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Midland Grand Hotel in London

Midland Grand Hotel

Maybe you did not know that the huge hotel that is located above the St Pancras station is called the Midland Grand Hotel. Acually since 2011 it has been called St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel.

The hotel was opened in 1873 and was built by Sir George Gilbert Scott, the same architect who built the Albert Memorial, obviously a lover of the neo-Gothic style. His nephew Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was the architect of Battersea Power Station and the designer of the red telephone booths.

In any case, the Midland Railway Company wanted a hotel for its new St Pancras station and Gilbert Scott won the competition. The architect used the same plan he had used for a government office building in Whitehall that had not been accepted and was never built.

Gilbert Scott was happy that he was finally able to build his great Gothic idea at least once in London. The palace, in fact, among towers, towers and spiers is really an example of Gothic revival architecture. The hotel had 250 rooms and was a luxury hotel with a massive central staircase.

Although considered a luxurious hotel, it did not last long, in fact in 1935 it was already closed, probably due to the fact that the type of customer who loved decadent luxury was on the decrease. The building was kept empty for decades.

Foto: © Copyright Richard Croft and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Since 1967, the Midland Grand Hotel has been a protected building and for several years was home to British Rail offices, at the time the state railways. With the privatization of the railways in the early 90s, the building stayed again empty for a while until it was renovated to become today’s hotel.


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All Hallows by the Tower – a church in London you should definitely visit

all-hallows-by-the-tower

Many visitors to London forget the many old churches, several of those can be found in what  is called The City of London. Those found in today’s City have almost all been damaged or destroyed by the Great Fire and/or by the German bombings during the Second World War. Many have been rebuilt and should be visited, an example is the church of All Hallows by the Tower.

The oldest church in the City of London

This is a church that managed to survive the Great Fire but was damaged during the Second World War, whose real name is  All Hallows Barking. The reason for the name is that the land where it stood belonged to the abbey of Barking. We are talking of a timea few centuries before the year 1000, just to give you an idea of how old this place of prayer is.

Foto: © Copyright John Salmon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

In fact this church, the oldest in the City of London, was founded in 675, 300 years before the Tower of London! The original structure no longer exists, but you can still admire an old Saxon arch. At the end of 1100 Richard I  had a chapel built inside All Hallows by the Tower. It is said that his heart was buried here (obviously after his death).  But the chapel was destroyed by Henry VIII at the time of the dissolution of churches and monasteries. Therefore we will never know.

In 1640 the church was partially reAll Hallows by the Towerbuilt. It was then damaged by a gunpowder explosion that destroyed at least 50 houses a few years later. If the church survived the Great Fire in London it is also thanks to the efforts of a  Admiral Penn who tried to protect it from the flames. He also happened to be the father of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania.

Foto: © Copyright Christine Matthews and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

In 1940 the church was bombed by the Germans and almost completely destroyed, the walls remained, together with the tower (which was rebuilt in 1600) and some medieval objects.

The church was then completely rebuilt in the 1950s,  thanks to donations from all over the world. The pulpit you will see now was that of St Swithin’s church, which was also destroyed by bombs.

Visit All Hallows by the Tower

When you visit the church now you can also see a small museum of Roman and Saxon artifacts that have been excavated here. Notice now in many panoramic views of the City of London from the Thames, you can see the green tower of All Hallows by the Tower.

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London SW5 – Earls Court area

Earls court area

The Earls Court area has  some beautiful streets, not surprising as it is in fact an extension of Kensington and Chelsea, although many of these houses have been divided into rooms or converted into hostels and has become a point of arrival for many more than a place where to settle down.

Not that many years ago it was full of Australian and New Zealander travellers and was nicknamed Kangaroo Court, but  in the following years Australians have preferred  less central areas which are less expensive and more livable as Acton and Willesden.

Photo: © Copyright Danny P Robinson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The Earls Court area has a choice of shared rooms, many of which, although relatively expensive, are of poor quality and are often rented to passing travellers, Eu students of English and recent immigrants.

It is an area where one can stay for a short period but not to be considered for a long stay, unless you have  a substantial budget that allows you to rent a decent apartment.

In the Earls Court area families, children or the elderly are almost absent. Most of the inhabitants are recent immigrants or passing people living in temporary homes. Over 70% of those who live there at any moment is temporary and staying from a few days to a few months.

There are also some council houses estates that have a more permanent population. But as in many other areas of London their numbers are decreasing, some neighborhoods have been demolished to make room for luxury apartments often bought for investment. Others have been bought by the tenants and often sold privately.

The Earls Court area certainly has a multicultural feeling, and there are plenty of lively pubs even if you might not meet  many Londoners. It is not a very green area and was also famous for Earls Court Exhibition Center, where there were fairs, various events and concerts.

Earls Court was a place of exhibitions and fairs from around 1870 and at the end of the 19th century it also had a Ferris Wheel that could hold more people than the London Eye! The Earls Court Exhibition Centre was opened in 1937  and closed in 2014, after that it was demolished together with the neighboring district to give space to a shopping centre and luxury apartments. The new project is said to be completed in 2033.

Earls Court has many inexpensive hotels and a good choice of fairly affordable restaurants around Earls Court Road.

Where is the Earls Court Area?

