Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wren in London - 19-20 February 2011

Winter in London is the time to visit some of the excellent free Museums. This weekend we combined two museums with free London walks, available on the Web. These walks give clear instructions and very interesting historical information. Both walks featured buildings designed by Sir Christopher Wren, who was the architect who was responsible for rebuilding much of London after the great fire in 1666.

The Museum of London opened an exhibition of 'London Street Photography' today, and as we wanted to visit the Museum again and this seemed the ideal occasion. We decided to do a self guided walk around the area as well, starting at Tower Hill. This was an fascinating reminder of architectural treasures scattered inside the Square Mile. Lunch was at the Ye Olde Watling pub, built in 1668 by Christopher Wren, to house the workmen building the new St Paul's after the fire of London. The pub is apparently built out of ship timbers, and definitely worth a visit. We'll have to eat there again.

By the time we arrived at the Museum of London, the place was heaving with people. We have visited several times before, and always found it quiet and deserted. Perhaps the combination of school holidays and the 'London Street Photography' exhibition opening day, made the difference. We decided to return earlier in the day for the exhibition, when we discovered the queue was well past the one hour to go marker. The Museum has recently complete face-lift, so we fought the crowds to have a look.

The walk finished at St Paul's (Wren's greatest achievement), and we were able to visit the One New Change shopping centre opposite. The roof top terrace has wonderful views towards the London Eye, and will be great in summer when the roof top garden cafe is open.
Sunday was still bleak and cold, but we decided on a walk around Chelsea, having been very taken with the area last weekend. Another welcoming London pub made great lunch stop (our table was right beside the open fire), in the middle of our walk as we went past houses that had been home to prominent writers in the past.

Our Museum visit of the day was the Army Museum, which had really excellent displays. Unlike the London Museum yesterday, this Museum was quiet and easy to enjoy the very comprehensive history of British conflicts – mostly abroad. One of the current temporary exhibitions was 'The Road to Kabul' and the banner advertising it outside had a most interesting quote by Frederick Roberts in 1880 regarding the first Afghan War - 'I feel sure I am right when I say that the less the Afghans see of us, the less they will dislike us'. It could have been written in 2011.

Next door to the Museum is the grand complex built by Sir Christopher Wren, as home to retired army personal, known as the Chelsea pensioners. This is the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The grounds are open to the public at certain times, as is the Great Hall and Chapel. It was like stepping back in time and visiting a village within London. Unfortunately the Chapel was closed, but the Great Hall is where the pensioners have their meals, and tables were being set for the evening meal. It is a very grand dining hall and it was easy to see the Wren look everywhere.

No comments: