And no, the Pantheon wasn’t just in Rome, London had one! Not exactly the same, but an interesting and curious story nonetheless. Opened in January 1772 on Oxford Street, the Pantheon was a place built for Londoners to meet that could rival the Leisure Gardens in Vauxhall. His garden had a pond with small fish, flowers and fruit trees.
The main hall was a vast rotunda modeled after the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and the Pantheon in Rome. As was fashionable in those years, the point of reference was however the ancient world. Considered at the time by many to be the most elegant recent structure in Europe, by recent we mean in 1772.
It was very successful especially among women who at that time could not venture far alone, but being a local they could walk in its gardens undisturbed. But its success did not last long and after a few years it became a theater. Even as a theater it did not have luck on its side, in fact it was almost immediately destroyed by a fire in 1792. It later became a state office, and then a covered market.
For a short time it was the home of the UK’s National Institute for Improvement of Artifacts which despite its pompous name did not have much success. For thirty years in the mid 19th century, it was a bazaar. In 1937 the building was bought by Marks and Spencer who had it demolished and built their main shop which you can still see today.
There is a real Roman temple in Windsor Park
About 8 km south of Windsor Castle, still within the large park is Virginia Water, a very beautiful place famous for its lake and waterfall. However, not everyone knows that there is a Roman temple here. The lake is surrounded by a path leading east to Blacknest Gate, which extends along the water’s edge on the south side of the lake where there are several woods. About a mile east of the gate, the avenue leads into a grassy clearing overlooking the water, leading to the ruins of the Temple of Augustus brought from Leptis Magna to what would now be Libya in 1818, restored and erected by Sir Jeffry Wyatville 1824-6.
The temple was seen by a guy called Warrington who heard that the Earl of Elgin had brought half the Parthenon to Britain, and thought of doing the same with this temple hoping to become a hero in his home country. He had problems with the locals, who wanted to keep the temple, not for artistic or historical interest, but to reuse the marble. So poor Warrington couldn’t get the whole temple. The temple is not only found here, In 1600 600 columns of Leptis were taken by Louis XIV for his palaces in Versailles and Paris.
In ancient times, the city of Leptis reached its greatest importance under the emperor Septimius Severus about 200 years after Christ. At that time it was the third most important city in Africa, after Carthage and Alexandria. The emperor had a new and magnificent forum built and enlarged the quays, as well as giving the city a huge basilica full of ornate carved columns. Thereafter, a dramatic decline began. A large tsunami in 365 devastated Leptis along with much of the Mediterranean coast. This was followed by the invasion of the Vandals in the fifth century and the arrival of Muslim armies in the seventh century which eventually left the city in ruins. Since its abandonment, Leptis had been used as a quarry by the local population and a place looted by the Europeans.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – a pub with a literary history
Spanish Flu in London 1918-1919
As I was born a Londoner,, my thoughts have been turning in the pandemic, to how Londoners coped with Spanish Flu in 1918. My grandfather returned from WW1, having been gassed in the trenches. He resumed running his grocery business in Hampstead High Street. My grandmother, who was asthmatic, gave birth to her youngest son in 1918.
Whatever their personal circumstances, no word of Spanish Flu causing any problems or deaths, has been passed down through the generations in my family. The Imperial War Museum has a collection of documents bequeathed to the museum by historian and journalist Richard Collier. The collection was made in the 1970s and comprises approximately 1,700 accounts of first hand witnesses of the pandemic. In 1918 half of the population of London was infected with the disease and 2.5% of the population died of it.
Concerts coming up!
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