Monthly Archives: February 2011

.’. The Blue Plaques .’.

Blue plaques are much part of London as the pigeons. The scheme was founded in 1867 by the Royal Society of Arts but now is passed to the English Heritage who has erected over 300 plaques so far. The sign installed in a public place commemorates a link between that location and a famous person or event, serving as a historical marker.

In order to be eligible for an English Heritage blue plaque, a figure must have been dead for twenty years or have passed the centenary of their birth. Nominated figures must be considered eminent by a majority of members of their own profession; have made an outstanding contribution to human welfare or happiness; have resided in a locality for a significant period, in time or importance, within their life and work; be recognisable to the well-informed passer-by, or deserve national recognition.

If you grew up in London you certain have seen one of them on your way to work, or school, or in a summer afternoon while walking around the city.

Look up above the pavement level and the litter, above the decoratively stacked shop fronts and living room windows of the London streets, and where your see the familiar blue ceramic plaque pause for a glimpse into the life of the famous person who once “live here”, behind theses walls and windows.

If like me you have a special one send to my email and tell me a little about it. Or if you want one specialy for you enter BLUE PLAQUE and you can make your own!!!

Blue plaques add so much to the personality of London that one wonders why there are no more of them.

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.’. Dr. Johnson’s House .’.

London loves Dr. Johnson – it’s hard not to be seduced by a man who said: “You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sie, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

Like most people living in London, Dr Johnson wasn’t a native; he was from Midlands city of Lichfield and arrived in London in 1737 aged 28, after a disastrous career as a schoolteacher. He sraped a living for the next  thirty years writting biographies, poetry, essays, pamphlets and parliamentary reports and after nine years of work, Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1755, it had a far-reaching effect on Modern English and has been described as “one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship.” The Dictionary brought Johnson popularity and success. Until the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary 150 years later, Johnson’s was viewed as the pre-eminent British dictionary.

The house itself is remarkable as one of the few remnants of Georgian London left in the City. Built in 1700, Dr. Johnson lived there from 1748 until 1759, after it fell into disarray and was used variously as a hotel, a print shop, and a storehouse, until it was eventually acquired in 1911 by MP Cecil Harmsworth, who restored and opened it to the public.

The house/museum is amazing inside and you have the feeling of living at that time with all the Georgian clothes you can try it on and sometimes you kind of imagine while looking trought out the window that at any time Dr.Johnson coming back from one of his trips to the pub near by “Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese”.

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.’. The Panyer Boy .’.

A ‘tablet’ (‘The Panyer Boy’) set in a wall in Panyer Alley, City of London

Smokers huddled outside Cafe Nero and commuters dashing in and out of St Paul’s tube station are oblivious to the naked boy perched on a bread basket who waches over them.

Dating back to 1688 it claims to mark the highest point in the City although it seems to have been moved around during the past 300 plus years! The relief depicts a naked baker’s boy sitting on a pannier and commemorates the Panyer Boy Inn which was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.

According to The Times (newspaper) of 31 October 1964, the tablet had just been restored to public view after being moved from its location close to the entrance of St Paul’s Underground railway Station in 1940 for safe-keeping during the War.

“When ye have sought the citty round yet this is still the highest ground.

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.’. Magpie Alley Crypt .’.

Back in the 13th Century, the Carmelite order of the White Friars – so called because they wore white cloaks over their drab brown habits on especial occasions – owned a swathe of land that contained cloisters, a church, and cemetery and stretched all the way from Fleet Street to the Thames. All that remains is this crumbling crypt from the late 14th century, now trapped behind glass and hemmed in by the dark granite fortress of a multinational law firm.

Whitefriars Monastery was one of the few buildings that survived the 1381 Pessants Revolt unscathed. However, Henry VIII pulled the plug on the priory in the mid 16th century and appropriated most of the monk’s property for his doctor, Willian Butte.

The Great Hall was converted into the Whitefriars Playhouse, a theatre for child actors, and the crypt was used a coal cellar. The area soon degenerated into a seedy slum, nicknamed “Alsatia” after Alsace, the territory disputed by France and Germany. Outlaws on the run sought refuge in the monastic crypt, exploiting the legal immunity once enjoyed by the friars.

The crypt lay buried for centuries until it was unearthed in 1895, but it was not restored until 1920s. There is not signs to alert visitors to the crypt’s existence. so once in Fleet St turn into Bouverie St and into Magpie Alley.

At Magpie Alley you first will see a black and white mural where the tiles are photographs, illustrations and captions to tell the potted history of Fleet Street’s publichers, but at the end of Magpie Alley go down two flights of stairs and you will see the basement whit a fake lantern that burns in the doorway day and night.

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.’. 21-Gun Salute .’.

Salute by gunfire is an ancient ceremony.

