The 7th London History Festival 2015

Here at Festival HQ (my lair in the archives) we’re all engaged in frantic last minute activity preparing for the 7th annual London History Festival which starts on Monday 16th October. We have another line-up of eminent historians who will be covering wide range of historical eras.

London History Festival 2015
London History Festival 2015

On the 17th Mark Morris and Thomas Asbridge will be interviewed by Sophie Ambler about their latest books. It is of course 800 years since the signing of Magna Carta, a good time to look back at this crucial part of British history The next evening Jessie Child looks at security threats, repression and radicalisation – but not in the modern world but the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The last event of the first week is also about security and intelligence – Max Hastings speaks about the secret war which went on behind the scenes in WW2.

In the second week we go back to Imperial Rome with Tom Holland who has written many books about the ancient world. Dynasty is about the early years of the Empire and the Emperors who ruled it. On the 24th November we return to the secret was with Sinclair McKay and David Boyle who will discuss Bletchley Park, its effects on the course of the war and the character of its most famous figure Alan Turing, the father of modern computing.

Finally Dan Jones and Helen Castor talk about a British dynasty – the Plantagenets and their struggle to take and retain power.

This year’s programme of author events is as good as any of the previous six programmes. If you’ve been before you know about the quality of the speakers and if you haven’t why not give one of the events a try? The Library service is committed to providing added value for regular users and visitors and what could be better than bringing together authors and readers for learning and entertainment.

The Tri-Borough Library Service of which Kensington and Chelsea is part has a million books in its stock available for users in three boroughs. For the Festival we are in partnership with Chalke Author, the freelance consultancy and publicity agency for authors, who provide the speakers, History Today, the best known British magazine devoted to history and Waterstones Kensington branch who will be selling signed copies of books by the speakers at all the events.

I’ve been associated with the London History Festival since it started. It’s always hard work and always fun (I tell myself afterwards.)

by
Dave Walker,
Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Local Studies Librarian

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London Fashion Week at the library

London Fashion Week logo
London Fashion Week logo

To celebrate London Fashion Week in September for the Spring /Summer 2014 collections we have some fantastic fashion events in two of our libraries.

Dressed to Impress: London Fashion in the 1960s

Archives for London logo
Archives for London logo

Wednesday 11 September, from 2pm at Chelsea Library

Join Archives for London to ‘get the skinny’ on the groovy threads and glamorous glad-rags that were worn by the Beautiful People in one of the most happening cities in the world.

2pm – A number of speakers from the Museum of London, Liberty and Central Saint Martins will be providing talks and reminiscing about influence of the King’s Road and Carnaby Street. There will also be a demonstration of the Berg Fashion Library –  an online resource which is accessible through the library service.

5.15pm – An opportunity to view a display of archival images from the period.

6pm – A walk conducted by Chelsea Walks along the King’s Road highlighting the location of pivotal boutiques such as ‘Granny Takes a Trip’, ‘Bazaar’ and ‘The Sweet Shop’.

To find out more information, prices and to book a place please contact Sarah Hale shale@stpaulscathedral.org.uk

Dressed to Impress: London Fashion in the 1960s – exhibition

Monday 2 September to Friday 13 September at Chelsea Library

'Granny takes a trip'
‘Granny takes a trip’

Come and see images from Archives for London and our Local Studies collection illustrating this exciting time in fashion in swinging London.

Fashion – Press the Fast Forward Button

Tuesday 24 September, 6.30 to 8pm at Kensington Central Library

Francesca Marcenaro
Francesca Marcenaro

Are you interested in the fashion industry? Thinking of starting a fashion business as a designer, retailer, importer or exporter? Then don’t miss this opportunity to hear from expert fashion management consultant David Jones and successful designer and entrepreneur Francesca Marcenaro.

David Jones has worked in the fashion industry for 40 years and for the last 15 years has run his own consultancy specialising in fashion. Born in Italy, Francesca Marcenaro is passionate about the ancient art of her country. She designs and crafts jewellery in her workshops in London.This session is in partnership with Colin Rutt from Portobello Business Centre.

Please book your free place to this talk at Kensington Central Library.

