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Book Review – Walk through History: Victorian London by Christopher Winn (Ebury Press)

Anyone who has trampled through the streets of London will know of the endless fascination of the capital. However the sheer scale can often be overwhelming and we often take the remarkable variety of buildings, monuments and open spaces for granted. One particular period, many people ignore because it is so commonplace is the Victorian era.

Fortunately, this book Walk through History : Victorian London seeks to rectify this oversight by taking readers on a series of original walks through different areas of central London whilst focusing on one particular period of history, the Victorian.

The author is Christopher Winn, bestselling author of I Never Knew That About London and a self-confessed trivia collector for over 20 years.  He makes the point that much of London is Victorian and many of the organisations and institutions that we take for granted originated in this period. Over the course of Queen Victoria’s reign form 1837 to 1901, London’s population grew sevenfold and the capital became the centre of a British empire where the sun never set. To befit this new status, architects and engineers transformed London with churches, schools, hospitals, financial institutions, theatres, residential buildings, bridges, sewers, roads and railways.

Many of the iconic buildings and structures from this period are well-known like the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, St Pancras station , the Royal Albert Hall and the London Underground. However, the author states that “Victorian London is all around us. And yet much of it goes unappreciated, hidden from view by familiarity and everyday life.”

The book provides a guide to appreciating some of London’s Victorian delights with a series of seven walks in different areas of the city. The seven chapters include Walking in Victorian South Kensington, Walking in Victorian Kensington, Walking in the Victorian City, Walking in the Victorian East End, Walking in Victorian Holborn, St Pancras & Bloomsbury, Walking in the Victorian West End and Walking in Victorian Mayfair, St James’s, Victoria, Whitehall & Westminster.

A map at the beginning of each chapter provides a visual look at the route with a series of small sections providing more detail of places of interest. Most of the walks start and finish near an underground station and there are a number of recommended places for refreshments.

In many ways, the format is similar to many books, however it is the book’s design, breadth of knowledge and writing style that sets this book apart from its competitors. The author takes the reader on a walk through Victorian London with a sense of history and wonder, describing the Coalbrookdale Gates, one of the last surviving structures of the Great Exhibition, he suggests that it is “spine tingling to think that they are a product of the workshop that triggered the Industrial Revolution.”

The author is excited by the “fantastical world” of George and Peto’s Collingham Gardens, London’s “finest Victorian lavatories” at the Wesley Chapel, the “rather wonderful, if somewhat forbidding” King’s Cross Police Station, James Smith & Sons is considered “London’s best preserved high-class Victorian shop.”

These are just a few of the many buildings and structures that attract the author’s attention as the reader is taken around Victorian London. If you are unfamiliar with the architects, engineers and philanthropists of Victorian London, more information is given at the end of the book.

This fascinating and attractive book reminds us that Victorian London is often the foundation of the modern city. The design and structure of the book is delightfully old-fashioned with wonderful illustrations by Mai Osawa. In many ways, this book is similar to the Alfred Wainwright guides to the Lake District, both share an idiosyncratic style that is permeated with their affection for their subject matter.

If you are a London obsessive or a visitor who would like to find out more about Victorian London whilst enjoying walking the urban landscapes of the capital, this book will be an invaluable companion.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information, visit the Penguin 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.
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Review : Thought of Train of Thought 2016 by Ron Arad at St Pancras Station – 7th July 2016

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The Royal Academy of Arts and St Pancras International station have revealed a major site-specific installation, Thought of Train of Thought, 2016, by Ron Arad for Terrace Wires, the station’s public commissioning programme for new artwork by leading international artists.

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This is the second instalment of a four year partnership between HS1 Ltd. (owners of St Pancras International station) and the Royal Academy for the station’s public sculpture series, following Cornelia Parker RA’s One More Time in 2015.
Suspended on wires from St Pancras International’s Grade 1 listed Barlow Shed roof, Thought of Train of Thought, comprises one 18 metre twisted blade made of aluminium which rotates slowly creating an optical illusion of movement.

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Arad has designed a number of public art works including a new work, Spyre, in the RA Courtyard until 21 August.

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The St Pancras station roof is a work of art in its own right and Thought of Train of Thought, 2016, by Ron Arad uses the roof to provide the changing lightscape on the blade.The blade offers a constantly changing installation where the light and the movement of trains and people all are reflected in ever moving patterns.

