26.03.2015
13:50

Barbican Art Gallery

Address:

Barbican Centre, Silk Street London EC2Y 8DS

Phone:

020-7638 8891

Website:

www.barbican.org.uk

Opening times:

Mon–Sat: 9:00–23:00, Sun: 10:00-23:00, Bank Holidays: 12:00–23:00

How to get there:

Tube: Barbican/Moorgate

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

Restaurants and shops

The Barbican Centre is part of a vast residential, commercial and arts complex covering a 35-acre site, including within its boundaries the church of St Giles Cripplegate and medieval stretches of old City wall. It takes its name from an old fortification just outside the City limits, destroyed in the 13th century. The complex was conceived in the 1950s, an optimistic post-war era of social town planning, but building work—to the designs of Chamberlin, Powell & Bon—did not commence until 1963 and was completed only in 1982. As well as residential apartments, the Barbican was to incorporate a theatre for the Royal Shakespeare Company, a concert hall for the London Symphony Orchestra, and an art gallery. In addition, there are conference facilities, a studio theatre (The Pit), a public library and two cinemas.

The Barbican is a complicated and uncompromising building of pre-fabricated concrete on a monolithic scale, its various blocks surrounding a central lake with hanging plants and fountains, the whole connected by terraces and pedestrian walkways. Orientation is notoriously confusing. If approaching the complex from Moorgate, you should follow the yellow painted lines on the ground—a concept similar to using string in the Minotaur’s labyrinth. A more fool-proof route is to leave Barbican tube station, cross over Aldersgate and walk up the rather forbidding Beech Street. A right turn towards its end leads round to the Barbican Centre’s main Silk Street entrance. An architectural upgrading of the entrances and foyers is underway, the aim to improve navigation. A number of art works are on display in the public spaces, including Roubiliac’s bust of Shakespeare.

The Barbican Art Gallery, on level 3, is one of London’s major temporary exhibition venues. The space is spread over two floors, the upper overlooking the lower, sometimes filled with one exhibition but more usually two separate ones with a linked theme. The six to seven exhibitions a year concentrate mainly on 20th-century and contemporary art, design, photography and fashion. Changing displays (free) also take place in The Curve, on the ground floor.

26.03.2015
13:32

Banqueting House (Historic Royal Palaces)

Address:

Whitehall Palace, Whitehall, SW1A 2ER

Phone:

0870 482 7777

Website:

www.hrp.org.uk/BanquetingHouse

Opening times:

Mon–Sun 10:00–17:00

How to get there:

Tube: Westminster/Charing Cross

Entry fee:

Admission charge, free for children under 16

Additional information:

Disabled access, small shop

The Banqueting House is the most obvious and complete remnant of the old royal Whitehall Palace, which occupied a vast area from St James’s Park to the river, and from Charing Cross to Parliament Square, and was the principal residence and seat of government of the Tudor and Stuart monarchy (16th and 17th centuries). The residential part of the palace was almost totally destroyed in a disastrous fire in 1698, but the Banqueting House was saved. Erected on the site of an old Elizabethan banqueting house, which had been rebuilt in 1606 but destroyed by fire in 1619, the new structure (1619–22) was to be a fitting setting for festive occasions, formal spectacles and grand court ceremonials. A committee was formed to plan the new building, which was designed by the great architect Inigo Jones. Jones’s approach to architecture, based on classical Roman models, the mathematical principles of Vitruvius and the pure designs of the Renaissance architect Palladio, was revolutionary in Britain. His strict use of the orders, Ionic below and Corinthian above, the alternate triangular and segmental window pediments, and the internal double cube proportions of the main hall, produced a rational, measured and dignified building of tremendous impact. Externally the building has been altered: sash windows were installed in 1713, and in the 19th century it was given a Portland stone façade. Internally, however, it has been restored to how it would have appeared in early Stuart times, a fitting stage for state occasions such as the international marriage negotiations conducted by James I and the reception of foreign ambassadors. The king and court could enter from the north, from the palace’s Privy Gallery, where the throne, under its symbolic canopy of state, was erected. For state occasions, when magnificence was required, the walls below the gallery were hung with rich tapestries which blocked the windows. The public was admitted from the south, the entrance approached up a timber staircase (the present entrance and staircase were added by James Wyatt 1808–09—note the sculpture bust of James I by Hubert Le Sueur, commissioned by James’s son Charles I in 1639).

The Rubens Ceiling
Peter Paul Rubens, an artist of international fame fêted by the courts of Europe, and whom the Stuart monarchy was eager to engage, seems to have been approached as early as 1621 to paint the great compartmented ceiling. But, diverted to Paris to decorate the Palais Luxembourg for Catherine de’ Medici, it was not until 1629–30, after James I had died and when Rubens was on a diplomatic mission to London as an emissary of the King of Spain, that he was officially commissioned. In London Rubens presented to Charles I his great painting Peace and War (National Gallery) and was knighted. The nine Banqueting House canvases were painted in Antwerp in 1630–34 and then sent to London where they were installed by 1636 (Rubens was paid £3,000 and never saw the works in situ). The theme of the magnificent Baroque scheme, the like of which Britain had never seen, was the glorification of the peaceful rule of James I. Over the centuries the paintings have seen a succession of restoration campaigns, the last taking the opportunity to rearrange the canvases in the order intended by Rubens. Entering from the south, the viewer is immediately struck by the central oval, the Apotheosis of James I, the king borne heavenwards by Religion and Justice, his temporal crown carried by putti while Minerva (wisdom) holds out a wreath of laurel. Flanking this are two friezes of exuberant putti, symbolic of the peace and prosperity of James’s reign. Above the throne, visible the right way round to the visitor entering from the south, is the Benefits of the Government of James I. Peace and Plenty embrace, Minerva defends the throne against Mars (war), who in turn tramples enemies about to be banished to Hell. On either side are ovals with the Triumph of Reason over Discord and Triumph of Abundance over Avarice. At the north end, visible to the king seated on his throne, is the Union of England and Scotland, James I gesturing towards a child, the new-born union of the two countries, while Britannia holds the joined crowns above his head. To left and right are Minerva driving Rebellion to Hell and Hercules beating down Envy. Rubens’ masterly allegory celebrates James I’s wise government and the Stuart adherence to the divine right of kings but also, through its extolling of peace, alludes to the recent Anglo-Spanish peace negotiations.

On the installation of the pictures, the Banqueting House ceased to stage court masques or theatrical spectacles which involved flaming or smoking torches which would have harmed Rubens’ works. But with its revolutionary architecture, its painted masterpieces symbolic of the nature of Stuart government and its function as a setting for state occasions, the Banqueting House assumed a potent iconic status. Several architectural designs for a new Whitehall Palace retained the Banqueting House at their heart. Quite deliberately, it was where Charles I was executed (on 30th January 1649), led from the staircase window to the scaffold erected against its walls. Charles II continued to use the Banqueting House for solemn state occasions. It was here that the sovereign touched for the King’s Evil, an ancient ceremony performed for those with scrofula, last performed by Queen Anne (mid-18th century); and it was also where the Maundy Thursday ritual of the washing of the feet of the poor, and distribution of money, was performed by the monarch. After the 1698 fire, however, William III had the building converted into the Chapel Royal, a function retained until the 1890s when it became the Royal United Services Institute museum. It is now used for formal royal and state occasions and banquets.

26.03.2015
13:26

Bankside Gallery

Address:

48 Hopton Street, SE1 9JH

Phone:

020-7928 7521

Website:

www.banksidegallery.com

Opening times:

Daily 11:00–18:00 during exhibitions

How to get there:

Tube: Blackfriars/Southwark

Entry fee:

Usually free

Additional information:

Bookshop

A modern, airy building designed by Fitzroy, Robinson and Partners, with fine views of the river and St Paul’s Cathedral, and with Tate Modern nearby, Bankside Gallery opened in 1980 and is home to the Royal Watercolour Society (founded 1804) and the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (founded 1880). Both have a distinguished history, the former attracting members such as John Sell Cotman, John Varley, Edward Burne-Jones and John Singer Sargent, the latter Laura Knight, Walter Sickert and Graham Sutherland. The Painter-Printmakers, formerly known as the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers, was formed to promote recognition for etchers, engravers and mezzotinters, who at the time were not eligible for membership of the Royal Academy (printmaking being deemed a reproductive, not a creative, process). Selections from the collection of diploma works, given to the Societies by artists on their election to membership, are sometimes on display. The Printmakers have their annual exhibition in May, the Watercolour Society an exhibition every spring and autumn. Otherwise, the gallery has a changing programme of contemporary watercolour and original print exhibitions.

26.03.2015
13:22

Bank of England Museum

Address:

Bartholomew Lane, London EC2R 8AH

Phone:

020-7601 5545

Website:

www.bankofengland.co.uk/education

Opening times:

Mon–Fri 10:00–17:00

How to get there:

Tube: Monument, Cannon Street, Mansion House

Entry fee:

Free

Additional information:

Shop

The museum charts the rise of the Bank of England from its private, 17th-century origins (founded in 1694 with a staff of 19) to the powerful institution it is today. Nationalised in 1946, it is the central bank of the United Kingdom, is banker to the Government, manages the country’s foreign exchange and gold reserves and sets the country’s interest rate. The Bank was established on its present site in 1734 but the building was expanded and largely rebuilt by Sir John Soane, its appointed architect and surveyor from 1788–1833. Soane’s building, which reflected the Bank’s growing size and increasingly pivotal position in the City, was his masterpiece. Foreign dignitaries were brought to view its magnificence, and in 1805 Soane conducted Queen Charlotte and her children on what must have been an exhausting two-hour tour. Its demolition and reconstruction by Sir Herbert Baker in 1921–39, albeit along Soane’s principles, resulted in a major architectural loss.

Soane wrapped the Bank in a sheer, blind curtain wall, with columns and pilasters at its corners and entrances, and a good sense of this has been retained. The entrance to the museum is on Bartholomew Lane. Off the entrance hall is a reconstruction, by Higgins Gardner 1986–88, of Soane’s famous Stock Office, with its flattened dome and top lighting through yellow glazing. It was in this room that the ownership of Bank of England Stock was transferred. Behind the mahogany counter and its waxwork clerks are displays outlining the architectural history of the building. The statue of William III, by Henry Cheere, was commissioned by the Bank in 1732 to mark the opening of its new Threadneedle Street site. Off this room are displays explaining the Bank’s early history. Its original 1694 Charter is on view, as is the Minute Book of the first Court of Directors, and correspondence with early shareholders (e.g. Washington and Nelson). In the centre of Baker’s impressive 1930s Soane-inspired Rotunda, with caryatids and columns saved from the old building, are imitation gold bars, with one (very heavy) real one, which visitors are invited to handle. Beyond this is a display of the Bank’s unique collection of banknotes, along with original designs, issued from the late 17th century onwards, a development from the 17th-century handwritten receipt. The final room explains the work of the Bank today.

26.03.2015
12:19

All Hallows Undercroft Museum

Address:

Byward Street, London EC3R 5BJ

Phone:

020-7481 2928

Website:

www.allhallowsbythetower.org.uk

Opening times:

Mon–Fri 8:00–17:00, Sat–Sun 10:00–17:00

How to get there:

Tube: Tower Hill

Entry fee:

Free

This historic church was largely destroyed in the Second World War but the brick tower, the only example of Cromwellian church architecture in London, has survived. It was from here, on 5 September 1666, that Pepys surveyed the destruction of the Great Fire: ‘I up to the top of Barkeing steeple, and there saw the saddest sight of desolation that ever I saw. Everywhere great fires. Oyle-cellars and brimstone and other things burning.’ The tower is now surmounted by a spire in the manner of Wren by Lord Mottistone of Seely & Paget (1958). Mottistone was also responsible for the rest of the church’s post-war reconstruction with, internally, a ribbed perpendicular-style vault of grey concrete. Bomb damage revealed ancient Anglo-Saxon fabric, probably 11th-century. Of particular note is the font cover, an outstandingly beautiful piece of limewood carving by Grinling Gibbons (1682) with cherubs, flowers and delicate ears of wheat. In 1922 All Hallows became the guild church of Toc H, a registered charity which, in the words of its own manifesto, is ‘committed to building a fairer society by working with communities to promote friendship and service, confront prejudice and practise reconciliation’. It was founded in the same year by the church’s new vicar, ‘Tubby’ Clayton. In the sanctuary is the tomb of Alderman John Croke (d. 1477) with a casket, a 1923 Arts and Crafts piece by Alec Smithers, containing the Toc H parent Lamp of Maintenance.

The Undercroft museum, entered under the tower, was excavated by Mottistone. There are remains of two tesselated Roman pavements from a 3rd- or 4th-century villa, ashes of Roman London, burned by Boudicca in ad 61, a Roman tombstone and the cosmetic equipment of a Roman lady. Also displayed are fragments of three Saxon crosses, the most important of which, c. 1030–60, is inscribed with the name ‘Werhenworth’ and has remains of figure carving, including an image of Christ. At the east end is a memorial chapel containing the ashes of members of Toc H and a plain medieval altar table from the Crusader castle of Chastiau Pelerin at Athlit, Palestine.

16.03.2015
12:33

Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum

Address:

St Mary’s Hospital, Praed Street, Paddington, W2 1NY

Phone:

0203-312 6528

Website:

www.medicalmuseums.org/alexander-fleming-laboratory-museum

Opening times:

Mon–Thur 10:00–13:00
Other times by appointment only (Monday-Thursday 14:00-17:00 and Friday 10:00-17:00)

How to get there:

Rail: Paddington
Tube: Paddington
Bus: 7, 15, 27, 36

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

No disabled access

This small museum includes a reconstruction of the small, cramped laboratory where Alexander Fleming (1881–1955) discovered penicillin on 3rd December 1928. In 1906 Fleming had joined the research department at St Mary’s as assistant bacteriologist to Sir Almroth Wright. While working on staphylococci bacteria, Fleming noticed that a mould had grown on some of his culture dishes and that colonies of staphylococci could not survive near it. He correctly surmised that the mould was producing an anti-bacterial chemical. The mould was identified as penicillium notatum, which had produced what is now known as penicillin. Fleming published his research in 1929 but it was not until 1938 that it was developed further, by Professor Howard Florey and Dr Ernst Chain of Oxford University, who worked towards purifying the compound. Their work resulted in the commercial manufacture of penicillin in the USA, and the full realisation of its importance to world medicine. Fleming, Florey and Chain were awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1945. Displays and videos tell the story of Fleming and his revolutionary drug.

MUSEUMS & GALLERIES OF LONDON

Details below are taken from our Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London.  This is a 2005 title, here generally updated for website address and opening times, with useful comments from some of the museums themselves.  More recent information is given in Emily Barber's magisterial new Blue Guide London, "Exceptional update to a classic and useful guide to this amazing city" (Amazon reader review).

FULL LISTING of CURRENT EXHIBITIONS in London from Apollo Magazine »

Emily Barber recommends five major London museums »

Please do share your comments and updates with us via the form below the entry for each museum.

Latest

National Maritime Museum
Wimbledon Windmill Museum
Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
2 Willow Road (National Trust)
William Morris Gallery
Whitechapel Gallery
Westminster Abbey Museum
Wesley's Chapel
Wellington Arch (English Heritage)
Wallace Collection
Victoria & Albert Museum
Tower Bridge Exhibition
Tower of London (Historic Royal Palaces)
Tate Modern
Tate Britain
Sutton House (National Trust)
Spencer House
Southside House
South London Art Gallery
The Courtauld Institute of Art (Somerset House)
Sir John Soane's Museum
Shakespeare’s Globe
Serpentine Gallery
Science Museum
St Bride’s Crypt Museum
St Bartholomew’s Hospital Museum
Saatchi Gallery
Royal Society of Arts
The Royal Mews
Royal London Hospital Museum
The Faraday Museum
Royal Hospital Chelsea
RCM Museum of Music
Royal Academy of Music Museum
Royal Academy of Arts
Red House (National Trust)
Ranger’s House (English Heritage)
Ragged School Museum
The Queen’s Gallery
Prince Henry’s Room
The Photographers’ Gallery
Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
Osterley Park (National Trust)
Orleans House Gallery
Old Operating Theatre, Museum and Herb Garret
Natural History Museum
National Portrait Gallery
National Gallery
National Army Museum
Musical Museum
World Rugby Museum
Museum of the Order of St John
Museum No. 1 (Royal Botanic Gardens)
Museum of London
Garden Museum
Museum in Docklands (Museum of London)
The Royal Observatory
The Queen's House
Old Royal Naval College
Marianne North Gallery (Royal Botanic Gardens)
Marble Hill House (English Heritage)
Mall Galleries
Lord’s Tour and MCC Museum
London Transport Museum
London Fire Brigade Museum
London Canal Museum
18 Stafford Terrace – The Sambourne Family Home
Library and Museum of Freemasonry
Leighton House
Kingston Museum
Kew Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
London Museum of Water & Steam
Kenwood House (English Heritage)
Kensington Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
Keats House
Jewish Museum
Jewel Tower (English Heritage)
Jerwood Space
Imperial War Museum
ICA Institute of Contemporary Arts
Hunterian Museum
Horniman Museum
HMS Belfast (Imperial War Museum)
Hayward Gallery
Handel House Museum
Hampton Court Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
Ham House (National Trust)
Guildhall Art Gallery
Guards Museum
Grant Museum of Zoology & Comparative Anatomy
Geffrye Museum of the Home
Fulham Palace
Freud Museum
Foundling Museum
Forty Hall & Estate
Florence Nightingale Museum
Firepower: The Royal Artillery Museum
Fenton House (National Trust)
Fashion and Textile Museum
Fan Museum
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
Eltham Palace (English Heritage)
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Dr Johnson’s House
Dennis Severs' House
Danson House
Cutty Sark
Contemporary Applied Arts
Chiswick House (English Heritage)
Chelsea Physic Garden
Chartered Insurance Institute Museum
Charles Dickens Museum
Carlyle’s House (National Trust)
Camden Arts Centre
Cabinet War Rooms & Churchill Museum (Imperial War Museum)
Burgh House - The Hampstead Museum
Buckingham Palace
Brunel Engine House
Brunei Gallery SOAS
British Optical Association Museum
The British Museum
The British Library
Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee
Black Cultural Archives
Museum of Childhood (Victoria & Albert Museum)
Bethlem Museum of the Mind
Benjamin Franklin House
Ben Uri Gallery - The London Jewish Museum of Art
Barbican Art Gallery
Banqueting House (Historic Royal Palaces)
Bankside Gallery
Bank of England Museum
All Hallows Undercroft Museum
Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum

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