Explore the Berg Fashion Library

Wednesday 18 September, 2 to 4pm at Chelsea Reference Library

Berg Fashion Library
Berg Fashion Library

There’s fashion at your fingertips with our amazing database the Berg Fashion Library. We’ve a training session that’ll show you how to explore this resource which has fashion information from around the world and throughout history.

Places are limited so book you free place soon at Chelsea Reference Library on 020 7361 3010 or email libraries@rbkc.gov.uk

Gillian Nunns, Reference Librarian
Gillian Nunns

Gillian Nunns

Triborough Reference Librarian

Chelsea Reference Library

Summer in London for Kids

So many of you enjoyed the blog post last December from Kensington Mums, Christmas in London for Kids that when they offered to write something similar for the summer  we said yes please! And if you’re looking to see what’s happening in our libraries this summer – check out our Summer Reading Challenge events page.

Now over to Kensington Mums….

Kensington Mums logo
Kensington Mums logo

It’s the Summer Holidays, that means six weeks of entertaining your little ones while ‘trying’ to keep sane. Apparently, it only takes 66 days to form a new habit, so summer is the perfect time to be forming good learning routines.  Just saying :)

It is also a beautiful endless summer waiting to be filled with memories. Here are our local picks of more than a dozen things to do with kids this summer in London. If you are staying in the capital then read on as no stone was left unturned in my quest to find the best local activities and places to visit to keep your little ones entertained this Summer. There are loads of fun things to do with your little ones this summer, most of which are FREE!

Kensington Mums summer drinks invitation
Kensington Mums summer drinks invitation

Kensington Mums is having a social networking event on the 16 August with the lovely members of the group. Dads are welcome too. Get in touch to register. This event is by invitation only. Enjoy your holidays and let us know what you are planning to get up to and have enjoyed the most by joining the conversation on our Facebook Page, any recommendations or suggestions are also welcome. To be kept in the loop you can follow us on Twitter @KensingtonMums

What’s on this summer for you and your little ones

Ecology Centre in Holland Park
Ecology Centre in Holland Park

London’s parks

The sun is shining, enjoy some outdoor fun in our local parks and paddling pools.

Ecology Holiday Activity Programme 2013 at Holland Park. Great sessions morning and afternoon for your little ones to explore nature’s beauty and learn with hands on activities.

Diana Memorial Playground. Little ones can play in ‘Peter Pan’ themed playground with a huge wooden pirate ship and teepees to explore and for the kids to run around and let some steam off. Expect long queues during peak times.

Diana Memorial Fountain is great for little ones to splash around and just around the corner you will find the Serpentine Lido and its accompanying paddling pool which are great for both adults and children. Expect long queues during peak times.

Kensington Memorial Park not far from the buzzing streets of Portobello Market is heaven for little ones especially in these hot summer days. The modern, interactive water play area which consists of 22 different water-play items. There is also a sand pit, slides and a rocket frame for kids to climb onto. Highly recommend it! Just don’t forget your swim suit and towel!

Kyoto Garden in Holland Park
Kyoto Garden in Holland Park

Holland Park also has a lovely sandy play area for little ones and don’t forget to have a nice walk in the beautiful Kyoto Garden.

Shape Up in Holland Park, every Wednesday until 4 September as part of the Council’s summer programme of health activities for adults. There is something on every weekday.  Whether you fancy toning your body with Tai Chi or using the new outdoor gym, or enjoying a healthy walk in the leafy environs of Holland Park there’s something for everybody. Prices vary from free to £5 and the events take place late mornings and lunchtimes. For more information and a full schedule please contact : 020 7938 8182 or email: sportandleisure@rbkc.gov.uk

One of our Royal Parks
One of our Royal Parks

Experience the magic of the Royal Parks! They are organising summer holiday activities, from guided walks to nature talks to family learning and discovery days. Click here for family experiences and here for children experiences.

Hanging basket at Opera Holland Park
Hanging basket at Opera Holland Park

The Opera Holland Park 2013 Season is here including Madame Butterfly and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland  as well as Luna Cinema which presents Summer Cinema at Opera Holland Park – classic films on the big screen at London’s most beautiful theatre.

