Archive for the ‘London’ Category

The weather forecast had not been too promising so Keith and I headed for the London Wetland Centre. As it turned out all the rain had blown through the night before and we were treated to a dry day.

The morning started well with a Sparrowhawk circling above the River Thames as we crossed Hammersmith Bridge. Arriving at the centre we followed our usual route and were soon getting good views of the wintering wildfowl.

Passing the feeding station, a Coal Tit was a good sighting as were the large number of Eurasian Jays that were on the reserve. Arriving at the Tower Hide, we were soon watching Water Pipit and Stonechats on what remained of the scrape islands (The water level was very high due to the recent rain and most of the Islands had disappeared below the surface). We also had a distant view of a female Goldeneye.

Water Pipit. Photo by Keith

Moving to the other side of the centre, we decided to stake out a good spot for Eurasian Bittern and also to look for the Yellow-Legged Gull that had been seen earlier in the morning. We did not succeed in either, although on a photo of some gulls Keith took, there was a good candidate for the Yellow-Legged Gull, but it was just to distant to be sure.

A very pleasant day considering the forecast.

Thomas Hardy was born in 1769 and entered the Navy in 1781 as a captain’s servant. However, he left Naval service the following year and went back to school. He rejoined the Navy in 1790 as a midshipman and served in the Mediterranean. By 1796 he had obtained the rank of first lieutenant in HMS Minerve. This was the flagship of Commodore Horatio Nelson and the first time that Hardy had met the man who was to become his lifelong friend. Harding was captured following a battle with the Spanish while serving as a prize master but was quickly exchanged for the captain of the price ship. In 1797 as commander of HMS Mutine, he took part in the Battle of the Nile and was promoted to captain. He transferred to HMS Vanguard, at that time Nelson’s flagship. Two years later he was appointed as captain of HMS Princess Charlotte and returned to England. The following year he was appointed to HMS San Josef and departed for the Baltic, but soon transferred to take up the role of flag captain on Nelson’s HMS St George. Following the Battle of Copenhagen, Hardy served as flag captain to Admiral Charles Pole. Taking command of HMS Amphion the following year, he returned to Portsmouth where he found Nelson waiting to go to the Mediterranean. Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory, was not ready to sail and so Nelson transferred his flag to HMS Amphion and he and Hardy set off a Gibraltar. They eventually transferred to Victory the following year. In September 1805, he sailed for Cadiz in Spain and the Battle of Trafalgar. During the battle, Nelson was shot by a sniper and Hardy held his dying body. The Admiral asked Hardy how the battle had gone and then instructed him to take care of Lady Hamilton. His final request was ‘kiss me Hardy’ and his lifelong friend obliged. Nelson died shortly afterwards. Hardy was created a baronet, transferred to HMS Triumph and sailed for North America. Transferring into HMS Barfleur, he was flag captain to Sir George Cranfield Berkeley, his father-in-law. In 1815 he was awarded the Knight Cmdr of the order of Bath and the following year was promoted Commodore and commander-in-chief of the South America station. In 1825 he was appointed Rear Admiral and served in Portugal and the Channel fleet. In 1830 he became first Lord of the Navy and was a strong promoter of the introduction of steamships. He resigned in 1834 and became governor of Greenwich Hospital, was promoted Vice-Admiral in 1837 and died at the hospital in 1839. He is buried in the hospital grounds.

The statue and monument are in the chapel at Greenwich Naval College.

Corridor under chapel leading to the skittle alley

In a cellar under the Chapel is a skittle alley. Created in the 1860s to help entertain the retired seaman who lived there. The balls used were practice canon balls.

You can still use it today and Keith and I had a game whilst we were there, which Keith won with a strike (some people are just lucky!).

The Chapel was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and was redecorated in 1779 following a major fire.

The hall was originally designed to be the dining room of the home for retired seaman founded on the site by Queen Mary in 1694, but soon became reserved as a place for ceremonial occasions. The painting took 19 years (1707 -1726) and was overseen by James Thornhill. The work includes pictures of the 3 monarchs: Queen Anne, who had built the Hospital; William and Mary, whose reign saw the beginning of the painted hall project and George I in whose reign it was completed. In fact, 2 other monarchs can also be seen as Princes George (later George II) and William (later William IV) are shown in the family group surrounding George I. It was likely with the political changes that the design was changed on a number of occasions during the painting. The theme is ‘Triumph of Peace and Liberty over tyranny’.

The hall was used for many important events including the lying-in-state of Nelson after the Battle of Trafalgar. The queues are reputed to have stretched for miles.

When the Hospital closed and the Royal Naval College took over, the hall was used as a dining room for the officer cadets until the college moved in 1997. It is now maintained by a charitable trust and the Hall reopened in 2017 following a two-year refurbishment project. During this remains of the old Tudor palace at Greenwich were discovered below the hall

Keith and I took a trip to Greenwich recently to visit the Old Naval College.

The Naval College was built around 1700 as a home for retired and destitute seaman from the navy. However despite its grand surroundings life was pretty rough and ready in the college. It also included a specialist hospital for treating sick or injured seaman. The buildings were designed by sir Christopher Wren but he had to change his design to allow for there to be a river view from the Queens house in the adjacent palace of Greenwich.

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The design had to incorpaorate an uninterupted view of the river from the Queens house (seen between the two wings)

The design had to incorporate an uninterupted view of the river from the Queens house (seen between the two wings)

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The seaman’s home closed in 1869 and the buildings passed to the Royal Navy to use as a training college. They occupied the site until 1998, when it passed to a trust charged with preserving the buildings. The current tenants of the site are the University of Greenwich and Trinity College of Music.

Westminster Cathedral

Posted: September 20, 2019 in History, London, UK
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Perhaps it could be described as the unknown cathedral of London – Westminster Cathedral, not to be confused with Westminster Abbey in Parliment Sq, is the mother church of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales.

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It stands in Victoria on the site of an old prison. After some initial delays, construction started in 1895 and the cathedral was opened in 1903. It is built in the neo-byzantine style and was described by John Betjemen as’ a masterpiece in striped brick and stone in an intricate pattern of bonding, the domes being all brick in order to prove that good craftsmen have no need of steel or concrete’

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I was interested to see that many of the residential blocks which were built at the same time on the old prison site reflect the coloured stonework of the cathedral.

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Mounted guard from Lifeguards

Mounted guard from Lifeguards

A trip into London and some time to kill. I decide to visit the Household Cavalry museum off Whitehall. The museum is located in Horse Guards Parade in part of the stable block for the Guards on duty.

Mounted guard from Blues and Royals

Mounted guard from Blues and Royals

The regiments which now form the Household Cavalry were originally 3 regiments: the Lifeguards were founded in 1660 by King Charles II. Two other regiments, the Royals (Royal Dragoons) and the Blues (Royal Horse Guard) were added to the Household Cavalry in 1820, although they had been founded in the 17th century as independent cavalry regiments. The Blues and the Royals were merged to form a single regiment in 1969. In ceremonial dress the Lifeguards wear red tunics with a white helmet plume and the Blues and Royals wear blue uniforms with red plumes.

Dismounted guard from Life Gaurds

Dismounted guard from Life Gaurds

Dismounted guard from Blues and Royals

Dismounted guard from Blues and Royals

The Museum deals with the history of the regiments over the years and also highlights the two roles that the regiments take in the modern day army. There is the well known ceremonial role – duty at Horse Guards parade and escorting members of the royal family on ceremonial occasions such as trooping of the colour.
What is less well known is the role that the majority of the regiment has as an active mechanised regiment serving around the world as part of the British Army.

One section of the museum enables you to look through into the working stables as the troopers prepare their horses for duty on the parade ground.

Dress uniform of Lifeguards and Blues and Royals. The black plume designates a Farrier

Dress uniform of Lifeguards and Blues and Royals. The black plume designates a Farrier

Dress ceremonial coat of a member of the Regiments mounted band

Dress ceremonial coat of a member of the Regiments mounted band

My favourite story was of the tradition that when an officer left the regiment, he was expected to donate a piece of silverware to the officers mess. One officer wasn’t particularly worried or concerned by such traditions and when reminded of the tradition waved it off saying ‘ oh just buy something and charge it to my bill’. His fellow officers hurt by his indifference to regimental tradition went out and commissioned a large table centre-piece and then presented him with the bill

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A great little museum in a very interesting location,ideally coupled with a visit to the changing of the guard.

Being a history buff, the British Museum is probably my favourite of the many museums in London. The collection dates back to the middle of the 18th century when the physician and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane bequeathed his collection of over 71,000 objects on the condition that it was not broken up. The government accepted this and the British Museum was founded. In 1757 King George the second donated the Royal library to form part of the new collection. The first British Museum was housed in a 17th-century mansion in Bloomsbury on the side of the current building and the open for public viewing on 15 January 1759. In the early years the annual attendance was about 5000 people per year. The museum continued to acquire important pieces related to world archaeology and cultural studies. These included the Rosetta Stone, which was the key to understanding Egyptian hieroglyphics amongst other ancient languages, classical sculpture and, perhaps rather more controversially, the Parthenon sculptures from Greece. In the mid-19th century, the existing building was expanded and the natural history collection was moved to its own location in South Kensington (now known as the Natural History Museum). The collection continued to expand and the late 20th century saw new developments to enable more, and better, display of the collection. This included a complete reworking of the centre of the museum building and the removal of the British library from the site to a new purpose-built library near St Pancras. This work continues today and a brand-new set of galleries, together with new conservation facilities will be opened in 2014.

Further details and vistor information can be seen at http://www.britishmuseum.org/visiting.aspx?ref=header

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Detail from the portico over the main enterance

Detail from the portico over the main enterance

The Museum in the 18th century

The Museum in the 18th century

The new conservation and exhibition building

The new conservation and exhibition building

By the middle of the 19th century it was becoming evident that the British Museum collection was outgrowing its home in Bloomsbury. It was therefore decided to create a new museum to exhibit the natural history component of the collection. The site chosen was the site of the 1862 exhibition building in South Kensington (this had been labelled as one of the ugliest buildings ever built). Ironically, the architect chosen to design the new museum was the same one as had designed the 1862 building. However, shortly afterwards he died and was replaced by Alfred Waterhouse, who designed the building, which stands today and is reckoned by many to be one of the most attractive buildings in London.

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Natural History Museum London
Photo by Jancsi (http://www.flickr.com/photos/26831835@N00/)

The museum opened to the public in April 1881.