Archive for August, 2016


Posted: August 31, 2016 in Birds, Natural History


The Redshank is a common wading bird most often seen as it probes the mudflats looking for worms and molluscs.



Redshank breed in the UK (c25000 pairs) supplemented by migrating birds in the winter to bring the estimated population to 130000 birds.



Charles James Napier was born in the Palace of Whitehall in London in August 1782 into a military family. Aged 12 he joined the 33rd Infantry and by the time of the Peninsular war had risen to command the 50th Foot. He was wounded at the Battle of Corunna (January 1809) and mistakenly left for dead on the battle-field. He was fortunate in that he was discovered by a French drummer-boy and taken Prisoner. He was eventually released and returned to Britain. By 1810 he had returned to Iberia in command of the 102nd Regiment and took part in a number of battles including Badajoz.

In 1839 he was appointed Officer commanding the Northern Districts of Britain, but soon was posted to India as Military Commander for the Bombay Region and was responsible for the annexation of Sindh province (contrary to the orders he had been given). The following year he was made Governor of the Bombay region, but clashed over policy with the representatives of the British East India Company, resigned and returned to Britain. By 1849 he was back in India as Commander in Chief, but again clashed with civil authorities, this time, Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-General. Napier resigned again and returned to Britain. On his return, he was highly critical of the administration in India predicting that continuation of these policies would lead to problems – as they ultimately did in 1857 when a revolt broke out in the colony. However, at the time his concerns were dismissed. Napier did not live to see his words of warning come true as he had died in 1853 and was buried in the Garrison Church at Portsmouth.

The statue in Trafalgar Square was erected in 1856.

Some pictures of Guillemots from Staple Island. These amazing ‘cities’ of birds crowded on the cliff tops.








When William and Mary arrived in England in 1689 to take the throne they purchased Nottingham House in the village of Kensington as a home. They commissioned improvements which were overseen by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor. These included additional accommodation, a new entrance and the Queens Gallery. The King and Queen moved in just before Christmas 1689. The palace was damaged by fire in 1691 but repairs were made and over the following years the Kings staircase and the King’s gallery was added.


Queen Anne succeeded to the throne in 1702. She lived at other London Palaces (Whitehall, St James’,Windsor and Hampton Court) and used Kensington for parties and other recreational activities. She had work done on the palace gardens including the Orangery, which was built in 1704-5.

The Orangery

The Orangery


George I came to the throne in 1714 and held a celebration bonfire party at Kensington. However a survey of 1716 revealed that the property was in a poor state. King George set plans for restoration including the inclusion of the privy chamber, the cupola room and the withdrawing room replacing parts of the original house. However the extent of these works meant that for much of his reign he was unable to use the palace as it was being re-built.


His son, George II (from 1727),by contrast, made Kensington his principal residence, living here for 4-6 months each year. However after Queen Caroline died in 1737 one wing of the house was left unused. His son, George III chose not to use Kensington at all. However, Edward Duke of York was granted apartments in the palace and set about completing some repairs. It was at Kensington that his daughter Victoria was born in 1819 and was baptised in the Cupola room. The Duke died when his daughter was only 9 months old but the Duchess and her daughter continued to live in the apartments. It was here on the early morning of 20th June 1837, that Princess Victoria was awakened to be informed she was now Queen Victoria. The Queen and her mother moved to Buckingham Palace and Kensington was again left unused apart from some rooms which were used for the storage of furniture and paintings.

Queen Victoria statue at the entrance to Kensington Palace

Queen Victoria statue at the entrance to Kensington Palace


There were a number of ideas proposed for the palace ranging from demolition (vetoed by Queen Victoria) to its use as a gallery or museum. In 1897, parliament was persuaded to pay for repairs providing the state apartments were opened to the public. In 1911 the London Museum opened in the Palace buildings, although 3 years later this relocated to Lancaster House. From 1914-1923 the state appointments were closed to the public. The palace was damaged during the second world war and finally reopened in 1949 following repairs. The following year the London Museum returned to the Palace, where it remained until 1976 when it was amalgamated with London Guildhall Museum.


There are still private apartments in the palace which are used by members of the Royal family. The most famous being Diana, Princess of Wales who lived here between 1981 and 1997 and her son, Prince William and his family who have lived here since 2013.




St Mary Woolnooth

St Mary Woolnooth

It is thought that this has been a site of worship for over 2000 years as excavations have revealed the presence of a Roman temple and an Anglo-Saxon church.

The dedication is to St mary of the Nativity. The term Woolnooth is believed to have come from Wulnathe de Walesbrok, a 12th century benefactor.

The Anglo-Saxon church had been replaced by a Norman building, which was rebuilt in 1445. Badly damaged during the Great Fire of London in 1666, it was repaired by Sir Christopher Wren, but by 1711 it had been declared unsafe and was demolished.

High Altar

High Altar

Nicholas Hawksmoor was commissioned to build a replacement, it is the only church by this famous church builder in the city of London. He began in 1716 and it finally opened for worship in 1727. John Newton, hymn writer and anti-slavery campaigner was the priest here from 1780-1807 and William Wilberforce was also known to have worshipped here.

The Pulpit

The Pulpit

There were many changes over the following years, most notably the removal of the galleries in 1876. It has been threatened with demolition over the years as it occupies a prime site in the city. In 1897 plans were laid to demolish the church in conjunction with the building of Bank station on the underground railway, but public pressure ensured its survival. The railway company purchased the church crypt and worked to ensure that no damage was done to the church structure whilst building the station underneath it.

Today in addition to its English-speaking congregation it is also home to a German-speaking Swiss community in London as well as being the official church in London of the government of  the Canadian state of British Columbia.


Posted: August 24, 2016 in Butterflies and Moths, Natural History


This attractive butterfly is common in England and Wales and is one of the few species which is expanding its range over recent years.


The colouring and shaping of the wings provide excellent camouflage giving it the appearance of a withered brown leaf, particularly when hibernating on tree trunks.



A trip out of London for today’s post: The Renwick memorial (also known as ‘The Response’) is to be found in central Newcastle, where it stands in the grounds of St Thomas’ church at Barras Bridge.20150504_101210a

The Renwick Memorial is dedicated to all those who answered the call to serve in the armed forces in World War 1. Its scenes depict the soldiers leaving their loved ones to go off to war.  The memorial was commissioned by Sir George and Lady Renwick and given to the city in 1923 to commemorate three events: the raising of the Commercial Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers; the return of the five Renwick sons from the war; and Sir George Renwick’s attainment of 50 years of commercial life on Newcastle Quayside it was unveiled by the Prince of Wales as part of a visit that he made to the city in July 1923.



The reverse of the memorial depicting a Northumberland Fusilier of 1674 and of 1918 and St George

The reverse of the memorial depicting a Northumberland Fusilier of 1674 and of 1918 and St George

Atlantic Puffins must be one of the most delightful creatures. It was amazing to see so many on Staple Island – so close and so tame.







The memorial, designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, was commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her husband Prince Albert, who had died in 1861.



It opened in 1872, although the seated statue, by John Foley and Thomas Brock, was not added until 1875.


The memorial was recently restored which included the restoration of the gold leaf. The statue had been painted black for approx 80 years and it was traditionally thought that this was to prevent it being a target for Zepplin raids in World War 1. However recent research has suggested that the paint was applied pre-1914, possibly as a response to pollution damage to the original gold leaf.




All that remains of the church of St Martin Orgar in the city of London is it’s bell tower.  The medieval church was destroyed by the great fire of London in 1666, but unlike many city churches it was not rebuilt and was merged with nearby St  Clement Eastcheap. It is likely that the bells of St Martin’s referred to in the nursery rhyme #Oranges and Lemons’ are those of St Martin Orgar.


Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement’s.

You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin’s.

When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow.

There was some restoration worked carried out on the remaining structure and it was home to a congregation of French Protestants until 1820 when all the remaining buildings except the bell tower were pulled down. The tower became the bell tower of St Clements and was incorporated into surrounding buildings.