Victoria House in Whitefriars | An unusual blend of 19th century architecture

The story of a former Fleet Street printing house.

Victoria House on the junction of Tudor Street and Temple Avenue in the Whitefriars district of the City

Many of the surrounding streets of Fleet Street have the industries of law and the press to thank for their many architectural designs. Although the newspapers and publishing houses have moved on, their legacy in the area lives on through their former offices. One of these buildings, the former Argus Printing Company, now survives as a great example of Victorian commercial architecture and is now luxury apartments. Located on the corner of Temple Avenue and Tudor Street in the district of Whitefriars, is a building now known as Victoria House.

The name Whitefriars comes from the former friary, which stood in the area from the 13th to 16th century. Following the dissolution of the friary, the area swiftly went from religious to run-down. At the time, it was located outside the jurisdiction of the City of London so became a magnet for the badly-behaved. The area was known as ‘Alsatia’ and was renowned for its criminal population. However, the Great Fire of London of 1666 provided an opportunity for officials to clean up the area as it was rebuilt.

By the 17th century, Whitefriars became a hub for trade with its many warehouses and wharves. Horwood’s Map of 1799 shows Grand Junction Wharf, Weft & Coves Wharf and White Friars Dock around the site of current Victoria House. Although today, Tudor Street is just over 300 metres long, on Horwood’s Map the name only leant itself to a short stretch of the eastern end. Meanwhile, the western end leading into Inner Temple was called Temple Street until it was renamed as an extension of Tudor Street in the 19th century when the area was altered by construction of the nearby Victoria Embankment in the 1860s. It was during the 19th century that the area of Fleet Street and the surrounding streets – including those in Whitefriars – became a hub for London’s booming newspaper industry. The Victorian era saw the establishment of buildings for both the editorial and production of newspapers and magazines.

Grotesque keystones add some character to the façade

One of the Victorian buildings established for this burgeoning industry was Victoria House, home to the Argus Printing Company. Journalist and politician Harry Marks (1855-1916) established the Argus Printing Company (APC) in 1887 to print his Financial News daily newspaper, which had been founded three years earlier. At its launch, the original Argus printing plant on Bouverie Street wasn’t very large, featuring one machine and rotary press which could produce 12,000 eight-page papers hourly. By 1887, the success of the Financial News meant the APC could buy a larger machine by Hippolyte Auguste Marinoni (1823-1904), which doubled the hourly output. Within a few years, the Bouverie premises were too cramped for the volume of production required so a new site closer to the Thames was acquired in 1891.

The corner features a stone shield and winged Argus

English architect and surveyor Charles Valentine Hunter (1842-1914) was commissioned to design the new building. Hunter was an elected associate of RIBA and had a practice in Queen Victoria Street. Living in south London, he designed many commercial buildings in the area, including warehouses and shops, as well as an extension to the London & County Bank (now demolished – see 1905 archive of the building), all in Brixton. Hunter’s design was an unusual mix of classical and commercial-style architecture and built between 1896-1897. The foundations were built by Messrs Greenwood, while the structure was constructed by Patman and Fotheringham. The ground floor features a rusticated stone façade with round arched windows and doors. Dotted in between openings are keystones with grotesque faces, while the corner features a winged Argus perched on a carved shield – the insignia for the printing company. From the 1st floor and upwards, the red brick frontage is a more industrial look, topped by a balustrade parapet to the roof. If you look up, you’ll notice the Ruabon terracotta dressings.

By then, Argus Printing Company now had 48,000ft of office space, with plenty of space for numerous rotary presses and Linotype machines. It wasn’t long before other magazines and newspapers started being printed in the building, including the Observer and the Illustrated London News. Over time, other publications began sub-letting space in the building, including United Newspapers and the Geographical Museum. Argus also owned another building next door at 15-17 Tudor Street, which was demolished in 1987 (see an archive photo of it in 1969). Among its neighbours were other printing presses, including Co-operative Printing Society, the Daily Mail, Marshall Printers, and John Dicks Press.

