About Fran

Author of the Josie Clark in Japan East-West fusion murder mysteries. London blogger, mainly art and flowers.

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

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

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

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

Roses, bees and tranquility in the heart of London: Lambeth Palace Garden

Lambeth Palace gardenIn the past it hasn’t been easy to visit the garden of Lambeth Palace, the oldest continuously cultivated garden in London (it’s been there for eight hundred years).  The only way was by booking one of the none-too-frequent guided tours. But from March this year things have changed. Now you can wander around at your leisure, as Yannick and I did last week. Continue reading

White wisteria in a secret garden – St John’s Lodge, Regent’s Park

St John's Lodge GardenThere are a lot of Did you knows? in this post. Did you know that wisteria comes in white as well as purple? And grows as trees as well as climbing? Did you know there’s a hidden garden right in the middle of Regent’s Park where you can see white wisteria trees in flower now? If the answer is no, then read on. Continue reading

Iris and wisteria at Fulham Palace

Fulham PalaceI’d never really thought about going to Fulham Palace before, even though when I went to the Isabella Plantation last week I went via Putney Bridge and could easily have made a detour as it’s just a few minutes walk away. But then I mentioned to some friends that I was on the lookout for wisteria and Sue of It’s your London told me about the gardens there.  Continue reading

Azaleas in the Isabella Plantation

Isabella PlantationYesterday Yannick, Travelling Dave and I set off on an expedition to the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park. If you’re a west Londoner you’ll be wondering why I describe it as an expedition when you go there all the time, but for a north Londoner like me it’s a trek into unknown country. What attracted us was the reputation of the azaleas in the Isabella Plantation and we weren’t disappointed. Continue reading