Earl Grey was Prime Minister of the British Isles from 1830-34. Famous for having a type of tea named after him, he lived at number 13 Carlton House Terrace.
Next door, at number 12, the Institute of Contemporary Arts has a lovely café, that serves a good cup of tea all these years later.
The ICA was formed in the 1940’s by Surrealist Roland Penrose and anarchist Herbert Read as a meeting place for artists and intellectuals. It has been in the Mall since the sixties.
Today, there is an art house cinema, gallery space, and art bookshop. They stock an impressive range of art theory books with zippy titles (more…)
Somerset House, originally a Tudor Palace, has been home to Elizabeth I, the Navy and the Royal Academy of Art. It has seen routs and masquerades, and has fallen into ruin – ‘…the haunt of spectres…magicians and murderers.’
The free tour gives an excellent overview of it’s extraordinary history.
It was fascinating to visit the lightwells – underground alleyways visible from the courtyard – and the ‘Dead Room’, with it’s Catholic gravestones.
Easy to see why Somerset House is used by film crews as an atmospheric London location.
The Courtyard is a fantastic space, unique in London. The East wing is home to an eatery, and very fine place for a cup of tea. (more…)
The rooms are laid out as they would have been in Dr Johnson’s time.
Great care has been taken to restore the wood-panelling to the original muted paint colours.
The house is peaceful and atmospheric, the library is my favorite room with its soft yellow paintwork and light flooding in from high windows. You can also leaf over a facsimile of the famous dictionary. (more…)
The Foundling Museum tells the intriguing story of a sailor (Thomas Coram), a painter (William Hogarth), a musician (Handel) and their role in the foundation of Britain’s first home for abandoned children.
Eighteenth century London was a squalid and miserable place for much of the population. 75% of children died before the age of 5 years – 90% of those in the workhouse.
The Foundling Hospital was established in 1739 after a long campaign by philanthropist Coram.
The Royal Academy Summer Show along with Wimbledon and the Test Match at Lord’s is a regular mid-summer London fixture. Anyone can submit artwork and in 2012, the 244th year, over 11,000 artists applied to be hung next to David Hockney, Anselm Kiefer and Gary Hume.
Visiting the show can be overwhelming, with many different styles of artwork hung all the way up high walls. A colourful, kaleidoscopic patchwork quilt.
Cornelia Parker’s ‘Now and Then’ caught my eye. Featuring one silver teapot suspended above another (squashed) teapot. (more…)
Henry Wellcome (1853-1936) was a unique and extraordinary individual. ‘Pharmacist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and collector’.
The Wellcome Trust on Euston Road, a ‘Destination for the Incurably Curious’ is a wonderful place to visit.
An ongoing series of fascinating temporary exhibitions focus on life, science and art.
Medicine Man, a permanent exhibition on 4th floor shows a small selection of Henry’s collection. I felt quite sorry for Mrs Wellcome!
The cafe, run by Peyton and Byrne, has a fresh, contemporary feel. The lights are shaped like laboratory flasks that hypnotically change colour. (more…)
Arthur Probsthain is an independent family-run bookshop, established in 1903.
Specialising in books from and about, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, with a branch at the School of African and Oriental Studies.
My favorite places to visit are India and Turkey, so coming across this bookshop was a very happy discovery indeed. (more…)