London Off The Beaten Path

  • Tower Subway
    Tower Subway
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    Touring Royal Court Theatre
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    Bedford Square, Central London
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Most Recent Off The Beaten Path in London

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    Canary Wharf

    by mindcrime Written May 22, 2014
    getting out of Canary Wharf station
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    We wouldn’t bother to visit Canary Wharf but we went there to take the DLR (Docklands Light Rail) as got out of the Canary Wharf metro station… we used Jubilee line and the truth is that I just wanted to see the station where some scenes of the horror film 28 Days Later took place. We were surprised to see so many people around. I knew it was one of the main business districts located in the West India Docks (on the Isle of Dogs of Tower Hamlets) but we got surprised with the busy pedestrian and surprisingly clean, neat and organized streets not only with business men but also people that were there for shopping as there are many stores and outlets… what’s more we saw the numerous café along the river and the main square so we stood for a while for some photos. You can actually see the area from if you take the tube or the light rail as it goes through the modern buildings like snake. Obviously it’s not a must see but a good site for drink and lunch if you happen to visit London more than once. Next time I will try to visit London Docklands Museum.

    The docks were in the past a busy port since the early 19th century but it closed in 1981 and many new buildings were built to house offices, companies and banks. There are some skyscrapers as expected, the tallest one is One Canade Square that was built in 1991 and stands at 235metres with 50 storeys, second after ony the Shard (304m, 87 storeys) near London Bridge.

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    The Bronze Woman statue in Stockwell.

    by Regina1965 Updated May 14, 2014

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    The Bronze Woman.
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    There is a noteworthy statue in Stockwell. It is a bronze statue of an African-Caribbean woman holding her baby aloft. It is said to be the first public monument of a black woman in England.

    This 3 m high statue is a tribute to African-Caribbean women and the baby is "a symbol of women´s strength and of their aspirations for the next generation" - as it says on the plate by the statue.

    The sculpture is designed by the same man, Ian Walters, who designed the statue of Nelson Mandela on Parliament Square in London.

    Stockwell is the place where the first largest group of West-Indian immigrants settled after WW2. 500 of them had arrived by the Empire Windursh ship and the statue was erected on the 60th anniversary of the arrival of the ship - and on the 200th anniversary of the end of transatlantic slave trade.

    The statue was inspired by the 1968 poem "The Bronze woman" by Cécile Nobrega, who was born in Guyana in 1919 and lived in Stockwell. The beautiful, forceful poem can be read on the website I include in this tip. I also include it here:

    Find me a place
    in the sun
    in the sea
    on a rock
    near an Isle
    in the Caribbee:
    There I will set her,
    Honoured, Free!

    Free
    to be kissed and petted by the wind;
    Free
    to be washed with the brine of sweet and bitter memoirs
    Sin:
    Free
    to be stubborn and steadfast as night,
    Dark is her Destiny
    Wrong her right.

    Woman of Bronze!
    Symbol of Slavery
    Free
    Strength
    sweat and toil,
    who can foil
    your quest
    for best
    to give your child?

    One night a woman
    says the Book,
    went to Him late,
    late in the gloomy darkness
    of the night;
    Went to Him, the Light,
    for places for her sons
    the left, the right
    to sit beside Him.
    Chide her not!
    Mother instinct is the same
    today
    as then
    for evermore
    however mild,
    she seeks the betterment
    of her child.

    Bronze Woman!
    You were no different
    When you laid with massa boss,
    Free
    or
    forced
    you knew there was no loss
    of favours
    food:
    Food for the black and hungry brood,
    Mulato-Eurasian child money
    subsidised economy,
    guaranteed
    a step away
    from want and need:
    a step away
    from toil and sweat
    the heat of day:
    Pray
    Feel no hurt
    with those who talk
    of illegitimacy
    and illiteracy,
    Social stigmas – Language Craft;
    Feel proud
    that you have done your part:

    Stained your skirt
    with water-mark
    waist deep
    paddy beds
    cane fields
    to keep
    stinted stomachs
    hungry mouth
    salt and rice
    such sacrifice
    as those passed on many know of
    Death!

    Consumptive death
    Malarial death,
    visited troolie huts
    clean earthen floor
    the same as
    Overseer, Manager
    before
    promotion
    to driver
    extortion
    child labour.
    All this you bore,
    Feel hurt no more.

