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The Crypt Gallery in St. Pancras Church.
There is a gallery in a church in London, called the Crypt Gallery. I had walked by a couple of times and adored the big statues above the crypt and was intrigued. The gallery is in St. Pancras Church by Euston and these huge statues adorn the church and make it stand out. I had visited the church a couple of times, but the Crypt Gallery was always closed. So I found out when the next exhibition would take place and it was only for 5 days in March. One can read up on their homepage when the Crypt Gallery is open.
Visiting the Crypt Gallery was amazing, I am truly amazed at how some of the crypts in London churches are used for exhibitions etc. Walking there in the crypt looking at various - very good - works of art, gave me a surreal feeling. Especially when visiting one room, which was red, everything in it was red and one was offered to take off one´s shoes and step in and sit down on the red pillows and read up on the purpose of the room. The exhibition was in aid of the international women´s day (March 8th), so the artwork was on women and how they are perceived and their role.
The Crypt has been used as a gallery space since 2002. But the Crypt was taken in use for coffins in 1822 and was used until 1854. There are 557 people buried here, making it so strange being able to walk around here looking at work of art.
The Crypt was used as an air-raid shelter in both WW I and WW II. This area was heavily bombed as very close by are Euston station, St. Pancras and King´s Cross stations. On the website of the Crypt Gallery one can read up on the life of a young girl, Georgina, whose mother ran a canteen in the crypt.
Leighton House Museum - Where East Meets West.
I visited Leighton House with a friend of mine, who had heard that it was amazing. I didn´t look it up on the Internet, I wanted to go there without knowing anything about it and experience the "wow" factor. When we got to the house we were kind of surprised. This cannot be it... As from the outside it looks like a normal house, but stepping inside takes one to another world. It certainly did have the "wow" factor.
Frederic, Lord Leighton, Baron of Stretton (1830-1896) was one of the most famous British artists of his time and Leighton House is the best example of a 19th century home of an artist, which is open to the public in the UK. It is truly amazing. Leighton constructed it from 1864 and added to it until he died in 1896. Leighton´s grandfather was the physician to the Russian Royal Family in St. Petersburg and he was supported by his family.
Leighton belonged to the Aesthetic Movement - they wanted to counteract the Victorian Britain and wanted beauty in the world and blended art work from different cultures - this can be seen in Leighton House. So many beautiful artefacts from different cultures.
The most stunning hall in the house is the Arab Hall which was added to the house in 1877. It is truly amazing. Leighton travelled to the Middle East and brought home with him a large collection of Middle Eastern art and the 16th and 17th century tiles for the hall. The hall contains hundreds of beautiful tiles from Damascus and Syria. There are verses from the Koran on the walls. I was thinking I had to learn Arabic as I wanted to know what it meant. I found out that it was a verse about the creation of the world.
On the second floor is Leighton´s big studio, where he painted many of his beautiful paintings. And his bedroom, which came as a surprise to me, compared to the grandeur of the house, the bedroom is minimalistic to say the least. On the second floor is also the Silk Room with an Egyptian latticework window, overlooking the Arab Hall. Exquisite - and woke up in me a longing to visit the Middle East and Egypt.
The first buyer of Leighton´s major painting was Queen Victoria in 1855. She visited Leighton house in 1869. In 1878 Leighton became the President of the Royal Academy of Arts. He had no family of his own and his home became a museum after his death. He is the only artist to become ennobled and was buried in St. Paul´s Cathedral.
Leighton House was damaged by a bomb in WW2 and reconstructed.
Opening hours: Every day except Tuesday from 10:00-17:30.
Admission: GBP 5.
No photos are allowed. I saw no sign so I took photos. I so hate the reaction of the curator. He came towards me from another room telling me off. I cannot even take this seriously anymore, what is the big deal with this? I saw people taking photos with their iPhone. So I asked when I left where it says that no photos are allowed. The man in the reception pointed me to a sentence behind the "cloakroom", covered up by overcoats. And that there was a sentence in small letters (his words) by the entrance, where it says that no photos are allowed without the permission of the curators. I doubt that anybody sees this sentence.
After passing the Palace we headed towards Whitehall, on the way we stopped at the Guards Museum at Wellington Barracks on Birdcage Walk.
Wellington Barracks is the home of the five regiments of Foot Guards.
The museum first opened in 1988 and has now announced a partnership with the Royal Armories which can only make it even better!
There is a fantastic shop where you can buy all kinds of souvenirs to do with The Foot Guards from toy soldiers to Drum Ice Buckets all with the individual Guards regiment badges or the Divisional badge.
The shop is open seven days a week 10.00am to 4.00pm
10:00am to 4:00pm Seven days a week
Adults - £5.00
Senior Citizens 65 and over, Ex-military and Students - £2.50
Serving Military Personnel - £1.00
Children (16 years of age and under) - FREE OF CHARGE
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The Wallace Collection.
The Wallace Collection was recommended to me by an Australian VT-member, when we met up in a bar for a London-Calling meeting. From what she told me it sounded amazing. The day after I went to visit the gallery, and was not disappointed.
The Wallace Collection is now a national museum at Hertford house, consisting of 29 galleries, each one of them containing art treasures. It was a private collection of the 3rd and 4th Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, who was the son of the 4th Marquess. They collected exquisite art work in the 18th and 19th century. But the previous 2 Marquesses also contributed to the collection. Lady Wallace donated the collection to the British nation in 1897. It is the finest art collection assembled by one family.
This is a fascinating collection, unbelievable how much this family collected, what passion for the collection. I even found an Icelandic drinking horn, made from bull horn, from ca 1650 at the Wallace Collection. Such varied is their colleciton.
But the main collection consists of French 18th century paintings, porcelain, furniture and all kinds of art work. In one gallery one can see a large collection of beautiful miniatures and gold boxes. In another paintings of the Old Masters, etc, etc - truly amazing. And the rooms at the gallery are a work of art, where ever I looked it was a feast for the eyes.
It is a pity that VT only allows for 5 photos with a tip, as I had difficulties selecting photos, some photos of remarkable art I had to leave behind, as it were.
Opening hours: 10:00-17:00.
Photos without flash are allowed.
The Hellenic Centre.
On my walks in London I came across the Hellenic Centre in Marylebone. There was an exhibition and free entrance so I popped in.
The Hellenic Centre is a charitable and cultural organization, aiming at awareness of the Hellenic culture in UK. So for anyone interested in the Greek and Cybriot culture the Hellenic Centre is the place to visit.
There are exhibitions at the Hellenic Centre, social events, Greek language courses, concerts, conferences and lectures.
When I visited there was a very informative photo exhibition in the Great Hall on Smyrna and the desctruction of a cosmopolitan City 1900-1922. I was alone at the gallery and absorbed the history of Smyrna and its culture and destruction in 1922. The photos were amazing and told the story so vividly that I was in tears over the fate of Smyrna and the Greek and Armenian inhabitants. These photos were unknown and came from American and European archives and private collections.
No photos were allowed.
This was a temporary exhibition, but there is so much more that the Hellenic Centre has to offer and I will keep an eye out for upcoming events and exhibitions. Most of their exhibitions, concerts and lectures are free of charge.
The Courtauld gallery at Somerset House.
The Courtauld Gallery is one of the many smaller galleries at Somerset House. On their website they refer to it as one of the finest small museums in the world.
The world famous collection ranges from the early Renaissance to the 20th century and gallery is best known for its Impressionist and Post Impressionist paintings. Here are paintings by some of the great masters, Picasso, Vincent Van Gough, Monet, Manet, Matisse, Degas, Gauguin, Cézanne and more.
Here one can see the world famous painting "A Self-Portrait with a Bandaged Ear" by Vincent Van Gough. And "A Bar at the Folies-Bergére" by Manet.
There are so many wonderful paintings here that I was taken aback. And the gallery itself is very impressive, several halls with ceilings that are beautiful artwork in themselves. The staircase is also a work of art.
On the ground floor is a small exhibition of Medieval and Renaissance paintings with the jewel in the crown being the Lamentation Triptych by the Master of Flemalle.
Opening hours: Daily from 10:00-18:00.
Admission: GBP 6. Mondays half price.
Photos allowed without flash.
The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology.
The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology is one of the museums of the UCL, University College London. It is in the Museum Mile brochure. It is a small museum, kind of hidden away, but a highly recommended visit. One wouldn´t even tell from looking at it from outside that it were a museum, but inside are true treasures. If you want to see dresses older than the pyramids, then the Petrie Museum is the place to visit.