In 1958, Argus moved on as the decline of Fleet Street’s newspaper industry continued (see an archive photo of the building in 1971) as the press moved elsewhere. In 1981, most of Tudor Street was designated as part of the Whitefriars Conservation Area, followed by the building being Grade II listed in 1997. During the ’90s, the Argus Printing building was renamed Victoria House and was used as a Salvation Army homeless shelter. In the early 21st century, the building was redeveloped into luxury housing. Today, flats in the building sell for between £900,000 to £1.3million.

  • Victoria House, 23-27 Tudor Street and 8-10 Temple Avenue, Whitefriars, City of London, EC4. Nearest stations: Blackfriars or Temple.

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A detailed terracotta frieze tops the first floor windows

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Oscar Wilde’s London: Discover the playwright’s haunts

Find out where the playwright lived, socialised and, sadly, suffered during his time in London.

Oscar Wilde in 1894Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was one of the world’s most famous playwrights and poets. Born and brought up in Ireland and dying young in France, he also spent a long period of his life in London. Having studied at Oxford, the young graduate moved to London around 1878, where he would remain for 17 years. During his adult life in London, he tasted success with plays such as ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’, ‘A Woman of No Importance’, and ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. However, this was cut short by revelations about his sexuality, which tragically led to his downfall in a society which was not so inclusive as it is today. His last six months in the capital were sadly spent behind bars. Upon his release from prison in Reading, he sailed to France and never returned to London, or the UK, ever again. He died of meningitis in Paris at the tender age of 46 following three years in exile.

Guide to Oscar Wilde’s London sites

  • 44 Tite Street, Chelsea

After graduating from Oxford, Wilde moved in with his university friend and society painter Frank Miles (1852-1891). Wealthy Miles had commissioned architect Edward William Godwin to build him a house, complete with artist’s studio, in 1880. Wilde is listed on the 1881 census as a ‘boarder’ at what was then 1 Tite Street.

– 44 Tite Street, Chelsea, SW3. Nearest station: Sloane Square.

  • St James’s Church, Paddington

Wilde married Constance Lloyd in the Anglican church in May 1884. The Grade II* listed building was designed by Victorian architect George Edmund Street (1824-1881) and completed just two years before the Wildes’ wedding. A plaque to commemorate the Wildes’ ceremony was erected at the east end of the church in 2016.

– Sussex Gardens, Paddington, W2 3UD. Nearest station: Lancaster Gate or Paddington.

  • 34 Tite Street, Chelsea

Wilde and his wife Constance lived together at 16 Tite Street (now 34) from 1884-1895. It was their family home to raise their two sons Cyril (1885-1915) and Vyvyan (1886-1967). Despite Wilde’s sexuality and his affairs, the boys had a good relationship with their father until his arrest. It was at this house that Wilde had a run-in with his lover’s father, the Marquess of Queensberry in June 1894 after he caught the men together at a restaurant. Queensberry threatened to “thrash” Wilde if he caught him with Bosie again. Following the writer’s conviction, Constance changed their sons last name to Holland and got her husband to relinquish his rights to the boys. Today, there is a blue plaque commemorating Wilde’s residence at the house.

– 34 Tite Street, Chelsea, SW3. Nearest station: Sloane Square.

  • St James Theatre (demolished)

Several of Wilde’s plays made their debut at the now-demolished St James’s Theatre in St James. Built in the late Georgian era, the theatre was managed by actor Sir George Alexander (1858-1918) when Wilde was writing plays. The two creatives started a professional partnership, with Lady Windermere’s Fan being presented at the theatre in 1892. In February 1895, the opening night of The Importance of Being Earnest was under threat of disruption by Queensberry, who planned to throw rotten vegetables on stage. However, Wilde received a tip off and had the theatre heavily guarded by police. Queensberry raged in the street outside for three hours, before finally going home. Despite the play’s initial success with critics and audiences, it was short-lived as Wilde was arrested the following April. As public outrage erupted at the Wilde scandal, Alexander tried to keep the run going by removing the playwright’s name from the bill, but to no avail. The production ended prematurely after just 83 performances. St James’s Theatre was eventually demolished in 1957 after 122 years.

– 23-24 King Street, St James, SW1Y 6QY. Nearest stations: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus.

