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Sculpture in the City 2019/2020: Free art exhibition returns to London

Visit the Medieval ruins of Whitefriars in the basement of a London office block

The history of the City’s Carmelite monastery.

Remains of the Whitefriars monastery in the City of London

Most Londoners are aware of Blackfriars, as it lends its name to a bridge and busy train and tube station. The name stems from the Dominican Friars – who wore black mantles – who had a priory in the area. Although the Blackfriars priory was closed during the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538, the name remained. However, the names of some of the City of London’s other monasteries and priories weren’t so durable throughout history.

In Medieval London, a number of monastic organisations owned a lot of property in and around the city. After King Henry VIII (1491-1547) ordered the dissolution of the monasteries, a large number in London were closed. Among those shutting their doors were Grey Friars in Newgate Street and Whitefriars at Fleet Street. Grey Friars managed to survive in name after the King gave its 14th century church to the City Corporation and it was renamed Christ Church Greyfriars. After it was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) designed its replacement, which hosted worshippers until it was bombed during the Blitz and now its ruins survive as a public garden. (Read Metro Girl’s blog post on Greyfriars to find out more).

The 14th century crypt is believed to be part of the priory mansion

White Friars was a Carmelite religious house which sat between Fleet Street and the River Thames, spreading west to Temple and its eastern boundary at Whitefriars Street. The order was originally founded on Mount Carmel in what is now Israel in 1150. After fleeing the Saracens in 1239, the White Friars travelled to England and established a church on Fleet Street in 1253. Their name White Friars comes from, you guessed it, the colour of their mantles. In 1350, it was replaced by a larger church, rebuilt by Hugh Courtenay, Earl of Devon (1303-1377). The White Friars were popular with nobility and Londoners, with many leaving money to the monastery in their wills. The friars’ extensive grounds included cloisters, a cemetery and garden, along with the church.

After nearly three centuries in the capital, the White Friars monastery was closed by Henry VIII in 1538. The king gave the Grey Friars chapter house to his physician, Doctor William Butts (1486-1545) as a residence. The king’s son and successor King Edward VI (1537-1553) ordered the church’s demolition and allowed noblemen’s houses to built on the site. One of the few surviving buildings, the refectory of the convent, became the Whitefriars Theatre. Established in 1608, the Jacobean theatre only lasted for around a decade and was thought to have been abandoned by the art scene by the 1620s. The diarist Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) often frequented the establishment and noted his visits in his famous diary. At the time, the surrounding area was pretty notorious, with refugees, prostitutes and debtors known to hide there from the authorities. This bad reputation lasted well into the 19th century, with Charles Dickens writing about the area in the 1830s.

Now, all that remains of the friary is a 14th century cellar or crypt, believed to be part of the priory mansion. It was discovered in 1895, later being restored in the 1920s when the News of the World were developing their Fleet Street offices. After the NotW moved east to Wapping in the 1980s, a new building was constructed on site. During building in 1991, the ruins were lifted up on a crane and replaced in a slightly different location. Today, the basement of 65 Fleet Street features a large window so the ruins can be viewed from Magpie Alley.

  • Ruins of Whitefriars, Magpie Alley (off Bouverie Street), City of London, EC4Y 8DP. Nearest station: City Thameslink, Temple or Blackfriars.

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Fearless Girl statue visits the City of London for the spring

Fearless Girl London © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

Fearless Girl by Kristen Visbal has come to London for three months

Fearless Girl London © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019Two years ago, a bronze sculpture of a young girl appeared in New York City and made international headlines. ‘Fearless Girl’ by Kristen Visbal was originally commissioned by State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) to highlight companies with more balanced gender representations and more women amongst leadership roles. The sculpture was erected opposite Wall Street’s famous Charging Bull statue.

A copy of Fearless Girl was unveiled in London on International Women’s Day (8 March 2019). The bronze statue stands outside the London Stock Exchange on Paternoster Square, just moments from St Paul‘s Cathedral. Standing at around 50 inches high, the sculpture will remain in situ until early June. The SSGA said it hopes the statue’s appearance in London will encourage companies to address gender imbalance in leadership roles.

  • Fearless Girl is on show until 4 June 2019. At Paternoster Square, City of London, EC4M. Nearest stations: St Paul’s or City Thameslink.

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Peterborough Court: An Art Deco temple to journalism standing on Fleet Street

The Daily Telegraph may have moved on, but its imposing offices remain.

Peterborough Court © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

Peterborough Court was built on Fleet Street in 1927-1928

The newspapers have long moved out of Fleet Street, but their buildings remain. Standing halfway along the iconic street is an art deco temple to journalism. Peterborough Court is the former home of the Daily Telegraph. Although the publication has moved on to Victoria, there are still subtle signs of the building’s former use on the façade.

Peterborough Court © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

The colourful Art Deco clock

The Daily Telegraph was founded in 1855 and its first offices were in the Strand, before it moved to 135 Fleet Street in 1862. In 1882, the Prince of Wales (King Edward VII – 1841-1910) opened the Telegraph’s new offices made of Portland stone and Aberdeen granite, designed by architects Arding, Bond and Buzzard. The building remained until the twenties when it was torn down to make way for the current design.

Peterborough Court was built in 1927-1928 to a design by architects Elcock and Sutcliffe, with Thomas Tait (1882-1954) and Sir Owen Williams (1890-1969) as consulting engineers. Tait worked on Adelaide House (the City’s tallest office block in 1925), later phases of the Selfridges department store on Oxford Street and the pylons of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Meanwhile, Williams was the head engineer for the original Wembley Stadium (1923-2003) and architect of The Dorchester. The building was named Peterborough Court after the Bishop of Peterborough, who used to have a house on Fleet Street. The name inspired the ‘Peterborough’ diary column in the newspaper, which remained for decades until it was renamed in 2003.

Peterborough Court © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

The entrance features bronze detailing and typical art deco styling

Likes it predecessor, Peterborough Court is also made of Portland stone. The building’s façade features a combination of art deco and neoclassical details. Large Doric columns give the building a sense of heritage, while its modernist elements represents the present. Standing tall with six storeys and a recessed top storey, Peterborough Court features seven windows across each storey. The centrepiece is the ornate coloured clock on its third floor level, full of Art Deco details such as diamonds, chevrons and sunburst motifs. Read the rest of this entry

London Stone – the myths and history of this City landmark explored

What is the London Stone and why is it famous?

London Stone © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

The London Stone stands on the CIty’s Cannon Street

Many of us have heard the urban myth about the ravens at the Tower of London, claiming the Crown and Britain ‘will fall’ if they leave. However, there’s another old legend tying the capital’s success to a piece of stone.

The London Stone has been a part of the city’s history for centuries, yet so many Londoners haven’t even heard of it. Today, the London Stone stands on bustling Cannon Street, protected from the elements in a display in the wall of a modern office building. The block of oolitic limestone measures 53m x 43cm x 30cm, although was originally much bigger. The London Stone was first recorded in 1100, although its origins are believed to date back much earlier. Some historians believe the stone has been in situ since the Romans occupied London, perhaps being related to the local governor’s palace, which stood on the current site of Cannon Street railway station. It’s also been claimed that King Arthur pulled his sword Excalibur from it.

London Stone - the myths and history of this City landmark explored

The London Stone in its Georgian plinth on the wall of St Swithin’s Church in 1831.
Image from Wikimedia Commons

In Medieval London, it stood on the south side of Candelwrichstrete (Candlewright Street), which was widened to create Cannon Street in the 17th century. It was a popular landmark and listed on many maps of the area. A French visitor to London in 1578 described the Stone as having much larger dimensions of 90cm x 60cm x 30cm. London historian John Stow wrote in 1598 of “a great stone called London stone” adding it was “pitched upright… fixed in the ground verie deep, fastned with bars of iron”. The Stone is even mentioned in William Shakespeare‘s Henry IV, Part II in the 1590s. The scene refers to Jack Cade, leader of the Kentish rebellion in 1450, striking the London Stone with his sword and declaring himself Lord Mayor of London.