When I arrived the curator gave me a flashlight, with instructions not to shine it into my eyes, as the light were extremely strong. But the flashlight was needed to shine a light into the many showcases, where there was little light. Then he told me to not to forget to visit the showroom with the oldest dresses from Ancient Egypt, as they were very important. And not to forget to open a door on the right leading to another small section of the museum. But I should not try to open a red door, close to the door leading to that special section, as that would trigger all kinds of alarm. I was totally confused, but managed to find all that he had instructed me to find, without triggering all kinds of alarm ;)
At the museum one can see two dresses from Deshasheh, which are the oldest pieces of clothing to survive from Ancient Egypt, dating back to Dynasty 5 (2494-2343 BC). They were found in 1897 in Deshasheh by Petrie. Crimping was used on the fabric to make them stretch. It was very difficult to take a decent photo of the dresses, which were in a showcase, with humidity and temperature levels monitored. But seeing that this part of the museum had such narrow corridors I could only take a photo from the side of the showcase. There were showcases all along the museum walls with various kinds of ceramic jars and beautiful artefacts. And a lot of necklaces/beads made of various semi-precious minerals, found in the graves.
In another showroom there was a 5000 year old tunic on display. And a dress of a dancer made entirely of a net of beats from ca 2400 BC.
There are more than 80.000 objects at the museum, so it takes a while walking through it. The museum contains one of the greatest collections of Egyptian archaeology in the world. And a Sudanese collection as well.
There are such detailed objects in the long showcases, here are shoes, socks and sandals, combs, jewellery, clay artefacts, endless small objects. It gave me a feeling of closeness to these people, living such a long time ago, they were just doing the same stuff we were doing, going about their lives.
There are also several mummy portraits from the Roman period (100-200 AD) - in fact the museum contains the largest number of mummy portraits in the world.
There is a special Egyptian section at the British Museum, which is very good and comprehensive, but walking through the showcases at the Petrie Museum in peace and quiet is also highly recommended.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 13:00–17:00.
William Matthews Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) was a very noted Egyptologist and escavated in many of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt. In 1913 Petrie sold his collection to the UCL. His life-story and work is well worth reading up on, but seeing that my tip has become very long, although I have only touched on few of the objects at the Petrie museum, then I can only urge people interested in archaeology in Egypt to read up on Flinders Petrie.
The Grant Museum of Zoology.
Now this is an interesting museum, the Grant Museum of Zoology. It is in the brochure "Museum Mile" and is one of the UCL, University College London, museums. It is a small museum, but very extensive, with so many showpieces, as it were. If one wants to see extinct species specimens then this is the museum to visit.
But be warned, it is not really for the squeamish like me or strict vegans or animal lovers for that matter, and the same goes for another museum I visited the day after, the Hunterian museum. But I got through them, although nausea caught up with me in both museums. Here are a lot of animals in formaldehyde. And a selection of brains in formaldehyde. And a selection of bisected animal heads in formaldehyde, including the seal.
I must say though that seeing a dissected cat in formaldehyde proved to be a little too much, but that is just me ;)
It is an excellent museum with so many interesting artefacts, like that of distinct animals as the dodo-bird (extinct in 1681), thylacine (extinct in 1936) and the guagga (extinct in 1883), which is the rarest skeleton in the world. So the museum is well worth a visit.
There are iPads all over the museum, where one can answer questions on controversial topics. And there is a "Top ten Objects" tour, where one has to look for the rarest of species or the most interesting objects at the museum. It is a tour one does by oneself and makes the visit more interesting and enlightening.
One can f.ex. see a skeleton of a dugong, a sea-mammal which triggered the myths of mermaids, take a photo of oneself inside a shark´s row of sharp teeth, see the heart of an elephant, see a way too lively head of a seal in liquid, see the amazing skeleton of an anaconda etc. And see a jar full of preserved moles, which is kind of strange looking at.
The museum was founded in 1827 and is the last remaining University zoology museum in London. The museum is named after Robert Edmond Grant (1793-1874), who was the first Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy in England. He founded the museum for it to serve as a collection for teaching for the University of London. As when he started teaching he had no material to show for teaching, so he started collecting specimens, which are now at the Grant Museum of Zoology. It is not only Grant´s specimens, which are at the museum, other museums and institutions have donated to the museum as well as the London Zoo.
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday from 13:00-17:00.
The Brunei Gallery, SOAS, at University of London.
There is a gallery called the Brunei Gallery at SOAS, the School of Oriental and African Studies, at the University of London. This is the only University in the UK which specialises in the study on Africa, Asia and the Near and Middle-East.
The Brunei Gallery is a small gallery, which is in the Museum Mile brochure, so I went there to have a look. Its goal is to promote a better understanding of the history, culture and art in these countries.
The gallery is on 3 floors, with some temporary exhibitions, on the ground floor were beautiful, textile, cloth and clothes from different parts of Africa, Asia and the Near and Middle-East. All were made of natural fibres with natural dyestuffs. Walking down steps into another show-room is more beautiful cloth and clothes - it was a pure delight visiting it.
On the ground floor in an additional show-room are real treasures, books and artefacts from Africa, Asia and the Near and Middle-East. Exquisite work of art. There were illustrated books there as well, Chinese and Japanese paintings, a 16th century Islamic book on animal fables, the Bible and the Koran and more and more. It was not allowed to take photos in that show-room, but everybody was taking photos in the other show-rooms, so I gather that it was allowed. But there are photos on their website of some of the artefacts in the show-room.
On the second floor is a photo exhibition from an Indian religious festival in London. On the roof there is a Japanese Roof Garden, but seeing I was alone on this floor I didn´t know if I could go out and have a look, so I just admired it from afar.
Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday from 10:30-17:00. On Thursdays they are open until 20:00 like many other museums and galleries. Sunday and Monday closed.
The Flaxman Gallery at the UCL.
There is a lovely small gallery at the UCL, The University College London, The Flaxman Gallery. I had got a brochure "Museum Mile" and three of the galleries were at the UCL. While looking for the UCL Art Museum at the Strang Print Room, which is small and contains drawings, plaster models and prints by John Flaxman, I was told to have a look at the Flaxman Gallery, which is not listed in the "Museum Mile". And they gave me a very good brochure with photos from the gallery.
The Flaxman Gallery is at the UCL Main Library in the Wilkins Building. One has to get a visitor´s pass and sign in and out and go through a security gate.
The Flaxman Gallery is so beautiful, small, round and probably a meeting point for students, but I love sculptures, so I would not have missed it. In the middle of the gallery is a sculpture of St. Michael overcoming Satan (1819-1824). The finished sculpture is at Petworth House in West-Sussex.
John Flaxman (1755-1826) was the leading sculptor in England in his time - his work is so good, it takes one to another world. He studied art in Rome and his work is in Neoclassical style. Here at the gallery one can find the largest single group of work by Flaxman. He was one of the first sculptors to use plaster models. The plaster models are at the Flaxman Gallery. Flaxman became the first professor of sculpture at the Royal Academy.
Larger works of Flaxman are f.ex. the Monument to Lord Nelson at St. Paul´s Cathedral.
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday from 09:30-20:45, Friday from 10:00-20:45, Saturday from 11:00-17:45, Sunday closed.
Somerset House is a truly imposing structure on the north side of the Thames, close to Waterloo Bridge and the Embankment. It has had a sad history, although one that you wouldn’t be able to guess from its current state. It was named after the Duke of Somerset, who commissioned its construction in the middle of the 16th century. The Duke was eventually executed for his attempt to seize power, and the house passed into the hands of the Royals. They maintained it as a residence for the Queen during the 17th century, although it briefly passed into the hands of the state during the Civil War and, after it was returned to the Royal family, began a slow decline into disrepair. In the 1700s, Somerset House ceased to be a Royal residence and instead was taken up as a government installation, to be used as the offices of a number of government agencies. This requires considerable renovation and reconstruction, which were undertaken throughout the 18th century and indeed lasted well into the first half of the 19th century. The result was a magnificent construction that, despite the great cost, still did not take on the full shape of the current building. The government could not pay for the completion of the initial plan on its own, and thus it leased out land for the construction of King’s College, and on a separate plot, land for the construction of homes for the Admiralty. These buildings are still standing today, although the homes for the Admiralty have been taken over and included in the government-managed sections. The House was badly damaged during the blitzkrieg, but was restored in the 1950s. Today, the sections of Somerset House that do not house King’s College are installations for art exhibitions and other cultural events, many of which are temporary in nature. During the winter, there’s even an ice rink in the centre of the terrace.
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Royal Academy of Arts
The Royal Academy of Arts can make the visitor feel as if she is being transported out of London to some country estate owned by an aristocratic patron of the British art scene. Recessed from Piccadilly Street and benefitting from a large courtyard (one that is usually occupied by a monumental temporary exhibit), the Academy is both a school and an exhibition space. The Academy moved to its current location in Burlington House a century after its foundation in the 1760s. While the Academy sought to provide exhibitions for the products of the arts, it also was charged with the mandate of ensuring that artists had access to quality and comprehensive education, and thus is the oldest art school in the United Kingdom. The current school is a post-graduate course, implying that the Academy is not a degree-granting institution along the lines of a university, but nevertheless seeks to foster artistic development and exchange among the various disciplines of the arts in Britain. While the initial purpose, or at least one of the initial purposes of the Academy was to provide a venue in which British artists could exhibit their works to the public, the general development of interest in British arts and culture has allowed the Academy to broaden the scope of its curatorial activities. It continues to promote contemporary and young British artists, but it also provides exhibitions of foreign and historical schools of art. When I visited Burlington House in 2011, they were showing both a collection of works by Degas focusing on dancers and one of futurist and constructivist ideas in Soviet arts from the 1920s and 1930s.
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Britain at War
Britain at War is intended to provide visitors and residents to London with a memorial to the hardships and sacrifices that Londoners suffered during the Second World War. While there are, properly put, War Museums and memorials throughout the city and the country, Britain at War is not so much a history of war as a history of privation, a tribute to the daily lives of Londoners, their hopes, aspirations, fears and indignities. While Londoners never lived under occupation, they experienced the constant threat of invasion, made all the more harrowing by the blitzkrieg. While much of the items on display might be tainted by a whiff of kitsch, there has been a genuine effort made to ensure that this is not just an exercise in romanticizing the War Years, but also a compendium of six hard years that provided fodder for the profound changes experienced by Britons in the post-War period.
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Bank of England museum.
I stumbled upon this museum by accident, really. It is not flashy, as it were. I was there taking photos of The Bank of England and wanted to get a close up of one of the gold statues on top, when I saw that there was a museum with free admittance. So I jumped at the chance and decided on popping in.
The staff was so lovely and for security reasons they had to search my bag at the security check.
The Museum was opened in November 1988 by the Queen. At the museum one can learn all about the history of the bank, which was founded in 1694. The nick-name for the Bank of England is "The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street" :)
What impressed me the most at the museum was the goldbar, which one was allowed to lift up by putting one´s hand inside the heavily secured glass-case, containing the gold-bar. It was surprisingly heavey (13 kilos). There is a HUGE storage of gold-bars at the Bank of England, the nation´s whole treasure of gold-bars. At the museum one can see and read up on the part gold played in the bank´s history.
What surprised me is that counterfitting was so common - even though the punishment for counterfitting was the capital punishment. In one part of the museum one can see the security features which the Bank of England takes in the fight against forgery. I saw the same thing at the British museum, pound coins whiche were fake, but looked totally real. And the amount of counterfit money that is in circulation is amazing.
At the bank one can learn how banknotes are designed and made. And try to control inflation by a lever... quite difficult. It is the role of the Bank of England to set interest rates and control inflation.
The Bank of England was one of the first institutions in the City to employ women in 1894.
The Bank of England got nationalised in 1946 - from being founded in 1694 as a chartered joint stock company.
As you enter the museum the first room you enter is a reconstruction of the Bank Stock office, which was built in 1793 - by the architect Sir John Soane (see my tip on his home). In 1734 the bank moved to Threadneedle Street (the entrance to the museum is not on that street though). I have always loved the name of this street. When I was studying in London back in 1987 I used to walk down through City from Old street and down to Southwark bridge road, where I lived for a couple of months. The name of this street sounded so nice to me, Threadneedle Street :D The building has been through major alterations through the centuries.
The first bank-manager (governor) was a Huguenot, Sir John Houblon. The bank is the only bank (since 1708) which can issue banknotes. From 1780, when rioters stormed the Bank of England, until 1973, a military guard was employed to guard the bank - that is how the saying "As safe as the Bank of England" originated. Up to the late nineteenth century the bank had private customers, but from that time it became a government´s bank.
There is a lot of silver objects on display as the bank owns a large selection of silver, many of the artefacts date back to the opening of the bank.
No photos are allowed - probably for security reasons as well, so I only add photos from outside the museum.
Entrance fee: Free.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday: 10:00 - 17:00.
Dulwich Picture Gallery
This is Englands oldest purpose built art gallery and it was designed by Sir John Soane in 1811.
There is a permamant collection but also visiting collections.
The cafe is good but expensive.
Of note is the fact Sir Gilbert Scott based the design of the classic phonebox on the mausoleum that stands behind the gallery - there is a typical phonebox in the grounds to illustrate this.
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