Flying The Middlesex Flag At No 10 – Discovering The District of Adelphi And Surrounding Areas

Adam Street rather than Downing! This road can be found just round the back of The Strand. No 10 Adam Street, WC2 has become something of a tourist hot-spot for photos due to its similarity to a certain famous address.

This area is known as the Adelphi district (Adelphi from the Greek adelphoi meaning “brothers”). The names of some streets in this area such as Adam Street, Robert Street and John Adam Street are dedicated to the Adam brothers, constructors of the original Georgian houses on the site.

Robert Adams’ inspiration for the buildings was the ruined palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian at Sapalto (modern day Split in Croatia) which he surveyed in 1755 as part of his Grand Tour.

Looking right from No 10 you get a view up towards The Strand towards the grade II listed Adelphi Theatre. The first theatre on this site was opened in 1806 and called The Sans Pareil.  It was built by John Scott a local businessman who made his fortune from a laundry product called ‘True Blue’. The theatre was built for his daughter to display her many talents and act as Theatre Manager.  The Sans Pareil changed its name to the Adelphi in 1829. The current building was opened is the fourth on this site and was opened in 1930.

Adam St towards The Strand and the Adlephi

Turing left from No 10 you come to No 8 Adam Street which was the home of inventor of the spinning-frame and industrialist Richard Arkwright from 1732-1792 who was described by the writer Thomas Carlyle as “a plain, almost gross, bag-cheeked, pot-bellied Lancashire man, with an air of painful reflection.”  Arkwright began his working life apprenticed to a barber in Bolton eventually progressing to the trade of hair buyer (after his discovery of a method of preparing and dyeing hair for a wig-maker).  Through his hair buying activities in cotton spinning districts he became aware of talk of the need for a more efficient means of spinning and it is said that on his travels he saw a spinning jenny that could spin 8 threads at once and decided to adapt the process to cotton.  He became the first manufacturer of cotton goods on a large scale through the use of water power and later of steam.

Blue Plaque – Sir Richard Arkwright

Continuing down Adam Street on the right you can see a side view of the art deco Portland stone Adelphi Building completed in 1938 and refurbished in 2015 (now office space). The building was constructed on the site of the great riverfront terrace of Adelphi (constructed by the Adams brothers) which was demolished to make way for the building.  Photos show carved coats of arms of various UK cities. The end of Adam street runs down to Adelphi Terrace.

Adam Street – Adelphi

Walking back up Adam Street and turning left into John Adam Street there are more impressive views of the Adelphi building.

The artist and caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson who lived a house on the site of no 16. Rowlandson studied at the Royal Academy and in Paris.  He was described as a promising student but inherited £7,000 after upon the death of his Aunt and embarked upon a gambling frenzy sometimes sitting for 36 hours at a time at the table. Falling into a life of poverty, Rowlandson took to caricature to fill an empty wallet.  Maybe the people he met at this time were an inspiration for his work as he created many memorable comedic street life characters such as the antiquarian, the blowsy barmaid, the Grub Street hack and was said to be responsible for the development of the personification of the United Kingdom into the character of John Bull (also depicted by other caricaturists at the time).

Rowlandson’s patron and friend Matthew Michell collected hundreds of his paintings which Michell displayed at his country residence, Grove House in Enfield, Middlesex. After Michell’s death his nephew, Sir Henry Onslow, sold the contents of Grove House at an eight-day sale in November 1818.

Turning left into Buckingham Street at the end of the road you can find the site of a house lived in by The Father of Geology – William Smith – who created the first nationwide geological map.

 

Smith was a man of humble education who became a surveyor involved in the construction of canals up and down the UK. From his studies as a surveyor, Smith was able to put together a record of where certain minerals/rocks and soil – such as coal, iron and clay – could be found. Invaluable information to fuel the age of the industrial revolution!

At 0:41 of the video below showing a sketch of the 19th century map you can see clearly see The County of Middlesex. Perhaps the green shown on the surrounding counties represents the chalk deposits in the soil of these regions?

Through the ages, a succession of notable people lived on the site opposite William Smith’s House including diarist Samuel Pepys from 1633-1703 (who lived at no 12 and then at no 14). A blurred, smiling Pepys ghost was claimed to have been seen several times on the staircase of this building in 1953.

Homecoming Of Roman Temple Used By A Mysterious All Male Cult

At first glance the new hi-tech Bloomsburg HQ looked like an unlikely place to discover the remains of a building from the days of the Roman Empire.

Just a short stroll from Bank Tube Station at No 12 Walbrook (across the street from Starbucks) the London Mithraeum, one of the city’s newest museums, is located within this HQ building and is the home of the ancient Roman Temple of Mithras.

A vibrant tapestry and steel sculpture by artist Isabel Nolan, although interesting in its own right, might have been more appropriate at Tate Modern and felt a little unexpected at the entrance to this ancient place of worship.

Nevertheless, I was very curious to see what delights this slice of Roman Britain which had been described in it’s publicity material as an ‘immersive experience’, had to offer.

Background

The Temple of Mithras has had a rather unfortunate time since its discovery on this site back in 1954 during post World War 2 excavations.  Initially it was a huge attraction, capturing the imagination of the public and bringing an estimated 400,000 visitors to this part of the city.  However, due to planned reconstruction of the area, it was decided that the temple should be dismantled.  Sadly, for some years, this remarkable find languished in a builder’s yard.  It was then reconstructed in 1962 on a street level roof of a car park on Queen Victoria Street where it remained unceremoniously sandwiched between ugly crazy paving.

As part of the terms for redevelopment of the site, Bloomsburg agreed to re-incorporate the Temple and happily it has again been reconstructed and returned to it’s original home on the banks of one of London’s lost rivers – the Walbrook.

For the purposes of this post, I’ve divided into the London Mithraeum exhibition into 3 areas and I shall explain a bit about my experience visiting each in the sections below.

Area One: Cabinet of Finds

Upon arrival, I received a short verbal introduction to the project with a small group of other visitors.  I then had the opportunity to explore an amazing collection of artefacts which had been excavated in a large glass fronted cabinet.  At this stage, each person is handed an i-pad which you use to click on the shape of each find to obtain more detailed information.  Here are photos of just a few of the items that you can view in this display.

Writing Tablet And Stylus
Sole of Roman Soldier’s Boot
Brooch AD80-200 Copper Alloy

Area 2: Exploring The Beliefs And Rituals of Mithraism

It is believed that  followers would wait in a separate darkened chamber before climbing down some steps to enter the temple and this area of the exhibition has recreated this atmosphere.

Information is obtained through 3 touch screen pedestals and recorded commentary by actress/presenter Joanna Lumley.

As the space is limited, your admission to the temple has to be in a timed slot, so you have the opportunity to take some time here to learn a bit about what you’re going to see until you’re given the go-ahead to enter the temple by the member of staff supervising the entrance.

The Cult of Mithras first appeared in Rome in the 1st century AD.  Only men were permitted to join the Cult which mainly attracted merchants, soldiers and imperial administrators.  Temples were often below ground, secluded, dark and windowless places.  The iconic sculpture of the God Mithras killing a sacred bull – is known as the ‘Tauroctony’ (discovered in 1889) and is at the heart of the Cult (however, experts don’t believe that a bull was ever slayed in this particular temple).  The 12 signs of the Zodiac encircle the central scene of Mithras slaying the bull and represent the cycle of a full year.

Copy of The Tauroctony at The London Mithraeum

The men who met here made offerings to Mithras which they believed could assist them in their everyday lives.  Initiation rituals and feasts gave the members a shared sense of identity and their own unique understanding of the world.  The sculpted head of the God Mithras from AD200 was discovered during excavations in 1954.  This find confirmed that a Mithraeum once stood on this site. The head was once part of a life-sized bull slaying scene which formed the focal point of the temple.  Mithras (wearing a distinctive soft cap) is shown gazing away to the right of the bull and some scholars think that he may have been looking up to Sol, the Sun God, in search of approval or direction.  Both the Tauroctony and the Sculpted Head of Mithras can be viewed in the Roman Gallery of the Museum of London.

Head of Mithras at the Museum of London

Area 3: The Temple of Mithras

You enter the Temple area through some heavy curtains and it’s quite dark and hard to see at first.  The room then gets slightly lighter, a back-lit representation of Mithras slaying the bull appears and in the background audio you can hear voices and Latin chanting.  Cult members would have sat on timber benches on the higher side of the aisles enabling them to view the rituals being performed.  The best view for visitors may be had on the raised platform near the entrance if you do not have too many people in front of you.

You are allowed to take photos without using a flash.  Below are a few pics of the temple area.

Visiting The London Mithraeum
London Mithraeum
London Mithraeum
London Mithraeum

Planning Your Visit and Pros/Cons

It is advisable to book your visit in advance online as slots are timed and there is no guarantee you will get in if you just turn up.  Click here to make your booking.  Tickets are FREE of charge.

London Mithraeum is more of an experience for the senses rather than a traditional museum. There are not loads of cabinets or information that you spend hours browsing – I only spent about an hour there altogether.    You have a limited amount of time (approx 15 minutes) in the temple itself as your slot is timed, so it’s probably best to relax and try take in the atmosphere imagining what it would have been like to be a visitor to the temple in Roman times.

It’s well worth visiting but if you’re in London for the day, you could think about combining this activity with something else.  A good idea might be to visit to The Museum of London – Roman Gallery (also FREE admission) where you can view some of the original sculptures which were found on the London Mithraeum site – Head of Serapis (God of the Underworld), Head of Minerva (Goddess of Wisdom), Neptune/River God, Roman God/Genius.  I’ve posted some pics of these sculptures today on my Facebook page @middlesaxons.

In Area 2, at the time of my visit, I found it quite busy around the pedestals with everyone trying to get information on the temple at the same time, so found it better to sit on the long bench and listen to the commentary and then look more fully at the on-screen information in my own time after viewing the temple.  If you decide to do this too, the disadvantage is that you won’t have such a broad overview of what you’re about to see so you might like to do a little research before your visit to get some background information.

If you would like to explore the story of the Roman occupation of Britain in a bit more detail, you might also like to take a day trip to the town of Colchester (known in Roman times as Camulodunum – which was the Roman capital of Britain).

Here you can walk around the Roman walls and visit Colchester Castle which was constructed on the foundations of the Roman Temple of Claudius.  You can view the foundations of the temple on a guided tour of the Castle.  In the Castle Museum you can learn more about the Roman occupation of the town and view their collection of finds from in and around the area – including the Colchester Mercury – see pic below.

The Colchester Mercury

The nearest tube stations to London Mithraeum are Bank or Mansion House.

Opening hours are:

Tuesday – Saturday 10.00 – 18.00
Sundays/Bank holidays 12.00 – 17.00
First Thursday of the month 10.00 – 20.00

Closed Mondays, Christmas & New Year bank holidays.

Nearest tube stations to Museum of London are Barbican or St Pauls.

Colchester is about an hour’s train journey from London Liverpool Street Station.  You can book your train tickets in advance and get timetable details via National Rail Enquiries.  The Visit Colchester website is a good source of information on the town and the Castle Museum website can provide details on tickets and opening hours.

Learn more about the London Mithraeum from this short You Tube Clip.

Happy St Nicholas Day – The Saint Who Morphed Into Father Christmas

Today marks marks the start of the festive season of Christmas and in the coming weeks many of us will be sending cards featuring a rotund bearded man dressed in a red suit.  The image of Father Christmas seems to have been around forever but it is a lesser known fact that this character actually originated from the legend of St Nicholas.

As today is St Nicholas Day, in honour of this special saint, here are 8 things you may not know about this day and how his legend merged with that of the more familiar figure of Father Christmas:

– St Nicholas is known as The Bringer of Gifts.

– He was born in Patara, a land that is part of present-day Turkey around AD 280.

– His parents were very wealthy but died in an epidemic when he was still young. Nicholas used his whole inheritance to help the needy, the sick, and the suffering.

– One of the best known stories which surrounds Nicholas concerns that of a poor man who couldn’t afford a dowry for his daughters. Without this payment the daughters would not have been able to marry and would likely have ended up as prostitutes so Nicholas threw 3 bags of gold coins through his window overnight saving them from this fate. Many people believe that the three gold balls in pawn brokers’ windows symbolise the bags of coins and St Nicholas is still known as the Patron Saint of Pawn Brokers.

– St Nicholas is also the patron saint of sailors. According to legend when a ship full of wheat made port in his town, he asked the sailors to give half their supply so he could feed the poor, promising they’d still have the same amount in their stock. The sailors did as instructed, and as the story goes, they still had the same amount of wheat in their ship by the time they made port in Constantinople.

– Nicholas was known as a passionate and defiant defender of church doctrine during the “Great Persecution,” when Bibles were burnt and priests made to renounce Christianity or face execution. His defiance led to him spending many years in prison.

– After the reformation in the 16th century (separation of the Protestant and Catholic churches), the stories and traditions about St Nicholas became unpopular but someone still had to deliver presents to children at Christmas, so in the UK and particularly in England, he became ‘Father Christmas’ or ‘Old Man Christmas’ – an old character from some stories/plays from the middle ages.

– St Nicholas Day is celebrated in many European countries today such as Germany, Belgium, Czech Republic and the Netherlands. Children leave their shoes out overnight on 5th December and awaken to find them filled with presents the next day.

Below – Father Christmas unable to find his reindeer so having to get the bus instead!

Two Cable Car Journeys – One With A Sunset And One With A Lightning Strike

If you live in or are visiting London’s Capital County – Middlesex at this time of the year, in a spell of fine/dry weather you could be lucky enough to catch an Autumn sun-set and, if you happen to be somewhere in or around the county with a good view, then you’ve really got it made! Just last Friday, I was in this fortunate position for my ride on the Emirates Air Line Cable Car.

The Facts

The Emirates Air Line Cable Car opened on the 28th June 2012 just in time for the London 2012 Olympic Games.  The construction project cost a cool 61 million but took only 10 months to build.  The Cable Car is based on something called MDG (monocable detachable gondola technology) which is a system using a single cable for both propulsion and support.

Duration

Crossings take 10 minutes – off peak – and 5 minutes – during peak times.  I decided to begin my journey at the Greenwich Peninsula terminal  which is just 5 minutes walk from North Greenwich Station (on the Jubilee Line).