    Feel Joy
    with those who served the mine,
    today your sons and daughters shine
    like the bright gold
    you bartered for,
    in great professions,
    Music, Medicine, Law.

    White Man’s purse
    has no curse
    his seed
    no need:
    but Men
    poor Men
    they run away
    after the night
    the day
    is done
    they’re gone
    through need
    disown their seed
    then you are left alone
    Bronze Woman
    father-mother
    Caribbean Woman
    To play a dual role.

    Stalwart woman-man
    With the sun in your bones
    and the bloods in your veins;
    strength in your heart
    and love in your limbs,
    Your buxom breasts
    hang down
    like juicy brown mangoes
    in the mouth of your child,
    Your eyes are determined
    Yet gentle and mild,
    Who can help but set you
    Bronze Woman
    above!
    Who can help but cherish
    This monument of Love…………

    Then find me a place
    in the sun
    in the sea
    on a rock
    Near an Isle
    In the Caribbee:
    There I will set her
    Bronze Woman
    Free
    Honoured for shaping
    Our Destiny.

    Written by Cécile Nobrega

    The statue is located in South-London, in between Brixton Road and Stockwell tube station.

    When I was staying for 2 months down in Colliers Wood in South-London I often took the bus and had to change buses at Stockwell, where the Bronze Woman stands.

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    The Stockwell Memorial Rotunda.

    by Regina1965 Updated May 12, 2014

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    The Stockwell Memorial Rotunda.
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    On the same square/roundabout where the Bronze Woman stands there is a beautiful, very colourful mural.

    The mural is painted on the top of one of the deep level shelters, which were built in South London during WW2. The opening of the shelter is in the middle of the roundabout - the Stockwell Memorial Gardens. It is a war memorial.

    The colourful mural depicts the local history. You will even see James Bond there, as Roger Moore grew up in Stockwell. There is also a picture of the Empire Windrush ship, which I mention in my tip on the Bronze Woman. Stockwell is the place where the first largest group of West-Indian immigrants settled after WW2. 500 of them had arrived by the Empire Windursh ship.

    There is a picture of Vincent Van Gogh as he lived for six months in Stockwell. And one of the first tube stations in London was in Stockwell, so a tube train is also included in the mural.

    There is also a Memorial Clock Tower next to the Rotunda. It was unveiled in 1922 with a large ceremony, and on it are written the names of 574 soldiers who had died in WW1 and had lived within half a mile of Stockwell Common. Written beneath the figure of Remembrance is: “To the Stockwell Men who Served in the Great War, 1914–1919.”

    The Rotunda and Memorial Clock Tower are located in South-London in SW9 in Stockwell Memorial Gardens, in between Brixton Road and Stockwell tube station by Clapham Road.

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  • London Cru

    by pandavr Written May 12, 2014

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    wine barrels at London Cru

    This is a urban winery based in West London and run by Australian winemaker Gavin Monery and Master of Wine student Mark Andrew. The winery offers public tours, wine tastings, courses, and custom winemaking. The "Meet the Cru" tour introduces newbies to winemaking and gives the unique chance to taste a "made in London" wine.

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    One of Our Clergy is Missing!

    by HackneyBird Written May 11, 2014

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    The Reverent Pedr Williams took over the pastorate at the Congregational Church, Lower Clapton in 1889 and over the years had made a good reputation for himself both as a preacher and a speaker on social and political topics of the day.

    On Sunday, 4th February 1894 the text for his sermon was Genesis 4, 13-14: 'And Cain said unto the Lord, my punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold thou has driven me out on this day from the face of the ground and from they face shall I hide, and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.' William's delivery of the sermon had been a powerful one and proved to be more significant than it at first seemed . . .

    On 4th February there was a meeting of the Lower Clapton Literary Association at which Williams was due to speak. An audience of over 500 filled the church, but there was no sign of the Reverent Williams.

    When question on the whereabouts of her husband, Mrs Williams, a woman of poor health, said that she had last seen her husband at their home on 8th February, when he had informed her that he was going away for a few days and would return home on the following Saturday. A friend of the family also saw Williams on the morning of the 8th carrying two portmanteaux.

    It transpired that Williams had gone to the Congregational Memorial Hall to arrange a supply preacher to cover his absence and had then written a letter to one of his deacons explaining that he was going on holiday to the countryside for a few days. On 10th February, Mrs Williams received a letter from her husband saying that he was going to Margate for a few days. The letter was undated and was postmarked Richmond, Surrey.