  • James J Fox, St. James

Wilde was an enthusiastic smoker, having acquired the habit while studying at Oxford. While cigars and pipes were popular at the time, he preferred cigarettes, once declaring: “A cigarette is the type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite and it leaves one unsatisfied.” The poet frequently bought his cigarettes from James J Fox, London’s oldest cigar merchant. Today, the shop has a smoking museum downstairs which includes Wilde’s ledger and a High Court letter showing an outstanding balance for the writer’s purchases made between September 1892 and June 1893.

– 19 St James’s Street, St. James’s, SW1A 1ES. Nearest station: Green Park.

  • Truefitt & Hill

Wilde was generally clean-shaven and often visited this top Mayfair barber. Opening in 1805 and securing a royal warrant, it’s the oldest barbershop in the world.

– 71 St James’s St, St. James’s, SW1A 1PH. Nearest station: Green Park.

  • Albemarle Club

The exclusive Albemarle Club in Mayfair was unusual during Wilde’s time because it was a members’ club open to both sexes. Oscar and his wife Constance were both regulars. This club provided a key role in Wilde’s eventual downfall. Scottish nobleman John Sholto Douglas, the 9th Marquess of Queensberry (1844-1900), arrived at the club on 18 February 1895 demanding to see Wilde, who he (correctly) suspected of having a love affair with his son Lord Alfred Douglas (1870-1945). The porter blocked his entry, so Queensberry left a calling card with the message, “For Oscar Wilde, posing somdomite” (sic). Wilde didn’t receive the card until he turned up at the club two weeks later and was so offended by it, he decided to sue Queensberry for criminal libel. It was the libel trial which led to evidence being produced about Wilde’s sexuality, leading to his subsequent arrest and conviction for gross indecency.

– 13 Albemarle Street, Mayfair, W1S 4HJ. Nearest station: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus.

  • Kettner’s

Originally one of the first French restaurants in Soho, Kettner’s opened in 1867 and hosted Wilde, among many other prominent names, at its lounge and champagne bar. Today, Kettner’s is a private members’ club run by Soho House and comprises seven Georgian townhouses.

– 29 Romily Street, Soho, W1D 5HP. Nearest station: Leicester Square or Tottenham Court Road. Read the rest of this entry

Step inside Whitehall’s jewel: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office building

Exploring George Gilbert Scott’s stunning government offices in Westminster.

Foreign Office exterior © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office building’s neo-classical exterior

Many UK Government buildings in Westminster date back to the Victorian era. It was an age when no expense was spared when it came to decorating buildings’ exteriors and interiors, when structures were created to ‘make a statement’ about the people within them. Although the Palace of Westminster gets most of the attention from Londoners and visitors to the capital alike, there is also another remarkable piece of architecture housing a government department. At the time it was built, Britain was at the height of colonial power, so had an extensive budget with which to impressive foreign visitors.

When it came to settling on the final design for what we know today as the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office Building, it was an arduous process to get there. As was (and still is) common at the time, a competition was launched in 1856 to choose the design for the Foreign Office and neighbouring War Office. English architect George Gilbert Scott (1811-1878) ended up in third place in the competition with his original Gothic revival design (see the designs in the RIBA archives), which also incorporated the War Office. However, it was Scott’s former pupil Henry Edward Coe (1826-1885) and his then-partner HH Hofland’s French Visconti-type design which was chosen for the Foreign Office. However, Coe and Hofland’s plans were ditched the following year when Prime Minister Henry John Temple, Lord Palmerston (1784-1865), brought in the government’s favoured architect Sir James Pennethorne (1801-1871), who had originally designed plans for the Foreign Office a few years previously, but had not entered the competition. Lord Palmerston’s decision to dismiss the competition results outraged the architecture industry, with Scott leading the protest against it. In 1858, Lord Palmerston lost power and Scott was given the commission. It was around this time, the plans for the War Office were ditched in favour of the India Office, established in 1858 to take over the governing of India from the East India Company.

