Friday, 29 June 2012

Catch up & Watch

Some programmes I managed to catch up on this week and you can catch on iPlayer:

Strange Case Of The Law, BBC4- with Barrister Harry Potter (!), this week what led to the ancient law of habeas corpus, a king beheaded and the eventual abolition of the slave trade. (Broadcast Wednesday 27th June)

The Secret History Of Our Streets, BBC2  - Portland Road - a must see!
(Broadcast Wednesday 27th June). Caught up with this last night and also watched the programme on the Caledonian Road, a real gem.

Places available on MissB's Sunday Walk - no need to book!

Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker

850 years of London Livery Company Treasures
I also visited this exhibition last weekend. It is a beautifully presented exhibition, with some truly interesting treasures, not usually on view to the public. It is also special because it is presented in an art gallery rather than a museum and the team at the Guildhall Art Gallery have overcome all manner of technical difficulties to present these fabulous artefacts.  It is a small portion of what was offered, but well worth a visit.  Entrance: £5.00 (+ concessions)

Look out for the Barber Surgeons fold out book of the body - the first of its kind, I believe. 

Cordwainers - 1920's Red Shoes

While you are at the Art Gallery please make the time to visit the Roman Amphitheatre which lies beneath.

I will be off to the Goldsmiths' Hall (details below) again this Saturday, with note book in hand, to do more research.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Sunday in the Square Mile

Sunday 24th June:
Goldsmiths' Hall
Gold: Power & Allure Exhibition

The Goldsmiths' were a bit shell-shocked when I arrived they had had 2500 visitors on Saturday!
I knew the hall was going to be spectacular, but it was in fact much covered up for another spectacular, spectacular!  The exhibition about Gold! It was beautiful, lots of information and some exquisite pieces from as long ago as 2400 AD. No words can do it justice, you will have to go and see it for yourself. I will certainly go again with my notebook as it was full of interesting information through the ages. It is on until 28th July. Closed Sundays in future. You will requested to leave coat and bag in Cloakroom (no charge).  (no photographs allowed)

St Mary le Bow, Cheapside - Talk by the Rector at 13.00 (free)
The Rector gives an exciting and amusing talk about every aspect of this lovely Wren church. He brings it's history to life and the characters that made sure that the church still exists today. You start in the undercroft (what it actually is) or 'crypt' as everyone insists on calling it (the Rector says) then you move into the main body of the church. Famous also for its musical events.

Developing the City - One visit to this exhibition will not do. Huge blow ups of old prints, paintings, maps and plans. You just don't want to leave, the huge model is also something to behold. There are also architect's models of other buildings developed or in planning to be seen. Some good literature to collect too.
There is a kids area also with lots of paper and colouring to be getting on with while parents browse.

Barbican Tour (pre booked)  (Tel: 0207 638 8891) (90 minutes)
So pleased I booked as it was over subscribed but Lucy our small and bouncy guide did'nt mind having a few more along. She spoke very fast and it took a while to get used to her, but her voice was clear and she was certainly articulate about the architecture, if not quite grasping the social ethos behind it.  It is interesting how 'social housing' and 'council housing' mean different things to people now. However that said it was a great walk, and explored a few places I had'nt managed to get to yet, including the Conservatory. It was comprehensive, and explained well a complex development.

Did'nt make it to the Bauhaus Exhibition but went to visit some friends of mine who have recently moved into the Barbican, Willoughby House, a duplex. After a lovely glass of sparkly, I received the grand tour. A beautiful apartment, over three floors,  kitchen and dining room look over the lake and gardens, with the bedrooms below with a balcony with a view of the Gherkin, Tower 42 et al. The living room is on the top floor under the crescent shaped roof, another balcony with a wall  a parapet with a narrow slit in it, for shooting ducks I think (only joking!). It was sublime, it was sunny, it was fabulous.

Walking on air when I left, just in time to reach Cheapside to see New Change in a new colour!

'Celebrate the City' - My Weekend - Saturday

Saturday 23rd June
Well did I or didn't I complete my set list ?  Most of it I am delighted to say and had a wonderful time.
Fishmongers' Hall, London Bridge, EC4R 9EL
A difficult livery hall to access so it was a coup. The curator took us around the major rooms and gave us a brisk overview of the contents. Lots of paintings of fish, as you would expect, but the paintings also contained pictures of beaver and duck, which believe it or not were also classed as 'fish' in Medieval times. Due to all that fasting during the Catholic dominance of the religious calendar some of the those in power deemed these 'classifications' necessary!
An excellent sculpture of Wat Tyler in Yew and dates from 1684 adorns the large staircase, in the Baroque style apparently, but in Tudor garb. 