Emirates Greenwich Peninsula

Buying a Ticket

I was able to pay for my discounted Discovery Experience return ticket using my Oyster card with an Adult fare of £8.40 (which included admission to the Air Line Discovery Experience).  You can also receive this discounted fare by presenting a Pay As You Go Travelcard, Freedom Pass or a Paper Travelcard) but, in these cases, you still need to purchase a ticket separately and cannot use these cards/passes to pay your fare.

I received my Boarding Pass pictured below (Yes – they really do issue these like a real airline!) and my In-flight guide – which makes a nice souvenir – opening out to show all the locations you can view from the comfort of your seat.

Boarding

I climbed a flight of stairs to the carousel to board my car.  Each car passes by slowly so it was pretty easy to step in (in addition, most wheelchairs and push-chairs can be accommodated).  Before boarding, one of the staff members very kindly offered to take my photo.

Boarding The Emirates Air Line Cable Car

The Ride

The ride across to Emirates Royal Docks was smooth and there was little movement.  Before leaving there was a recorded announcement warning me to remain seated during the ‘flight’.  When crossing the Thames you really get a sense of how much this area has changed and is still constantly evolving.

The Emirates Cable Car is the first urban cable car in the UK – so I had a strange sense of not really being in my hometown when riding it – as my other experiences with this mode of transport have all been overseas.

There is a recorded video commentary which highlights some of the attractions and history of the areas below (I did not watch the video myself as I was too busy looking at the view) .

Royal Docks

Once you get across to Royal Docks there are some nearby attractions in the area worth investigation such as The Crystal (the world’s largest exhibition on urban sustainability), the SS Robin (the oldest surviving steamship in the world), Excel London (for exhibitions/sporting events/conferences), the urban beach (in July/August) and various walks on both sides of the water.

I didn’t stay too long at Royal Docks (due to a later appointment) but did have a little wander round and enjoyed taking these snaps of reflections in the glass windows of The Crystal Building (as the light was fading) before heading back for my ‘return flight’.

Reflections of O2 in The Crystal Building
Reflections from Emirates Cable Car in The Crystal Building, Royal Docks area

Back on the North Greenwich side of the river there are many restaurants and fast-food outlets as well as the Emirates Aviation Experience (where you can learn about modern aviation and to take to the skies in state of the art flight simulators).

Safety on the Emirates Cable Car and Another Cable Car Experience

The Emirates Cable Car certainly suffered a few teething problems in it’s early days being closed 354 times (for 520 hours or 37 days) during the first 2.5 years of it’s operation for various reasons including technical issues, high winds and risk of lightning.

My previous encounter with a cable car happened to be the other side of the world in Cairns, Australia.  Perhaps one of the reasons I had been a little reluctant to try the London Cable Car was what happened when I used the Skyrail Cableway to travel to the rainforest town of Kuranda?

Visiting tropical Cairns in the rainy season I discovered that it was not only very beautiful  but hot and steamy, prone to down-pours and thunder-storms.  For me that threat became a reality as the Cable Car control station was struck by lightning resulting in a number of us getting stuck mid-air for nearly one hour with just open water and rain-forest below.

Skyrail Cableway
Skyrail Cableway

I guess that unpredictable weather conditions are just a fact of life  in that part of Australia and they just keep things running anyway unless it’s that bad.  The result was that me and my cable car companions – a Croatian tour guide and a couple of German tourists – became pretty friendly.  I know that they had to be back by a specific time for the departure of their cruise ship so I only hope that they managed to make it!

Fortunately, everyone was very calm and we listened to reassuring announcements that the problem was being worked on over the tanoy but I think if we had been stuck for longer it could have been a bit different.

Back to London and My Return Flight 

Fortunately, there were no such problems on my Emirates Cable Car journey.  Perhaps it is just as well that they take such care not to fly in adverse conditions.   As I mentioned earlier, on the return flight to Greenwich Peninsula, we were blessed with the most amazing sunset – capping off a wonderful afternoon.

Sunset Emirates Airline Cable Car

The Future

The Emirates Air Line Cable Car has certainly a lot of controversy in it’s short life, being considered by some to be a vanity project of the previous Mayor of London Boris Johnson and with it’s future funding being threatened by the new Mayor Sadiq Kahn.  One of the main issues is that it was intended to be used by commuters but has been under-utilised and most of the users have turned out to be tourists or day-trippers.  The fact that it is not part of the LU ticketing system making journeys more expensive than other types of public transport in the area may be part of the problem.  My visit took place at around 2.00pm on a Friday afternoon and there was no one waiting at all  (though on arriving back in Greenwich at around 4.30pm a queue for tickets had started to form).  Perhaps with the continued development of the surrounding residential areas the cable car could become more popular with commuters.

I would say that the view from the cable car must be amongst the best views of Docklands area and, compared to the cost of a ticket on the London Eye (£23.45) or The Shard (£15.95), it’s something of a bargain.  There are not many other ways – apart from a plane ride – where you could get such a view.  Whilst it’s not a central city view like the Eye, if you’re a tourist visiting for more than a day or two its definately worth taking a trip over to Docklands and incorporating a ride on the Cable Car in your day and if you’re a local who likes urban/industrial views this could be just up your street.

Click here to find out more Emirates Airways Cable Car and here to find out about other activities you can enjoy around Royal Docks and Greenwich.  You can also find some information on the Transport for London website.

You can find a short video on Facebook Page @middlesaxons of my experience travelling on the Emirates Cable Car.

Remembrance Sunday – 7 Things You May Not Know About This Special Day

This Sunday, 12 November, the nation remembers those who sacrificed their lives to secure and protect our freedoms.

Each year, on the second Sunday of the month of November, a service is held at The Centotaph in Whitehall.  At this service, a 2 minute silence is observed at 11am before the laying of the wreaths.  The silence represents the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 when the guns of Europe fell silent.  The silence begins with the Royal Marines buglers sounding The Last Post and ends with the Royal Marines buglers sounding The Rouse. Gunners of the Royal Horse Artillery fire a gun salute at the end of the silence.

Wreaths are then laid by the Queen, Members of the Royal Family, the Prime Minister and leaders of major political parties.

After the ceremony, the bands play and a parade of veterans, organised by The Royal British Legion, marches past The Cenotaph.

The following are 7 things you may not know about Remembrance Sunday.

Where does the association of poppies with remembrance come from? The poem written by Canadian soldier, John McCrae. The opening line of his poem “In Flanders Fields”, refers to poppies being the first flowers to grow amongst the death and destruction of the battle-fields.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing,
fly Scarse heard amid the guns below”.

McCrae was not satisfied with his work and is said to have crumpled the paper the poem was written on and thrown it away. It was retrieved by a member of his unit and eventually convinced to submit it for publication.

Who Had The Idea Of Selling Poppies To Raise Money For Those Who Have Served? American humanitarian worker Moina Michael came up with the idea of selling silk poppies to be worn as a tribute to the fallen. By 1921, her efforts led to the poppy being adopted as the official emblem of remembrance by the Royal British Legion.

Are Poppies Always Worn In The Same Way? White poppies are sometimes used as an alternative and worn as a statement to commemorate the dead but object to war. Purple poppies are also worn by members of the Charity Animal Aid, whose aim is to remind people that animals also lose their lives during war.  Some people say that you should wear your poppy on the left hand side. The Queen wears her poppy on the right hand side which caused some people to incorrectly believe that the Royals are allowed to position theirs on the right. The Royal British Legion say that there is no right or wrong way to wear it – ‘other than with pride’.

Armistice Day, Poppy Day or Remembrance Sunday? The Armistice was signed at Compiegne in Northern France and took effect on 11 November 1918. Armistice Day was adopted by George V on 7 November 1919 has now become Remembrance Day in Commonwealth nations, though in the UK the focus is on Remembrance Sunday instead which is also known as Poppy Day. Traditionally this day is the Sunday closest to 11 November. The UK changed from Armistice Day to Remembrance Sunday at the end of World War 2 when it was decided that the dead of both wars should be commemorated on the same day.

Where Did The Idea for The Two-Minute Silence Originate? The idea came from Mayor Sir Harry Hands of Cape Town, South Africa whose son was mortally wounded in the First World War and requested that everyone should pause at noon for two minutes silence. It was suggested in Britain by Australian journalist Edward George Honey who, in a letter to the London Evening Standard on 8 May 1919, proposed a respectful silence to remember those who had given their lives in World War 1. It was introduced as part the Armistice Day ceremony by King George V.

Why Is The Last Post is Always played? The Last Post was first published in the 1790s and sounded daily in British Army camps. At this time, soldiers didn’t have watches so had to be regulated in camp by trumpet/bugle calls to tell them when to get up and when to have their meals. The Last Post bugle call signalled that the duty inspector had carried out his inspection of the sentry posts on the perimeter of the camp with the camp being secure for the night. The Last Post was later adopted into military funerals and Remembrance Sunday ceremonies.

Where Are The Poppies Made? In Richmond, Surrey, there is a poppy factory which employs around 30 disabled veterans to produce the poppies and wreaths for the Royal Family and The Royal British Legion’s annual poppy appeal. The Poppy Factory is the country’s leading employment charity for veterans with health conditions or impairments. It’s possible to do a free pre-arranged 2-hour tour of the factory where you can learn all about the history of the poppy, see some of the wreaths and poppies made throughout history and even have a chance to make a poppy for yourself. Further details can be found at https://www.poppyfactory.org/visit-us/

The following video clip gives some interesting information on the work of The Poppy Factory.

Turn Again Whittington: 6 Little Known Facts About The Lord Mayor Of The City Of London And The Lord Mayor’s Show

Did you know that there is no evidence that Richard Whittington a former Lord Mayor of London (in 1397, 1406 and 1419) ever actually owned a cat?

The myth -popularised in old English folklore tale “Dick Whittington” – is one is of a young man – who was desperately poor and a brutally treated servant – selling his cat (his most valued possession as it kept his room rat free) to a merchant.  By good fortune the cat was sold to a King – who was grateful for the moggy’s exceptional rat catching abilities and paid a fortune for the animal.  The story says that this created Whittington’s fortune just as he was about to admit defeat in his attempt to create a life in London and return home to Gloucester changing his mind upon hearing church bells which seemed to say ‘Turn again, Whittington, three times Lord Mayor of London’.

In real life, Richard Whittington was certainly not poor being the son of a Lord. As the youngest son he had to find a job (not being entitled to inheritance) and came to London becoming a “mercer” – dealer in cloths such as silk and velvet.

He established great wealth and upon his death, as he did not have children, left his fortune to establish an alms-house (housing for the poor) a college for priests, a library, improvements to the water supply and building a public convenience which became known as “Whittington’s Longhouse”.

Here are some more less commonly known facts about the Lord Mayor of the City of London and The Lord Mayor’s Show:-

The Guardians Of The City at the former home of Middlesex County Council – The 14 foot wicker figures carried in the procession called Gog and Magog are known as the guardians of the City of London and the longest standing participants in the Lord Mayor’s Show. Carvings of Gog and Magog (created by sculptor D Evans in 1953) are kept in The Guildhall – former home of the Middlesex County Council. Earlier carvings were destroyed during The Blitz.

One Of The World’s Most Beautiful Stage Coaches The Lord Mayor travels in a stage coach that was built in 1757 at a cost of £1,065.0s.3d and is the oldest working ceremonial vehicle in the world. If you want a closer look at the coach, you can view it in it’s usual home at the Museum of London. The Museum has counted over 100 layers of paint on the coach ceiling and it still requires regular maintenance and re-guilding but has not seen a major service since it was stripped down and rebuilt in 1952.

At Sixes And Sevens The saying “at sixes and sevens” originates from the rivalry between livery companies (London’s ancient/modern trade associations and guilds represented by the different floats at the Lord Mayor’s Show Parade). There are currently 110 livery companies and the 12 highest ranked are known as the Great Twelve Livery Companies. There has been a long running dispute over precedence between Merchant Taylors and Skinners who swap sixth and seventh places each year – hence the term at sixes and sevens!

Election And The Silent Ceremony The Lord Mayor is elected at Common Hall which meets on Michaelmas Day 29 September. Common Hall comprised of liverymen all belonging to the City’s livery companies. He takes office during The Silent Ceremony on the Friday before the second Sunday in November.  The ceremony is known as “Silent Ceremony” because apart from the vow of the incoming Lord Mayor it is held in total silence.

The First Outside Live TV Broadcast
In the 20th century, the Lord Mayor’s Show was the first outside event ever to be broadcast live and still attracts a TV audience of millions.

Find out more about the return of the City’s Guardians Gog and Magog to The Guildhall by watching this short clip.

Visit The Lord Mayor’s Show website to get full details of the 2017 event.

A Day Of Pomp And Pagentry At The Lord Mayor’s Show – 6 Essential Things Spectators Need To Know

Join the free festivities this Saturday 11 November celebrating the appointment of a New Lord Mayor of the City of London – Charles Bowman – at the Lord Mayor’s Show.

In keeping with over 800 years of tradition, the newly elected Lord Mayor of London, 7,000 people, 200 horses and more than 150 floats will undertake a colourful three mile procession from Mansion House in the City to the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand for a special ceremony in which the Mayor swears loyalty to the Crown.

Here are 6 practical tips to help anyone thinking of going to watch get the most from their day.

Use Public Transport to travel to the event. Most roads in and around the City will be closed for the show so you’ll get there quicker and with less hassle if you leave your car at home.

Familiarise Yourself With The Procession Route in Advance Download a copy of the official information leaflet with map of the route before-hand.

Don’t Get Caught Short by downloading this map in advance you will always know the location of the nearest public conveniences.

Get there early (well before the published start times) to grab the best views. The busiest spot is on the outward procession between Bank and St Pauls from 11am-12.30pm. It may be less crowded for the inward procession between Blackfriars and Mansion House from 1.15pm-2.30pm.  Alternatively, get up much earlier to grab a place to watch the Mayoral Flotilla from Waterloo Bridge (9.00am) or London Bridge (9.20am).

Identify The Floats If you want to know who is passing you by on the procession route download the show app which also provides other useful updates such as where to stand, what’s next and other places of interest nearby to visit. The whole procession will take 1.5 hours to pass by and the Lord Mayor’s Coach is close to the back of the procession.

