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Review : Discovering some of the secrets of the Charterhouse in London

The Charterhouse is a historic complex of buildings in London, dating back to the 14th century. Located near to the Barbican and Smithfield Market, the Charterhouse has an extraordinary history, as a monastery, school, mansion and almshouse, and formally opened its doors to the public last year, with the launch of a new museum.

To understand some of the complex history of the site, we joined an official tour of the site which are undertaken a number of times throughout the day

The site upon which the Charterhouse stands was acquired in the middle of the fourteenth century as a burial ground for the many victims of the Black Death. In 1371 a Carthusian Monastery was established by Sir Walter de Manny, one of Edward III’s senior advisers, a church built alongside the burial ground became the priory church.

Remarkably, parts of the Carthusian Monastery still exist, most notably in the Norfolk Cloister. The monks had quite large living accommodation on two levels with their private garden. The prior and monks were able to enjoy this relative luxury for over 150 years until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537. Resisting Henry VIII religious authority, the Prior, John Houghton was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn and ten monks were sent to Newgate Prison where nine starved to death and the tenth was executed at Tower Hill.

After the monastery was suppressed, the property and land was passed to the crown. Subsequently it was granted to Lord North, who began to transform the old monastery buildings into a grand Tudor mansion which was later sold to the fourth Duke of Norfolk.

Lord North built the Great Hall and the Great Chamber, such was the status of the mansion it attracted royal visitors. In 1558, Queen Elizabeth I used the house during the preparations for her coronation and James I held court here on his first entrance into London in 1603. Charterhouse was also the scene of considerable Tudor intrigue when the property was owned by Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk.  For scheming to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, Norfolk was placed under house arrest at the Charterhouse. Eventually Norfolk’s involvement in the Ridolfi plot was his undoing and he was executed in 1572.

The Great Hall and the Great Chamber are still in use and are visited as part of the tour, together with a visit to Master’s Court which reveals the grandeur of Lord North’s Tudor mansion.

The next phase of Charterhouse history transforms the building from large mansion populated by the ‘movers and shakers’ of the Tudor court to an almshouse and school, endowed by Thomas Sutton in 1611. Thomas Sutton was considered the richest commoner in Britain, he was appointed Master of Ordnance in Northern Parts, but showed commercial acumen to build up a considerable fortune. Before he died, he endowed a hospital on the site of the Charterhouse and bequeathed money to maintain a chapel, hospital (almshouse) and school. The foundation he created was used to provide a home for up to eighty male pensioners, and to educate forty boys.

Before the school moved out in 1872 to Godalming, Surrey, it did have some distinguished pupils including William Makepeace Thackeray and John Wesley. Stuart and Graham may not have been famous but their graffiti from 1765 on a wooden column still remains.

Some of the historic buildings of the Charterhouse were severely damaged during the Blitz. However the restoration between 1950 and 1959 exposed some of the medieval, 16th and 17th century fabric and led to the discovery of the remains of Walter de Manny, the founder of the monastery, buried in a lead coffin before the high altar of the monastic chapel. A white stone now marks his resting place in the small garden at the front of the main entrance.

Walking around Charterhouse, you are made aware that it still continues to serve as an almshouse to up to 40 pensioners, known as Brothers, although they are no religious connotations. The Brothers dine is some splendour in the Great Hall and have self-contained accommodation around the various courts. There would be very few establishments that have provided these services for over 400 years.

The tours are a fascinating insight into one of London’s oldest and yet least known historical sites. For centuries, many of its secrets were maintained behind large walls. However, the public opening of Charterhouse provides an opportunity to explore of the intriguing stories of the past and strangely of the present.  Recent Crossrail excavations at the corner of the site have confirmed the presence of a large number of remains of people who died from the Black Death in the 14th century.  

We would recommend that you go on one of the excellent tours around Charterhouse to fully understand its historical importance, but if you have limited time, the small comprehensive museum and the chapel that includes the memorial to Thomas Sutton has free admission.

 Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

The Charterhouse

Charterhouse Square

London

EC1M 6AN

Visit the museum and chapel free Tuesdays to Sundays, 11.00am to 4.45pm

Standard tour of the main buildings: Tuesday to Saturday at 11.30am, 12:00pm and 2.00pm and on Sundays at 2:00pm and 3:15pm. £10 book in advance or on the day if there is availability

A tour guided by one of the Brothers – the residents in the Almshouse. Tuesday to Saturday at 11.30am, 12:00pm and 2.00pm and on Sundays at 2:00pm and 3:15pm. £15 book in advance or on the day if there is availability.

There are also other tours including the extensive gardens that are bookable through the website.

For more information , visit the Charterhouse 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 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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Review : Keats House Museum in Hampstead

Keats House is a museum in a house once occupied by the Romantic poet John Keats, it is located in Keats Grove in Hampstead. Keats House was originally a pair of semi-detached houses known as “Wentworth Place”. It was within Wentworth House that John Keats lodged with his friend Charles Brown from 1818 to 1820.

