Tag Archives: City of London

Victoriana – The Art of Revival

victoriana the art of revivial guildhall art gallery
artwork from the Extraordinary League of Gentlemen

I guess the words ‘The Art of Revival’ should have given me a heads-up on what this ‘extraordinary’ exhibition was about before I arrived…..

Just over a week ago I received an invitation via twitter (love twitter) from the Guildhall Art Gallery to attend the Press Launch of their latest Exhibition… ‘Victoriana – The Art of Revival’

victoriana the art of revivial the guildhall city of london, guildhall art gallery
The Guildhall – a glorious gothic-style fantasy

Thrilled to have been invited I immediately accepted and before too long my invitation arrived. Now, like I said, the words ‘Art of Revival’ really should have given me a clue as to the nature of the exhibition, but I latched onto ‘Victoriana’ and that was as much as my brain processed. So when I arrived at the Press Launch, sadly after the talks were already over, I headed straight into the exhibition and headlong down the rabbit hole!!!

victoriana the art of revivial, guildhall art gallery, guildhall city of london
Victoriana – The Art of Revival

Expecting to see some Victorian art pieces ‘restored’ to their former wonderful selves…instead I entered into a world so amazing, so bizarre and so wonderfully weird, that I truly felt like my senses had been thrown up into the air and scattered.

victoriana the art of revivial guildhall art gallery
a skeletal insect warrior…

As I got to the top of the stairs, the very first thing I saw was the most amazing collection of bees and ants, strung up and hanging from the ceiling like a beaded screen…surreal! That took my breath away, especially when on closer inspection I saw the skeletons of flying insects mounted on the backs of the bees like tiny fearsome warriors! From there onwards my head spun at the surreal & macabre and yet totally amazing pieces I have yet to see.

victoriana the art of revivial guildhall art gallery
killer ants on the march?

The exhibition is based on a period of history during Queen Victoria’s reign, known as the ‘Victorian’ era, a period of “empire, exploration, expansion, oppressive colonialism and repressed sexuality” and this comes through very clearly in the extraordinary exhibits of the artisits interpretations with beautiful yet darkly chilling taxidermy; two foxes curled tightly together for eternity, tucked up in the back of a large red-velvet parlour chair!

victoriana the art of revivial guildhall art gallery
foxes, snug in a parlour chair

A tiny, colourful bird served up as a depraved dessert, resplendent in death sleeping on a silver spoon A 3-tier wedding cake fashioned from blonde hair! omg!

victoriana the art of revivial guildhall art gallery
Shorn out of Wedlock – Jane Hoodless 2011

The exhibition, suitably hidden in the depths of the Guildhall Art Gallery is separated into 4 sections: neo-Victorian Identity, Time Travel, Cute & Curious and Reimagined Parlour….cue the foxes!

Step into another world, a medley of multimedia and multisensory visions of the past, Victorian art interpreted in a number of ways; from tatoos to corsets and lace, time-travel, science-fiction, fantasy, folktale, collage and altered images.

victoriana the art of revivial guildhall art gallery
Ian Crichton aka Herr Doktor – Herr Doktor’s Space Helmet 2008 Steampunk space helmet

Once I caught my breath and my brain adjusted to the macarbe scene before my eyes, I meandered from exhibit to exhibit, entranced, revulsed and enchanted by the marvellous creations. I marvelled at the imaginations that created these extraordinary works, some of which I just fell in love with.
My absolute favourite was the ‘butterfly dress’

victoriana the art of revivial guildhall art gallery
Su Blackwell – ‘While you were sleeping’ 2004 – inspired by a Burmese legend about the soul butterfly

and truthfully, although I found the ‘stuffed’ foxes to be revulsive, I also found them to be beautiful and briefly covetable….what an ice-breaker at a parlour party!!! :)

victoriana the art of revivial guildhall art gallery
Chantell Powell – Nightingale’s nest 2013 – a world of magic and enchantment that suggests the Victorian love of fairy tales, as well as the sentimental preoccupation with innocence

Walking from one to the other, my senses overloaded by the amazing images and creations, I was enchanted by the angels sleeping in a corner, enthralled by the sensory overload of the many wonderful pieces I saw on my wanderings.

victoriana the art of revivial guildhall art gallery
Ian Chrichton – Steam Pistol 2009

The first major exhibition of its kind, ‘Victoriana: the Art of Revival’ features works by artists including Yinka Shonibare, Grayson Perry, Paula Rego, Dan Hillier, Paul St George, Rob Ryan, Kitty Valentine, Otto Von Beach and Jake and Dinos Chapman, including exibits created especially for the show.

victoriana the art of revivial guildhall art gallery
a macarbe alphabet…not for the nursery :)

From the macabre to the surreal, Victoriana: The Art of Revival is a mind-bending multimedia exploration of Victorian influence on modern works of art.

victoriana the art of revivial guildhall art gallery
a macarbe alphabet

Now on at the Guildhall Art Gallery till 8th December 2013, the exhibition is open Monday to Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday 12pm-4pm. A ticketed event at £7 with £5 concessions. Please see website for details: http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/victoriana

I can highly recommend this exhibition, it is unlike anything you have ever seen….well certainly unlike anything I have ever seen! Amazing and I am definitely making a return visit so I can spend a bit more time studying these amazing creations.

Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard, London, EC2V 5AE
nearest tube: Bank – Northern, Central & Waterloo & City lines and DLR

An extraordinary, not to be missed exhibition.
Other events linked to this exhibition include:
Guildhall Gothic – a Victorian ball 25 October 6pm-10pm £10 advance & £12 on the door.
To Book: www.guildhallgothic.eventbrite.co.uk

Tours and Talks – 30-minute tours on the hour from 11am – 4pm on 26 September, 17 October and 21 November. Limited to 12 people per timed entry.    Call 020 7332n3700 for more information, prices and to book.