The dome topping the Grand Staircase depicts female figures representing countries of the world


The grand staircase is designed to impress

In June 1859, Lord Palmerston was re-elected and kicked up a fuss over Scott’s neo-Gothic design, demanding he redesign something neo-Classical, which the architect described as “a style contrary to my life’s labours”. Scott feared ditching his signature style would leave his reputation as one of the key Gothic Revival architects “irreparably injured”. However, Scott decided turning down the opportunity would be unwise, bought some books on Italian architecture and headed to Paris to study classical buildings, such as the Louvre. The India Office insisted he collaborate with their Surveyor Matthew Digby Wyatt (1820-1877), who designed the interior of their office, leaving Scott to focus on the classical exterior of both offices. The plans were finally approved by the Government in 1861, with construction completed in 1868. The Foreign Office was located on the north-west corner of the building with the India office on the south-west corner, while the Colonial Office and Home Office were added on the eastern side in 1875. Fortunately, Scott’s fears about his reputation were unfounded, with support from his peers and the public. “Even Mr (John) Ruskin said I had done right,” wrote Scott in his Personal & Professional Recollections in 1879. As for Scott’s original Gothic vision of the Foreign Office, it was used as the basis for the Midland Hotel at St Pancras.

The Victorian ceiling stencils and gilding have been restored in the Grand Locarno Suite

On completion, it was the first purpose-built Foreign Office, which by that point had been in existence for nearly 80 years. The white, Portland stone façade features many classical elements, including balustrades, columns and pediments. Dotted around are sculptures of former monarchs and politicians as well as allegorical figures of Law, Commerce and Art by English sculptors Henry Hugh Armstead (1828-1905) and John Birnie Philip (1824-1875). Most enter the complex through the grand arched entrance on King Charles street leading to a large outdoor courtyard. Read the rest of this entry

‘Remembering a Brave New World’ lights up Tate Britain

The light installation by Chila Kumari Singh Burman is on display until the end of February 2021.

remembering a brave new world by Chila Kumari Singh Burman

‘Remembering a Brave New World’ by Chila Kumari Singh Burman on the façade of the Tate Britain

On the façade of the Tate Britain this winter is something a bit different from the typical festive lights. The front steps and portico of the neo-classical building have been lit up with a striking art installation. ‘Remembering a Brave New World’ by Chila Kumari Singh Burman was unveiled in November 2020 to coincide with Diwali, the festival of light. The collection of neon text and imagery is inspired by Hindu mythology, Bollywood, radical feminism, political activism and Burman’s childhood memories. Among the symbols and shapes on display include Hindu deities Lakshmi, Ganesh, Jhansi, and Kali. The pediment is lit up with inspirational and positive words, including love, shine, light, aim, dream and truth, while an ice cream van is perched on the steps.

  • ‘Remembering a Brave New World’ is on display until 28 February 2021. Tate Britain, Millbank, Westminster, SW1P 4RG. Nearest station: Pimlico. For more information, visit the Tate website.

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Christmas cocktails to your front door with The Sun Tavern’s Quarantini kits

Top London bars The Sun Tavern (Bethnal Green) and Discount Suit Company are offering festive concoctions to drink at home.

Choose from Terry’s Chocolate Orange Negroni, Three Kings, Umbrella Buttered Brandy and Xmas Old Fashioned

Although we’re currently in Tier 2, not all Londoners can get to their favourite cocktail bars. However, two of the capital’s award-winning drinking spots are bringing some festive concoctions to your door. The Umbrella Project, the team behind The Sun Tavern and Discount Suit Company, have launched pre-bottled Christmas cocktail Quarantini Kits.

Cocktail fans can enjoy four exclusive bottled cocktails inspired by festive aromas and tastes, including:

Terry’s Chocolate Orange Negroni (Cacao Nib & Orange Peel Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Campari).

Three Kings (Gold Rum, Frankincense, Myrrh, Umbrella London Ginger Beer Syrup, Bitters).

Umbrella Buttered Brandy (Butter Washed Cognac, Rosso Vermut, Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Umbrella Brewing Apple Cider).

Xmas Old Fashioned (Bourbon, Pimento Spiced Liqueur, Douglas Fir & Jasmine Tea Syrup, Bitters).

Christmas Quarantini Cocktail Kits available with two (£30) or four (£50) bottles. Each bottle contains three serves. Can be drunk within three months.