    Rumours began to spread a bout the reasons for Williams disappearance. The most popular of which was that he was unhappy with his home life and was suffering from depression, and also that he was in serious financial difficulties.

    The Hackney Gazette received a letter from a Mr Outhwaite of Lee, Kent, in which it was stated that the Reverent Williams had been seen at Waterloo Station on 10th February boarding a train for Southampton, connecting with the SS. City of Paris bound for New York. The ship ran into difficulties shortly after it set sail and had to turn back. When it docked in Queenstown (now Cobb) in Ireland Williams was seen walking on the quayside waiting to board the SS City of Berlin. The passenger list for the SS City of Paris was checked by no one by the name of Williams was aboard.

    By now, the church had informed Scotland Yard of Reverent Williams's disappearance and the police issued a description. Nothing else could be done until the SS City of Berlin docked in New York. . .

    It emerged that, in disguise and under an assumed name, Williams had arrived in New York, and there was much speculation made on what he would do next. His wife was to upset and unwell to make any comment but there were rumours that Williams would stay in America and try to find an ecclesiastical post or try to qualify as a lawyer. There was even some talk of a fund being set up to pay for Mrs Williams and their four children to join him there.

    On 8th March the news broke that Reverent Williams would return home. When he arrived in London he stated that during the voyage he realised he had made a mistake and that he was positive that he could give a satisfactory explanation of his actions.

    Meanwhile, the Press were making much of the fact that Williams owed the sum of £400 to the executors of Ebenezer Newell, a former deacon and sweet shop owner. Allegations were made that a writ for recovery of the debt had been issued causing Williams to panic, but in fact an arrangement had been made in August 1893 for Williams to pay back the amount in instalments.

    So why did the Reverent Williams leave the country?

    It finally emerged that Williams income was not enough to support his family and servants. He also admitted to living beyond his means at his Amhurst Road home.

    Church officials and members of the congregation met on 6th April to decide whether or not to accept Williams offer of resignation and a resolution not to accept was submitted.

    So the Reverent Williams was forgiven and he remained at the church in Lower Clapton for 12 years before accepting a post in Durban, South Africa. A decade later he return to Britain to take up a post in Swansea, Wales before moving to Snyed Park, Bristol, where he died in 1931.

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    A Workhouse, a Hospital and a Nursing Heroine.

    by HackneyBird Updated May 8, 2014

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    St Leonard's Hospital.
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    St Leonard's Hospital, opened in 1872, was built as a direct result of the Metropolitan Poor Act of 1867 which called for the creation of a new infirmary and dispensary separate from the Shoreditch Workhouse.

    At the time of it's opening there were 503 beds in the hospital, 203 for men, 268 for women and 32 for children. For the first time an Infirmary Matron was appointed, and also a House Superintendent, both of whom worked separately from the Workhouse Matron and Master.

    In 1903, Edith Cavell joined the infirmary as an Assistant Matron and became a highly thought of member of staff. She left the infirmary in 1906 and went to Brussels to become principal of a nursing school. She later went on to look after many of the thousands of Allied Soldiers wounded during the First World War. Cavell also worked with the Resistance to help some of the soldiers escape behind enemy lines, and saved the lives of hundreds of men before she was caught, put on trial and executed by German firing squad on 15th August 1915. A plaque to her memory was later hung in the nurse's dining room at the Shoreditch infirmary, which by 1920 had become known as St Leonard's Hospital, and the workhouse as St Leonard's House.

    Both the infirmary and the workhouse were taken over by the London County Council in 1930. The workhouse was closed and its building became a place to care for the chronically sick. The infirmary became the general hospital for the area.

    In 1934, it was decided that most of the hospitals ward blocks needed to be replaced, but the outbreak of World War II prevented this.

    The first bombs fell on Shoreditch in 1940 and it is thought that St Leonard's was the first hospital to receive air-raid casualties. The hospital was badly damaged in August 1941, when a large bomb hit an underground shelter in nearby Nuttall Street, causing the ceilings to collapse and blowing out all the windows. Thankfully, there were no casualties as the buildings were empty at the time because admissions had been limited to urgent cases since September 1939.

    After the war, improvements to the hospital were undertaken and St Leonard's became part of the NHS (National Health Service). By 1966, there were 192 beds available, increasing to 207 in 1979, but in 1984 all the in-patient wards were closed.

    Today, St Leonard's is no longer a general hospital. It has been developed as a primary care centre, to co-ordinate a number of community services across Hackney. The workhouse had been replaced by the Mary Seacole Nursing Home, but some of the old infirmary buildings still remain as part of the health centre.

    Address: St Leonard's Hospital, Nuttall Street, London N1 5LZ

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    The Malady of Madness.

    by HackneyBird Written May 6, 2014

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    Remains of Hoxton House lunatic asylum.
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    During the later years of the 17th century many of Hoxton's wealthy, old estates were broken up and used as private lunatic asylums and almshouses and were notorious for the poor treatment their patients received.

    At that time it was not thought of as unusual or immoral to make a profit from the lunacy trade and it was easy to obtain a certificate of madness. Anyone could enter, or be entered, into a madhouse so long as the fees were paid.

    Patients could also be embarrassing or unwanted family members, and sometimes people entered the madhouses voluntarily to escape the long arm of the law or military service.

    Public 'inquisitions of lunacy' were regularly held at the Hoxton Square Coffee House, were potential inmates were physically inspected, interviewed and pronounced insane by a far from objective jury of coffee drinkers.

    Hoxton House opened in 1695 and was one of the earliest and largest of these private asylums. It was often used by the Admiralty for the treatment of 'maniac' officers and sailors. An inspection in 1798 found that 'the bread, beef, cheese and beer, were all very good, and the patients declared that they had them in plenty'. But a decade later another inspection revealed that 'the patients were very badly clothed, and went about the yard stark naked, with only a bit of blanket on them'. Hoxton Hall was closed in 1902, the red-bricked building is next to Hackney Community College is all that is left of the institution.

    Nearby Hoxton Hall opened in 1720 and enjoyed a more positive reputation, due to the fact that the medical attendant was James Parkinson, the doctor who first identified the 'shaking palsy' which not bears his name. The asylum was split into two sections, one for those who could afford to pay and one for paupers sent there by the Guardians of the Poor of Shoreditch, who were paid for by the parish taxes. By 1819 the asylum was badly overcrowded and had to be rebuilt. It was finally demolished in 1840 and Hoxton Hall stands on the site today.

    The worst of all of Hoxton's madhouses was Warburton's, which operated between 1750 - 1850, and was situated on the border of Shoreditch and Hackney. Thomas Warburton, the owner, was described as being a 'beast of a man, huge in size, knock-kneed with a three-inch long nose, that was quite sufficient to frighten a person of weak mind and delicate nerves into a fit of insanity' by a former inmate.

    Jeremy Davis, the Head Keeper, was no better. He claimed that 'If a man comes in here made, we'll keep him so; if he is in his senses, we'll soon drive him out of them'. The remainder of the keepers were reported as being constantly drunk and they spent their time beating patients and raping the female ones.

    The majority of Warburton's inmates were from the aristocracy, and Thomas Warburton even supplied keepers to supervise King George III during his bouts of madness. John Warburton, Thomas's son, was a qualified doctor and he eventually took over the asylum and turned it into an establishment of some note.

    Inspections by Select Committees of the House of Commons brought to light the horrors regularly being committed inside Hoxton's madhouses, resulting in gradual reform throughout the 1880's, which eventually forced the private madhouses out of business.

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    Square Roots.

    by HackneyBird Written May 6, 2014

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    Hoxton Square Central Gardens
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    The life of Hoxton Square began in 1683, when shop owner and merchant Robert Hackshaw and his associate Samuel Blewitt leased part of the Austin family's Hoxton land holdings. Hackshaw and Blewitt then leased out the land in small plots for building and a new development of houses began where there were once fields.

    The square was completed in 1720, the original houses being two-storeys high were later replaced by larger buildings. But by the early 1880's the squares former genteel status had fallen into decline because Hoxton had not grown into the fashionable residential area its developers had hoped it would.

    By the mid 1880's the square had become the centre of the Shoreditch furniture trade, with workshops being built over the front gardens of the houses. The grand residential homes gave way to industry and working class housing, and the building of St Monica's Church in 1865 to serve the areas poor Irish population reflected the squares change of status.

    In the 1890's residents passed the management of the square to Shoreditch Vestry who leased the central gardens to the Hoxton Trustees for an annual cost of £12.00.

    The square continued to decline into the 20th century, and the Second World War had a devastating effect on the area's furniture trade. Small family run businesses were hit hard by workers leaving to fight in the war, and many of the premises were bombed. After the war competition from cheaper mass produced furniture added to this decline and the businesses that were left in the square collapsed and the properties became vacant.

    In 1982 the Hoxton Trust Charity was founded, it's purpose to work with the areas residents and businesses to protect the squares past and improve its future, working in partnership with Hackney Council to manage the square. The square's central gardens were refurbished in the mid 1990's and again in 2011 and the surrounding buildings turned into artist's studios and restaurants.

    Today, Hoxton Square is the focal point of Shoreditch's trendy night life, and its gardens are a much appreciated green space for residents and visitors alike to relax within a busy and crowded area.

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    London’s largest clock face

    by toonsarah Written Apr 26, 2014

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    Shell Mex House
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    London’s largest clock face is not, as many think, the one commonly and wrongly called Big Ben on the clock tower of Westminster Palace, otherwise known as the Houses of Parliament (Big Ben is in fact the name of the bell not the clock by the way). No, this one just beats it, by 0.118 metres, although neither can claim to be the largest in Britain (that honour goes to the one on Liverpool’s Royal Liver Building).

    It graces the south side (actually the rear) of Shell Mex House, one of the finest Art Deco buildings in London. This was built in 1930 as the London headquarters of the Shell oil company, leading to the clock’s nickname of “Big Benzene”. Today Shell have their HQ just across the river on Shell House, near Waterloo Station, and this building serves as offices for a number of companies. For a while the publisher Penguin were based here and I was fortunate to be invited (while reasonably prominent in the children’s library world in the UK) to a number of dinners hosted on the top floor for their more well-known authors. This floor opens up on to a terrace just below the clock face, with magnificent views of the river –a glass of champagne here on a summer evening is a pleasure I am privileged to have enjoyed on several occasions!

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    St Lawrence and Mary Magdalene Drinking Fountain

    by toonsarah Updated Apr 26, 2014

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    This ornate fountain, designed by architect John Robinson, was originally placed outside the church of St Lawrence Jewry in 1866. It has two sculptures, and a bas relief of Moses striking the rock at Horeb. To the left of Moses a Jewish woman holds a cup to the lips of her child. The sculptures are of St Lawrence, whose church it was made for, and St Mary Magdalene. The former is shown with a gridiron, the instrument of his death. as a martyr, while the Magdalene is shown with her emblem, the ointment jar with which she cleansed Christ’s wounds. The water fountain of the monument was designed as part of the sculpture of Moses and pumped water into a dish when a metal knob was pushed.

    The water fountain was dismantled during the redevelopment of the Guildhall in the 1970s and spent some time in storage (in a barn on a farm in Epping!), while its sculptures were stored at the Guildhall Art Gallery. In 2010 it was restored and reassembled on the corner of Carter Lane near St Paul's Cathedral where it stands today.

    The plaque reads:
    City
    of
    London

    The St Lawrence & Mary Magdalene
    Drinking Fountain

    Commissioned by the united parishes of
    St Lawrence Jewry & St Mary Magdalene

    Originally located in the Guildhall Yard
    outside the church of St Lawrence Jewry from 1866 to 1970

    Designed by architect John Robinson and sculptor Joseph Durham

    Restored and relocated here in 2010

    Directions:On the south side of St Paul’s Cathedral. The nearest tube station is St Paul’s (Central line) though Mansion House (Circle and District lines) is also quite near

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    Bracken House

    by toonsarah Written Apr 26, 2014

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    Astronomical clock
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    Bracken House was built in the late 1950s to be the home of the Financial Times newspaper, which was published here until the 1980s. It is named for the paper’s former chairman, Brendan Bracken. The building was designed by Sir Albert Richardson who selected this distinctive pink brick and sandstone to match the Financial Times’ traditional pink newsprint paper. Its most striking feature though is this astronomical clock, roughly a metre across, which has at its centre a face of Winston Churchill in a golden sunburst. This is surrounded by gilded signs of the zodiac, on an azure blue background, outside which are the names of the twelve months, then the hours in Roman numerals and then the figures 5, 10, etc. up to 60 to count the minutes. The day of the month is displayed in a window below Churchill’s face. The different rings of the clock rotate and it is read by looking at what is currently at the top.

