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

Finding the hidden hydrangeas at Kew

hydrangea

It’s hydrangea season, and practically every suburban garden worth its name has a bush covered in big pink pompoms. Along with roses, it’s the flower of the English summer. Down at Kew Gardens they have a different approach. Their hydrangeas grow in secret, tucked away beneath the trees in the woodland glade. You have to seek them out, but at this time of year it’s worth the effort. Continue reading

Strawberry Hill House – where the Gothic Revival began

Strawberry Hill HouseAn icing sugar house in a leafy London suburb with turrets and crenellations like a gothic castle. Even today it’s like something out of a fairytale, but back when it was built, in the mid eighteenth century, hundreds of years after gothic architecture fell out of fashion, it must have been quite mind-boggling. Welcome to Strawberry Hill House, the magical white palace Horace Walpole built himself in Twickenham. Continue reading

Hatfield House – gardens fit for a Queen

Hatfield House garden

The tube strike and a sunny day sent me off to Hatfield House Gardens last week. The entrance to the house and grounds is right opposite Hatfield rail station, so it’s perfect for people like me who don’t travel by car. The House is well worth a visit too, but I was there to see the beauties of the formal gardens. Continue reading

Hyper Japan Summer 2015 – bigger, better, louder

Hyper JapanYes, once again it’s time for the UK’s biggest celebration of Japanese culture, Hyper Japan, a mad mix of food, fashion, gaming, music and cosplay that lets you experience the latest Japanese trends before they hit these shores. This year for the first time it’s going to be at the O2 in Greenwich, starting on Friday 10th July and running all weekend. Here’s little preview of what to expect. Continue reading

A visit to the stunning Hampton Court Palace Gardens

Hampton Court Palace GardenWhen I’ve been to Hampton Court before I’ve spent my whole time looking at the palace, with just a perfunctory glance at the gardens. I’ve always known I was missing out, so I was determined to go on a visit just to the gardens, to give myself time to see them all (and there are plenty to see) and really appreciate them. I was very glad I did, as they are quite stunning. Continue reading