Thursday, 5 September 2013

London Icon's

Today we went into London to see the many icon's of this thriving city. Our first stop was Westminster where we saw the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben by the Westminster Bridge. Big Ben the Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster officially named Saint Stephen's Tower is commonly known as the Big Ben. The tower is one of London's most famous landmarks. The clock inside the tower was the world's largest when it was installed in the middle of the 19th century. The name Big Ben actually refers to the clock's hour bell, the largest of the clock's five bells. The other four are used as quarter bells. There were two bells cast as the clock tower's hour bell. A first, 16 ton weighing bell was cast by John Warner and Sons in 1856. Since the Clock Tower was not yet completed, the bell was hung temporarily in the Palace Yard. The bell soon cracked so it was recast in 1858 in the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a 13.5 ton bell. Unfortunately soon after this bell was placed in the belfry in July 1859, it cracked as well. This time, instead of yet again recasting the bell, the crack was repaired and a lighter hammer was used to prevent any more cracks. The hour bell was probably named after Benjamin Hall, the First Commissioner of Works. Some sources however claim the bell was named after Benjamin Caunt, a British heavyweight boxing champion. The Clock was the largest in the world and is still the largest in Great-Britain. The clock faces have a diameter of almost 25ft (7.5m). The hour hand is 9ft or 2.7m long and the minute hand measures 14ft (4.25m) long. The clock is known for its reliability, it has rarely failed during its long life span. Even after the nearby House of Commons was destroyed by bombing during World War II, the clock kept on chiming. The clock's mechanism, designed by Edmund Beckett Denison. The clock's rate is adjusted by simply adding small pennies on the shoulder of the pendulum. The tower was constructed between 1843 and 1858 as the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster. The palace is now better known as the Houses of Parliament. The clock tower rises 316ft high (96m) and consists of a 200ft (61m) high brick shaft topped by a cast iron framed spire. The clock faces are 180ft / 55m above ground level.

The Boadicea statue shows the female leader of the bloody revolt by Iceni Britons against Roman rule in Eastern England in AD60. A great victory was won at Colchester (Camulodunum), then the capital of Roman Britain, then at London, she was later defeated by a highly disciplined Roman army. She died by taking poison after the defeat. The place of the final battle and her death are unknown.

Churchin Museum

The Houses of Parliament also known as the Palace of Westminster is the seat of Britain's two parliamentary houses, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. In the middle of the 11th century, King Edward the Confessor had moved his court to the Palace of Westminster, situated on a central site near the river Thames. In 1265 a parliament was created with two houses: the Lords and the Commons. The House of Lords met at the Palace of Westminster while the House of Commons did not have a permanent location. After King Henry VIII moved his court to Whitehall Palace in 1530, the House of Lords continued to meet in Westminster. In 1547 the House of Commons also moved here, confirming Westminster as the central seat of government, a position it still holds today. 

In 1834 a fire destroyed the Palace of Westminster , leaving only the Jewel Tower, the crypt and cloister of St. Stephens and Westminster Hall intact. After the fire, a competition was organized to create a new building for the two houses of parliament. A design by Sir Charles Barry and his assistant Augustus Welby Pugin was chosen from 97 entries. They created a large but balanced complex in neo Gothic style and incorporated the buildings that survived the fire. The whole complex was finished in 1870, more than 30 years after construction started. It includes the Clock Tower, Victoria Tower, House of Commons, House of Lords, Westminster Hall and the Lobbies.

Big Ben The most famous part of Charles Barry's design is the elegant clock tower. Originally called St. Stephen's Tower, it was soon named after the tower's largest bell, the Big Ben. A light at the top of the tower is illuminated when Parliament is sitting at night. The Commons Chamber, where the House of Commons meets, was destroyed during the Second World War but rebuilt in 1950 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in the same neo Gothic style. The Commons Chamber's interior (with green coloured benches) is rather austere compared to the lavishly decorated Lords Chamber (with red coloured benches). Over the centuries the balance of power has moved from the elitist House of Lords to the more agitated House of Commons, where the governing party and the opposition are seated opposite each other with exactly two sword lengths and one foot separating the two parties. 

Central Lobby One of several lobbies in the Houses of Parliament is the Central Lobby where people can meet the Members of Parliament and persuade them to defend their interests. Hence the verb 'to lobby'. Victoria Tower The tower opposite the Big Ben is the Victoria Tower, built in 1860. The tower contains the records of both the House of Lords and the House of Commons since 1497. During the parliamentary year the Union Flag is hoisted on top of the 98m tall tower. Westminster Hall The oldest part of the Houses of Parliament is Westminster Hall, dating back to 1097. The large hammer beam roof was built in the 14th century and replaced the original roof which was supported by two rows of pillars. The hall is one of Europe's largest unsupported medieval halls.

Houses of Parliament

Westminster Abbey is steeped in more than a thousand years of history. Benedictine monks first came to this site in the middle of the tenth century, establishing a tradition of daily worship which continues to this day. The Abbey has been the coronation church since 1066 with the exception of Edward V and Edward VIII and is the final resting place of seventeen monarchs. The present church, begun by Henry III in 1245, is one of the most important Gothic buildings in the country, with the medieval shrine of an Anglo-Saxon saint still at its heart. Westminster Abbey is also the place where some of the most significant people in the nation's history are buried or commemorated. Taken as a whole the tombs and memorials comprise the most significant single collection of monumental sculpture anywhere in the United Kingdom being the burial ground for numerous politicians, sovereigns and artists. The abbey is stuffed with tombs, statues and monuments. Many coffins even stand upright due to the lack of space. In total approximately 3300 people are buried in the church and cloisters. Some of the most famous are Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton and David Livingstone. The history of the abbey starts in 1050, when King Edward The Confessor decided to build a monastery. Only a small part of this Norman monastery, consecrated in 1065, survived. The Cloister was originally built in the 13th century. It was completely rebuilt after it was destroyed by a fire in 1298. The cloister was used by the Benedictine monks for meditation and exercise.

Standing as it does between Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, and commonly called "the parish church of the House of Commons", St Margaret's has witnessed many important events in the life of this country. The Anglican church of St. Margaret, Westminster Abbey, is situated in the grounds of Westminster Abbey on Parliament Square, and is the parish church of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom in London. It is dedicated to Margaret of Antioch.

The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases, and for criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It hears cases of the greatest public or constitutional importance affecting the whole population. 1 October 2009 marks a defining moment in the constitutional history of the United Kingdom: transferring judicial authority away from the House of Lords, and creating a Supreme Court for the United Kingdom in the historic setting of the former Middlesex Guildhall on Parliament Square. In this location, The Supreme Court forms part of a pre-existing quadrangle made up of the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Treasury.

The Household Cavalry Museum is a living museum in the heart of Horse Guards, Whitehall, London, one of the city’s most historic buildings. Dating from 1750, it is still the headquarters of the Household Division, in which the Household Cavalry has performed the Queen’s Life Guard in a daily ceremony that has remained broadly unchanged for over 350 years.

St James Park includes The Mall and Horse Guards Parade and is at the heart of ceremonial London, providing the setting for spectacular pageants including the annual Trooping the Colour. St James's Park is the oldest Royal Park in London and is surrounded by three palaces. The most ancient is Westminster, which has now become the Houses of Parliament, St James's Palace and of course, the best known, Buckingham Palace.

Duck Island Swiss Chalet 1841 for a British Bird Keeper 

View from the park of Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace the official London residence and principal workplace of the British monarch, it has served as the official London residence of Britain's sovereigns since 1837 and today is the administrative headquarters of the Monarch. The privilege of guarding the Sovereign traditionally belongs to the Household Troops, better known as ‘the Guards’, who have carried out this duty since 1660. For operational and other reasons, this privilege is periodically extended to other regiments of the British Army. The Guards consist of five infantry regiments, the Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards, and two regiments of the Household Cavalry, the Life Guards and Blues and Royals. Most of the Guards will have seen action overseas. 

