Buried under the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall is an extraordinary historical survivor.
Henry VIII’s Wine Cellar is one of the few remaining parts of Whitehall Palace – the main London residence of Kings and Queens (and Lord Protectors – because Oliver Cromwell also lived there) for over 150 years. Today Whitehall is the name of the broad road linking Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square, or it’s used as a synonym for ‘government’, but Whitehall was once the biggest palace in Europe – bigger than the Vatican, bigger even than Versailles – covering over 93,000 square metres between the river and Green Park.
It became a royal palace when Henry VIII confiscated a residence called York Place from Cardinal Wolsey. As well as being Lord Chancellor of England and the most powerful commoner in the realm, Wolsey was also Archbishop of York whose London seat since the 13th century had been York Place.
When Wolsey failed to get Henry’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon annulled, he found himself at the wrong end of the King’s displeasure. His property became forfeit to the Crown and Henry got his hands on Hampton Court Palace and York Place. Henry then spent a huge sum (well over ten million in today’s money) developing and expanding it. He added more rooms, and tennis courts, and a cockpit, and even a tiltyard for jousts. It became know as Whitehall after the white stone used for the great hall. (“You must no more call it York Place: that is past; For since the Cardinal fell that title’s lost. ‘Tis now the King’s, and called Whitehall.” (Shakespeare, “King Henry the Eighth”).
Henry married Anne Boleyn at Whitehall in 1533. And Jane Seymour in 1536. And he died there in 1547. Continue reading
Today I was going to go round Banqueting House, the last properly surviving bit of the old Palace of Whitehall, but when I got there it was closed for an event, so I went off and photographed some war memorials instead.
Of all the memorials in London, the most striking is the Royal Artillery Memorial located on (essentially) the traffic island at Hyde Park Corner. You can see it as you sit on the bus as it heads north, but it’s well worth taking the time to get up close.
Designed by Charles Jagger and Lionel Pearson, the Memorial is a stunning piece of realist sculpture and one of the finest examples of statuary anywhere in London.
There are some pictures below of details from the bronze figures around the monument and from the sculpted friezes, and a broader selection can be found here Continue reading