Museums and galleries

Victoria and Albert Museum are hosting many summer activities, including the Imagination Station, Pop-Up Performances and Drop in Design. While you are there, young and old alike will enjoy paddling pool in the courtyard.

Family workshops at Saatchi Gallery are running on 17 and 24 August. Little ones will exploring the current exhibitions Paper and New Order and go on an interactive tour of the exhibition followed by a fun, creative workshop in response to the artist of the week. Booking required. Please note these workshops are suitable for families with children aged 3 to 12 years old.

The Museum of London are organising lots of family fun sessions including a musical playground, interactive performances and storytelling sessions.

Free Theatre – More London Free Festival 2013. It’s free, it’s family friendly and it celebrates the local community. There are no tickets – just take your seat, first come first served! Every Wednesday to Sunday in August experience award-winning Theatre from London’s Free Open Air Theatre Season.

The Museum of Childhood has Summer holiday activities, Thursday  25 July – Monday 2 September and a Family Chess Club, Saturdays 22 June, 6 and 20 July 3, 17 and 31 August.

Sensational butterflies!
Sensational butterflies!

Sensational Butterflies at the Natural History Museum. Read our full review here.

Free Drop-in Workshops: The Drawing Station at Somerset House, every Saturday in August.

Science Museum Live: The Energy Show. 22 July – 31 August 2013: throughout the summer holidays. While you are there, don’t miss the 3D Summer at the Science Museum from Thursday 25 July to Sunday 1 September 2013.

Fashion Rules! – Fun Fridays at Kensington Palace this summer. 26 July and 2,9,16,23 August 11.00 – 16.00.

Head to Covent Gardens and visit the London Transport Museum,over the holidays they have organised some family station activities from 6 July as well as demonstrations, story time and make and take workshops.

Gallery Pavilion 2013
Gallery Pavilion 2013

Visit the Serpentine Gallery to visit the Gallery Pavilion 2013 which is designed by multi award-winning Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto.

Open Studio at the Tate Modern every weekend and Thursdays and Fridays in the school holidays.

And the rest

Despicable Me 2
Despicable Me 2

Escape the heat and head into your local cinema to watch Despicable Me 2. Its great family movie the whole family will enjoy.

Little Creatures family festival at London Zoo. From Friday 30 August – Sunday 1 September, ZSL London Zoo will open its doors for a weekend of big fun for your little ones.

Westfield White City are hosting ‘Kids in the Kitchen’ sessions and ‘Kids in the Garden’ every Monday and Wednesday from 12 noon to 5pm and Storytelling at the Tipi every Tuesday 11am  to 4pm.

Enjoy your holidays and remember: every-summer-has-a-story-257x300

The May Queens of Whitelands College

Dave Walker, our Local Studies Librarian writes our weekly local studies blog, The Library Time Machine. We’re very lucky that he writes for us occasionally too! Over to Dave….

Following my recent post Rites of Spring: Mr Ruskin’s May Queen on the Library Time Machine blog, I was invited to visit the May Queen archive at Roehampton University. Whitelands College, a teacher training college  was one of the first educational establishments for women and was started at Whitelands House in the King’s Road in the 1840s.

The art critic John Ruskin, together with the Principal of Whitelands College John Faunthorpe devised the idea for an annual May Queen festival at the College. The first May Queen Ellen I was elected by her fellow students in 1881 and there has been a May Queen or (from 1986 when King Gary was elected) a May King ever since. Whitelands College left Chelsea for a bigger building in Putney in 1930 and subsequently amalgamated with a number of other colleges to form the University of Roehampton. The Whitelands campus is now in a part Georgian part modern building originally called Manresa House which is an odd coincidence as the other Manresa in London is Manresa Road home of the first Chelsea Library.

Whitelands College
Whitelands College

We were taken by the Archivist, Gilly King to the secure archives room in the old part of the building. I was expecting to see photographs and college records preserved in archive boxes which we did find but I hadn’t anticipated what you can see below: two racks on which were hanging the dresses of the May Queens.

May Queen's dresses and a May King's suit!
May Queen’s dresses and a May King’s suit!

