Saturday, December 30, 2023

Bank of England Museum Late: The Christmas Special

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A solid gold bar.

Thursday December 21, 2023.

It was a remarkably mild evening as Emma, Erin, Keilyn and I made our way from Watford to London, for the evening. Our plan had been to catch a fast train from Watford Junction to Euston, but problems with the overhead power cables saw us take the London Overground, instead. We changed to the Northern line, at Euston, and continued on to Bank station. This route put an extra twenty minutes-or-so on our journey, but we still made it in plenty of time.

Our reason for travelling to London, late on a Thursday afternoon... to see the Bank of England Museum and, hopefully, receive a bauble filled with shredded bank notes. The queue was already at the corner of Threadneedle Street and Princes Street, so that's where we joined it. The time was just after 16:30.

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We have joined the queue.

We chatted to other people in the queue, plus those who stopped to ask what we were all queuing for, as we passed the time. Slowly, very slowly, the train of people began to move as 17:00 arrived and the doors to the museum opened. All the while Erin was keeping her eyes peeled, in case she spotted the ghost of Sarah Whitehead, who is said to haunt Threadneedle Street. We saw no sign of her.

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Keilyn standing in an alcove, outside the Bank of England.

However, due to the capacity of the museum, only small groups were able to enter at a time. 

By now the queue behind us had travelled the length of Threadneedle Street and up Princes Street, around onto Lothbury and then across the road to Throgmorton Street. One of the museum staff had estimated that there were nearly 2,000 people in the queue, at one point.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Ghosts, Hauntings, Murders and Superstitions

Below are some of the more unknown hauntings and murders of London. 

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There are some gruesome details, below, so only read on... if you dare!

Downing Street

This street is said to be haunted by the ghost of Spencer Perceval, who was shot dead outside the Palace of Westminster on May 11, 1812. He is the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated... so far.

Ministry of Defence

This building is haunted by the ghost of a headless lady. The hooded figure of a lady was stopped by a Policeman, who asked, "what are you doing in a Government building?" She pulled back her hood to reveal an empty space where her head should have been.

Charing Cross railway station

It was here that a rather grisly murder was discovered, on May 10, 1927. Porters reported a dreadful smell coming from a trunk that had been deposited in the left-luggage office, four days earlier. When the Police opened the trunk they discovered the body of a woman, who had been hacked into five pieces, with each piece then wrapped in brown paper. The killer was caught, tried and then executed at Pentonville Prison on August 12, 1927. The case became known as the 'Charing Cross Trunk Murder'.

Adelphi Theatre

On December 16, 1897, the actor William Terriss was stabbed to death, outside the stage door, by Richard Prince, an actor that Terriss had had dismissed from the Play. He died in the arms of his leading lady and his last words were reported to be... "I shall return." His ghost has been seen outside the stage door and within the theatre, where he has been seen knocking on dressing room doors. His ghost has also been seen at Covent Garden underground station.

Savoy Hotel

This is a very superstitious hotel where there is no room thirteen. Also, if you are in a group of thirteen a statue of a cat, called 'Kaspar', is placed on your table to be your fourteenth 'guest'. 'Kaspar' is a two-foot high model of a cat, cut from a single piece of London Plane. Plus, if you die, while staying at the Savoy Hotel, they will pay for your funeral.

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

The theatre's most famous ghost is the 'Man in Grey'. Unlike many ghosts that appear during the hours of darkness, this apparition appears during anytime of the day. Plus, instead of solitary accounts of sightings, entire casts have witnessed his appearance. He is usually seen in the upper circle, before he makes his way down the aisle and disappears into a wall. 

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

'Collector' by Georgie Fay

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'Collector' by Georgie Fay.

Tuesday November 28, 2023.

It was a particularly chilly Tuesday morning as I made my around Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, during my walk from Angel to the City of London then up to Euston. The sun, bright in the morning sky, did nothing to dispel the chill that permeated this enclosed park and burial ground, which I had last visited back in 2018, during another walk, and had long since wanted to revisit the place.

Since my previous visit a new public artwork had been installed, consisting of a metal ring, suspended by ropes from three trees, from which hung sails of original printed art.

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Hanging like Tombstones.

With the sun still low in the sky it cast just the right amount of light, dispersed by the surrounding trees, to highlight these unique printed sails.

With no breeze to disturb the piece it seemed to hang like painted tombstones.

Saturday, December 02, 2023

Brunei Gallery and Japanese Roof Garden

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A piece of Japan in the heart of Bloomsbury.

Having only recently discovered that there was a Japanese Roof Garden, on top of the Brunei Gallery, I decided that I should pay it a visit.

The SOAS Brunei Gallery is situated in the heart of the University of London, Bloomsbury, but is fairly easy to locate. 

Avoiding the throng of students, who were making their way to classes in the myriad buildings that make up the campus, I headed along a path through the centre of the University, until I reached the Brunei Gallery SOAS.

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Japanese Officials, Nagasaki, circa 1862.

After climbing the few steps at the entrance of the gallery I found myself in a large foyer, where a security guard gave me a perfunctory glance, before I made my way through another set of doors and into the gallery itself.

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Brass Gong, Brunei, 19th century.

The gallery has different exhibitions, throughout the year, and the current exhibitions are called 'Extraordinary Endeavours', which celebrates the bicentenary of the Society's involvement in the study of science, literature, religion and arts of Asia, since 1823., and 'Discovering the Artwork and Object Collection', allowing you to discover highlights from the Gallery's own collection.

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Snakes and Ladders gouache on paper mounted on cloth, circa 1800.

There were pencil drawings, ink drawings, paintings, tapestries, photographs, books, manuscripts, weapons, religious artefacts and so much more, to see, spread across two floors.

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Tibetan Thangka, 18th-19th century.

For a small gallery there was a lot to see and, as it was still morning, there was no one else there, allowing for a thorough exploration.

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Wukong Java, 1811-1816.

Having meandered my way through across both floors I made my way to the roof, to see the Japanese Roof Garden. 
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Rock Islands in a Sea of Gravel.

The garden itself is small but, considering where it is situated, a perfect place to relax. Rocks and planks are set in a gravel sea, bordered in a rectangle shape. Towards the south of the garden is a raised platform beneath an open canopy, while to the north is an obelisk, set among squares of alternating pebbles and moss.

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To the side are wooden benches, beneath climbing vines, that allow for quiet contemplation, high above the campus below.

Suitably relaxed I made way out of the garden, down the stairs and exited the gallery, ready to continue my walk.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

St Alban Tower

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St Alban Tower, Wood Street.

Wandering around the City of London, as I do, I often find some intriguing pieces of history or fascinating architecture that I was previously unaware of.

This is how I came to discover the church of St Alban, Wood Street, in the City of London.

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The North face of the Tower.

As I approached the church, however, I discovered that the tower is all that remains, and it is now become a traffic island. More than that... it is now a private home.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Shepherdess Walk Mosaics

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Shepherdess Walk.

Tuesday November 28, 2023.

I had heard of a mosaic project, within the London Borough of Hackney, and so decided to make a visit to it.

As it turns out there are two ways to access the mosaics. One is via Shepherdess Walk Gardens, which is fine, but the second, which I chose, is to take the narrow alley beneath houses and reach them that way.

The stairs leading to the narrow alley, from Shepherdess Walk, are stone and can get slippery with leaves and water, so I was careful of my footing. A small mosaic plaque, above the alley, lets you know that you are in the right place.

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The narrow alley leads to an open green space, but it is to the left that the mosaics can be found, affixed to the walls of the surrounding homes, with two laid in the ground.

Besides a few parents with their small children, in the nearby park, I had the entire place to myself, allowing me time to take in the intricacies of these huge works.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Direct from Graceland: Elvis Exhibition London, 2023

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From Graceland to London.

Saturday October 28, 2023.

It was a beautiful morning as my friend Len and I made our way to the Arches London Bridge, to see the Direct from Graceland: Elvis Exhibition. The exhibition was bringing some 400+ pieces of Elvis memorabilia, direct from Graceland, to London, some of which had never left Elvis' home in Memphis, before. 

We arrived a few minutes before our time-slot of 11:00, but were immediately granted access to the building. The staff were pleasant and, after asking if we wished to have refreshments, directed us to the entrance of the exhibit.

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Some of Elvis' personal items.

The exhibition began with Elvis' upbringing in Tupelo and had information boards affixed to the walls, while TV screens showed a young Elvis. clothing, worn by his parents, were in glass display cases, along with rare documents and other items.

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A model of Elvis' childhood home.

We then moved through to his first foray into music, along with Elvis merchandise and a selection of Colonel Tom Parker's personal items.

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Some of Colonel Tom Parker's personal items.