Although the reason for the Stone’s reduction in size is not known, it’s highly likely it was damaged during the Great Fire of London in 1666. By 1742, the Stone was considered an obstruction to traffic so was moved to the north side of Cannon Street, beside the door to the Church of St Swithun, London Stone. Fifty-six years later, it was moved again when it was built into the south wall of the Church. It was during the 18th century that it was claimed the success of London depended on the stone’s survival. Georgian writers claimed there was an ‘old saying’ referring to the London Stone’s other name as ‘the Stone of Brutus’. It read: “So long as the Stone of Brutus is safe, so long will London flourish.” In the 1820s, it was relocated a third time when it was set on its own plinth in the middle of the church wall. It was later covered by a protective iron grille at the request of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society in 1869.
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The ruins of St Alphage: A Medieval church is uncovered on London Wall

st alphage ruins © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

The ruins of St Alphage Church in the city of London

st alphage ruins © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

Looking down at the Medieval remains from the highwalk

Standing on London Wall surrounded by the brutalist concrete of the Barbican estate and 21st century office blocks is a rare piece of Medieval London. Largely hidden in recent decades, the redesign of the highwalk and a new pavement-level garden means Londoners can now see the ruins of St Alphage church.

The original St Alphage (or St Alphege) Church was built slightly north of the current site around the 11th century and adjoined the London Wall. The second church was originally the Priory Church of the St Mary-within-Cripplegate nunnery, which was believed to have been founded before 1000, but had fallen into decay by 1329. While the original church was demolished during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s under Henry VIII, the Priory Church survived and took on the name St Alphage. It was repaired in 1624, with its steeple rebuilt in 1649. St Alphage was slightly damaged during the Great Fire of London in 1666 and be 1747, the steeple was in such bad condition, the bells couldn’t be rung so four were sold. In 1774, the church was declared unfit for use and was rebuilt at a cost of £1,350, with the tower retained. The new church opened in July 1777.

st alphage ruins © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

Looking towards to highwalk and Barbican Estate

By the turn of the 20th century, the tower and porch were in poor condition, with the north entrance rebuilt with a neo-Gothic façade by 1913. It was damaged during World War I and repaired in 1919. However, the same year, the church’s fate was sealed for good. The bells went to St Peter’s Church in Acton, west London, with the nave being demolished in 1923. During World War II, the tower was maintained as a base for prayer, although was gutted by a fire in 1940.

As the City of London Corporation started to redevelop the ravaged City during the 1950s, the church’s porch and upper levels of the tower were moved. What remained (and what you see today) were Grade II listed in January 1950. The current structure features a central tower made of flint and rubble and arches on the north, west and east sides. When the London Wall road and the Barbican Centre were constructed in the 1950s, pedestrian access to the ruined church was cut off, while an ugly concrete highwalk didn’t give much of a view of the remains.

In recent years, the highwalk has been redeveloped and some of the 1960s office blocks demolished to make way for more modern 21st century buildings. The new highwalk, unveiled in 2018, is more delicate and gives a great overview of the ruins. Meanwhile, pedestrians can access the remains of St Alphage at street level via a small garden, featuring greenery and concrete block seating.

  • St Alphage Garden, City of London, EC2Y. Nearest station: Barbican.

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Dabbers Social Bingo review: Pink gin, prizes and very saucy rhyming

dabbers bingo © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

Party at the bingo at Dabbers Social Bingo

If you think bingo is just for pensioners, you’re very much mistaken. In recent years, modern approaches to bingo has been gaining popularity with younger generations. In late 2018, London’s first permanent modern bingo hall opened and I went along to check it out last month. Like traditional bingo, it involves dabbing your numbers in the hope of winning a prize when your numbers are called. However, Dabbers Social Bingo involves a lot of saucy innuendo, cocktails galore, fabulous food and a general party atmosphere.

dabbers bingo © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

Pink gin cocktails while you dab

Dabbers Social Bingo is located on Houndsditch, where the City meets the East End. From the street, you enter a medium-sized bar with outdoor terrace (would be great in summer, but definitely not in January thanks!). I liked the fact the cocktail bar gives no hint of the wildness to come downstairs! After a glass of Prosecco to loosen us up, we headed down to the expansive bingo hall in the basement. It was a surprisingly large space with a variety of tables to suit different sizes from couples to larger groups of friends.

After my companion and I grabbed a well-situated table with a view of the stage, we started with simple, but refreshing pink gin cocktails and settled down for some pre-bingo grub. The food menu has been inspired by bingo balls so features many physically round dishes. It consists mostly of sharing plates, sort of tapas style portions in the spirit of the ‘social’ part of the game. They range from £4-£9.50 and have a wide choice, with a decent amount of vegetarian options. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the food was as I had expected it to take a back seat to the bingo, entertainment and cocktails. We really enjoyed the seared prawn tiger skewers, buffalo glazed chicken skewers, mozzarella ball skewers and pizza bread. It’s worth noting they have brunch bingo on Saturdays and family brunch bingo on Sundays.

Round food rules! Meatballs, arancini and greens

Once we were fed and watered, it was time for the main event to kick off. Our compere for the evening was the fabulous Boogaloo Stu. After Stu gave us an introduction to the night, it was over to host James Loveridge and the glamorous bingo calling duo. Bingo newbies are given an explanation to the rules and prizes, before the first game kicks off at a steady pace. While there’s some traditional bingo lingo like ‘legs eleven’, be prepared for some very saucy numerical rhyming, which can be hilariously distracting when you’re trying to strike off your numbers. At various points during the game, a special ball being drawn kicks off a mini disco with the crowd encouraged to drop their dabbers and throw some shapes as the DJ cranks up the music. Throughout the game, people who win one or two lines or a full house are invited on stage to compete for a prize. By this stage, the alcoholic lubrication and the building excitement in the room had clearly got some of the winners as they got on stage so their enthusiastic celebrations were pretty jubilant and amusing to the rest of us in the room.

Overall, we had a really fun evening and it was probably the most raucous Wednesday night I’ve seen in years! The food and drink were brilliant and there was a really fun, high-energy atmosphere. Dabbers certainly offers a more entertaining alternative to the usual catch-up in the a pub, with the added bonus of being able to walk away with a prize. I would particularly recommend Dabbers for group nights out, particularly for birthdays and hen nights.

  • Dabbers Social Bingo, 13-22 Houndsditch, City of London, EC3A 7DB. Nearest stations: Aldgate, Liverpool Street or Fenchurch Street. Open Mon-Wed and Sun 12pm-11pm, Thu-Sat 12pm-3am. For more information, visit the Dabbers Social Bingo website.

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Madison London review: Cosy up with hot cocktails and great views at The Chalet winter terrace

© Madison rooftop
At this time of year, a rooftop bar isn’t always a natural choice for a night out. However, this season, City of London drinking destination Madison have given their terrace a winter makeover. Their outdoor space has been turned into an enticing, cosy festive hideout, with a special winter drinks menu of hot aperitifs.

© Madison Vin Brule

A Vin Brule (Italian Mulled Wine)

Last week, I went along with a friend to check out Madison’s new seasonal menu and to try their winter warmers. Madison is a restaurant and bar spanning the top floor of the One New Change complex and boasts amazing views of neighbouring St Paul’s Cathedral and the capital skyline. I’ve previously visited the bar for summer alfresco drinks and have always enjoyed their cocktails so was looking forward to seeing what they could do with the changing season.

The night of our visit was pretty cold, but fortunately Madison are well prepared with patio heaters and cosy faux fur and tartan blankets to snuggle up under. Their rooftop space features a series of alpine-inspired chalets with twinkling lights, which really gives it a Christmassy atmosphere.

As well as their usual wine and cocktail list, Madison’s bartenders have curated a special Hot Aperitifs menu featuring a selection of six warm cocktails. My friend and I both have a sweet tooth so the Chocolate Delight (Bulleit Whisky, chocolate and salted caramel) seemed like a good place to start. There was just a hint of the whisky’s smokiness, but it was predominantly sweet. The cocktail did remind me of a boozy hot chocolate and was very easy to drink. As a regular gin connoisseur, I also couldn’t resist trying the Aromatic Genever (Gin and green apple), which was pretty strong with a hint of fruitiness. Meanwhile, my friend went for a more traditional Christmas drink – a Vin Brule (Italian Mulled Wine), which she really enjoyed.

Aside from our hot concoctions, we also ordered a sharing platter from the bar menu. We ate a selection of warm snacks, including tallegio and walnut arancini (my personal favourite), buttermilk chicken, sautéed mini chorizo sausage and smoked tomato hummus with seeded crackers. There was a good, tasty variety of food and the selection was a great accompaniment for a cocktail session.

Overall, we had a great evening. The service was friendly and attentive, while the atmosphere was very festive. Despite the cool outside temperature, we felt very cosy during our few hours on the roof thanks to the heaters and blankets. The cocktail menu had something for everyone’s tastes, although I particularly loved the Chocolate Delight, which really lived up to its name. I’ll definitely be returning for some Christmas drinks.

