Category Archives: London

Live At The Savoy: American jazz singer Judi Jackson launches live music series

© Judi Jackson Live At The Savoy

Judi Jackson will be performing Live At The Savoy

Few would disagree that The Savoy is one of London’s most iconic hotels. It’s been standing on Strand for 130 years. A byword for luxury, the five-star hotel isn’t just for visitors to the capital, it also has a host of dining, drinking and entertainment options for Londoners. When it comes to The Savoy’s relationship with music, it goes way back. A host of musical legends, including Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne and George Gershwin have performed in the hotel, while a more contemporary act Duran Duran have shot a music video in its hallowed halls.

Today, music is still very much part of The Savoy experience. Launching this spring is a new evening entertainment series. Live At The Savoy will kick off on 24 May 2019 in the hotel’s Thames Foyer nightly.

American singer Judi Jackson is launching the series as The Savoy’s Musician in Residence. The acclaimed jazz vocalist will begin on Wednesday 24 April and three further dates. The Virginia-born performer has recently released her debut album Live In London and tours internationally. Jackson has collaborated with Warner Music’s George Moore and Michael League, member of Grammy award-winning band Snarky Puppy, and credits Wynton Marsalis and Mavis Staples among her influences.

Also performing during Live At The Savoy will be American-born and Liverpool based soul singer/songwriter Jalen N’Gonda. He was hailed as ‘a voice full of nuances and golden songs’ at the 2018 Montreux Jazz Talent Awards and opened for Motown legends Martha And The Vandellas in Liverpool in 2015.

  • Live At The Savoy with Judi Jackson: 24 April, 24 May, 20 June and 25 July.
  • Live At The Savoy with Jalen N’Gonda: 9 May, 16 May (and further dates).

During the entertainment, guests can feast on the new Thames Foyer evening menu, available from 7pm. It has been inspired by The Savoy’s famous 19th century chef Auguste Escoffer, who invented the Peach Melba. The menu is divided into three sections: Prolgue (7pm-8.30pm); Story (8.30pm-10.30pm) and Epilogue (conclusion). An extensive drinks list will also be on offer.

  • Live At The Savoy takes place in the Thames Foyer. At The Savoy, Strand, Westminster, WC2R 0EZ. Nearest stations: Embankment, Charing Cross or Temple. Tickets: £25pp with additional minimum spend on food and drinks at £20pp. Tel: 020 7420 2111 or email. For more information, visit The Savoy website.

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Artist James Gemmill brings Contemplative Spaces to the Old Brompton Gallery

© James Gemmill

© James Gemmill

Coming to the Old Brompton Gallery this May for a short run is a new exhibition from acclaimed American artist James Gemmill. It’s likely you’ve already seen his work in some of Hollywood’s most stunning films, including recent releases Dumbo and Mary Poppins Returns. Throughout his career, Gemmill has worked as a scenic artist on The Da Vinci Code, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!, Beauty And The Beast, Skyfall, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and many more.

Gemmill started training in his native US, receiving a Master’s in Fine Art at Boston University. Landing a scholarship at the Royal College of Art took him to the UK, with the artist and sculptor now based in Oxfordshire. As well as painting and film work, he has also utilised his artist’s eye in interior design, as well as with calligraphy and metalworks.

© James Gemmill

© James Gemmill

His new exhibition, ‘Contemplative Spaces’, features a collection of 14 images, which are all available for sale. Opening on 1 May, the display runs for six days at the Kensington space. Explaining his artistic approach to his paintings in the exhibition, Gemmill said: “I do not start with a canvas or stretcher size, this would put a constraint on the creative process. A large piece of canvas is fixed to my studio wall, I then walk up to it, start painting. The image and the process determine the boundaries not the other way around. The pieces either grow or shrink and sometimes I get it wrong and the piece needs to expand again with extra canvas. These canvases represent a process of creativity as much as a view of the world.”

  • James Gemmill’s Contemplative Spaces exhibition runs from 1 – 6 May 2019. At Old Brompton Gallery, 238 Old Brompton Road, Kensington, SW5 0DE. Nearest station: Earl’s Court or West Brompton. Open 11am-7pm or by appointment. For more information, visit James Gemmill’s website.

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The Little Yellow Door makes a long-awaited homecoming to Notting Hill

Creative cocktails, fabulous food and house parties galore.

