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A Short History of the BT Tower in Fitzrovia

Although widely overlooked by many people, The BT Tower in Fitzrovia has an intriguing history. The structure was previously known as the GPO Tower, the Post Office Tower and the Telecom Tower. The main part of the structure is 177 metres (581 ft) high, with a further section of aerial rigging bringing the total height to 191 metres (627 ft).

When the tower was completed in the 1960s it was the tallest building in both London and the United Kingdom, titles it held until 1980.

The tower was originally commissioned by the General Post Office (GPO) to support microwave aerials which carried telecommunications traffic from London to the rest of the country.

The tower was designed by the architects of the Ministry of Public Building and Works: the chief architects were Eric Bedford and G. R. Yeats. Its modern style was considered quite radical for 1960s London and was full of technical equipment and power exchanges.

The construction cost around £2.5 million, when tower was officially opened to the public in 1966 it also included office space, viewing galleries, a souvenir shop and a rotating restaurant on the 34th floor, called the Top of the Tower. The rotating restaurant would make one revolution every 22 minutes. Entry to the top of building is by two high-speed lifts which reach the top of the building in just under 30 seconds.

The tower achieved some popularity until a bomb exploded near the restaurant in 1971. The restaurant was eventually closed to the public for security reasons in 1980 and public access to the building ceased in 1981.

Rather strangely considering it was a London landmark, the location of the tower was designated an official secret. This led to the urban myth that the tower did not appear on London maps. Whilst the tower may not have appeared on some maps, it did appear on a number of other maps including Ordnance Survey maps.

The tower is still in use as a major UK communications hub which carries broadcasting traffic and relays signals between broadcasters, it is also used occasionally for corporate and special events. The BT Tower was given Grade II listed building status in 2003. The tower has appeared in a number of films and TV shows.

The BT Tower is now overshadowed by other tall buildings in London, but when it opened it was the ‘Shard’ of its time with thousands of people visiting the restaurant and the viewing platforms. It remains a curious part of London history being a landmark that is widely ignored by Londoners and visitors.

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London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide.com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014 , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

 

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London Winners in the 2015 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) National Awards

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(University of Greenwich library building)

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)  has announced the winners of the 2015 RIBA National Awards, one of the most prestigious awards for new buildings in the UK.

The shortlist for the  RIBA Stirling Prize for the UK’s best building of the year will be drawn from the 37 award-winning buildings announced.

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 (Neo Bankside)

Of the 37 winners, thirteen were based in London and included a number of high profile buildings and other small scale buildings. Private housing developments include Richard Rogers’ housing towers on prime London real estate (Neo Bankside), a 45 home canal-side development in west London (Brentford Lock West). At the other end of the size scale is a  five-storey, 13-home affordable housing block for Peabody in East London (Darbishire Place).

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(Burntwood School)

Education buildings  feature strongly with new state schools (Burntwood School, Ashmount Primary School and university buildings (University of Greenwich library building).

The Awards come at a time when London’s housing is high on the political agenda, the concern that much of the construction is at the higher end of the market has led for calls to increase the social housing in the capital.

The 13 London buildings that have won a 2015 RIBA National Award with comments from RIBA are :

1. University of Greenwich Stockwell Street Building, SE10 by Heneghan Peng architects
Located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, this delightful building houses the main university library and the departments of Architecture, Landscape and Arts.

2. Burntwood School, Wandsworth by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Bold, characterful new campus buildings with light-filled rooms and corridors add to a sense of this being a very collegiate school.

3. St Mary of Eton Church, Apartments and Community Rooms, Hackney Wick E9 by Matthew Lloyd Architects LLP
Three new buildings, including 26 new apartments, in patterned red brick that responds to the original Grade II* listed church.

4. The Foundry, SE11 by Architecture 00 Ltd
Refurbishment of an old shoe polish factory into a flexible building for ethical organisations; the expressive language of the architecture appropriately suggests informality, openness and the idea of a collective of individuals.

5. NEO Bankside, SE1 by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
New housing towers with exo-skeleton and external lifts on London’s South Bank – a well-mannered example of a structurally expressive architecture.

6. University campus for Hult International Business School, E1 by Sergison Bates architects
New undergraduate campus in a converted Grade II-listed brewery with a clear architectural identity and strong aesthetic sense.

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7. Bonhams, W1 by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands
Exemplary urban infill on an extremely complicated site. Grand new entrance and refurbished Deco facades.

8. Ashmount Primary School, N8 by Penoyre & Prasad
Exemplary zero-carbon school and nursery which carefully manipulates its plan and cross-section to draw in natural light and reveal woodland views.

9. Levring House, north London by Jamie Fobert Architects Ltd
Spacious and luxurious Danish-brick-clad house on the corner plot of a typical London mews.

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10. Foyles, WC2 by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands
Previously home to Central St Martins School of Art, this is more than just a bookshop. Behind the restored 1930s façade, is a mixed-use block with top floor apartments.

11. Kew House, TW9 by Piercy&Company
Bold, highly inventive and well-considered family house in patinated steel in a conservation area.

12. Brentford Lock West, TW8 by Duggan Morris Architects
45 unit housing scheme that sets a challenging standard for canal-side residential architecture in an area that has previously been ill-served by its developers.

13. Darbishire Place, E1 by Niall McLaughlin Architects
Dignified new 13-home Peabody apartment building, with refined proportions and details.

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14. National Theatre (NT Future) by Haworth Tompkins
The assured front-of-house re-organisation gives the theatre greater clarity and a sense of arrival. It has radically transformed a new stretch of London’s South Bank.

If you would like find out more about the RIBA Awards, visit the RIBA website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide.com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

A Short Guide to London Bridges

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Bridges have played a major part in the way that London has developed but are often the source of some confusion for visitors to London.

At the last count there were 34  bridges over the Thames , however we will concentrate on the main bridges in Central London. So here is a short guide to give you some insight into some of London’s most intriguing structures.

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Tower Bridge  was built 1886–1894  is a combined bascule and suspension bridge, lying close to the Tower of London. This year celebrating its 120th birthday it has become one of the iconic sights of London. Often at the centre of celebrations on the river and raises its roadway to let shipping through on a regular basis.

Tower Bridge is often called by visitors “London Bridge”, however London Bridge is further downriver and is one of the most historic crossings in London.

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London Bridge refers to several historical bridges that have spanned the River Thames between the City of London and Southwark. The current bridge  dates from 1973, this replaced a 19th-century stone-arched bridge which was transported to the United States to become a tourist attraction. The 19th century bridge replaced  the famous  600-year-old medieval bridge.

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Even before the medieval bridge there were a number  of timber bridges dating as far back as the Romans.

Until 1729, London Bridge was the only road crossing across the Thames in the London area.

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Southwark  Bridge is an arch bridge opened in 1921, a previous bridge on the site, designed by John Rennie, opened in 1819, and was originally known as Queen Street Bridge.

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The Millennium Bridge,  is a steel suspension bridge for pedestrians crossing the River Thames linking Bankside with the City of London. Construction of the bridge began in 1998, with the opening in June 2000.

After its somewhat uncertain opening ( it was nicknamed the “Wobbly Bridge”  because of the movement), It quickly became a favourite of both Londoners and visitors linking St Pauls to the Tate Modern and the Globe.

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Blackfriars Railway Bridge is a railway bridge, the first bridge was opened in 1864 which became unsafe and  was dismantled, however the series of columns were left as well as the  Southern abutment. The second bridge opened in 1886.

Blackfriars Bridge is a road and foot traffic bridge the first bridge on the site opened to the public in 1769, at the time it was the third bridge across the Thames in London. It was originally named “William Pitt Bridge”

The present bridge which in 1869 was opened by Queen Victoria is 923 feet  long, it become internationally known in 1982 when the body of Roberto Calvi an Italian banker was found hanging from one of the arches .

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Waterloo Bridge is a road and foot traffic bridge crossing the River Thames  between Blackfriars Bridge and Hungerford Bridge.

The first bridge on the site was designed in 1809-10 by John Rennie opened in 1817 .  During the 19th century  the bridge gained a somewhat unfortunate reputation as a popular place for suicide attempts.

However it is considered the views from the bridge are some of the most picturesque on the river and the bridge became a popular subject for artists.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, serious structural problems were found on Rennie’s bridge and the decision was made to demolish it, it was eventually replaced by a new bridge which opened in 1945.

Completed during the war  and using a number of women in the workforce, the bridge is sometimes called  “the ladies’ bridge”.

Waterloo Bridge was the scene of a ” Cold War ” murder when in 1978 ,Georgi Markov  a Bulgarian dissident was assassinated by agents connected to the KGB

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The Hungerford Bridge crosses the River Thames in London, and lies between Waterloo Bridge and Westminster Bridge. It is a railway bridge  flanked by two pedestrian bridges that share the railway bridge’s foundations, and which are named the Golden Jubilee Bridges. in honour of the fiftieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession.

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Westminster Bridge is a road and foot traffic bridge over the River Thames  linking Westminster on the north side and Lambeth on the south side.

Although a bridge at Westminster was proposed in the 17th century, it was not 1750 that Westminster Bridge finally completed. In the 19th century the bridge was in poor condition and the decision was made to replace it.  The current bridge opened on 24 May 1862, It is the oldest road bridge across the Thames in central London.

The bridge is painted mainly green, to reflect  the same colour as the House of Commons whose position of the Palace of Westminster is nearest the bridge. This is in contrast to Lambeth Bridge which is red, the same colour as  the House of Lords and is on the opposite side of the Palace of Westminster.

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Lambeth Bridge is a road traffic and footbridge crossing the River Thames , it is on the site of the horse ferry between the Palace of Westminster and Lambeth Palace on the south bank.

The first bridge was opened  in 1862 , but  with doubts about it safety in 1910 it was closed to vehicles.

The present bridge was opened in  1932 .

The Museum of London will be putting on an exhibition between the 27th June and 2nd November 2014 called Bridge which features paintings, prints, photographs and films.

For more information visit their website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January, we attract thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.

We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

A Short Guide to the Royal Opera House – Covent Garden

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Royal Opera House main entrance

Location – Bow St, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD

The Royal Opera House is one of the premier venues for Ballet and Opera in the UK, it is home to the Royal Opera, the Royal Ballet and the Royal Opera House Orchestra.

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Opera House and Floral Hall

It is the third theatre on the site, the previous two being destroyed by fires in 1808 and 1857. The original theatre on the site was called the Theatre Royal which was financed by John Rich who used the theatre to put on plays, it was not until 1734 that the first ballet was performed and it was a year later that Handel began to perform his opera’s in the theatre.

When the second theatre was built-in 1808 it became famous for the variety of acts that was put on, the famous clown Joseph Grimaldi headlined a number of shows and famous actors of the day played at the theatre, these included William Charles Macready and Edmund Kean.

(c) Theatre Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

‘Macbeth’ at Covent Garden ,Victoria and Albert Museum, 1760s Unknown

In 1847 the theatre was renamed the Royal Italian Opera until it burnt down in 1857 and remained the name of the new theatre until 1892 when it became the Royal Opera House. During the 20th century many of the stars of Opera and Ballet appeared on the stage, although it was used for other purposes during the First and Second World War.

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Inside the Opera House

In the 1960s, the old theatre was showing its age and plans were put in place to refurbish the entire site. These improvements began in the 1980s but it was not until the 1990s that a full 215 million pound refurbishment was undertaken. Part of these changes as the acquisition of other buildings such as the Floral Hall which became part of the complex. When these changes were finished, the Royal Opera House was considered one of the finest in the world but received criticism that it was elitist and the seats were too expensive for ordinary people.

(c) Museum of London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Covent Garden Opera House,  Raymond Wylie, 1961,Museum of London

In response to this criticism the Royal Opera House have made changes to seat pricing to allow a certain amount of cheaper tickets available. Visitors to London who wish to visit the Royal Opera House for a Ballet or Opera will find that the more popular events still have expensive seats but the less popular are more reasonable and a wider range of choices. It is also possible to have a tour of the Opera House or see rehearsals although there is generally some charge.

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Covent Garden Piazza side entrance

To look for events or buy tickets visit the Royal Opera House website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and the latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

City Hall

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City Hall

Location – Greater London Authority City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, London, SE1 2AA

City Hall is the headquarters of the Greater London Authority (GLA) which consists of the Mayor of London and the London Assembly. It is located on the south bank of the Thames near Tower Bridge. It opened in 2002 and was designed by the world-famous architect Norman Foster.

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The striking helical walkway inside City Hall

The Greater London Authority is the latest reincarnation of a London Authority replacing the Greater London Council and the London County Council which had been based at County Hall further along the South Bank near the London Eye.

Costing around £43 million to build, the building has divided opinion and has been called a variety of names since it has open.

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Although a base for a small army of administrative staff and used for the various assembly meetings, the building is open to visitors who can visit the various exhibitions or to use café.

However be aware visitors to City Hall must pass through security at the entrance to the building. This includes going through a metal detector and having all bags scanned.

You can visit parts of City Hall on Mondays to Thursdays from 8.30am to 6pm and on Fridays from 8.30am to 5.30pm.

For practical advice for your visit to London and Special offers go to visitinglondonguide.com

The Shard

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The Shard

Location – The View from The Shard, Joiner Street, London SE1 3UD

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The Shard is the tallest building in London standing at a height of 1,016ft (310m), it is also the tallest building in Western Europe. The 87 storey skyscraper construction began in 2009 and completed in 2012, it is jointly owned by Sellar Property and the State of Qatar. The Shard has been one of the most controversial of the new skyscrapers to appear in London in the last few years, much of the criticism has been that the Shard dwarfs the other generally low level buildings on the South Bank and distorts the skyline.

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The Shard was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano and is has multi functional uses.

73–87 Floors – Spire

68–72 Floors – The View from the Shard (observatory)

53–65 Floors – Residences

34–52 Floors – Hotel

31–33 Floors – Restaurants (Hutong, Oblix and Aqua Shard)

3–28  Floors – Offices

1–2     Floors – Retail and office reception

Ground Floor – Hotel, restaurant and observatory entrances

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The View from The Shard

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The View from the Shard is a privately operated observation deck attraction which opened in 2013, you travel up to the 68, 69 and 72 floors where 800 feet above the streets of London you can on a clear day see for around 40 miles in each direction.

From October 2013 the opening hours will be: Sunday-Wednesday, 10am-7pm; and Thursday-Saturday, 10am-10pm.

Tickets from £24.95 Adults , £18.95 Child.

VLG Tip We recommend you book your tickets in advance. This way, you will avoid queues and also save money. Advance bookings can be made at any time online up to four months in advance, based on availability.

For more information visit the Shard Website here

A Short Guide to Buckingham Palace

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Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace has been the official London residence of Britain’s sovereigns since 1837, in more recent times it has served as the administrative headquarters of the Monarch. To facilitate the small army of 450 staff, the Palace has 775 rooms.These include 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. Although the Palace is still used for large-scale Royal ceremonies, State Visits and Investitures, it also welcomes around 50,000 people a year who attend banquets, lunches, dinners, receptions and Royal Garden Parties.

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The land on which the Palace stands has been owned by Royalty since William the Conqueror however it was not until George III bought the house on the site called Buckingham House and eventually transformed it into a Royal Palace that it became a Royal residence. Using the well-known architect John Nash, George III expanded the Palace and began to furnish the interior with furniture and works of art from the nearby Carlton House.

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Despite George’s influence it was Queen Victoria who became the first sovereign to take up residence in July 1837, and in June 1838 she was the first British sovereign to leave from Buckingham Palace for a Coronation.

When Queen Victoria became a widow in 1861, Buckingham Palace was seldom used for Royal Ceremonies and was rarely visited by Victoria who prefered to stay at Windsor Castle and Balmoral.

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Victoria Memorial

When Queen Victoria died in 1901, it was decided to repair the facade and make a series of changes to the Palace. These included a new Memorial to Victoria, and developing the Mall as a ceremonial approach route to the palace.

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On the Mall

Although suffering some damage in the Second World War, it was  at the end of the War that the Palace became the focus of celebrations on VE Day.

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These scenes have been replicated in recent times for Royal Weddings and Jubilee Celebrations when the Royal Family usually make an appearance on the Palace balcony.

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After the fire at Windsor Castle in 1992, The Buckingham Palace State Rooms were open to visits by the public with money raised helping to pay for the repair and renovation at Windsor.

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The Mall from Admiralty Arch

To find out more about visiting Buckingham Palace visit their website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and the latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here