Set in the heart of royal London at Hyde Park Corner, Wellington Arch was built in 1825-7 as part of a campaign to improve the royal parks. Intended as a victory arch proclaiming Wellington's defeat of Napoleon, it is crowned by the largest bronze sculpture in Europe, depicting the Angel of Peace descending on the ‘Quadriga’ or four-horsed chariot of War.

Views from atop the Arch

Hyde Park is one of London's eight Royal Parks one of the largest parks in central London, famous for its Speakers' Corner. The park was the site of the Great Exhibition of 1851, for which the Crystal Palace was designed by Joseph Paxton. Covering 350 acres and is home to a number of famous landmarks including the Serpentine Lake and Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain.

This unique Memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales was opened by Her Majesty The Queen on 6th July 2004. The fountain was built with the best materials, talent and technology. It contains 545 pieces of Cornish granite, each shaped by the latest computer-controlled machinery and pieced together using traditional skills. The design aims to reflect Diana's life, water flows from the highest point in two directions as it cascades, swirls and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom. The water is constantly being refreshed and is drawn from London's water table. The Memorial also symbolises Diana's quality and openness. There are three bridges where you can cross the water and go right to the heart of the fountain.

On the shores of the Serpentine in Hyde Park, overlooking the lake and the Diana Memorial Fountain, stands the beautiful sculpture, Isis. Inspired by the Egyptian goddess of nature, Isis was created by British sculptor Simon Gudgeon
The Albert Memorial is situated in Kensington Gardens, directly to the north of the Royal Albert Hall. It was commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her beloved husband, Prince Albert who died of typhoid in 1861. The memorial was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the Gothic Revival style. Opened in July 1872 by Queen Victoria, with the statue of Albert ceremonially "seated" in 1875, the memorial consists of an ornate canopy or pavilion, in the style of a Gothic ciborium over the high altar of a church, containing a statue of the prince facing south. The memorial is 176 feet (54 m) tall, took over ten years to complete, and cost £120,000 (the equivalent of about £10,000,000 in 2010). The cost was met by public subscription.

At the corners of the central area, and at the corners of the outer area, there are two allegorical sculpture programs: four groups depicting Victorian industrial arts and sciences (agriculture,commerce, engineering and manufacturing), and four more groups representing Europe, Asia, Africa and The Americas at the four corners, each continent-group including several ethnographic figures and a large animal. (A camel for Africa, a bison for the Americas, an elephant for Asia and a bull for Europe.)

The Royal Albert Hall is a concert hall on the northern edge of South Kensington, in the City of Westminster, best known for holding the annual summer Proms concerts since 1941. It has a capacity (depending on configuration of the event) of up to 5272 seats, however standing areas and stage specifications can increase or decrease this. The Hall is a registered charity held in trust for the nation and receives no public or central and local government funding. Since its opening by Queen Victoria in 1871, the world's leading artists from several performance genres have appeared on its stage and it has become one of the UK's most treasured and distinctive buildings. Each year it hosts more than 350 events including classical concerts, rock and pop, ballet and opera, sports, award ceremonies, school and community events, charity performances and banquets.

Kensington Palace was bought by William III and Mary II shortly after they took the throne from Mary's father, James II, in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. They bought the palace, then known as Nottingham House in the village of Kensington, as an escape from the damp palace of Whitehall. This move placed Kensington at the heart of Britain's court life during the 17th and 18th centuries. It was used as a home for the monarch through to the reign of George III. The favourite country retreat of both George I and George II, Kensington saw the first political manoeuvrings towards our present day constitutional monarchy. In the 19th century, Kensington was the home of the young Queen Victoria. She was christened in the Cupola room and continued to live in the palace up until she became queen in 1837. It was here, at Kensington, that Victoria first met her future husband, Prince Albert, and held her first Privy Council meeting as queen. Victoria also opened up the palace to the public for the first time in 1898. More recently residents have included the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret, and, of course, Kensington was Princess Diana's former home. The Princess of Wales lived in Apartment 8 at Kensington Palace from the time of her wedding to Prince Charles on 29 July 1981 until her death on 31 August 1997. The apartment was originally built in the 1720s but had been uninhabitable since the Second World War and was restored for the royal couple to move in to following their wedding.

The 16th anniversary of Diana's death still has people leaving tributes on the palace gates

Peter Pan Statue 1912 in Hyde Park

The Italian Garden Hyde Park

Trafalgar Square is a public space built around the area formerly known as Charing Cross. It is in the borough of the City of Westminster. At its centre is Nelson's Column, which is guarded by four lion statues at its base. There are a number of statues and sculptures in the square, with one plinth displaying changing pieces of contemporary art. The square is also used for political demonstrations and community gatherings, such as the celebration of New Year's Eve. The name commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), a British naval victory of the Napoleonic Wars over France. The original name was to have been "King William the Fourth's Square", but George Ledwell Taylor suggested the name "Trafalgar Square".

From the 13th century on the area was the site of the King's Royal Hawks and later the Royal Mews. In 1812 the Prince Regent who would later become King George IV asked architect John Nash to redevelop the area. Nash had the terrain cleared but he died before his plans were realized. The new design for a large square was finally implemented between 1840 and 1845 under supervision of architect Sir Charles Barry, who is best known for his Houses of Parliament. Nelson's Column at the center of the square was built to commemorate the victory of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson over the French fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar on the 21st of October 1805. Nelson was fatally wounded during that famous battle off the Spanish coast. His body was taken back to London and buried in the St. Paul's Cathedral. The Corinthian column was built in 1842 and is approximately 170ft or 52 meters high (including the base). It was built after a design by William Railton that was chosen from a selection of 124 competition entries. On top of the column stands an 18ft (5.5 meter) tall statue of Lord Nelson, created by Edmund Hodges. At the base of the column are four huge lions modeled by Sir Edwin Landseer. They were added later, in 1868. Trafalgar square also contains a large number of statues and two fountains by Sir Edwin Lutyens, added in 1939. The square is surrounded by many great buildings. On the north side is the neo-classical National Gallery, built between 1834 and 1838. It houses a collection of more than 2300 paintings, including works by van Gogh, Renoir, Leonardo da Vinci and Claude Monet. St. Martin-in-the-Fields at the north-east corner is the St. Martin-in-the-Fields parish church. The church, with a large white steeple, was built in 1721 by James Gibbs and was used as a model for many churches, especially in the United States. It is the fourth church at this site, the first was built in the 13th century.

We made our way back to the river to find the Cleopatra’s Needle situated on the Embankment the riverside road that follows the north bank of the River Thames. Literally thousands walk pass the structure and do not give the monument a second glance. However, it has a good claim to be one of the most historic monuments in London, being the oldest man made structure in London. It was made in Egypt in 1460 BC, making it almost 3,500 years old. Despite its name it has nothing to do with the famous Queen. It is known as Cleopatra’s Needle as it was brought to London from Alexandria, the royal city of Cleopatra. The Needle arrived in England only in 1878. Great Britain wanted something big and noticeable to commemorate the British victory over Napoleon and paid £15,000 to transport it from Egypt. This ancient Egyptian obelisk is around 21 metres (68 feet) high and weighs around 180 tons. So today it stands on a prime position, with steps in front of it down to the water and two Egyptian sphinxes standing guard. On erection of the obelisk in 1878 a time capsule was concealed in the front part of the pedestal, it contained : A set of 12 photographs of the best looking English women of the day, a box of hairpins, a box of cigars, several tobacco pipes, a set of imperial weights, a baby’s bottle, some children’s toys, a shilling razor, a hydraulic jack and some samples of the cable used in erection, a 3′ bronze model of the monument, a complete set of British coins, a rupee, a portrait of Queen Victoria, a written history of the strange tale of the transport of the monument, plans on vellum, a translation of the inscriptions, copies of the bible in several languages, a copy of Whitaker’s Almanack, a Bradshaw Railway Guide, a map of London and copies of 10 daily newspapers.

The Victoria Embankment Gardens are a series of gardens on the north side of the River Thames between Blackfriars Bridge and Westminster Bridge. In 1874 gardens were created on the reclaimed land on the inward side of the roadway named Victoria Embankment.

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