, on this visit we’re treading the streets to the west of New Bond Street and circumnavigating Berkeley Square (without a nightingale to be seen or heard).

Day 17 Route

Start out once again from Bond Street tube and zigzag via Sedley Place and Woodstock Street to join a familiar stretch of New Bond Street. After about 100 yards veer right down Brook Street where the adjacent buildings at nos. 23 & 25 were once home, respectively, to Jimi Hendrix (1942 – 1970) and George Frideric Handel (1685 – 1759). Hendrix occupied a flat at no.23 only during 1968 and 69. Handel was ensconced at no 25 for the last thirty-odd years of his life.

Heading south into Lancashire Court takes you to the back of the two buildings and the entrance to the Handel House Museum which has been open since 2001. I subsequently realise that I timed this trip about 2 weeks too soon as the Hendrix flat is also going to be opened up for visits – from 10 February 2016. Since we’ve already looked at Handel in earlier posts I decide to save myself the £6.50 entrance fee.

Lancashire Court joins up with Brooks Mews which leads into Davies Street. Across the other side of the road here is Three Kings’ Yard, named after a tavern which formerly stood at its entrance. This is supposed to be a private mews but there was no-one around to stop the inquisitive from wandering in. The building with the arch pictured below was designed by Joseph Sawyer and dates from 1908-09. The courtyard beyond accesses the back entrance to the Italian embassy, which sits on Grosvenor Square.

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The site on the corner of Davies Street and Brook Street is occupied by Claridge’s Hotel. William and Marianne Claridge started off running a small hotel in a single house on Brook Street but in 1854 they bought the five adjoining properties and two years later Claridge’s was born. In 1893 the hotel was acquired by the owner of the Savoy, Richard D’Oyly Carte and underwent a five-year refurbishment. At the end of the 1920’s it was transformed again under the guiding hand of the Art Deco pioneer and fabulously-monickered, Oswald Partridge Milne (1881 – 1968).

In 1996, the foyer created by Milne was subjected to a design restoration, complete with the installation of a Chihuly chandelier, but retains its Art Deco styling.

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After a circuit of South Molton Lane, Davies Mews, St Anselm’s Place and Gilbert Street we’re back on Brook Street and opposite the Embassy of Argentina at no.65.

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After a return visit to the east side of Grosvenor Square we head off down Grosvenor Street. Here at nos. 21 – 22 a blue plaque commemorates the fact that the Hungarian-born (subsequently British) film director and producer Alexander Korda (born Sándor László Kellner, 1893 – 1956) worked here between 1932 and 1936. During this period his directing achievements included The Private Life of Don Juan and The Private Life of Henry VIII, both of which starred Merle Oberon, who became is second wife in 1939. The marriage lasted as long as the Second World War.

At the end of the street we dip into Avery Row and then cross to the south side where Bloomfield Place leads onto Grosvenor Hill. At the top of the “hill” lies the Gagosian Gallery – poor timing from me again as I was about four hours too early for the opening of their new exhibition (not that I was invited).

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Doubling back down Bourdon Street there is a green plaque marking the site where photographer, Terence Donovan (1936 – 1996) had his studio. Donovan is of course one of the people most closely associated with the “Swinging Sixties” and in Bourdon Place there is a sculptural work from 2012 by Neal French entitled Three Figures which depicts “a passing shopper stumbling upon Terence Donovan photographing the model, Twiggy”.

Jones Street emerges at the north west corner of Berkeley Square and from here Bruton Place takes us east again before making a right dog-leg to cross Bruton Street into Barlow Place. At the conjunction of Barlow Place and Bruton Lane sits one of the more than fifty Coach and Horses pubs still to be found in London. This original version of this one dates from the 1770’s though the present “mock-tudor” building was put up in 1933. Further down Bruton Lane you can look up and see Banksy’s “Shop Till You Drop” work – a well-sited dig at ostentatious consumerism; nearby Bruton Street is home to more household-name luxury brand boutiques (see below).

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So now we arrive back at Berkeley Square for a proper circuit. We start on the east side then cut through the square itself to the southern end and back up the west side. There is some debate as to which is the poshest part of London but anywhere that can boast adjacent Rolls Royce and Bentley showrooms has to be a bit of a contender. Not surprisingly it’s Hedge Fund Management central round here.

