Showing posts with label City of London. Show all posts
Showing posts with label City of London. Show all posts

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Dr Johnson's House

You get off the train at City Thameslink,
have a coffee at a well known coffee chain,
walk past shiny glass offices, high rise buildings and ubiquitous shops.

At one point it seems like you could be in any anonymous modern metropolis.
Except you're not, you're in the City of London,
London's financial and business centre,
where small (in comparison to the huge buildings that surround them)
pieces of history survive.

With the help of a scrappy photocopied map
and a smart phone that neither of you really know how to use,
you eventually find yourself here,
Gough Square,
the home of Dr Johnson.

 Dr Samuel Johnson was a truly sociable fellow,
entertaining 'clergy, politicians, preachers, actors, forgers and even murderers'.
Visitors are still welcome.

It is a beautifully preserved 18th century home.

Spread over four floors.

Samuel Johnson, for fear of being alone, after his wife had died,
surrounded himself with a wide circle of friends and acquaintances.

Friends came in person
and now remain in perpetuity on his Withdrawing Room walls.
 The Withdrawing Room, used by women,
who withdrew from the company of men after mealtimes.

Dr Johnson's house may be quiet now but it is said in his biography,
"how uncomfortable (Johnson's) home was made
by the perpetual jarring of those whom he charitably accommodated under his roof". (Boswell)

With so many visitors,
you wonder how Dr Johnson had time to write that dictionary of his.

A poor man of ill health, he wrote out of necessity.
A group of book sellers commissioned Johnson to write
a Dictionary Of The English Language,
which was published in 1755.
It was an instant best seller at £4 10 Shillings
and was the dictionary to turn to for over 100 years.

It was published in two volumes
and a facsimilie is available in the house for visitors to read today.

He had a bit of fun with some (most) definitions,
including over 110,000 quotes from English Literature.
Apparently the verb 'to put' has over 100 variations of meaning.
I wish I'd looked it up at the time.
He included plenty of wit too.
When questioned about some of his definitions, he replied,
"I must have my sport".

Here's a little of 'his sport'.
Available at the cheaper price of 35 pence in the gift shop, on a postcard.
Tea keeps me amused.
Am I idle?

With Dr Johnson long gone,
his desire to have his house full of people continued.
It was used as a community centre
by the Auxiliary Fire Service in the Second World War.

Right in the heart of London, very handy for popping in for a cuppa and a chat.

Or an impromptu music night.

As a thankyou for the hospitality shown,
the house was presented with this workshop scene
made from blitzed wood from Woolwich Arsenal.

After spending a little time in this tranquil 300 year old house,
you can begin to forget where you are,
until you look out of the window.
Straight into 21st century office block windows.

Then back to a 18th century window.
Imagine being the subject of stained glass?

Not tired, we've yet to fulfil one of Dr Johnson's most famous sayings.

We've had a great time, exploring a tiny piece of the City of London.
And there's still more to see.
A group of Small Historic Houses in London.
"A collection of nine of the city's hidden-gems;
small historic houses which tell the stories of fascinating and famous former residents."
Details on London Shh's website here.

And more info on Dr Johnson's House website here.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Views of St Paul's Cathedral II

A few minutes walk from the painted views of St Paul's in the Guildhall Art Gallery in my last post, the real St Paul's can be seen for yourself.
There are many different viewpoints:

...from street level.

...reflected in street furniture.

...from inside One New Change Shopping Centre, Cheapside.

...reflected in the glass walls of One New Change.

Up high on top of One New Change shopping centre there is a public roof terrace with amazing views:

...of St Paul's with a bus passing by

...the London Eye, you can just make out Big Ben   

...the Shard to the South East

...the old, new and yet to be built, to the West the South, you can just make out the Crystal Palace mast
...and back to St Paul's

These views can be seen for free from the roof of the One New Change roof terrace open seven days a week.
It seems to be a bit of a secret, I haven't met many people who know it's there. It wasn't busy either time I went, even in half term. Having moaned about going, my ten year old ran out of the lift, on to the terrace proclaiming it to be 'cool!'

Friday, 14 February 2014

Views of St Paul's Cathedral I

St Paul's is over 300 years old and was built on the highest point in the city. It remains a constant in an ever changing city. At the Guildhall Art Gallery, you can see paintings of St Paul's which show you how the city has changed over time, not to mention painting styles.

The Lord Mayor Proceeding to Westminster on Lord Mayor's day 9 November 1789
 Richard Paton & Francis Wheatley

The Thames by Moonlight with Southwark Bridge 1884
John Atkinson Grimshaw

The Heart of the Empire 1904 Niels Moller Lund

Blackfriars Bridge and St Paul's 1995
Anthony Lowe

Landscape 715 2003-04
John Virtue

Inside the Guildhall Art Gallery

Guildhall Yard & Art Gallery, the site of London's Roman amphitheatre
Open all week, free admission. Why not check out these paintings and the City of London's art collection at the Guildhall Art Gallery, only a stone's throw from the cathedral itself.

Have a look at the website for more details here.
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