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Sculpture in the City 2022/2023 | Art trail returns to the Square Mile

Take a walk on the arty side as Sculpture in the City launches free tours to mark Sculpture Week London

City of London Guides will be taking art lovers on free guided tours of this year’s SITC artworks.

Summer Moon by Ugo Rondinone is among the artworks on the Sculpture in the City walk
© Nick Turpin

Sculpture in the City is launching a series of free guided walking tours of its latest edition to coincide with Sculpture Week London 2022.

The inaugural Sculpture Week takes place from 12-18 September 2022 and celebrates London’s wide collection of public sculpture. The week-long event is a collaboration between Frieze Sculpture, the Fourth Plinth programme in Trafalgar Square and Sculpture in the City. During the celebration, the latest Fourth Plinth commission will be unveiled, as well as the opening of this year’s Freize Sculpture in Regent’s Park.

Sculpture in the City is an annual public art exhibition, which sees contemporary sculptures erected at various sites across the City of London. Currently in its 11th edition, the 2022/23 collection launched in June, with pieces in situ until spring next year. The 11th edition of SITC features 20 artworks from internationally acclaimed and emerging artists, as well as six sculptures from the previous year.

During Sculpture Week London, Sculpture in the City has teamed up with City of London Guides to host free guided walking tours of the 11th edition artworks, displayed against a backdrop of some of the Square Mile’s most iconic architecture.

  • Sculpture in the City tours for Sculpture Week London 2022 take place from 13-18 September 2022. Tues-Fri 6pm-7.30pm, Sat-Sun 11.30am-1pm and 6pm-7.30pm. Meeting point: Undershaft, City of London, EC3A 8AH. Nearest station: Aldgate, Bank or Liverpool Street. For more information and to register for a free place, visit the Sculpture in the City website

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Aldgate Pump | The story behind the City of London’s historic water pump

There has been a watering hole on the spot since at least the 13th century

The old Aldgate Pump in the City of London

Situated at the junction of Aldgate, Fenchurch Street and Leadenhall Street stands a historic water pump. Although not the first iteration of the pump, the Aldgate Pump has long been symbolic as the start of London’s East End. For years, it was famous for being the starting point for distances between the City of London into Middlesex and Essex. It takes its name from nearby Aldgate, one of the original Roman gates into the City.

The Aldgate Pump in 1874.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London

There has been a watering spot at the site since at least the 13th century, initially as a well during the latter part of King John’s (1166-1216) reign. Historian John Stow (1524-1605) lived near the Aldgate well in the tumultuous year of 1549 and recalls witnessing from his own doorstep the execution of the Bailiff of Romford for alleged ‘rebellion’. Stow wrote in his 1598 book, ‘Survey of London’: “The Bailiff of Romford, in Essex, was one, a man very well beloved. He was early in the morning of St Magdalene’s Day, brought by the Sheriffs of London and the knight-marshall to the well within Aldgate, to be executed upon a gibbet set up that morning.” The well appears on Braun and Hogenburg’s London map in 1574, as well as on The Agas Map of Early Modern London in 1633.

By the 18th century, developments in engineering meant the Aldgate well had now become a pump to accommodate the booming London population. What is believed to be the first illustration of the Aldgate pump appeared in 1798, depicting it as an obelisk erected on a plinth, topped by a lantern, with further lamps on each side. The pump was served by one of the capital’s many subterranean streams. Read the rest of this entry

Exploring the stories behind the art | Inspired! exhibition launches at Guildhall Art Gallery

Exhibition explores the theatre, literature and music which has inspired the visual arts.

The ‘Old Drury Lane Theatre on Fire’ by Abraham Pether (1809) is one of the artworks in the Inspired! exhibition

Artists find inspiration in many places, often in real-life subjects, such as people or landscapes. However, there’s a wealth of artworks which have grown from the fictional – be it theatre, literature and music. Launching this spring at the Guildhall Art Gallery is a new exhibition which explores the way artists have turned to poetry, plays, novels and music to inspire their work.

A large section of Inspired! will focus on Victorian story-telling. Much of the period’s artwork was nostalgic in reaction to the Industrial Revolution with artists looking back to simpler times, thanks to William Shakespeare‘s works, Medieval folktales and Greek myths. For example, Thomas Lawrence’s portrait of actor John Philip Kemble (1757-1823) as Coriolanus in the Bard’s tragedy. Meanwhile, the burning of Drury Lane Theatre in 1808 was depicted by Abraham Pether’s painting the following year.

For those who enjoy Pre-Raphaelite art, pieces by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), John Everett Millais (1829-1896) and George Frederic Watts (1817-1904) found inspiration in the Romantic poets and the work of John Ruskin and Thomas Carlyle. Also at the exhibition include works inspired by the likes of Sir Walter Scott, Chopin, Joseph Addison, among many others.

  • Inspired! Art inspired by theatre, literature and music runs from 8 April – 23 December 2022. Tickets: £8. Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard, City of London, EC2V 5AE. Nearest stations: St Paul’s, Bank or Moorgate. For more information, visit the City of London.gov website.

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Palace, Prison and Poorhouse | The story of Bridewell in the City of London

Originally built as a Tudor palace, the name ‘Bridewell’ has now become synonymous with prisons around the world.

Bridewell Palace 14 New Bridge Street © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020

Office block 14 New Bridge Street incorporates the rebuilt gatehouse

Today, the City of Westminster is associated with royal residences, with Buckingham and St James’s Palaces and Clarence House located in the borough. Although it’s been some time since British monarchs resided in the City of London, there are still reminders of former royal abodes to be found within the Square Mile. While the Tower of London is an obvious historic relic of the royal City, there is also another less noticeable remainder just over a mile away.

A relief portrait of King Edward VI

Situated on the busy A201 road, leading north from Blackfriars Bridge, is Bridewell Court. It consists of a 19th century gatehouse, which forms an entrance to an office building, currently home to a law firm. If you look above the archway, you’ll spot a clue to the site’s fascinating history: a relief portrait of King Edward VI (1537-1553). 

Bridewell Palace was built in the 16th century on the site of St Bride’s Inn, on the banks of the River Fleet. It was a huge site, spanning south from the existing gatehouse towards where the Unilever building on the Embankment stands today. The structure was the main London residence for King Henry VIII (1491-1547) during the early part of his reign in 1515-1523 after acquiring the site from Cardinal Wolsey (1473-1530). The palace complex comprised of three-storey royal lodgings surrounding two courtyards. A bridge led from the palace over the Fleet to the Dominican priory of Blackfriars. Henry and his first wife Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536) lodged at Bridewell while the validity of their marriage was being debated at Blackfriars when the King was hoping to re-marry Anne Boleyn. By the 1530s, it was leased to the French Ambassador. Following Henry VIII’s death, the property passed onto the ownership of his son, Edward VI.

British Library via Wikimedia Commons

Bridewell Palace, 1666.
(From Old and New London, Illustrated, by Walter Thornbury)

During his short reign, Edward VI gave Bridewell to the City authorities in 1553 to be used as a women’s prison, workhouse and orphanage for homeless children. Many of the female prisoners sent to Bridewell were prostitutes. By 1556, the complex also included a hospital. In 1557, Bridewell was paired with Bethlehem Hospital (aka ‘Bedlam’) in Bishopsgate for administrative purposes. However, as with most buildings in the area, the Bridewell complex was destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666, but was rebuilt soon after. Read the rest of this entry

The Panyer Boy of St Paul’s | What is the story behind this 17th century relic?

Just a few feet from an entrance to St Paul’s tube station stands an old relic of London.

Panyer Boy is an ancient plaque erected by St Paul’s tube station

Aside from St Paul’s Cathedral, there isn’t much left in the City of London from the 16th and 17th century. Wars, fires and redevelopment have dramatically changed the architecture and even road layouts of the original Square Mile. With large-scale buildings being completely wiped from existence over the years, it’s impressive when a small piece of London’s heritage manages to survive.

The Panyer Boy is an ancient plaque in Panyer Alley, near the entrance to St Paul’s tube station. It depicts a naked child – likely a baker boy – sitting on a bread basket. Underneath the cherubic boy, are the words: “When ye have sought the City Round. Yet still this is the highest ground. August 27th 1688.” The quote is by English historian John Stow (1524/5-1605) and dates from 1598 – nearly a century earlier than the date below on the plaque. “This is the higher ground” refers to the long-held belief that Ludgate Hill was the highest hill in the City of London, however it’s actually Cornhill, which currently stands at 58ft (17.7metres) above sea level.

Panyer Boy plaque

The inscription is dated 1688

Despite the date stamp of the late 17th century, the mystery of the origins and original location of the Panyer Boy still continues. This stone effigy has been remounted from building to building as the surrounding environment has changed around him. Panyer Alley has existed for centuries and takes its name from ‘pannier’ – the basket or box from which the young baker boys would sell bread. Pannier is an Old English term deriving from the old French word ‘panier’. Some historians have speculated Panyer Alley was named after The Panyer inn, which stood nearby on Paternoster Row until it was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.

The carving of the child has somewhat eroded over time, making it even harder to work out what’s actually going on in the carving. Is the child holding a bunch of grapes or a loaf of bread? Stow certainly believed he was holding the fruit as he wrote in his Survey of London: “…a boy fitting upon it, with a bunch of grapes as it seems to be, held between his naked foot and hand, perhaps of Plenty…” This part of the City of London was known for its bakers, with nearby Bread Street the location of the capital’s bread market from Medieval times. Read the rest of this entry

Sculpture in the City 2021/2022 | Alfresco art exhibition is back in the Square Mile

The free contemporary art exhibition has returned to the City of London for its 10th edition, running until spring 2022.

Bloom Paradise by Jun T Lai is one of the artworks taking part in Sculpture In The City

The annual, outdoor exhibition of contemporary art is back in the City of London. Launched in June 2021, the 10th edition of Sculpture in the City runs until spring 2022. The exhibition sees the streets of the Square Mile turned into an alfresco gallery space for a variety of different sculptures.

Among the artists taking part in the 2021/2022 display include Alice Channer, Ruth Ewan, Isabella Martin, Mike Ballard, Oliver Bragg, Mark Handforth, Eva Rothschild, Laura Arminda Kingsley, Tatiana Wolska, Guillaume Vandame, Bram Ellens, Jake Elwes, Jun T Lai, Regitze Engelsborg Karlsen, Almuth Tebbenhoff, Rosanne Robertson, Laure Prouvost and Elisa Artesero. The sculptures and installations have been erected at various points around the City, such as Leadenhall Market and the ‘Cheesegrater’.

  • The 10th edition of Sculpture In The City is on from now until Spring 2022. At various sites around the Square Mile. Nearest stations: Fenchurch Street, Monument or Liverpool Street. For more information and a map of the artworks, visit the Sculpture In The City website.

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Read more on London’s art exhibitions and installations here.

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Leadenhall Market celebrates 700 years with a series of free events

Enjoy live music, art exhibitions and guided history tours at the City of London’s iconic market hall.

Leadenhall Market will celebrate 700 years of history with a series of events
© Leadenhall Market

With so many of London’s original market halls no longer serving their original purpose, it’s a notable feat to still be trading centuries later. This summer, Leadenhall Market will market 700 years of selling with a series of events.

The City of London market was established in 1321 on the heart of what was Roman London, meaning people have been trading on the spot for nearly two millennia. The site is still owned by the City of London Corporation, who were gifted it by former Lord Mayor Richard ‘Dick’ Whittington back in 1411. When the current Sir Horace Jones-designed building was erected in the Victorian era, Leadenhall was known for being a meat, poultry and game market. Today, it is now a destination for diners and drinkers, as well as boutique shopping.

This July and August, there will be a series of free events exploring the market’s vast history. From live music to exhibitions, to organised tours and self-guided walks, there will be plenty of activities on offer.

  • Leadenhall Market guided tour (Wednesdays 6.30pm-7.45pm, 7 July – 4 August)

Discover the secrets of the Victorian arcades of Leadenhall Market on a guided walking tour. They are free to join, but limited spaces require booking.

  • Lunchtime Lives (Thursday and Friday lunchtimes, 15 July – 6 August)

Enjoy live music from across the decades, from Victorian music hall to ’50s jazz and street bands.

  • Legends of Leadenhall self-guided tour

Discover the characters of Leadenhall’s past and its fascinating tales with an interactive audio guided tour. Find the QR code on posters within the market to download the app and play at your leisure.

  • Electric City exhibition (open daily until midnight, now until 31 July)

The team behind God’s Own Junkyard in Walthamstow have curated an exhibition of stunning neon art, from film sets of the past 40 years. Free to visit. An information hub is open 11.30am-7pm Wed-Sat.

  • UAL Graduate Showcase (Open daily until late August)

Check out the designs of final year students from the University of the Arts London. One of the market’s shop windows will be displaying costumes for theatre productions, animal models, set design maquettes and creative boards.

  • Leadenhall Market are celebrating 700 years during July and August 2021. At Leadenhall Market (access from Gracechurch Street, Lime Street and Whittington Avenue), City of London, EC3V 1LT. Nearest stations: Monument or Fenchurch Street. For more information, visit the Leadenhall Market website.

Find out what else is on in London this August.

Read more on the history of Leadenhall Market.

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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. Read the rest of this entry

Trading, theatre and Tudor merchants | The story of The Royal Exchange

The current Royal Exchange is the third iteration to stand on the site at Bank.

Royal Exchange exterior © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020

The Royal Exchange on Cornhill is the third building on the site

Today, an exchange building is generally utilised for telecommunications or foreign currency. However, as a commercial building, exchanges date back to at least the 13th century. In London, many of the capital’s former exchanges are long gone, and if they do still exist, conduct business using different methods. However, one of the London’s oldest exchanges still exists, albeit not the original building.

Royal Exchange clock tower © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020

The eastern side of the Exchange

Standing at the Bank junction of Cornhill and Threadneedle Street is The Royal Exchange, which dates back to the 16th century. It was founded by Tudor merchant Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-1579), who had been trading in Bourse of Antwerp, the world’s first commodities exchange. He obtained land and permission from the City of London’s Court of Alderman to establish a centre of commerce. Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) opened the first exchange in January 1571 and gave the building a royal title, along with a license to sell alcohol and valuable goods. Gresham later added two additional floors above the trading floor, with units leased out for retail. This savvy move essentially created Britain’s first shopping mall. Originally, stockbrokers weren’t allowed into the Royal Exchange because of their reputation for being rude, so conducted their trading in the nearby coffee shops.

Gresham’s original Royal Exchange was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in September 1666. Its replacement was designed by architect Edward Jarman (1605-1668) and opened in 1669. It was a stone, Baroque building with piazzas, arched entrances to the inner court and a 178ft high tower with clock and bells. The second Royal Exchange was full of merchants and brokers. In 1713, Lloyd’s of London acquired two rooms in the building. However, the building followed the fate of its predecessor and burned down in January 1838. It is believed the blaze may have been caused by an overheated stove in Lloyd’s Coffee House in nearby Lombard Street. Read the rest of this entry