Victoriana on film – a season of films based on Victoriana themes:
Birkbeck Theatre, 43 Gordon Square, WC1H 0PD
FREE.    22 October to 26 November; Tuesdays 2pm

The Roman Wall at Tower Hill Station

Roman city wall at Tower Hill
Roman city wall at Tower Hill


I will never forget the first time I walked out of Tower Hill Station and saw this wall.

At first I didn’t realise what it was, but on closer inspection and when I did realise what it was, it sent a chill down my spine. Oh My Gosh!!!   The remains of the old Roman city wall…only almost 2,000 years old and there it was right before my very eyes.

My jaw almost hit the floor, I was thrilled.     Of course the first thing I did was step over, close my eyes, touch it and imagine the person who put that very stone into the wall….how extraordinary that I could touch a wall that had been built by people nearly 2,000 years ago! Wow!!!

I have since been back dozens of times because the City of London is my absolute favourite area, and I still get a thrill each time I see that wall; the history is astounding!


800 years of history – Guildhall

As the Guildhall celebrates it’s 600th anniversary let us look back in history and learn a little more.  Since the 12th century, Guildhall has been the City powerhouse. In an era when the Lord Mayor of London rivalled the monarch for influence and prestige, this was where he and the ruling merchant class held court, fine-tuned the laws and trading regulations that helped create London’s wealth.

guildhall london, lord mayors show, city of london, guildhall dates back to roman times
Guildhall, City of London - over 800 years of history

The Guildhall London – a rare example of medieval civic architecture and a Grade I listed building. The word ‘guildhall’ is said to derive from the Anglo-Saxon ‘gild‘ meaning payment, so it was probably a place where citizens would pay their taxes.

Today, 800 years on, Guildhall is still home of the City of London Corporation, and acts as a grand setting for glittering banquets in honour of visiting Heads of State and other dignitaries, royal occasions, and receptions for major historical anniversaries.

The area around Bank of the Square Mile of London must be one of the most historically important areas of London, an area that dates back well over 2000 years to Roman times and before. I often visit this area, an area filled with treasures of historical importance, many of which are walked past without even realising their significance.

Previously I wrote about the Lord Mayor’s Show, a show that has its roots in an 800 year old tradition. The Lord Mayor leaves from the Guildhall and travels an ancient route through the city bearing the Lord Mayor to his London residence and place of work; Mansion House.

The City of London has been governed from the area occupied by the Guildhall for more than 800 years. The present Guildhall was built between 1411 and 1430, and evidence suggests that a civic hall has stood here since the late 13th century; it is the only secular stone structure dating from before 1666 still standing in the City. Local government developed here and its pattern has served as a model for many cities and towns. Remains of a long-lost Roman amphitheatre discovered in 1987 underneath what is now Guildhall Yard indicate that the site of Guildhall was significant as far back as Roman times.

guildhall, city of london, roman times in london
the ornate clock that stands in the entrance hall to Guildhall

At the entrance to the main hall stands a fabulous ornate clock of gigantic proportions, an intricate affair of glass and fine gold engravings. The current halls west crypt is thought to be part of a late-13th century building. The crypt, porch and medieval walls have twice emerged unscathed from disastrous fires; the 1666 Great Fire of London and during WW2 in 1940, during which time monuments, windows and galleries were damaged and the famous statues of Gog and Magog were destroyed in a single night of the blitz.

Gog and Magog; giants who represent the legendary pre-Christian conflict between ancient Britons and Trojan invaders; a struggle which resulted in the founding of Albion’s capital city, New Troy, on whose site London is said to stand. These figures of Gog and Magog were destroyed by enemy action in December 1940, and replaced in 1953 through the generosity of Alderman Sir George Wilkinson; Lord Mayor 1940-1941

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Gog on the right and magog stands to the left

The Great Hall – the Court of Common Council, the City Corporation’s decision making body, meets in the Great Hall. It is also the setting for magnificent ceremonies, including some banquets, the annual installation of the Lord Mayor of the City of London and sheriffs, key speeches and national festivals. The Great Hall is the third largest civic hall in England, where royalty and state visitors have been entertained down the centuries. Today Guildhall still plays an important role in the City. It provides a venue for meetings of the City of London’s elected assembly, the Court of Common Council and for the Honorary Freedom of the City ceremony.

The oak-panelled roof is the 5th to rest upon the medieval walls. The windows were restored after 1940 and bear the names of all the Lord Mayors and their year of office.

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the fine oak-panelled ceiling of Guildhall

Below the battlements, at the level of the upper row of windows, is enriched by a frieze or band of decorations, showing the Arms of England, the City and the 12 Great Livery Companies of the City of London.

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stained glass windows at Guildhall

The 12 companies are:

Mercers, Drapers, Fishmongers, Goldsmiths, Skinners, Merchant Tailors, Haberdashers, Salters, Ironmongers, Vintners, Clothworkers

A tablet on the north wall records some of the state trials that have taken place within Guildhall, including the trials for High Treason of Lady Jane Grey in 1553, and Archbishop Cranmer.

The porch, the original entrance to Guildhall was built between 1425 and 1430. The imposing medieval hall has stained glass windows and several monuments to national heroes including Admiral Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill.

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statue of Winston Churchill at the Guildhall

The precinct: the new west wing was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott Son and partner; completed in 1974 it houses the modern Guildhall Library, Guildhall Library bookshop, the Clock Museum, administrative offices and committee rooms.

A  wonderful and worthy addition to any tour of 3 Days in London.