The tradition of saluting can be traced to the Middle Ages practice of placing oneself in an unarmed position and, therefore, in the power of those being honored. This may be noted in the dropping of the point of the sword, presenting arms, firing cannon and small arms, lowering sails, manning the yards, removing the headdress or laying on oars.

The gun salute might have originated in the 17th century with the maritime practice of demanding that a defeated enemy expend its ammunition and render itself helpless until reloaded — a time-consuming operation in that era.

The system of odd numbered rounds is said to have been originated by Samuel Pepys, Secretary to the Navy in the Restoration, as a way of economizing on the use of powder, the rule until that time having been that all guns had to be fired. Odd numbers were chosen, as even numbers indicated a death.

21-Gun salutes mark special royal occasion throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, referred to as a “Royal Salute” (in the British Empire it was reserved, mainly among colonial princely states, for the most prestigious category of native rulers of so-called salute states), unless rendered to the president or flag of a republic; nonetheless salutes rendered to all heads of state regardless of title are casually referred to as “royal” salutes.

The number of rounds fired in a salute depend on the place and occasion. The basic salute is 21 rounds. In Hyde Park and Green Park an extra 20 rounds are added because they are Royal Parks.

Gun salutes occur on:

  • Accession Day (6 February)
  • The Sovereign’s (real, individual) birthday (21 April)
  • Coronation Day (the anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation, 2 June)
  • The birthday of the Duke of Edinburgh (10 June)
  • The Queen’s official birthday which designated annually as one of the first three Saturdays in June
  • The birthday of Prince Charles (14 November)

Gun salutes also occur when Parliament is prorogued by the Sovereign, on Royal births and when a visiting Head of State meets the Sovereign in London, Windsor or Edinburgh.

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.’. London’s First Drinking Fountain .’.

As well as an executian site for heretics and dissidents, Smithfield Meat Market was once a slaughterhouse. The axious herds awaiting the butcher’s blade were at least granted a drink of water at the catle trough on West Smithfield.

The trough bears the logo of the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association, “the only agency for providing free suppliers of water for man and beast in the streets of London”, according to early advertisements. The association was established in 1859 by Samuel Gurney, an M.P. alarmed by the insalubrions quality of London’s drinking water after Dr. John Snow had identified it as the source of a cholera outbreak.

Down the road from Smithfield, on the corner of Giltspur Street and Holborn Viauct, is London’s first drinking fountain. It’s an inconspicuos red granite memorial to Gurney’s philanthropy, set into the railings of St. Sepulcre Church.

The church was keen to be seen as a patron of the patron of the poor – and to provide an anditote to beer. Huge crowds gathered for the fountain’s inaguration on 21 April, 1859. Mrs Wilson, daughter of the Archbishop of Canterbury, was the first to taste the water from a silver cup.

The filtered water came from the New River. The inscription urges thirsty passers-by to “REPLACE THE CUP”. Today, in less trusting times, the two original (somewhat mildewed) metal mugs are fastened to the railings with chains. By 1870, the Drinking Fountain Association had installed 140 fountains in London. Many of them have also survived.

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.’. Police Call Box .’.

The BBC’s perennially popular hero, Doctor Who, journeys through space and time in his TARDIS, a time machine that looks like a blue telephone box. The tardis has now entered British parlance as a synonym for something that appears deceptively small, but contains hidden dephts.

A few of theses mysterious blue box have survived on the streets of London, like this ones on the photos from places such as: Postman’s Park, Guildhall Yard, outside St Botolph Church in Alddgate, Liverpool Street Station, Aldersgate Street, Victoria Embankment (opposite Middle Temple Lane), the corner of Queen Victoria and Friday Street and on Walbrook (opposite Bucklersbury). Also look out for other survivors on Piccadilly Circus and outside the US Embassy on Grosvenor Square. Irronically, the latter is not locked and is still in working order, despite the heavy 24-hour police presence.

Before the advent of the walkie-talkie and the mobile phone, British “bobbies” on the beat relied on theses police boxes to report crimes, request back-up, or even to lock up a suspect until a patrol car arrived. If the blue light on the roof was flashing, passing officers would pop in to call the nearest station then hotfoot it to the crime scene.

The phones also served as emergency hotlines for the public. The first wooden police boxes appeared in Britain in 1888. They cost a trifling £13 to build and were equipped with a desk, log book, first aid kit, fire extinguisher and eletric heater. No doubt they also contained a kettle in case coppers wanted a cuppa.

In 1929, Gilbert Mackenzie Trench devised a sturdier concrete design. With sirens replacing the flashing lights, they doubled as air raid warning signals during World War II. By 1953, there were 685 police boxes in London; but technology soon rendered them obsolete and in 1969 the Home Secretary ordered their removal.

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