  • The Umbrella Project’s Christmas cocktails are available for their online shop. National and international delivery available. Free delivery within a 3-mile radius of The Sun Tavern in Bethnal Green. Click & Collect also available.
  • The Sun Tavern, 441 Bethnal Green Road, E2 0AN. Nearest station: Bethnal Green. For more information, check out The Sun Tavern website.
  • Discount Suit Company, 29A Wentworth Street, Spitalfields, E1 7TB. Nearest station: Liverpool Street. For more information, check out the Discount Suit Company website

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The giant Earth sculpture ‘Gaia’ is returning to the Painted Hall

Luke Jerram’s installation returns to the Old Royal Naval College in 2021.

Gaia installation at Old Royal Naval College

Luke Jerram’s art installation Gaia returns to the Old Royal Naval College in the new year
© Colin B Mackenzie

The new year will kick off in Greenwich with the return of Luke Jerram’s stunning art installation ‘Gaia’. The recreation of Planet Earth will be suspended at the Old Royal Naval College from 3 January 2021. The exact scale replica of our planet is internally lit and created using 120dpi NASA imagery. Measuring seven metres in diameter, making it 1.8million times smaller than Earth, the sculpture will be on show in the Painted Hall.

Visitors will be able to stand back and gaze at the slowly rotating piece while listening to a surround-sound composition by composer Dan Jones. Jerram aims to give us an idea of astronauts’ vista of the Earth when travelling through Space.

During the month-long display, there will be a series of late night openings every Friday. The dark winter nights will make the illuminated globe look even more spectacular. Visitors will also be able to enjoy food and drink, as well as check out the Baroque and contemporary art at the hall.

  • Gaia is on display from 3 January – 7 February 2021. At the Painted Hall, Old Royal Naval College, King William Walk, Greenwich, SE10 9NN. Nearest stations: Greenwich, Cutty Sark or Maze Hill. Late night openings on Fridays 5.30pm-10pm. For more information, visit the ORNC website. For late night opening tickets, visit this link.
  • Update: Due to lockdown as the pandemic continues, the Gaia display is on hold until further notice.

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Guide to what’s on in London in December 2020

Find out what’s on in London over the Christmas period.

Christmas © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018Well, 2020 is nearly over, and I’m sure most of the country is glad to see the back of a very difficult year. While Christmas will undoubtedly be different to what we’re used to, plenty of London’s hospitality and entertainment businesses will be pulling out all the stops to offer a safe and entertaining social event. Expect social distancing, frequent cleaning and masks may be required so you can feel protected while enjoying the festivities. Among the events taking place are foodie fayres, film screenings, pantomimes and art exhibitions.

For December, London will be Tier 2, which means no mixing indoors with people outside your household or support bubble. Up to six people can meet outdoors in parks, private gardens and pub’s outdoor spaces.

20 Dec update: London is now in Tier 4 so a majority of events and attractions are likely to be cancelled or postponed. Please check the event website for further up-to-date information.

Look out for the 🐻 for family-friendly activities.

Look out for the computer symbol 💻 for online events.

  • 2 – 24 December : Borough Market’s Festive Kitchen

Enjoy cookalongs, masterclasses and talks from foodie experts and chefs streamed live from a special kitchen in the historic London market. Events take place Wed-Fri online. All live content will be streamed on the market’s Facebook page. Check out Metro Girl’s blog post on the event. 💻 

  • 2 December – 27 February 2021 : Connected by Light

Although the Winter Lights festival has been postponed, Canary Wharf’s contemporary streets have been lit by a series of light installations. Dusk until 10pm. Free. Installations dotted throughout Canary Wharf estate, E14. Nearest station: Canary Wharf. For more information, visit the Canary Wharf website. 🐻

  • 3 – 7 December : The Parking Lot Social @ Syon Park

A line-up of drive-in festive events, including Cinderella pantomime, film nights, car-a-oke, silent disco and festive food market, all from the safety of your car. Times vary. Tickets: £38.78 per car. Syon Park, Park Road, Brentford, TW8 8JF. For tickets, visit the Parking Lot Social website. 🐻

  • 3 – 20 December : Cinema in the Snow

Enjoy a festive cinematic experience. Enter through a magical wardrobe and walk through a winter wonderland to the screening room. Watch a mix of classic and recent favourites. Covid-19 safety precautions being taken, including cleaning and socially-distanced seats. Tickets from £19.50. Unit 8, Copeland Park, Peckham, SE15 3SN. Nearest station: Peckham Rye. For more information, visit the Pop up Screens website. 🐻

