Visit to Bridgewater House
Walking through the front door of Bridgewater House overlooking Green Park, you are almost blown over by
what you see. Instead of a hallway to a private residence you are immediately propelled into the Great Saloon
designed by Charles Barry as part of a reconstruction and looking like the forum of Barry's Reform Club only it
is even bigger. Standing on the million pound carpet and looking skywards towards the glass roof your eye is
caught by a ring of domes, half of which turn out to be mirror images.
At one end of the ground floor is a set of murals by Jakob Götzenberger depicting scenes from the masque Comus which was actually commisioned from John Milton (who lived for part of his life on the other side of St James' Park in Petty France) by a former owner of the house and depicts the Earl of Bridgewater talking to
Milton. Bridgewater was an ancestor of Lord Ellesmere who orchestrated the present reconstruction in the 1840s and to make sure posterity did not forget, he left dozens of his initials at strategic points throughout the house.
The famous gallery with works by Titian, da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt and others is no longer there having been converted into offices but we were able to get a glimpse of its former glory by seeing the pillars at either end, one section of which has been converted into a small chapel.
This is no ordinary dwelling. The original one was built around 1626 for Thomas Howard, Earl of Berkshire, and the outline of its remains can still be seen in the garden under favourable climatic conditions. It was later given to Barbara Villiers, one of Charles 11's most notorious mistresses, whom he is supposed to have visited via a tunnel from St James' Palace. The Earl of Salisbury occupied several rooms there when he was Prime Minister and it has also been used for global economic summits.
As this is a private residence (owned by the Latsis family) we were asked not to take any photos except in the garden (above) where we were entertained by John Kelly, the facilities manager, after he had given us a fascinating tour which none of us will easily forget. He also told us three surprising things about the house. First, although it is called Bridgewater House, no Bridgewater has actually lived there. Second, despite an extensive tour, we had only seen a third of the house. Third, the front of it is used as the entrance to the family's London home in the TV serial Downton Abbey (but no filming is allowed inside). A big thank you to John and to Pippa Parsons for organising a very successful visit.
Queen's Walk Cycle Route, The Green Park
We were asked by the Royal Parks to comment on a proposal by Transport for London (TfL), as part of the Quietways Programme of the Central London Cycle Grid, to create a cycle path between Lancaster House and Picadilly. One of the possible routes would be on the much-used Queen’s Walk, along the eastern boundary of The Green Park. They also asked us to comment on their proposal to alter the ‘alignment of the paths in the south east corner of The Green Park, between the Canada Memorial and Queen’s Walk, in order to address the problem of informal desire lines / paths that are created by pedestrians using this area of the Park’.
We are in favour of improving the Quietway cycle network, but we are anxious that the use of bicycles on the Queen’s Walk, which is heavily used, especially by tourists walking from Green Park tube station to Buckingham Palace, is hazardous. The existing path is not very wide and the mix of pedestrians, whose course is not always predictable, and fast moving bicycles could lead to injuries. We are in favour of creating paths where there are existing desire lines. While we regret the loss of grass, when this grass is turned into mud by excessive wear a hard-surfaced path is preferable.
Planning Application Reviews
Please select the Planning page to see our reviews of local planning applications.
Thorney Tales (1) - Britain's Hidden Treasure Trove
What was it about this tiny stretch of land called Thorney Island, measuring barely 560m by 330m - that has had such an effect on the English-speaking world? If it had merely given birth to Westminster Abbey, where so many kings and queens of England were crowned and buried in competitive splendour it would have earned its place in history. But it also became the seat of government, and for over 500 years a palace for kings and queens.
The Cotton Library in Old Palace Yard became the foundation of the British library. Caxton set up the first English printing press there which changed the direction of the English language as did the King James Bible which was partly written there. The beautiful medieval Chapter House of the Abbey hosted Britain's first parliament and then became a repository for official documents - the forerunner of today's Public Record Office.
Was the galaxy of talent, including Ben Jonson, Christopher Wren, Henry Purcell, John Dryden and Edward Gibbon, that came out of Westminster School an accident or due to something they put into the water? Thorney Island, among numerous other things was also where the Fabian Society had its first headquarters and where the modern rules of association football were formulated. Is there any other area of land, anywhere in the world, so small in size that could claim as much?
Part of its success was due to what today we call the power of the network. It suited Edward the Confessor to move his palace from Winchester to Westminster near his beloved abbey and, later, Henry II to move the Exchequer to Thorney Island forming the first link between Westminster and the government of the land. Cotton's Library was convenient for peers and MPs being so close to parliament and Chaucer's printing presses were ideally suited to get business both from the abbey - among other things he had a contract to print indulgences – and from the growing masses of courtiers who lived and fluttered around the Court in hope of preferment. Everyone knew,and fed off, everyone else.
The visit to the Muniment Collection at Westminster Abbey on 22nd April 2015 will be rescheduled.
We welcome non-members to a selection of our visits.
Dinners Programme 2015
There are no Dinners with Speakers planned for 2015 whilst we research new venues.
Panorama of The Thames Project
A photographic comparison of The Thames at points in history.
Annual Review 2013-14
Please go to the About Us page to view our Annual and Financial Reports.