This gallery contains 8 photos.
Pose with your favourite film character at this outdoor art exhibition, which runs until late June 2020.
Most Londoners would agree they often take the city for granted normally, let alone now. As our ongoing lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic continues, many of us are looking lustfully over #throwback photos on social media wondering when we’ll be able to explore the capital again. Or perhaps, you’re a would-be tourist whose trip to London was postponed or cancelled.
During the current Coronavirus crisis, I’ve put a lot of my usual events and ‘what’s on’ content on hiatus and have instead been focusing on London history and architecture. While researching the background of some of the capital’s most iconic buildings, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find how many of their websites provide virtual tours.
So if you’re feeling bored and missing walking around the capital, why not enjoy a virtual stroll around some of these iconic London sights.
Explore the striking Victorian government offices of Whitehall, which were built in the 1860s. Gaze at George Gilbert Scott’s designs, such as the Grand Staircase, the Locarno Suite and Durbar Court. Although usually off-limits to the public, you can usually get a peek during Open House London in September.
– For a virtual tour, visit the FCO website.
The public rarely gets to step inside the 16th century hall in the Temple legal district. This historic building has an impressive hammerbeam roof and is said to have hosted the first ever performance of William Shakespeare‘s Twelfth Night in front of Queen Elizabeth I.
The ‘Walkie Talkie’ is the nickname for the City of London skyscraper 20 Fenchurch Street. Its top floors are home to a garden, bar, restaurants and viewing platform, give wonderful views of the capital.
The multi-space arts and entertainment venue has a contrasting mix of old and new architectural features inside the 18th century riverside building.
The name Pugin will be familiar to many as it comprised a dynasty of talented artists and architects. The family name has been immortalised as the creators of many great buildings in the UK, mostly notably the Elizabeth Tower at the Palace of Westminster (aka Big Ben). While the architects of the family designed many grand structures, their own abodes were rather modest in comparison. One of the Pugin family’s only surviving London homes stands on Great Russell Street on the Bloomsbury/Fitzrovia boundaries.
Great Russell Street was first established around 1670 and followed an old path named Green Lane. The road took its name from the local landowners, the Russell Family and Dukes of Bedford. John Strype’s (1643-1737) ‘Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster’ in 1720 described Great Russell Street as “a very handsome large and well built street, graced with the best buildings, and the best inhabited by the nobility and gentry, especially the north side, as having gardens behind the houses: and the prospect of the pleasant fields up to Hampstead and Highgate. In so much that this place by physicians is esteemed the most healthful of any in London.” One such early resident was the celebrated architect Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723), followed by Regency architect John Nash (1752-1835), who designed a row of white stuccoed, terraced houses on the street in 1777-8 and lived at No.66. By the 19th century, the road’s fortunes were somewhat mixed. Although the north side has remained relatively well to do, the south side had become more downmarket and commercial, with the Meux brewery premises nearby.
When it was first built in the late 17th century, 106 Great Russell Street was numbered 105. The three-storey terrace is made of yellow brick, with an attic featuring dormer windows. Today, the ground floor features an early 19th century shopfront with a projecting window, that is currently a showroom for the Italian lighting company Artemide. There are two doors on the ground floor – one on the left providing entrance to the shop and the other providing access to the floors above (what would have been the home of the Pugins).
French artist and writer Augustus Charles Pugin (1762–1832) arrived in Britain in 1798 after leaving France during the revolution and enrolled at the Royal Academy school in London. He soon found work as an architectural draughtsman for John Nash, sketching his buildings such as Carlton House Terrace and the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. In 1802, Pugin Snr married Catherine Welby (1769-1833), of the wealthy Lincolnshire Welby family. By 1809, the couple were living at 39 Keppel Street (now Store Street) in Bloomsbury, where Pugin Snr also had an office. Their only son Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812–1852) was born at the home in 1812. Read the rest of this entry
Today, London prisons are few and far between. While today, prisons tend to be extensive and house large populations of prisoners, in previous centuries, houses of punishment were quite different in more ways than one.
In past centuries, Westminster only had a couple of prisons in comparison to many in the City of London. There was the substantial Millbank Prison (on the site of the Tate Britain) and Tothill Fields Bridewell. During its over two century history, the latter was known by various names, including Westminster House of Correction (Tothill Fields), Westminster Bridewell, Westminster Prison or Westminster County Gaol.