  • 4 December – 31 January 2021 : Dante’s In-Furlough

Step into the Underworld to see The Devil getting married. An immersive, theatrical show with dining options. Social distancing and mandatory face coverings. Thur-Sat: Entry times from 5.30pm-8.30pm, Sun: Entry times from 4.30pm-7.30pm. Tickets: From £25, Dining from £55. The Vaults, Launcelot Street (off Lower Marsh), Waterloo, SE1 7AD. Nearest station: Waterloo, Lambeth North or Waterloo East. For more information, visit The Vaults website.

  • 11 – 13 December : Hampton Court Palace Festive Fayre

A celebration of festive food in the grounds of historic Hampton Court Palace. Featuring street food, pop-up bars, artisanal producers, live music, and more. 10am-5pm. Tickets (inc entry to courtyard and gardens): Adults £24.50, Children 5-15yr £12.20, Under 5s free. Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 9AU. Nearest station: Hampton Court (36 minutes from Waterloo). For more information and tickets, visit the HRP Food Festivals website.

  • 11 – 13 and 18 – 21 December : Christmas @ Old Royal Naval College

A host of Christmas festivities are taking place at the Old Royal Naval College. Including the illuminated Christmas tree, festive market (12, 13, 18, 19 & 20 December), carol services, winter dining at the Painted Hall and a production of The Little Match Girl. Event timings and dates vary. Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, SE10. Nearest station: Cutty Sark, Greenwich or Maze Hill. For more information, visit the Old Royal Naval College website. 🐻

  • 13 – 19 December : We’re All Human exhibition @ Pi Artworks

Dutch artist Jade van der Mark presents an exhibition of her large-scale paintings on city life. Open 11am-6pm. Pi Artworks, 55 Eastcastle Street, Fitzrovia, W1W 8EG. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Tottenham Court Road. For more information, visit the artist’s website or the Pi Artworks website.

  • 17 – 20 December : Love Actually in Concert

Watch the iconic film’s soundtrack performed live by an orchestra accompanying the screening. Socially distanced seating. Times: Matinee 2pm, Evening 6.30pm (staggered entry times). Tickets: £65-£81. Eventim Apollo, 45 Queen Caroline Street, Hammersmith, W6 9QH. Nearest station: Hammersmith. For more information and booking, visit the Eventim Apollo website.

London’s largest LED Christmas tree @ Wembley Park
© Chris Winter

  • Now until 31 December : The Drive In

Drive-in cinema offers film screenings and live experiences (e.g. musical performances, theatre, etc) in Enfield. With refreshments available, social distancing guidelines and the audio beamed in through your car stereo. Tickets: One car £35. The Drive In, Troubadour Meridian Water, Harbet Road, Enfield, N18 3QQ. For tickets and more information, visit The Drive In website. 🐻

  • Now until 3 January 2021 : United in Light @ Wembley Park

Wembley Park has unveiled a selection of light installations for the festive period, including London’s tallest LED Christmas tree, festive selfie spots and ‘United in Light’, a new Instagram artwork on the Spanish steps. Wembley Park, Wembley, HA9 0FD. Nearest stations: Wembley Park or Wembley Stadium. For more information, visit the Wembley Park website.

  • Now until 3 January 2021 : Summer Winter exhibition @ Royal Academy of Arts

The summer exhibition is now winter as it was delayed due to Covid-19. Check out new art from a mix of established and emerging artists and architects, including Tracey Emin, Rebecca Horn, Anselm Kiefer, Julian Schnabel, Gillian Wearing and Ai Weiwei. Open daily 10am-6pm. Tickets: £20-£22. Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD. Nearest station: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the RA website.

