National Covid Memorial Wall

Along the Albert Embankment wall of St Thomas’ Hospital, directly over the Thames to the Houses of Parliament is an incredible piece of public guerrilla art.

Hand painted on the wall are thousands upon thousands of red and pink hearts, each one representing a victim of the Covid pandemic. Some have the names of individuals written in, there are other hearts drawn by family members, messages have been appended.

Continue reading “National Covid Memorial Wall”

The Holy Thorn Reliquary in the British Museum

the holy thorn reliquary detail

A bit more medieval from the British Museum (read all about a 700 year old citole here), but this time we’re not in my favourite Room 40, but Room 2a, the home of the Waddesdon Bequest.

We’re going to look at the Holy Thorn Reliquary, a late 14th century gold, enamel and rock crystal devotional object, decorated with sapphires, rubies, pearls and other precious gems.

Continue reading “The Holy Thorn Reliquary in the British Museum”

The statue of William IV, Greenwich

WHAT: Statue of William IV

WHERE: Greenwich Park (map)

BY WHOM: Samuel Nixon

WHEN: 1844

Poor old William IV. The last of the Hanoverian kings of Britain, he is all but forgotten today, succeeded as he was by his niece Victoria (whose name is virtually a synonym for the entire 19th century), and preceded by his brother, the rakish, obscenely extravagant George IV (who gave us the Regency).

Continue reading “The statue of William IV, Greenwich”

Yet more virtual talks and tours

big ben and boudicca

As well as the stuff I’m doing for UKToursOnline I’ve also got a bunch of things coming up with Context Conversations.

This includes ‘one-offs’ such as tours of Stratford upon Avon, the Churchill War Rooms and Americans in London (full list here), but also some four part courses.

Each Saturday in February will be given over to a history of London “From Imperial Outpost to World City” – 2,000 years of the city spread into easily digestible chunks. And on Saturdays in March I’ll be doing a four part biography of Sir Winston Churchill. I hope you can join me for some of these.

The New WW2 Gallery at the Imperial War Museum

To the new Second World War gallery at the Imperial War Museum. And it’s really rather good.

The previous WW2 ‘experience’ in the museum focussed on ‘hinge’ points during the war, giving not a comprehensive overview of the conflict, but using artefacts from the collection to look at turning points such as D-Day, Dunkirk, the Battle of the Atlantic and so on. This was great for those of us who like seeing ‘things’, but those objects were frequently lacking context – the big picture was missing, and certain theatres were very poorly represented (most of the war in the Far East, for example, even the Eastern Front to a large degree). This made for a very anglo-centric history of the war, diminishing its global nature. 

Continue reading “The New WW2 Gallery at the Imperial War Museum”

The House Where Churchill Died

Hyde Park Gate is a cul de sac off the Kensington Road, a stone’s throw from the Albert Hall and Albert Memorial. It’s a mix of houses from the second quarter of the 19th century and some fairly dreadful modern additions.

Wander down the street and you’ll pass blue plaques to Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout movement, to the author Enid Bagnold, Sir Leslie Stephen (father of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, both of whom were born here) and the sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein*.

Continue reading “The House Where Churchill Died”

Some recent reading

One thing that I always meant to do, but have never actually got around to doing, is to put up lists of favourite or recommended London books – a) to perhaps give you some thoughts on what you might read next, and b) to show off about how fantastically erudite and well-read I am.

With that in mind (option (a) obviously slightly more important than (b)) here’s some of the stuff that I’ve enjoyed over the past six months or so. I shall try to do this more often, as I’m finding ownership of a Kindle (plus the dearth of guiding work) is allowing me to read a lot more than I have in the past.

There are links off to the evil corporation that is Amazon for most of them (for which I may earn several buttons if you actually buy anything), but all of the ones below should be available at – or orderable from – your local bookshop.

Continue reading “Some recent reading”

Ghost stories! Spooky London tales for Hallowe’en

Another free online talk for you. Me and the rest of the gang at UKToursOnline did one of our ‘chats’ yesterday evening where we talked ghosts, witches, the supernatural and other bits of London lore and legends.

You can see me discussing the Battersea Poltergeist, Tim Barron talks about haunted theatres, Rachel Pearson looks at witches, Emma Matthews visits haunted pubs and Leo Heaton introduces us to the Black Dog of Newgate.

For more like this, follow UKToursOnline on our Facebook page.

Continue reading “Ghost stories! Spooky London tales for Hallowe’en”

Love Letters to London

The London Society has a free to enter writing competition called ‘Love Letters to London‘. Write up to 500 words (or a poem) about the city on the theme of ‘recovery and resilience’ and you could win up to £900.

There are full details here, and I’ve had a bash below (as I’m the Director of the Society I can’t enter the competition proper).

If you’re on social media, look for the hashtag #LoveLettersToLondon

If you think you can do better – and I’m sure you can – you’ve got until 30 November to get your entry in. So get writing!

Continue reading “Love Letters to London”