WELCOME TO THE APRIL LIST
For my list of suggestions for April 2014 I've tried to present a varied assortment of the off-beat and the unusual.
There is the opportunity to pop down to Greenwich and go aboard HMS Defender, and there is also the opportunity to witness the execution of a medieval nobleman.
For a suggested pub this month I've featured the George Inn on Borough High Street, which those who have joined me on my Charles Dickens walk will be familiar with.
I've also included Somerset House, which is now allowing visitors to see the parts they don't normally get to see and, if all this isn't reason enough to get out and about in London, then how about the Battle of Britain Bunker?
So, all in all, there are some great locations to get out and about to in London and, as per usual, they're all free, so enjoy.
Just to remind you that I also post updates and additional venues on our Facebook page, so you might like to join us and like us (as in Facebook likes!) to ensure you're kept fully up to date on what's happening in London during the weeks ahead.
As ever, if something changes in the weeks ahead I will put the update on the Facebook Page, in order not to bombard you with emails.
So, without further ado, here is my April list of ten things to do in London.
10 THINGS TO DO IN LONDON APRIL 2015
EXPLORE SOMERSET HOUSE
Upstairs, Downstairs and Lots of Stairs!
Strand, London, WC2R 1LA
Thursday at 13.15 and 14.45 and every Saturday at 12.15, 13.15, 14.15 and 15.15.
Collect your free tickets from the Information Desk in the Seamen's Hall, South Building. Tickets available from 10.30am. Be sure to come early to avoid disappointment as the tours are extremely popular
The Nearest Underground Station is Temple
Think you know Somerset House? Think again. There's a lot more to this wonderful building than immediately meets the eye and now you can go behind the scenes, so to speak, and reach the parts that the casual visitor never gets to see.
The tour, which lasts round about an hour, will take you from the shady world of Tudor politics and intrigue to the illuminating world of Georgian Enlightenment.
You'll see grand, and impressive staircases, and you'll even get to go beneath this magnificent place and explore the subterranean depths that have been featured numerous movies and television dramas from Sherlock Holmes to serialisations of the works of Charles Dickens. Speaking of Dickens, the tour also provides a rare opportunity to go inside the old "Roman" Bath on Strand Lane, which features in David Copperfield.
STEP ABOARD HMS DEFENDER
Old Royal Naval College, King William Walk, Greenwich , SE10 9NN London
25th and 26th April 2015
Admission is free
The Nearest Station is Cutty Sark DLR
HMS Defender is one of the UK's newest Destroyers and, this month, you will be able to tour her for free when she arrives at Greenwich.
Given this is an operational naval vessel, security is going to be tight and getting on board sounds like it will be a mission in its own right!
First off, you need to get your tickets in advance and they are proving massively popular. You will then need to take photo ID with you.
On arrival, you'll then need to go through security screening at the Old Royal Naval College.
Having got through, or should that be over(?) these hurdles, there is then a free boat transfer to the vessel itself.
The visit will take around 90 minutes.
WITNESS THE EXECUTION OF THOMAS, EARL OF LANCASTER
On display until 28th September 2015
The Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN
Mon-Sun: 10am - 6pm
The Nearest Underground Stations are St Paul's or Barbican
There are many, many reasons to visit the wonderful Museum of London. But there is now another to add to that long list, the chance to view a rare devotional panel showing the capture, trial and execution of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster.
Lancaster, Edward 11's cousin, was a major player amongst a group of powerful barons who made attempts to curb the King's power at a time when, it was widely felt that, the King himself was abusing that power.
In 1322 Edward defeated his cousin and was publicly executed for treason near Pontefract Castle.
It wasn't long before miracles were being reported around Thomas's tomb and, in death, the troublesome baron soon achieved cult status, and panels such as this were mass produced as blatant pieces of political propaganda.
This panel was found during excavations on the banks of the Thames. You can read the full story here.
TIME FOR A SOAKING
THE NEAL YARD WATER CLOCK
21-23 Shorts Gardens, London WC2
To check what days the gardens are open on you will need to call 0207 937 7994
The Nearest Underground Station is Tottenham Court Road
This is one of those wonderful eccentricities that you occasionally come across on the streets of London.
Created in 1982 by the aquatic horologists (I'd love to be one of those!) Tim Hunkin and Andy Plant, the clock originally adorned the front of Michael Loftus's Neal's Yard Wholefood Warehouse.
Much has now changed. In fact the clock itself doesn't actually work anymore, but there can be no doubt that when people actually spot it - and, in all honesty, it's difficult to miss - they can't help but crack a smile and enjoy a delightful example of street whimsy from days of yore.
REMEMBER MEGGIE ALBANISI
St Martin's Theatre, West Street, WC2H 9NZ
The Nearest Underground Station is Tottenham Court Road
The St Martin's Theatre is the venue where Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap is celebrating its ceaseless run and, if you've not seen it, then this is who did it.......
But many who visit the theatre hardly give a glance to a poignant little plaque located on the wall of the right staircase just inside the foyer.
It was created by Eric Gill and commissioned by Basil Dean to commemorate the largely forgotten actress Meggie Albanisi who, but for her untimely death at a tragically young age, may well have joined the greats of the 20th century.
Her story is a truly sad one.
You can see the plaque from the pavement outside, or, during opening times, just pop in and look at it inside the foyer.
STEP BACK TO WORLD WAR TWO
THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN BUNKER
The Friends of No 11(F) Group Operations Rooms c/o RAF Northolt, Ruislip HA4 6NG
Admission Free, but donations requested.
Open on the third weekend of each month between April and August 2015 Booking is essential..
It was following a visit to the No. 11 Group Operations Room at RAF Uxbridge, that Winston Churchill uttered his memorable words "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed, by so many to so few."
The No.11(Fighter) Group Operations Room was responsible for planning and coordinating the air defence of London and South East England during World War II. As well as bearing the brunt of the Luftwaffe onslaught during the Battle of Britain, the Operations Room was responsible for controlling fighter operations during the Dunkirk Evacuations and the Normandy Landings, so its contribution to our history (and our present) is immeasurable.
Although it closed in 2010, the public can now visit what is commonly know as "The Battle of Britain Bunker."
EXPERIENCE A GALLERIED COACHING INN
The George Inn, 75-77 Borough High Street, SE1 1NH
Mon - Sat: 11:00-23:00 Sun: 12:00-22:30
The Nearest Underground Station is London Bridge
The George Inn has the distinction of being London's only surviving galleried coaching inn.
Built in 1677, and known to Charles Dickens, it is typical of the type of establishment that used to adorn Borough High Street in the days when it was a terminus for the many coaches that came into London from the south of the City.
The arrival of the railways sounded the death knell for the coaching industry and, one by one, the inns began to vanish from the streets of the Capital.
With only the George surviving, the National Trust stepped in and saved it to remind us of a past part of London's heritage that, in all honesty, is probably best looked back at rather than experienced!
The George is a true time capsule and well worth a visit.
PICK NOSES IN SOHO.
The Seven Noses of Soho
Originally an artistic protest at the appearance of the CCTV cameras on the streets of London, The Seven Noses of Soho have achieved almost mythical status amongst those in the know (s) and all manner of urban myth has sprung up to explain their purpose.
Not least amongst these is the claim that if you can find all seven you are guaranteed unlimited wealth.
Sadly, your humble compiler has found just six, which is why he is still your humble compiler!
But, hunting for them makes for a great outing on the streets of London and, since there is a pub close to almost every location, it can also make a great social event for friends and family.
I've done a full article about them which you can read here.
ENJOY A FREE EDUCATIONAL LECTURE
Lectures are free
Gresham College is named after Sir Thomas Gresham, son of Sir Richard Gresham, who was Lord Mayor in 1537/38 and who conceived the idea for what is now the Royal Exchange at the Heart of the City of London.
A keen proponent of Education amongst the citizenry of London, Sir Thomas left his estate and control of his benefaction to the City of London Corporation and the Mercers' Company, which operate through the Joint Grand Gresham Committee.
Gresham College is an independent institution, governed by a Council and with the Lord Mayor of London as its President.
In addition to the free public lectures, the College runs occasional seminars and conferences, and provides support to initiatives by the Gresham Professors and others which seek to reinterpret the "new learning" of Sir Thomas Gresham's time in contemporary terms.
DISCOVER HAMPSTEAD'S SECRET GARDEN
North End Way, NW3
Nearest Underground: Hampstead or Golders Green
I first featured this great venue way back in September 2014. But, with the summer now very much upon us, for the time being at least, I feel that a return would not go amiss. It is a truly beautiful location.
The Hampstead Pergola and Hill Garden is one of the most hauntingly beautiful gardens you will ever encounter and is, most certainly, one of London's hidden treasures.
It's origins go back to 1904 when Lord Leverhulme purchased the adjoining grand house and, in 1905, set about creating a landscaped garden which he added to and expanded over succeeding years to create his glorious Pergola as a setting for extravagant Edwardian Garden Parties.
This place, overlooking the wild expanse of Hampstead Heath, is a glorious place at any time of the year, but in the autumn it is particularly lovely.
You can get there by taking the underground to either Hampstead Station, or Golders Green Station and then getting a bus. Ask the driver to put you off at the Old Bull and Bush Pub ta dah dah dah dah (yes that one(!)) on North End Road.
With your back to the pub cross over the road, turn left and keep walking until you arrive at a large red brick house on the right. The track to its right takes you to the Pergola.
After your visit you might want to walk back to the Bull and Bush to enjoy a meal and/or a drink, or if you're feeling really energetic, walk across the heath to the Spaniard's Inn.
You can get a PDF on the Pergola from the City of London website here.
I hope you find the April list useful and that you get to enjoy at least some of the things that I have suggested.
If you require further directions to any of the places suggested could you ask it via the Facebook page as that then enables me to answer quickly and, should it be something that everybody wants to know, it becomes useful to everyone.
All the best. Richard