Dress In Practical Clothing and Footwear Wear layers of clothing to keep out the November chill. If you’re too hot you can always remove layers. A waterproof jacket or umbrella may also be useful if the weather takes a turn for the worst (current forecast is for sunshine– but be prepared just in case!)  Keep in mind that flat shoes are most comfortable if you’re going to be standing up for an extended period of time.

In the short clip below, the Pagentmaster Dominic Reid takes us behind the scenes of the rehearsal for last year’s show.

Full details of this year’s event can be found at https://lordmayorsshow.london/

 

Halloween Tale: The Forgotten Archeologist Who Discovered Saxon Treasure in a Haunted Field

Eccentric widow Edith Pretty saw the ghostly figure of a warrior on one of the mounds in an exposed field on her land in Sutton Hoo near Woodbridge in rural Suffolk.  This vision was followed by vivid dreams in which she saw and heard a funeral procession in the same area.

Edith had been living alone with her 9 year old son in Sutton Hoo House since the death of her husband in 1934.  She developed an interest in spiritualism during her husband’s illness (he suffered from stomach cancer) and brought in spiritualists to help him during this time.  Edith’s belief that there was something of significance in the field was encouraged by her nephew, Russell Perkins, who was a dowser and is thought to have told his aunt that there was hidden treasure in the mounds.

Sutton Hoo/Tranmer House – Mrs Edith Pretty’s House
Interior – Sutton Hoo (Tranmer) House

Who was Basil Brown? With her curiosity aroused in the summer of 1938, Edith Pretty decided to engage self-taught local Archeologist Basil Brown to investigate.  Basil was an intelligent man who had had a humble education attending the large mixed ability classes at the local village school in Rickinghall, Suffolk, in which he developed a dislike of the subject of history allegedly because he always wanted to prove his teachers wrong!  After leaving school he went to work at his father’s farm but was not a natural farmer.  He then pursued an interest in astronomy and gained recognition in 1923 by publishing ‘Astronomical Atlases, Maps and Charts: An Historical and General Guide’.  In the 1930s he developed his love and knowledge of archeology and began working for Ipswich Museum and the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology.  It was the museum who introduced Basil to Edith (who had asked for recommendations for someone suitable to undertake the excavation project at Sutton Hoo).

The Excavations

Basil, working with Mrs Pretty’s gardener and gamekeeper, began digging and unearthed several ancient Saxon burial mounds which had been disturbed or plundered in the past.  Excavations stopped during the winter and then resumed in May 1939.  Within a short space of time in this second period of excavations, they discovered the hull of a Saxon Burial Ship (of around 27 metres in length) in a mound which had not been looted.  It is thought that the person buried with this ship was Raedwald, a 7th century King of East Anglia – which at that time would have included the Lands of the North Folk (now Norfolk) and the Lands of the South Folk (now Suffolk).  Raedwald was not only King of the East Angles but also held the lofty position of King of Kings – so is considered by some to be the First King of England.

Basil Brown’s plan for the excavations

The ship is thought to date from the early 7th century AD.  Although hardly any of the original ship timber had survived, the form of the ship was perfectly preserved in the sand.  The heavy oak ship would have been hauled up the hill and lowered into a prepared trench.  Only the tops of the stem and stern posts would have been seen above the land surface.  The covered mound would have been a symbol of power visible to those using the nearby waterway.  Although no body was found, soil analysis confirms that it had dispersed into the acidic soil.

Excavations – Sutton Hoo
Middlesex Explorer – Mound 2

Ship Burial

Rulers in Norway, Sweden and Denmark around the same time also shared the same beliefs in ship burial and this world is described in the Old English poem Beowulf (see pic of my copy).

Beowulf

Other cultures, such as the ancient Egyptians, also used ships to bury goods to transport into the after-life (although rulers would not be buried with them in the same way as was the Saxon custom).  Here is a photo of the Khufu ship (King Cheops) I saw when in Cairo many years ago which was thought to have been buried in a pit in the Giza pyramid complex for this reason.

Khufu Ship - Cairo
Khufu Ship – Cairo

The Arrival of Charles Phillips

Unfortunately, rumours of Basil’s incredible discovery had leaked out and reached the The British Museum, The Ministry of Works and Charles Phillips, a pompous Cambridge don and expert in all things Saxon, who weighed into the project. Phillips felt that a discovery of this importance could not be left to a man with no formal training and two estate workers.

The British Museum told Basil to stop excavating but he ignored them.  Then, just as he was on the verge of exploring the treasure chamber, The British Museum announced that Charles Phillips would be taking charge of the excavation.  An outraged Edith Pretty insisted that Basil remained working on the project which he did until the site was covered upon the outbreak of World War 2 – sadly demoted to shovelling and wheel-barrow duties.

The new excavating team took charge of investigations into the burial chamber which was packed with treasures – gold jewellery, byzantine silverware, a lavish feasting set and, perhaps the most famous items – an ornate iron helmet and golden buckle (replicas of which can be viewed in the Sutton Hoo Museum).

