Saint James the Less, off the Vauxhall Bridge Road, is a gem of a Gothic revival church which 30 of our members were privileged to be shown around by the vicar Lis Goddard.

It was designed in the late 1850s down to the last detail by GE Street who was also responsible for the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand.  It is not only Grade 1 listed in its own right but the adjoining school is also Grade 1 and even the two sets of railings outside are separately listed as well.
It is unusual enough to look at from outside with its freestanding tower or campanile but inside it is a treasure trove of sculpted brickwork, tiles and stained glass windows with biblical narratives made by the celebrated Victorian firm Clayton and Bell.  It is difficult to believe that it was built in little more than two years. Funded by three sisters – Jane, Penelope and Mary – in honour of the memory of their father Bishop Henry Monk, which may help to explain why, highly unusually, there are depictions of eight women on the wall behind the high altar.  Another feature is a mosaic made of Venetian glass which replicated a mural, which had deteriorated, of the same scene by the celebrated painter GF Watts on the chancel arch.
Small wonder that this church has been praised to the skies by celebrated writers from Ian Nairn to Sir John Betjeman who helped to save it when it was threatened with demolition.  We are most grateful to Lis Goddard for sharing her extensive knowledge of the church with us.














 Tour of St James the Less church in Pimlico - September 2017

A fascinating tour around the local streets with Paul, sharing his vast experience and knowledge.  Trees and shrubs from the Mediterranean, New Zealand, Nova Scotia, China, Japan & Iran are to be found in our streets.  Carefully chosen for their trunks, flowers, colour of foliage, height, shape, roots and always a tolerance to pollution and pavements !

Who would have thought there were Olive trees in Abbey Orchard Street, a Tulip tree (first introduced in the UK in 1650) in Wilcox Place, a Myrtle and a Loquat in Howick Place and a Japanese Pagoda and a Strawberry Tree in Thirleby Road ?

Many thanks to Paul for introducing us to them and general fascinating discussion on these lovely trees and plants that he and his team look after.




Many thanks to Dan & Rebecca for their tour and commentary as we wandered the corridors and courtyards of the Treasury building. 

Work started at 100 Parliament Street in 1899 to John Bryden's design.  Stately, spacious and light with sweeping stairs and statues.  But it was not until 1907 that the land was purchased for the 2nd half of the building, demolishing narrow streets, houses and churches.  Sir Henry Tanner, a Government Architect, incorporated & finished the new building quickly and cheaply by 1917, ditching some of Bryden's original ideas including 580 fireplaces.  So a building of two halves. 

Moving swiftly forward, it received a much needed revamp in the early 2000's, sympathetically given by (Sir Norman) Foster & Partners via a PFI initiative, including the addition of a new mansard roof and opening up inner courtyards with gardens, ponds and benches.  Today it is an exciting, efficient workplace with every desk having natural light and lots of it !  Although much is open plan now, one cannot avoid the corridors, one is even Listed as a 'heritage corridor'. 

Some ordinary meeting rooms, off our first corridor, were used by Sir Winston & Lady Clementine Churchill as their private living and bedrooms during WW2, not wanting to sleep in the Cabinet War Rooms underneath and underground.  See photo below.  The building has 3 levels of basements and there is a constant flow of water through a channel in the sub-basement.  Our river Tyburn perhaps ?  Now up to the 'heritage corridor', past the Chancellor's enormous, carved office door !  Each current chancellor may choose what artwork they would like from the Government's extensive collection (on view near Tottenham Court Road - a Pippa visit a few year's ago !).  Mr Hammond is said to prefer large, classical pictures but some of Gordon Brown's more smaller, modern pieces are still to be seen.  Now into the very grand Old Chancellor's Room (see photo below) and then the Churchill Room where the creation of the NHS and the Independence of the Bank of England, amongst other monumental plans, were worked on and signed.  Glimpsing, through the net curtains, the narrow balcony where Churchill delivered his VE day speech, which at the time was the Ministry of Health's boardroom.  Then out into 'the Drum', the huge round central courtyard, with tremendous echoes, used for filming The Fast & The Furious and for speeches by George Osborne and the Pope !  Not missing a view, through tall iron gates, past the FCO, straight to No.10 Downing Street.  During the war, the Drum had been covered in anti-torpedo netting.  Very successfully, as a torpedo sat on it from 1914 to 1950 when it was eventually removed. 

We didn't meet Gladstone, the Treasury cat, but his reputation was hailed of catching 14 mice since he had been in residence.  Thank you again to the organisers for their time and enthusiasm.  Congratulations too on the 100th birthday of the building.









Thirty Thorney Island members were delighted to be shown around St Margaret's Church, Westminster, by Blue Badge guide Ian Godfrey. St Margaret's church is full of history and interesting people, the only downside being that it is almost touching Westminster Abbey and is largely ignored by tourists. On the day of our visit on July 11 there were huge queues for the Abbey yet no one but ourselves in the church.

More's the pity because, as Ian pointed out, as the church is a treasure trove of memories. 


William Caxton, the pioneer of printing in Britain, who worked a stone's throw from the church has a dedicated stained glass window,  or rather the remnant of one, and is buried there as is Sir Walter Raleigh who was executed around the corner in Old Palace Yard yet promptly given a prime burial place under the altar. 


Many interesting people are commemorated in the church including Olaudah Equiano, a freed black slave, who became a celebrity in London and a leading light in the anti-slavery campaign.  Members were pleasantly surprised at the number of Americans who had helped finance stained glass windows and other memorials including Cubby Broccoli of James Bond fame and Frank Sinatra. 


The church was built in the perpendicular style and dedicated in 1523 though virtually nothing of the original stone work remains. One of the reasons for its proximity to the Abbey is that the Benedictine monks did not want parishoners interrupting their prayers and other activities inside the monastery as they had traditionally done. 


The oldest part is probably the huge stained glass window commemorating the marriage of Henry VIII's elder brother Arthur to Catherine of Aragon which was added later.  St Margaret's - named after Margaret of Antioch - also has a large crypt which, we were told, is full of dust with a skull or two and, sadly, not open to the public. Our heartfelt thanks to Ian for a very entertaining visit. 




With huge thanks to Derek Rice, Library & Archives Co-Ordinator for a fascinating visit behind the scenes. 

We were shown around the archives and store room.  Temperature controlled with tight security arrangements and flood protection in place.  Large moveable storage shelves and cupboards house the many treasures.  We were shown prints and documents relating to the Millbank Penitentiary on the present gallery site. Next we entered the library to see documents, books and computer displays about the Thames and its history, part of a special project that changes monthly called Show and Tell.  Finally Derek took us to view the Nash exhibition.  A fascinating visit.  

One of the many in the collection, here is a photograph of the gallery at the time of the 1928 Thames Flood.