London

London Oddities: The Horse Hospital

London is littered with meeting halls, temperance rooms, debating chambers and lecture theatres. The clubs and cafes where talks take place are often tucked under arches or in tunnels, but there are other spaces that have been repurposed for the changing times as arts venues. One is the Horse Hospital in Herbrand Street, Bloomsbury, which […]

The Londoner: Don’t Do That, Do This!

London, city of fabulous fun, city of really duff nights out – what’s the difference between the two? Simple – planning. So many friends come over asking where to meet and what to do that I feel like publishing a book about it. If you’re new to the city, it can be a daunting place. […]

London In Six Sculptures

London has so many statues that no-one notices two-thirds of them. Putting up a public figure always courts controversy, which is why we ended up with the Princess Diana Drainage Ditch of Doom (so-called because children kept falling over in it). The design ‘aims to reflect Diana’s life’; it feels almost embarrassed to be there. […]

London: Deaths, Executions, Markets Etc

More wanderings toward the Thames bring me to the Bourne Estate, not the name of a film starring Matt Damon but an Edwardian housing estate in the middle of Holborn that few office workers get to see. Constructed from 1905–1909, it’s regarded as one of London’s best examples of tenement housing. Most of the blocks are […]

London Off The Tourist Map: No.3 – Belgravia

Who now lives in Belgravia, long the home of dodgy Russians and old-school Tories? Near Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace Gardens, the upscale streets of Belgravia are defined by elegant townhouse residences, foreign embassies and fancy hotels. But it was once well dodgy. Known as Five Fields, it was a place to cross at your peril, […]

The Dragons Of London

The weather is delightful at the moment so I decided to stroll down to Smithfield Meat Market, as you do, in a combination of research and nosiness. After blogging about the place recently I wanted to see if the work on the Museum of London had started. Something big has begun because the entire area […]

London Off The Tourist Map: No. 2 – St James’s

St James’s is part of Westminster, and is not an area one naturally strolls through, but it’s used in a lot of films. It’s an odd spot, though, formerly residential (albeit built for the aristocracy), now entirely corporate and the home of embassies. St James’s Palace is the most senior royal palace in the land, […]

London’s Buildings On Film

London buildings were once all about class, from the grand homes of Mayfair and Brixton (!) to the sturdy banks and insurance companies of Holborn. Apparently there’s now even less social mobility here than there was in Victorian times. Want proof? I accidentally discovered this while leafing through old books (yes, I have finally become […]

London Off The Tourist Map: No. 1: Smithfield

London’s less obvious areas have porous boundaries. Confusing to the casual visitor, they are hardly ever clearly defined, and Smithfield exists in blurred patch of London that lies between Farringdon, the Barbican, the Thames and Clerkenwell. It was once known as Smooth Field and is one of London’s most magical places, and one of the […]

London’s Secret Call To Arms

In March 1941, there occurred one of those odd little footnotes in history that most people have now forgotten about. Winston Churchill needed to prevent public morale from sinking. He knew the Germans were about to retaliate by hitting London and they did – on May 10 the city suffered its worst raid, with 2,500 […]