Archive for the ‘London’ Category

Fitzrovia Chapel (1)

Posted: August 18, 2017 in History, London, UK
Tags:

The Fitzrovia chapel, as it is known today, is from the outside an unassuming brick building in the middle of a modern office and residential development in the centre of London. It unassuming character ends though once you enter the door. The chapel is all that remains of the Middlesex Hospital which stood on the site from 1757 until its demolition in 2006. One of the conditions of the redevelopment was that the chapel was maintained and restored and this involved supporting it whilst the hospital was demolished around it including the lower floors of the building in which it stood.

It is in the greatest of High Victorian styles and was completed by the Father and Son architects John and Frank Loughborough Pearson, the later taking over after his father had died in 1897. There are many oddities about this chapel. It was never consecrated as a church and so although it is now available for hire, it is not licensed for religious ceremonies such as baptisms or weddings.

The chapel re-opened in 2015 following restoration paid for by the developers of the site and is now run by a charitable trust. It is usually open on a Wednesday from 11 am to 4 pm if there is no booking.

Sue and I were back at the IAAF World Athletics Championships over the weekend.

A full crowd as there has been for each Session

Men’s 110m Hurdles race in the Decathlon

Men’s 110m Hurdles race in the Decathlon

Alyson Felix (USA) – one of the worlds best sprinters over the past decade prepares for the sprint relay heats

Changeover for USA and GB teams in women’s 4x100m relay heat – both qualified for the final.

Good to see Adam Gemili back in GB team after injury

Men’s 4x100m relay heat

Usain Bolt preparing for a 4x100m relay heat

Jamacia leads out in men’s 4x400m relay heat.

Kevin Meyer of France in the Discus section of the men’s decathlon.

I imagine this is not what the organisers had in mind for the Long Jump pit. Hero the Hedgehog and friend enjoy the sand.

At present both the Big Butterfly count and the national Dragonfly survey are both running and so I decided to combine counts for these with my weekly counts on the local patch. It was a warm but quite windy day and so conditions were not ideal and this was reflected in the low butterfly count – just a Small White and a Speckled Wood seen. However there is always something to find and today it was two new records for me – the first of these was a female Tufted Duck and 4 young. Although the Tufted Duck are present all year round on the Tarn, this is the first time I have seen evidence of successful breeding. The youngsters are quite large now and look very healthy so hopefully, they will make it to adulthood.

The second new record was 2 Jersey Tiger Moths. This bright, colourful day flying Moth is a relative newcomer to London. In a 1903 survey, it was found only in one location in Devon and in the Channel Islands, but in recent years it has spread throughout southern England and arrived in 2004 in London where it is now regularly recorded.

Jersey Tiger Moth. Photo by AJ Cann (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajc1/)

Jersey Tiger Moth.

Young Grey Heron on Tarn

 

After completing the weekly survey I went onto Eltham Palace to check out the moat for Dragonflies and was pleased to find a number of Small Red-Eyed Damselflies plus a single Migrant Hawker

Small Red-eyed Damselfly

Small Red-eyed Damselfly

Bracket Fungus

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)

 

Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Speckled Wood [sp] (Pararge aegeria)

Jersey Tiger Moth (Euplagia quadripunctaria)

Small Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma vindulum)
Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta)
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

Here are some pictures from the second Visit Sue and I made to the World Para-Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium in London on Friday night.

London turns out to watch the Para-Athletics

On the line in a wheelchair 100m

Marcel Hug of Switzerland leads round the final bend in the 800m

Steve Morris of Great Britain leads in the 880m

Off! in the 100m

Greg Rutherford, World and Olympic Long Jump champion doing a stint for Channel 4

Whizz-Bee the championship mascot.

Hokusai exhibition

Posted: July 25, 2017 in Art, London, UK
Tags: ,

Yesterday evening Sue and I went to see the exhibition of Japanese art by Katsushika Hokusai at the British Museum. Now I confess I am not a great fan of Oriental art but I do love Hokusai’s best-known work ‘The Great Wave‘ and so was interested to see other examples of his work. This proved to be a wide range of styles ranging from traditional oriental to a fusion style in which he incorporated elements of western art.

Under the Wave off Kanagawa also known as ‘The Great Wave’ from ’36 views of Mount Fuji’ 1831

Katsushika Hokusai was born in Japan in October 1760 in Edo (modern day Tokyo). It is believed he started painting at the age of 6 and he was apprenticed to a wood carver at 14 and at 18 entered an art studio of a woodblock print artist. From 1793 he began exploring other styles of art and was expelled from the studio. He illustrated books and became more and more famous. He did not produce his most famous works Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji which includes The Great Wave until he was 60.  In fact, there are more than 36 as they proved so popular that the publisher prevailed on Hokusai to produce 10 additional prints.

Clear Day with a Southern Breeze also known as ‘The Red Fuji’ from ’36 views of Mount Fuji’ 1831

Shicirigahama Beach from ’36 views of Mount Fuji’ 1831

Hokusai produced works under many different names during his life and was of the firm belief that his art got better as he aged. He said that when he reached 100 his art would be at its best. Sadly he never reached this milestone as he died in May 1849 at the age of 89. On his death bed he is reputed to have said ‘ Just another 5 years, then I could become a real painter’.

Tametomo and the bow of Onoshima (A Japanese legend) 1811

 

I was pleased to see more of the pictures from 36 Views of Mount Fuji and these continue to be my favourite works by Hokusai. It was also interesting to see how his style changed over his lifetime as he encountered new influences.

The Hukosai exhibition ‘ Beyond the Great Wave’ continues at the British Museum until 13th August and I highly recommend it.

Whilst out surveying three sites this morning for the Great Butterfly Count (a nationwide 10-day survey) I came across the female kestrel from the pair in Oxleas Meadows perched in a tree between hunting forays. She didn’t stay long and was soon off hunting again.

On the butterfly count, I recorded 8 species across the 3 sites but was surprised that there were not higher numbers of each giving the temperature was 23C and it seemed like ideal conditions. I do hope this doesn’t mean it is going to be a bad year again!

Gatekeeper

Small Tortoiseshell

Red Admiral

Speckled wood

Meadow Brown

Croydon Sunset

Posted: June 21, 2017 in Landscape, London, Natural History, UK
Tags:

Returning from a meeting in Croydon a few days ago there was a spectacular sunset.

photo by Sue

 

 

Photo by Sue

 

 

 

I recently visited an exhibition on the ‘Archaeology of Crossrail’. Crossrail is the building of a new railway line in London which goes from the east to the west through central London. It will be known as the Elizabeth line when it is completed and opens in 2018-9. During the construction of the line, a number of archaeological sites have been excavated by the full-time archaeology team attached to the project. This exhibition shows some of the finds.

Mammoth Tusk

Mesolithic Flints

Roman writing Stylii

Bone ice-skate. records as early as 12th-century record people strapping pieces of bone to shoes and skating on frozen marshland. Found at Moorfield Marsh.

Tombstone from New Churchyard (1570-1740). 1665 was the year of the great plague in London. Testing remains from this cemetery has revealed the first identification of the 1665 plague pathogen enabling scientists to formally link it to the Bubonic plague of the 14th century, known as the Black Death.

Food manufacturers Crosse and Blackwell were founded in 1830 and moved to a site near Charing Cross Road in 1838. Archaeologists found over 13000 pieces of ceramics on this site.

 

 

Bison bone – dating reveals it to be 68000 years old.

 

 

The earth removed from the tunnels has been used to create a new RSPB nature reserve in Essex at Wallasea Marsh.

 

The exhibition runs until September 2017 at the Museum of London Docklands, West India Quay.

London Stone (on display in the Museum of London) May 2017

The London Stone is a city landmark which traditionally stood in a grilled alcove in a wall at 111  Cannon Street. It is the remains of ageing much larger limestone object, which seems to have stood on the site, or nearby, for many centuries.

A map of 1550  shows the stone located opposite St Swithern’s church in Candlewick Street (now known as Cannon Street). The first documented reference is in 1598, when the London historian John Stow, records ” a great stone called London Stone”. He claims it was listed in a bible from the reign of King Aethelstan (924-39) in a list of properties of Christchurch Canterbury ( a.k.a. Canterbury Cathedral) ”  being near to London Stone”. A further reference is found in documents of 1098 and 1108 of a man called “Eadwaker aet lundene stane” (Eadwacker at London Stone), who gives a property, or properties, to the Cathedral. It seems this use in names became fairly common as there are a number of mediaeval references, where people add the term ” of London’s stone”  to their names. Most notable of these is Ailwen of London Stone,  father of Henry Fitz-Alwen, Mayor of London from 1193 to 1212. It is known that the Fitz-Alwen house was located in Candlewick Street.

In 1540, the rebel Jack Cade made his way to the city stopping at the stone.  He struck the stone with his sword claiming to be the Lord of the city. It is unclear whether this is something he had made up or whether there was some ritual regarding city Lordship which he was imitating.

Jade Cade at London Stone. By editor: Howard Staunton; artist Sir John Gilbert (1817-1897) – Works of William Shakespeare (London: Routledge, 1881) vol 8, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25663723

By Elizabethan times, the stone had become associated with King Lud, the legendary founder of the city of London. It is listed in Samuel Rowland’s ‘Sights of London‘ published in 1608. In 1671, members of the spectacle makers company confiscated a batch of spectacles from a shop in Cannon Street. These were taken to the Guildhall, where they were condemned as being of inferior quality and ordered to be smashed on the remains of the London Stone.

By 1742 the stone had become an obstruction to the passage of traffic and the remains were moved to the wall of  St Swithern’s church opposite.

St Swithern’s Church 1831.By artist: T. H. Shepherd; engraver: J. Tingle – original engraving, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25706799

 

The London Stone (1887). By Image extracted from page 559 of volume 1 of Old and New London, Illustrated, by Walter Thornbury. Original held and digitised by the British Library. , Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32463347

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The church was destroyed by bombing in 1940, but the section of wall containing the stone remained standing. The remains of the church were actually not demolished until 1962 and were then replaced by an office building.

London Stone niche in the remaining walls of St Swithern’s Church Cannon St (1962). By David Wright, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13733522

The stone was relocated in a grilled niche in the wall of this building, the ground floor of which was used as a stationer and newsagents. This was not a very satisfying relocation as being at ground level it rather looked like a ventilation grill. I wonder how many people walked past it each day and didn’t even know it was there?

The rather unassuming location of the London Stone in the wall of WH Smiths in Cannon St. By John O’London – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25664002

This building, in turn, was scheduled for the demolition in 2016 and the stone was moved to the Museum of London,  where it is currently on display until it can be relocated when the new office building on the site is completed. It is hoped that the new location will show the stone off so it can once again become a tourist attraction – the heart of the City.

So what was this stone?

Over the years there have been many suggestions: a Roman milestone; a sacred city stone (as with the golden milestone in the forum at Rome); a talismanic stone (as in the Palladium in Troy); a prehistoric or a druidic sacred stone; a stone from the remains of the Roman praetorium or governors Palace,which is believed to lie under Cannon Street station; a mark stone of ley-lines or in a recent book, the stone from which King Arthur pulled Excalibur. No one knows, but it has clearly played a part in the history and conscience of the city of London for many centuries.

A bright sunny day and a chance to do the weekly butterfly and dragonfly survey on my home patch. It has been a somewhat slow start to the year with sporadic butterflies and just two records so far of Large Red Damselfly (two weeks ago – which was an early date for this site) and nothing since. As I made my way down to the Tarn I found a female Brimstone and then by the pool a Holly Blue.

Holly Blue

 

Approx 6-8 Large Red Damselflies were on the pool and 2 pairs were busily laying eggs. A single Azure damselfly was also present.

Large Red Damselfly

Azure damselfly

 

 

 

 

 

This was to be the highlight as the remainder of the walk only yielded a single Green-veined White and a second Brimstone.

Green-veined White (1st brood Female)

The nesting season for birds is well underway and today there were young Coots, Greylag Geese, Canada Geese and Mallard around the Tarn.

Coot and young

Greylag Geese and young

Canada Goose and young

Mallard and young

 

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)

Green-veined White [sp] (Artogeia napi)
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)
Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella)
Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula)