Celts -the new blockbuster at the British Museum


Who were the Celts? Well, actually, we’re not quite sure. The new blockbuster exhibition at the British Museum tells us the people who lived in Britain and Ireland two thousand years ago never thought of themselves as Celts, and nor did the Romans when they were part of the Roman Empire. It wasn’t until the sixteenth century that the term started to be used to describe the pre-Romans of Western Europe and then the languages of Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany and the Isle of Man. Continue reading

Barnaby Barford’s Tower of Babel at the V&A

Barnaby Barford Tower of Babel

This year’s London Design Festival has just kicked off, so Yannick and I rushed down to the V&A to take a look. Rushed a bit early, as it turned out, but it meant we got an excellent sneak preview of Barnaby Barford’s Tower of Babel, a conical pile of china shops which has been sited in the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, making for an interesting contrast with the sculptures on display. Continue reading

Spectacular Tudor bling at Hatfield House

Hatfield House ArmouryI’ve been going back to Hatfield House a lot this summer, ever since I went to visit the gardens in July. That’s because they have this great system where your ticket becomes a season ticket so you can visit the park and gardens as often as you like. Not the house though, that costs extra, but I didn’t let that put me off. Last week I paid it a long overdue visit and got my socks blown off. Continue reading

Colour and Light: Silk Banners at Deloitte Ignite 

Deloitte Ignite 2015 bannerI always try to get to Deloitte Ignite, the annual event that opens up the Royal Opera House Covent Garden to host of artists and performers. It’s all free and it’s all fun. This year I saw the Royal Ballet doing a fabulous demonstration of how they build up the fight scenes in Romeo and Juliet, which drew a huge and enthusiastic audience. But my other aim was to see the silk banners in the Paul Hamlyn Hall. I knew they’d be a visual feast and I wasn’t disappointed. Continue reading

A rare chance to visit the Geffrye Museum’s restored almshouse

Geffrye Museum AlmshouseI love the Geffrye Museum, the Museum of the Home, with its carefully curated room sets showing how the ‘middling classes’ have lived through the ages. One of its charms is that it’s housed in a pretty square of old almshouses with a green lawn and shady trees in front. One of the almshouses has been restored to show what it might have looked like when it was lived in, and I’ve been wanting to go on one of the rare tours for ages. Finally I’ve done it. Continue reading

The Art Deco treasure house you never knew was there: Freemasons’ Hall

Freemason's Hall

I bet you’ve walked past Freemasons’ Hall on Great Queen Street, just round the corner from the Opera House in Covent Garden, a million times and never thought of going inside. I certainly hadn’t. It’s the headquarters of a bizarre secret society open only to men, so why would I want to go in there? Because it has some of the most spectacular Art Deco interiors in the country, that’s why.  Continue reading

Where do bells come from? The Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Whitechapel Bell FoundryI used to work in Aldgate, not far from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry on Whitechapel Road, but I never gave much thought to what went on behind the wooden frontage of their Grade I listed building. I knew they made bells there, but I didn’t know how, and I didn’t realise they’d been doing it for four hundred years, making them the oldest recorded business in Britain. So going on a tour of the bell foundry was a real education. Continue reading

A bijou neo-Palladian villa – Chiswick House

Chiswick HouseYannick and I are on a roll at the moment, ticking off historic houses at a rate of knots. This week we got the train to Chiswick to visit the perfect bijou neo-Palladian villa, Chiswick House. And not just the house; it’s set in acres of manicured park dotted with statues and with a garden café where Yannick had his first encounter with rock cakes.  Continue reading

Architecture for the Instagram Generation – the Serpentine Pavilion

Serpentine PavilionHave you taken your photos of this year’s Serpentine Pavilion yet? I have. It’s irresistibly psychedelic, as though the sixties had come back to life in Kensington Gardens. The pavilion may look odd as you walk past it on a sunless day, but go inside when the sun’s shining and you won’t be able to resist getting out the phone and snapping away.  Continue reading

Eltham Palace – Art Deco Heaven

Eltham PalaceEltham Palace, in South London, isn‘t a palace at all (well, except for a small bit of it). It’s a house, built in 1933 by Stephen Courtauld ( younger brother of Samuel Courtauld who founded the Courtauld Institute) and his wife, Virginia. They were both Art Deco fanatics and the house they built is a masterpiece of Art Deco design. It’s now been beautifully restored by English Heritage. Continue reading