    The reason that the clock features Winston Churchill is that was a personal friend of Bracken, and was even rumoured (almost certainly without any basis) to be his illegitimate father. At the start of World War Two, Churchill asked Bracken to become his Parliamentary Private Secretary, and in July 1941 he was appointed Minister of Information.

    Bracken House was vacated by the Financial Times in the 1980s, a time when most of London’s major newspaper publishers moved their seat of operations from Fleet Street to Docklands. The building was sold and was to have been demolished to make way for a brand new one on the same site, but when the building was Grade II listed in 1987 the plans had to be changed, so this wonderful frontage was preserved (and another frontage on parallel Queen Victoria Street) while the central part of the building, which had housed the print-works, was replaced by a modern glass part.

    Directions:On the south side of Cannon Street a little east of St Paul’s Cathedral. The nearest tube station is Mansion House, on the Circle and District lines

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    A day out at Syon Park

    by toonsarah Updated Apr 21, 2014

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    Great Conservatory, Syon Park
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    Update April 2014: ticket prices revised, attractions updated, hotel information added, new photos

    If you’d like to visit a classical English country house while in London, Syon Park could be just what you’re looking for. It has something for all the family and is near enough to the capital to make a lovely day out, although if you take advantage of all it has to offer you will find yourself spending quite a lot of money. At its heart is Syon House, the ancestral London home of the Dukes of Northumberland, with a stunning interior designed by one of the most famous of British architects, Robert Adam. The house was built on the site of a medieval abbey, named after Mount Zion in the Holy Land, which was destroyed by Henry VIII during the English Reformation. Apparently though the Abbey had its revenge on the king, as in 1547, when his coffin was resting here overnight on its way to Windsor for burial, it burst open, and in the morning dogs were found licking up the remains! In 1594 Henry Percy, the ninth Earl of Northumberland, acquired the estate through marriage and it has remained in the family ever since. There is a full and interesting history of Syon and its association with the Percy family on the Park’s website.

    The redesign of the house under Adam took place in the mid 18th century and was accompanied by a redesign of the grounds as well, led by the famous landscape designer Capability Brown. As it says on the website, ”Brown and Adam had more in common than just being fashionable designers; both were aspiring to create a new ideal form of an earlier time. Whilst Adam’s architecture was inspired by classical Rome, so Brown took the medieval deer park as a model for an ideal countryside. Both were consciously borrowing the connotations of wealth, power and antiquity, and packaging them for their clients.”

    These grounds are one of the things we most enjoy about Syon and make regular visits to see. The parkland areas are open free of charge and are popular for walks, picnics, ball games etc. There is a separate more cultivated (but still very natural) area, with a lake surrounded by trees, shrubs and flower beds. A path winds round the lake and there are lots of secluded benches and pretty views. Admission is charged for this part of the grounds but is a reasonable £6.50 for adults, with concessions at £5.00 and children £3.50 (2014 prices). This also includes access to the Grand Conservatory - well worth seeing.

    Combined tickets for visits to both house and gardens cost £11.50 for adults, £10.00 for concessions and £5.00 for children, with family tickets at £26.00. This is well worth doing on your first visit, as the house is wonderful, but living nearby we tend not to bother with that as one or two visits are enough to have seen all its treasures.

    But once you have exhausted the pleasures of house and gardens, there is still so much to do here. We visit regularly to shop in the excellent Garden Centre which sells very good quality plants and many other garden necessities as well. Their selection of pots is particularly good, and as we have a patio garden this is a must for us.

    Other attractions here include an indoor adventure playground, Snakes and Ladders, which is run by an outside company and therefore incurs an additional charge – check the website for details of this if you’re taking little ones along. Note that it is closed for refurbishment during spring 2014 and due to reopen in the summer. There is also a trout fishery (in the six acre lake originally constructed by Capability Brown) - see http://alburyestatefisheries.co.uk/ for more about this if you're keen on fishing.

    With all these attractions, and other shopping opportunities too, plus a café, you can see that it would be very easy to spend a whole day, and a whole lot of money, here at Syon. You can even stay the night, as Hilton have opened a hotel in the grounds. But you can also have a free day out if you simply enjoy the park-lands, with their views of the River Thames, and take along a picnic lunch and a Frisbee!

