Category Archives: London

Immerse yourself in a colourful wonderland as Colourscape returns to Wembley

Be entertained by musicians and dancers as you walk through a tunnel of sound and light.

© Colourscape at Wembley Park

Colourscape comes to Wembley Park this Easter

Returning to Wembley Park this Easter is the travelling immersive art installation Colourscape. From 8 – 13 April 2020, visitors can walk through a labyrinth of colour and light while enjoying live performances by musicians and dancers.

Colourscape was originally created by artist Peter Jones in the early ’70s and has previously popped up at the Vienna Festival of Youth, Cologne for the World Cup and Turku for European Capital of Culture. The installation is comprised of a series of interlinked, kaleidoscopic chambers. As visitors stroll through the maze of light, they will be met by musicians playing instruments from Tibet, China and Mongolia. Guests will be given coloured capes to wear so they blend into the interactive tunnel of colour.

Returning to Wembley for the second year running, this year’s Colourscape will be supporting learning disability charity Brent Mencap.

  • Colourscape takes place from 8 – 13 April 2020. At Wembley Park Boulevard (next to London Designer Outlet), Wembley, HA9 0FD. Nearest stations: Wembley Park or Wembley Stadium. Open 11am-4.30pm (sessions last 30 mins). Tickets (must be pre-booked): Adults £5, Children £3. All children must be accompanied by an adult. Wheelchair accessible. No dogs allowed. For more information, visit the Wembley Park website.

For a guide to what’s on in London in February, click here.

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Discovering the World War II shelter-turned-memorial at Stockwell

The history of the colourful pillbox memorial on a Stockwell traffic island.

Stockwell War Shelter © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020

The Stockwell deep-level shelter has been turned into a war memorial

Around the country, many a traffic island is home to a war memorial. However, one particular south London island has a rather more colourful tribute to the war dead in an unusual format. In fact, this memorial started life as an important space to shelter Londoners from the Nazi bombs during World War II.

At the junction of Clapham Road and South Lambeth Road, just moments from Stockwell tube station, is the Stockwell War Memorial. The memorial is in two parts – the oldest of the two is dedicated to the fallen of World War I, while the more recent one was built during the World War II.

Stockwell War Shelter © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020

Poppies cover the pillbox entrance shaft

In the early part of the Second World War, some civilians and government officials were concerned the available shelters weren’t quite robust enough to withstand the bombing. Time was of the essence so a plan to build deep-level shelters underneath existing tube stations was deemed the speediest and most cost-effective option. Originally 10 shelters were planned, but in the end only eight were constructed. Building began in 1941, and by 1942 they were complete. The shelters were mostly located by Northern line stations, including Stockwell, Clapham North, Clapham Common, Camden Town, Belsize Park, Goodge Street and Clapham South, with another near the Central line station Chancery Lane.

The Stockwell deep-level shelter is located below Stockwell station and features two parallel tunnels, measuring 16ft in diameter and split horizontally with upper and lower levels. The shelters were accessed by two, pillbox-shaped entrance shafts – one being the war memorial on Stockwell’s traffic island, and the other on Studley Road. The tunnels would have fit hundreds of beds to accommodate Londoners overnight, while there were further spaces for toilets, medical assistance and ventilation. The Stockwell shelter was completed in September 1942, but was initially used by the government until it opened to the public in 1944. With the war finishing a year later, it fortunately didn’t get much use. After V-day, the Stockwell shelter was briefly used to house military personnel.

For decades, the shelter remained an ugly eyesore on the South Lambeth Road. However, Brian Barnes and Myra Harris turned it into a war memorial in 1999. Brainstorming with schoolchildren at nearby Stockwell Park School, the images were inspired by local history. Among the famous faces pictured include actor Sir Roger Moore – who grew up in Stockwell – and artist Vincent Van Gogh, who briefly lived in nearby Hackford Road during 1873-74. It also depicts the MV Empire Windrush ship, which brought Caribbean emigrants to Britain, with many settling in Brixton and the surrounding areas. Some new arrivals ending up sleeping in a makeshift hostel in the Clapham South deep-level shelter until they found more long-term accommodation.

The mural was expanded in June 2001 with the addition of war hero and special agent Violette Szabo (1921-1945), who spent her teen years living in Stockwell. The top of the mural features a quote from Robert Laurence Binyon’s (1869-1943) poem ‘For the Fallen’, originally published in September 1914.

  • The Stockwell War Memorial can be found on the roundabout at the junction of South Lambeth Road and Clapham Road, Stockwell, SW8 1UG. Nearest station: Stockwell.

To see photos inside the Clapham South deep-level war shelter and more history, click here.

For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.

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Hold fire! The story behind the cannon bollard on Bankside

Is this bollard really a captured French cannon from the Battle of Trafalgar?

Bankside bollards © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020

The old cannon bollards of Bankside

While most of London’s street furniture has a purpose, you’d be surprised how many items have a special story or history behind them. Some items of street furniture – especially from the Victorian era – are often very attractive, such as the ‘Dolphin’ street lamps on the Thames embankments, or water fountains. However, when it comes to bollards, more often than not, they are pretty unremarkable. Bollards vary in design, from plain Georgian ones to modern electronic ones which can be lowered automatically on command.

Since at least the 17th century, bollards originated primarily as posts on a ship or dock for mooring boats. As mariners and shipyard workers would have easy access to old cannons, they would use them as bollards half-buried in the ground. The shaft would be blocked with either dirt or a large cannonball.

Bankside bollards © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020

It’s unlikely this cannon was salvaged from the Battle of Trafalgar

Today, most of the cannon bollards around London have been replaced with more modern offerings, although a few still remain. While today, a pier exists on Bankside for the Thames Clippers river boat service, in previous centuries, the Thames would have been heaving with boats and there would be a constant demand for mooring bollards. One of these original bollards on Bankside has sparked much debate about where it originated from.

Located a few metres from Southwark Bridge on Bankside, is a weathered black bollard, which has been linked to the Battle of Trafalgar. The story goes that after Nelson’s fleet defeated the French in 1805, the victors stripped the French boats. Although the Brits were able to reuse a lot of the French ships’ contents, the cannons were apparently too large to be retrofitted on British Ships. It was claimed the British decided to reuse the French cannons as street bollards in London as a way to flaunt their victory. Read the rest of this entry

Two Temple Place: A look inside a unique Neo-Gothic office built for the world’s richest man

The history behind this Victorian office, now home to exhibition and events spaces.

Two Temple Place exterior © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020

Two Temple Place looks over the Victoria Embankment and River Thames

Standing on the eastern edge of the City of Westminster is a striking neo-Gothic building. Overlooking the River Thames and the Victoria Embankment is Two Temple Place. Although today the building is an events space and exhibition venue, it started life as an office for the world’s richest man.

The Great Hall gallery is supported by ebony columns

William Waldorf Astor (1848-1919) was an American attorney, publisher, philanthropist and politician. After an initial career in law and politics, Astor inherited his father John Jacob Astor III’s fortune in 1890, making him exceptionally wealthy. The same year, he financed the building of the original Waldorf Hotel in New York City, which opened in 1893 and stood for 36 years before being demolished to make way for the Empire State Building.

Astor cut short his life in the Big Apple following a family feud and relocated to Britain in 1891. In addition to falling out with his aunt Caroline Astor, he also believed England would be safer for his children against the threat of kidnap. He bought a plot of land in legal district of Temple and commissioned Gothic Revival architect John Loughborough Pearson (1817-1897) to build him a London office. Although intended as an office, Astor also wanted residential space. As Two Temple Place was being built, Astor bought the Buckingham estate Cliveden for his family to live in. He later expanded his property portfolio with Hever Castle in Kent in 1903, as well as bank-rolling the building of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in London’s Aldwych.