Although only there for a relatively short period, Keats’s wrote many of his famous poems here including “Ode to a Nightingale”. It was whilst living at the house, that Keats fell in love with and became engaged to Fanny Brawne, who lived with her family in the adjacent part of the house.

The house is a Grade I listed building which was built between 1814 and 1816 and was first occupied by Charles Wentworth Dilke and his friend Charles Brown, other members of the Dilke family lived in the adjacent house.

Keats owned very few possessions, however the museum furnishes each room with furniture of the period and has a number of portraits of the poet throughout the building. Each room tells a particular story related to the poet and other occupants of the house. 

The basement was generally the domain of the household servants and was where the food was prepared and cooked. Moving up to the ground floor, The Brawne Room provides evidence of Keats passion for poetry despite his intention to pursue a medical career.

In Keats Parlour, the furniture is arranged to match the portrait on the wall completed soon after his death which features Keats sitting in the room which was where the poet wrote some of his most famous poems. Charles Brown’s parlour was a meeting place for like minded friends, although Keats was very popular with a wide group of friends, he was not part of the literary mainstream.

Upstairs in the house, Fanny Brawne’s Room tells the story of the ill fated romance of Keats and Fanny. Keats Bedroom looks at the poet’s dreams and the realisation that he had consumption which would eventually kill him.  On the landing, pictures tell the story of Keats final journey when he travelled to Rome for health reasons but would die there of consumption in 1821.

A number of objects are on display in the house including the engagement ring Keats offered to Fanny Brawne, Keats own copy of Milton’s Paradise Lost and a copy of Keats’ death mask.

Situated in a leafy Hampstead suburb, Keats House does not look out of place with the large houses surrounding it. However, the house is a remarkable survivor from the early 19th century which allows visitors to gain some valuable insights into the life and times of one of Britain’s greatest poets.

The house is situated near Hampstead Heath and is reached easily by public transport, Hampstead Heath station is a five minutes’ walk away.

Video Review available here 

Visitor Information

Keats House opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 11am-5pm.

Admission: Adults £6.50; Seniors £5.50; Concessions £4.50; Children 17 and under free of charge.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended 

For more information or to book tickets, visit the Keats 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 latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 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

A Short Guide to Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge is a bascule and suspension bridge in London built between 1886 and 1894. The bridge is close to the Tower of London and has gradually become an iconic symbol of London.
In the second half of the 19th century, it was decided that a new river crossing was needed downstream of London Bridge. A traditional bridge was not considered because of the need to allow access by sailing ships to the port facilities in the Pool of London.

A public competition was held with over 50 designs being submitted, it was decided to build a bascule bridge and Sir John Wolfe Barry was appointed engineer with Sir Horace Jones as architect. Barry designed the bridge with two bridge towers built on piers. The central span was split into two equal bascules which could be raised to allow river traffic to pass. The two side-spans were suspension bridges.

Construction started in 1886 and took eight years to complete with two piers containing over 70,000 tons of concrete supported the bridge with over 11,000 tons of steel providing the framework for the towers and walkways. Cornish granite and Portland stone were used for the Victorian Gothic style façade. The finished bridge consisted of two bridge towers connected together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways. The bridge was officially opened in 1894 by The Prince of Wales and his wife, The Princess of Wales.

The bridge is 800 feet (240 m) in length with two towers each 213 feet (65 m) high, The central span of 200 feet (61 m) between the towers is split into two bascules, which can be raised to allow river traffic to pass. The two side-spans are suspension bridges, each 270 feet (82 m) long, the pedestrian walkways are 143 feet (44 m) above the river.

The bridge is accessible by both vehicles and pedestrians, whereas the bridge’s twin towers, high-level walkways and Victorian engine rooms form part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition which opened in 1982.

Tower Bridge is crossed by over 40,000 people (motorists, cyclists and pedestrians) every day. The Bridge is opened over 1000 times a year for river traffic.

The Tower Bridge Exhibition is a housed in the bridge’s twin towers, the high-level walkways and the Victorian engine rooms. The exhibition uses films, photos and interactive media to explain the story behind Tower Bridge. The walkways provide views over the city and the Tower of London and includes a glass-floored section.

Although Tower Bridge is considered one of the iconic sights of London today, when it was built it was not always appreciated with a number of people considered the structure pretentiousness and absurd.

Video Review 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 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

Review : The Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace

The Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace evolved from the King’s Mews which was where the royal hawks were kept. The Mews were originally housed near Charing Cross on the site of the present National Gallery. The royal hawks were kept there from 1377 until the building was destroyed by fire in 1534 and was rebuilt as stables.

In the 1760s, George III moved some of his horses and carriages to the grounds of Buckingham House, which he had acquired in 1762. However it was not until the reign of George IV that the royal stables transferred completely to Buckingham Palace. The King commissioned the new Royal Mews from John Nash who built grand stables around the riding school, a Doric-style arch with a clock tower, leading into the quadrangle of the Mews. In the reign of Queen Victoria, up to 200 horses were kept at the stables within the Royal Mews.

The Royal Mews is part of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office and provides road transport for The Queen and members of the Royal Family by both horse-drawn carriage and motor car. The Royal Mews is still a working stable but also houses the royal collection of historic coaches and carriages.

State vehicles are housed and maintained at the Royal Mews. They include the carriages used for royal and State occasions, such as State Visits, weddings and the State Opening of Parliament. Carriages from the Royal Mews are also used on roughly 50 occasions each year to convey newly appointed High Commissioners and Ambassadors from their official residence to Buckingham Palace to present their credentials to The Queen.

The most ornate of all coaches housed in the Royal Mews is the Gold State Coach, which has been used at every coronation since that of George IV in 1821.

The latest coach to join the collection of royal coaches is The Diamond Jubilee State Coach which was built to commemorate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It was first used at the State Opening of Parliament on 4 June 2014. The coach has a number of unusual features, the interior of the coach incorporates items donated by over 100 of Britain’s historic sites and organisations. The seat handrails are from the Royal Yacht Britannia, and the window frames and interior panels include material from Caernarfon Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, Durham Cathedral, The Mary Rose (Henry VIII’s flagship), 10 Downing Street, and the Antarctic bases of Captain Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton, a British lead musket ball from the Battle of Waterloo and a specimen of the metal used to create Victoria Cross medals. The Diamond Jubilee State Coach also combines traditional craftsmanship and modern technology. The vehicle has an aluminium body and has six hydraulic stabilisers. The gilded crown on the top of the coach is carved in oak from the HMS Victory.

Other coaches of interest is the Irish State Coach, purchased by Queen Victoria for £858 in 1852 and the 1902 State Landau, built in 1902 for King Edward VII which has been used for recent royal weddings including that of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

A visit to the Royal Mews allows visitors to see some of the carriage horses that are stabled in the complex. The Cleveland Bays are used to escort newly appointed High Commissioners and Ambassadors to their audience with The Queen and the famous Windsor Greys  draw the private carriages of the royal family. Both set of horses must be at least 16.1 hands (1.65 metres) high and are chosen for their steady temperament and stamina.

A visit to the grand State Stables allows visitors to experience sitting in a carriage with a replica of a Semi State Landau which is decorated in royal carriage livery and has real suspension. The stable have a number of interactive displays that will entertain all the family in which it is possible to dress up as a footman or learn how to harness a horse.

Other places of interest is the Riding School, the Livery Room and the Harness Room which gives some illustration of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes of many of the great Royal events.

Whilst the Royal Mews is probably not on the top of the many visitors list to visit, it is one of the most interesting royal related attractions in London with plenty of interest for all the family. Being a working stable, visitors can also witness the working day of the Royal Mews staff and watch some of training of the horses.

Video Review available here

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

Admission to the Royal Mews is Adult £10.00, under 17 £5.80, Under 5 Free.

For more information or book tickets, visit the Royal Collection 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  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

Review : Zoorassic Park at ZSL London Zoo – 22nd July to 3rd September 2017

Visitors to ZSL London will find an added attraction until September with the opening of Zoorassic Park and its collection of dinosaurs.

Explorers will pick up their passports and take a trip via a ‘time machine’ to the Mesozoic era (about 65 million years ago), where ZSL’s tour guides will introduce a range of dinosaurs to visitors.

The prehistoric world is recreated and visitors come face to face with triceratops, the armour-plated edmontonia, the giant  brachiosaurus to the tyrannosaurus rex.

Families are given their own passports for the time travel safari, which will take them on a journey of discovery into the world of dinosaurs, as well as learning all about the important work ZSL’s conservationists are doing to help prevent today’s animals from becoming extinct.

The fun trail for kids also includes fossil digs to explore and baby dinosaurs to meet.

To launch Zoorassic Park, popular TV presenter Andy Day presents a series of free live shows at the Zoo on the 22nd and 23rd July.

The trip into Zoorassic Park is included into the general Zoo admission and provides plenty of excitement for all the family. The moving models will entertain  young visitors and provide plenty of information about some of the largest creatures that have roamed the earth. If you are thinking of visiting the Zoo, this is an attraction not to be missed.

Video Review available here

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information or book tickets, visit the London Zoo 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 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

Attraction Review : Legoland Windsor

Legoland Windsor is a child-oriented and family friendly theme park and resort in Windsor which is around a one hour trip from London. The park opened in 1996 and was the second Legoland after Legoland Billund in Denmark.

The park’s attractions are a mixture of Lego-themed rides, Lego models and interactive areas where children can build with Lego. In 2015, the park had 2.25 million visitors, making it the most visited theme park in the United Kingdom. The theme park is located a couple of miles outside of the centre of Windsor and is accessible by car, local bus, coach or taxi.

The park is split into 12 themed lands, incorporating various attractions for particular age groups. The Beginning, Imagination Centre, Duplo Valley, Miniland, Adventure Land, LEGO City, Pirate Shores, Heartlake City, Knight´s Kingdom, Land of the Vikings and Kingdom of the Pharaohs.

One of the innovative aspects of the park is that once you have gone through the ticket check at the entrance, you can go to The Beginning which is the entrance to the park and provides some distractions for children before the rest of the park opens. In this area is the Hill Train, the Lego Star Wars model display and the Model Making Studio. Nearby is the Imagination Centre which features educational attractions and workshops.

At the heart of the resort is Miniland which is a remarkable miniature park which features in Lego form, towns and cities from around the world. Over 40 million Lego bricks were used in creating the models which often have some moving parts including cars, boats, planes and an extensive train system which is run by computers.

Nearby Duplo Valley is generally aimed at the 3 – 6 age group with a series of water features including Fairy Tale Brook, Raft Racers, Splash Safari and Drench Towers.

Lego City has transport themes and allows the 6-13 age group to try Balloon School: Experience the ups and downs of a hot air balloon ride. Coastguard HQ: an interactive boat ride for children. Fire Academy: helping the ‘firefighters’ to power a LEGO fire engine and putting out a ‘burning’ building. Lego City Driving School is a large course in which children drive their own car to gain their driving license. For young children there is a small driving school.

Heartlake City is based on the Lego Friends product range and includes the Heartlake Express, Mia’s Riding Adventure and Olivia’s House. Located around a lake, this is a good place to sit and relax and perhaps have a bite to eat.

Other areas such as Land of the Vikings, Kingdom of the Pharaohs and Pirate Shores are built around a number of popular attractions.

A large castle awaits visitors to Nexo Knights Kingdom with the major rides being The Dragon and the Dragon’s Apprentice. This area also has a very popular Adventure playground.

Adventure Land is situated around a lake at the far end of the park. The main attraction is Atlantis Submarine Voyage which features “submarine” vehicles used to travel through the tanks of sharks and other marine creatures.

Many children’s love affair with Lego is as strong as ever and Legoland Windsor will not disappoint with a wide range of attractions and activities. However it is worth noting that the park will generally appeal to the 3 to 13 age group, there is none of the large blockbuster rides that would appeal to teenagers. Most of the rides are quite short in duration and will provide plenty of enjoyment for the intended age group.

In some ways, Legoland Windsor is a victim of its own success and does get extremely busy in peak times especially weekends and school holidays. Queues can be quite long for some rides and if you want to get the most out of your visit regarding rides it may be worth paying extra for the Q Bots system which can “reserve” places in queues virtually. It is also cheaper to book tickets in advance, these can be quite a saving from the walk up admission price.

Legoland Windsor generally opens from March to November, but there are closures on some days.

See Video Review here

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like further information or book tickets, visit the Legoland Windsor 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

Bee Excitement at Shrek’s Adventure! London – 27th May to 4th June 2017

The ever popular Shrek’s Adventure! London will the highlighting the importance of Bees to our ecosystem with a special appearance of Barry B. Benson, the famous Bee from DreamWork’s Bee Movie, between, 27th May – 4th June. Visitors to the family friendly London attraction will be able to meet Barry whilst learning some fascinating facts about bees.

After guests have made their way through the land of Far Far Away they will arrive back to a lush giant garden where Barry B. Benson has made his home for the duration of his stay. Surrounded by fragrant flowers and pollinating plants, guests will be able to get involved in some bee-related games as well as meeting Barry and his friends to hear more about why bees are brilliant!

Barry will be joined by two Botanist friends who will be on hand to spread the word about pollination and how bees are an integral part of our garden, and everyday life. Featuring games, special effects and some magic, the Bee Movie experience is included in the normal ticket price but advanced booking is recommended as the experience will only run for a limited time of eight days.

To celebrate the new Bee Movie experience at DreamWorks Tours: Shrek’s Adventure! London, Barry B. Benson and the Shrek team have joined forces with Notcutts Garden Centres across the UK to create a special bee trail so kids and parents can continue to add to their bee knowledge at their local Garden centres.

The free trail will take in fascinating bee facts and will help visitors learn more about what plants, herbs and shrubs to plant to attract bees and other wildlife to their own garden.

The trail is free to those visiting Notcutts centres and includes a ‘Kids Go Free’ voucher to DreamWorks Tours: Shrek’s Adventure! London.

If you would like further information or book tickets, visit the Shrek’s Adventure 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