Visit London Blog » museum of london Enjoy the very best of London Mon, 20 Oct 2014 09:00:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Visiting The Past: Buckingham Palace Mon, 21 Jul 2014 09:00:56 +0000 As Buckingham Palace is due to open its doors to the public on 26 July for its yearly Summer Opening, the Museum of London‘s Senior Curator of Fashion Beatrice Behlen explores the history of the world-famous royal residence.

Buckingham Palace in 1913, captured by photographer Christina Broom.

It is unlikely that John Sheffield, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Normanby (1648-1721) expected his name still to be associated with the main residence of the English monarch almost 300 years after his death. The original Buckingham House was built for the Duke in 1703 and still forms the core of the building that first became a royal home when King George III acquired it for his wife, Queen Charlotte in 1761.

Over the years several architects were involved in enlarging the building, most notably John Nash – also responsible for Regent Street – who was hired in 1826 but fired in 1829 for being too extravagant in his designs. Nash’s successor Edward Blore finished the work in time for Queen Victoria to move in on her accession in 1837.

Even before the addition of the east wing, now providing the main façade of the palace, the enormity of the building was noted. One German critic, a certain Dr. Gustav Waagen, thought that the palace looked ‘as if some wicked magician had suddenly transformed some capricious stage-scenery into solid reality’.

In 1843, a contributor to Charles Knight’s book on London admired the ingenuity involved in ‘preventing a pile of such large dimensions from appearing large’.  The palace was made even larger, 108 metres wide and 120 metres deep to be precise, once the wing facing The Mall was added in 1847. The creation of the forecourt including gates and railings in 1911, and the addition of white Portland stone to the façade in 1913 made the palace into what Londoners and visitors to the capital can now gaze at in wonderment.

Buckingham Palace 1913, by Christina Broom

If you are interested in facts and figures, have a look at this helpful list provided by the royal household, where some of the contents of the palace are mentioned, including a tennis court, doctor’s surgery, cinema and, most intriguingly, a swimming pool. This was added in 1938 when the north-west pavilion, originally designed as a conservatory and changed in 1911-13 into a rackets court, was converted. It is said that the Princesses Margaret and Diana were keen swimmers and today royal household staff are allowed to use the facility as long as they leave once a member of the royal family appears, unless invited to stay.

Each year, large numbers of guests gain access to the palace and its large grounds during garden parties, receptions, audiences and banquets. Since 2009 the palace is also open to the public during the summer, with changing temporary exhibitions arranged in some of the principal rooms. This year, unsurprisingly, the focus will be on royal childhood. Despite the fact that Prince Philip is said to have taught his children swimming there, the pool, for now at least, will not be part of the public route.

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Free Day Out For Families in London Mon, 07 Jul 2014 09:00:34 +0000 Family outside Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Guest post by Laura Porter

The South Bank is always a great destination for families. It’s traffic-free, has wide pavements, fantastic views of iconic London landmarks, and there’s always lots going on that costs nothing. Here’s a plan for a free day out with your family.

Start by the EDF Energy London Eye where you can look across to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. The nearest tube station is Waterloo.

Once you’ve taken some snaps let the kids play in Jubilee Gardens. As well as the green open space to run around safely there is also a playground for under 11s. (Be aware that bikes and scooters are not permitted at Jubilee Gardens.)

 Jubilee Gardens

Between The London Eye and Southbank Centre you’ll find lots of street performers vying for your attention. My daughter likes to take some coins to give to her favourites.

I know there’s a carousel here but we normally finds something more interesting at Southbank Centre, whether it’s a free event in the Royal Festival Hall (where there’s also a cafe and toilets), the summer garden on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall or a free festival alongside the river. There’s also the singing elevator (JCB Glass Lift) in the Royal Festival Hall and the skateboarders under the building to watch so you’ll always find something to entertain.

Carry on walking along the South Bank and you’ll soon reach Gabriel’s Wharf where there are often sand sculptures on the beach to admire. Head into Gabriel’s Wharf and there are some well-priced cafes (and more toilets).

Ten minutes further along the riverside walk and you’ll reach Tate Modern. There are many floors of modern artworks to admire and you only need to buy a ticket for special exhibitions. The river level cafe is incredibly family-friendly with a buggy park at the back, plenty of high chairs and a kid’s menu (and kids eat free when an adult buys a meal). Paper placemats and crayons are brought to the table for families too.

If you’d prefer a view from higher up go to Level 3 and from the balcony you can look across to St. Paul’s Cathedral and The City. There’s another small cafe on this level too, and, of course, more toilets. (Hey, anyone who’s travelled with children will appreciate this advice!).

Many people choose to continue along the South Bank past Shakespeare’s Globe and, maybe, onwards to Borough Market but my best tip is to cross over the Millennium Bridge (pedestrian only) and go into The City. You can walk from Tate Modern to St Paul’s in just ten minutes so it really is closer than you think.

Tip for kids: As you cross the bridge see if you can spot any love locks (small padlocks) attached to the sides.

If you check the tide tables in advance, under The City of London side of the Millennium Bridge is a great spot for mudlarking. There are steps to reach the river foreshore and it’s rarely muddy on this side so you can check the surface for old clay pipes and bits of pottery.

Afterwards, walk towards St Paul’s and on your left you’ll find the City Information Centre where you can pick up free trails, including one specifically for children which includes stickers. It has a few routes to try so let the kids choose the one that interests them.

Or, if it raining and you don’t want to wander far, the Museum of London is five minutes away from the other side of St Paul’s. This free museum is great for families and has two floors of exhibits to explore.

Museum of London

Laura Porter writes the London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as AboutLondonLaura.

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Things To Do in London During Menswear Fashion Week Thu, 12 Jun 2014 09:00:37 +0000 Guest post by Fashion City Insider 

London is the home of men’s fashion. As well as enjoying over 400 years of expert tailoring on Savile Row , a glut of emerging designers will be showing their wares at this month’s London Collections: Men (LC:M), the London fashion week for menswear.

As the world’s sharpest dressed men descend on the capital for LC:M next week, we’ve threaded together a few fashion-related events to enjoy.

Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition

Paul Smith and Jean Paul Gaultier exhibitions

For art and design lovers, immerse yourself in the world of iconic designer Paul Smith at the Design Museum on London’s South Bank. Hello, My Name Is Paul Smith (until 22 Jun) shows Smith’s roots in menswear. The Barbican’s The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier, From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk (until 17 Aug) celebrates Gaultier’s mastery of couture and ready-to-wear fashion, as well as film and music costume collaborations, with as much for guys as for girls.

John Deakin’s street style photography

The Photographer’s Gallery steps back into London of the 1950s and 1960s through the work of one of the best British photographers – John Deakin. Delve into the history of street style photography at Under The Influence: John Deakin And The Lure Of Soho displaying Deakin’s exploration of the hidden corners and colourful characters of London’s Soho. Until 13 Jul

Dapper gents on screen

The Institute of Contemporary Arts is celebrating the art of sharp tailoring and style with a special 35mm screening of The Million Pound Note (1954) staring Gregory Peck, hosted by Anthony Peck, son of the Hollywood legend and style icon. 17 Jun

Bowler Hat at The City of London Festival

And a giant Bowler hat!

The party continues in London even after the fashion media circus has left town at the The City of London Festival with a huge inflatable 10m-high bowler hat pop-up venue near St Paul’s Cathedral which will be hosting more than 100 events from drama, music , comedy to debates. 22 Jun-17 Jul

Fashion City Insider is a London fashion travel guide.

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Video of the Week: Museum of London’s Wartime Photographs Fri, 11 Apr 2014 13:58:06 +0000

In this moving video, Museum of London Curator of Photography Anna Sparham talks about the museum’s new acquisition of 2,500 images from the UK’s first female press photographer Christina Broom, including incredible pictures of soldiers going off to fight in World War One. The exhibition of Broom’s images is free and will run until 28 September. It is one of

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many events taking place in London this summer to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War.

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London Video of the Week: Frost Fairs on the River Thames Fri, 21 Feb 2014 12:12:52 +0000

Discover a time when fabulous frost fairs took place upon the frozen River Thames in this fascinating video. Museum of London‘s Senior Curator of Contemporary History, Georgina Young, introduces us to some of the greatest frost fairs in London’s history where elephants would walk on the ice and actors would perform on barges.


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London Fashion Week: Fashion Exhibitions in London Mon, 10 Feb 2014 09:00:25 +0000 From The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier. Kylie Minogue, 2008. William Baker. The Surrealists collection, “Médée” gown Haute couture fall/winter 2006–2007 © 2008, Darenote Ltd. All rights reserved

The capital is gearing up for the start of London Fashion Week which begins on Thursday. But it’s not the only display of fashion finery in town.

Learn about fashion’s icons and see their fabulous designs at these fashion-forward exhibitions.

Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! at Somerset House

Explore the amazing life and wardrobe of Isabella Blow, the legendary fashion director who is credited with discovering and nurturing the likes of designers Alexander McQueen, Philip Treacy and Hussein Chalayan, as well as models Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant. Try to tie in your visit to Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! with one of the special related events, be it a free tour or the documentary about ‘the empress of fashion’ Diana Vreeland. Until 2 Mar

The Cloth. Photo credit: Anita Cobin. From the V&A exhibition Club to Catwalk

Club to Catwalk at the V&A

Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s closes bang in the middle of LFW (on 16 Feb), so if you haven’t been yet, don’t miss your chance! This popping exhibition explores the creative explosion of London fashion during the 80s, and the influence of club styles such as New Romantic and High Camp. See outfits worn by Adam Ant and Leigh Bowery, and discover the bold, experimental new looks being conjured by the bright young designers of the day, such as Betty Jackson, Katharine Hamnett and John Galliano. Until 16 Feb

Dress worn by Princess Margaret

Fashion Rules at Kensington Palace

The changing styles of British fashion are brilliantly illustrated through Fashion Rules, an exhibition of rare dresses once worn by Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales. Spot the nipped-in waist of the buoyant 1950s, the short hemlines of the defiant 1960s, the sparkles and shoulder pads of the outrageous 1980s – the Royals knew the fashion of the day, and made sure they followed it! Entry to the exhibition is included in admission to Kensington Palace, so save enough time to explore this remarkable building – we can’t guarantee you’ll bump into Wills, Kate and George though (even if they do live there!). Until 2015

Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol at the Fashion & Textile Museum

Fabulous fashion would be nothing without fabulous textiles. In Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol, the Fashion  & Textile Museum explores the history of 20th century art in textiles – featuring more than 200 rare pieces (many of which have never been seen before) by Salvador Dalí, Barbara Hepworth, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, among others. See how artistic movements such as Cubism and Pop Art influences textile designs, and how the public engaged with modern art through their clothing and home furnishings. Until 17 May

The Anatomy of a Suit at Museum of London

What makes a suit? Find out in the Museum of London’s free exhibition The Anatomy of a Suit. The museum’s experts have dissected a selection of retro suit jackets, picked up from London markets, to discover the engineering that lies within. Find out how clever tailoring and design can change the shape of the wearer’s body, and discover the trade secrets of the nimble-fingered tailor. Until 1 Jun

Paul Smith in his office. Courtesy of the Design Museum

Hello, My Name is Paul Smith at the Design Museum

The Design Museum is celebrating the world and work of Paul Smith, acclaimed British fashion designer. In Hello, My Name is Paul Smith you can find out how his quintessentially British label began in Nottingham and went on to become one of the leading brands in the world – plus discover what’s next in store. Until 22 Jun

COMING SOON: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier at the Barbican

Ok, so it doesn’t start until April but we had to give a mention to this very exciting exhibition coming to the Barbican. The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk is the first major exhibition devoted to the acclaimed French couturier, and features more than 180 cutting-edge couture and ready-to-wear garments, including Madonna’s infamous conical bra and corsets, stage costumes designed for Kylie Minogue and pieces created for the films of Pedro Almodóvar and Luc Besson‘s The Fifth Element. There’ll also be footage of catwalk shows, concerts, music videos, dance performances and Gaultier’s cult television show Eurotrash. Book now! 9 Apr to 17 Aug

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London Video of the Week: Anatomy of a Suit Fri, 31 Jan 2014 14:00:37 +0000

Museum of London‘s Fashion Curator Timothy Long dissects the technical genius of the humble suit in this fascinating video, which is featured as part of the museum’s Anatomy of a Suit exhibition.

If you’ve got a passion for menswear, don’t miss British GQ Editor Dylan Jones’ blog posts on London’s Best Menswear Shops and why Savile Row is the place to be for men’s fashion.

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Visiting the Past: History of the Football Assocation Thu, 19 Dec 2013 15:10:42 +0000

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Football Association (FA). And it was exactly a century-and-a-half ago on 19 December 1863 that the first-ever football match was played in London under the new FA rules.

So how was the FA founded? On a cold winter’s evening in 1863, seven gentlemen representing London and suburban football teams gathered in the Freemason’s Tavern on Great Queen Street, Holborn, for what would be a historic meeting.

Included in discussions were Barnes FC, Forest (Leytonstone), No Names (Kilburn), Crystal Palace, Kensington School, Blackheath Proprietary School and Charterhouse. Together they recognised a desire to regulate the game of English football and set out to establish a governing body. That night, these ‘founding fathers’ created the first-ever football association – the FA.

In subsequent weeks the FA firmed up a rulebook for football, drafted by Ebenezer Cobb Morley, aiming for consistency in the game. No longer, for example, could you kick the shins of the opponent, known as ‘hacking’.

The first game to be played under the new rules kicked off at Limes Field in Barnes on 19 December 1863, resulting in a 0-0 draw between Barnes and Richmond.

From a humble pub to the lights of Wembley Stadium, from the grass roots to the Premier League, the early days of the FA can be clearly seen on today’s global footballing stage.

Anna Sparham, Curator of Photographs at the Museum of London

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Visiting the Past: Christmas 1913 Wed, 04 Dec 2013 09:35:45 +0000 Tinplate Toy Horse c.1910

With the shadow of war not yet heavy enough to dampen the spirits, Londoners prepared for a magical Christmas in December 1913.

As the pantomime season swung into action so the West End department stores put on an equally dazzling show of toys and decorations that transported children into an enchanting world of fantasy and sparkle.

But despite these lavish displays, it was not the abundant Christmas bazaars of the department stores that caused greatest excitement for London’s children, but rather a trip east to the City where hundreds of the capital’s most ragged and desperate traders lined the streets selling penny toys and novelties from trays around their neck. In 1913, London’s most popular penny toys were made of tinplate and included a mechanical soccer game, a goose on wheels and a miniature game of billiards. Tinplate Mechanical Penny Toy Ferris Wheel

But while tinplate toys were the most sophisticated of the street sellers’ stock in trade, equally popular that year were fancy Japanese paper fans, and miniature animals modelled from the novel new material of celluloid, known today as


For many children, these penny toys were simply stocking fillers, opened eagerly but with one eye on the larger parcel nearby containing a train set or wax doll from Harrods or Selfridges. For poorer children, a single penny toy was the only present they could expect on Christmas Day. For the juvenile ‘gutter merchants’, the toys they sold were a lifeline: the difference between eating or going hungry that Christmas.

The children who clustered round the varied and plentiful trays of penny toys in 1913 had no idea that such delights would soon become a rarity. With the majority of toys being imported from Germany, France and Japan, the flow of such goods in London was abruptly interrupted with the outbreak of war. The young street hawkers found a new way to earn a living as conscripts on the Front Line and, for many of their child customers, the magic of Christmas was quickly shattered by the realities of war and the fracturing of family life.

Beverley Cook, Curator of Social and Working History, Museum of London

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Visiting the Past: Traitors’ Heads on Old London Bridge Wed, 23 Oct 2013 09:00:58 +0000

As Halloween looms, London is likely to be awash with people dressed as zombies and other members of the ‘undead’. Less than 400 years ago, you could have witnessed the genuinely ghoulish sight of the rotting heads of traitors, stuck up on poles on Old London Bridge.

The first recorded head displayed on London Bridge was that of William Wallace, the Scottish patriot executed in 1305 for fighting against the English rule of King Edward I. From then on, heads were shown on the Drawbridge Gate before they were moved to the Great Stone Gate at the southern end of the bridge in 1577. A Keeper of the Heads had the job of looking after the rotting skulls, which were often par-boiled and dipped in tar to preserve them.

Tudor visitors to London recorded the grisly sight in their travel journals. In 1592, one German visitor saw a total of 34 heads on display. The political and religious upheavals of the 16th century led to the execution of many people and a ready supply of heads for London Bridge, including Henry VIII’s ministers Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell.

Bishop John Fisher, who refused to accept Henry VIII as head of the Church, was executed in 1535. His head was displayed on the bridge for 14 days and instead of decomposing “grew daily fresher and fresher, so that in his life time he never looked so well”. So many people visited London Bridge to view this macabre miracle that it caused serious traffic jams. The head was discreetly thrown in the river at night to end these disturbances.

The practice of exhibiting traitors’ heads on London Bridge continued into the 17th century (the heads of Guy Fawkes and the other Gunpowder Plot conspirators are famous examples) but it finally ceased in the 1670s.

Find out more about 16th and 17th century London at the Museum of London’s Medieval London and War, Plague and Fire galleries.

Learn more about the legendary Tower of London in Tudor Times by watching Tower Beefeater Barney Chandler sharing his London Story. Watch this video  for a chance to win a dream trip to London for two. Find out more here.

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