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The Courtauld Gallery Somerset House.
The Gallery is at the entry of Somerset House. You have to pay to visit the Courtauld Gallery but you can take photos, something forbidden at the National Gallery.
It is a small museum with 15 rooms (3 for temporary exhibitions) on two floors but is has some outstanding Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings on display. There are also works from the Renaissance and Baroque periods but it are for sure the paintings from the 20th c. for which visitors pay.
Outstanding are the famous masterpieces such as van Gogh’s "Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear", Manet’s great last painting "Bar aux Folies-Bergères", from Renoir "La Loge" and several paintings from Cézanne and Degas.
Closer to us in time are the French "Fauves" and a famous "Female Nude" from Modigliani. I found here also a Kandinsky, a contemporary painter I liked when I was young.
On the time of my visit there was a special exhibition "Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril - Beyond the Moulin Rouge" which attracted many British visitors.
It's a fact that the Courtauld Gallery has a public of amateurs and connoisseurs different from the public of the National Gallery.
Open: Daily 10.00 – 18.00 h (last admission 17.30)
Admission Adults £6; Concessions £5 (includes over 60s, international students).
On Mondays 3£.
Free admission for under 18s, full-time UK students.
Admission charge includes entrance to all temporary exhibitions and displays.
- Arts and Culture
- Museum Visits
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.
As this museum is next to the Wellington Barracks where the new guard is formed before leaving for the change of guards at Buckingham Palace, I paid a visit to this museum at the opening at 10 am.
The museum contains information and artefacts relating to the five regiments of Foot Guards namely Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards. Along with the two regiments of Household Cavalry they make up Her Majesty’s Household Division and are guarding The Sovereign and the Royal Palaces.
The Guards are elite regiments existing since about 350 years and involved in almost every major campaign since their creation. They fought in France and Belgium during WW I and WW II. The Guards Armoured division liberated a large part of Belgium begin September 1944.
For me they were the first friendly soldiers I saw on 3-4th September 1944 when they liberated Brussels. I received my first chewing gum probably from a Welsh Guard on a Cromwell tank (ref my tip on the liberation of Brussels Bruxelles-Brussel )
The dominating colour in the museum is that of crimson of the Guards tunics.
It is clear that the collection is intended to help young Guardsmen learn about their regimental heritage and to show a wider public the multi-faceted nature of their operational lives both in combat and on ceremonial duties.
The tourist attending the change of guards at Buckingham might think that Guards are only there for the parade. This is quite wrong; Guard regiments are operational and were fighting in Afghanistan. On the day before my visit the Welsh Guards had their colonel killed by a roadside bomb in Helmand, South Afghanistan.
Open each day 10:00am to 4:00pm
Admission (2013): Adults - £5.00. Senior Citizens and Students - £2.50. Serving Military Personnel - £1.00.
Free: 16 years
No photos allowed
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
An afternoon spent with VT'ers in the London Bridge area found me paying a visit to The Clink Museum. This small museum is located just near Vinopolis, behind Borough Market, and it is probably most famous for being the place the term 'in the clink' was coined.
It is located on the site of the original Clink Prison, which is possibly the oldest prison in England. Initially is was a women's prison and it sounds like conditions were not too nice for the gals, nor the men who followed later. The prison was used from the 12th to 18th centuries, and a visit to the museum gives you a feel for the conditions they lived under - having to eat rodents and live in sewage-flooded cells.
The best part of a visit is that you can see and touch the torture devices and restraints that were used on the prisoners - my 'favourite' was The Boot. This is a large, iron boot that the prisoner had to put their foot in - then wood was packed in around their foot, which was then wet so the wood swelled and crushed the foot. Next, a fire would be lit below the boot, causing the contents to heat up so much that the foot would drop off! Nice.
The museum gives you a lot of history about the prison system in England and other general talk about life in the prison. To be honest it is a little disappointing and possibly not worth the £5 entry fee - look out for the 2for1 offers at Tube stations which makes it much better value and worth a quick visit.
- Family Travel
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
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.
My darling husband is a very fond of design and therefore the Design Museum was a must see during our early days in London. The museum claims to be "one of the world's leading museums of modern and contemporary design", and since its opening in 1989 it has won acclaim for some of its cutting edge exhibitions. The museum covers product, industrial, graphic, fashion and architectural design.
It is housed in a converted warehouse, and its modern design makes the space worth a visit in itself, along with its excellent location by the river - check out the museum's café for lovely views.
Each year the Design Museum holds the coveted 'Designer of the Year' contest, helping to discover the countries up and coming young designers.
We enjoyed a wander through the exhibitions, with some chairs being of particular interest to Alex.
Open daily from 10am - 5.45pm, except for the 25th & 26th of Dec
Entry Fee: £7 adults, £4 students + concessions, Free for under 12s (Nov 2006)
- Arts and Culture
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.
Garden History Museum
An exquisite and little known museum in the beautifully renovated St Mary at Lambeth Church - dedicated to plant and garden history. There's a replicated 15th century "knot garden" in the deconsecrated graveyard, and the tomb of William Bligh (Captain of The Bounty) is also here.
Within the museum are are collections of gardening tools and implements and artefacts throughout history - Elizabethan dibbers and barrels used to transport plants from foreign lands (which sadly and inevitably died from the salt in the sea spray :( But thankfully, some survived and gave us the variety of plant-life we have in our gardens today.
There is also the most wonderful little restaurant serving delicious organic, homemade vegetarian cakes and flans and soups, salads and teas, - at prices to suit all purses, ranging from £3 for the soup (with chunks of homemade bread) up to around £6 for something more elaborate. The phone number for the cafe is 020 7735 9821.
Entry for adults to the museum is £3 and is open from 10.30am - 5pm 7 days a week.
Check it out - it's a real "hidden gem" and please have a look at the website for more of the history of how this museum came to be.
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.
Royal Academy of Arts
The Royal Academy of the Arts is an impressive complex located on Piccadilly, close to Piccadilly Circus. Its collection includes examples of fine arts from the 18th century to the present.
The Academy doesn't receive funding from the state or the Royals, but instead gets its revenue from hosting temporary art exhibitions. It is also home to the oldest art school in the country, and each year there are two exhibitions showing the students work.
The large courtyard at the front of the Academy is sometimes home to some unusual art - last time I popped by there was a colourful pyramid like structure, along with a large statue of the 'Virgin Mother' - one half showed the inside of the woman, unborn baby and all.
Inside the Academy, besides the various interesting exhibitions of course, there is a stylish restaurant and a more relaxed café. There is also an interesting shop, selling a range of items such as art books, jewellery and handbags.
- Arts and Culture
NATIONAL ARMY MUSEUM.
This museum was founded in 1960 to "explain the history of the Army … to reconnect the Army with society". It seemed to me, on this first visit, that the National Army Museum was complementary of the better known Imperial War Museum but also in competition with this last one for the 20th century period.
Original, and instructive for the foreign visitor, are the departments concerning:
1° "The making of Britain 1066 -1783" with the invasions, contest for the crown, civil war and the role of the Army in creating the state of Great-Britain.
2° "Changing the World 1784 - 1904" with the role of the Army in the founding of the British Empire.
This is to be found on lower ground, ground and first floors. The displays are using dioramas, reconstitutions of good quality which are clearly aimed to a public of families with children and schools. There is even a "kids' zone" for "learning through play".
The two other departments "World Wars 1905 - 1947" and "Fighting for Peace" are well illustrated but for this part of British military history there is the competition of the Imperial War Museum.
There are each year special exhibitions.
Every Day 10.00am-5.30pm
Except 24 - 26 December, 1 January, Good Friday, early May bank holiday.
No photos allowed. Why? Photos are allowed at the Imperial War Museum!
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
The Old Operating Theatre
This tiny museum is home to London's earliest operating theatre. It was found in the roof of St Thomas's where surgeons performed operations centuries ago, before anasthaesia, ether, or aspirin were discovered, or the neighbouring Guy's hospital were ever thought about!
At the moment the actual operating theatre is undergoing restoration and tickets are reduced at £4.25, visitors are offered a half price ticket to see it another time. I first came here about 20 years ago when tickets were 50p! The current displays are of ancient surgical tools, instruments and other "medical" artefacts. There are "scientific illustrations" of operations and the human body (be warned! LOL!) There is also a lot of info about the herbs and their usage in medicine (the garret was used to store these).
The thing that I found most disturbing was the "Surgeon's stick" - when there was absolutely nothing else that could be given to a poor sod about to have his leg hacked off with a rusty blade, the surgeon would thrust the stick sideways into the patient's mouth for him to bite down on.... and the stick on display has teeth marks!!
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
- Family Travel
The Lady with the Lamp
The small but fascinating Florence Nightingale Museum is dedicated to the work of the pioneer of modern nursing - fondly known as "The Lady with the Lamp". Ms Nightingale was born in 1820 to a wealthy land-owning family and - much to their horror at her choice of career - dedicated her life to revolutionising the nursing system in this country following her ceaseless work in the1854-56 Crimea War between Russia and Turkey. Horrified at the treatment (or lack of it) of the sick and wounded, (some laying for days and days with the most horrific injuries and no care forthcoming)- she set about improving the treatment of the patients by raising standards of cleanliness, hygiene and the training and quality of the nursing staff.
This museum tells of her background, her life and her career. It's £5.80 entry for adults 4.20 for children and concessions or you can get a family ticket for £13.00 and includes a video presentation.
Sat, Sun and Bank Hols 10am-4.30pm
Closed Good Friday, Easter Sunday and 24th Dec- 2nd Jan.
Car parking is £3.00 per hour and they recommend you allow 1- 1.1/5 (that's an hour to an hour and half) for your visit
Did you know... Florence toured Greece and rescued a Little Owl from some Greek youths? She kept it in her pocket and brought it back to the UK as a pet. Did you know she had a sister called Parthenope?? You can find out more of these little interesting facts at the museum!
This beautiful Art Nouveau "Free Museum" was built by Victorian tea magnate Frederick Horniman in 1897 in South London. With unusual collections of artefacts from around the world, in three sections, natural history, music and world culture it makes for an interesting day out for all the family! My boys loved this place when they were around 7 and 10, especially the giant stuffed walrus and the aquarium going up the escalators!
Special exhibitions have to be paid for and there's a little shop and restaurant too.
- Road Trip
- Museum Visits
Bramah's Tea and Coffee Museum
Tea and coffee were, for centuries, unloaded at the docks in London. For £4 a ticket for adults the museum in Southwark Street tells it's history.
The museum is also a tea room and visitors can have a selection of sandwiches, cakes and scones and a pot of tea of their choice (and the choice is VAST) for about £4-8 per person. They sometimes have a pianist playing while you nibble your cucumber sandwiches too!
I know that some visitors from overseas think this "afternoon tea" thing is the epitome of Englishness, but really it isn't. Yes we do like our tea, but we like it in teabags from the supermarket, and we drink it all day in big mugs, not just at teatime - whenever that was. And we certainly don't sit around a chintz covered table with a china cake stand full of cream scones and slices of lemon drizzle cake. But if that's what you want, that's what you'll find here, all graciously served by the typically English Japanese student.
I didn't visit the museum, it seemed like a bit of tourist trap to be honest. You can buy tea of all kinds here as well as a plethora of tea related stuff, like pots, cosies, spoons, etc etc.
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