Little Yellow Door

Long before The Little Blue Door, there was The Little Yellow Door. The original, cult pop-up entertained tens of thousands of revellers with cocktails, food and fun during its first three years in its first home in Notting Hill Gate. Following the opening of its successor The Little Blue Door in Fulham last year, The Little Yellow Door is returning to Notting Hill with a permanent home.

TLYD’s second outing will be situated at All Saints Road, around the corner from its original home. The flatmates are moving into their new abode and are ready to welcome guests to join their never-ending house party. To those uninitiated, The Little Yellow Door is based on a fictional flatshare, home to an eclectic mix of flatmates. Guests are invited to drop by the party pad to enjoy cocktails, sharing plates, boozy brunches and late-night dancing.

The Little Yellow Door is set over two floors and is inspired by its first outing with colourful and quirky décor, mismatched furniture and the original yellow door. Guests can mingle in the open plan kitchen and living room, with cosy sofas and a fireplace for those colder evenings. The experimental cocktail list is inspired by the flatmates’ DVD collection. Previous visitors will recognise boozy concoctions such as Coffee And Cigarettes and Kill Bill (Earl Grey infused Bombay Sapphire Gin, Lemon Curd and Thyme).

Meanwhile, foodies will be in for a feast with TLYD offering a monthly, changing seasonal menu. Every month will feature two of the flatmates using their national cuisine in a cook-off, with each winner offering more culinary treats the following month. Among the grub on offer includes Salt and Pepper Squid with Lettuce Wraps, Lime Leaf and Lemongrass Dipping Sauce; Woodfired Bavette Steak with Chimichurri and a Horseradish Cream or Shallot Sauce; and Pork Belly and Peanut Bao Buns with House Pickles. Meanwhile, every weekend the flatmates will be hosting bottomless brunches on Saturday and Sunday roasts.

If you’re up for a late-night party, guests can sneak away to the secret hideaway downstairs. The Flatmates’ Den is open until 2am and features retro games, backgammon and poker tables, while the music corner offers instruments, record players and live DJs.

  • The Little Yellow Door, 6-8 All Saints Road, Notting Hill, W11 1HH. Nearest station: Westbourne Park or Ladbroke Grove. For more information, visit The Little Yellow Door website. To book, What’sApp: 07801 267 854 or email TLYD

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Guide to what’s on in London during Easter 2019 for both adults and families

Find out what’s on in London over the Easter weekend and school holidays, including family events and activities, Easter egg hunts and even adults-only fun.

Easter bunny and chocolate eggs © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

This year, the Easter weekend takes place in the middle of April with Good Friday on 19th and the Easter Bank Holiday on 22nd. As ever, this religious holiday coincides with at least two weeks of school holidays, so there will be plenty of parents looking for ways to occupy their children. To many people, Easter is associated with chocolate, so expect to see the mighty cocoa bean dominating menus and events over the period. Fortunately, Easter isn’t just for kids, there’s an adults-only guide to offers and events at the bottom.

Here’s Metro Girl’s guide to what’s on in London over the Easter period.

  • 30 March – 29 April : George Irvin’s Funfairs

Travelling funfairs will be setting up camp at Crystal Palace Park (30 Mar – 14 Apr), Clapham Common (5 – 28 Apr), Hampton Court (19 – 23 Apr) and Shepherd’s Bush Green (5 – 22 Apr) over the Easter break. Rides include Big Apple Coaster, Dodgems, Bungee Trampolines, Tea Cups, Waltzer, Inflatable Slide and Carousel, among many others. For more information, visit the Irvin Leisure website.

  • 6 – 22 April : Lindt Gold Bunny Hunt @ Hampton Court Palace

Hunt for the Lindt gold chocolate bunny in the house and gardens at Hampton Court. Other family activities include a digital adventure around the palace, the magic garden and maze and workshops. Tickets (events inc with general admission): Adults from £21.30, Children from £10.70. Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 9AU. Nearest station: Hampton Court (36 minutes from Waterloo). For more information, visit the Historic Royal Palaces website.

  • 6 – 22 April : Easter @ Battersea Park Zoo

Take part in a host of Easter-themed activities, including an Easter Egg hunt, hedgehog day, honey bee day, cocoa fun day and a host of other events. Open 10am-4.30pm. Visitors can purchase a £1.50 (including prize) quiz sheet upon entry and follow the trail. General admission: Adults £9.95, Children 2-15 yrs £7.95. Battersea Park Zoo, Battersea Park, Chelsea Embankment, Battersea, SW11 4NJ. Nearest station: Battersea Park. For more information, visit the Battersea Park Zoo website.