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Berkeley Square is named after John Berkeley, first Lord Berkeley of Stratton (so Berkeley they named him twice). A few of the original buildings, dating from between 1738 and 1745, still survive, most notably no.44 which is considered to be one of the master works of architect, William Kent.

No.50 is the home of Maggs Brothers Antiquarian Books (est. 1853) but was a residence of George Canning (1770 -1827) during the period when he was Foreign Secretary under the Prime Ministership of the Earl of Liverpool.

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No. 45 was a home to Robert Clive (1725 – 1774), colloquially known as Clive of India. Feted in his time for his role in securing control of India for the British Crown, he is understandably less celebrated today. If for nothing other than being one of the prime movers behind the forced cultivation of opium, the tragic legacy of which endures into the present, he probably merits the castigation of history. Though ironically, or perhaps fittingly, his death in 1774 at the age of 49 is widely considered to be the result of an opium overdose. There was no inquest.

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On the right hand side of the picture is a glimpse of the aforementioned no.44.

We leave the square via Hill Street and this brings us to our pub of the day, another Coach and Horses and another part of the estimable Shepherds Neame estate. This Grade II listed building (from 1744) is proclaimed as the oldest pub in Mayfair. And they do a mean sausage sandwich. (should fess up here that I forgot to take a photo so this one is off their website).

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After leaving the pub we loop back round Farm Street where a 4 bedroom terraced house (converted from a former dairy parlour) was put on sale for £25m in 2014. That property is just next to the building below – the Farm House, which it may have been in a previous incarnation but this is actually another rebuilding job from the early 1900’s.

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A bit further down the street is the Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception  which doesn’t look much from the outside but has one of the most lavishly ornate interiors of any English church I’ve yet been in.

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And so we return to Berkeley Square and re-exit via the north-west corner to finish off today with a loop comprising Mount Street and Mount Row and the following quote from Louis-Antoine Saint-Just (1767-1794), one of three inscriptions forming a work by Ian Finlay Hamilton on the building at the corner of Mount Row and Davies Street

“When man obeys without being presumed good, there is neither liberty nor a native land.”

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Day 16 – Bond Street – Regent Street – Mayfair – Royal Institution

So, after something of an extended hiatus, we’re back. And for this tour we return to the West End and explore the area between New Bond Street and Regent Street. Not a very extensive area but another busy one and, as we will come to later, currently a sad one too. This patch of London is dominated by upmarket clothes stores, restaurants and art galleries – a brand lover’s wet dream but a bit of a nightmare for those who feel uncomfortable around such conspicuous high-end consumerism. At least we finish in a more cultural vein with a visit to the temple of science which is the Royal Institution.

Day 16 Route

We start by heading south down Regent Street and turning right down Princes Street towards Hanover Square. The north, east and west sides of the square are currently closed off as the Crossrail works continue so we circle round to the south side via Harewood Place, Tenterden Street, Dering Street, New Bond Street and Brook Street.

On this stretch of New Bond Street the facades of four grand buildings decimated by the Crossrail work (nos. 67-71) have been turned into a giant canvas with their combined 243 windows displaying a series of images created by four emerging artists.

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The three sculptures on the front of no. 71, representing, science, art and commerce, date from the start of WW1. Science was the creation of Thomas Rudge while the other two are by Louis Frederick Roslyn.

On Brook Street, the Issey Miyake store presents an early opportunity for selfie-of-the-day.

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The square, which is named after George I (originally the Elector of Hanover), was first laid out in the 1710’s. Now that the surrounding houses have largely been torn down; the only thing here of note is the statue of William Pitt the Younger (1750 – 1806) which was put up in 1831 but nearly didn’t survive its first day after being assailed by Reform Bill agitators.

Hanover Street, Pollen Street and Maddox Street bring us back out onto Regent Street which was created at the instigation of George IV (during his time as Prince Regent no less) and laid out by John Nash (see earlier post). Nash’s original buildings unfortunately only managed to survive just over a century from their construction between 1813 and 1820. According to my 1930’s London Guidebook they were “replaced by marble and ferro-concrete ‘palaces that make Regent Street without question the finest shopping thoroughfare in the world”. Not a claim that still holds water today but the buildings do have a grandiosity that belies their relatively recent origins. One of these is the Liberty’s Building on the east side at nos. 208-222. This dates from 1926 and is notable for the curved frieze that runs almost the full width of the top section of the building. This the work of two sculptors; Charles L. J. Doman and T. J. Clapperton and goes by the, post-colonially embarrassing, title of ‘Britannia with the wealth of East and West’.

