Treasure trail

Originally published in The Resident on 28th October, 2011 .

Treasure trail

Rose Balston, founder of Art History UK and brains behind Art Shots, a new National Gallery Friday night talks and discussions programme, guides us through her top ten architectural London must-visits.

Although considered to be one of the greatest cities in the world, London is hard to get to know. Read on to find out Art History UKs top ten secret sites; explore these places and you will be well on your way to understanding Londons rich and unique history, juicy art, and inspiring architecture.

1. The chivalrous medieval age seems remote: to access it visit St Bartholomews the Great in Smithfields (pictured). With the 1123 choir still remaining, this ancient fabric is one of the most atmospheric and tantalising relics of old London.

2. Only 5 minutes walk away find a medieval relic in St Etheldredas 7th century hand. Built in the 1290s, the beautiful chapel St Etheldredas Ely Place, is often deserted. Its potent antique presence is enhanced by the rows of Catholic martyrs burnt or hung by Henry VIII and his red-haired daughter.

3. A great gem of the Stuart era is the Queens House in Greenwich. King James I took one of the most radical steps in English architectural history when he employed Inigo Jones to build a Palladian white stucco building for his wife. The first classical building in England, this marks the beginning of a craze that was to sweep through English architecture for the next 300 years. Check out the Tulip Staircase, the first cantilevered stair in Britain.

4. 40 years later Christopher Wren rebuilt London after the Great Fire. The most exciting of his 51 churches has to be St Stephens Walbrook. With 3 plans in one (Latin, Greek and centrally planned) this church is flooded with light and complex to the extreme.

5. Not far away is the exceptionally poignant Foundling Museum. Founded after 17 years of petitioning by Thomas Coram an old sea-captain turned philanthropist - the Foundling Hospital became a home, school and haven for abandoned children. Stuffed with works by Hogarth and Handel, this museum is now a moving memorial to the thousands of children saved.

6. One of Londons most eccentric architects was John Soane. His off-the-wall architectural style is best exemplified at his own home, now known as The Soane Museum. This unique and curious house is at times creepy, shocking and wildly misleading.

7. As bizarre is Dennis Severs House. The creator (died 1999) recreated a Georgian and Victorian town house not as a museum, but as a house to be lived in. Severs collected obsessively, invented a fictive family to live with and settled down to a life of chamber pots, cobwebs and candlelight.

8. To indulge your decadent side, target The Leighton House Museum. Opulent and luxurious this Aesthetic Movement house vibrates with organic decoration, including an indoor fountain, a sensuous Arab Hall, gold gilded ceilings and vividly coloured Damescene tiles.

9. For afternoon tea in Kensington, invite your friends and family for a spot of earl grey in the V&A Dining Rooms. With walls plastered with Arts and Crafts Morris paper and windows filled with Burne Jones stained glass, this aids your eating/drinking experience exponentially.

10. And now for something completely different: The Lloyds Building, a Big-Bang-Building of the 1980s. Shockingly modern (even 30 years on) this creation by Lord Rogers has been nicknamed the inside-out building or a coffee house turned coffee machine - go to the building and walk underneath it. Look up into its guts and feel its post-modern power.

 

Art Shots run from 6.45 - 8.15pm at the National Gallery on every second Friday of the month. Single tickets 20 and three for 55. Visitarthistoryuk.comto book the upcoming Art Shots:Divine Genius: Leonardo,Michelangelo & Raphaelon 11th November orTitian: A modern Apelles?on 9th December






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