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Photo Friday: Have an ‘appointment with the PM’ at 10 Adam Street

10 Adam Street

Visit ‘No.10 Downing Street’ lookalike No.10 Adam Street

Now I don’t like to make assumptions about my readers, but I reckon I could make a fairly good guess that most of you haven’t visited No.10 Downing Street. Located behind iron gates and a wall of police, it’s one of the most heavily guarded addresses in the United Kingdom. It’s pretty unlikely that many of us will get close to the iconic address.

However, during a quiet side street off The Strand is a building that is a bit of a doppelgänger to the Prime Minister’s residence. Walking past No.10 Adam Street you could be forgiven for looking twice. The entrance to the Georgian building features a familiar black door. Both have the fan window above the door, white stucco frame and a brass door knob. While Downing Street has a black lion door knocker, Adam Street has a simple brass one.

No.10 Adam Street was designed by architect Robert Adam (1728-1792) – part of the Adam dynasty. The surrounding area is known as Adelphi – named after the former Adelphi Terrace which was built between 1768-1792 and designed by Robert, James and William Adam. The Adelphi was London’s first neoclassical building and featured 11 large houses and a vaulted terrace with fine views over the Thames.

Although the Adelphi Terrace was demolished in the 1930s, the name lives on with the nearby Adelphi Theatre and the new Adelphi building, a striking Art Deco creation. The surrounding roads – Adam Street, John Adam Street and Robert Street – are named after the architects.

  • 10 Adam Street, Westminster, WC2N 6AA. Nearest station: Charing Cross, Embankment or Temple.

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

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

Down a small side street near the Aldwych campus of King’s College is an extraordinary piece of hidden London.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

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

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

Having a gas: The last Webb Patent Sewer lamp in London

Once a mainstay of Victorian streets, gas lamps have gradually been replaced by electric lighting and are a very rare occurrence today. However down one quiet London street, there is what is believed to be the capital’s only remaining sewer gas lamp.

Carting Lane Gas lamp © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

The Webb Patent Sewer Gas Lamp is located on Carting Lane

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

The lamp burns 24 hours a day

Halfway down Carting Lane at the back of The Savoy hotel, is an example of a Webb Patent Sewer Gas Lamp. The design was patented by Joseph Edmund Webb of Birmingham in the late 19th century in a bid to safely remove sewer gases from the sewers below. These gases, when built up, were hazardous and smelt dreadful. These lamps were mainly placed on slopes and hills – where sewer gases were more likely to collect. Carting Lane is a slope leading down towards the Thames from The Strand, with the sewers taking waste from The Savoy. With this in mind, it’s no surprise to hear the road has been nicknamed ‘Farting Lane’. However, while the lamps removed sewer gases, they weren’t actually powered by them. The flame is lit by traditional town gas, while drawing up sewer gases from below and burning off any impurities along with the mains gas.

Unfortunately the lamp was damaged by a lorry in more recent years, but has been fully restored by British Gas engineers and can now be seen running 24 hours a day.

  • The old lamppost can be found on Carting Lane (leading from The Strand to Savoy Place), Westminster, WC2R. Nearest stations: Charing Cross, Embankment or Temple.

For the history of the ‘Dolphin’ street lamps by the Thames, click here.

To find out about the monument to composer Arthur Sullivan in Embankment Gardens behind the hotel and his ties to The Savoy, click here.

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

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‘We are all in the gutter…’ Oscar Wilde memorial near The Strand

A look at Maggi Hambling’s sculpture by the Strand.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

Missing something: The head and shoulders of Oscar Wilde is missing a cigarette

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

Take a seat: A Conversation With Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was one of the greatest poets and authors of the 19th century. Although born and raised an Irishman, he spent a lot of his life in London and, of course, many of his plays were first staged here, and continue to be staged in the capital over 100 years after his death.

Given his huge contribution to London’s West End with his masterpieces such as The Importance Of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husband, it is only fitting there should be a memorial to him in the city. Unbelievably, it took until 1998 for the great talent to finally be honoured in his former home.

‘A Conversation With Oscar Wilde’ by Maggi Hambling is a bit more interactive than most memorials. I have often walked past it to see people sitting on it eating their lunch, perhaps completely oblivious to what they are resting their posterior on… but they could also be having a quiet moment with Oscar. Unveiled by actor Stephen Fry on the 98th anniversary of his death on 30 November 1998, the piece consists of a granite block, which looks rather coffin-shaped, with the bronze head and shoulders of Oscar peering out. Oscar’s hand originally held a cigarette, but is currently absent, despite being replaced several times. Describing the piece, Hambling has said in the past: ‘The idea is that he is rising, talking, laughing, smoking from this sarcophagus and the passerby, should he or she choose to, can sit on the sarcophagus and have a conversation with him.’

At the tail end of the piece is a quote from his 1892 play Lady Windermere’s Fan (first performed at St James’s Theatre), which is probably one of his most memorable and apt quotes. ‘We are all – in the gutter – but some of us – are looking at – the stars.’

  • A Conversation With Oscar Wilde is located on Adelaide Street, WC2, just near the junction of The Strand and Duncannon Street and around the back of St Martin-in-the-Fields Church. Nearest tube: Charing Cross.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

A quote from Lady Windermere’s Fan


For Metro Girl’s blog post on the memorial to composer Arthur Sullivan, a short walk away, read Arthur Sullivan memorial in Embankment Gardens: A racy tribute to a legendary composer

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Civil war, centre of London and a memorial to a queen: The story behind Charing Cross

Find out about the huge monument in the forecourt of Charing Cross station.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

A Victoria construction of the Eleanor Cross has stood outside Charing Cross station since 1865

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

The Victorian monument stands 70ft high

Charing Cross lends its name to one of London’s busiest overland stations, seeing over 37 million people passing through every year. However, a majority of those who pass through Charing Cross probably have no idea what the station is named after. In the forecourt of the 19th century station stands a Victorian replica of the Eleanor Cross, of which the original stood on the edge of the hamlet of Charing from the 13th century.

After years of passing by the Eleanor Cross and admiring the ornate carvings, I decided to find out the history behind it. I had long heard of Charing Cross as being referred to as the centre of London and was interested to find out how this came about with the area being located west of the original City of London.

The original Eleanor Cross was erected on the junction of Whitehall with Trafalgar Square – where the statue of Charles I on a horse stands today. The cross was commissioned by King Edward I (1239-1307) in the 13th century as a memorial to his wife Eleanor of Castile (1241-1290). The Charing Cross was one of 12 erected to mark the nightly resting places her body stopped on its way from Lincoln to Westminster Abbey. The Cross was placed where the hamlet of Charing – believed to have come from the Anglo-Saxon word for bend – ‘cierring’ (referring to the nearby bend in the River Thames) met the Royal Mews of the Palace of Whitehall. Out of all 12 Eleanor Crosses, the one at Charing was the most expensive and was created by senior royal mason Richard of Crundale and sculptor Alexander of Abingdon.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

The second level features likenesses of Eleanor of Castile, who died in 1290

For over 350 years, the Eleanor Cross stood at the top of Whitehall until the Civil War. In 1647 it was destroyed on the orders of Parliament, and nearly 30 years later, replaced by the equestrian statue of Charles I during the restoration. Since the late 19th century, Charing Cross has been seen as the centre of London and it’s from this point of Charles’s statue where distances from the capital are measured.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

An equestrian statue of Charles I now stands on the site of the original Eleanor Cross

With the Industrial Revolution transforming the city, the name Charing Cross was to be used again to name the railway station being built on the site of the Hungerford Market – which had been there since the late 16th century. In the forecourt of the station and its adjoining Charing Cross Hotel, it was decided by the South Eastern Railway company that the Eleanor Cross should rise again.

Architect Edward Middleton Barry (1830-1880), who had also designed the hotel and the Royal Opera House, designed the reconstruction. Built by Thomas Earp of Lambeth with Portland stone, Mansfield stone and Aberdeen granite, it was a much more elaborate and ornate design than the original. Standing at 70 feet (21 metres) high, it consists of three stages on an octagonal plan, topped by a spire and cross. The first stage features shields copied from the other Eleanor Crosses and bear the arms of England, Castile, Leon and Ponthieu. The next level features likenesses of Eleanor of Castile. It was finished in 1865 – a year after Charing Cross station opened.

