As a vegetarian it might seem quite ironic that this morning I went down to Smithfield Meat Market to see the legendary Christmas Eve Auction. However as a City of London Tour Guide I had heard about the amazing atmosphere and I was curious to check this out for myself.
One of the most charming things to do in London on a Sunday morning is to visit Columbia Road Flower Market, selling all things horticultural from cut flowers, bedding plants to garden accessories. This very popular market is open from 8am to about 3pm and attracts both locals and those in the know who desend on it and its adjacent quirky shops. However I’d recommend visiting on a Saturday, when the crowds can be avoided while many of the delightful shops and cafes are still open.
Beyond Fabricsare just one of the delightful shops, stocking vintage inspired fabrics and offering craft workshops and courses.
Some of the display cabinets in this well laid out medical history museum – All photos courtesy of The Royal London Hospital Archives
The Royal London Hospital Museumis a wonderful small, medical museum located in the crypt of a beautiful former church, St Augustine with St Philip's, in the hospital grounds. Whitechapel is an area best known for its associations with the infamous Jack the Ripper and this is just one of the displays at the museum.
However, there is so much more to offer and for me, my visit there was to find out more about Nurse Edith Cavell and the hospital’s most famous patient/ inmate Joseph Merrick, who is also known as The Elephant Man, while I was researching a new walk for Centre of The Cell.
The tea house experience begins with reading the cards to select your tea
I first knew that our visit to Teanamu Chaya Tea House was going to be extra special when I discovered that the Tea Master Pei Wan while he was in China on tea buying trip. I realised that with Pei Wan's level of care in selecting the tea we were going to have a delightful experience.
The entrance to Centre of the Cell is located in the smaller of two blocks
Tucked away only a couple of minutes from the busy Whitechapel Road is Centre of the Cell, a medical and science based educational centre which uses the latest interactive technology to create a fun learning environment.
Centre of the Cell is located in the Blizard Insistute, named after Sir William Blizard, a distinguished surgeon at The London Hospital and one of the College's founders.
It’s one of the most colourful and slightly outrageous buildings in East London.
TheHippodrome in a French Renaissance style, faced in red Mansfield stone, occupying a prominent five storey block above Leicester Square Tube Station
A couple of weeks ago I met up with Julie Chandler for lunch and asked her if we could visit the Hippodrome Casino, as I was covering it as one of my stops for a guided walk round Chinatown later that evening. Julie's initial reaction was "Good God going to a casino in the middle of the afternoon" however as soon as we walked through the doors she was as charmed as I was with its beautiful interior. We approached the information desk to see if they could provide us with any tantalising snippets of information and were delighted when Aysha offered to take us on an impromptu free guided tour of the building from its exclusive high rollers room to its ladies toilets.
The Hippodrome opened in 1900 and was built as a theatre which featured variety and circus acts. It originally had installed a 100,000 gallon water tank where elephants and polar bears performed. It was designed by Frank Matcham who was the leading theatre architect of his day, whose best known theatre is the London Palladium. It was during this time a young Charlie Chaplin and the escape artist Harry Houdini performed here.
All Saints Margaret Street Church spire - at 227 feet tall it's 2 feet higher than Westminster Abbey's western towers
London has some beautiful Victorian Gothic style buildings, amongst its most popular are Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin’s Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) and George Gilbert Scott’s St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, my own personal favourite. However hidden away, behind busy Oxford Street, is the smaller, less well known but equally magnificent architectural masterpiece of All Saints Margaret Street designed by William Butterfield. It’s in a style also known as gothic revival which was popular in the 1800s and it draws its influence from the great gothic religious buildings of the Middle Ages.
The spire which stands at nearly 230 feet (70 metres) tall rises high above the surrounding buildings and is 2 feet taller than the western towers of Westminster Abbey.
The original wooden cantilevered staircase - note the carved decoration on the newel post (the vertical post at the bottom of the banister)
Last week I made a return visit to the RAF Museum London this time introducing its delights to my twitter friends. During our visit we were shown around the Grahame-White Watch Office by one of the museum's volunteers.
The office which was built in 1915 was part of the Grahame-White factory, the UK's first purpose-built aircraft factory. It was located at the time on the London Aerodrome in Hendon. During World War I the site was used by the military and after that by the RAF until it closed in 1987. Both the factory and Watch Office were later dismantled and re-constructed on its present site. A clip of “Brick By Brick: Rebuilding Our Past” a television documentary featuring Dan Cruickshank showing the restoration of the buildings can be seen here.
Next time you’re in Covent Garden take a walk down Bow Street and have a closer look at the Royal Opera House complex. Looking at the facade you will notice that it’s made up of two adjacent buildings. On the right hand side is an elegant cream coloured stucco building with a magnificent portico and on the left hand side a glass and iron structure which is known as the Floral Hall. It emulates the design of the Crystal Palace at Great Exhibition. Both buildings were designed by E.M. Barry in the mid 1800s.