  • 6 – 22 April : Easter @ WWT London Wetland Centre

Take part in Dusty’s Giant Easter Duck Hunt, enjoy a spot of pond dipping, a Wild Play session and Animal Track Detectives. 10am-5pm. Tickets: Adults from £11.70, Children 4-16 yrs from £7.93. London Wetland Centre, Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Barnes, SW13 9WT. Nearest station: Barnes or Barnes Bridge. For more information, visit the London Wetland Centre website.

  • 6 – 22 April : Easter @ Kew

Check out the beautiful gardens and attractions of Kew, as well as other activities. Including the Tower of Colour, Sunday Stories, Log Trail, Woodland Walk and Giant Badger Sett. Free to take part with normal admission. Tickets: Adults from £16.50/£18, Children 4-16yrs from £4.50/£6, Under 4s free. Kew Gardens, Brentford Gate, Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AB. Nearest station: Kew Gardens. For more information and tickets, visit the Kew Gardens website.

Kew Gardens Palm House daffodils © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

The beauty of spring at Kew Garden

  • 8 – 22 April : Easter @ National Army Museum

Over the Easter holidays, the museum will offer a variety of family activities, including make your own cap badge, tiny troopers (posters), digital poster design and poster printing. 10am-5.30pm. Free. National Army Museum, Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, SW3 4HT. Nearest station: Sloane Square. For more information, visit the National Army Museum website.

  • 10 – 17 April : Hotel Chocolat Easter Eggs-travaganza @ London Eye

Enjoy an Easter experience on the London Eye with Hotel Chocolat. Including fast track entry, Hotel Chocolat tasting guide and Q&A session, 30 minute rotation, soft drink and Hotel Chocolat Easter goodie bag. Tickets: Adults £35, Children £28. London Eye, South Bank, SE1 7PB. Nearest station: Waterloo, Westminster or Lambeth North. For booking, visit the London Eye website.

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Explore the rock ‘n’ roll photograhy of Gerard McNamara at the Unclosed Eye exhibition

Blondie © Gerard McNamara

Blondie © Gerard McNamara

It’s only rock ‘n’ roll, but we like it! Coming to Carnaby this month is a new exhibition of some of music’s most iconic stars. Photography legend Gerard McNamara will be displaying some of his classic music images. Among the artists featured in the exhibition are Kate Bush, Blondie, Clash, The Police and The Pretenders. The showcase will celebrate the 40th anniversary of McNamara’s photography career and contribution to music.

For 10 days, a free exhibition will be hosted in the Newburgh Quarter on behalf of The Museum of Soho. Rarely seen and previously unseen images from McNamara’s archives will be on show at 3 Newburgh Street from 12 – 21 April 2019. On show will be McNamara’s first ever published photograph, of Kate Buss on her Tour Of Life concert in 1979, which appeared in Smash Hits magazine.

Other artists captured on McNamara’s Olympus OM-1 camera include Adam & The Ants, Gary Numan, The Selecter, Iggy Pop, U2, and Toyah. The photographer’s work has appeared in a host of books and publications, including Mojo, The Face, NME and Record Mirror.

Meanwhile, on Record Store Day on 13 April (3pm onwards), visitors to the exhibition will be invited to enjoy performances from Parisian jazz singer Florence Joelle, rising singer/songwriter Emily Capell and ska and reggae favourite Nick Welsh aka King Hammond.

  • The Unclosed Eye exhibition runs from 12-21 April 2019. Open daily 11am-7pm. Free entry. At 3 Newburgh Street, Soho, W1F 7RE. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Carnaby website.

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Immersive dining experience Dinner Time Story returns with Banquet of Hoshena

Dinner Time Story

Dinner Time Story presents the Banquet of Hoshena

Launching in London this month is an immersive feast from Dinner Time Story. The team behind the hit Le Petit Chef production is returning to the capital with their new foodie experience, the Banquet Of Hoshina.

Guests will be treated to a projector-led dining concept when it launches this spring at Westfield London, before moving to Hoxton later this summer. Diners will be transported to an imaginary land where they will be joined by kings, queens, fairies and volcanoes at the table.

Dinner Time Story will take guests on a two-hour gourmet journey using 3D visual technology, image mapping and experiential props. The story will be told using flavours, ingredients, sights, sounds and tastes. Diners will feast on five courses, accompanied by wine and cocktail pairings. Each course will link to the storyline with each dish representing an emotion.

  • Dinner Time Story presents Banquet of Hoshena. From 12 April – 7 August 2019 at Westfield, Ariel Way, White City, W12 7GF. Nearest station: White City. From 8 August 2019 – late 2020 at TT Liquor, 17B Kingsland Road, Hoxton, E2 8AA. Nearest station: Hoxton or Old Street. Tickets: £85/£95/£110. Pre-booking requests: info@dinnertimestory.com or tel: 07510 204 003. Visit Banquet of Hoshena on Instagram.

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Guide to what’s on in London in April 2019

Find out what’s on in London in April, including family fun, the London Marathon, St George’s Day and more.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Spring is in the air!

Spring is in full swing! With the weather improving, the capital is hosting some of its famous sporting events, such as the London Marathon and Oxbridge Boat Race. Around town, there’s plenty of free family festivals, such as St George’s Day, while arts festival Underbelly returns to the South Bank. The Easter Holidays are also taking place so except lots of family events on around London.

Check out what’s on in London over Easter weekend and school holidays for adults and children.

  • Now until 1 April : BFI Flare

The British Film Institute hosts the 11 day festival of LGBTQ+ film featuring 50 features, over 80 shorts, special events, guest appearances, club nights. Ticket prices vary. BFI Southbank, Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 8XT. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information and booking, visit the BFI website.

  • 2 – 14 April : London Games Festival

An event to promote gaming and interactive entertainment, including the Games Finance Market, EGX Rezzed (4-6 April), the Now Play This exhibition, BAFTA Games Awards, industry talks, cosplay parade (6 April) and more. For more information, visit the Games London website.

  • 3 April : Locale Firenze pop-up @ Quaglino’s

Italian drinking and dining destination il Locale Firenze comes to St James for one-night only. Taking over Quaglino’s, Locale Firenze will bring some of their best cocktails to Londoners to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Negroni. From 5pm. Quaglino’s, 16 Bury Street, St. James’s, SW1Y 6AJ. Nearest station: Green Park. For more information, visit the Quaglino’s website.

  • 4 – 6 April : Cocktails In The City

Three-day extravaganza featuring some of London’s best cocktails bars coming together in the arches underneath Waterloo station. A host of pop-up bars, tasting flights, bar battles, champagne cocktails, Tasting Rooms and new sensory cocktail adventures will be spread across the tunnels underneath Waterloo station. Open 6pm-12am. Ticket: £20 includes 1 cocktail and cocktail booklet. The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN. Nearest stations: Waterloo or Lambeth North. For booking, visit the Cocktails In The City website. See Metro Girl’s blog post for more information.

  • 4 – 6 April : The Creative Craft Show

An event for stitchers, sewers and hobbycrafters, featuring workshops, demonstrations and talks. Open Thu and Fri: 10am-4.30pm, Sat: 10am-5pm. Tickets: Adults £5-£15, Seniors £4.50-£13.50. ExCel, Royal Victoria Dock, Docklands, E16 1XL. Nearest station: Prince Regent (DLR). For more information, visit the show’s official website.

  • 4 – 7 April : Roy’s People Art Fair

This fair aims to make art more affordable and accessible. Meet and buy direct from the artists, take part in workshops and check out installations. Open Thur 5pm–8.30pm, Fri 2pm-8pm, Sat 12pm–6pm, Sun 12pm-5pm. Free. At Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, South Bank, SE1 9PH. Nearest station: Waterloo, Blackfriars or Southwark. For more information, visit the Roy’s People Art Fair website. See Metro Girl’s blog post for more information.

  • 4 – 7 April : Number 90 Bar & Kitchen’s 5th Birthday Party

Canalside drinking and dining destination Number 90 are hosting a weekend of festivities for their 5th birthday. Open Thu and Sun 12pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 12pm-6am. Free entry. Number 90 Bar & Kitchen, 90 Wallis Road, Hackney Wick, E9 5LN. Nearest station: Hackney Wick. For more information, visit the Number 90 website. See Metro Girl’s blog post for more information.

  • 5 April – 29 September : Underbelly Festival

Summer-long arts festival on the South Bank, featuring comedy, circus, cabaret and family shows at affordable prices in the inflatable upside down cow venue, international street food, open-air bar. Festival grounds open daily until 11pm. Ticket prices for show vary, but a majority are between £10-£20, free entry to festival grounds. Jubilee Gardens (off Belvedere Road), South Bank, SE1 8XX. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information and tickets, visit the Underbelly Festival website.

Underbelly South Bank © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The Underbelly Festival is back on the South Bank

  • Now until 7 April : Ideal Home Show

A place of inspiration for homeowners including interiors, fittings and gardens. Includes plenty of opportunities to buy things both big and small for the house and food. Celebrity guests and experts include Phil Spencer, Nick Knowles, David Domoney, Lisa Faulkner, Rosemary Shrager, Joe Swift, Anna Jacobs, James Wong, May Simpkin and many more. Open daily 10am-6pm (Thurs lates until 9pm). Tickets: Weekday £14-£20 or Weekend £14-£17 (also includes free access to the Eat & Drink Festival). Olympia, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For more tickets, visit the Ideal Home Show website.

  • Now until 7 April : Eat & Drink Festival

Next door to the Ideal Home Show is a new live experience, featuring modern cuisine, mixology and street food. Learn from the best at the Foodie Lab, Chef’s Table and Cook’s Academy. Tickets: Weekday £14-£20, Weekend £16 (also includes free access to Ideal Home Show). Olympia, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For more information, visit the Eat & Drink Festival website.

  • Now until 7 April : Lost Lagoon

Bompas & Parr have created an immersive, subterranean journey inspired by the world’s most famous buccaneer Captain Henry Morgan. Expect whirlpool cocktail station, beach-inspired food and entertainment. Tickets: £20-£30. West 12 shopping centre, Shepherd’s Bush, W12 8PP. Nearest station: Shepherd’s Bush. For booking, visit the Lost Lagoon website. Read the rest of this entry

Romeo & Juliet mural marks the site of original Shakespearean theatre (before the Globe)

Shoreditch street art commemorates where the tragic love story was first performed back in the 16th century.

New Inn Broadway © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

Romeo and Juliet mural on New Inn Broadway in Shoreditch

When it comes to checking out street art in Shoreditch, you’ll be spoiled for choice. However, one of the district’s most striking murals has a special historic significance. One particular building on New Inn Broadway features a mural depicting Romeo and Juliet… on the very spot where the play was first performed.

Long before The Globe was built on Bankside, William Shakespeare (1564-1616) used to tread the boards in the East End. In 1572, the Mayor of London cracked down on plays being performed within the City of London in an attempt to prevent the spread of the Plague. As a result, theatre companies started performing just outside the jurisdictions of the City. The Theatre was built in 1576 on the site of the Holywell Priory, which has been demolished following the dissolution of the monasteries a few decades earlier. It was started by actor and theatre manager James Burbage (1530/5-1597) and his brother-in-law John Brayne (1541-1586). At the time, Shoreditch was notoriously rough and was surrounded by brothels, gambling dens and rowdy taverns. The Theatre was built in a polygonal shape, included three galleries and a yard and was said to have cost £700 to build.

The Theatre owner Burbage was a member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men theatre company, with a certain actor and playwright from Stratford-upon-Avon as one of his colleagues. The LCM was formed in 1594, when Shakespeare had already been making waves in the theatre scene for at least two years. The troupe started performing Shakespeare’s plays exclusively. Shakespeare’s tragic love story Romeo and Juliet was performed for the first time at The Theatre, estimated to have been written around 1591-1595.

New Inn Broadway © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

Juliet is seen leaning over her balcony looking for her Romeo

After 22 years of entertaining Londoners, The Theatre came to an end following a dispute between the late Burbage’s son Richard (1567-1619) and the site’s landowner Giles Allen. In a desperate bid to protect their playhouse, Richard and his brother Cuthbert enlisted the help of some associates to dismantle The Theatre in December 1598. The timbers were believed to have been hidden nearby in Bridewell, before being taken over London Bridge to Bankside when the weather improved. Timbers from The Theatre were used to build The Globe in 1599.

For centuries, the site of The Theatre was lost until it was rediscovered by Museum of London archaeologists in 2008. They found remains of brick and stone polygonal footings of the gallery, along with seeds and fruit pips and broken beer vessels from the Elizabethan period. Just north of the Romeo and Juliet mural we see today, a building is being erected to house offices and a permanent exhibition about The Theatre.

Today, a Romeo and Juliet mural adorns a modern three-storey office building on the site of The Theatre. The top of the piece features the heroine Juliet in a blue gown, looking down from her balcony for her Romeo, who gazes up adoringly at her from two storeys down. One of Juliet’s passages from Act 2, Scene 2 of the play is featured: ‘My bounty is as boundless as the sea’; ‘My love as deep the more I give to thee’; and ‘The more I have for both are infinite’. Fans of the play will recognise it from Romeo and Juliet’s post-Capulet ball discussion when they make plans to marry after meeting that evening. The mural was commissioned through the Global Street Art Agency in June 2018.

  • New Inn Broadway, Shoreditch, EC2A 3PZ. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street or Old Street.

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Find out about Middle Temple Hall, location of the first performance of Twelfth Night.

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Agatha Christie artwork celebrates 90th anniversary of the Seven Dials Mystery

Agatha Christie art Iona Rowland © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

Iona Rowland’s art honouring Agatha Christie is on show until spring 2019

On show in Seven Dials for a limited time only is a celebration of one of the country’s most successful authors. Artist Iona Rowland has created an artwork marking the 90th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s novel The Seven Dials Mystery. The detective story was one of Christie’s early works and was published in January 1929. Among the characters included Lady Eileen (Bundle) Brent, who also appeared in the author’s 1925 tale The Secret Of Chimneys.

Rowland’s artwork features silk screen prints of a 1926 photograph of Christie. The piece, which was unveiled in January 2019, is on show until spring 2019 on Shorts Gardens – leading to the Seven Dials district of the West End. Once the art comes down, it will be auctioned for charity.

  • The Evolution of Agatha Christie is on show until spring 2019. At the junction of Shorts Gardens and Neal Street. Nearest station: Covent Garden or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Seven Dials website.

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Gaze up (or down) the stunning Brewer staircase at Heal’s

The history of the Cecil Brewer staircase and Heal’s flagship store at Tottenham Court Road.

Heal's staircase © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

The Cecil Brewer staircase at Heal’s flagship store

London is full of some pretty spectacular staircases, many hidden from view from the general public. In my opinion, one of the capital’s most lovely ones is located in Heal’s furniture store in Tottenham Court Road.

Heal's staircase © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

The stunning staircase is accompanied by a Bocci chandelier

Heal’s has a long history on Tottenham Court Road, having had a store on the street for over 200 years. Heal’s was originally founded by John Harris Heal (1772-1833), a feather dresser from the west country. He opened his first store in Rathbone Place in 1810, before relocating to 203 Tottenham Court Road in 1818. The store soon won over Londoners with its feather mattresses, which were significantly more comfortable than the typical straw palliasses that many were sleeping on at the time.

When John died in 1833, his widow Fanny (1782-1859) and their son John Harris Heal Jnr (1810-1876) took over the business and renamed it Fanny Heal & Son. In 1840, they moved the premises to the current site at 192 Tottenham Court Road with a new purpose-built store. The new building was designed in a Venetian Palazzo style by architect James Morant Lockyer (1824-1865) and was completed in 1854. Now incorporating No.s 186-198, it became known as one of the largest stores in the capital.

Heal's staircase © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

The Heal’s cat mascot is perched on a windowsill

By 1916, Heal’s was under management by John Jnr’s son Sir Ambrose Heal (1872-1959), who had joined the family business in 1893 after completing an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker. He wanted to modernise the business for the 20th century and enlisted his cousin and best friend Cecil Brewer (1871-1918) and business partner Arnold Dunbar Smith (1886-1933) to design a new store. The original building was demolished to make way for the new store, which was was built between 1914-1917. Brewer erected his namesake spiral staircase at the back of the store in 1916, ready to take visitors upstairs to the new Mansard Gallery. The helix of lights tumbling from the ceiling were added after World War II. The concrete and wooden staircase was refurbished in 2013 and a Bocci chandelier was added, completing its picture-perfect look.

If you look closely as you ascend the staircase, you may notice a bronze sculpture of a cat. Known as the store mascot, the cat has been perched on a windowsill of the stairs since they were built. One interesting story involves 101 Dalmatians writer Dodie Smith (1896-1990), who worked at Heal’s toy department for 10 years in the 1920s and had an affair with Ambrose Heal. She confessed in her autobiography to selling the cat, with an unimpressed Ambrose later writing to the customer to cancel the sale with a note reading, “Heal’s mascot. Not for sale.”

Although Heal’s hasn’t been a family business since 1983, it’s still trading in furniture and homewares on Tottenham Court Road over two centuries later. The store was Grade-II listed in 1974 and it’s magnificent staircase is still used by customers to access different departments.

  • Heal’s, 196 Tottenham Court Road, Fitzrovia, W1T 7LQ. Nearest stations: Goodge Street, Warren Street or Tottenham Court Road.

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