Ian's quirky guide to cheap events in London updated daily, and regular blog about history, events and geeky interests. Learn about London's heritage, transport, architecture, and offbeat geeky events that are taking place. The more obscure the better.
Sitting next to the DLR and the huge Excel exhibition centre, when it opens, Custom House will be the only above ground station in Crossrail’s central section.
Nearly finished, it was opened to the public to have a look around on Friday.
Curious people arrived via the pink entrance to have a look around the purple branded station. A young child ran over to a roundel for a photo, another played with a model of the station. A chap lectured a long-suffering member of staff about how the line will never be called Elizabeth. A couple of older folk commented on how big it all is.
The station has a number of unique features, such as that it was largely pre-fabricated off-site in Nottingham and a total of 887 components craned into position.
A joint team from Atkins, Arup, Allies & Morrison, Crossrail and Laing O’Rourke collaborated to work around a number of constraints at the development, including a very narrow site; existing utilities; existing DLR remaining fully operational throughout construction; a busy footpath and congested Victoria Dock Road; and a public right of way.
The strategy for the construction of Custom House included pre-fabricated and standardised components, with a ‘kit of parts’ forming the platforms, columns, concourse slab and roof. This approach had a number of advantages in that it minimised work on site that, in turn, drove down the programme time, preliminary costs and the impact on the local community.
The development of a pre-cast concrete solution brought other benefits to the construction phase, allowing swifter installation by gantry crane of repetitious units, a benefit made more acute by the proximity of live overhead power cables and the restriction this imposed on the construction sequence.
Apart from the long narrow design with upper floor, the overwhelming design is diagonal lines — all at 18 degrees, to reflect the angle of the road junction just outside the station.
Almost all the design elements are at the 18 degree angle, from paving, to lighting to the pillars and glazed roof. The security cameras and next train indicators break the use of angles across the stations, as do the escalators, which come at an industry standard 30 degree angle.
Down at platform level, glass clad waiting rooms offer protection from the weather. The “glass” roof on the upper deck is actually similar to the inflated plastic pillows used at Canary Wharf station.
The station contract was budgeted at around £35 million when awarded in 2012.
When Elizabeth line trains start serving the station from this December, the journey time to Paddington will be more than halved from an average of 42 minutes to just 20 minutes.
On a street surrounded by modern glass and steel office blocks, can be found this slightly ramshackle but quite delightful row of workshops and flats.
Known officially as 91-101 Worship Street, this set of workshops were built in 1861-3 by Philip Webb, father of Arts and Crafts architecture, and architect of William Morris’s Red House in Bexley.
Webb usually designed large individual domestic homes but was asked to build this terrace of affordable artisans workrooms, shops and houses as a charitable commission by Lieutenant-Colonel William Gillum, a friend of William Morris and the pre-Raphaelites.
They were all drawn to supporting artisan crafts, so could be seen as the original hipsters. Regrettably, for all their aspirations to support the working man, the products they produced were unaffordable as craftsmanship is very expensive. Mechanization did more to make consumer goods affordable, even if the craft was lost.
But back to the workshops, and this row of buildings would be distinctive anywhere, but are more so considering the modern office environment that they sit within. A series of shop windows for the workshops under a pent tiled roof., and above, the homes for the workers.
The roofline is striking, with pitched tiled roofs, each having a tall hipped gabled dormer with oversailing gable end. The height being further accentuated by ridge stacks. A gothic drinking fountain of stone and marble is incorporated into south-east angle of No 101, although on my visit, rather neglected and hidden.
Although now surrounded by offices, the sitting for the workshops was at the time, both sensible and philanthropic. This whole area was workshops, and at one time three-quarters of local shops would have been furniture warehouses.
The land had been owned by the Gillum family since around 1745, and the areas was known as Gillum Fields. The road itself, befitting its rural nature was originally Hog-lane, but renamed later as Worship Street as the first blocks of houses built here were made from stone taken from the old church of St Mary Islington.
Over the decades, the area built up as housing, which were later badly converted into warehouses, with people crammed into often dilapidated rooms above their places of work, surrounded by the fumes of the furniture trade.
These new workshops replaced a block of “miserable, ill-ventilated, tumble-down” buildings that had sat on the site.
The decision by Gillum to fund the construction of purpose built workshops on his land with modest, but decently built homes above was a radical idea for the area. Unfortunately, constructing purpose built workshops is a lot more expensive than doing a bad conversion of an existing home, so the rents were higher, but the interior finishes basic.
When completed in 1863, The Builder magazine said that the interior of the homes suffered from a “degree of rudeness in the finishings internally, which may militate against the speedy occupation of the houses and shops by persons able to pay the amount of rent which would be required.”
Today, the shops are either empty or feeding hungry stomachs, the flats above occupied, but the original lofty aspirations for craftsmen living in harmony with their work seems to have faded.
Is it science, art, or maybe both. An art exhibition seeks to explore the connection that sees science turned into art, with rather variable end results.
Bringing together installations by Martina Amati, Daria Martin, Maria McKinney and John Walter, the exhibition considers how artists can give shape to the human experience, provoking ideas about our senses, our sexual health, our bodies’ limitations and reflections on our food chain.
The image you will see the most often in adverts for the exhibition is of the free-diver, floating in a sea of rich blue. This is actually a video art, and while I am a huge fan of the diving film, The Big Blue, this video art left me rather nonplused, which surprised me.
Elsewhere, a series of huge photos of bulls wearing sculptures made from the plastic artificial insemination straws used to breed animals these days on farms. They reminded me more of the way bulls can sometimes be decorated by Hindus for festivals.
While undeniably done well, again it’s a rather cold display of images that is too far divorced from the industrial reproduction of animal flesh for human consumption that maybe the artist was seeking to create.
A room of voices and sounds seeks to explore the curious condition of mirror-touch synaesthesia, a newly discovered neurological condition that causes people feel the sensation of what another person is touching.
The best though, not just for the topic, but for, well, frankly, looking like actual art — was a room devoted to HIV — where artists themselves often unwillingly collide with the very intimate reality of a medical condition.
Comprising sculpture, painting, video and performance, Alien Sex Club is laid out in the style of a ‘cruise maze’ (apparently) found in sex clubs and gay saunas. It’s a rich visual feast mixing images of viruses and medical instruments in pop-art designs.
Overall, it’s a bit of a mixed bag as a display, one part rather good, the others, well, you might like them, but I found them less appealing.
This is a piece of art hidden away on a quiet residential street in Chelsea that you are not going to stumble upon, unless your the sort of person who goes wandering around quiet residential streets looking for things to stumble upon.
These two monumental slabs of roughly hewn mahogany coloured granite were commissioned to go with the newish block of posh flats that it sits outside of, by Native Land, and created by the sculptor Simon Hitchens.
According to the artist, the “placing and location of the two forms has a relationship with the human scale, invoking an intimacy that belies the otherwise unyielding nature of the materials.”
“As a counterpoint, a man-made bronze form creates a unity of opposites: a perfect jigsaw fit if the two halves were united. Perhaps they are drifting apart, or coming together: nature and the man-made world, traditional and technological.”
Personally, I just think they look nice. And being hidden on a side street makes them the sort of thing to casually show off to a friend when passing nearby who will be awed at your incredible knowledge of London.
New images released by Crossrail have shown off construction progress across the route converting the construction sites into the Elizabeth line.
Construction of the Elizabeth line has entered its final stages; fit-out of the new Elizabeth line stations and tunnels is advanced with intensive work underway.
From the summer, Crossrail will begin handing over the completed infrastructure to TfL, who will lead the railway’s testing and commissioning phase ahead of the opening of the Elizabeth line in December this year.
Click on the photos to enlarge:
Paddington station: Two sets of 21 metre long escalators at each end of the new station will bring passengers into the bright and spacious concourse directly below Eastbourne Terrace.
Bond Street western ticket hall: Flooded with natural light, the new Davies Street ticket hall at Bond Street will lead passengers down to the platforms 28 metres below ground.
Tottenham Court Road western ticket hall: The spacious new ticket hall off Dean Street in Soho is dark and cinematic, with black the colour of choice for the glass and stainless steel inside the station.
Tottenham Court Road eastern ticket hall: The integrated ticket hall below St Giles Circus on Oxford Street will at provide access to the Central, Northern and Elizabeth lines, as well as access to a new public plaza designed around two new glass entrances directly beneath Centre Point.
Liverpool Street station: Nestled in one of the City’s leading financial centres, the new Elizabeth line Liverpool Street station platforms 30 metres below ground stretch from Moorgate in the west to Broadgate in the east.
Canary Wharf station: The station ticket hall is accessed via eight long-rise escalators from the promenade level entrances at either end of the building.
Woolwich: Passing through the naturally lit ticket hall, passengers will descend below ground to a 276 metre-long box station, which sits directly below a major new residential development site.
Whitechappel: In addition to the new surface station, the tunnels deep down are being fitted out.
Tunnel fit-out: A significant amount of work continues in the Elizabeth line tunnels below ground bringing together the complicated interfaces between track, power, signalling and trains.
Old Oak Common depot: This will be the main depot for the Elizabeth line where the majority of the fleet will be stabled and maintenance work carried out.
Later this year, there will be a mass participation art event taking place later this year, and the organisers are calling for participants.
One hundred years after women got the vote, women and girls across the UK are being invited to come and mark this historic moment as part of a living portrait of women in the 21st century.
On Sunday 10th of June, women and girls in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London will walk together as part of this celebratory mass participation artwork. Wearing either green, white or violet, the colours of the suffrage movement, the PROCESSIONS will appear as a flowing river of colour through the streets.
One hundred women artists have been commissioned to work with organisations and communities across the UK to create one hundred centenary banners
If you are of the female gender, or identity thusly, then register here to be part of the event.
PROCESSIONS is commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenaryand produced by Artichoke. With support from the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, and from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
This is a a pocket park that you can’t visit – yet. You will be able to soon though as it’s about to be restored and opened to the public.
The Huguenot burial ground at the top of East Hill, also known as Mount Nod is a sealed off patch of graveyard that’s also home to a number of listed tombs and graves.
For many years it was unclear who legally owned the land, meaning public funds could not be spent on preserving its listed structures, but earlier this month Wandsworth council was awarded the title deeds and can now carry out work to improve and conserve this historic green space.
The walled burial ground, which covers just under half an acre, lies at the top of East Hill and was opened in c.1687 as a burial ground for the French Church which stood opposite Wandsworth parish church of All Saints, and was set aside for the Huguenot refugees — people who fled religious persecution in France after embracing the Protestant faith.
Many of these refugees from across the Channel settled in Wandsworth, attracted by the cloth and textile mills which lined the banks of the River Wandle — bringing their skills as hat and dress-makers that helped establish 17th and 18th century Wandsworth as a centre of fashion and clothes making.
Today’s Wandsworth borough coat of arms features the tears of the Huguenots – representing the tears of joy they shed at finding sanctuary in this part of London.
Church services in French were performed at the old Presbyterian Chapel in Wandsworth for over a century after the first Huguenots arrived. Victorian social commentator James Thorne, writing in 1876, stated that “gradually the French element became absorbed in the surrounding population, but Wandsworth was long famous for hat making.”
The cemetery contains around 140 small graves, and a number of historic tombs, notably those of Peter Paggen (d.1720) of Wandsworth Manor House, and John Gilham (d.1728).
The burial ground closed in 1854 and today is mainly grass with trees and shrubs around the perimeters. The metal railings were replaced in 2003, but other than that, the grounds have lain untouched while ownership was sorted out.
It contains a number of historic tombs dating from as far back as 1687 while in 1911 a memorial was erected by the Wandsworth Society in memory of the Huguenots and their contribution to the life of the borough. A number of the tombs are in a dangerous state and need to be restored before this pocket park can be opened to the public, but when it does, it’ll join the many other former parks that are home to the dead, and offering leisure to the living.
Planning permission has been given for the tennis museum at the Wimbledon tennis club to be revamped.
Officially, the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s museum, they are planing a rooftop extension and external façade alterations to the existing Museum Building.
The amendments to the external façade of the Museum Building is intended to result in a design that is more in keeping with the appearance of the adjoining Centre Court and No.1 Court.
The extension consists of a glazed, set-back rooftop extension which is clad with a series of ‘fins’ in a draped curve arrangement, similar to that of a tennis net. In keeping with the rooftop extension, the top and bottom of the existing level two are also proposed to be clad in ‘fins’ matching those above.
The museum is open to the public when the Wimbledon championships are not taking place, and construction is expected to start this August.
Just under 400 years ago, a British physician was to overturn 1,500 years of thinking about how the human body worked, with considerable opposition from the venue now hosting an exhibition about him.
William Harvey was a very well connected man with close links to Royalty, and hence wealth, who did something few were doing at the time – experiments. It wasn’t that easy, as experimenting on the human body was frowned upon, and even an edict from Queen Elizabeth I only granted four dead criminals per year for medical studies.
Not withstanding that shortage, William Harvey, building on work done by other researchers, was able to show that the traditional view of how blood was circulated around the body was utterly wrong, and in doing so began an era where long held views were subjected to experimentation for the first time, and often found wanting.
Squeamish minded readers will be reassured that this exhibition, at the Royal College of Physicians is mostly books and and drawings. None of the red fluid is on display.
Harvey’s researches were first shown off in a book which was published not in England as might have been expected, but in Frankfurt, which was the beating heart of European book publishing.
His book caused a storm, as it overturned the teachings of the Greek physician, Galen, whose views on how blood circulated had reigned unchallenged for over 1,500 years.
A 16th century volume of the ancient Greek physician Galen, advancing his theories of blood, now sits side by side with a version of the pioneering medieval anatomist Mondino de Luzzi’s guidebook to dissection from the 15th century.
Some of the retorts that were published are on display here as well, and most notable is that many of them refused, or failed, to carry out any actual experiments to prove their side of the debate. This was Harvey’s great victory, as over time, and it took a while, most physicians came around to his way of thinking, based as it was on provable facts.
The age of reason was upon us.
Despite his initial lackluster reception from Royal College of Physicians, he left them a large legacy of lands, a library, museum and endowments. Though much of this bequest was lost in the Great Fire of London, it is still funding an annual lecture and dinner for the College, and the display concludes with modern day versions of Harvey’s original book – the modern lectures.
A selection of Harvey’s rare remaining personal effects are also on display, including his original Diploma of Medicine, awarded by the University of Padua in 1602, the demonstration rod he used during his lectures, and letters written in his own hand.
It’s a feast of old books and drawings that tells the story of one of the great battles of medical history.