Two Temple Place Great Hall © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020

The hammerbeam roof is made of Spanish mahogany

Two Temple Place entrance © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020

William Silver Frith’s lamppost sculptures of cherubs holding telephones

Originally named the Astor Estate Office, Two Temple Place was a two-storey building, with a Gothic-Elizabethan-style exterior made of Portland stone. Among the rooms included were the great hall, library and strong room with two fortified safes to protect Astor’s riches. English sculptor Nathaniel Hitch (1845–1938) created ornate features, including gargoyles, on the exterior, while a golden likeness of Christopher Columbus’ ship La Santa Maria – which he used to sail to America – was erected as a weathervane. British sculptor William Silver Frith (1850–1924) made the ornamental lamppost sculptures of cherubs holding early telephones at the portico front entrance. The communicative angels celebrate the fact that Two Temple Place was one of the first houses in the capital to have a working telephone.

With such a fortune at Astor’s disposal, there was no expense spared on the entirety of the building project. The rooms were all decked out in wood-panelling, giving it an ‘olde world’ feel. English metal worker J Starkie Gardner (1844-1930) created ornate metalwork for the interior and exterior of the building. Meanwhile, the Astor family’s interior decorator John Dibblee Crace (1838-1919) took inspiration from the French Renaissance for the furnishings. Astor was a huge fan of symbolism and wanted the building to link the old world with the new world. Around 54 characters from history and fiction are depicted in carvings in the entrance hall or on the gilded frieze in the Great Hall, including Marie Antoinette, Pocahontas, Anne Boleyn, Niccolò Machiavelli, Marc Anthony, Cleopatra, Macbeth, Othello, and characters from The Three Musketeers – Astor’s favourite book. One of the building’s main attractions is the grand, oak staircase. Standing on the inlaid marble floor, you look up to see wood carvings, a square gallery and a square-domed, stained glass ceiling supported by ebony Corinthian columns. Read the rest of this entry

Baroque and art nouveau collide at Old Finsbury Town Hall

The history behind the Old Finsbury Town Hall.

The Great Hall in Old Finsbury Town Hall

Finsbury Town Hall exterior © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020

The red brick façade facing Rosebery Avenue

Around the capital, there are many town halls no longer being used for the purpose for which they were originally intended. For example, Bethnal Green Town Hall is now a five-star hotel, Battersea Town Hall has been reborn as the Battersea Arts Centre, while Deptford Town Hall is now part of Goldsmiths University campus. A string of town halls were built in the late 19th century and early 20th century as civic responsibility increased and the population boomed. When the London Metropolitan boroughs were established in 1900, the boundaries of London were considerably smaller than they are today (with most current London boroughs in zones 4-6 excluded).

One Victorian town hall still standing, but no longer in use as a local government building, is Old Finsbury Town Hall in Clerkenwell. Located on Rosebery Avenue, it is built on the site of Clerkenwell Vestry Hall. The Vestry Hall was originally the Spa Fields watch house, which was built in 1813-1814. Designed by the New River Company’s surveyor W.C. Mylne, the watch house was a two-storey building on the junction of Garnault Place and Rosoman Street. The building included two prison cells, a commissioners’ boardroom and a yard for holding stray cattle. It then became a local police station following the founding of the Metropolitan Police in 1829, later becoming a meeting hall in 1856.

The art nouveau canopy entrance on Rosebery Avenue

By the late 19th century, the Vestry Hall was much maligned and too small to host local meetings. Finsbury was being redeveloped with slum housing being demolished and the building of a new road named Rosebery Avenue. English architect Sir Aston Webb (1849-1930) – famous for designing the Victoria & Albert Museum and Admiralty Arch – was appointed to judge a competition for designs for replace the Clerkenwell Vestry in 1892-3. A design by rising architect Charles Evans-Vaughan (1857-1900) beat out a dozen or so others, with Charles Dearing of Islington winning the £14,724 13s contract to build it. Evans-Vaughan is also responsible for designing the Bridge House Farm Estate in Brockley, south-east London and the Welsh church in Falmouth Road, Southwark. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1887, but sadly died in his 40s of typhoid fever just three years later.

The existing Old Finsbury Town Hall you see today was built in two stages. The first part of the building was erected between 1894-1895 and was named Clerkenwell Vestry Hall, adjoining the early 19th century Vestry Hall. It was inaugurated in summer 1895 by Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery (1847-1929). The Earl was Prime Minister at the time of opening and the inspiration for Rosebery Avenue, which was named in tribute to him for being the first chairman of the London County Council (LCC). The new Vestry Hall entrance was on the new Rosebery Avenue and featured the stunning iron and stained glass, art nouveau canopy. The new building was designed in the fashionable ‘contemporary free style’ of the time, with a mix of Flemish Renaissance, Baroque and art nouveau influences. The façade features Red Ibstock brick and Ancaster stone dressing, Portland stone, tiled gabled roofs and a clock and weathervane.

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Guide to what’s on in London in February 2020

Find out what’s on in London in February, including music, beer and literary festivals, immersive experiences, or meet your idol at a fan convention.

Winter is in full swing and with people’s bank balances starting to recover from the Christmas splurge, there’s more events on in London. There’s plenty of romantic events on in February for Valentine’s Day, while the half-term break (17-21 February) means parents will have to have to find things to entertain their children for a week.

Look out for 🐻 for family-friendly activities.

  • 31 January – 1 February : London Remixed Festival

A two-day celebration of emerging talents from the worlds of Latin Grooves, Afro beats, Tropical Bass, Vintage-Remix, Desert Remix Balkan Beats, Urban Roots, Acoustic Soundclash and Brass Band Remix and more. Over 18s only. Open Fri 8pm-1am, Sat 8pm-4am. Tickets: £11.19–£16.49. Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, E1 6LA. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street or Old Street. For tickets, visit the London Remixed Festival website.

  • 1 – 2 February : Plant Powered Expo

New show celebrating the best of plant-based living. Featuring cookery classes, presentations, Vegan kitchen demos, health, fitness and over 230 stalls. Sat: 10am-6pm, Sun: 10am-5pm. Tickets: Adults £15. Olympia National, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For more information, visit the Expo website.

  • 2 February : Festival of Confidence

A one-day festival on building confidence in women, including workshops, talks and activities. 10am-5.30pm. Tickets: £19.76–£38.93. Lyric Hammersmith, King Street, Hammersmith, W6 0QL. Nearest station: Hammersmith. For tickets, visit Eventbrite.

  • 2 February : Super Bowl Viewing Party @ Skylight

Fans of American football should head to rooftop destination Skylight for a screening of the big game. The game will be screened on the heated indoor level, with DJs, ping pong, air hockey tables, street food, and bookable cosy booths and igloos. 5pm-11pm. Tickets: £3-£8. Skylight, Tobacco Quay (Pennington Street entrance), Wapping, E1CW 2SF. Nearest station: Shadwell (DLR/TFL Rail) or Wapping. For more information, visit DesignMyNight.

  • Now until 2 February : Destinations – the Holiday & Travel Show

Travel show, featuring tourist boards, travel agencies, cultural entertainment, world food and drink, travel celebrities, talks, presentations, workshops, panel sessions and more. Open 10am-5.30pm. Tickets: £11 in advance. Olympia London, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For more information and tickets, visit the Destinations – Holiday & Travel Show website.

  • Now until 2 February : London International Mime Festival

Festival at various events across London including performances of physical theatre, dance, circus, puppetry and live art. Workshops also available. Tickets range from £10-£45. Venues include the Shoreditch Town Hall, Soho Theatre, Sadler’s Wells, Barbican, Wilton’s Music Hall, The Puppet Barge, Southbank Centre and more. For more information, visit the Mime London website.

  • 6 – 8 February : Classical Vauxhall

An inaugural series of classical music concerts in Vauxhall. From 8pm. Tickets: £20. At St Peter’s Church (6 Feb), Brunswick House (7 Feb) and Garden Museum (8 Feb). Nearest station: Vauxhall. For more information, visit the BeInVauxhall website.

