Temple Gardens – Hidden Shade in the Heart of London

Middle Temple GardensAt last summer has arrived, and, like the ungrateful folk we are, we’ve started sighing for respite from the sun beating down on hot city pavements. But where can you find a cool garden when you want one when you’re in the middle of London? Come with me to a hidden enclave a few minutes walk from the Strand and I’ll show you. Continue reading

Lincoln’s Inn, where the seventeenth century comes to life

Lincoln's Inn Wildy & Sons LtdFirst things first: Lincoln’s Inn and Lincoln’s Inn Fields are not the same place, though they are next to each other. Lincoln’s Inn Fields is a public open space with tennis courts and a café; Lincoln’s Inn is one of the four Inns of Court and it’s private. But, despite the sign on the entrance saying you can’t go in, it’s okay to visit on weekdays. Just wander through one of its arched gates and you’re there. Continue reading

Five odd places to visit in London

Oldest phone box in LondonSo you’re on a trip to London and you’ve seen all the obvious places. Big Ben? Tick. Buckingham Palace? Tick. Tower of London? Tick. Now you want somewhere that’s different, not full of crowds of people doing the same thing you are. Somewhere your friends have never heard of. Welcome to my odd places to visit. Continue reading

Overwhelmed by Opulence at the V&A European Galleries

Meissen table fountain 1745 V&AThe V&A have been redoing their Europe 1600 to 1815 Galleries for ages. So long, in fact, that we were beginning to think that they would never reopen. But, just before Christmas they did, and Yannick and I rushed down to take a look. The new galleries hold over a thousand objects of 17th and 18th century European art and design in a suite of seven galleries, including some of the most magnificent works held by the V&A. Continue reading

Got something old? The Society of Antiquaries might be interested

Society of AntiquariesSo, here’s another little known place to visit in the centre of London – the Society of Antiquaries. You may have walked past it any number of times without realising as it’s located in Burlington House, just across the courtyard from the Royal Academy. If you’ve ever wondered what’s in the buildings either side of the RA entrance, here’s (part of) your answer.  Continue reading

Don’t overlook the Household Cavalry Museum

Household Cavalry MuseumThere’s a charming little museum right in the heart of London, a stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square, that I’m willing to bet you’ve never been to. Somehow it slips under the radar, perhaps because it’s such a specialist subject, or maybe because of its location, tucked away at the back of Horse Guards (you know, where they do the Trooping the Colour). But Yannick and I have ferreted it out – here’s what we found. Continue reading

Christmas Past at the Geffrye Museum

Christmas tree Geffrye MuseumEvery year I have my first mince pie of the season at the Geffrye Museum Friends Christmas party, and revisit their annual Christmas Past exhibition. The exhibition has been running for over twenty-five years and it takes the staff hours to painstakingly decorate each room in the style of the relevant period. The result never fails to enchant. Continue reading

Riceyman Steps – a Clerkenwell Tour in the footsteps of Arnold Bennett

Riceyman Steps - Hanslip Fletcher

I doubt that Riceyman Steps would be the first title you thought of if I challenged you to name something by Arnold Bennett, even though it won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1923. You’d be more likely to come up with one of his stories set in the Five Towns, and to think of him as a Northern writer. Riceyman Steps, though, is a London novel, set in a specific and still recognisable part of Clerkenwell. But how much of it still stands? Join Arnold and me on a little tour and we’ll find out. Continue reading

Dazzle your eyes with gold at the Royal Mews

Gold State Coach TritonNow that summer’s over and the rugby world cup’s finished, we Londoners can look forward to (briefly) getting our city back before the Christmas tourist influx starts. And with the fine weather holding, it’s a good time to go and visit the places that you never normally go to because they’re just for tourists. Like the Royal Mews, for instance. 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