The location was Tothill Fields, a marshy section of land in between Westminster Abbey and Millbank. When it first opened, it was originally named Bridewell after Bridewell Palace and Prison in the City. Formerly a royal residence, the original Bridewell (on the current site of New Bridge Street near Blackfriars) became a prison, hospital and workrooms in the 16th century. When the Westminster prison first opened in 1618, it was deigned as ‘house of correction’ for paupers. It was relatively small and was built near the site of the House of Fraser store on Victoria Street. It was enlarged in 1655 as its population grew. During Queen Anne’s (1665-1714) reign in the early 18th century, Bridewell started to incarcerate criminals.
The 17th century prison was demolished in 1836, two years after a new prison opened. The new larger prison was built on an eight-acre site near Vauxhall Bridge Road. Designed by English architect Robert Abraham (1773-1850) at a cost of £186,000, the new prison was in the shape of an ace of clubs. This was inspired by social reformer Jeremy Bentham’s (1748-1832) Panopticon design, which meant guards could keep an eye on a large body of prisoners from a central point. Each ‘leaf’ featured a separate cell block, which collectively held 900 inmates. The centre of the leaves included a courtyard, with exercise yards located between each cell block. The main entrance was located on Francis Street. Aside from the main prison buildings, there was also a chapel and governor’s house within the complex (see the original ground floor plan of the new prison). When the new prison opened, it had one block for untried male prisoners and debtors, one of male convicted criminals and the last of female convicts. Inmates were put to work, usually oakum picking (here’s an image of women picking oakum in 1906), carpentry, mending clothes and the exhausting treadmill. Among the noted prisoners were Scottish soldier and trickster Gregor MacGregor (1776-1845), tea broker and schizophrenic James Tilly Matthews (1770-1815), and revolutionary war veteran and artist John Trumbull (1756-1843). Read the rest of this entry
Centuries ago, when London was significantly smaller, the City was enclosed by a wall with several gates providing entrance to the Square Mile. After the population boomed in the Georgian and Victorian era, the capital spilled over the boundaries of the City, spreading east, west, north and south.
One of these City gates was Ludgate – or the Lud Gate – situated on Ludgate Hill. The latter was one of three ancient hills in London, the others being Tower Hill and Cornhill. There have been a few theories about the origins of the name Ludgate. The idea that the gate was named after King Lud (who is claimed to have founded London before the Romans arrived) has been widely discounted. Many historians believe the word derives from the Saxon term ‘hlid-geat’, which means swinging gateway into a city. Another popular theory is Ludgate evolved from Flud-gate – a potential barrier to the flood waters of the nearby Rivers Fleet and Thames.
The first Lud Gate was built around 200AD as an entrance into the fortified Roman settlement of Londinium. It was the most western of all the gates into the city. After the Romans abandoned Londinium in the 5th century, the city was largely uninhabited for several centuries. However, it started being used a settlement again around the 8th century as the old Roman walls provided perfect protection from the frequent Viking invasions.
By the 12th century, the area of Lud Gate has become known as Lutgatestrate. Around 1215, the old Lud Gate was repaired or rebuilt when the wealthy rebel barons captured London and strengthened the walls and gates of the city as they battled King John (1166-1216). In 1260, the gate was apparently repaired again under King Henry III’s (1207-1272) reign, with statues of King Lud and other monarchs added to the façade. Read the rest of this entry
Life in London has changed rapidly for most of us in the past couple of weeks amid the current Covid-19 outbreak. However, while things are obviously different, it’s important that Londoners support each other and our local businesses during this difficult time.
London’s famous Borough Market has extended its online delivery services to customers within the M25. While the market remains open with strict hygiene and public health measures in place to protect shoppers and traders, it is also offering food and drink delivery to those Londoners who can’t get to SE1.
Borough Market launched its deliveries by zero-emission electric bikes in November 2019, initially within a 2.5 mile radius. However, in light of the Coronavirus crisis, the radius has been extended to any location inside the M25 from 19 March 2020. Electric bikes couriers will be used for a reasonable distance of the market, but vans (hybrid whenever possible) will be used for deliveries further away. Traders and couriers will follow strict hygiene practices with food securely packaged and an option of contactless delivery system if needed if customers are self-isolating and want to avoid contact with others. Meanwhile, the click-and-collect service is also available daily from 12pm-9pm if you’re able to reach the market.
