Thursday, 21 September 2017

Bucket List visit - part 5: Painted Hall, Old Royal Naval College ...

We then had a gentle walk along the river bank past the Cutty Sark to ‘touch sides’ with the Painted Hall, which is in the process of a conservation project lasting until 2019.  I was with the friend from South Africa who could not have made the scaffold tour on offer, nor did we have time …
The Cutty Sark - restored ... it has been lifted
9 metres so can be accessed at ground level -
there will be a museum with various features ...
the restoration and conservation are continuing
ready for the 150th anniversary in 2019

… but it has whetted my appetite to make a plan to get back to take the tour … talking of appetite – the last time I wrote about the Painted Hall was for the Olympic 2012 Great British Menu …

In that post I gave a brief summary about the history of the Hall, but little about the art itself. 

The Painted Hall full of scaffolding as the art works
are restored and repairs are made

Our history here is extraordinary … always reminding us how the country developed, and what amazing talent was able to come to the fore with engineers, architects, designers, artists and many other creatives.

Another view of the Painted Hall with
the west wall in full view at the end

If you can believe it – this Painted Hall was created as a dining hall - an eating place - for the naval veterans, who had survived their sea voyages of exploration in the 1600s.

Unsurprisingly upon completion it was considered way too grand for everyday use … and became (surprisingly) one of London’s first tourist attractions – the Pensioners being hired to give guided tours.

This shows the four courts at Greenwich,
the Queen's House at the back centre - with
the National Maritime Museum to the right

In the 1800s until 1936 the Painted Hall was also known as the National Gallery of Naval Art - with 300 naval-themed paintings – which now form the foundation of the National Maritime Museum’s art collection just up the hill.

James Thornhill's work:
William and Mary

James Thornhill (1675 – 1734) had painted the interior of the dome in St Paul’s Cathedral and in 1708 was appointed to decorate the Hall.

His instructions were to include as many naval references as possible, boast the triumph of William and Mary in the Glorious Revolution in 1688 over James II with royal propaganda.

His vision is superb … he worked on dry plaster, and without 21st century scaffolding – not a job I’d have liked in any form.  It took him 19 years … but thereafter he was knighted!

Royal Symbolism

Signs and Symbols are depicted in the art, particularly astronomical features – so important to navigation – together with the famous astronomers of the day … 

The Painted Hall
... including – guess who … the man with the prosthetic nose whom I wrote about last year … Tycho Brahe (1546 - 1601) - the last of the ‘naked eye astronomers’.

I’ve set out some links below if you’d like a better understanding of the wonderfulness of this incredible building or perhaps part of the great courts of Greenwich and to see in close up some of the restoration work.

As tends to happen in this country … if we dig down we find new to us undiscovered buildings … it has happened at the Painted Hall.  They are working at bringing the Undercroft back into existence as a shop-restaurant and visitor centre for this part of the Old Royal Naval College.

c/o Old Royal Naval College - major archaeology
So what appears … but the remains of Greenwich Palace, birthplace of Henry VIII and of his daughters Mary and Elizabeth I.

The new archaeological finds of this Tudor Palace – originally called Palace of Placentia (Palace of Pleasant Abode – from the Latin ‘placere’ “to please”)  will be included within the conservation and construction project being undertaken under the auspices of the Painted Hall Restoration Project.

A sketch of the early Greenwich  Palace
(Palace of Placentia) as published in
The Gentleman's Magazine 1840

Our history just goes on and on … and how much we learn along the way … finding out about all these talented people who were able to translate the vision given to them by their patrons.

Then over nearly six hundred years the site reflects the country’s development from early Tudor and on into our own 21st century … what changes …

When I’m able to get up to London again and take part in a scaffold tour – I’ll let you know …

Conservation trials in the Painted Hall - Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) Painted Hall Project

A guest article in the Tudor Times about the Palace of Placentia - this is fascinating, just adding to the history

My earlier post on the Great British Menu dinner held in the Painted Hall just before the London Olympics 2012

The post on Tycho Brahe and his prosthetic nose 

The Cutty Sark 150th restoration project - to be completed by 2019 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Bucket List visit - part 4: Lunch in Greenwich ...

We walked back along the river spotting “The Sail Loft” – to my surprise I’ve just noticed it’s another Fullers … this time … a Kitchen Establishment, not a Pie and Ale pub …

We sat outside overlooking the Thames and its opposite bank of the Isle of Dogs – this is where the river has one of its largest meanders.  At some stage! I’ll do another post about the Isle of Dogs – but for now lunch calls …

We people watched, looked across trying to remember where a friend used to live whom we visited soon after I came back early 1990s … but it’s all been developed in the last 30 – 40 years … there’s a park and a charity farm – so the Isle of Dogs is thriving …

The Isle of Dogs as shown in
John Rocque's map of 1747 before
any development

… a footpath runs under the Thames, while the Docklands Light Railway also connects, where the history in Greenwich can be found.  I wrote another post about St Alfege Church on its millennium … lots of extra information in there if you care to take a look …

Back to lunch … we decided we just needed a main course … one of us was happy with her pink Pinot Grigio, while I had tonic water …

… I chose Devon Crab and Shellfish Linguine, white wine and parsley sauce … and I must say it was delicious …

T’other main party had the Frontier Battered North Atlantic Cod, chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce … remarking she hadn’t had mushy peas for ages …

Looking down from the first floor

We were very happy and took our time, still nattering! mulling over life, debating what we should do next before we returned back upstream.

Wall decorated with old tea boxes - used for packing
and transporting in the Clippers

I’ve included a few photos to give you a glimpse of The Sail Loft … fortunately there were few dining – so we were mostly left to get on with it … I’m sure it’d be packed out in the evenings and at weekend – it was quite a large place as you can see …

Looking east up the river towards the Cutty Sark, and
the mooring areas for the River Cruisers

Well that was lunch!  Next we visited the Painted Hall, and glanced at the Chapel … walked back passed the Cutty Sark on our way for our return trip.

My post on St Alfege Church, Greenwich  

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Bucket List visit - part 3: Boat Trip down the Thames to Greenwich ...

This is something I had never done – or really had never thought about doing!  So I was very happy to tag along to tick off another experience … or more likely open my eyes as a way to get to Greenwich along the river.

Lonely Planet's Thames Hop-On-Hop-Off  River Cruise
see here
Greenwich is to be found where the meander is shown.

London arose from the Roman fort ‘Londonium’ two millennia ago … it has enjoyed its eras – for example those Roman times: and how - we keep finding relics …

Westminster Bridge, by the Houses of Parliament,
our starting point

Once the Romans withdrew … the Vikings came and plundered its wealth … but from the late 800s AD Alfred the Great and his Anglo-Saxons drove out the invaders to lay claim to their port and establish a new golden age of trade along old man River Thames.

Ethelred the Unready

The Vikings came again, Ethelred the Unready needed Olaf the Norseman to help upset those plunderers and recapture the city: they pulled the early London Bridge down – so the Vikings left.

Benedictine Monks had in the 700s settled further up the river on Thorney Island – the early Royal residence of King Canute, then Edward the Confessor - and we know who came next: the man that conquered.

It was Edward who had established the historic division between the centre for trade – the City of London –and that of government – the City of Westminster …

… which William endorsed when he conquered England in 1066 – by issuing what is known today as the “William Charter” – see my post on this amazing tiny piece of treasured parchment.

The Tower of London outside the eastern
walls of the City of London
We left on the boat trip from near enough Thorney Island … now under Westminster Bridge, and the Houses of Parliament and other iconic buildings … the Thames has been tamed (perhaps!) … it is now confined not being allowed to spread its wings out into flood plains that are no more.

William the Conqueror built the Tower of London … which lies outside the City of London walls – yet is today still an iconic landmark for tourists and visitors alike …

View from Greenwich Park looking
north over the Thames and on into London
We cruised down the Thames towards Greenwich - being regaled with numerous interesting subjects which we noted – to the riverside gateway to London, founded by those Romans with empirical desires back in the day. 

Greenwich too has had its fair share of history … it shone in the Middle Ages – Henry VIII and Elizabeth I made sure of that.

Arms of the Metropolitan Borough of
Greenwich - granted 15th July 1903 -
by the College of Arms
Greenwich held its ground for centuries, occasionally foregoing its ‘popularity’ … but revival is rarely far away - as is happening now that that Tudor Palace has been found and is being excavated, conserved and partially restored for us in the 21st century to see.  (My Painted Hall post - part 5 ).

Now we are here – we will have some lunch, wander along the river, visit the Painted Hall, by-pass the Cutty Sark, before jumping onto our cruise ship for its return to Westminster Bridge – knowing that when we arrive at Parliament we will be walking over the home of 8th century Benedictine monks of Thorney Island.

On our return trip I will highlight a few of the riverside places of interest that we passed.

Ready for fooooood? - lunch comes next …

My post on The William Charter - a parchment treasure from 1067 AD (950 years ago)

Flooding in London and Europe going back one thousand years - another of my eclectic posts!  

Go here to look at the route: Thames River Services - the sightseeing spots are quite clearly highlighted ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Bucket List visit - part 2: Theatre and Jack Horner ...

We were off to London town to see the musical “An American in Paris” … an amazing show; the story had been radically improved and I must say it was quite entrancing and magical …

First we needed a pub lunch and decided to get to the theatre retrieve our tickets … and then find somewhere to eat … if I’d had my wits about me (which I didn’t!) – we’d have gone into Fitzrovia …

… the historical bohemian home to writers as Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw and Arthur Rimbaud – just over the road and few lanes in … but we stuck to Tottenham Court Road.

This is the Inn of Court sign for the Fuller Pub near
Chancery Lane, Holborn - it was an old bailiff's office

And settled on the Jack Horner Ale and Pie pub – one in a chain of Fuller’s Brewery establishments – set up to take advantage of the former bank premises that are springing up around the country – which are then and now being converted into ‘eateries’ …

… it was a pub in the 1800s, was bombed and destroyed during the war – then became a bank – but then Fullers bought the building and turned it back into a pub … who says things don’t go round and round …

… we didn’t have a pie – too heavy to sit with as we watched the musical.  One of us had vino ... I had water!

I knew nothing about the story … but the show dazzled, Gershwin’s music enthralled, the set design and choreography were magnificent … and I was entranced. 

Craig Lucas delights us by creating, in 2014, this “book musical” whereby songs and dances are fully integrated into the story we see on stage …

Jane Asher

The two principal dancers came over from the New York show – Robert Fairchild from the New York City Ballet, while Leanne Cope is part of the Royal Ballet …

It’s had amazing write ups – and I link across to the Guardian’s review … which gives a flavour of the set design and costumes …

So we were lucky with such an excellent story, cast, music, dance … with the bonus of Jane Asher as a strait-laced, high bourgeois figure just longing to toe-tap her way into the dance.

It was a wonderful afternoon … and we came out enthralled by it all …

Little Jack Horner, sat in his corner,
eating his Christmas pie;
he put in his thumb, and pulled out a plum,
and said "What a good boy am I!"

Then we needed a drink … … quite unintentionally we found another Fullers on our way back to Victoria Station for the journey home – “The Admiralty” in Trafalgar Square: so as you can see Fuller’s Breweries have tapped into British culture in one way or another …

 … an ale and pie, or a refurbished bank (vaulted ceilings, ornate chandeliers, original features) and an appropriately named pub sign.

A dance sequence
We had a happy day … and I hope you can pop over and read the Guardian’s write up and see the wonderful photos of the show … I’ve seen a couple of other bloggers who’ve seen a show in the States … so it’s a well established musical – but this new particular extravaganza was just brilliant …

Another adventure in the next post …

The Guardian's review ... 5 star one ... 

The Guardian's review (Gene Kelly) ... more about the story line 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Bucket List visit - part 1: Eastbourne first ...

I recently had a friend over from South Africa … she was here mainly to see a friend further west, who isn’t very well, but came and spent three nights with me - so we could get to London and do a couple of things on her bucket list …
Beautiful plum hollyhocks in Meads

It was lovely to see her, catch up with news from friends in SA, and to do something somewhat different … she also needs to take things easily … so it was mostly taxis for the short journeys …

We met at the local train station, coming up for lunch at a local pub in Meads village, an early development up the Downs, away from the town centre …

The Pilot Inn – what better way to start a brief sojourn than at the Pilot … situated at the foot of the Downs, but we’d come up – sorry I’m in that mode at the moment!  you’d think I’d been drinking, or would have been … but 'twas not me at lunchtime … before we got home.

Goat's Cheese with Caramelised
Red Onion Tart

One of us had goats cheese and caramelised red onion tart, beetroot and mixed leaf salad with balsamic glaze and some pink Pinot Grigio …

… the local resident had the dressed crab with salad, new potatoes, granary bread and butter … I forgot to take a picture … still these will do very well.

Crab with a salad ...I waited for my
smoked salmon in the evening

Gosh at times I miss my mother … there was a crab outlet just below where she lived in Newlyn, in Cornwall … and how often did we go down to the crabbery and get crab for our meals …

Cranberry bread
We’d already decided that we’d stay here and travel up and down to London by train for each of the two days … it was cheaper, than staying in London, which we’d considered … but meant we were back in our own surrounds mid evening and able to get up in them.  More relaxing …

Lots of smoked salmon with some
salad pieces, and the bread 

The first night … I’d got a variety of goodies in … and in the end we had lots of smoked salmon, mixed salad leaves, salad pieces, cranberry, orange, and pumpkin seed bread loaf – I don’t eat bread usually … but have on occasions been having this bread which is delicious!

Late evening view onto the reef ...
After tea and a rest, then settling into the flat I now needed a drink … and we were set for lots of nattering and looking out at the view from here … Sainsbury’s Sparkling Pinot Rosé has been waiting (since Christmas I think!) for the right occasion and this is the description given:

Pinot Rosé Vino Spumante Extra Dry … and it really did taste like this: “Intense aromas of violet and rose with the fresh flavours of strawberry and raspberry.  Perfect with light pasta dishes” – well we failed there … but the wine was delicious … and we had plenty of food to keep us happy.

Next time we’re off to London town … there will be a few of these shortish recalls of her visit and time here ... not sure how many, but as I go on I'll let you:   it won't be as many as 23 ... that I wrote up for the West Country tour I did in 2015/2016 ... possibly six of them ... 
Hilary Melton-Butcher 
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Bran Tub # 14 : Blaschka Glass Flowers, Harvard …

I wrote about the Blaschka father and son and their amazing ‘flower sculptures’ four years ago – but have just found the postcards I brought back from Harvard after a visit in 1976 …

The four cards I found with their descriptions I set out below ...


(Model 529)
An abundant cactus in the American southwest and adjacent parts of northern Mexico.  In fashioning this model, in 1895, the artists Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka used extreme accuracy in such details as the numerous stamens.

This cultivated hybrid, known as Monthly Strawberry, was modelled by R Blaschka in 1929 and shows some of his finest techniques in reproducing plant texture in glass.

ASPERGILLUS HERBARIORUM  (Wigg.) Fischer   (Model 785)
Mould, magnified in the model 250 times, on the surface of the pear fruit.  This model made by R Blaschka in 1929 forms part of a series showing fungal diseases of fruits.

CALTHA PALUSTRIS Linn.  (Model 475)

Marsh Marigold or Cowslip, a species which grows in swamps and meadows from Newfoundland to South Carolina and west to Minnesota and Iowa.  Modelled in glass in 1900 by Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka.

I notice that Harvard have re-housed, cleaned and restored the acclaimed Ware Collection … a unique collection of over 4,000 models, representing more than 830 plant species.

The Harvard site has four beautiful photos of the extensive works and a short 6 minute video on how the flowers were restored for the 21st century.

c/o Harvard's site
Professor Pfister waxed lyrical about these
glass Red Maple leaves

As you’d expect from Harvard … a professional take on the restoration of the flowers … introduced by Donald H Pfister, Professor Of Systematic Botany, who was there as a graduate student in 1968 and is still there today.

We meet Wes Fleming the glass sculptor, who is restoring any damaged exhibits … and he notes that no-one has come near the Blaschkas in creating specimens like those in the Ware Collection … amusingly he says his tools are similar to those used by the Blaschkas … much like those we use at a BBQ!!

We see the restoration of the cabinets in which the botanical specimens were displayed – during deconstruction they found signatures of the case-makers from 1893, which have become part of the exhibition.

Book available in the shop
The displays now follow classification and show how the flower is built in nature – the art, as well as the way of understanding the organism.

Each section of the life-size model is remarkably accurate … this was so the species could be studied year-round.

Well this exhibition has stayed with me for over 40 years … I would now love to see it again … with all its exceptional works of art newly cleaned and displayed.

Please enjoy and if you can get to Harvard to see this extraordinary collection of famous treasures, which is internationally acclaimed – I highly recommend you make a plan.

The video of Harvard restoring its famed glass flowers.

Then here’s my earlier post from almost exactly 4 years ago, which contains some more historical background on the Blaschkas and their glass botanical models.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories