Friday, 30 November 2012

Coming Soon - A large painting by Copley!

The Defeat of the Floating Batteries Gibralter September 1782
by John Singleton Copley
Below: London Sublime by John Bartlett (work in progress)
With kind permission of the Guildhall Art Gallery

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Visit the Court of Common Council with MissB

Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, Roger and Clare Gifford
Photo: Chris Ruff

On Thursday 6th December at 1pm it will be the first official Court of Common Council for the new Lord Mayor, Roger Gifford. This is a wonderful opportunity to see the 25 Aldermen and 100 Councilmen in their ceremonial robes. See previous post 'Silent Ceremony ...'

Of course you will also see the Lord Mayor in all his magnificence with Tricorn Hat, mayorial cloak, and chain of office.  Before him will walk the Sword Bearer wearing the fur 'Cap' of Maintenance and followed by the rest of his court. There will be time to make a short tour of the Great Hall and explain in brief some of the ceremonial procedures you will be privy to.

Also a special day for MissB as her application to become a Freeman of the City will be on the Agenda. The list is usually very long so there are no personal pronouncements, however, the Agenda will include my name. Very proud.

There will be a walk prior to the a visit to the Guildhall, this will cover some interesting stops including Christchurch Greyfriars, Postman's Park, The Guildhall Complex, a visit to the amphitheatre at the Guildhall Gallery and on to Bank and lunch at an C18th Chophouse.

After lunch there will be an opportunity to visit the delightful little shops surrounding the Royal Exchange where MissB has arranged some tempting offers of a discount or two.

Full details can be found at :

MissB Promotes - 'Dickins in the Dark' with Mark Rowland

Ludgate Circus - Gustav Dore

A fellow City of London Guide has developed a wonderful evening walk through the streets of the City of London.

Come and join us on 4th December 2012. The walk begins at 7pm at Paternoster Chop House. Those who have booked for supper will be offered a complimentary welcoming glass of mulled wine.

Please see Mark's blog for further details about the walk :

To make a reservation at the restuarant please go to Book a Table :

Monday, 26 November 2012

Guildhall Art Gallery - First Exam - TONIGHT!

One Hundred Quick Questions in under an hour!

Did an 'at home' quick test and managed 139 out of 150 in under 45 minutes. Two of those were wrong because I DID NOT READ THE QUESTION! So feeling quietly confident that I will definitely get the 50% pass mark. Really it's a personal badge of honour not to get any wrong, but we have to use FULL NAMES so there is a chance I will get some the names mixed up, or invent new ones. Here are some I have to remember:

John Singleton Copley 'The Defeat of the Floating Batteries Gibralter (September 3th 1782)'
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema 'The Pyrrhic Dance' 1869
George Frampton 'Bust of Queen Mary'
J R Dixie
Atkinson Grimshaw
Andrew Garrick Gow
Charles Gassiot
Harold Samuel (this is not on the list but will come up I just know it will!)
John Everett Whistler
John Boydell

Then we have (I can remember the names but then you have to assign them to their rightful work):
Richard Gilbert Scott
Sir Giles Gilbert Scott
Sir George Gilbert Scott

The Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood : OK you run them through your head .... answers at end!
Plus they must be correctly spelt!

There's loads more, actually thinking about this, it would make a great game. Use the different parts of person's name on a card and you have to make them match correctly then the artwork!

From this evening I also have to work on 24 stops, 22 of them paintings (plus a link to a.n. other painting). That's 2 stops over 12 days.  So hope to keep you informed daily as to what I am studying in my quest to absorb sufficient information for the grand finale on 8th and/or 9th December.

Did anyone spot the deliberate mistake?

Answers: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais

Friday, 23 November 2012

The Thames by Moonlight with Southwark Bridge by Atkinson Grimshaw 1884

Something I prepared earlier and forgot to post!
The Thames by Moonlight with Southwark Bridge - Atkinson Grimshaw 1884
Kind Permission of  Guildhall Art Gallery

The City of London Corporation own an interesting collection often overlooked by the public. It is deliberately relevant to the City alone, with a few exceptions, and continues the strong sense of tradition and pride within the Square Mile. Also many portraits of the good, and great and the not so good and great. Plus one of the largest paintings in the British Isles, whereby the Richard Gilbert Scott Guildhall Gallery was designed to house it. Extraordinary paintings that show the Guildhall before the damage caused by WWII; spot the difference is a great game we play while studying them. Another pastime for some is to recall  the names of ALL the City church spires in the paintings - I don't play this one, it smacks of showing off!  Plus I'd rather study the painting for its painterly merits and its meaning at the time and how it fits in to the here and now.