  • Madison (rooftop terrace), 1 New Change, City of London, EC4M 9AF. Nearest station: St Paul’s. The rooftop terrace chalets is open from 7 November 2018 – 28 February 2019. Open daily 4pm until late. To book a chalet, contact the Madison London events team on madisonevents@danddlondon.com . For more information, visit the Madison London website.

© Madison rooftop cocktails

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Turning bingo on its head – cocktails, grub, DJs and amazing prizes as Dabbers Social Bingo opens in London

There’s a permanent new modern bingo hall for the younger generations launching in London this December 2018.

© Dabbers Social Bingo

Dabbers Social Bingo is the UK’s first modern bingo venue

Think bingo is just a tame evening activity for pensioners? Think again! Unless you’ve been hiding a rock, you may have heard of a resurgence of bingo in recent years. New generations of Londoners, from Generation X-ers to Millennials have been enjoying the more raucous, modern take on bingo at festivals and one-off evenings.

Coming this December on the fringes of the City and the East End is Dabbers Social Bingo. Opening on Houndsditch, this will be the UK’s first, permanent modern bingo venue. Founder Ed Wethered has teamed up with the gang behind Musical Bingo, Gospeloke, and Comedy House Party, with backing from the founder of Picturehouse Cinemas.© Dabbers Social Bingo

Dabbers is reinventing the classic game with interactive game show elements, sought-after prizes and fabulous food and drinks. Expect cocktails instead of tea, comedians stepping into the bingo callers role and incredible experiences as prizes.

As soon as you enter the venue, the lobby will pay tribute to the game’s heritage with memorabilia from the past. Grab a drink from the lively bar while listening to the live DJ. Next, grab your bingo cards and your ‘gaming drink’ ready to take your seat in the bingo arena. You have the choice of social bingo tables if you’re up for meeting some new friends or a more intimate experience in the banquette tables. Alternatively, groups can hire one of the Baller Booths and receive a free bottle of fizz. During the game, expect to be impressed by the custom-made bingo blower machine, glittering lights, pyrotechnics and a sensational sound system.

During the week will be a variety of themed nights to suit different tastes. Vintage Bingo on Tuesday will offer a more literal interpretation of the classic game hosted by veteran bingo callers. Travel junkies should head to Dabbers on Friday for Bingo Voyage, with the main prize offering a weekend away. If you fancy a boogie, head to Disco Bingo on Saturday nights for a real party atmosphere with UV lights, while Family Brunch bingo on Sunday lunchtimes are open to families.

On the drinks menu will be a selection of craft beers, cocktails and a decent wine list. As well as booze and bingo, there will also be the ‘Well Rounded Menu’, offering round food. Including treats such as melon balls wrapped in ham to round Waffles with ample Crumble and Cinnamon Sugar (vegans and vegetarians catered for too).

  • Dabbers Social Bingo, 13 – 22 Houndsditch, City of London, EC3A 7DB. Nearest stations: Aldgate or Fenchurch Street. Open Mon-Wed and Sun 12pm-11pm, Thu-Sat 12pm-3am. Dabbers Social Bingo officially launches on 3 December 2018 (soft opening from 28 November 2018). For more information, visit the Dabbers Bingo website.

For a review of Dabbers Social Bingo, click here.

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Bridging Home by Do Ho Suh for Sculpture In The City

Bridging Home © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Bridging Home by Do Ho Suh for Sculpture In The City

Sculpture In The City is an annual outdoor exhibition of contemporary art around the City of London. It usually begins in June with a majority of the pieces remaining in situ for up to 12 months. However, on 24 September 2018, a new addition to the 2018/2019 exhibition was unveiled.

Bridging Home, London, 2018 is an installation by Korean artist Do Ho Suh. Erected on the footbridge over Wormwood Street, the piece is co-commissioned by Art Night and Sculpture In The City. The structure is a to-scale replica of the traditional Hanok-style Korean house that Suh grew up in, along with a bamboo garden. The installation appears to have dropped out of the sky and crash landed on the bridge. The work is a response to the migrant history of the East End and the City, along with inspiration from Suh’s own heritage.

  • Bridging Home is located on the footway bridge over Wormwood Street, City of London, EC2M. Nearest station: Liverpool Street. For more information, visit the Sculpture In The City website.
Bridging Home © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The structure is a replica of a traditional Hanok-style Korean house

Check out Metro Girl’s gallery of the 2017/2018 exhibition.

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