    Directions Take the Piccadilly line to Hammersmith then bus 267, or to Boston Manor and bus E8

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    Foundling Museum

    by toonsarah Updated Apr 19, 2014

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    The Foundling Museum

    Update April 2014: admission prices revised, opening hours checked, information expanded

    This museum tells the story of the Foundling Hospital which was London's first home for abandoned children. It was founded by the philanthropist Thomas Coram, but is equally well known for the support of two famous patrons, the artist William Hogarth and the composer George Frederic Handel. In fact Handel gave regular benefit performances of his Messiah in the Hospital chapel to raise money to support the children housed here.

    In the early eighteenth century up to a thousand babies a year were abandoned in London. In 1739 Thomas Coram established his “Hospital for the Maintenance and Education of Exposed and Deserted Children” which looked after more than 27,000 children until its closure in 1953. The Foundling Museum tells the story of these foundlings and their lives. Among the most poignant of its displays are the many objects which their distraught mothers, unable to care for them, left with their abandoned children as a single link to their past. These include cheap jewellery, locks of hair and scraps of blanket. There is also a collection of nineteenth century art including works by John Everett Millais, and of course some paintings by the patron, Hogarth.

    The museum is open Tuesdays to Saturdays 10.00 AM – 5.00 PM and Sundays 11.00 AM – 5.00 PM (closed on Mondays). Admission is £7.50 for adults, £5.00 for concessions and free for children up to 16 years.

    Nearby is Coram’s Fields, a seven acre playground and park for children living in or visiting London, occupying the site of the original Foundling Hospital. This is a great place to come if you have children in tow, but don’t bother if you haven’t, as no adult is permitted to enter without a child. Facilities include a playground (with equipment suitable for disabled children), grassy areas for ball games and picnics, and a Pets Corner (with sheep, goats, ducks, hens and more).

    40 Brunswick Square, London WC1N 1AZ

    The nearest tube station is Russell Square (Piccadilly Line) but Kings Cross, with many more lines, is only a short walk away

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

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    Go to Greenwich for the day

    by toonsarah Updated Apr 19, 2014

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    Greenwich - view from the Observatory
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    Update April 2014: website corrected

    If the bustle of London sightseeing starts to feel a little too overpowering, head to Greenwich for the day. There's plenty to see and do here but the pace is a little slower and there's a sense of village life and community which can be lacking (from a tourist's perspective at least) in the centre of the city. Attractions include:
    ~ the excellent National Maritime Museum with its collection of seafaring and navigation artefacts
    ~ the Queen's House, designed by Inigo Jones for the wife of King James 1, where you can see Turner's famous painting of the Battle of Trafalgar
    ~ Greenwich Observatory, where the focus is on astronomy and time measurement, and where you can literally stand astride the Greenwich Meridian, from where the world's time is measured!
    ~ the new Planetarium, where you're invited to take a 20 minute journey through time and space
    ~ the lovely park with its fantastic views of the River Thames and the skyline of the City of London and Docklands
    ~ a great market, with craft and food stalls, plus interesting shops and welcoming pubs
    ~ and, once restoration (sadly recently hampered by a fire) is complete, the Cutty Sark, a traditional tea clipper now in dry dock here

    To get here take the Docklands Light Railway or take the scenic route on a boat trip from several central London spots

    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Historical Travel

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    Smaller art galleries

    by toonsarah Updated Apr 19, 2014

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    Proud Gallery near Trafalgar Square

    Update April 2014: website links updated

    Of course you'll want to check out some of London's famous galleries like the National Gallery and the Tate, but if you like art I recommend that you also investigate some of the city's smaller galleries. We like to go to photography exhibitions so the Photographers' Gallery is a regular destination for us. The Proud Galleries are also excellent for photography exhibitions - there is one in Camden and another in central London near Trafalgar Square. A recent great exhibition at the latter featured photos of 1950s London taken by the film director Ken Russell.

    These websites will help you find an exhibition that appeals to you:
    Londonist (a great website for all sorts of ideas on things to do in London)
    New exhibitions of contemporary art
    Proud Galleries
    Photographers' Gallery
    Time Out London's art listings

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture

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London Off The Beaten Path

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There are many well-beaten paths in London as befits one of the major travel destinations in the world, but that is not the whole story.  Visitors may well visit Buckingham Palace,  the...

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