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A Short Guide to St Katharine Docks in London

St Katharine Docks was one of the commercial docks in London which opened in 1828, the docks were built on the site of the former hospital of St Katharine’s by the Tower which dated back to the 12th century.

The decision to build the docks was controversial with around 11,000 people losing their homes and some 1250 houses demolished. The area was known for centuries for the medieval hospital of St. Katharine was originally founded in 1148 by Matilda of Boulogne and was the recipient of many gifts from kings and queens over the centuries.

Due to its favourable position next to the Tower of London, the decision for redevelopment by an Act of Parliament in 1825, with construction starting in 1827. The project was undertaken engineer Thomas Telford and was completed remarkably quickly with the docks opening in 1828.

The docks were designed in the form of two linked basins (East and West), with access to the Thames through an entrance lock. Steam engines designed by James Watt and Matthew Boulton kept the water level in the basins to an acceptable level. The cost of building the docks was estimated to be around two million pounds.

The docks were popular for a time with produce being bought into the centre of London, however as time moved on the inability to accommodate large ships began to limit their commercial success. In the 19th century, St Katharine Docks were amalgamated with the nearby London Docks. In 1909, the Port of London Authority took over the management of almost all of the Thames docks, including St Katharine.

The St Katharine Docks suffered considerable damage by German bombing during the Second World War and the docks were finally closed in the 1960s.

A number of commercial buildings were built in the 1970s including the Tower Hotel, however it was not until the 1990s that wholesale development took place that led to offices, public and private housing, a hotel, shops and restaurants, the Dickens Inn pub and a marina for small to medium-sized boats.

Since the 1990s, St Katharine Docks have become a popular location for those visiting the nearby Tower of London and workers from the surrounding offices.

The redevelopment has paid tribute to the history of the site with some of the old warehouses used for offices and retail. There is a wide range of ships and boats in the marina from superyachts to Thames sailing barges.


Famous boats regularly moored in the docks include the royal barge Gloriana and MV Havengore which is best known for carrying the body of Sir Winston Churchill as part of his State Funeral.

St Katharine Docks is little known to many visitors but offers a fascinating glimpse into London’s maritime and medieval history.

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.
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A Short Guide to Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is a famous public square in Central London, its name commemorates the British victory over the French in 1805. The location has been significant landmark since the 13th century and originally contained the King’s Mews which kept the King’s Hawks. After a fire in 1534, the mews were rebuilt as stables until they were moved them to Buckingham Palace.

In the early 19th century , the site was redeveloped by John Nash and then Charles Barry until Trafalgar Square was officially opened to the public in 1844. Nelson’s Column was not part of Barry’s work and was funded by public subscription, the design selected of a 218 feet 3 inches (66.52 m) column topped by a statue of Nelson and guarded by four lions was not widely admired by the public when it was erected in 1843.

The square quickly became one of the centres of London and became a location for social and political demonstrations, The great Chartist rally in 1848 for social reforms began in the square, later demonstrations in the late 19th century led to social unrest and occasionally violence. In the 20th century, protests about Nuclear weapons and Vietnam in the 1950s and 60s . These were followed anti-apartheid protests in the 1980s and Poll Tax Riots in the 1990s.  More recently, there have been anti-war, climate change and anti austerity demonstrations taken place in the square.

The square is not only used for demonstrations, for many years it was the main focus for New Year celebrations and is used all year round for various festivals and community events. Every year since 1947 , a Christmas tree has been donated to the square by Norway and is erected over the Christmas period.

Although Nelson’s Column dominates the square, there are  fountains designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, four large bronze lions sculpted by Sir Edwin Landseer, there are other statues dotted around the square.

A bronze equestrian statue of George IV by Sir Francis Chantrey,was installed in 1844, General Sir Charles James Napier by George Cannon Adams in the south-west corner in 1855, and Major-General Sir Henry Havelock by William Behnes in the south-east in 1861. One plinth was left empty and in the 21st century, the “Fourth Plinth”, has been used to show specially commissioned artworks.

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.
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A Short Guide to Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus is a well known junction and public space located in the London’s West End, it was built in 1819 to connect Regent Street and Piccadilly.

Piccadilly Circus is close to many of the major shopping and entertainment areas in the West End and has been a popular meeting place for Londoners and visitors for a considerable period. In the present day it is chiefly known for the video and neon signs displayed on buildings on the northern side , the Shaftesbury memorial fountain and statue commonly known as Eros and the Criterion Theatre.

The use of electric and neon advertising signs on the goes back to 1910 and have been a feature of the site ever since, these types of signs are relatively rare in London and the area became a bit of an attraction because of this.

At the south-eastern side of the Circus stands the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, erected in 1892–1893 to commemorate the philanthropic works of Lord Shaftesbury, a Victorian politician, philanthropist and social reformer. The subject of the Memorial often gets confused because people associate the stature with Eros the Greek god of love but its actually the Greek god Anteros and the statue was given the name The Angel of Christian Charity.

Piccadilly Circus has long association with love in its different forms being notorious for a pick up spot for prostitutes in the 20th century. Although surrounded by shops and theatres it has a strangely transient feel where you generally meet people before moving on elsewhere. The endless tide of people have attracted many writers and artists to the area who became inspired by its light and dark attributes.

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: National Maritime Museum in Greenwich

The National Maritime Museum is located within the historic buildings that form part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site and is run by Royal Museums Greenwich which comprises of the Royal Observatory, Cutty Sark, National Maritime Museum and Queen’s House.

Greenwich has been the home to a naval-based art gallery since the early 1800s, however the idea for a National Maritime Museum goes back to the 1920s, when a public appeal was launched to develop a ‘national naval and nautical museum’. Sir James Caird purchased the A.G.H. Macpherson Collection of over 11,000 maritime prints, along with ship models and many other items, to help begin the Museum’s collection.

Over a decade later, the National Maritime Museum was opened by King George VI in 1937 and now holds some of the most important items in the world on the history of Britain at sea, including maritime art, cartography, manuscripts, official public records, ship models and plans. In the last ten years, more gallery spaces have been added and a new library and archive has been developed.

Highlights of the ground level area are the remarkable collection of figureheads from the late 17th century until the early 20th century, the stern gallery of HMS Implacable, a full size Type-23 frigate propeller and the lavish 20 metre The state barge built for Frederick, Prince of Wales and launched in 1732.

On the ground level is the Jutland 1916 gallery which was opened to mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland, the largest sea battle of the First World War.

Also on this level is J.M.W. Turner’s largest painting of The Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805, which is one of the highlights of the museums art collection and the Voyagers gallery which tells the story of Britain and the sea and Maritime London.

Moving up to other levels, there are series of galleries and displays including the Nelson, Navy, Nation gallery which explores the life and times of great British hero Horatio Nelson and the history of the Royal Navy and British people from 1688–1815. One of the highlights is the actual uniform Admiral Nelson was wearing when he was fatally wounded at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Visitors can find out about Britain’s maritime trade with Asia in the Traders: the East India Company and Asia gallery and find a moments peace in the beautiful Baltic Exchange Memorial Glass gallery which commemorates World War I dead.

The museum has opened four new galleries from September 2018, Tudor and Stuart Seafarers uncovers stories of adventure and piracy, ambition and greed. Polar Worlds discover the challenges of extreme environments. From Arctic and Antarctic exploration to the impact of climate change on human lives. Pacific Encounters voyage to the world’s largest ocean and hear hidden histories of exploration and exploitation. Sea Things explores more personal connections with the sea with a series of personal stories.

The museum attracts many children and families with its AHOY! children’s gallery and you can enjoy food and drink in the Parkside Café and Terrace which features the popular Yinka Shonibare’s replica of Nelson’s HMS Victory in a bottle.

The National Maritime Museum is one of the top free museums in London and is often visited by those who wish to explore the many delights of historic Greenwich. The museum has in recent years worked to show their remarkable objects in a way that they illustrate particular stories and events. This very popular museum has been innovative in the way it uses historical objects and multimedia to tell the fascinating story of Britain’s maritime past.

For more information and tickets, visit the National Maritime Museum 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

 

Review: Florence Nightingale Museum in London

The Florence Nightingale Museum celebrates the life and work of one of the world’s most famous nurses. The museum is located within St Thomas’ Hospital near the banks of the river Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament. The Florence Nightingale Museum collection is made up of almost 3000 artefacts relating to the life, work and legacy of Florence Nightingale and attracts visitors from all over the world who want to learn more about the ‘Lady with the Lamp’.

The origins of the collection were artefacts acquired by Dame Alicia Lloyd-Still during her time as Matron of St Thomas’ Hospital in 1913-1937. The collection was first publicly displayed for the centenary of the Crimean War in 1954 at the Royal College of Surgeons in London, then again on the centenary of the Nightingale Training School for Nurses in 1960, and the 150th anniversary of Florence’s birth in 1970. The collection was transferred into the care of the Florence Nightingale Museum Trust in 1983, who then went on to open the museum on the site of the original Nightingale Training School in 1989.

Florence Nightingale is most famous for being the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ who organised the nursing of sick and wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, however the museum provides plenty of evidence of the way that Nightingale’s ideas and reforms have influenced modern healthcare.

The museum displays begins by looking at Florence’s ‘Early years’, she was born into a fairly wealthy middle-class family and soon began to show an aptitude for academic studies especially mathematics. Florence believed she had a ‘calling’ from God was destined to do something important with her life. This background gave Florence a strong sense of moral duty to help the poor and gradually began to consider that nursing may be a path to fulfil her ambitions. Paid nursing at this time had a poor reputation at this time and was generally considered a job for elderly women.

What often set Florence apart from many others was her practical approach and she read anything she could find about health and hospitals before persuading her parents to allow her to take three months’ nursing training at an hospital in Dusseldorf. When Florence was 33, she became superintendent of a hospital for ‘gentlewomen’ in Harley Street in London. However it was to be the Crimean War which would make her reputation.

The displays in the museum tell the story of how Florence was invited by the Minister of War to oversee the introduction of female nurses into the military hospitals in Turkey. With a party of 38 nurses, Florence arrived in Scutari and began to organise the hospitals to improve supplies of food, blankets and beds, as well as the general conditions and cleanliness. For centuries, soldiers were more likely to die from disease than conflict when serving overseas but little was done to deal with these issues.

By introducing the new measures at Scutari, the mortality rates declined significantly and British soldiers showed their respect for Florence by giving her the nickname ‘Lady of the Lamp’. The introduction of female nurses to the military hospitals was considered an outstanding success and Florence returned to Britain a heroine. It is this image of the ‘Lady of the Lamp’ that is ingrained in popular culture, however this overshadows her later work which many consider to be even more important. One of her greatest achievements was to transform nursing into a respectable profession for women and in 1860, she established the first professional training school for nurses, the Nightingale Training School at St Thomas’ Hospital.

For the rest of her life, she campaigned tirelessly to improve health standards, publishing over 200 books, reports and pamphlets on hospital planning and organisation. It is said that she wrote over 13000 letters as part of her campaigns and reforms. Some of the books, reports, pamphlets are included in the displays including her most famous work Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not.

Despite often being confined to her sick bed, Florence used many of her contacts including Queen Victoria to push for reforms and used statistics to provide evidence of her arguments. Despite her ill health, Florence lived till she was 90, she died in 1910.

The museum looks at Florence Nightingale’s legacy by featuring a set of ten oil paintings by French artist Victor Tardieu, which depict a field hospital during the First World War. The lesson learned in the Crimea were applied in latter wars to save millions of soldiers from disease and death from injuries.

Visitors walking around the museum may be surprised to come across a stuffed owl and dog, Athena was Florence Nightingale’s beloved pet owl which she rescued in Athens in 1850 and used to put in the pocket of her apron. The dog is called Jack and belonged to Edith Cavell, Jack helped soldiers escape from captivity during the First World War.

The Florence Nightingale Museum tells the story of a remarkable woman who transformed the nursing profession in the 19th century. The museum illustrates the life of Florence Nightingale with attractive displays, full of interesting objects that show how modern healthcare was influenced by a woman who used her celebrity to save millions of lives.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information and tickets , visit the Museum 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

 

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

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