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Thought of Train of Thought will be at St Pancras International station until January 2017.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

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 : One More Time by Cornelia Parker at St Pancras Station – May to November 2015

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Situated in the stunning Grade 1 listed Barlow Shed, the large DENT clock at St Pancras Station is a familiar sight to millions of travellers. However from today, weary travellers may be confused with two DENT clocks showing the time. The latest edition had been designed by leading British artist and Royal Academician, Cornelia Parker. Cornelia Parker’s work, One More Time, 2015, is a working replica of the station’s DENT London clock, reversed out in black with white hands and numerals and silver detail.

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The commission for the work is part of a four year partnership between The Royal Academy of Arts and  HS1 Ltd. (owners of St Pancras International station) to develop Terrace Wires, the station’s commissioning programme for new artwork by leading international artists. This is the first time the Royal Academy of Arts have co-presented an external public sculpture series in London.

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The artwork is made with DENT London Clocks, manufacturers of the present clock at St Pancras and the Great Clock in the Elizabeth Tower, commonly known as Big Ben. Located 16 metres in front of the original clock, the artwork will appear in different positions in relation to where you are in the station. For those travellers alighting from the Eurostar trains the original face will gradually appear eclipsed before gradually reappearing.

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Cornelia Parker RA has conceived One More Time to invoke meditative thoughts on the passage of time and the way that the artwork moves around original clock suggests a slower astronomical time. The artist has used the station as a subject for number of her artworks in the past including Left Luggage, 1989, and a series of eight temporary works made in the St Pancras Hotel for Northern Adventures, curated by Camden Arts Centre in 1992.

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Cornelia Parker

This work by Cornelia Parker follows the recent unveiling of her Magna Carta ( an embroidery ) at the nearby British Library. Her work is on display in many collections, including Tate Gallery, New York’s MoMA and Metropolitan Museum, the Yale Center for British Art, the De Young Museum in San Francisco, the Henry Moore Foundation and the British Council.

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St Pancras International is one of London’s great railway stations with up to one million visitors every week, One More Time will offer an intriguing experience for those travellers who cannot resist watching the clock. The artwork will present the illusion that not only are the clock hands   moving but so is the clock itself depending where you are in the station.

One of Cornelia Parker’s  great talents is to take a relatively simple concept and develop it to invent many other interpretations often on the original theme.

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St Pancras has a number of interesting pieces of art and the station itself is well worth a visit, One More Time is a clever and inventive addition to its attractions.

One More Time, 2015 was unveiled at St Pancras International station on  the 28 May 2015 and can be viewed till early November 2015

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

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

The Romance of St Pancras Railway Station

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For the traveller walking into St Pancras International Station, they would look around and consider it a masterpiece of Railway Station design, however this disguises a rather chequered past.

St Pancras was considered one of finest of the “new” London station built in the Victorian age, the train shed, completed in 1868 by the engineer William Henry Barlow, was the largest single-span structure built in the world at that time. The front of the station was taken up by the Midland Grand Hotel, designed by George Gilbert Scott, an illustrious example of Victorian Gothic architecture.

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Product of the boom in railways in the 19th century it was in the 20th century that problems began to appear, the merger of a number of railway companies meant that Euston became the main London terminus serving the Midlands and the North. By 1935 The Midland Grand Hotel was closed and used for offices and during the Second World War bombing damaged the famous train shed.

By the 1960s St Pancras was seen as surplus to requirements for the now state owned British Railways and plans were made to demolish the station and the former Hotel.
These plans provoked strong and successful opposition, with the campaign led by the later Poet Laureate, John Betjeman.

The completion of Channel Tunnel held out hope that St Pancras would become the Eurostar terminus in London, the go ahead for this plan led to one of the largest renovations of a railway complex in the UK, costing an estimated 800 million pounds the station and the former hotel were dramatically restored to or even surpassed their former glory and now included upmarket shopping areas.

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Walking through the Gothic masterpiece now called St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, the visitors are faced with a nearly 30 feet bronze statue called The Meeting Place  by Paul Day, the statue tries to depict the romance of the  railway station but in reality the romance is in the incredible restored Train shed roof and the wonderfully placed statue of Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman gazing at the roof which he helped to save.

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Strangely as you walk along the platform, the huge Paul Day statue disappears below the station clock and the smell of the Eurostar trains takeover, perhaps not the romance of steam trains but a nod back to the glory days of the elegance of the Orient express.

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To show how far the station has come,people not even travelling come into the station to use the bars, cafes and shops or gaze at the amazing roof.

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If you are a visitor in the area, take a short detour into one of London’s finest railway stations and breathe in the romance of train travel.

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