  • 7 February – 21 May : Meet Vincent Van Gogh

An immersive, multi-sensory exhibition bringing the world of legendary artist Vincent Van Gogh to life. Open Sun-Wed 10am-6pm, Thu-Sat 10am-10pm. Tickets: Standard box office Mon-Fri £19, Sat-Sun £21. Advance online – Mon-Fri £18, Sat-Sun £20. Meet Vincent Van Gogh Experience, 99 Upper Ground, South Bank, SE1 9PP. Nearest station: Waterloo or Waterloo East. For tickets, visit the Meet Vincent website. Check out Metro Girl’s blog post, for more information.

  • 8 February – 8 March : Orchid Festival

An orchid display is coming to the Princess of Wales Conservatory for four weeks, with this year being inspired by Indonesia. General entrance tickets to Kew Gardens includes orchid exhibition: Adults £18.15, Children (4-15yr) £4.50. Kew Gardens, Brentford Gate, Kew, TW9 3AB. Nearest station: Kew Gardens. For more information, visit the Kew Gardens website.

  • 12 – 16 February : Ealing Music and Film Festival

Five day festival in Ealing featuring musical performances, film screenings (two on Valentine’s Day) and walks. Events take place at various venues, including Weston Hall, St Barnabas, William Barry Theatre and Lawrence Hall. Tickets range from free to £25. Nearest stations: Ealing Broadway or South Ealing. For booking, visit the Ealing Music & Film website. Check out Metro Girl’s blog post, for more information.

  • 12 – 23 February : Imagine Children’s Festival

Two week children’s festival at the Southbank Centre, including art, theatre, books, music, performances and workshops. Including Michael Rosen, Dermot O’Leary, Cressida Cowell, Konnie Huq and more. 10.30am-4pm daily. Many activities and events are free, but some go up to £16. Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 8XX. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information and booking visit the Southbank Centre website. 🐻 Read the rest of this entry

Explore the life and art of Vincent Van Gogh in a special, interactive experience

Installation view of Meet Vincent van Gogh. Image courtesy of Meet Vincent van Gogh

Installation view of Meet Vincent van Gogh.
(Image courtesy of Meet Vincent van Gogh)

Coming to London this winter and spring is a special, immersive art experience. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam’s hit attraction Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience will run in the capital for nearly four months. Launching on the South Bank on 7 February 2020, the interactive and multi-sensory experience will allow art lovers to step into the legendary Dutch painter’s world. It recreates van Gogh’s life through his own words thanks to the Van Gogh Museum’s research and the artist’s personal correspondence.

The experience will open on the South Bank in the borough of Lambeth – the same borough where van Gogh resided for about a year in 1873-74 in Hackford Road, Brixton. It aims to bring van Gogh’s original works to audiences around the world who cannot see them in the Van Gogh Museum. Visitors will be treated to a fully-automated, audio-guide experience, where they can enjoy stunning projections and interactive installations. People can stand on Vincent’s doorstep or sit on his bed in the state-of-the-art set work. Follow his life story from his childhood in the Netherlands to his Paris studios; from the inspiring Arles countryside to the St. Rémy asylum, and finally, the sombre wheat field where he shot himself in July 1890, before dying of his injuries two days later.

The popular experience comes to the UK following 2019 tour stops in South Korea and Spain, where it attracted 400,000 visitors. Along with London, the Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience will also stop in Lisbon, Portugal this year.

  • Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience runs from 7 February – 21 May 2020. At 99 Upper Ground, South Bank, SE1 9PP. Nearest stations: Waterloo, Waterloo East or Embankment. Open Sun-Wed 10am-6pm, Thu-Sat 10am-10pm. Tickets: Standard box office Mon-Fri £19, Sat-Sun £21. Advance online – Mon-Fri £18, Sat-Sun £20. Concessions available for students, children and the elderly. For tickets and more information, visit MeetVincent.com.

Installation view of Meet Vincent van Gogh.
(Image courtesy of Meet Vincent van Gogh)

For a guide to what’s on in London in February, click here.

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Five days of cultural festivities at the Ealing Music and Film Festival 2020

The Ealing Music & Film Festival returns in 2020

The hit Ealing Music & Film Festival returns to west London for 2020 with five-days of entertainment. Now in its eighth year, this annual cultural festival lights up gloomy February with an eclectic mix of theatre, music, film and more. From 12-16 February, a host of venues across the West London district hosts workshops, screenings, concerts, plays and more for all ages.

The EMFF kicks off with a lunchtime concert by woodwind ensemble The Thorne Trio at St Mary’s Church in South Ealing, followed by an afternoon immersive performance by the UWL’s London College of Music’s Headspace Project, concluded with a screening of Nino Oxilia’s Faustian classic Rapsodia Satanica (1915) accompanied by alternative soundtracks composed by LCM students.

The festival continues with a wide selection of entertainment to suit different tastes, including award-winning choir Tenebrae; a UWL production of the play Enron; the Ealing Youth Orchestra; the Ealing Symphony Orchestra and Opera Holland Park Un Ballo in Maschera. Among the workshops on offer include percussion and vlogging (both on 15 Feb). Meanwhile, for those in the mood for some romance – or not – on Valentine’s Day, watch a screening of classic love story Brief Encounter or rock opera Tommy.

  • Ealing Music and Film Festival is on from 12 – 16 February 2020. Venues include Weston Hall, St Barnabas, William Barry Theatre and Lawrence Hall. Nearest stations: Ealing Broadway, Ealing Common or South Ealing. Tickets range from free to £25. For booking, visit the Ealing Music & Film website.

For a guide to what’s on in London in February, click here.

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Valentine’s Day 2020 in London: What’s on for couples and singles

Treat your love or celebrate your fabulous singledom at one of London’s many Valentine’s events, from film screenings to workshops to 1920s themed ‘dos.

If doesn’t matter if you’re single or coupled up, there’s plenty going on in London in the run-up to Valentine’s Day. If you’re loved up and fancy something a bit different from dinner at your favourite local restaurant, why not treat your other half to a party, film screening or evening of poetry? Meanwhile, if you’re still looking for your Mr or Miss Right, head to one of London’s Valentine’s parties or dating events.

Here’s a guide to the best Valentine’s Day events on in London this February 2020.

  • 12 February : Fashion Roundtable

Q&A and workshop celebration of love for Valentine’s Day, discussing music, vintage, identity, inclusion and all things love with singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor and LGBTQ+ writer, model and activist Jamie Windust. 7pm-10pm. Tickets: £35.08–£57.18. The Curtain, 45 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, EC2A 3PT. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street or Old Street. For tickets, visit Eventbrite.

  • 12 February : Cinema Night @ View from the Shard

Watch A Star Is Born (2019) while enjoying 360 views of London from the top of The Shard. You’ll also be served complimentary Mermaid Gin and Tonic and fresh popcorn. From 8pm. Tickets: £45. View From The Shard, Joiner Street, SE1 9SP. Nearest station: London Bridge. For more information and booking, visit The View From The Shard website.

  • 12 February : Murder on the Barts Floor… Valentine’s Special

Murder mystery experience at a 1920s Chelsea speakeasy. Collect all the clues and interrogate the suspects to find out whodunnit. 7pm-9pm. Tickets: £30pp (inc complimentary cocktail). Barts, 87 Sloane Avenue, Chelsea, SW3 3DW. Nearest stations: Sloane Square or South Kensington. For more information, visit the Barts website.

  • 12 – 14 February : Pop-up cinema @ Rivoli Ballroom

Vintage ’50s ballroom hosts a pop-up cinema, featuring screenings of The Notebook, Pretty Women and Romeo + Juliet. 8pm. Tickets: £12. Rivoli Ballroom, 350 Brockley Road, Crofton Park, SE4 2BY. Nearest station: Crofton Park. For more information, visit the Rivoli Ballroom website.

  • 13 February : Late Night Keats – ‘Sick of Love’

Late-night opening of poet John Keats’ former London home, featuring readings, activities and a bar. 6.30pm-9pm. Tickets: £10. Keats’ House, 10 Keats Grove, Hampstead, NW3 2RR. Nearest station: Hampstead Heath or Hampstead. For more information, visit the Eventbrite website.

  • 14 February : The Godfathers’ Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre

The Godfathers return with their Valentine’s rock ‘n’ roll gig. 7pm-10pm. Tickets: £18.15. Dingwalls, Middle Yard, Camden Yard, NW1 8AB. Nearest station: Camden Town or Camden Road. For tickets, visit Ticketweb.

  • 14 February : The Soul of Nine Simone @ Jazz Cafe

The Black Voices Quintet perform music legend Nina Simone’s greatest hits. 7pm-10.30pm. Tickets: £15 (standing), £25 (restaurant). Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, NW1 7PG. Nearest station: Camden Town. For more information, visit the Jazz Café website.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

  • 14 February : Valentine in Paris

The London Philharmonic Orchestra performs music by Ravel and Saint-Saëns. From 7.30pm. Tickets £14-£65. Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 8XX. Nearest stations: Waterloo or Embankment. For tickets, visit the Southbank Centre website.

  • 14 February : Valentine’s Day Speed Dating

Charity speed dating evening with money raised going to The Foundation for Live Research. Registration from 7pm, speed dating 7.30pm-9.30pm. Tickets: £25 (inc welcome drink). The Prince Albert, 85 Albert Bridge Road, Battersea, SW11 4PF. Nearest station: Battersea Park. For tickets, visit Eventbrite. Read the rest of this entry

Shopping in Style – Part 6: The lost Lowther Arcade

A late Georgian shopping arcade became a toy mecca for Victorian children until its demolition in 1902.

The Strand 1901 © Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons

The Lowther Arcade (left) in 1901 – a year before its demolition
(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The West End has been a shopping destination for Londoners and tourists for over two centuries. Along with popular thoroughfares like Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street, there is also a selection of shopping arcades, providing a sheltered retail experience whatever the elements. Today, two of the capital’s existing shopping arcades are over 200 years old. However, one Georgian shopping arcade barely survived into the 20th century, let alone the 21st century. This post is a long-delayed addition to Metro Girl’s Shopping in Style series, which explores the history of London’s shopping arcades.

After the success of the capital’s first two shopping arcades – the Royal Opera and Burlington, plans were made for another arcade on Strand. Lowther Arcade was designed by architect Witherden Young and built by William Herbert in 1830 (see Young’s architectural plans). It was named after William Lowther, 2nd Earl of Lonsdale (1787-1872), who was Chief Commissioner of the Woods and Forests from 1828-1830. Lowther Arcade ran from the Strand to Adelaide Street and was 245 foot long, 20 foot wide and 30 foot high. The arcade featured 24 small shops, with two storeys above the shop level. The arcade was designed in a Greco-Italian style and was topped by a series of glass domes, flooding the aisle with light. Its classical design complemented the eastern end of Strand (No.s 430-449), which had been redeveloped by Regency architect John Nash (1752-1835) in 1830. Although shorter in length, Lowther Arcade was often referred to as the ‘twin’ of the Burlington Arcade in Mayfair. Just like the Burlington, the Lowther management also employed a Beadle to maintain order.

An 1883 illustration of the Lowther Arcade shops
(From “London Town” by Felix Leigh, illustrated by Thomas Crane and Ellen Houghton on Wikimedia Commons)

After opening, Lowther Arcade quickly won over Londoners with its architecture and atmosphere. In his 1834 book National History and Views of London and Its Environs, Volumes 1-2, Charles Frederick Partington wrote: “The Lowther Arcade is decidedly the most elegant establishment of this description erected in the metropolis… When we compare the costly and elegant bijoutrie exhibited for sale, it will be found the dealers lose nothing by comparison with those celebrated in the Arabian Nights and other works of eastern fiction.”

At the north end of the arcade was the Adelaide Gallery, a forerunner to the Science Museum. Opened by American inventor Jacob Perkins (1766-1849), it didn’t prove that successful and was replaced by an amusement hall in the 1840s. It then became home to Signor Brigaldi’s Italian Marionettes in 1852, and during another period was used as a music hall. Read the rest of this entry