April 30, 2008

LEG Bedford Park in Chiswick Walking Tour led by John Scott

LEG London arranged for a tour of Bedford Park in Chiswick led by local architect John Scott. John gave us a brief talk about the history of the area. We were shown key buildings, a variety of home architectures, the Yeats (John Butler, W B, Jack B) and John Lindley blue plaques, the ugly building that prompted the formation of the Bedford Park Society, and even a house designed by C. F. Voysey (1891) after Jonathon Carr lost control of building in Bedford Park.

Bedford Park was a model for the “Garden Suburbs”. Jonathon Carr was an early building speculator who bought 24 acres of land near Turnham Green station in 1875. His intended renters were middle-class artists who could not afford Chelsea or Kensington. The community would have its own Church (St Michael and All Angels), pub (The Tabard – now includes a small theatre), General Store (now offices) and Social Club (now the London Buddhist Vihara).

Carr used a series of architects until he settled on Richard Norman Shaw. Carr always purchased the designs and built his houses with little further input from the architects. As many trees as possible were retained which gave the development a mature look quickly. The style is difficult to describe, but has been called “Queen Anne Revival”.

Carr bought more land and Richard Norman Shaw moved on, leaving E. J. May as his successor. More detached homes on larger plots were built. Carr lost control when his company ran into financial difficulties in 1886, but building in Bedford Park continued until 1914.

Bedford Park had deteriorated to a low point in the 1960s. The Bedford Park Society formed in 1963 after developers tore down a historic home and replaced it with a concrete (the Society called it “unsympathetic”) apartment block. That will never happen again, because the Bedford Park Society has facilitated Grade II listing for 300 homes and all significant buildings.

April 09, 2008

AWC Winchester Castle, Cathedral, College

Our guide for the day was Hilary of London Original Walks. She pointed out several other flint buildings before we arrived at Winchester Castle. This Norman castle was built in 1067 and we viewed the "murder holes" above the gate before entering the Great Hall, built by King Henry III. Many cases were heard and it is here that Sir Walter Raleigh was tried and condemned in 1603. Columns of Purbeck Marble (polished crushed and densely packed seashells) are rarely used now because of the expense. Queen Eleanor's (of Provence) medieval garden was delightful.

The site of Winchester Cathedral was part of a monastic settlement in the 7th century. William the Conqueror built the even larger Winchester Cathedral in 1079. Hilary showed us old sections of the church to see how 3 vaults (romanesque) had been cleverly converted into the more impressive double vaulted (gothic) ceiling. The cathedral was decorated for Easter when we visited. The giant stained glass window was used as target practice during the Civil War, thus could only be restored in "mosaic" form. Saint Swithun's memorial and Jane Austen's tomb are here. Queen Mary and Philip II of Spain were married here. William Walker "The Diver" reinforced the waterlogged foundations working 6 hours per day in total darkness from 1906 - 1912 to save the church. We were all humming "Winchester Cathedral" by the (UK) New Vaudeville Band which was a number one hit in the US in 1966.

Winchester College was founded in 1382 by the Bishop of Winchester, William of Wykeham to be a feeder to Oxford (later Eton was established as a feeder to Cambridge). Our charming guide explained about the 70 (poor but academically talented) "scholars", the "Quiristers" (choristers), and the paying students who make up the 700 (all male) Winchester College student body. We were entertained as we learned about attacks on the college by the starving townspeople, dining traditions when no guests (witnesses) are present, and the failure of Winchester College's attempt to be a site for Harry Potter filming.

April 03, 2008

Goutham in London

Our niece's friend Goutham stayed with us for a few days on his first trip to London. Our first stop was to the Borough Market to admire all the food stalls and find something to pack for lunch. Then we set off for the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garrett. This oldest surviving operating theatre in the country, dating from 1822, was rediscovered in 1957 and is currently being restored. Until ether and chloroform were introduced in 1847, surgeons depended on opiates and alcohol but mostly on swift technique (amputations in less than a minute). The patients in this operating theatre were women and poor. The herb garrett (attic) was used for storing herbs and now serves as a museum for victorian medical implements.

We then walked to the Brahma Tea and Coffee museum founded by a former planter and trader, Edward Brahma. This museum covers the history of tea including the East India Company, smuggling, Boston tea party, opium trading and the introduction of teabags. I photographed the largest teapot in the world as well as one of the many teapot collections. There was also a lot of information about the history of coffee.

We took a quick look around the Tate Modern and ate our lunch outside overlooking St. Paul's Cathedral.

While I went home to feed Banjo, Goutham took a London Original Walks tour of Westminster and many of the traditional sights. His tour ended at the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. We all reconvened at the Mall Galleries for the 196th Annual Exhibition fo the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. There, we got to view work-in-progress and techniques of many of the finest water colour painters in the UK.