  • Now until 3 January 2021 : Christmas at Kew

A glittering trail which weaves its way through Kew Gardens with stunning sights lit up upon the way. 4pm-10pm. Tickets (advance): Adults £19.50/£24.50, Children £14.50, Under 4 free. Select your entrance gate when booking. Kew Gardens (Royal Botanic Gardens), Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AB. Nearest station: Kew Gardens. For more information, visit the Kew Gardens website. 🐻

  • Now until 3 January 2021: The Magic of Christmas @ London Zoo

London Zoo are hosting a series of festive events alongside the usual animal enclosures. You can meet Santa, enjoy VIP Santa Breakfasts and Animal Gift Giving sessions. Open 10am-4pm. Ticket prices vary depending on activities. London Zoo, Regent’s Park, Marylebone, NW1 4RY. Nearest station: Regent’s Park or Camden Town. For booking, visit the ZSL website. 🐻 Read the rest of this entry

‘Traditionally untraditional’ Christmas lights up King’s Cross with three spectacular trees

A trio of alternative Christmas trees are on display until the new year.

The Terrarium Tree © John Sturrock

The Terrarium Tree in Coal Drops Yard is one of King’s Cross’ Christmas installations
© John Sturrock

As we’re just a month away from Christmas, it’s time for London’s sights to be transformed with festive lights. Offering something different from the typical spruces are three alternative Christmas trees for the ‘traditionally untraditional’ Christmas at King’s Cross. After such an unusual year, why not take a different approach to festive decorations?

Unveiled on 23 November and on show until the new year are three different interpretation of the traditional Christmas tree. All the light installations have been dotted throughout the 67 acres of open space in King’s Cross so spectators can safely enjoy them while socially distancing.

The Electric Nemeton Tree in Granary Square has been designed by local architecture practice Sam Jacob Studio. The 36ft high tree is a futuristic metal construction inspired by the origins of the Christmas tree tradition. Surrounded by water fountains, the structure can be admired from the side and below.

The Terrarium Tree in Coal Drops Yard has been created by the Botanical Boys. The 28ft tree is comprised of 70 terrariums containing miniature gardens and 168 mirror baubles. Following the close of the festive period, the terrariums will be rehomed in the new year.

The People’s Tree at Battle Bridge Place is a multi-coloured, interactive tree. The lights are powered by people with censors picking up vibrations from nearby footprints or people’s movements. The dynamic light installation is located just moments from the popular IFO (Identified Flying Object), aka ‘the birdcage’.

  • The King’s Cross’ ‘Untraditional’ Christmas is on show now until 4 January 2021. Installations on show at Coal Drops Yard, Battle Bridge Place and Granary Square, King’s Cross, NC1. Nearest station: King’s Cross St Pancras. For more information, visit the King’s Cross website.

 

Find out what’s on in London in December 2020 here.

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Find inspiration for your Christmas food and drink at Borough Market’s Festive Kitchen

Enjoy cookalongs, masterclasses and talks to make sure this festive season is a culinary treat.

Borough Market's Festive Kitchen

Borough Market’s Festive Kitchen runs from 2 December 2020

We all know Christmas will be rather different this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But one thing about the festive season that can’t be ruined is all the wonderful food and drink. In the run-up to Yuletide, the capital’s famous food market is giving Londoners plenty of ‘food for thought’ in a three-week digital pop-up. Borough Market’s Festive Kitchen will feature plenty of foodie events to inspire and entertain from 2 December 2020.

Streamed live from a special kitchen set in the market, chefs and food experts will be hosting cookalongs, masterclasses and talks. Running on Wednesdays to Fridays throughout December, the live activities and events will showcase the market’s fantastic produce and inspire festive recipes and Christmas food and drink. Whatever you fancy, from meat, baking, vegetable, chocolate, and even floristry, you can make sure your kitchen is ready for the celebrations, no matter how large or small we’re allowed to have.

Each week will be curated and compered by three hosts, including food author and presenter Angela Clutton, plant-based cooking expert and Bettina’s Kitchen founder Bettina Campolucci Bordi and GBBO’s first winner and author Edd Kimber. Wednesdays will kick off with a series of live cookalongs, with guest chefs – such as Ben Ebbrell and Olia Hercules – dropping by on Thursday evenings. Londoners can pre-order recipe produce boxes from the market so they can cook along at home.

