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Open House London 2018: What to buildings to visit and tips

Foreign Office © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Visit the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in Whitehall

It’s that time of year again – when Londoners get the chance to peek inside buildings that are normally off-limits. Taking place on 22-23 September 2018, Open House London is essentially a festival of architecture and design, where a huge range of buildings from homes to Government buildings to skyscrapers allow the public to step inside. Many museums which usually cost to enter are also taking part so you can visit for free. While it’s probably too late by now to enter some of the ballots or ticketed entry slots, there are tons of other places just waiting to be explored. This year marks the 26th year of Open House London, with over 800 properties taking place. Some popular venues, such as the Gherkin and the Billingsgate Roman Bath House, are likely to have long queues. With that in mind, here’s my guide to making the most of Open House London. This guide lists a selection of reviews and photos of buildings already visited by Metro Girl, as well as tips and advice for making the most of the weekend.

Tips on making the most of Open House London

  • Comprise a list of places you hope to visit and also a few back-ups if the queues are too long by searching Open House’s official website, buy a hard copy of the guide here or download the free app available on Apple or Google Play.
  • Check out TFL’s website to make sure there are no engineering works affecting your transportation to the sites.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and check the weather forecast to inspire suitable clothing. You will be walking and standing a lot.
  • Start early – many of the sites open around 10am or 11am, but some even earlier. If you get there before they open, you could beat the queues.
  • Make sure your phone and/or camera are fully charged and bring a portable charger if you have one so you can search online maps and share photos on social media.
  • Bring ID – some official buildings or skyscrapers may want to check you out before letting you enter.
  • Go the toilet whenever you find one. Some of the more unusual buildings may not have any available facilities or you could end up desperate while waiting in a very long queue.
  • Make sure you don’t carry too much in your bag, as security searches are expected.
  • Bring your lunch with you – you’ll have plenty of time to eat it if you end up queuing.
  • Share your discoveries on social media under the hashtag #openhouselondon. This is also handy for checking out where the long queues are.
  • Follow Open House London on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

Metro Girl’s reviews and photos of Open House buildings

Banqueting House. Only surviving building from Whitehall Palace, built in 1619. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. Banqueting House, Whitehall, SW1A 2ER. Nearest stations: Westminster, Charing Cross or Embankment.

Billingsgate bath house. Roman home and bath ruins in the basement of a modern office building, dating back to 2nd-3rd century and discovered in the 19th century. Open Saturday and Sunday 11am-4pm (queues likely). 101 Lower Thames Street, EC3R 6DL. Nearest station: Monument.

Caroline Gardens Chapel. Partially-derelict Georgian chapel used as an arts and event space, built 1827. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. Asylum Road, Peckham, SE15 2SQ. Nearest station: Queens Road Peckham.

Charlton House. London’s only surviving Jacobean mansion, built in 1607. Open Sunday 10am-4pm (tours at 11am and 2pm). Charlton House, Charlton Road, Charlton, SE7 8RE. Nearest station: Charlton.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

Check out the stunning Crystal Palace Subway

Crystal Palace Subway. Victorian subway connecting what used to be a train station to the site of the Crystal Palace, built 1865. Open Sunday 10am-5pm (queues likely). Crystal Palace Parade, Crystal Palace, SE19 1LG. Nearest station: Crystal Palace.

Dennis Severs House. Georgian townhouse and unique setting for a historic ‘still-life drama’, built in 1724. Open Saturday 12-4pm (queues expected). 18 Folgate Street, Spitalfields, E1 6BX. Nearest stations: Liverpool Street or Shoreditch High Street.

Emery Walker’s House. Georgian terrace styled in authentic arts and crafts interiors. Open Sunday 2pm-5pm (queues likely). 7 Hammersmith Terrace, Hammersmith, W6 9TS. Nearest station: Stamford Brook.

Fitzrovia Chapel. Victorian designed chapel, designed 1891, completed 1929. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. Pearson Square, Fitzrovia, W1T 3BF. Nearest station: Goodge Street or Tottenham Court Road.

Granada Tooting (Gala Bingo Hall). Former Art Deco cinema with neo-renaissance interiors, now used as a bingo hall, built in 1931. Open Sunday 9am-12pm. 50-60 Mitcham Road, Tooting, SW17 9NA. Nearest station: Tooting BroadwayRead the rest of this entry

Crossness Pumping Station: A stunning remainder of Victorian engineering

Crossness Pumping Station © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Crossness Pumping Station is a Victorian pumping station in Abbey Wood, south-east London

The word ‘sewage’ doesn’t bring up many positive associations. If we were to list the pros and cons of life, human waste is right at the bottom of the pile. It’s a subject we generally like to avoid and try not to spend much time thinking about. However, as over 8 million of us are cramming into the 611 square mile space we call London, a working sewage system is one of our most important utilities. Back in Victorian London, the Industrial Revolution had caused a huge population boom in the capital and the amenities were struggling to cope. The streets and rivers of the city were streaming with rubbish and human excrement… pretty disgusting and a breeding ground for disease. The frequent outbreaks of Cholera were blamed on the inhalation of ‘bad air’. Of course, it was physician Doctor John Snow (1813-1858) who found it was spread by contaminated water, not oxygen. The River Thames was essentially an open sewer and was so toxic it was unable to sustain fish or wildlife. The existing sewers built in the 17th and 18th century were in a bad state and were unable to cope with a population which had nearly tripled to 3 million. However, it wasn’t until ‘The Great Stink’ in summer 1858, when the hot weather exacerbated the smell of the capital’s untreated waste, that the Government finally took action.

Step forward civil engineer Sir Joseph William Bazalgette (1819-1891), who was the Chief Engineer for the Metropolitan Board of Works at the time of the Great Stink. He had already been working for years on plans to revolutionise London’s sewer system and came up with a solution to create a network of smaller sewers feeding into a network of larger sewers. The Government finally gave Bazalgette the OK for his ambitious plan, with work commencing in 1859. The scheme involved 1,100 miles of street sewers feeding into 82 miles of main interconnecting sewers, with pumping stations located both sides of the River.

Crossness Pumping Station © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The restoration has revealed the stunning Victorian decoration

Crossness Pumping Station © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Crossness was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette and Charles Henry Driver

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The striking centre piece of the engine house

One of these pumping stations was Crossness, built in Abbey Wood in south-east London. The large site contained a beam engine house, boiler house, 208ft chimney, workshops, a 25 million gallon covered reservoir and homes for the employees. Crossness was designed by Bazalgette and architect Charles Henry Driver (1832-1900), with James Watt & Co building the four, huge beam engines, named Victoria, Prince Consort, Albert Edward and Alexandra respectively. Crossness was opened on 4 April 1865 by Edward, Prince Of Wales (future King Edward VII). As London’s population rapidly expanded, the need for an even more advanced sewage system grew. Crossness was further extended in 1895 with the addition of a triple extension engine house on the front of the original. This featured two triple expansion engines and reciprocating pumps. In 1916, it was extended again as 4 superheated boilers were added. However, by the 1940s, the beam engines were hardly used and eventually Crossness was closed in the 1950s with its chimney demolished in 1958. It was Grade I listed by Historic England in June 1970. Crossness has been under the care of the Crossness Engines Trust since it was founded in 1987.  Read the rest of this entry

Open House Junior 2017: Inspire little Londoners at the capital’s architecture festival

© Open City

Get your kids into architecture at Open House Junior

Open House London is a great opportunity for Londoners to have a look inside buildings normally off-limits to the public. While many parents will be looking forward to exploring the capital’s history and architecture, they may be wondering how to occupy the kids too during the weekend. Thankfully, Open City are making architecture accessible for young as well with the Open House Junior programme, which runs alongside Open House London.

From 16 – 17 September 2017, a selection of free activities and trails will help to inspire a generation of little Londoners. Open House venues, including City Hall, Paddington Central and The Leadenhall Building will be hosting activities, where you can drop in with your children.

Among the events and activities include:

  • City of a Thousand Architects @ City Hall
    Become an architect for the day! Plan, design and build a future London skyline from the heights of City Hall.
    City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, SE1 2AA. Nearest station: London Bridge.
  • Build a View Shaper @ The Leadenhall Building
    As part of the City of London’s Sculpture in the City programme, children can create a framed view of the city, inspired by the sculptures around The Leadenhall Building.
    Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall St, City of London, EC3V 4AB. Nearest station: Aldgate, Liverpool Street or Bank.
  • Junior Activity Hub @ Paddington Central
    Paddington Central is joining the Open House Junior programme and inviting families to explore, design and create.
    Paddington Central Canalside (by the Westway), Paddington, W2 6PY. Nearest station: Paddington.
  • On your marks, Get Set, Lego! @ Kingdom Square
    Join this quick-paced race to build the biggest and best LEGO structure. Enter your creation into the competition and be in for chance to win exciting prizes.
    Paddington Central, Kingdom Square (outside 4 Kingdom Street), W2 6BD. Nearest station: Paddington.
  • City of Bridges @ Paddington Central
    Be inspired by Paddington’s many bridges, and using an engineering toolkit, come along and add to the gigantic city of bridges in the striking Paddington Central amphitheatre.
    Paddington Canalside (outside Beany Green), W2. Nearest station: Paddington.
  • Playmake @ Sheldon Square
    Play. Make. Create! Paper forests, tinsel towers, and luminous lava fields. The Archivate Collective crew – a team of architects and designers – will be helping children make their city.
    Sheldon Square, Paddington, W2 6PY. Nearest station: Paddington.

Speaking about the event, Open City director Rory Olcayto said: “The more of us who participate in debating, shaping and mending the cities we live in, the better they will be, and the more reflective of our communities they will be too.”

  • Open House Junior takes place during Open House London on 16 – 17 September 2017 from 11am-4pm (some times and age suitability may vary). Events are free. For children aged 5-11 and their families. For more information, visit the Open House London website.

For Metro Girl’s tips and highlights of this year’s Open House London, click here.

For a guide to what else is on in London in September, click here.

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Open House London 2017: Highlights and tips to make the most of the weekend

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

Step inside some of London’s special buildings, such as 18th century Drapers Hall

History and architecture buffs rejoice – Open House London is returning. Now in its 25th year, the weekend is essentially a festival of design, history and architecture. Over 16-17 September 2017, around 800 homes, government buildings, offices and more will open their doors to the public for free. While some usual fee-paying museums won’t be charging during the weekend, there are also rare opportunities to visit some very special buildings, such as 10 Downing Street or the clock tower of St Pancras, that are usually off-limits to the public. Some buildings, such as the latter two just mentioned, are only entry by ballot or booking in advance. However, most you can just turn up and enter. Some popular venues, such as the Gherkin and the Billingsgate Roman Bath House, are likely to have a long queue. With that in mind, here’s my guide to making the most of Open House London. This guide lists what I consider the highlights of this year’s event, although the following section featuring reviews and photos of buildings already visited by Metro Girl, includes further highlights too.

Highlights of Open House London 2017

30 St Mary Axe, aka The Gherkin. Iconic skyscraper in the City of London, built in 2003. Open Saturday and Sunday 8am-3pm (long queues likely). 30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8EP. Nearest stations: Bank, Aldgate or Liverpool Street.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Hindu temple, built in 1995. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. 105-119 Brentfield Road, Neasden, NW10 8LD. Nearest station: Harlesden.

Drapers Hall. Livery Hall first built in 1530s, twice rebuilt. Featuring 19th century façade and Victorian interiors. Open Sunday 10am-4pm. Throgmorton Street, City of London, EC2N 2DQ. Nearest station: Bank or Liverpool Street.

Finsbury Town Hall. Art Nouveau, Victorian building from 1895. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. Rosebery Avenue, Farringdon, EC1R 4RP. Nearest station: Farringdon or Angel.

Freemasons’ Hall. Art Deco meets classical, built in 1927-33. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. 60 Great Queen Street, WC2B 5AZ. Nearest station: Holborn or Covent Garden.

Fuller’s Griffin Brewery. Victorian brewery, built in 1828. Open Sunday 10am-5pm (booking required). Chiswick Lane South, W4 2QB. Nearest station: Stamford Brook or Turnham Green.

Guildhall. The City’s base of their municipal Government since the 12th century, built in 1440/1789. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. Gresham Street, City of London, EC2V 7HH. Nearest stations: St Paul’s, Mansion House or Moorgate.

Home House. Georgian townhouse with fine interiors, built in 1776. Open Sunday 3pm-5pm (book tour in advance). 20 Portman Square, W1H 6LW. Nearest stations: Bond Street or Marble Arch.

Lambeth Palace. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s London home, dating back to 13th century. Open Saturday 9am-2pm (book time slot only through website). Lambeth Palace Road, Lambeth, SE1 7JU. Nearest station: Lambeth North.

Masonic Temple. Greek Masonic Temple in the former Great Eastern Hotel, built in 1912. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. Andaz Liverpool Street, Bishopsgate, EC2M 7QN. Nearest station: Liverpool Street.

One Canada Square. Nineties skyscraper in Canary Wharf with tours to the 39th floor. Open Saturday 10am-4pm (book in advance). One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, E14 5AB. Nearest station: Canary Wharf.

Rudolf Steiner House. Unique example of expressionist architecture, built in 1926-1937. Open Sunday 1-5pm. 35 Park Road, Regents’ Park, NW1 6XT. Nearest stations: Baker Street or Marylebone.

St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Visit the Great Hall and Maggie’s Centre at the 18th century hospital. Open Sunday 10am-5pm (book in advance). West Smithfield, City of London, EC1A 7BE. Nearest station: Farringdon.

Two Temple Place. Victorian office/residential building in an Elizabethan style, built in 1895. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. 2 Temple Place, City of London, WC2R 3BD. Nearest station: Temple.

Underground Bunker. WWII bunker 40ft underground, used by Winston Churchill’s War Cabinet, built in 1940. Open Saturday 8.30am-5.30pm (book in advance). 109 Brook Road, Neasden, NW2 7DZ. Nearest station: Neasden or Dollis Hill.

Wrotham Park. Privately-owned Georgian, Palladian mansion, built in 1754. Open Sunday 10am-3pm (book in advance). Wrotham Park, Barnet, EN5 4SB. Nearest station: Hadley Wood or Potters Bar. Read the rest of this entry

Granada Tooting: A neo-renaissance cinema masquerading as a bingo hall

Tooting Granada Cinema © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The interior of Gala Bingo Club in Tooting – formerly the Granada Cinema

In cinemas’ heyday in the early half of the 20th century, there were film theatres on every high street, often several on the same road. However, in recent decades, a host of cinemas have been bulldozed or converted into bingo halls, churches and even pubs. However, while one such venue is no longer screening movies, the stunning, original interiors have been largely preserved.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The grand entrance features four Corinthian style pillars

In the heart of Tooting stands a very grand branch of Gala Bingo. Located on Mitcham Road, Gala is residing in the former Granada Tooting, a Grade I listed, Art Deco cinema. Although bingo players are welcome to visit during game-playing hours, I joined a guided tour early one Sunday morning during Open House London for a more in-depth look and to find out about the history.

The cinema was originally built as one of a chain, owned by Essex-born media baron Sidney Bernstein (1899-1993) and his younger brother Cecil (1904-1981). After his eldest sibling Selim was killed during World War I in 1915, as next in line Sidney inherited the family business following the death of his property tycoon father Alexander (1870-1922). The business included several music halls and the Empire group of ‘Kinemas’ in Ilford, Plumstead, East Ham, West Ham and Willesden. Together, Sidney and Cecil established the Granada Cinema chain – named after the Spanish city of Granada after the former had been there on holiday. Granada is home to the stunning Alhambra complex, so the name would have sounded very exotic to the average early 20th century Brit, most of whom would have never been abroad. Sidney wanted people to be drawn to the cinema itself, rather than the film, and thought of his businesses as temples of entertainment. Although his initial ‘Kinemas’ were converted music halls and theatres, his first purpose-built cinema was the Granada Dover, which opened in January 1930 (it was demolished in 2014). Read the rest of this entry

Open House London 2016: Highlights and tips to make the most of the weekend

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Visit buildings normally off limits to the public, such as City Hall

History and architecture buffs rejoice – Open House London is returning. Now in its 24th year, the weekend is essentially a festival of design and architecture. Over 17-18 September 2016, around 700 homes, government buildings, offices and more will open their doors to the public for free. While some will be fee-paying museums opening for free, there are also rare opportunities to visit some very special buildings, such as 10 Downing Street or the clock tower of St Pancras. Some buildings, such as the latter two I just mentioned, are entry by ballot or booking in advance. However, most you can just turn up and enter. Some popular venues, such as the Gherkin and the Billingsgate Roman Bath House, are likely to have a queue. With that in mind, here’s my guide to making the most of Open House London.

Tips to making the most of Open House London

  • Comprise a list of places you hope to visit and also a few back-ups if the queues are too long.
  • Check out TFL’s website to make sure there are no engineering works affecting your transportation to the sites.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking and standing a lot.
  • Make sure your phone and/or camera is fully charged so you can search online maps (or bring an A-Z) and share photos on social media.
  • Bring ID – some official buildings or skyscrapers may want to check you out before letting you enter.
  • Buy an official guide book for £7 (available to order here) or search the listings online on OpenHouseLondon.org.
  • Bring your lunch with you – you’ll have plenty of time to eat it if you end up queuing.
  • Make sure you don’t carry too much in your bag, which will inevitably end up getting searched at many buildings for security reasons.
  • Go the toilet whenever you find a public convenience. Some of the more unusual buildings may not have any available facilities.
  • Share your discoveries on social media under the hashtag #openhouselondon. This is also handy for checking out where the long queues are.
  • Follow Open House London on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

Highlights of Open House London 2016

30 St Mary Axe, aka The Gherkin. Iconic skyscraper in the City of London, built in 2003. Open Saturday 8am-12pm, Sunday 8am-2pm. (groups of 30 every 10 mins). 30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8EP. Nearest stations: Bank, Aldgate or Liverpool Street.

Airport House. London’s first ever airport in Croydon, built in 1928. Open Sunday 11am-3.30pm. Purley Way, Croydon, CR0 0XZ. Nearest station: Waddon or South Croydon.

Alexandra Palace. Visit the WW1 relics in the rarely-seen basement and see the progression on the restoration of the Victorian Theatre in this Victorian entertainment palace, built in 1873. Open Saturday 10am-4pm (pre-book 30 min tour in advance via the website). Alexandra Palace (meet on South Terrace for tours), N22 7AY. Nearest stations: Wood Green or Alexandra Palace.

ArtsLav. A former Victorian men’s public toilet has been semi-restored as an underground arts hub. Built 1898. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. 180 Kennington Lane, Kennington, SE11 4UZ. Nearest station: Kennington or Elephant & Castle.

Bank Of England. Imperial classical headquarters of England’s bank, built in 1925-1939. Open Saturday and Sunday 9:30am-5pm (book via the Bank of England website). Threadneedle Street, City of London, EC2R 8AH. Nearest station: Bank.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Hindu temple, built in 1995. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-4pm. 105-119 Brentfield Road, Neasden, NW10 8LD. Nearest station: Harlesden.

Brixton Windmill © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

A country windmill… hidden in the back streets of Brixton”

Brixton Windmill. Restored Georgian windmill, built in 1816. Open Saturday and Sunday 1-5pm (book in advance via the Brixton Windmill website). Windmill Gardens, Blenheim Gardens, Brixton, SW2 5EU. Nearest station: Brixton.

Caledonian Park Clocktower. Victorian clocktower and former centrepiece for Caledonian Market, built 1850-1855. Open Sunday 10am-3pm (book in advance via Islington council website). Market Road, Islington, N7 9PL. Nearest station: Caledonian Road.

Clissold House. Georgian villa, built 1793. Open Sunday 1pm-4pm. Clissold Park, Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 9HJ. Nearest stations: Manor House, Finsbury Park or Stoke Newington.

Finsbury Town Hall. Art Nouveau, Victorian building from 1895. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. Rosebery Avenue, Farringdon, EC1R 4RP. Nearest station: Farringdon or Angel.