Over the decades, the Eleanor Cross started to suffer a bit from the weather and general ageing. After being designated a Grade II listed monument in 1970, it was put on the English Heritage At Risk Register in 2008. During its restoration in 2009-2010, over 100 missing ornamental features were recreated, with existing ones being re-attached or secured. Let’s hope this Victorian piece of architecture survives as long the original Eleanor Cross, if not longer.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Both the monument and the Charing Cross Hotel over the station were designed by architect Edward Middleton Barry


To read about the history of nearby Great Scotland Yard, click here

Or walk down Villiers Street to check Embankment Gardens to see the 17th century York Water Gate or the racy monument to composer Arthur Sullivan.

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

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They put the Great into Great Britain: Team GB’s victory parade

Classy cocktails in an Art Deco setting – the amazing Beaufort Bar @ The Savoy

The Savoy

The Savoy

While I don’t flash the cash every night, now and again I like to treat myself. Over the past 10 years, I have been gradually working my way around the best bars and restaurants in London – many of them in the capital’s top hotels and The Savoy has been on my list of ‘must dos’ for some time. When a close friend of mine was having a hard time last week, I thought, to hell with it, lets live a little and decided to bring her to the Beaufort Bar at The Savoy Hotel to cheer her up. Those who saw the ITV documentary in 2010 charting the refurbishment and reopening of the iconic London hotel may well be tempted already. I had walked past the hotel many times over the years, but had never entered… until now.

The Savoy has been known as a by-word for grandeur for decades and is arguably one of the most famous hotels in the world – up there with The Ritz in London and Paris and The Plaza in New York. Built just off The Strand in 1889, it was Britain’s first luxury hotel, with its selling point being electric lighting and lifts and hot running water in the bathrooms – something we take for granted these days. Over the years, some of the biggest stars stayed in the hotel, including Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles, Dame Elizabeth Taylor and Charlie Chaplin… the list goes on. In recent years, the hotel was bought and closed for three years for an extensive refurbishment and renovation, re-opening in October 2010.

Anyone that has done a hop-on, hop-off bus tour or the capital may already know that Savoy Court, the small ‘road’ leading into The Savoy, is the only place in Britain where you can drive on the wrong side of the road. Cars enter on the right-hand lane , which is deemed easier to get in and out this way due to the design of the court. As Savoy Court is private property, this rule does not contravene UK driving laws… and makes mainland Europeans and Americans perhaps feel a bit more at home.

beaufort savoy © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Cocktails at the Beaufort Bar

Situated on the site of hotel’s former cabaret stage, the Beaufort Bar is a new addition since the refurb, a throwback to old-fashioned glamour and styled in Art Deco black and gold. After walking through the striking lobby and Thames Foyer, we were greeted at the entrance of the Beaufort on the left by a very helpful and friendly female hostess. She guided us to an intimate ‘booth’ area against a dramatic backdrop of a gold wall. Despite being handed the menus, we didn’t look at them for several minutes as we took in the grandeur around us. A truly stunning room.The menu was extensive and included mostly vintage or original cocktails, as well as an extensive range of wines and champagne. We were all in the mood for cocktails, which are a bit pricey at around £14.50 each, but the ambiance, service and location makes it worth every penny. Our cocktails were delicious, and went down easily as we sat and chatted. At various points in the evening, we were entertained by the honey tones of a jazz vocalist on the piano, and kept our hunger at bay with the very more-ish nibbles of nuts and olives that were regularly topped up by our hostess.

So if you want to experience the high-life for the night and live another life, I can thoroughly recommend the Beaufort, which has already appeared on No.2 on the list of London’s best drinking holes on World’s Best Bars.

  • Beaufort Bar @ The Savoy, Savoy Court, The Strand, Westminster, WC2R OEU. Nearest stations: Charing Cross, Embankment or Temple. Opening hours: Mon-Sat 5pm-1am. For more information, visit The Savoy website.

 


For a review of Kaspar’s Seafood Bar & Grill at The Savoy, click here.

For a full list of Metro Girl’s reviews of bars and restaurants, click here.

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