London’s best preserved seventeenth century country house

London’s best preserved seventeenth century country house

Ham House was built on land owned by King James I in 1610.   The lease of the house transferred between several royal courtiers until it was granted to William Murray in 1626 - during the reign of King Charles I.   Murray was granted the freehold ten years later.   Murray, a Scotsman, was a close friend [...]

The Virginia Quay Settlers Monument in London

The Virginia Quay Settlers Monument in London

The Virginia Quay Settlers Monument, on the north shore of the River Thames, marks the embarkation point of the first English settlers of North America.  This was where Captains Christopher Newport and John Smith set sail in December 1606 - some 14 years before the Mayflower set sail two miles further upstream.  There were three ships [...]

48 hours in ‘The Athens of the North’

48 hours in ‘The Athens of the North’

Earlier this year, we set off to 'The Athens of the North' to visit some of my old haunts, see the key sights once again - and watch a rather important rugby match. In the early 1800's Edinburgh re-branded itself 'The Athens of the North' to reflect its growing importance.  It has been the capital [...]

Kensington Palace – a history of Prince Harry and Meghan’s home

Kensington Palace – a history of Prince Harry and Meghan’s home

We're not going to let the major Royal event of 2018 go without a mention!  Referring of course to the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on the 19 May at St Georges Chapel, Windsor Castle.  Once married, the couple will live together in the second largest apartment of Kensington Palace - moving out [...]

Enjoy gardens? Visit a seventeenth century secret garden in London

Enjoy gardens? Visit a seventeenth century secret garden in London

Stroll around a seventeenth apothecary’s garden, followed by afternoon tea at the café.  The Chelsea Physic Garden is a micro climate tucked away in Chelsea.  It is the oldest in England (after Oxford) and is open to the public (closed Nov-Jan).  If you’re near the King’s Road, take a cab for the 5 minute journey [...]

Shakespearean theatre in London – how it started!

Shakespearean theatre in London – how it started!

The chances are you’ll come across Shakespeare at least once during your visit to London!  You might even visit the Globe Theatre for a performance.  Here’s a primer on how Shakespearean theatre started in London. Shakespeare was born in Stratford upon Avon in 1564 and spent the greatest part of his life in London - [...]

How New Haven upset the Merry Monarch!

How New Haven upset the Merry Monarch!

The Restoration man!  This is a portrait of King Charles II attributed to Thomas Hawker.  It is an oil on canvas, painted circa 1680 that you can see in the National Portrait Gallery, London.  You wouldn’t think he was called the Merry Monarch from this portrait!  It was painted near the end of his life [...]

Virginia – the ‘Old Dominion’

Virginia – the ‘Old Dominion’

This is a portrait of the 'Chief of Men', Oliver Cromwell, by Robert Walker.  It is an oil on canvas and was painted in 1649 – the year King Charles I was tried and executed.  Cromwell was a country gentleman who took up arms against King Charles I in order to protect the rights of [...]

Where 007 started out

Where 007 started out

This is one of a collection of buildings in Whitehall that was the centre of British naval power from the mid-1700's to the 1960's.   It is officially called the Admiralty Extension, and is on Horse Guards.  Completed in 1904, it was the workplace of Ian Flemming; creator of James Bond (and Chitty Chitty Bang [...]

A Wren in Westminster

A Wren in Westminster

Behind a wall to the north of The Mall is a house built in 1711 for the 1st Duke of Marlborough - the same 1st Duke of Blenheim Palace. This was his London home!  The architect was Christopher Wren - who also designed St Paul's Cathedral in the City.  'Brick and stone trimmings he called [...]