Freemasons’ Hall. Art Deco meets classical, built in 1927-33. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. 60 Great Queen Street, WC2B 5AZ. Nearest station: Holborn or Covent Garden. Read the rest of this entry

Charlton House: A Jacobean treasure in south-east London

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Charlton House is London’s best preserved Jacobean building

While London today spreads across 40 square miles, it’s easy to forget many parts of the capital were countryside until the past few centuries. Today, many palatial ‘country’ estates and palaces exist within the London borders, such as Strawberry Hill House and Eltham Palace. One such place is Charlton House in south-east London, widely considered as the best preserved Jacobean building in the capital.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

The grand marble fireplace features sculptures of Venus and Vulcan

Charlton House was built from 1607-12 for Sir Adam Newton, Dean of Durham (d.1630), who was tutor to Henry, Princes Of Wales (1594-1612) – son of King James I (1566-1625).  It is believed Charlton House was designed by the architect John Thorpe (1560-1620) on the site of an older building. The site was conveniently located about two miles away from the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich so it would have been easy for the prince to travel between for lessons. However, the prince ended up dying of typhoid fever when he was just 18 just as the house was completed, leaving his younger brother, the future King Charles I (1600-1649) as the heir to the throne. Following the prince’s death, Newton continued to work for the royal court and resided in the house. He and his wife Kathleen are commemorated with marble monuments in St Luke’s Church just outside the grounds, which was built the same year as his death. Today, the house’s royal connection can be seen with the Prince of Wales feather above the east door to the hall and in further details in the Grand Salon.

Following Newton’s death, the house was passed on to his son Sir Henry Puckering Newton, before it was sold to Sir William Ducie in the mid 17th century, who made substantial improvements to the building. In 1680, the estate was bought by East India merchant Sir William Langhorne. He died without an heir in 1715 so the estate was passed to his nephew Sir John Conyers. The Maryon-Wilson family went on to own the house from 1767 to 1923. Under their ownership, the southern extension was built by Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912) in 1877. The original chimneys were replaced by mock Tudor ones in the late 19th century.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

The stunning long gallery runs the width of the house and features wood panelling

During World War I, the house was used as a hospital. A few years after, the house ceased to be used as a residential home when it was given to Greenwich Borough Council by the Maryon-Wilsons in 1925. Under the council’s management, a public library was established in the Victorian wing before it was closed in 1991 due to cost-cutting measures. In January 1945, the north-eastern wing of the building was destroyed by a V-2 bomb. Due to a shortage of building materials, the wrong colour bricks were used in the rebuilding, which can be clearly seen today.

Today the building is Grade-I listed. Made of red brick and white stone dressings, the house is set out in an E-plan layout. The original gateway to the estate is today marooned in the middle of the front lawn after the village green was enclosed by Charlton House’s owners, the Maryon-Wilson family in 1829. Meanwhile, in the back, the paved courtyard looks out over the Gardens, with some of the original estate forming Charlton Park behind. A part of a 19th century Ha-Ha remains today, while an ancient Mulberry tree in the front grounds is believed to date back to 1608. In the north-west corner of the grounds, overlooking the road, is a summer house or orangery, which was amazingly converted into public toilets in the 1930s. There is hope that the building will be restored in the future.

Charlton House is open today as a community centre, featuring a tea room, library, language school and a function venue for weddings, conferences and meetings. Although the whole of the building is not normally open to the public, I joined a tour of the building during Open House London. As well as learning about the history of the building, I got to see the stunning fireplaces, plasterwork ceilings and original oak staircase. The Grand Salon is particularly impressive with its marble fireplace flanked by sculptures of Venus and Vulcan, with the Stuart coat of arms and the initials JR (King James) in the west bay and the motto ‘Ich Dien’ (German for ‘I serve’) in the east bay.

  • Charlton House, Charlton Road, Charlton, SE7 8RE. Nearest station: Charlton (trains from Charing Cross and Cannon Street). For more information, visit the Charlton House website.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

The original oak staircase still exists in the building’s north east corner


For Metro Girl’s other history posts, click here.

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‘Roman’ bath at The Strand: What the Dickens is the history behind this old watering hole?