A sterling silver chandelier, rare and unusual, nothing like it in London. Cleaned twice a year and takes two days to do so.
The Fishmongers also own a rather lovely picture of Her Majesty the Queen by Pietro Annigoni (1955). The painting we saw was a copy, the original is currently in the Portrait Gallery at a special exhibition for the Golden Jubilee.
I will write more about this livery company in another section shortly.

Cutlers' Hall, Warwick Lane, London EC4M 7BR

Now for something completely different. The Cutlers' were a jolly bunch (120 members in total) all happy to talk about the building, its contents and history. The Beadle showed us around, apparently one of his ancestors was Dick Turpin! They have been a bit unlucky with their Halls, they had just completed a new hall in Cheapside in 1664, then lost it in the Great Fire 1666. They have been on the current site since 1888. The site had been previously occupied by the Royal College of physicians. The Cutlers' did not make the blades of the swords, daggers and sabres etc, their job was to gather all the components together and produce a finished article. Cutlery came much later; the symbol of the elephant is a dominant motif in the Hall and comes from the use of ivory in the making of handles.  A wonderful surprise was the presence of the GB Fencing Team creating lots of excitement with displays in the Great Hall.

Plaisterers' Hall, One London Wall, London EC4R 9EL
The Norman Foster building was built over this hall, as was the previous 1960's office block. Strange to think they were never without a building above or around them bar the part facing the old London Wall.
There is completely 'over-the-top' mouldings everywhere, as you would expect and it does look wonderful and incredibly detailed. Hugh chandeliers in the Great Hall, the lighting changes colour during functions and highlights the detailed plasterwork above and around. Splendid indeed!

Bank of England(rooms usually closed to the public) - Passed on this one. The queues went round the block; informed that they would be open again on Saturday 30th June - get there early!

Bishopsgate Institute - Talk: Lost Photographs of London by Philip Davies (free) 
'Work, Wealth, Poverty and Change
Excellent talk and very moving. I bought the large book at a discount and then signed by Mr Davies.
A heavy book, but a 'must have', thank goodness it was the final stop of the day, and although most of the bus stops were 'not in use' from the  Institute to Tower 42, I had a great ride on the top of the bus at the front to Waterloo and then home.
The Londonist has an excellent article on this subject see
Also gave my first impromptu 'bus guide' about Bucklersbury and what was happening to the site as the chap (Duncan) sitting next to me was quite shocked at the huge hole. Gave him a card!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Developing the City Exhibition

St Pauls reflected in New Change
An excellent architectural exhibition has just opened at The Walbrook Building, opposite Cannon Street station. Entry is free and it is open Tuesday to Sunday 11.00 - 17.30. There is also a very good free fold out A3 handout with map and small illustrations of 77 building in the City and 4 in Canary Wharf. More details are available on .
The exhibition will close 9 September 2012. The exhibition includes the very large Piper model that normally resides in the City Marketing Suite at the Guildhall.

The architectural walks on the latest website are as follows:
Sat 23 June 11.00 City East - Caroline Dale
Sat 23 Jun 14.00 City West - David T
Sun 24 Jun 11.00 London Bridge and Southwark - Paul T
Sun 24 Jun 14.00 City East - CD
Mon 25 Jun 11.00 City West - PT
Mon 25 Jun 14.00 City East - DT
Tues 26 Jun 11.00 City West - CD
Wed 27 Jun 18.00 City West - DT
Thu 28 Jun 11.00 City East - PT
All walks can be booked online or at The Walbrook
This item courtesy of my Course Leader Paul Taylor

Thursday, 21 June 2012

A 'Do Not Bend' Letter in the Post

It is now official - I am most definitely a City of London Guide plus Green Badge Tourist Guide!
The news was out via e-mail on Wednesday that the results were coming through. I had to spend a long day at work before arriving home to find no letter in the hall!

'Tomorrow perhaps?' I thought, with a large moth in my stomach, not sure why, but I opened the front door (I had arrived home via the back alley, garden route) to find the envelope lying on the door step.  Phew.

Obviously very happy with the result of my hard labour over the last eight months.  Now planning some walks, dates to be posted soon.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Gardening Leave

One of the new gardens listed in Open Squares Weekend is to be found within the grounds of The Royal Hospital at Chelsea. Not originally in my plan, but made a special effort on the Sunday to go and see it on the recommendation of a friend, little did I realise what an emotional visit it would be.

'Gardening Leave' was set up in 2007 to provide horticultural therapy projects for Service and ex-Servicemen and women throughout the UK. A place to find peace and quiet and potter about working over a small piece of ground, to do as much or as little as they wanted, whilst enjoying solace and tranquility in a special place. This project is part of a rehabilitation programme for those who may be suffering from mental affects of combat and/or injured in service.

Entering The Royal Hospital at Chelsea is also significant, it is not open to the public often and it was a real pleasure to walk through the grounds and meet  some of the Pensioners in residence, who are always ready for a chat.

The Gardening Leave area is new and was opened in November 2011, and already it is blooming and fruitful. There is a lovely path of cockle shells, a particular nursey rhyme springs to mind, pretty and great drainage. Not a designed garden but has the feel of a well cared for allotment, that is its charm, it could be anyone's and anywhere, and I am sure those who use it on a regular basis get a lot of pleasure from it and enjoy returning to it time and time again.

I met and spoke to Anna Baker Cresswell (Founder) who was welcoming and so modest about the achievements and potential of this excellent idea. I was really overcome by it all, perhaps because of my link with the Army through my Sergeant Major father, who always said he would like to end up at the Royal Hospital, but sadly did not live to do so, and my young son who is very determined to be an officer in the army once he has completed University.

Should you visit the garden, it will evoke many emotions, but when leaving you cannot help but have a smile on your face, at the pleasure of it, and you hope with all your heart that those that come here will gain peace within it, enjoyment from working in it, and come away with a hope in their heart of recovery and happiness.

Here's hoping that Anna BC and her team will open the garden again soon, so that more people can visit it.

Please read on to hear about my wonderful garden walk through the City.

Garden Squares Weekend

Last weekend I joined in a walk or two and also visited one very special garden which I will tell you about in another article. 
Postmans' Park - Ferns
Thankfully the sun was shining on both days.

Saturday I joined the Open Garden Squares Walk with Marion Blair (City of London Guide) who knows her onions (or should that be bulbs?).  A popular tour, if the size of the group had anything to go by, which started at the City Information Centre ('CIC').

We began at the Festival Garden just completed to a contemporary layout in St Paul's old coach park, on to Fidelity Gardens, the area in front of 25 Cannon Street and then to Cleary Gardens. I will not describe the whole route as it will spoil the mystery of it when you take it yourself.  That said having walked around the City in all weathers for the last eight months while studying, it was great to view it from the flora and fauna, trees and landscaping aspect.

'The Gardener' by Karin Jonzen 1971
Postmans' Park, no longer the secret garden it was, a perfect micro climate for a variety of trees and plants. Also not sure that what lies beneath does not encourage the lush growth as well. Marion also explained the important plane tree, the tree of choice for the City, which acts as a 'clean air filter' taking the air pollution,  absorbing it through it's leaves and shedding the poison via flaking bark. No insect will live on it or within it, a foe to biodiversity perhaps but a friend to those who live and work in the busy City.  We also heard the fascinating story of the 'Handkerchief Tree'. Yes,  Marion also knows the Latin name! Which is davidia involucrata.

A visit to Aldermanbury Square was an example of the City of London's planning requirements for developers to include a green or open space within their developments (Section 106).  Contemporary landscaping with beautiful birch trees, and some interesting topiary/trimming or 'table topping' as its called of the precisely positioned  plane trees, with a water feature with 24 jets set flush with the paving (not operating due to drought!!!) and a variety of grasses.  Granite benches with interesting stainless steel inserts along the edge, skate board stops!

Barber Surgeons' Hall
As we made our way towards London Wall and the Barber Surgeons we stopped briefly at 'The Gardener' , not a pub, but a lovely bronze in the garden of Brewers' Hall.

The Barber Surgeons' herb garden, was a new find for me and really interesting, it had also never occurred to me before that you can visit this 'herb' garden at anytime, access down the ramp from London Wall into the Barber Surgeons' garden. It is in the bastion once used as the 'operating' theatre.

Small but beautiful and in four parts; herbs, believed since Medieval times, to have curative powers, herbal remedies, plants discovered to be useful as medicine as further discoveries were made, and plants from which we get such a pill as Asprin.

Plaisterers' Hall Garden - Manicured!

The walk also offers considerable historical background of plants and their discoverers throughout.

We continued along the Roman Wall and admired the neat edging of the area outside the Plaisterers, Hall, and then further along the wall to find where the wild flora and fauna grows.
Roman Wall - wild flower area

We ended at Christchurch Greyfriars,  which due to the lovely wet weather we've been having, was in full bloom. Everyone enjoyed the walk and one couple so much so, they were coming back on Sunday.

Christchurch Greyfriars EC1

If you would like a walk with Marion Blair please contact -

You may have missed this weekend but there are 200 open spaces in the City to explore. look for Parks & Gardens.
A map can also be obtained from the CIC.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Now for Gold and Gardens ...

The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths'
A must to visit is the new Goldsmiths' Centre at 42 Britton Street, EC1 (opened April 2012)

The Goldsmiths Hall, Foster Lane, EC2V 6BN

The Goldsmiths' Fair - a selling exhibition
24-30 September (week 1) then a changeover
2-7 October (week 2) new exhibitors