Walking the City of London

Month: May 2024

Shakespeare at the Guildhall Library.

Drawing on Guildhall Library’s remarkable Shakespeare collections, this exhibition examines the history of the printing of William Shakespeare’s plays, from the small ‘Quartos’ of the late 16th century and the Folios of the 17th century, to the reworking of the text in the 18th century and the rediscovery of the original texts in the 19th century …

Just inside the door you are greeted with an image of the funerary monument of William Shakespeare in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon circa 1616-1622 …

There are a series of excellent, informative panels …

They range over subjucts such as the difference between a Folio and a Quarto …

… printing technology …

…and how the works were viewed and appreciated over the centuries …

The books, of course, are the stars of the show (and they do not all relate solely to Shakespeare).

It was not until some years after his death that the majority of his plays were gathered together, edited to create a definitive version of the text, and published 400 years ago in the now iconic First Folio, 1632.

And here it is in facsimile …

The engraved portriat by Martin Droeshout is one of the few likenesses with any claim to authenticity.

A facsimile of the Second Folio, also published in 1632 …

An original Third Folio, 1664 …

And the Fourth, 1685 …

The Library Shakespeare – An example of the late 19th century emergence of ‘gift books’, nicely bound with coloured illustrations …

There are other delights on display.

The Knight of the Burning Pestle by Francis Beaumont, printed in 1613 …

An 1853 spoof comic version of Macbeth Macbeth Travestie. Macbeth somewhat removed from the text of Shakespear: in two acts

There are almost thirty items in the exhibition …

… and there is a splendid free guide …

There is also an interesting photowall showing some of the Guildhall Library’s other treasures …

After you leave the building, walk across the road to the little green space on the corner of Aldermanbury and Love Lane …

Constructed in 1896, this pink granite monument stands within the former churchyard of St Mary Aldermanbury. Its primary purpose is to honour the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, but it also serves as a tribute to Henry Condell and John Heminge, two associates of the Bard who worked with him at the Globe …

They played a cucial role in compiling and printing the First Folio after his death in 1616 …

Both lived nearby and were buried in this churchyard …

The church was gutted in the Blitz with only the walls remaining standing. The stones were subsequently transported to Fulton, Missouri in 1966 and rebuilt in the grounds of Westminster College as a memorial to Winston Churchill who had made his Sinews of Peace, “Iron Curtain” speech in the College gymnasium in 1946.

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More Guildhall Art Gallery favourites.

I know, it seems like I’m not wandering far from home lately, but the weather has been so miserable and I needed to get a few blogs ‘in the bank’ before going on holiday. Anyway, that’s my excuse for visiting again somewhere that I really like!

Here come a few of my favourites from the Gallery.

My First Sermon by Sir John Everett Millais Bt PRA (1829-96), exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1863 …

The child is the centre of attention in her red cape, with black trim, and soft furry muff, a bright splash of colour in the dim church, her short legs in their red stockings nicely supported, concentrating as hard and seriously as she can on the sermon. You can guess that it’s probably way over her head.

My Second Sermon

After the success of My First Sermon Millais painted a companion piece the following year, showing the same little girl – his daughter Effie – in church after the novelty of going has worn off. In his speech at the next Royal Academy Banquet, the Archbishop of Canterbury claimed the picture was a warning against ‘the evil of lengthy sermons and drowsy discourses’. Millais (and his largely middle class audience) were well aware of the gap between ideals and reality, and this witty follow-up to First Sermon reveals a taste for amusing, affectionate imagery that was relatable to many Victorian parents.

The Wounded Cavalier by William Shakespeare Burton (1824-1916) …

There is so much symbolism and mystery about this picture that writing about it would take the enire blog. What is the relationship between the young woman and the austere puritan chap standing in the background? Maybe her brother, she’s not wearing a wedding ring, and surely wouldn’t be wandering the forest unchaperoned? He’s carrying a bible – is there any significance in the visible bookmark? The young cavalier doesn’t look in good shape, is he dying – maybe she’s helping him staunch a wound by his neck? And what’s the significance of the broken sword and the scattered playing cards? Or the butterfly resting on the sword blade? For various theories you can read more here and here.

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey c.1834 by Paul Delaroche (1797-1856) …

Poor Lady Jane, ‘the nine days queen’, fumbles for the block on which she will lose her head (having, incidentally, been tried for high treason at the Guildhall next door to the gallery). To the left are her despairing ladies-in-waiting, one slumped to the ground with Jane’s outer clothing gathered in her lap, the other facing the wall unable to watch. The painting has always been enormously popular ever since it was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1834. The large original is owned by the National Gallery and this one is a reduced-scale study by the artist.

The Last Evening by James Tissot, (1836-1902), 1873, another painting with an ambiguous meaning …

One interpretation is that the scene shows the final moments of an on-board romance between a first class passenger and a crew member under the disapproving eyes of his captain and her father. More frequently suggested, however, is that the work depicts the night before a young man sets sail on a voyage leaving his sweetheart behind. She looks pretty bored to me! Read more here.

Next up is this picture entitled Garden of Eden by Hugh Goldwin Riviere (1860-1956). Painted in 1901, it depicts a young man and girl walking in a misty, wet park with a horse-drawn cab rank in the background. I like it because to me it’s another one of those pictures that immediately gets you making up a back story to the characters. Surely this is an assignation – a secret lovers meeting, he clasping her hand and she gazing lovingly into his face. Then it struck me: Garden of Eden! A place of dangerous temptation and banishment! …

Apparently some guides point out that this picture is actually about a mismatch between a wealthy woman who has fallen for a man much below her station: note his clumpy shoes, lack of gloves and his rolled up trouser bottoms. Also the way he’s carrying not one but two umbrellas, intertwined like the two lovers. There are tiny raindrops hanging from the black branches. Surely they represent tears to come? Or am I getting completely carried away? Another commentator has said that she is simply a smartly dressed maidservant on her day off, out walking with her beau.

At the far end of the gallery, in a space specially designed for it, you will find at the action-packed painting by John Singleton Copley: Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar 1782

The painting is best viewed from the balcony above

A Spanish attack on Gibraltar was foiled when the Spanish battering ships, also known as floating batteries, were attacked by the British using shot heated up to red hot temperatures (sailors nicknamed them ‘hot potatoes’). Fire spread among the Spanish vessels and, as the battle turned in Britain’s favour, an officer called Roger Curtis set out with gunboats on a brave rescue mission which saved almost 350 people.

Look at the painstaking detail in the faces of the officers and Governor General Augustus Eliot, who is portrayed riding to the edge of the battlements to direct the rescue …

The officers were dispersed after the Gibraltar action and poor Copley had to travel all over Europe to track them down and paint them – a task that took him seven years at considerable expense. He recouped some of his cash in 1791 by exhibiting the picture in a tent in Green Park and charging people a shilling to see it.

There are two paintings of a Lord Mayor’s show near the main gallery entrance. This is 12:18 and 10 seconds (2010) by Carl Laubin

The other is another of my favourites, William Logsdail’s painting entitled The Ninth of November 1888

You can read more about them both in my January 2023 blog.

Also on show is a terrfific sculpture of this thoughtful, gentle man, created by someone who knew him very well personally, Ronald Moody (1900-1984) …

This is Terry-Thomas, a major star in the 1950s and 60s best known for playing disreputable members of the upper classes especially ‘cads’, ‘toffs’ and ‘bounders’ …

The last years of his life were tragic. Following his death, Lionel Jeffries called him ‘the last of the great gentlemen of the cinema’, while the director Michael Winner commented that ‘no matter what your position was in relation to his, as the star he was always terribly nice. He was the kindest man and he enjoyed life so much’.

And finally, don’t forget, one of Gallery’s most popular paintings is back on display. Described by the Pre-Raphaelite artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti as “my very best picture”, ‘La Ghirlandata’ was acquired by the City of London Corporation in 1927 for its permanent art collection and is displayed in the gallery’s main Victorian exhibition space …

The 1873 oil on canvas depicts ‘the garlanded woman’ playing an arpanetta and looking directly at the viewer. The artist’s muse for the central figure was the actor and model, Alexa Wilding, with two ‘angels’ in the top corners posed by William and Jane Morris’ youngest daughter, May Morris.

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Exploring the Crypt Museum at All Hallows by the Tower.

In my blog three weeks ago I wrote about the treasure trove that you’ll find at All Hallows by the Tower and promised to return again and explore the Crypt Museum. This week’s edition is the result.

I headed down the steps to the atmospheric interior …

One of the first exhibits you encounter is this floor of a 2nd century Roman dwelling …

Sometimes it’s just easier to take a picture of an information label!

Walk where the Romans walked …

The church historian told me that, if I stood on the tiles long enough, I would be transported back to Roman times. Sadly, I was in a bit of a hurry.

On display are several casts of Roman gravestones.

A ‘most devoted son’…

And an ‘incomparable husband’ …

This stone once depicted a couple but the woman’s head is now missing …

The inscription reads : Demetrius, to Heraclia, his wife (set up this stone) at the expense of her own estate, as a memorial to her.

Lots of treasures in display cases …

Including this beautiful carving in alabaster …

This is the ‘great hoist’ …

Costing £3 in 1682, it was made to suspend the beautiful Grinling Gibbons font cover which can now be found in the south west corner of the church …

This is the original north door from the 1884 construction of the North porch …

It was badly damaged in the fire bombing that happenened three weeks after the direct hit on the church on 19 December 1940.

There are several connections with famous Americans.

William Penn was baptised in All Hallows and this memorial to commemorate the event was erected in 1911. It was damaged in the wartime bombing …

William’s father, Admiral Sir William Penn, was Commissioner of the nearby Navy Office and his son was baptised here on 23 October 1644. The Baptismal Register recording the occasion …

Penn’s entry is number 23 on the right hand page.

And what about this lady. For almost two hundred years the only non-American First Lady until the inauguration of President Trump on 20 January 2017 …

The relevant entry in the 1797 Marriage Register …

Memorabilia relating to The Reverend ‘Tubby’ Clayton

Under the High Altar is sited the Undercroft Chapel …

The altar comprises stones brought back to All Hallows from Richard I’s Castle Athilt in Israel.

As I said in my earlier blog, All Hallows really is a treasure trove and my blogs really just give a brief glimpse of how interesting the church is. So well worth a visit.

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Fantastic City models at the London Centre on Aldermanbury.

Occasionally I come across something in the City that is fantastic but which, for some reason, I was completely unaware of. I found it here at The London Centre on Aldermanbury …

NLA (New London Architecture) is an independent organisation for anyone and everyone with an interest in London’s built environment. Their basic remit is to engage with government, business and the public to educate, challenge, connect and create positive change.

In April 2023 they opened this new facility in the West Wing of the Guildhall complex. It’s a quiet place filled with meeting rooms and facilities that make it an ideal “hub for the built environment profession”. Entry to the public area is free so there’s no need to book. You don’t need to be a member of the profession to explore either, so just turn up. Opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday 11:00-17:00, and on Fridays they host free lunchtime talks from 12:30 – 13:00.

To facilitate city planning and other discussions about buildings, growth and expansion, the Centre houses three large scale models …

Here is more about them.

The original City of London Model (1:500 scale)

Anything in grey was built before 1945, enabling you to see the extent of central London that was re-built after the Blitz. The scale allows for lots of detail to be articulated — it’s not just boxy blocks — and some of the newest, modern high-rises even light up …

Guess where …

New London Model (1:2000 scale)

In this newer model they’ve shrunk the buildings and doubled the footprint of the original, greatly expanding just how much you can see from a virtual ‘sky-high’ vantage point. The model represents a 200 km2 area of Greater London, showing 240,000 buildings using data from 2012 …

Note Wembley Stadium in the foreground …

Royal Docks Model (1:1000 scale)

This was fully 3D printed and gives an overview of developments across the area over the next 10 years. The solid white buildings are existing while the buildings in frosted white show masterplans with outline planning permission. The model represents 10,000 buildings and the label points out the the water in the docks alone covers an area larger than the whole of Venice!

Oh, and guess what – there’s a separate Barbican model …

‘In addition to the models there are dozens of wall displays exploring various areas, opportunities and the unique London logistics that city planners and builders must consider. The entire centre is a living, working resource that also serves as a fantastic educational opportunity for anyone with an active interest in the seemingly endless queue of expansion, renovation and regeneration projects.’ Here are a few of them …

The Great Estates …

I really loved my visit – highly recommended.

There’s also something really interesting on at the Guildhall Library upstairs – something to visit at another time …

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