The Best of Open House London – 2019 Highlights
Mark 19 & 20 September 2020 in your diary right now. With over 800 buildings open for the public (for free!) it’s Christmas come early for London history fans. Here are my Open House London highlights from 2019.
The Drapers’ Company Hall
Known as the most lavish of the City’s livery halls, the current building and interiors dates from the late 1800s.
The history of the Drapers’ Company goes back a lot further though, they were established in the 13th century and were involved with the buying and selling of woollen cloth.
I was sad not to have longer to fully appreciate the stunning interiors, but I’ve pictured my two favourite rooms. The Drawing Room (image below)
Designed , decorated and furnished by Herbert Williams and John G Crace between 1866-1870. It also contained a gorgeous painting “The Gate of Dawn” by Herbert Draper (below).
And the Livery Hall, enlarged by Herbert Williams in the 1860s, which is covered with more painting by Herbert Draper inspired by Shakespeare’s plays.
Tour of St Pancras Clock Tower
Having already written a post about the secrets of St Pancras, the main reason I wanted to go on this tour was to see inside the Clock Tower. That’s right, to get on the inside of this;
There are 67 private apartments in the refurbished St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. The Clock Tower Penthouse sits below the clock face.
On the way up the stairs we got a fabulous view from behind the Dent Station clock.
The apartment feels pretty normal until you reach the oddly shaped living room.
There are spectacular views and a gorgeously high ceiling!
Kings College London
For Open House London, Kings College have a variety of delights from the aesthetic to the historic.
As well as a chance to see inside their ‘Roman’ baths (full post on their history here) there are 3 other contrasting venues to enjoy…
The College Chapel, designed by George Gilbert Scott in 1859;
The view from Bush House’s 8th floor terrace;
And the Maughan Library Round Room, designed by Sir James Pennethorne between 1851-1898.
Originally this was the public record office, but it opened in 2001 as part of the modern university library.
Tour of The London Library
On the subject of libraries, one of my all time favourite London discoveries was this tour of the London Library.
Not only is the interior incredibly photogenic, but the library is full of strange quirks like the fact their category system is alphabetical by theme rather than the standard Dewey Decimal System. It means that you get random books place next to each other, e.g. ones on ‘Finger Painting’, ‘Fire’ and ‘Fishing’ all in a line!
In the basement they also hold The Times archive, every single copy, purely because the archivist thought it was the only paper worth reading.
On display they had a selection of interesting issues, like the first ever Times crossword puzzle!
As well as Open House Weekend, the London Library host regular tours but they sell out quick! The best way to bag a spot is to sign up to their newsletter. More info here.
Tour of Berry Bros. & Rudd
The last stop of Saturday was a tour of one of London’s most historic shops
Established in 1698 as a wholesale grocery shop, the ground floor still contains huge weighing scales where the very best clients could weigh themselves!
On a thorough tour around the whole building, I was familiar with the interiors but I didn’t quite realise just how big this place was.
There’s an array of beautifully decorated entertaining rooms as well as some jaw-dropping modern tasing rooms in the cellar…
It’s well worth earmarking this to prebook for Open House 2020.
Tour of the Reform Club
Feeling tired, but keen for another day of exploring, Sunday’s Open House adventure started with a tour of one of Pall Mall’s famous Gentlemen Clubs.
Established in the wake of the Great Reform Act of 1832, the Whig political party had split in two and supporters of the electoral reform decided they better have a new, fancy HQ.
Designed by Charles Barry, the inside is totally sumptuous and – despite my fears – we were welcome to take photos inside!
White Collar Factory
The next stop was something completely different and not at all historic.
Finished in 2016, the White Collar Factory office space in Old Street was a good chance to see some new views across London.
Plus, who doesn’t need a running track around the top floor of their office building?!
The absolute knock-out, top recommendation from the whole weekend has to be this place. It’s the Haggerston Mosque on Kingsland Road, full name Suleymaniye Mosque.
Completed in 1999 with a capacity for 3,000 people it’s built in the Ottoman style. From the outside you probably wouldn’t guess at the inside delights, but they were simply beautiful…
Tour of Millennium Mills
The final stop of the weekend was a tour of the derelict Millennium Mills.
Opened as a flour mill in 1905, the factory was expanded in the 30s and 50s. When the Royal Docks closed in 1981, Millennium Mills was left to crumble.
Although locally listed, Newham Council agreed to a redevelopment plan in 2015 envisaging it as a hub for start-ups.
Close to the Excel Centre and City Airport, the building certainly has the potential for regeneration, especially when you factor in the stunning views from the rooftop!
What a lovely way to end Open House London 2019 eh?
Phew, well done for making it to the end!
I hope you now have some inspiring London places to add to your to-do list. Did you see anything you’d recommend for next year’s Open House weekend?
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