Five Fabulous Historic London Houses to visit in 2016

Strawberry HillHistoric houses hibernate – at least a lot of them do. They shut down for the winter, cover their furniture in dust sheets and doze the dark days away. But the return of spring brings them back to life. They open up like spring flowers, so now’s the time to visit them in all their finery. Here’s my top five houses to see this year. Continue reading

You’d never get tired of London in Dr Johnson’s House

Dr JohnsonVisiting Dr Johnson’s House is a bit like going round a house you’re thinking of buying – it’s such a nice size, so well laid out, so conveniently situated, that you almost feel like making an offer there and then. But chances are it’ll be out of your range. That convenient location is right in the centre of London, just off Fleet St and the house, built at the end of the seventeenth century, is Grade I listed. Still, we can dream, can’t we? Continue reading

It’s New Year’s Eve so here’s my review of 2015

Isabella PlantationHow was 2015 for you? I had a busy year which makes it hard to choose my favourite posts. But there’ve been two high points for me. One is the huge growth in interest in my regular spring posts about cherry blossom. The other is that I’ve repositioned the blog this year. It’s always been a London blog, but now it has less of a focus on Japanese stuff, enabling me to post about a much wider range of places and events than I could before. (including the Isabella Plantation in the photo above). Continue reading

The loveliest staircase in London – at St Pancras Hotel

St Pancras HotelIt’s a bit like a fairy story where the princess is stolen from her parents and raised in poverty until her beauty and grace identify her as a true aristocrat. Only the princess in this case is a building; the present day St Pancras Hotel, which began life in 1873 as the Midland Grand Hotel, one of the most beautiful buildings in London, fell on hard times, and was triumphantly rescued by a prince in the form of the Poet Laureate, John Betjeman. Continue reading

Hornsey Town Hall – Rescue or Ruin?

Hornsey Town HallHornsey Town Hall is a Grade II listed Art Deco building in the centre of Crouch End, an urban village in North London popular with actors and artists. It was built in 1935 as the Town Hall for the Municipal Borough of Hornsey and has been looking for a new function ever since Hornsey became part of the London Borough of Haringey in 1965.  Continue reading

Osterley Park – A Robert Adam masterpiece on the Piccadilly Line

Osterley ParkWith the end of September a distant memory, it might feel like the historic house season is over for another year. The great houses wrap themselves in mothballs for the winter and close their doors to visitors. But you can still catch one of them open this month – the conveniently-situated Robert Adam gem, Osterley Park. Continue reading

Celts -the new blockbuster at the British Museum

Celts

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

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

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

An Artistic Afternoon on the Necropolis Railway

Makespace StudiosLast Saturday I went to the Makespace Studios Christmas Open Studio because a friend of mine, Hiroko Imada, now has a studio there. I wrote about her work before when she was at the Palace Wharf Studio, sadly now being knocked down to make way for luxury flats, but found her new studios even more interesting. Want to know about the Necropolis railway? Read on. Continue reading