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Exhibition Review: Queen Victoria’s Palace at the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace from 20 July to 29 September 2019

To mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria, a special exhibition entitled Queen Victoria’s Palace at Buckingham Palace tells the story of how the young monarch transformed a neglected royal residence into the centre of the social, cultural and official life of the country.

When Queen Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837, she decided to move into Buckingham Palace, despite the building being incomplete and many of the rooms undecorated and unfurnished. The Palace had been left empty for seven years following the death of George IV, the King never occupied the Palace but had great plans to turn the palace into a grand building based on the designs of John Nash. George IV’s successor William IV lived at Clarence House during his short reign and the Queen’s ministers advised her to stay at Kensington Palace until Buckingham Palace was finally completed.

Despite being only 18, Victoria had the strength of character to ignore the advice and move into Buckingham Palace, in 1840 Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and began the development of the royal residence to be suitable for both official and family life.

As Victoria’s family grew, so did Buckingham Palace with money granted from Parliament in 1846. In 1847 the architect Edward Blore was commissioned to draw up plans for alterations to Buckingham Palace and between 1847 and 1849, the East Wing was added at the front, enclosing an open, courtyard and introducing the now famous central balcony.

The first part of the exhibition explores this process with paintings, drawings, costumes with a number of personal items from Victoria’s family. It also features some of the social events that began to be promoted at the Palace like The Stuart Ball of 1851.

A new Ballroom was added to the State Rooms to enable Victoria’s wish for a space to entertain the many visitors. The Palace’s new Ballroom and Ball Supper Room were completed in 1856, and measuring 33.5 metres long and 18 metres wide. the Ballroom was the largest room in the Palace. On 17 June of that year, a Ball was held to mark the end of the Crimean War and honour the returning soldiers.

The Ball of 1856, has been recreated for visitors using a Victorian illusion technique known as Pepper’s Ghost and a series of digital projections around the Ballroom. Four couples seem to appear performing a waltz, whilst the digital projections transform the walls and ceilings with decorations allowing visitors to imagine both spaces as Victoria and Albert would have known them.

Victoria also transformed the kitchens to enable the Palace’s 45 chefs to demonstrate their culinary skills. In the State Dining Room, the table is dressed with items from the ‘Victoria’ pattern dessert service, purchased by the Queen from the stand of Minton & Co. at the Great Exhibition in 1851, and the Alhambra table fountain, a silver-gilt and enamel centrepiece commissioned by Victoria and Albert from R & S Garrard in the same year.

On pieces of silver-gilt from the Grand Service, commissioned by Victoria’s uncle, George IV, sit replica desserts based on a design by Charles Elme Francatelli, Queen Victoria’s Chief Cook.

This fascinating exhibition illustrates the role of Victoria in making Buckingham Palace what it is today. A unloved building was transformed into the headquarters of the Monarchy, a focal point for national celebrations and a family home. Victoria also created a place to entertain hundreds and sometimes thousands of guests at one time creating traditions that still endure, such as appearances by the Royal Family on the balcony at the front of the Palace and the annual summer Garden Parties.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information or book tickets, visit the Royal Collection website here

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The Strange History of Marble Arch


© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Many Londoners and visitors to London are confused by Marble Arch that stands rather forlorn on a large traffic island at the junction of Oxford Street, Park Lane and Edgware Road. The 19th-century white marble-faced arch was built with quite grand intentions which never really were realised.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

John Nash was the favourite architect of the Prince Regent, later King George IV. Nash had successfully designed and planned such landmarks as Regent’s Park, Regent Street, Carlton House Terrace and parts of Buckingham Palace. Therefore Nash was the obvious choice to build a ‘Marble Arch’ which would be a gateway to Buckingham Palace and a celebration of British victories in the Napoleonic Wars.

Nash’s original design was based on the Arch of Constantine in Rome and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Nash had a model made which is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum that illustrates his design which was approved by George IV. The arch is faced with Carrara marble with other select marble extracted from quarries near Seravezza. The various sculptures and a equestrian statue of George IV that would crown the structure were commissioned in 1828.

