I love exploring in London. I choose an area, then I just walk.
This is my article about Trafalgar Square and the area around it from earlier this year.
Trafalgar Square; London’s National Heritage Grade 1 Square.
Trafalgar Square’s history has been traced back to the Interglacial Period, as traces of cave lions, rhinoceros, straight-tusked elephants and hippopotamus were found there during building work carried out in the 1950s.
The Square is owned by the Queen, but Westminster City Council owns the roads around it.
It’s surrounded by National Heritage Listed buildings, including the National Gallery, Grade 1, Canada House, Grade ll, South Africa House, Grade ll, St Martin-in-the-Fields, Grade 1, and many others in nearby streets.
All the statues in the Square are individually listed, with Nelson’s Column, a Grade 1 listing, towering over them all.
During World War ll, the Nazis planned to steal Nelson’s Column. Goodness knows how, or what they planned to do with it!
Hidden in full view on the South-East corner of the Square and not even glanced at by passers-by is the UK’s smallest police station. It was carved inside one of the lamppost bases in the late 1920s so the police could keep an unseen eye on any groups gathering in the Square.
There’s a lamp on the top and as soon as the phone’s receiver was picked up, the lamp would start flashing, alerting any police in the area that help was needed by the unfortunate lone policeman in the box.
It’s now used as storage for brooms, cement, etc. but it’s wired up for wifi, so it’s still probably secretly used sometimes.
Unlike most other countries, entry is still free to our large museums.
I don’t understand it. Seeing the mess that school groups make in the loos, it must cost them a fortune in toilet paper alone!
If they just charged £1 they’d make thousands of much-needed money in a year.
It was pouring with rain so I went in the National Gallery next to Trafalgar Square.
Nobody took any notice of the lovely mosaics in the foyer that they walked over. They were laid in 1933 by Russian Boris Anrep. He also did some in Westminster Cathedral.
I looked at the architecture in the National Gallery. It was built in 1838, and the site was chosen as it’s in central London. It’s a stunning Victorian building.
Don’t just stare at the paintings; look upwards as well.
The Gallery is divided into separate rooms, each dedicated to one artist, or a selection of artists from the same country or era.
I gazed at pictures that I know so well. It was surreal, standing right in front of them. They seemed so vulnerable. But I didn’t see one person stretch out their hand to touch any of them. Luckily it doesn’t seem to be a place to attract idiots!
If I lived in London, I would often pop in for a short tour. But I just couldn’t stay there for long. I get visual indigestion in places like that. After a coffee and a much-needed rest, I noticed the rain had stopped, so it was time to carry on exploring.
Outside I crossed the road to St Martin-in-the-Field Church.
St Martin was born in Hungary in 316 and brought up in Italy. Then he moved to Gaul and became Bishop of Tours in 371. Although he was a Bishop, he still lived a simple monastic life. He died on 8th November, 397.
St Martin’s has helped homeless people for over a century, and gives them a bed for the night. They are involved with several charities for the homeless. Go to www.smitfc.org.uk
I picked up a very interesting leaflet there, about the St John’s Bible. It’s been handwritten using original calligraphic art materials, like calfskin vellum, goose quills, hand-ground inks and gold leaf gilding.
It took 12 years to complete, and is in seven heavy volumes. It’s securely locked away in the church in a carefully controlled atmosphere.
I’ve found out the details of who to contact and the next time I’m in London, I can make an appointment to see it. I can’t wait!
It’s such a shame that after all that expert work, only a few people will ever get to see it.
Here’s a list of National Heritage listed London Parks and Squares;
1 Regent’s Park (including Park Square Gardens and Park Crescent Gardens) I 2 Kensington Gardens I 3 Hyde Park I 4 Portman Square II 5 Manchester Square II 6 Grosvenor Square II 7 Berkeley Square II 8 St James’s Square II 9 Victoria Embankment Gardens (including Temple Garden) (4 parts) II* 10 Green Park II* 11 Buckingham Palace Gardens II* 12 St James’s Park I 13 Belgrave Square II 14 Eaton Square II 15 Eccleston Square II 16 Warwick Square II 17 Victoria Tower Gardens II 18 Parliament Square II 19 Chester Square II 20 Wilton Crescent II 21 Trafalgar Square I