Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The day the people invaded the palaces!

Open House London

Yesterday we spend the day along with hoards of others, invading the rich 'palaces' of London's rich past and present.

Lot's of photos (taken with my phone) and a few brief words about our day . . .

Arriving at the old West India Dock on a misty, grey morning 

A magnificent inscription . . . I loved the emphasis given to certain words, its voice speaks across the centuries

The view behind us towards Canary Wharf, in the past 20 years the derelict docks have been transformed into London's high rise, high tech, commercial centre. The arch-shaped structure bottom left is the roof of the new Crossrail station and the building whose pyramid-shaped top is lost in the mist, is One Canada Square (usually just called 'Canary Wharf as it was the first tower in the development to be built) and where we were heading 

We had been very lucky to get pre-booked tickets for a tour up to near the top of One Canada Square, first to the Marketing Suite on the 30th floor, where we saw some incredible architectural models of the whole site's development - past and future. And then up to the Level 39 which is the home to technology start-up business and is very cool. Photos weren't allowed, which was a shame.

We were allowed to take photos out of the windows . . .

The Thames and the City spread out before us in the grey mist

Another view of the new Canary Wharf Crossrail Station, it's shape is inspired by a ship in dock and will include a roof garden

Other things I loved in One Canada Square but couldn't photograph . . . the sculptures in the foyer by Bridget McCrum and the amazing flower arrangements!

Moving on . . .

Next stop was The Guildhall where we hoped to join a walking tour. Sadly the first-come-first-served system meant all places for the whole day had been snapped up within minutes of the 10am kick-off!

Nevertheless, there was lots to see, firstly we went into the Guildhall Art Gallery to see the Roman Amphitheatre which is in the basement. On the way downstairs we also saw Magna Carta.

We then crossed the square and went into the Guildhall itself, here's the magnificent Great Hall - the entrance guarded by the giants Gog and Magog

In this huge space Mayor Dick Whittington held a banquet for Henry V . . . I wonder if his cat was invited to the party?

Monuments to 'British Heroes' line the walls . . . here is a very sad British Lion and Britannia mourning the death of Lord Nelson, while a lady with nice handwriting writes up a list of his victories on a board

And here is Pitt the Elder surrounded by symbols of his illustrious career, there's Britannia again with a very fluffy British Lion and a bee skip (skep) to represent 'industry' and 'hard work'.

Down in the crypt the stained glass windows, designed in the 1970s, depict different Livery Companies. This one is for the Gardeners' Company, whose motto is -

In the sweat of thy brows shalt thow eat thy bread
(a quotation from the Bible, Genesis Chapter 3 verse 19)
how true!

After a snack eaten perched on a seat in Guildhall Square, we were off again . . . heading down Throgmorton Street with a glimpse in the distance of what was once London's tallest building Tower 42

Just past the clock in the the photo above is Drapers' Hall, along with everyone else we weren't prepared for the magnificence within!

There's Her Majesty looking down on the masses gawping at the splendour of the Drapers' HQ 

The furnishings, furniture, illuminated charters and paintings were splendid! Former Drapers' Company members' wives and children depicted in their best frocks

We were allowed to sit on the sofas in the Drawing Room, wouldn't it be a lovely place for Afternoon Tea?! Sadly no scones appeared

Back out in the City streets and alleys . . . I love these wall plaques marking the Wards of the City of London

We headed towards the river, down Pudding Lane and past The Monument marking the place where the spark in a bake house ignited the Great Fire of London.

In Lower Thames Street we went in The Customs House, the latest of many Customs Houses to occupy this site for nearly 2000 years! and still the home of HM Customs and Revenue today. It was interesting to see the offices and displays inside but very crowded and hot so we didn't stay too long.

On Tower Hill, there's the ancient church of All Hallows by the Tower now dwarfed by the new giants of London's skyline . . . The Walkie-Talkie, The Cheese Grater and The Gherkin . . . Londoners' sense of humour survives in the 21st Century!

And across the water on the south bank of the Thames is The Shard . . . an is currently the tallest building in Europe

The Tower of London guards the entrance to the City as it has for centuries . . . those life-like lions were made from chicken wire by artist Kendra Haste

Before heading home we joined the crowds of people looking over the Tower moat at Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red the installation of ceramic poppies to commemorate the dead of WWI . . . each one of the 888,246 poppies mark a British military fatality in the 1914-1918 conflict. A time to stop and think a while. 

London never fails to surprise and astound. 



  1. Wow - what an amazing day you had, with so much packed into it. I'm fascinated about Gog and Mogag, I never realised they had connections with London as well as Cambridgeshire!

    1. I didn't know that either. I'm wondering about a Gog Magog themed print?

  2. Fabulous! It's been a long time since we've done a September open day and seeing your photos brought back memories :)

    1. It's great but so popular! You have to be quick to book or be prepared to queue.

  3. Thank you for that lovely tour, if it wasn't for people like you I would never see, or even know about such treasures in London, somewhere I now probably have little hope of getting back to. Oz is a long way away and age is catching up but you and other bloggers are such a lovely way of almost being there.

    1. London has so many hidden treasures and is also changing every day. It surprises me with every visit!

  4. Celia, you all really covered a lot of historic territory during this open day. It must have been fascinating to start with that very open view from on high and follow that up with closer on the ground (and even underground) views.

    Thank you so much for all your excellent photography...and the wit of your commentary, too. xo

    1. If only we were allowed to take photos inside the Canary Wharf tower, the architectural models were amazing!

  5. Thank you for sharing your observations. I've been quite take by both the menagerie and the poppy installation.

    1. There is some fantastic public art in London and other UK cities, very popular!

  6. We came across the open days event by accident last year when we went up to London to celebrate a big birthday. It's a fab idea.

    1. It's getting more well known so gets crowded, but yes a fab idea. Open Squares is lovely too, in mid June I think.

  7. What a treasure box you have opened for me. Truly a joy to read and enjoy something a bit out of the ordinary. We have a wonderfully colourful history, don't we; in all senses.

    1. London is like a layer cake of thousands of years of history, worth taking time to wander around.


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