The exhibit took us through his years in the US Army, some of his favourite cars and through to a massive collection of his clothes. 

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1975 Ferrari Dino GT4.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

London's Transport Network Trivia

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History of the Roundel.

London has to be one of the most interconnected cities in the world. From its 86,000 buses to its 4,100 underground trains, you can reach every part of the capital... and beyond.

Then there is the River Boat service and the Tram network. And that is before you get on to the Elizabeth line, the interlinked London Overground lines and National Rail lines

The London Underground system is composed, currently, of 11 distinct lines, serving 272 stations over 400 kilometres (250 miles). The station of Ongar is 'point zero' for measurements along the network.

Below you will find some trivia for each of the lines. 

('Speed' is an average for the entire line).


First service: March 10, 1906

Length: 23.2 km (14.4 mi)

Stations: 25

Speed: 27 km/h (16 mph)


First service: July 30, 1900

Length: 74 km (46 mi)

Stations: 49

Speed: 37 km/h (23 mph)


First service: 1863

Length: 27 km (17 mi)

Stations: 36

Speed: 24 km/h (15 mph)


First service: December 24, 1868

Length: 64 km (40 mi)

Stations: 60

Speed: 30 km/h (18 mph)

Hammersmith & City

First service: January 10, 1863

Length: 25.5 km (15.8 mi)

Stations: 29

Speed: 25 km/h (15 mph)


First service: May 1, 1979

Length: 36.2 km (22.5 mi)

Stations: 27

Speed: 40 km/h (25 mph)

Suggested names: Fleet line


First service: January 10, 1863

Length: 67 km (42 mi)

Stations: 34

Speed: 45 km/h (28 mph)

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Church of St Bartholomew-the-Less

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The entrance to the church of St Bartholomew-the-Less.

Having recently visited the Priory Church of St Bartholomew-the-Great I thought that I should make a visit to the smaller church, set within the grounds of St Bartholomew's Hospital, St Bartholomew-the-Less.

As I expected from the name this church is definitely smaller, but it still has a long and fascinating history.

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Definitely the Lesser of the two churches to St Bartholomew.

Considering the darkness that seems to have taken a hold of the interior of St Bartholomew-the Great, it was nice to enter a bright church, which seemed, at least to me, to be much more modern.

However, as it turns out, the Less is only a few years younger than the Great, having been established in around 1184.

I was thankful that it was still early in the day, so that I had the chance to explore the church without interruption. 

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Inside the church of St Bartholomew-the-Less.

After a good look around and after taking plenty of photographs I made my way out into the hospital grounds. Well, since I was there and I do work in a hospital myself it only seemed the right thing to do.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Embassy of the United States of America (2017-)

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33 Nine Elms Lane, London, SW11 7US.

Compared to the old embassy building in Grosvenor Square, I find this new building rather boring. Designed as a cube, this block, which is the largest American embassy in Western Europe, has a semi-circular pond, public green spaces and entry pavilions within its grounds. 

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The north side of the embassy, as seen from the River Thames.

The lightweight 'sails', that adorn three sides of the building, stop direct sunlight hitting the interior and also make the building less likely to bird strikes.

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Here you can see the sunlight being diffused by the outer structure.

This design, however, does make for some great photo opportunities.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Household Cavalry Museum

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Keilyn ready for sentry duty.
Saturday October 7, 2023.

Once again Keilyn wanted to go for another walk, back in London. 
Knowing of her love for all things military, (she wants to join the Army Cadets when she is 12), I booked us some tickets for the Household Cavalry Museum, which is a place that neither of us had visited.

A few issues with planned closures, on our normal train route, saw us take the London Overground to South Hampstead from where we walked to Swiss Cottage and continued, via the Jubilee line, to Green Park. From there we took a leisurely stroll along The Mall to Horse Guards Parade. 

I could see on her face that she wasn't impressed, as this was a place that we had visited many times. When I told her where we going her face lit up.

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The entrance to the Household Cavalry Museum.

After showing our tickets we began our exploratory of the museum, which we found we had pretty much to ourselves.

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The uniform of The Blues and Royals.

With its glass cases housing uniforms, weaponry, medals, historical artefacts, maps and much more, we were both fascinated. 

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The uniform of a Life Guard.

After seeing the first few display cases, which were predominantly filled with uniforms, we made our way through to the stables. The wall to our right was tinted glass, as beyond were the stables where horses and guards where busy going about their preparations. To our left were stalls with various interactive screens, colouring and information sheets. There were also uniforms from various regiments, along with gloves, helmets, cuirass and more. Keilyn and I couldn't wait to try some on.

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Keilyn in camouflage fatigues.

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Sergeant Morrissey ready for duty.

From here we made our way though to the next part of the museum, which ran through the more than 350 year history of the Household Cavalry. From its humble beginnings to its current place in the British Army. Many of their exploits, achievements and characters adorned the walls, cabinets and interactive displays.

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A Napoleonic soldier.

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

River Thames Tide Gauge Hut

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River Thames Tide Gauge Hut.

If you were to leave Westminster Station via the Westminster Pier exit, or made your way down the north steps from Westminster Bridge, you will quite possibly have walked by this odd little green turret without giving it a moment's thought.

However, this copper turret houses some important scientific equipment, which you can see if you peer through one of the two small windows in the door.

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Home of the Thames Tide Recorder instruments.

The Tide Recorder measures the depth of the River Thames at Westminster Bridge, or more accurately the mean sea level rather than the river bed, which it then sends to the Thames Barrier Control Room every fifteen minutes. This information is then published online.

Westminster City Council look after the upkeep of the exterior, while the tide reading equipment is maintained by the Environment Agency.

I have yet to discover when it was installed, but it has been in situ since the 1930's.

If anyone can find more information about its construction or when it was installed, I would be most grateful.

Thursday, August 03, 2023

Walking with Keilyn: Westminster Bridge to Battersea Park... and beyond

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Keilyn with the heart for our friend and colleague Khalid Jamil.

Sunday July 30, 2023.

Keilyn loves walking through and around London, almost as much as I do, so we decided to walk through a different part of the city, on this visit.

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On our way to London for another epic walk.

The day began with our usual walk to the Watford underground station, changing at Finchley Road and then exiting at Westminster.

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Our starting point.

We began by crossing Westminster bridge, with its tourists from a myriad countries, before descending the stone steps to the Albert Embankment. and the National Covid Memorial Wall and looked across at the Palace of Westminster.

We decided to follow the Albert Embankment, which stretches for a mile from Westminster Bridge to Vauxhall Bridge, passing St Thomas' Hospital and Lambeth Palace before grabbing a coffee and a hot chocolate from a street vendor near Lambeth Bridge.

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Lambeth Fire Station.

We then continued along the Albert Embankment, passing the Lambeth Fire Station, until we were near Vauxhall Bridge, where we had to make a slight detour due to the still ongoing construction of the Thames Tideway Tunnel. This did, however, give us a chance to see the main entrance to the SIS (MI6) building, which is a side of the building that I had not really seen.

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Keilyn with some riverside chairs.

Soon we were back walking along the Riverside Walk, where Keilyn found some wooden chairs that spun round. A few steps further and we could see the Embassy of the United States of America, which is the largest American Embassy in Western Europe, and looks like a glass cube with small 'sails' covering three sides. 

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Embassy of the United States of America.

We continued along Riverside Walk before having to make another short detour before finding ourselves in the Tideway Village, with its converted trawlers and house boats. 

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'St Michael' is a converted trawler that you can stay on.

One final detour and we arrived at Battersea Power Station, which we entered so that Keilyn could get a sense of the scale of the building. With her suitably awestruck and with us both having made use of the facilities, we headed out of the south entrance and continued our walk.

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Battersea Power Station interior.

We passed beneath a railway bridge, passed by Battersea Dogs and Cats home before stopping at a Tesco Express for some extra provisions, before passing beneath another railway bridge and heading into Battersea Park.

It was still quite warm, although the clouds were threatening rain, as we sat in the Rosery Gardens and ate our lunch, while joggers and dog walkers busied there way through the gardens.

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The Rosery Gardens.

Suitably rested we headed ever westward along the south of the Boating Lake, before turning north and entered the Sub-Tropical Garden, with its ferns and palms. These were interspersed with colourful bedding plants.

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The Sub-Tropical Garden.

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The Sub-Tropical Garden.

We then continued along the tree-lined path, passing the Bowling Green Pavilion, the Bandstand, the Tea Terrace and formal gardens, until we reached the London Peace Pagoda, where stopped for another short break alongside the River Thames. 

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The London Peace Pagoda.

Next to us, in the small car park, the UK Bungee Club were using a crane with a basket attached to jump from. Their screams echoed as they plummeted earthward.