One such painting, not necessarily a favourite, but worthy of considerable attention is the painting above.  Not well hung, it is in a narrow space in the London Gallery (downstairs) wedged between a wall and the staircase. Actually it is best viewed from the stairs, but for H&S reasons I should not encourage you to do so.

Why do I like looking at it?  In the time it was painted the River Thames was still the hub of industry for the Empire, plenty of river traffic such as the sprit sail sailing boats and lighters, the group to the left, oft seen in other views. The London sky was full of smoke from home fires and industrial chimneys, I think it is this smoggy air that gives this particular evening the luminescence plus the full moon peeking through the patchy cloud. One feels that it may have been raining very hard all day and as evening draws in it has stopped, but left the streets glistening and the lamps on the bridge brighter from the reflection of river and pavement. Of course Atkinson Grimshaw was famous for his moonlight paintings and reflections of streetlights after rain.  Whistler felt he was in the forefront of this 'genre' until he saw Grimshaw's work.

It is unlikely this painting was sketched in situ as Grimshaw used a completely different technique from the acceptable process of the time. He used photographs!

John Atkinson Grimshaw, born in Leeds in 1836 was the son of a policeman and in his youth worked for the Great Northern Railway. It was against his parents wishes that he abandoned his steady job to become an artist, so much so, it is said his mother refused to let him have a fire in his room while he worked, to dissaude him.
It is doubtful he could afford formal training and in order to make money from his art he need to learn fast. At the time the painting directly from nature was the done thing, as recommended by the critic John Ruskin. However, Grimshaw had no time to lose, so he relied on photographs to overcome his lack of skill as a draughtsman and learn how to deal with perspective.
"By projecting a photograph or a lantern slide on to a blank canvas, Grimshaw was able to create an instant composition, the outlines of which he could go over in pencil. He then applied his lurid colours with tiny brushes to create a glossy finish, free from visible evidence of his handling of paint."  (Rob Green - The Telegraph 2011).

Contemporary Architecture Walk - 25th November

Reflections in the Gherkin, St Mary Axe
Photograph MissB
MissB inconjunction with Paternoster Chop House are offering an architeture walk with David Thompson this Sunday. Starting at 11 a.m. the introduction with take place in the Temple Bar. The walk lasts about 1.5 hours with a special priced lunch to follow at the restaurant. For information and reservations please visit the link below.

Those of you who went on the Christopher Wren's Birthday Walk will need no introduction to David Thompson, who gives an immersive and interesting walk. So tell your friends and come along.

David Thompson at Temple Bar
'Let's begin ....'

Guildhall Art Gallery Mock Exam

I  have been very busy revising and swotting up the 150 questions I am required to answer for the Written Test on Monday.

I love visiting the Gallery, it is a little gem in the heart of the City and offers some interesting works of art, especially from the Victorians, plus large ceremonial works which show and tell the civic story behind the City of London Corporation.

This is actually back to front! A print for sale on line!
See original in Guildhall Art Gallery
It can be very quiet at times, but schools are welcome and when I was there yesterday the children were examining the large painting of Macbeth Act III Scene IV, you know?  When Banquo appears as a ghost. They were very keen and asked lots of questions.

Also bumped into several of my GAG Art Course colleagues all skooting about checking up on what was where. Slightly bemused and puzzled by some of our questions, one painting 'Ariadne on Naxos' G F Watts -  folk are worrying whether it was Dionysus who abandoned her there or Bacchus? It appears that it depends on whether you telling the Greek or Roman version! I will stick with Dionysus, have just learnt to spell it correctly.

Kind permission of Guildhall Art Gallery
Or we could worry about who is in the carriage with Queen Victoria in 'Queen Victoria's DiamondJubilee Service June 22nd 1897' - Andrew Carrick Gow.  There are thousands of people in this painting and the poor artist had to get the scene down in watercolour within 20 minutes!  The faces of the worthies were later painted in from photographs.  Right back to the carriage, sitting opposite her majesty is the Princess of Wales, Princess Alexandra (of Denmark) and also Princess Helena. The problem arises that if you use the 'Key' to the painting, available to view at the Guildhall Library, it says its Princess Christian. Princess Helena's name changed to Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein by marriage.

Also did you know that Tissot worked for Vanity fair?

You might well ask, but what about the paintings themselves?  It's all very well having background about the artists, and who slept with who, and what his mother thought, but sometimes I feel we really need to focus on the picture and the painterly aspect, content, symbols and how it was viewed at the time rather, the rest, if you really need to know, can looked up later.  We only have 3 to 5 minutes during the exam after all!

Oh and did I mention the importance of the frames, well some of them?  A blog for another time perhaps.

Pyrrhic Dance - Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema 1869
Guildhall Art Gallery

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Psst - The Lord Mayor's Coach is Back!

MissB's real reason for going to the Museum of London was to check that the Lord Mayor's Coach was safely back!  It is!  Resting majestically in it's space below the museum at road level - fixed and perfect, ready and waiting for the next Lord Mayor's Show!

Lord Mayor's Coach back at the Museum 13/11/2012


Museum of London - Resurrection Men

A busy Thursday for me in the City starting at Simpson's Tavern, no not for a drink but a meeting with the new manager and chef to discuss creating an interesting event or two. Watch this space.

Did a quick walk around the Royal Exchange shops, look very Regency, think I might have to consider doing a 'new shopping desitination' walk combined with history.

The Guildhall Art Gallery was welcoming as always and spent some time in the London Gallery with a student/colleague discussing ceremony and Greek mythology in paintings. I really enjoy describing paintings and the course holds no fears for me, just loving it.

On to the Museum of London to visit the latest exhibition:

'Doctors, Dissection and Ressurrection Men - on going until 14 April 2013.

It is a timed entry, and is two floors down, perhaps appropriate in respect of the subject. The walls are blood red and even the video theatre feels like a operating room with blood red corrugated plastic surround.

The exhibition is brilliant, creepy, squirmy and stomach wrenching on occasion. Interestingly enough it was not the bones, skeletons or the realistic wax models that made me squemish. No, it was the beautifully preserved boxes and caskets of surgical instruments, drills and saws!  You broke a leg you had it sawn off with only alcohol or laudenum to sedate you. Often the patient died of shock!

Well I will say no more. Go and see this incredible exhibition. The body snatchers, the surgeons, the Act of Parliament.  Also the final part is how we feel about leaving our body parts to medicine. I know what I will be doing, how about you?

Also read this, an excellent depiction of the life and times of a body snatcher!

Remembrance Sunday - 11th November 2012

St Michael's Cornhill
Always an emotional day, growing up with a soldier as a father, we were often on parade, so to speak. He survived his wars, but sadly is no longer with us. My handsome son is working toward becoming an officer, so I feel it will always be an emotive time for me.

It is good that we DO remember, even if it is only for a couple of minutes once a year, it makes us focus on those who gave their lives for us to be free so, so long ago. Also to remember with pride the young men and women who are in the forces today, whatever you may feel about the act of war itself.

Arrived breathless at the Royal Exchange, everything seemed to have gone in slow motion since I got on public transport. My fellow guides wondered where the Lord Mayor was and I told them I had seen his Rolls Royce at St Paul's.  It transpired if we had gone on with the rest of the group to lay wreaths at the other memorials and returned an hour later, we would have been present when the Lord Mayor laid his wreath on the Royal Exchange Memorial.
Never mind, we'll be more aware next year.

Memorial at Royal Exchange

The memorial honours the London men who died in World War I. Designed by Aston Webb RA and sculpted by Alfred Drury, it's stone column flanked by two life sized bronze soldiers. On top is a lion and a shield showing St George and the Dragon. A fine and worthy monument and pass and admire it often.

WWI Cross St Botolph's
This simple memorial cross at St Botolph's may have been one of the first created, 4th August 1916, the war not yet over. Four alternating faces of the octagonal plinth, reading clockwise from the south facet tell us:

Officers and men of the Honourable Artillery Company, in memory of our brave dead of Bishopgate, 1914-1916 then,
John Travers Cornwell VC of HMS Chester, (16 years of age) and Kitchener, June 5, 1916, Lest we forget.

The story of 'boy Cornwell' is poignant indeed, such a brave soul at only 16 years of age. His story is extraordinary and can be found here.

On 31 Jauary 1922, the original Lloyd's War Memorial arch (Sir Edwin Cooper) was unveiled at the entrance to Lloyd's Rooms at the Royal Exchange, commemorated all those who had been lost in the Great War. When Lloyd's moved to Leadenhall Street, the arch went with, and remained there until the site was demolished in 1979 to make way for the present Lime Street building. The arch went into storage.  What we see today is the carefully restored arch that is now a memorial to those who lost their lives in both the First and Second World War. Unveilded and dedicated in July 2008.

A portion of the Lloyd's War Memorial and Arch
A single poppy nestles in the stone wreath.

