Events

The Thorney Island Society came into being as a result of saving London's first public library in Great Smith Street in 1985. So it was with a double reverence that we made our much anticipated visit to a far older library only a few hundred yards away in Westminster Abbey. Our objective was the Muniments Room where ancient documents, particularly about Abbey transactions, are stored. But to get to it you have to go through a library that Time has told to stand still. Matthew Payne, Keeper of the Muniments, had us enthralled as he explained the history all around us dominated by the overpowering hammerbeam oak roof dating back to 1450. Only three books survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1540s - probably because they were about coronations and not associated with the old religion - but the library has since acquired a book of 1477 and has a fragment of the History of Troy printed by William Caxton (c 1422 - 1491) at his press mere yards away from where we were standing.

 A wooden spiral staircase took us up to the Muniments room itself where we enjoyed a spectacular view of the inside of the Abbey - at least when we could take our eyes off the ancient memories around us including a long oak chest dating back to 1159, million believed to be the oldest in the country. Among other treasures shown to us were the beautiful prayer book of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry V11, who died in 1509 and what seemed to be a document of Offa - yes, he of Offa's Dyke - dating back to 693 though it turned out to be a 12th century reproduction.  However, the Abbey does have an authentic document that can be traced back to 959, which is long enough ago for most of us.

 With that we bid our farewells to a remarkable part of the Abbey beyond the reach of most visitors. Our thanks to Matthew Payne for showing us around and to Pippa Parsons for organising the trip.

Discovering Parliament through virtual reality   

                                                                                                                        
Construction of the new Education Centre for Parliament has proved controversial for some Thorney Island members. This was partly because it encroached on rare green space in Victoria Tower Gardens and partly because it was difficult to believe that a new building costing £7 million was going to be "temporary" for just 10 years as claimed.



At the end of October we visited it and were very impressed with the facilities provided to enlighten school children of primary and secondary age about the history of our parliamentary democracy. A series of rooms mimicing the look of the House of Commons and Lords utilise augmented reality techniques to explain over a thousand years of history at rapid speed to 100,000 of today's techno savvy kids every year.

 

                                                   
                     Raised flowerbeds in Thomas Hill's book of 1586

 

Walking through the front door of Bridgewater House overlooking The Green Park, you are almost blown over by what you see. Instead of a hallway to a private residence you are immediately propelled into the Great Saloon designed by Charles Barry as part of a reconstruction and looking like the forum of Barry's Reform Club only it is even bigger. Standing on the million pound carpet and looking skywards towards the glass roof your eye is caught by a ring of domes, half of which turn out to be mirror images.

At one end of the ground floor is a set of murals by Jakob Götzenberger depicting scenes from the masque Comus which was actually commisioned from John Milton (who lived for part of his life on the other side of St James' Park in Petty France) by a former owner of the house and depicts the Earl of Bridgewater talking to
Milton. Bridgewater was an ancestor of Lord Ellesmere who orchestrated the present reconstruction in the 1840s and to make sure posterity did not forget, he  left dozens of his initials at strategic points throughout the house. 

The famous gallery with works by Titian, da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt and others is no longer there having been converted into offices but we were able to get a glimpse of its former glory by seeing the pillars at either end, one section of which has been converted into a small chapel.

© 2015 Panorama of the Thames Ltd

 


© 2015 Panorama of the Thames Ltd

 

Our AGM was held on 9th November 2016 at the Grange Rochester Hotel, Vincent Square.  For further details and documents, please select the "Us" tab at the top of this page.

Following the business of the meeting, we were treated to a presentation and film of the project to restore Leigh's beautiful 1829 Panorama of the Thames and to create a current photographic panorama.

Highly recommended, please read further about this project.

http://www.panoramaofthethames.com