In the coming weeks, Borough Market will be supporting the local community. Trader Bread Ahead is offering free yeast to locals who want to bake their own bread at home. Foodies can also find plenty of inspiration for their home cooking with hundreds of free online recipes, as well as live cooking demos and cookalongs from top chefs and market restaurants on the Borough Market Community Facebook Group.
To find out the history of Borough Market, click here.
This gallery contains 8 photos.
Pose with your favourite film character at this outdoor art exhibition, which runs until late June 2020.
The weather’s getting warmer, the days are getting longer and summer is just around the corner. With two bank holidays, May has plenty of time to play. This month, expect to see many outdoor rooftop and riverside destinations opening for the summer. Get ready for summer by getting your mind and body ready with a host of wellness events.
For a guide to London’s outdoor and pop-up cinemas this summer, click here.
Chinese performing arts company’s spectacular show is in London for two weeks. Experience a lost culture through classical Chinese dance. Tickets: £62-£138. Eventim Apollo, 45 Queen Caroline Street, Hammersmith, W6 9QH. Nearest station: Hammersmith. For tickets, visit the Shen Yun website.
Oxfordshire-based, American artist James Gemmill brings his exhibition to Kensington for six days. With a background in painting and film scenic work, Gemmill presents 14 pieces for the exhibition. Open 11am-7pm or by appointment. Free entry. Old Brompton Gallery, 238 Old Brompton Road, Kensington, SW5 0DE. Nearest station: Earl’s Court or West Brompton. For more information, visit James Gemmill’s website. Read Metro Girl’s blog post on the exhibition.
Rooftop bar Skylight London returns to Wapping with city views, cocktails, street food, lawn games, World Cup and Wimbledon screenings and more. Open Thu-Fri 5pm-11pm, Sat-Sun 12pm-11pm. Free entry. Croquet: Indoor £25, Outdoor £35 (45 min game), Petanque: £15 (2-4 players). Skylight, Tobacco Quay (Pennington Street entrance), Wapping, E1CW 2SF. Nearest station: Shadwell or Wapping. For more information, visit the Skylight London website. Read Metro Girl’s blog post on Skylight.
The popular Neverland has had a summer makeover, featuring day beds, private beach huts and cabanas, two bars, live DJs, croquet, beer pong, shuffleboard and ping pong. They also host special events include bottomless brunches, yoga classes, fancy dress parties and sports screenings. Open Wed-Fri 6pm-11pm, Sat 12pm-11pm, Sun 12pm-9pm. Entrance starts from £5 (free to SW6 residents all days except Sat). Neverland, 364 Wandsworth Bridge Road, Fulham, SW6 2TY. Nearest station: Wandsworth Town. For more information, visit the Neverland London website.
The Women’s Health magazine teams up with some of the country’s top wellness experts for three days of classes, talks and workshops. Guests and speakers include Ella Mills, Alice Liveing, Anna Victoria, Katie Piper, Natasha Devon, Dr Zoe Williams, Jillian Michaels and Rochelle Humes. Tickets: £15. Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street, Islington, N1 0QH. Nearest station: Angel. For more information, visit the Hearst Live website.
Two week fringe festival in the borough of Wandsworth featuring over 180 events, including theatre, dance, art, music, comedy, poetry, workshops, talks, markets and more. Highlights include silent disco walking tours, ceilidh, Antisemitism – the musical, Deathbed Skiing and much more. For more information, visit the Wandsworth Arts Fringe website.
The 11th annual bicycle ride sees participants dressing up in vintage tweed and cycling past London’s landmarks. Starting in a secret location at 10am-11am and going for 12 miles, before ending for the Closing Ceremony (4-9pm) in Spa Fields, Clerkenwell, EC1. Rider tickets: £32.57, spectators free. Nearest station (to Spa Fields): Angel or Farringdon. For more information, visit The Tweed Run website.