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

The remains of the ‘Roman’ Bath in Strand Lane actually date back to the early 17th century

Down a small side street near the Aldwych campus of King’s College is an extraordinary piece of hidden London. Known as the ‘Roman’ Bath on Strand Lane, the building is rarely open to the public. I visited a few months ago during Open House London and found the origins of the baths weren’t quite as romantic as they sounded. At one point there were two baths on the site – named ‘Essex’ and ‘Roman’ respectively, however it is the latter (which is also the oldest), that can be seen today.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

The doorway to the old ‘Essex Bath’ – built in the 18th century – is now blocked off, although the Dutch tiles can still be seen

Thanks to centuries of redevelopment, bombing and fires, there isn’t much left of Roman London today. Within the borders of old Londinium, we have some of the Roman wall at Tower Hill, the remains of the Amphitheatre at Guildhall and an old bathhouse at Lower Thames Street. While the bath at The Strand continues to be named ‘Roman’, it turns out it is significantly younger than two millennia.

Recent research by historians at nearby King’s College London has found the bath was originally constructed in 1612 as a feeder cistern for an elaborate fountain in the gardens of an earlier incarnation of Somerset House (prior to the current building, which dates back to 1796). At the time, the house was the residence for Anne of Denmark (1574-1619), Queen Consort of King James I of England (1566-1625). Following their deaths, it is believed the fountain was demolished around 1630 during extensive remodelling under the reign of their son King Charles I (1600-1649). This research by Professor Michael Trapp and Dr Kevin Hayward rejects an earlier theory the bath was a spring water reservoir for Arundel House, home to Thomas Howard, 21st Earl Of Arundel (1586-1646). Read the rest of this entry

Open House London 2015: Royal residences, Roman baths and Georgian townhouses

Regency London, John Nash and the Third Reich: Visiting The Royal Society’s Carlton House Terrace with Open House

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Only a staircase with blue and white Regency-style wood panelling is all what is left of John Nash’s original interiors at Carlton House Terrace

At Open House London this weekend (19-20 September 2015), The Royal Society are opening the doors to their headquarters for tours. The UK’s national science academy has been based at 6-9 Carlton House Terrace since 1967. However, their HQ was originally separate houses with an interesting history dating back nearly 200 years. I visited during Open House London last year and was charmed by the varied layers of history within the building.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

The Wolfson Library, in what used to be No.6, features a spectacular ceiling and was used at the turn of the 20th century for lavish parties

Carlton House Terrace is a road comprising of two Regency terraces (Nos.1-9 on the west side, Nos 10-18 on the east) in a Roman classical style designed primarily by London-born architect John Nash (1752-1835), with input by Decimus Burton (1800-1881), among others. The road’s name refers to the site’s former royal residence Carlton House, which was demolished on order of its former resident King George IV (1762-1830) when he moved into nearby Buckingham Palace. The King wanted to give the site to the public on the condition new dwellings for the upper classes were erected on the site. Nash’s original idea was to link the two terraces with a large fountain, but the King vetoed his plans so the flight of stairs down to Pall Mall were built instead. The four-storey terraces were built between 1827 and 1832, with the Duke Of York column erected in between the blocks in 1834 in memory of the King’s younger brother Prince Frederick (1763-1827).

While the houses have changed and some have been merged over the years, only a small portion of Nash’s original interiors still exist. In what used to be No.7, Nash’s Staircase is still in situ, featuring white and blue wood panelling and wrought iron bannisters. It’s a small, but fine display of Nash’s regency interior style, of which hardly any examples exist these days due to it falling out of fashion.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

The stunning mother of pearl detailing on the first floor ceiling of what used to be No.6

The houses remained as homes for around 100 years, with Prime Ministers Lord Palmerston, Earl Grey and William Ewart Gladstone among the high-profile residents. American millionaire Charles Henry Sanford, who lived at No.6 in 1890-91, had the house madeover in an opulent Italianate style when he moved in. Today, his stunning marble staircase and ceiling – featuring carved timber and mother of pearl inlays – can still be seen. Upstairs, the Wolfson Library features gold leaf detailing and a painted ceiling and was formerly used as a ballroom for lavish parties at the turn of the 20th century, hosted by American Mrs John W Mackay, who lived at the residence between 1892 and 1920. The Milwaukee Journal wrote of her abode: ‘Her beautiful house in Carlton House Terrace is always open and her gracious hospitality is chronicled by foreigners and her own countrymen.’ Read the rest of this entry