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 32 – Royal Courts of Justice – Kingsway – Lincoln’s Inn Fields –

Another compact area today but one packed full of history, sights and places to visit. We start on the border between the Strand and Fleet Street with a tour round the Royal Courts of Justice then head north up Kingsway to Holborn tube before working our way back south through Lincoln’s Inn Fields and surrounding streets, taking in Sir John Soane’s Museum and the Hunterian museum along the way. And there’s a pretty good pub of the day thrown into the mix as well. On the downside none of those ports of call (apart from the pub) allow internal photography so either take a bit more notice of the external links than usual or better still go and visit yourselves – especially since they’re all free admission.

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The Royal Courts of Justice is home to both the High Court and the Court of Appeal. The former deals with higher level civil disputes and is comprised of three divisions; the Queen’s Bench division, the Chancery division and the Family division. The latter is split into two divisions which hear referrals from the Crown Court (criminal cases) and the High Court (civil cases) respectively. However, since the establishment of the Supreme Court in 2009, the Court of Appeal at the RCJ is no longer the last chance saloon for those who wish to challenge their convictions. Most of the Courts’ proceedings are presided over by a single judge but certain cases may be heard by a bench of two judges and very exceptionally, usually for cases against the police, a jury will sit. Cases being heard on any particular day are published on the Daily List which is available for public view just inside the entrance. On this occasion there were no cases sitting which I was inspired to look in on – but you would have to be very lucky to come across anything juicy if just visiting on spec.

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This soaring Gothic edifice was opened by Queen Victoria in 1882 following eleven years of construction. The architect, George Edmund Street (1824 – 1881), beat off competition from ten of his peers to win the commission but since, as you see, he didn’t live to see its completion that may have something of a pyrrhic victory. The cathedral-like quality of the building is perhaps unsurprising  given that when the architects bid for the contract that was exactly what they were led to believe it was for. You need to pass through security control to enter the building as a visitor and, as already noted, no photography is permitted. However you can wander around quite freely including along the corridors lined by the 19 courtrooms where barristers and their clients will often be huddled together discussing strategy. There are bookable guided tours or you can pick up a self-guided tour leaflet at the reception desk. This I didn’t do until I’d already been round once so I’d spent some time looking for the “Bear Garden” in the mistaken belief that this might be an actual garden. The lady on the desk set me straight by explaining that the Bear Garden is just a room where solicitors, barristers and their clients meet to discuss cases (and so I had already passed through it a couple of times). The name arose after Queen Victoria, on one of her visits, described the noise in the room as sounding like a “bear garden” (i.e. a place where bear baiting takes place). I have to say it was a bit more subdued than that when I was there.

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Once back outside we turn up Clements Inn which flanks the western wing of the RCJ and then along St Clement’s Lane and Portugal Street which cut between the main buildings that make up the London School of Economics (LSE). (I had intended to make a visit to the LSE library to look at some papers but had overlooked the fact that this was Freshers’ week so that turned out to be a non-starter). Emerge onto Kingsway by the Peacock Theatre (which is affiliated with Sadlers Wells and presents a more family-oriented dance programme) and head north.

On the corner with Sardinia Street you’ll find this sculpture called Square the Block by the artist Richard Wilson which was commissioned by the LSE for the opening of its New Academic building in 2009.

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A bit further up on the eastern side of Kingsway is the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Anselm & Saint Cecilia. Despite being a bit on the shy and retiring side as far as RC churches go there were quite a few members of the faithful paying their respects this particular lunchtime.

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Next block along on the same side is the grade II listed Africa House. This was built in 1921 and both the name and the large scale sculptural group above the central colonnades are a somewhat bathetic evocation of the British Empire which was already only just holding together by that time. The sculpture is by Benjamin Clemens (1875 – 1957), assistant master at the Royal College of Art. The group has Britannia at its centre, flanked by noble Arab traders with their camels and a big game hunter oiling his rifle. A native bearer carries a pair of tusks while the hunter’s victim lies open-eyed next to them. Other animals include a lion, a crocodile, a bison and a massive python. After a major overhaul in 2013 the building is now home to international law firm Mishcon de Reya LLP. But on its ground floor it also houses a branch of Ladbrokes and a Wetherspoons Pub – which couldn’t make more of a mockery of the pretensions of its original designers.

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On the other side of the road is what was originally Holy Trinity Church, built around 1910 following the demolition of Little Queen Street Chapel of 1831 whose foundations were destroyed during the building of the Piccadilly Line. Holy Trinity Church was badly damaged by fire in 1985 and was closed. At the turn of the millennium it was redeveloped as offices and incorporated into the adjacent Aviation House which is home to both Ofsted and the Food Standards Agency.

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Turn right past the tube station then cut down the alleyway that is New Turnstile, take a right again on Gate Street back to Kingsway, go past Africa House and left down Twyford Place. At the end turn left into Gate Street again before veering off up Little Turnstile, another alleyway, which re-emerges on High Holborn. Heading east from here takes us past the Rosewood Hotel, yet another 5* job, opened in 2013 in the former Chancery Court which was built in 1914 as the headquarters of the Pearl Assurance Company in which capacity it lasted up until 1989. (From 2000 to 2011 it was The Renaissance Hotel, part of the Marriott Group).

About a hundred yards further along turn south down Great Turnstile (the third and final of the turnstile alleyways). Return west along Whetstone Park which has nothing park-like about it and is, considering its length, one of the most unremarkable streets in the capital apart from these two very strange tiny doors on the southern side about half way down.

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After a quick look up and down Remnant Street we switch eastward again along the northern stretch of Lincoln’s Inn Fields which is the location of Sir John Soane’s Museum. This inhabits nos. 12 to 14 which were all owned by SJS, no.12 bought initially as family home and the other two acquired subsequently to house his burgeoning and eclectic collection of paintings, sculptures and historical artefacts, and then bequeathed to the nation on his death in 1837. Four years before that, he had negotiated an Act of Parliament: to preserve his house and collection, exactly as it would be at the time of his death – and to keep it open and free for inspiration and education.

The no-photo rule is strictly enforced here and mere words would struggle to convey the remarkable nature of the collection and the unique ways in which it is displayed so I would urge you to take a look at the website or simply go and see it for yourselves. I will just mention a couple of things though. Firstly, the original paintings of Hogarth’s Rake’s Progress form part of the collection that is ingeniously housed in the tardis-like Painting Room. If you’re not familiar with this series of eight tableaux, they depict a salutary tale of the perils of a life of dissolution and ignoring the love of a good woman. Secondly, down in the basement you will find the astonishing Alabaster sarcophagus of the Egyptian Pharaoh Seti of the XIX dynasty. This is regarded as one of the most important relics of Ancient Egypt ever found. It was discovered by Giovanni Battista Belzoni in 1825 and was originally offered to the British Museum but when they baulked at the £2,000 asking price Soane stepped in to acquire it (then held three separate parties to celebrate its arrival.)

 

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Tom Rakewell at peak dissolution

After leaving the museum we cut through Lincoln’s Inn Fields itself (the park rather than the fours streets surrounding it) where there is no shortage of folk taking advantage of the Indian summer weather.

Once out the other side we head south down Newman’s Row and enter into the grounds of Lincoln’s Inn. I won’t repeat the origins of the four Inns of Court that we covered when visiting Gray’s Inn a few posts back but just note that this is considered the earliest of the four with records dating back to 1422. The Great Hall and Library which are the first buildings you come to, on the north side of New Square, completed in 1845 these have a touch of the Hogwarts about them though the former is basically just a glorified refectory cum common room. From the north-east corner of New Square we head up through Old Square into Stone Buildings passing Chambers that mostly date from the last quarter of the 18th century.

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Retracing our steps we return to the Chapel the basic structure of which dates back to 1620.  This was laid by John Donne (1573 – 1631) who was preacher of the Inn at this time prior to becoming Dean of St. Paul’s. The Chapel bell, cast in 1615, also has an association with John Donne. In addition to ringing for curfew at nine each evening, the Chapel bell, cast in 1615,  is by ancient custom rung at midday on the death of a bencher of the Inn. This a practice is held to be the inspiration for the quotation from Donne’s poem beginning “No Man is an Island” which concludes “And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”. The stained glass windows on the north and south sides are original 17th century. The window on the east side depicts the crests of the 228 treasurers from 1680 to 1908. The window at the west end shows the colours of the Inns of Court regiments. Inside the entrance there is a Latin-inscribed memorial to Spencer Perceval (1762 – 1812), the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated whilst in office and who studied at Lincoln’s Inn.

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Next door to the Chapel is the Old Hall which was erected four years into the reign of Henry VII, three years before Columbus set foot in America (do the Math). Sir Thomas More, who joined the Inn in 1496, spent much of his professional life here. In the 18th and 19th centuries the Old Hall was used as a court of justice and the opening scene of Dickens’ Bleak House, with the start of the interminable Jarndyce vs Jarndyce case, is set here. (Had I known all this beforehand I would have taken more notice of the building – which only just about made it into the shot below).

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Circle round the back of the Chapel through Old Buildings and return to New Square by the Hardwicke Building. After a circuit of the square we exit Lincoln’s Inn via New Square Passage and the southern entrance onto Carey Street.

Here we turn left and then left again up Star Yard which is home to Ede & Ravenscroft, founded in 1689 and thought to be the oldest firm of tailors in the world. Beginning with the coronation of William and Mary they added royalty to their client base for the supply of ceremonial robes alongside church, judiciary and academia.

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Also in Star Yard is this decorated cast-iron structure which is apparently a urinal (though one which hasn’t been in use since the 1980’s). It’s the sort of thing you might expect to commonly find in Paris but I’m not aware of anything similar in London; which is why it has a Grade II listing no doubt.

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Bishops Court takes us out onto Chancery Lane and from there we go south and turn west back onto Carey Street. We’ve passed many red telephone boxes on our previous travels without comment but the collection at the back of the RCJ is unusual enough to warrant some remark. As hinted at in the last post, the designer of the first all metal red box was Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. This came about as a result of a 1924 competition to find a replacement for the concrete boxes (known as K1’s) introduced four years earlier but rejected by the London Metropolitan Boroughs.  At the time Scott had just been made a trustee of the SJS Museum and his design for the K2 includes a dome inspired by Soane’s self-designed mausoleums. After going through a number of iterations the design was refined by Scott until in 1935 he arrived at the K6 version which is the one which can still be seen everywhere today. The USP of the group on Carey Street is that the outer pair are original K2 models which can be compared to the two common or garden K6s in between.

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Opposite the phone boxes is today’s pub of the day, the Seven Stars. One of London’s oldest pubs, this dates from 1602 when it was reputedly a popular haunt Dutch sailors. Nowadays of course the clientele is principally from the legal profession, something reflected in the decor of the pub, as you can see the photos below. Based on the merguez sausages with couscous I had the food here is highly recommended. Not surprising as the landlady, the fantastically and genuinely named Roxy Beaujolais, has form presenting one of the BBC’s  myriad of food programmes.

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(You might also have spotted the long overdue return of reflection of the day in amongst the above). Also on Carey Street, another family business dating back to the later 17th century – it’s a different world round here and long may it stay that way.

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We’ve already mentioned Sir Thomas More in connection with Lincoln’s Inn and in the south-western corner at the junction of Carey Street with Serle Street, on the Chambers that bear his name, is this statue, designed by George Sherrin and erected in 1888. The inscription reads :

Sir Thomas More Kt
Some time
Lord High Chancellor
of England
Martyred July 6th 1535
The faithful servant
both of God and the King

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At the end of Serle Street we turn left into the southern section of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, go past the old Land Registry building (now another part of the LSE) and arrive at the Royal College of Surgeons, built 1813, which is home to the Hunterian Museum.

The museum houses the collection of human and animal anatomical and pathological specimens put together by John Hunter (1728 – 1793) considered as the founding father of scientific surgery. Much of the collection of 14,000 items was lost when the College was struck by bombs in 1941. The present form of the museum, with the remainder of Hunter’s collection at its core, took shape more than 20 years later in 1963. Due to the nature of certain of the exhibits photography is again disallowed here so I’m afraid we’ll have to make do with this shot of the staircase leading up to the museum and this report on the 1963 re-opening in the Illustrated London News at the time hunterian_2. (The skeleton of the “Irish Giant” is still on display.)

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From the south-western corner of Lincoln’s Inn Fields we do a round trip of Sardinia Street back in the heart of LSE territory. The London School of Economics was founded in 1895 by Beatrice and Sidney Webb with support from Graham Wallas and George Bernard Shaw. These four, who were all members of the recently created Fabian Society, decided to establish the School following a bequest of £20,000 in the will of Derby lawyer Henry Hunt Hutchinson who wished to advance the Fabians’ objectives of a fairer society. Today the LSE has a student body of over 10,000 around 70% of which are international (the highest proportion at any British University) representing over 150 different nationalities. And, as an illustration of how far things have changed since the LSE’s origins, a recent survey revealed more billionaires amongst its alumni than those of any other European university.

At no.13 Portsmouth Street is this representation of Dickens’ (yes that man again) Old Curiosity Shop. The old part is certainly apposite as the building is 16th century and was once the dairy on an estate given by Charles II to one of his mistresses. There is though no direct evidence that this actual building was the inspiration behind the novel. At the time of writing the shop is an upmarket men’s and women’s shoe store.

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Fork right into Sheffield Street then left into Portugal Street past the LSE library on the other side of which is a building that from 1920 to 1076 was the head office of WH Smith, as celebrated by this plaque.

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Here we veer off right for another visit to Carey Street and once beyond the phoneboxes turn south along the eastern flank of the RCJ to end up back where we started and so bring today’s marathon – in terms of word count rather than distance travelled – to a close.