Turn back west again down Conduit Street which is home to, amongst many other haunts of the wealthy, the Sketch restaurant, the Vivienne Westwood store and Rigby and Peller (bra-makers by royal appointment).

Mill Street then takes us back up to Maddox Street and a right turn brings us to the junction with St George’s Street where, on the corner, you will find the eponymous church which dates from 1721-24 (and was extensively refurbished in 2010). The original designer of the church was John James and the painting of the Last Supper behind the altar is by William Kent. Handel was a regular worshipper here and it now hosts the annual London Handel Festival. And, as you can see, they’re not superstitious about leaving their decorations up beyond twelfth night.

Heading north on St George’s Street back to Hanover Square takes us past, in no particular order, the Mexican embassy, Vogue House – HQ of publishers Condé Nast, and the premises of art dealers, Offer Waterman, which was William Morris & Co’s main showroom from 1917 to the late 20th century.

Brook Street returns us for another visit to New Bond Street with its parade of Dolce & Gabbana’s, Armani’s, Jimmy Choo’s and Victoria’s Secrets before we’re back down Maddox Street and turning onto the southern stretch of St George’s Street where the back side of Sotheby’s the Auctioneers awaits.

A repeat visit to Conduit Street leads us into the world famous Savile Row at the top end of which is located the Hauser & Wirth contemporary gallery. There’s nearly always something on here worth seeing and the current exhibition, “Oscuramento – The Wars of Fabio Mauri” is no exception. Mauri is an a Italian artist, born 1926, who grew up during the time of the fascist regime and this historical solo show brings together works inspired by that context. Centrepiece of the exhibition is the work Oscuramento itself which is set inside a separate room and presents an (artistically-licensed) reconstruction, complete with 29 waxwork figures, of the meeting of the Fascist Grand Council in 1943 at which the arrest of Mussolini was sanctioned. This show ends on 06/02/2016 so hurry down there.

Opposite the gallery is the Savile Row police station – well I suppose there is all that pricey gear to nick round these parts. Hard to say on which side of the legal divide the geezers in this shot fall.

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A left turn on to New Burlington Street takes us back yet again to Regent Street and a bit further down the next westward turn is Heddon Street. I wasn’t originally going to include this on today’s trip but something, serendipity I guess, made me change my mind and gives rise to the sadness I referred to at the beginning. These days, Heddon Street proclaims itself as the Regent Street Food Quarter but back in 1972, and I didn’t know this until today, it became famous as the site for the cover shot of David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” album. Since Bowie’s untimely death, this spot, marked with a black plaque, has become one of many impromptu shrines/memorials around the capital adorned with poignant and moving tributes. I wish I’d had something with me to add to it.

Difficult to follow that but we’ll push on. Starting off with Vigo Street which connects Regent Street with the bottom end of Savile Row. And, heading north up the latter, we find what it’s really renowned for…

Turn left into Boyle Street and again down Old Burlington Street to reach Burlington Gardens where the back side of the Royal Academy (more of which on another occasion) is swathed in scaffolding.

Cork Street is another one lined with art galleries but we stop off briefly at only one, Waddington Custot, which is currently showing an exhibition of portraits by Sir Peter Blake. And has particularly challenging doors. Pride of place in the show goes to this Elvis shrine though the portraits of Ian Dury are also pretty good. If you want to see this you have even less time as it closes on 30/01/2016.

Coincidentally, as many of you may already know, Elvis Presley and David Bowie share a birth date – 8th January (1935 and 1946 respectively).

 Clifford Street runs into the bottom end of New Bond Street from where we do a dog-leg to get to Grafton Street and find today’s only (true) blue plaque, to Sir Henry Irving (1838 – 1905), above Aspreys the jewellers. Irving was actually born John Henry Brodribb and was the first actor to be knighted (despite some opinions of his acting style being less than glowing by all accounts). On death he was cremated and his ashes buried in Westminster Abbey thereby making him also the first person ever to be cremated prior to interment at Westminster.

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And so on to Albermarle Street where a first visit to the Royal Institution awaits.

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The Royal Institution was founded in March 1799 with the aim of introducing new technologies and teaching science to the general public. It has subsequently become most closely associated with the great scientists, Humphry Davy and Michael Faraday, and with its series of Christmas Lectures.