However, after the death of the King George IV in 1830, Nash was sacked by the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, for overspending on the project. The architect Edward Blore was commissioned to complete the works in less grandiose and more practical fashion.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Blore found himself with a collection of statues and panels, but decided to complete the Arch without using most of the sculpture. The Arch was completed in 1833, the central gates were added in 1837, just in time for Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne.

Blore used some of the friezes made for Nash’s arch in the central courtyard of Buckingham Palace. In 1835 many of the sculptures were given to William Wilkins to use in the construction of the new National Gallery. The Equestrian Statue of George IV, by Francis Chantrey that was due to be on top of the arch now stands on a plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Blore’s revised Marble Arch was erected as a formal gateway to Buckingham Palace in the 1830s but only lasted for seventeen years because when Buckingham Palace was enlarged, the arch seemed small and insignificant.

In 1850, the decision was taken to move the Arch to its current location of Cumberland Gate where it would create a grand entrance to Hyde Park in time for the Great Exhibition of 1851. The removal and reconstruction of the Arch was overseen by architect Thomas Cubitt who completed the complex process in only three months.

With vast crowds of people arriving for the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, Marble Arch was considered a grand entrance to the park. Marble Arch became a familiar landmark and played its role as an entrance for more than 50 years. However this was to change in 1908 when a new road scheme cut through the park just south of the Arch leaving it separated from Hyde Park. In the 1960s, the roads were widened still further, leaving the Arch in its isolated position and effectively cut off from the park.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

In 1970, the Arch gained its Grade I listed status and small park created around the Arch. Since then there has been a number of ‘ideas’ to relocate the structure but it is still remains a familiar if unusual landmark near the busy roads of Central London.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Like many London structures, there has been a number of ‘urban myths’ related to the arch. It is often said that the Arch was removed from Buckingham Palace because it was too narrow to allow Queen Victoria’s State Coach through. In reality, Queen Victoria’s coronation procession and Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation procession passed through the Arch with no problems. The second myth is that Marble Arch was a former Police Station. It was used by the police for accommodation and surveillance but was not a police station. Part of the myth can be traced to poet, Sir John Betjeman who filmed inside Marble Arch for a 1960s TV documentary and mentioned it was a police station.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Marble Arch is one of London’s landmarks and has led to the area around the Arch to be known as Marble Arch with its own tube station on the Central line. The location of the Arch has been a famous site for centuries, nearby was the former site of the Tyburn gallows, a place of public execution from 14th to 18th century.

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 Lambeth Palace

On the south bank of the Thames, opposite the Palace of Westminster is Lambeth Place which for nearly 800 years has been the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Lambeth Palace was acquired for the archbishop from around 1200 AD and has had a varied history which is documented within the palace in the Lambeth Palace Library. The library contains over 120,000 books as well as the archives of the Archbishops of Canterbury and other church bodies dating back to the 12th century.

Lambeth Palace 1685

The palace once stood in its own grounds and has many stages of development, the Crypt Chapel is the oldest part of Lambeth Palace with Lollard’s Tower later dating from 1435 to 1440. The early Tudor brick gatehouse at the front of the palace was built by Cardinal John Morton and completed in 1495. Further construction was added to the Palace in 1834 by Edward Blore.

The Palace was attacked in 1381 during the Peasant’s revolt and suffered considerable damage by Cromwellian troops during the English Civil War. After the Restoration, the Great Hall was rebuilt by archbishop William Juxon with a late Gothic hammerbeam roof. Founded in 1197, the Lambeth Palace garden covers just over 10 acres and is considered one of the oldest gardens in England.

Near to the entrance of the Place stands the former parish church of St Mary-at-Lambeth. The tower dates from 1377 and tombs within the church include some of the archbishops, gardeners John Tradescant the elder and his son of the same name, and Admiral William Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty fame. The church deconsecrated in 1972 and now houses The Garden Museum.

Many Kings and Queens have visited Lambeth Palace over the centuries, however Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 become the first pontiff to step foot inside the Palace. The Pope was welcomed to the Palace by the then Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

As a working palace and family home, Lambeth Palace is not open to the public on a daily basis. However, visitors can go on guided tours or attend special open days when it is open.

For more information, visit the Lambeth Palace 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