A unique waterways and community festival at Little Venice. Features stalls, bands, kids’ activities, Morris dancers, a Real Ale bar, food and pageant of boats. Open Sat-Sun 10am-6pm, Mon 10am-5pm. Procession of illuminated boats @ 9pm on Sun. Free. Little Venice, Maida Vale, W2. Nearest station: Warwick Avenue. For more information, visit the Inland Waterways Association website. For Metro Girl’s blog post on a previous year’s Cavalcade, click here.
Based on the Channel 4 TV series, the show features ideas and inspiration for your own grand design, including workshops, consultations, lectures and celebrity guests. Tickets: Weekday £12, Weekend £15. ExCel, Royal Victoria Dock, E16 1XL. Nearest station: Prince Regent (DLR). For more information and tickets, visit the Grand Designs Live website.
Happy New Year! Here we are, about to move into the latter part of the decade. 2017 has proved a turbulent year with politics and some horrific terror attacks in our great city. However, I’ll always be proud of how us Londoners stay strong in the face of terror and refuse to bow to fear. As we continue to move through the Brexit process, the fate of the capital and country as a whole seems uncertain as ever, with our economy expected to show more unpredictability in 2018.
As well as looking back on the year, I’m also taking stock of my blogging and how it’s gone. When I started my blog in 2012, there were dramatically less bloggers than there are now. Sometimes it feels difficult to stand out and be heard amongst a sea of other blogs. Occasionally, some people have suggested I try to find a USP. However, to me, my blog isn’t to make money and win ‘likes’. I started my blog to write about what I want to write about, to showcase my passion for and knowledge of my hometown. My interests and hobbies cannot be pigeon-holed into a certain ‘type’ and I often enjoy polar opposites. I love both luxury and bargain restaurants. I love history and art, but I also love clubbing and concerts. I would expect many of my readers are the same – we are versatile people with a range of interests. I don’t know how long I will continue blogging, but for now, I still enjoy it and am committed so expect more London events, restaurant reviews, history and more from Metro Girl in 2018.
Taking my what’s on guides out of the equation, here are Metro Girl’s most popular blog posts of 2017.
Wishing all my readers a very Happy New Year and see you in 2018 for more London adventures.
Love Metro Girl
Summer is nearing an end. However, September usually has that lovely balmy weather with significantly less tourists so London is more comfortable. Of course, the Rio Paralympics will be on 7 – 18 September so expect to see some Brazilian-themed fun on around town and opportunity to watch the games on the big screen.
For a guide to the capital’s pop-up cinemas this summer, click here.
Enjoy a free lunchtime comedy show by the canal in Paddington. 12.30-1.30pm. Free. Canalside Live Stage, Paddington Basin, Paddington, W2 1JS. Nearest station: Paddington. For more information, visit the Merchant Square website.
French liquor Chambord are hosting a four day pop-up on the Dalston Roof Park, featuring plenty of cocktails, food and flamingo croquet. Tickets: £7.50 (plus fee) for time slots. Dalston Roof Park, 18 Ashwin Street, Dalston, E8 3DL. Nearest station: Dalston Junction or Dalston Kingsland. For more information, visit Chambord’s Facebook page.
Ten day festival featuring free screenings in the Peckham and Nunhead area at various locations, including The Montague Arms, The Nunhead Gardener, Glengall Wharf Garden and The Ivy House. Free. Nearest stations: Peckham Rye, Queen’s Road Peckham and Nunhead. For more information and listings, visit the PNFFF website.
Two and half week festival returns to Notting Hill with screenings and events at the KPH, Pop Up Cinema in Acklam Road and the Muse Gallery. Free. Nearest stations: Ladbroke Grove or Westbourne Park. For more information, visit the Portobello Film Festival website.
Totally Thames is a month-long celebration of our city’s main waterway. Among the many activities taking place are the St Katharine Docks Classic Boat Festival (10-11 Sept), The Great River Race (3 Sept), walks, art installations, live music, theatre, dinners, river relay, film screenings and many more activities. For more information, visit the Totally Thames website.
Weekend of meat, drink, music and fire. Featuring chefs including Niklas Ekstedt, Jose Pizarro, Matti Hurttia, Luke Findlay, Tomos Parry, Andrew Clarke, Henry Harris, Jackson Boxer and Gina Hopkins. Music from Professor Green (DJ set), Andy Smith (Portishead), MC Zani and Bass 6, DJ Tofu and Temple Funk Collective. Tickets: £23.85-£34.45. Tobacco Dock, 50 Porters Walk, Wapping, E1W 2SF. Nearest station: Wapping or Shadwell. For information and booking, visit the Meatopia website.
One day festival in the City Road Lock, Basin and Regents Canal towpath. Featuring over 80 stalls, children’s fun fair, Punch & Judy, story-teller, boat trips and canoeing, art projects and galleries, live music and street theatre. 11am-5pm. Free admission. Nearest station: Angel. For more information, visit the Angel Canal Festival website.
The Rolling Stones stage their first major exhibition to mark 50 years of rock ‘n’ roll. Open Thu-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun-Wed 10am-6pm. Tickets: £21. Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s Square, King’s Road, Chelsea, SW3 4SQ. Nearest station: Sloane Square. For more information, visit the Saatchi Gallery website.
This summer, another immersive theatre experience returns to the tunnels below Waterloo station. With two separate shows for adults or children inspired by the ’90s cult horror series. Take a journey through the dark, abandoned vaults and scare yourself silly as you try to escape the stuff of nightmares. Times vary. Tickets: Adults start from £32.50. Children from £15. The Vaults, Launcelot Street (off Lower Marsh), Waterloo, SE1 7AD. Nearest station: Waterloo. For booking, visit Goosebumps Alive website. For more information, read Metro Girl’s blog post on the production.
The rooftop of John Lewis in Oxford Street has cafe, bar, yoga classes, great views and a rotating set of pop-up restaurants serving lunch and dinner. Open Mon-Wed: 12-8pm, Thurs-Sat: 12-10pm, Sun: 12-6pm. The Gardening Society (Enter via the 5th Floor), John Lewis, 300 Oxford Street, W1A 1EX. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Bond Street. For more information, visit the John Lewis website.
An immersive and gruesome dining experience inspired by Roald Dahl’s classic The Twits. From the same team behind Alice’s Adventures Underground and food wizards Bompas & Parr. Minimum age 14+. Tickets: £80-£110 (feature a 90 minute show, arrival cocktail, banquet with wine, box of chocolates and hot beverage). The Vaults, Launcelot Street (off Lower Marsh), Waterloo, SE1 7AD. Nearest station: Waterloo. For booking, visit The Twits dinner website. For more information, read Metro Girl’s blog post on the production.
Spend your lunch break focused on your health as part of Reclaim Your Lunch Break. Featuring free fitness classes, including ping pong, running, paddle board yoga, hula fit and jumping fitness. 12.30-1.30pm. Free. Merchant Square, Paddington Basin, W2 1JS. Nearest station: Paddington. For more information, visit the Merchant Square website.
An exhibition to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare death, featuring how his plays were performed through history and how his reputation changed. Featuring the only surviving play-script in his hand, an authentic Shakespeare signature, the earliest printed edition of Hamlet and Shakespeare’s First Folio. Tickets: Adults from £12. PACCAR Gallery, The British Library, 96 Euston Road, NW1 2DB. Nearest station: Euston, King’s Cross or St Pancras. For booking, visit The British Library website.
Foraging expert Jason Irving will host an evening of urban foraging, featuring tips on hunter gathering and foraging hotspots. Guests will then be able to try the raw ingredients which will be used in fresh cocktails and inventive dishes. 6-9pm. Tickets: £20. Ask For Janice, 50-52 Long Lane, Smithfield, EC1A 9EJ. Nearest station: Farringdon. For booking, visit Billetto. Read the rest of this entry
Happy New Year! It’s at this time of year that a lot of us look back and reflect on the past 12 months. I’ve been doing the same and looking back over all my London discoveries and adventures this year. I would like to thank all the people who have read, shared and commented on my posts this year. I blog on the side of a demanding full-time job so admittedly it is very tricky at times to juggle both. It is down to your feedback and response which spurs me on when I have moments where I think I don’t have time to do both.
Taking my listings guides out of the equation, here’s Metro Girl’s most popular blog posts of 2015.
Wishing all my readers a very Happy New Year and see you in 2016 for more London adventures.
Love Metro Girl