My 5 Top Discoveries at Open House London 2016

Another Open House weekend has flown past in a blur of queuing and hidden London sights, every year I’m surprised at the sneaky parts of the City that are revealed, so here are my top five discoveries from Open House London 2016…

1. CROSSRAIL’S FIRST BENCH

I was lucky enough to grab one of the tickets to the Crossrail Station Tours, so ventured 28m below Soho Square to have a look at the building site. Of all the incredible engineering feats my favourite part was seeing the first ever platform bench installed at a Crossrail site.

Crossrail Tottenham Court Road

A personal highlight is the Architect’s graffiti behind the wall saying ‘seat’. Good to know things are coming together nicely!

Want more? See the full blog post from my Tottenham Court Road Crossrail Site tour here.

2. FISHMONGER’S HALL CHANDELIER

In what must be London’s best themed chandelier, Fishmonger’s Hall entrance has a gleaming shoal of encircling fish as their lampshade. Designed by Scabetti, each individual fish is coated in 24 carat gold and there’s 743, representing the number of years since the Fishmonger’s Livery Company gained its Royal Charter in 1272.

Open House London 2016

3. KCL MAUGHAN LIBRARY CELLS

Did you know that behind this fine 19th Century facade lies London’s first fireproof building?

Open House London 2016

The building was used to house records of the Court of Chancery in 1851 but is now used as Kings College London’s study library.

The original cells were protected with iron doors weighing half a ton, complete with iron shelving and slate shelves all to minimise fire risk.

Open House London 2016

They’ve kept two original cells to show the construction, but now the books are kept in more modern shelving units.

4. A HIDDEN ROOM IN GUILDHALL

Open House London 2016

Actually going inside the Guild Hall was a first for me, but though the hall itself was impressive, my favourite part was a small meeting room of the old library. Its barrel vaulted ceiling giving a cosy, ship-like feel to the small antechamber.

5. HORSE GUARDS’ COCKPIT

For me, the intrigue of Open House Weekend is the chance to see the unsightly parts of glamorous London icons. So it was with delight that I found inside Horse Guards they have an old cock fighting pit in the basement!

Open House London 2016

We were told by the guide that it was recently excavated but appears to have been in use during the 18th Century, you can see where the pit would’ve been with space to spectators surrounding the action. There also used to be a coffeehouse on site, but it was closed in 1850 after a war office memo concluded it was “occupied by people of the worst character and low women”!

What did you discover this Open House Weekend?

Let me know in the comments or share your top tips for next year!

If you’re inspired to visit some hidden London gems this year you can see all the listings and register for tickets on the Open House London website here. Or if that’s not working there are lots of listings direct on Eventbrite, just search for Open House here.

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