Among the chefs, stallholders, and food and drink experts taking part in the pop-up include: Mei Mei, Shuk, Juma, Calum Franklin, Anna Jones, Gizzi Erskine, Ryan ‘Mr Lyan’ Chetiyawardana, Signe Johansen, Nina Parker, Alexandra Dudley, Ed Smith, Benjamina Ebuehi, Northfield Farm, Turnips, Bread Ahead, Rabot 1745, and The Gated Garden.

  • Borough Market’s Festive Kitchen runs from 2 – 24 December 2020. All events are free of charge. The full schedule and details on how to order recipe produce boxes can be found on the Borough Market website. All live content will be streamed on the market’s Facebook page.

Find out what’s on in London in December 2020 here.

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From criminals to cocktails: How one London hotel started life as a Magistrates Court

The former courthouse in Soho hosted some high profile trials featuring John Lennon, Oscar Wilde, Christine Keeler and Mick Jagger.

Courthouse hotel exterior © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020

The Edwardian-built Courthouse Hotel in Soho

Great Marlborough Street in Soho features an amalgamation of architecture styles. From the mock Tudor timbers of Liberty to the dazzling Art Deco detailing of Palladium House, there’s quite an array of designs. One imposing building is the Courthouse Hotel – its name giving a clear reference to the building’s former life.

Originally without the ‘Great’, Marlborough Street was built in the early 18th century, the road being named to commemorate John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722), following his 1704 victory at the Battle of Blenheim. The site of courthouse was originally three houses (19-21), where various affluent families lived over the decades. In 1793, No.21 became one of seven police offices across the capital, established by Middlesex Justices Act of 1792 following the success of the Bow Street court and its ‘runners’ – the precursor of the Metropolitan police. Each location was staffed by three magistrates and up to six officers. Crime had risen steadily in the capital as its population boomed, so the offices could house suspects following arrest and host criminal trials. Other offices were opened in Clerkenwell, Shadwell, Shoreditch, Southwark, Whitechapel, St James and St Margaret Westminster. The police office was expanded to incorporate the rear grounds of No.20 in 1856, although tenants continued to live in the building until 1892.

Courthouse hotel Marlborough Street © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020

Iron bars separate the lobby lounge from the hotel bar

Police courts were utilised for a wide range of ‘criminal’ activities, including assault, theft, animal cruelty, desertion, solicitation, gambling, matrimonial disputes, small debts, drunk and disorderly conduct, and ‘loitering with intent’. More serious cases to be heard in front of a jury would be heard in the Old Bailey or a Crown Court, although sometimes the preliminary hearings would take place in the magistrates’ courts.

During the 19th century, many famous names passed through the doors of Marlborough Street Magistrates’ Court – on both sides of the law. In 1835, a young Charles Dickens (1812-1870) used to cover cases while reporting for the Morning Chronicle. A decade later, Charles-Louis Napoléon Bonaparte (1808-1873), the future Napoleon III, was a witness in a fraud case while exiled in London. The beginning of Oscar Wilde‘s (1854-1900) case against John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry (1844-1900) for libel began at the courthouse in 1895, before moving to the Old Bailey. The author and poet launched a private prosecution of Douglas (father of his then-lover Lord Alfred Douglas) after the Scottish nobleman described him as a “sodomite” on a calling card. The case was dropped, but Wilde was famously charged and convicted of gross indecency soon after and sentenced to two years in prison.

An Edwardian makeover

As the 20th century dawned, it was time for the court to be updated. Architect John Dixon Butler (1861–1920) was responsible as the Metropolitan Police’s architect and surveyor. Butler, who succeeded his architect father John Butler in the role, began his tenure with Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912), assisting on the building of New Scotland Yard. During his career, he designed over 200 courts and police stations, including Charing Cross, Wapping, Hackney, Highbury Vale, Hampstead, Muswell Hill, and Tottenham.

Butler’s new design for Marlborough Street Magistrates’ Court was a three-storey building made of Portland stone in a restrained free Classical style. Details such as Ionic pilasters, arched windows, and a grand central pedestal topped by the Royal Arms all lend to the building’s imposing style as a location for law and order. Butler’s new design did manage to incorporate some of the original Georgian building, including three late 18th century chimney pieces, two of which are white marble and still exist today. The courthouse was built by Messrs. Patman and Fotheringham and was completed in 1913. Read the rest of this entry