Our stroll continued to the WWI Monument at Liverpool Station. Again a monument that has been moved. Sadly a lift has been incorporated in the design which rather spoils it. There are two further memorials, one to a merchant sea captain who rammed a German U boat and was captured and executed (Fryatt) and Sir Henry Wilson who was assassinated only hours after unveiling the memorial by the IRA.

We ended at the Kindertransport statue, a memorial to those children who fled Nazi-controlled Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia between 1938 and 1939. Sculpted by Frank Meisler the same monument stands at Gdansk Glowny railway station in Poland. A Special Reunion is planned to commemorate the 75th annivesary of the Kindertransport on Sunday 23 June 2013 at JFS in North West London.

On my way back to Cheapside I passed St Botolph's again and noticed at the entrance two Remembrance wreaths wrapped in plastic, with a card attached from the British Legion. Why were they lying there after 1pm in the afternoon?  I picked them up and went inside the church, a service was in progress. So there was only one thing left to do. I went to the WWI memorial unwrapped the two wreaths and laid them there.  Not forgotten after all,  prior to my actions nothing had been left, except my own poppy from my collar. RIP.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Silent Ceremony update - Photograph

Lord Mayor, Sword Bearer & Town Crier
Photo: Chris Ruff
Roger Gifford and Family @ Silent Ceremony
Photo: Chris Ruff
Mansion House - Lord Mayor's Show
new and old greet the crowds
Photo: Chris Ruff

Best laid plans of mice and men!

A great send off at 10.45am
Photo: Chris Ruff

I only heard later Saturday evening that the beautiful Lord Mayor's coach never made it back, a broken or bent axle prevented it completing the return journey. I wondered why the shires had not returned to the Guildhall Yard?

However, the Pageantmaster handed over his Land Rover and the Lord Mayor continued on his way.

Pageantmaster walking in front of the Lord Mayor's Land Rover!
Photo: Chris Ruff

Dominic Reid, OBE, Pageantmaster - listen or read his lecture below on the preparation involved for this great show.

Lord Mayor's Show 10th November 2012

What a weekend!

My Saturday started very early with breakfast at the Guildhall, not with the Lord Mayor, he was far too busy getting ready for his day ahead, but with the City of London Historians. We had a grandstand view from our dining room as the horse trailer arrived and those beautiful gentle beasts were walked out to the Yard, covered in sand (as is the route) for their comfort.

The Lord Mayor's coach of course had already been delivered to the Guildhall from the Museum of London the week before and was looking splendid in its glass coach house by the Guildhall Reception.

A drizzle did not dampen our spirits as we moved towards the entrance to the yard, the Guildhall busy with carnival clad float folk and the ceremonial of the Lord Mayor's Court, as well as the Army, Navy and Air Force with gleaming medals and fine regalia. All was calm and relaxed.

Magog & Gog
Gog & Magog our City giants stood tall and loomed large in the Yard, a gift from the Company of Basket Weavers, ready and waiting for their route march.

We were allowed a great view of the preparation in a barricaded area just off the Ambulatory between the West Wing and the Great Hall. - the dressing of the Waldburg Shires, the arrival of the Pike Men to the beating drums, the Pageantmaster walking (calmly) to and fro, resplendent in his black uniform and black feathered hat.

The previous Lord Mayor arrived following by the new -Roger Gifford. Carriages arrived to collect various dignitaries,  then it was the turn of the Lord Mayor's coach with those fine prancing shires. The Rembrancer gathered the Lord Mayor's court, like she was conducting an orchestra, a semi circle on either side and the Lord Mayor processed to his coach, a cheer, hats up in the air! The Lord Mayor responded leaning out and waving back, at 10.45 prompt he was off!

Please have a look at the complete Album on FaceBook - MissBTakesAWalk.

Two very fine Beadles
The City of London Guides went on to warm up with coffee and cake before venturing out to watch the procession down Gresham Street as it began its journey to St Paul's and then on to The Royal Courts of Justice.
Later that day we took walks north, east, south and west of the City. An excellent turn out and I had a particularly jolly crew. A special thank you to my Riverside walkers.

Walks I Like

Anti-Slavery Walk by my favourite Professor - William Pettigrew

Sunday 2 December 11am
Meet at Smithfields by St Bartholomew's Hospital.
£10 pay on the day (all proceeds to Antislavery International, the world's oldest human rights organisation).
Tours last for 2 hours.
With significant COLG2012 support, we have raised close to £1000 so far for a good cause.

Photograph Courtesy of Loz Flowers via Flicker - Fen Court

Book here:

Coffee Walk - with my other favourite Professor - Matt Green

Also go to UCA web site to see the latest walks 'Hacks, Hawkers & Harlots' Story of Fleet Street.

Book here: