Events

At first sight it might seem strange to be talking about the buildings of The Green Park which doesn't actually have any buildings on it, but as soon as you look around the edges a whole new world springs up as Andrew Jones illustrated in his gripping talk to the Society on 2nd February, the first in our new series of virtual lectures.

He took us along Queen’s Walk, the southern part of which, near the Mall, contains some of the last aristocratic houses in London including Spencer House and Andrew’s favourite, Bridgewater House.

A high point was the circle of 13 plane trees in the park facing Spencer House which attract Druids and other alternative beliefs. Likened to the Pantheon in Rome of the exact same width with a gap in the trees acting as a portico to the house and the space in the canopy above echoeing the Pantheon's roof.

He took us to the northern end of Queen’s Walk guarded by the iconic Ritz Hotel, where among many other glamerous events, the exiled King Zog of Albania lived. His minder named - what else for the Ritz but - Mr Martini, would pay the weekly bills in gold.

From the numerous interesting buildings on the other side of Piccadilly, Andrew singled out the architecturally extravagant edifice which hosts the Hard Rock Café. Replacing Gloucester House where the Elgin marbles were displayed by Lord Elgin when they arrived in Britain.

It was news to most of us that the 4th Marquess of Hertford got Thomas Cubitt to rebuild 105 Piccadilly to house his paintings which were later to form the core of the wonderful Wallace Collection in Manchester Square. Although the Duke of Devonshire's palatial home (which ran almost to Berkeley Square) has long gone, the gates still form one of the entrances to The Green Park and the wine cellars are now the ticket office for Green Park station.

The talk was based on Andrew’s fascinating new book “The Buildings of Green Park” which will be published shortly but is available to purchase from Heywood Hill booksellers in Curzon Street. It is full of anecdotes, research, old photographs, artworks, is beautifully produced and highly recommended. https://www.heywoodhill.com/shop/the-buildings-of-green-park

 

 

 

 

Our AGM was held on 10th November.  After the business of the meeting, we were pleased to welcome historian Dorian Gerhold to talk on The history of Victoria Tower Gardens - From Palace and Abbey to public park.  Please click the image below for a recording of the talk.    

 

 The Society's 34th AGM & Talk via Zoom - Tuesday 10th November

 

 

"HENRY VIII - AN UNLIKELY PIONEER OF REWILDING! "

To watch, click image below:

 

A History of St James's Park through Trees - Talk by Greg Packman

 

 

 

 

A lucky group of members spent a few hours in the 300 year old schoolroom of the Blewcoat School and treated to a workshop by Jens Jakobsen.  Jens has created a beautiful garden around the building which has become a local treasure.  Sadly the occupier of the schoolroom, Ian Stuart wedding dresses, has left and a new tenant is being sought by The National Trust.  We do hope the new tenant can share the building and Jens can remain in the basement where he runs his acclaimed florestry business and operates a shop.  To read further about the workshop, see page 7 in our Spring/Summer 2020 Newsletter (to be published soon) and do pass by to admire his beautiful seasonal creations.

 

Workshop by Jens Jakobsen, Master Florist at the Blewcoat School - March 2020

 

All Thorney Island visits are full of interest and our specially organised tour of The Palace of Westminster was as challenging as it was fascinating since it coincided with the first day of two weeks of protests by Extinction Rebellion. The streets and bridges around the Palace were occupied by protesters who laid down in the streets, made speeches, chanted and drummed. Loudly.

Our tour began in the grand medieval Westminster Hall and we looked up at the carved angels 'holding up the ceiling' and learned that their faces were modelled on the carpenters' own wives and sweethearts.  So many important historic events had taken place in the Hall including the meeting of Parliament and Simon de Montfort who led the rebels who defeated King Charles I in 1265.

We learned that the Parliamentary Estate has one thousand rooms, and that the architect Charles Barry gave the trade mark of the portcullis to Parliament. Jostling with school groups we visited both the Commons and the Lords chambers, passing through the 'nay' lobby and saw where we can petition our MP in the Central Lobby.  After the Second World War the Commons needed to be rebuilt and the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill insisted that not only should the bomb-damaged arch leading into the chamber be retained, but that the design of the chamber should be 'intimate and adversarial'.  We wonder whether he would do the same thing now? The coat of arms designed by the children of the murdered MP Jo Cox, hangs alone on the wooden panelling behind the seat where Jo Cox sat as a back-bencher. A moment when we all reflected.

What would be the same for a Prime Minister was for all MPs - the Division Bell which rings across the parliamentary estate, giving 8 minutes to get to the Commons to vote.  Said to be the time it takes for a PM 'to walk briskly' from Downing Street. Another quirky custom takes place to commemorate the Gunpowder Plot. In 1605 the plot was uncovered under the Princes Chamber and each year before the Opening of Parliament a search is made to make sure there is no repeat of the plot.

We heard so many details about the history of the buildings and finished by seeing the statue to which suffragettes chained themselves in pursuit of the vote and finally the inspiring art installation in recognition of the many organisations who fought for women's rights in the 20th century. The installation lights up with the ebb and flow of the Thames and makes up the symbol of the portcullis. A fitting end way to end an illuminating tour.

Then off across the road to The Jewel Tower, the only other medieval building of the Palace, built between 1365-6, under the direction of William of Sleaford and Henry de Yevele, to house the personal treasure of King Edward III.  We admired the wooden and stone roof and walls of the ground floor room and up the tiny staircase to further rooms above.  With thanks to all those who made these tours possible.

 

Visit to the Palace of Westminster & Jewel Tour