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Archive for london

Dickens’ House in Town

By Linda Tancs

“My house in town” is how Charles Dickens referred to 48 Doughty Street, the London home that bore witness to some of the writer’s seminal occasions, like the birth of his two eldest daughters and the writing of such best-loved works as Oliver Twist. Now the Charles Dickens Museum, his only remaining home in London houses the world’s finest and most comprehensive collection of material relating to one of the world’s greatest storytellers, with over 100,000 items including furniture, personal effects, paintings, prints, photographs, letters, manuscripts and rare editions. Christmas at the Museum is a particularly festive highlight. Bedecked with holly and ivy, what better place to experience the rich traditions of a Dickensian Christmas than in the home of the author of A Christmas Carol!

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The Brothers of Charterhouse Square

By Linda Tancs

The Charterhouse is a former Carthusian monastery in London, to the north of what is now Charterhouse Square. Since the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century the house has served as a private mansion, a boys’ school and an almshouse, which it remains to this day. The residents of the almshouse are known as “Brothers” and conduct tours of the grounds and buildings. The site upon which the Charterhouse stands was acquired in the middle of the 14th century as a burial ground for victims of the Black Death. Earlier this year the Charterhouse permanently opened to the public for the first time in its 660-year history. The centerpiece of your visit is the museum providing a chronology of the site’s history from the Black Death to the present.

A Roundabout View in London

By Linda Tancs

Located in the large, irregularly shaped island in the middle of the Hyde Park Corner roundabout in London, England, Wellington Arch offers panoramic views of the city from its balconies. Originally intended as an entrance to Buckingham Palace, it later became a victory arch proclaiming Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon. The facing masonry of Portland stone is capped off with the largest bronze sculpture in Europe, “Peace Descending on the Quadriga of War,” by Adrian Jones.

300 Years of Freemasonry

By Linda Tancs

Freemasonry began in medieval Europe as a guild for stonemasons who built the great castles and cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Today it is one of the largest fraternal and charitable organizations in the world. The United Grand Lodge of England at Great Queen Street in London is celebrating its 300th anniversary this year. Their facilities include The Library and Museum of Freemasonry. Open to the public, it’s located on the first floor of Freemasons’ Hall, where guided tours of the Grand Temple and ceremonial areas are provided when the hall is not in use. The free museum displays one of the world’s largest collections associated with Freemasonry, including pottery and porcelain, glassware, silver, furniture, clocks, jewels, regalia and items belonging to famous Freemasons like Winston Churchill and King George IV (the first Royal Grand Master). The closest tube stations are Holborn, Covent Garden and Leicester Square.

London’s Secret Garden

By Linda Tancs

Founded in 1673, Chelsea Physic Garden is one of London’s oldest botanic gardens. It contains a unique living collection of around 5,000 different edible, useful, medicinal and historical plants within its sheltering walls tucked away beside the Thames. True to its roots (no pun intended) as a training ground for apprentices in the identification and use of medicinal plants, its medicinal plant display is one of the largest in the world. The theme for 2017 is Weaves and Leaves: Fabrics and the Plants That Make Them. The garden is located between Royal Hospital Road and the Thames Embankment, a 15-minute walk from Sloane Square.

Dino Snores

By Linda Tancs

Want to camp out amongst the dinosaurs in a museum? It’s not just for kids at London’s Natural History Museum. Their Dino Snores for Grown-ups program is offered periodically throughout the year, like tomorrow night. The sleepover includes a welcome drink, live music, a monster movie marathon, three-course dinner (edible insects are optional) and a hot breakfast. You’ll also have the chance to explore the galleries and current exhibitions after the daytime visitors have gone home. Sounds dino-mite to me.

Britain’s Oldest Manufacturer

By Linda Tancs

London’s Whitechapel Bell Foundry is listed in Guinness World Records as Britain’s oldest manufacturing company. How old, however, is a matter of debate. Once thought to be established in 1570 (during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign), additional research has revealed an unbroken line of founders in Aldgate and Whitechapel back to the year 1420 (in the reign of Henry V). Regardless of its age, the world’s best known foundry on Whitechapel Road is responsible for some very big chimes. The largest bell ever cast there (in 1858) is none other than Big Ben, weighing in at 13 1/2 tons. Another famous bell hailing from the foundry is the original Liberty Bell, commissioned by order of the Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania in 1751 for the Statehouse in Philadelphia. Other exports followed worldwide.

UPDATE 5/8/17: The foundry, once open for guided tours on select Saturdays year round, is sadly closing its doors. The very last tower bell to be cast at the Whitechapel site is for the Museum of London, to which the foundry is donating many artifacts including old machinery, items to provide a display about bell manufacture and items that the foundry has in its possession pertaining to the making of Big Ben.

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