It is found in the borough of Kensington & Chelsea and is connected to the rest of London by the District Line and the Piccadilly Line. Earl’s Station on the District Line is a major hub with part of the line branching out to Olympia, Wimbledon and Edgware Road. The station has two exits, one on the Earls Court Road which is the one used by most and the other one on the Warwick Road, was meant to take people to the Exhibition Centre.
Note that the underground station is called Earl’s Court while the area is called Earls Court. The name comes from the fact that in the Middle Ages the earls of Oxford had a house in this area.
Photo: © Copyright Shazz and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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A brief history of the Liberty store in London

Liberty store in London

The famous London Liberty store department store opened 1875, particularly well know for its floral designs. Liberty in London gave the name in Italian to the Liberty style that  in English has a French name instead and is called Art Nouveau.

The shop was founded by Arthur Lasenby Liberty, the son of a Chesham (in the Chilterns) fabric merchant, who worked for an importer of shawls from India. In 1875 he opened his shop on 218th of Regent Street, calling it East India House and selling silks from India and Asia. He later decided to sell other products from Asia, including many from Japan.

Photo: © Copyright PAUL FARMER and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Within a few years, he was in the position to open two more stores and soon he was able to buy all the buildings from 140 to 150 of Regent Street and create a large store. The shop was then called Chesham House to remember its birthplace. It immediately had a major success among the well-to-do classes in London and beyond.

Arthur Liberty also designed  costumes for the opera and theatre, in fact we remember those made for Gilbert & Sullivan and there were many collaborations between Liberty and artists such as William Morris, Alma-Tadema or Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Mr Liberty died in 1917.

The Tudor styled shop at Great Marlborough Street you see today opened in 1925. It was built using the wood of two ships: HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan. The Liberty store in London was decorated by Italian carvers and windows with colored mosaics.

The side of the building facing Regent Street has a series of statues and a 35 meters frieze depicting the wealth of distant countries  and  a statue of Britannia. This was sculpted by Doman and Clapperton but a classical facade next to a Tudor one did not please critics at the time.

Since then the Liberty store in London has increased its product lines which also include furniture and stationery products.

Liberty opened branches in Manchester, Brighton, York and Chester which were then mostly closed in the 90s as the decision was only to open shops in airports. Since 2010 Liberty belongs to a holding company.

Where can you find the Liberty store in London?

It is easy to find in Central London, not far from Oxford Circus underground station. It is open from 10 am to 9 pm every day except Sundays when it is open from 11:30 to 6pm.

 

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10 villages in London you should visit

villages in london

For centuries the centre and heart of London was the City, basically the  historical area found more or less within the medieval walls. Other parts that are now considered to be in central London were basically in the middle of the countryside. Some of these are old villages in London.

As you know,  there are so many parts of London that were villages and only from the 1800s with the advent of the railway they were slowly absorbed by what we now call Greater London. Now they look like they have always been London, unless you look closely!

Some of these villages in London have been destroyed, others have lost their main characteristics and buildings, while others despite being in the city still have that village feeling, often thanks to renovations of the last 20 years. The important thing to have an authentic atmosphere is the absence of  any stores of large chains with shops, restaurants, pubs and places to sit down and drink a coffee or a pint. These give, at leas, the impression of being unique and characteristic.

Real estate agents love to market the village idea,  in fact the proximity to a village can greatly increase the prices of a property. You will find many of these villages in London, some have the name ‘village’, others do not. Some are very famous, others less so. Here we will see 10 of them.

Where to find villages in London?

stoke
Stoke Newington

Foto: © Copyright ceridwen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Greenwich 

It definitely has the atmosphere of a large village and anyway you do not feel in London, you will also find many places to eat, a famous market and many shops of maritime style objects. As you can guess the area has lots of touristy things to see and do.

Chelsea Green

Around the neo-Gothic church of St Luke’s in Chelsea you will find Chelsea Green, a collection of food shops, a few bars and a few boutiques. The majority of shops are located on Elystan Street which emerges on the square with  the green in the middle.

Victoria Park Village

Recently renovated with several new restaurants and gastropubs, it is a village of only 4 streets that meet. However, it has an almost rural atmosphere, thanks to the many flowers. As the name reveals you will find it near Victoria Park in the East End of London.

little venice
Crouch End
A place where families really live and it shows. It is a creative area with nearly half of the inhabitants working in the creative industry. It is near Alexandra Park and Palace and has a variety of shops and good restaurants. It is said Bob Dylan liked it here, well there is plaque remembering that he stayed here. 

Whitecross Village

It is mainly famous mainly for its market, you should visit it at lunchtime when the place is filled with food and you will have a choice that you can not imagine. It is located near Old Street and Shoreditch, therefore it is easy to reach if you are in Central London.

Wimbledon Village

Much better known is this small village that includes some pubs, shops and restaurants. It is also located near Wimbledon Common which with its old mill will give you the impression of being really in the countryside.

victoria park
Victoria Park

Walthamstow Village

If you want to live in a village in London and you can not afford Wimbledon or Chelsea, Walthamstow Village is still the least expensive London village, but it does not mean it is not good. This is a lovely village. There are often parties and other events for those who live here, it is certainly not a boring place.

Foto: © Copyright Martin Addison and licensed for reuseunder this Creative Commons Licence.

Little Venice

If you expect to find Venice, you will be disappointed but the place has a certain charm, especially if you like colourful narrow boats. Every year at the beginning of May there is a big canal boat festival called Canalway Cavalcade which consists of a whole weekend full of events and plenty of boats.

Church Street,  Stoke Newington

Another area reinvented recently but where you will find a good selection of food from around the world, independent shops and weekend markets. Clearly now it is  very fashionable to go there.