Many of us are aware of Davy’s invention of the eponymous miner’s lamp but he was also, in the space of a few years at the start of the 19th century, the discoverer of the elements Sodium, Potassium, Chlorine, Magnesium, Strontium, Calcium, Boron and Barium. Faraday’s fame rests largely on his discovery, in 1831, of electro-magnetic induction, the basis of modern power generation and the electric motor.

The first Christmas Lectures took place in 1825 and have been given every year since apart from 1939-1942. Lecturers since the resumption have included David Attenborough (1973), Carl Sagan (1977) and Richard Dawkins (1991). Astonishingly though, it wasn’t until 1994  that a woman, Susan Greenfield, took charge of the lectern.

The lower ground floor houses the Faraday Museum (free entry) which incorporates a replica of the man’s original laboratory. The upper floors are often hired out for corporate functions but fortunately I had half an hour before today’s scheduled event started and the place to myself, including the lecture theatre.

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A bit further down Albermarle Street is Brown’s Hotel and opposite that the swanky Royal Arcade which I’m sure is visited by twenty times more photo-opportunists (like me) than actual shoppers.

Anyway it’s a useful cut through to Old Bond Street  which is the starting point for a run (not literally) up the final stretch of New Bond Street.

No. 24 Old Bond Street is now the Salvatore Ferragamo store, but was originally home to Atkinsons (the prestigious perfume house) and the tower – built in 1924 – houses London’s only carillon. This is a set of 23 bells that are tuned to harmonise together and played by a set of levers, like a very large piano. They are played at 5pm on Friday & Saturday during summer.

There’s just time to call in at the Fine Art Society (est. 1876) to take a look at their current Art and Design exhibition before whizzing up past the front entrance of Sotheby’s and heading back to Bond Street tube via Brook Street and South Molton Street.

To get to South Molton Street we cut through via Haunch of Venison Yard and the back of Bonham’s (the other slightly less well known auctioneers on New Bond Street).

And today’s parting gift (aside form another selfie) is the surprising news that the Christmas Gift Shop on South Molton Street isn’t open all year round. Chap with the beard stood there for ages so he obviously couldn’t quite believe it.

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Day 10 – St Pancras – Foundling Museum – Coram’s Fields

Pretty grim autumn day so another curtailed trek. Pick things up at Kings Cross again then cover the remaining streets in the St Pancras district before flirting with Bloomsbury once more and finishing off with a visit to the Foundling Museum.

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Quick stroll down Gray’s Inn Road then hook a right into Cromer Street where the Rowan trees are resplendent in their Autumn finery.

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On the north side, Loxham Street, Tankerton Street and Midhope Street don’t detain us long and Speedy Place lives up to its name. The main purpose of the picture below is for Mr Pedant here to highlight the correct spelling of the word, launderette. Most of these establishments that remain use the deliberately misspelt form from the 1985 film “My Beautiful Laundrette”.

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Turn east down Harrison Street, home to the unexpected English Kilt Company, back to Gray’s Inn Road then west again down Sidmouth Street. Brief detour down Seaford Street before arriving at Regent Square. Unfortunately only the southern terrace remains of the original 1829 construction. The other 19th century buildings failed to survive the WWII bombings and were replaced by flats in the 1950s. At the south-entrance to the gardens an oddly-situated red phonebox channels the spirit of the Tardis.

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Tavistock Place leads off this south-west corner and here we encounter one of the more incongruous blue plaque proximities. No.36 and No.32 were home, respectively, to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924) in 1908 while he was reading at the British Museum and writing ‘Materialism and Empirio-criticism’ and Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927), author of the quintessentially English “Three Men In A Boat”, during 1884-85. Both of these were only recently put up, courtesy of the local Marchmont Association – the former not without a touch of controversy.

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On the north stretch of Marchmont Street we take a break to browse through the extensive selection on display at the impressive Judd Books which is just opposite another plaque – this time commemorating the fact that Percy Bysse Shelley and Mary Shelley spent a couple of years (1815-16) in a house on the site.

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Herbrand Street, Kenton Street (not I guess named after the character in the Archers or vice versa) and Handel Street bring us to Wakefield Street site of another plaque courtesy of the (actually quite sinister-sounding) Marchmont Association. This one is in honour of the celebrated Victorian transvestites, Ernest Boulton and Frederick Park, also known respectively as Lady Stella Clinton and Miss Fanny Winifred Park or collectively as “Stella and Fanny”. The following is from the information board in Regent Square Gardens – “In April 1870 they were arrested as they left the Strand Theatre having been seen together in a box dressed as women and winking and smiling at gentlemen sitting in the stalls. During their trial it emerged that Boulton enjoyed a close friendship with Lord Arthur Pelham-Clinton, the third son of the Duke of Newcastle and MP for Newark. Boulton and Park appeared at trial wearing extravagant costumes, the former in a cherry coloured silk evening dress with white lace trim. They were acquitted to huge cheers from the public galleries”.

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Wakefield Street is also the western entrance to St George’s Gardens, established in 1713 as a pair of burial grounds to serve the parishes of St. George the Martyr Queen Square and St. George’s Bloomsbury. They were the first Anglican burial grounds to be set away from the churches they served. The gardens contain the tomb of Oliver Cromwell’s grand daughter, Anna Gibson. They are also a reminder of the dark history of body-snatching – the first recorded case took place here. Having become very run-down by the late 1990’s the gardens were restored with help from a lottery grant and reopened in 2001.

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Euterpe, the Muse of Instrumental Music. Terracotta figure, one of nine muses which decorated the facade of the Apollo Inn (1898) on the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Torrington Place.

The obelisk below was reputedly built by a Thomas Falconer in 1729 but it is not known whose death it commemorates.

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Exit the east side of the gardens into Heathcote Street then turn right into Mecklenburgh Street and again to follow the alley which runs along the north side of Coram’s Fields to reach the Foundling Museum.

The museum, which opened in 2004, explores the history of the Foundling Hospital, the UK’s first children’s charity and first public art gallery. The Foundling Hospital, which continues today as the children’s charity Coram, was established in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for babies at risk of abandonment.

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Among the prominent benefactors of the hospital were the artist William Hogarth and composer George Frederic Handel. The former encouraged the leading artists of the day to donate work in order to set up the inaugural public art gallery and the latter donated an organ (musical rather than biological) and conducted annual benefit performances of The Messiah. The second floor of the museum houses the largest collection of material and memorabilia relating to Handel (including the original manuscript score of The Messiah) which was put together by one Gerald Coke. The donated Victorian artworks are showcased in the second floor gallery. Not really my thing unfortunately – though the gallery did present the opportunity for the latest Selfie of the Day.

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The permanent exhibition on the ground floor tells the moving story of the Foundling Hospital while the lower ground floor is running an exhibition on the phenomenon of the Victorian “Fallen Woman”. This includes a large collection of the written petitions submitted by women who had fallen pregnant out of wedlock and would be unable to take care of the baby once it was born. These petitions were reviewed by the Governors of the hospital and only in cases where the woman was perceived to have been respectable (i.e. not complicit in her own undoing) would the child be accepted.

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Until the end of November you can find the above artwork, Papever Rhoeas, created by artist Patrick Hartley in the ground floor gallery. This representation of a single poppy is composed of lamb’s heart muscle tissue, horsehair and vintage suture cotton and presented in a glass-blown jar designed in the form of a used World War One artillery shell.

By the time I leave the museum, having stopped on for lunch in the café, the rain is tipping down. I retrace my steps back to Mecklenburgh Square , the Square (Grade II listed) and its garden were part of the Foundling Estate and named after the wife of King George III, Charlotte of Mecklenburgh- Strelitz. The south side of the square is occupied by Goodenough College, named not for the modest expectations placed upon would-be students  but after its founder, Frederick Craufurd Goodenough, a Chairman of Barclays Bank, who in 1930 formed a Trust to raise funds for a hall of residence for male students from the British ‘Dominions’.

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As the rain continues to lash down I hurry on down to Guilford Street and after a detour into Doughty Street head west past the southern entrance to Coram’s Fields. This seven-acre site which includes a Youth Centre, Children’s Centre, Community Nursery, Sports Programme and a city farm is run by its own charitable trust and is not connected with the charitable legacy of the aforementioned Thomas Coram. Adults not-accompanying children are not allowed in except to use the football pitches on the north side.

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A right turn into Lansdowne Terrace brings us to Brunswick Square and the western exit from this out opposite the Brunswick Centre from where we shall resume things next time.