Replica Gold Buckle – Sutton Hoo
Replica Saxon Helmet – Sutton Hoo

How These Treasures Found Their Way to Middlesex

In August 1939, an inquest at the local parish hall decided that Edith Pretty was the rightful owner of the treasures.  Edith decided to donate the findings to The British Museum, Great Russell Street in London’s Capital County – Middlesex where a large number of them remain to this day in Room 41.

Later Years

Edith Pretty passed away in 1942.  Upon the outbreak of the Second War World, Basil returned to his home village of Rickinghall and continued to pursue his love of archeology  carrying out excavations at local sites and sometimes working for the Ipswich Museum.  He encouraged local children to become involved in his digs and many of them had fond memories of helping him.

The British Museum’s attitude towards Basil softened, as evidenced by a letter from them to him displayed in Sutton Hoo (Tranmer) House dated 29 January 1970, which advised that they were planning to publish his log and diary and reads ‘It reflects great credit on you and makes excellent reading and shows very clearly all the work that was done before Phillips arrived’.

It seems that Basil was not particularly concerned about gaining recognition or money from Sutton Hoo and was content to live out the rest of his days doing what he loved.  In 2009, a plaque was placed on the wall of Rickinghall Inferior Church to commemorate this well respected and fondly remembered resident.

Middlesex Explorer’s Visit

I very much enjoyed my visiting to Sutton Hoo.  I did a guided tour of the burial site – which I definately recommend.  I learnt that the National Trust would like to build a high raised platform around the site so that visitors can get an aerial view.  If will be interesting to see if this does go ahead in the future.

Whilst at Sutton Hoo I explored Edith Pretty’s House – now known as Tranmer House.  There is also an exhibition hall which tells the story of Sutton Hoo through a mixture of original and high quality replica objects. In the exhibition area you can also view one of the ‘Sandmen of Sutton Hoo’ whose body was preserved in the sand in one of the mounds.  Below is a photo of one of the preserved bodies that can be viewed on the site itself.

Sandman – Sutton Hoo

The following photos show some of the original finds which can be viewed in the exhibiton hall.

Finds from Mound 17
Finds from mound 17

The Sutton Hoo cafe has a picturesque view across the fields and there are lovely walks around the estate.

Whilst in the area, I took some time to explore the attractive town of Woodbridge.

Woodbridge – Suffolk

 

Woodbridge Suffolk
Woodbridge – Suffolk
Woodbridge – Suffolk

Click here for more information on Sutton Hoo and here for information on Woodbridge.

Learn more about the Ghosts of Sutton Hoo in the following You Tube clip.

 

Trying A Healthy Sugar Drink And Other Fun At Zee London Mela In Gunnersbury Park – Sunday 3 September

I really enjoyed my visit to the colourful Zee London Mela in Gunnersbury Park last Sunday.  The Mela is a great place to experience a heady dose of South Asian creativity and culture as well as trying an exciting range freshly prepared food and drink.

Zee London Mela Cuisine
Zee London Mela Cuisine

Had some lovely sugar cane juice at the Team Kaveet stall.  As I haven’t come across this drink outside Asia it was a great opportunity to try it.  It’s really refreshing and I think tastes a little bit like a mild sweet apple juice.  The juice from the cane is extracted using a special press.

Zee London Mela

Being a sugar drink, I was surprised to find out that as it’s unrefined sugar and contains no simple sugars it has a relatively low glycemic index (the effect carbohydrate has on blood glucose levels) which keeps the body’s metabolism healthy and helps maintain a health body weight.  Approximately one teaspoonful of raw sugar contains only 11 calories – just as well as I had 2 glasses!

Zee London Mela

It’s a shame that the weather was a bit wet this year but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the dancers.

Zee London Mela – Dancing
Zee London Mela Dancing

Zee London Mela is good value – being completely free to get in – and a great place to spend a few hours.  I am already looking forward to next year and hoping for better weather then!

Scenes From Egham Royal County Show In Middlesex’s Neighbouring County of Surrey

Very much enjoyed visiting Egham Royal Show last weekend.  Looking forward to the day when Middlesex can once again host it’s own County Show.

Well done to the organisers for all their hard work!

The London Eye made from Lego at Egham Royal Show, Surrey

Prize winning fairy cakes at Egham Royal Show
Prize winning burger fairy cakes at Egham Royal Show
Models at Egham Royal Show
Prize Winning Veg at Egham Royal Show
Prize winning Fuscia at Egham Royal Show
Decorative Cart – Egham Royal Show
Manx Loaghtan Sheep
Diesel Engine – Egham Royal Show
Egham Royal Show
Siberian Eagle Owl – Egham Royal Show
Piglets – Egham Royal Show
Archery – Egham Royal Show

 

As previously mentioned, the original Middlesex County Show was sadly cancelled back in 2010 – see article.

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