The dresses (and one May King’s suit on the left) in the pictures are for the living May Queens and Kings who can come back to the festival each year. The archive boxes contain the dresses of the dead queens packed away carefully as they will never be worn again although a few of them are on display in the College. There was also the one below.

Queen Ellen II's May Queen dress (1898)
Queen Ellen II’s May Queen dress (1898)

This is the dress first worn in 1898 by Queen Ellen II which had been on display and was now waiting to go back in its box.

I was accompanied on the visit by an Australian archives student who was doing a placement with us. I thought it would be useful for her to see a small specialist archive as part of her programme but my main purpose in going was to see the scrapbooks of photographs which cover the history of the May Queen festival, especially the ones that cover the period when the College was in Chelsea. I’ve been trying to get an image of each May Queen and to identify the previous queens in the group photos like this one.

Queen Agnes II and former May Queens (1909)
Queen Agnes II and former May Queens (1909)

From the left: Mildred I (1904),  Florence (1906), Elizabeth II (1892), Ellen I (1881), Agnes II (1909),Dorothy I (1908), Elsie II (1907) ,Evelyn (1905), Elizabeth I (1886)(I think),Muriel I (1903), Annie II (1895), Edith (1883)

The archive at Whitelands College is a fascinating and significant collection. It’s not open to the general public but the College does take part in the annual Open House event and there are also group tours.

On our way out we saw some more May Queen dresses on display.

Queen Elsie's and Queen Edna's May Queen dresses
Queen Elsie’s and Queen Edna’s May Queen dresses

These are the dresses of Elsie II who you can see in the group photos and Queen Edna (1924).

Here, in the May Queen corridor you can see Queen Thyra (1890) on the far right.

May Queen corridor
May Queen corridor

I managed to get a decent picture of Queen Elizabeth II (1892) who was also in the group photo as she was seventeen years before in the year when she was elected.

Queen Elizabeth II (1892)
Queen Elizabeth II (1892)

I took plenty of other pictures in the archives which will form part of an extensive file on this fascinating part of Chelsea’s history. The final picture is one for Shari to send home.

Shari at Whitelands College
Shari at Whitelands College
Dave Walker
Dave Walker

Dave Walker

Local Studies Librarian

Further information

Legends of Underground London

Antony Clayton
Antony Clayton

As part of the Cityread London campaign, historian Antony Clayton came to Kensington Central Library to give a talk on the Legends of Underground London.

London is a city which is riddled with tunnels and passageways of all kinds from the “official” tunnels belonging to Transport for London, the Royal Mail and other institutions to the many secret passages under pubs and other private buildings. Not to mention those belonging to the so-called “secret state”.

Nearly a hundred people came to the event last night and enjoyed Antony’s erudite talk. We can’t recreate that for you but here are some of the images Antony showed the audience.

Morpeth Arms, Millbank
Morpeth Arms, Millbank
The 'so-called' cells beneath the Morpeth Arms
The ‘so-called’ cells beneath the Morpeth Arms
Crystal Palace pneumatic railway
Crystal Palace pneumatic railway
The site of British Museum tube station
The site of British Museum tube station
The former entrance to Kingsway telephone exchange
The former entrance to Kingsway telephone exchange

Dave Walker

Dave Walker

Local Studies Librarian
 

Further Information

Antony Clayton is the author of many books that can be found in our libraries:

  • Subterranean City: Beneath the Streets of London
  • The Folklore of London
  • Decadent London
  • London’s Coffee Houses

Cityread London

The Lord Mayor’s Show

City of London Royal Crest
City of London Royal Crest

Following immediately after Halloween and Bonfire night is another great spectacle that of the Lord Mayor’s Show.

Our collection of books on customs cover great ceremonial occasions and the Lord Mayor’s show is one of the best. It takes place annually on the second Saturday in November and this year it falls on 10th November – best of all its free!

The post of Lord Mayor of the City London dates back more than 700 years and it was in the reign of King John who needing the support of the city in 1215 against rebellious barons gave the citizens of London the right to elect their own Mayor.

As the choice of Mayor has to be approved by the monarchy, each year (he or she) proceeds through the city to swear and oath of loyalty at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Gog and Magog
Gog and Magog

Up until 1453 the procession went through the City of London and was a great public holiday. One of the highlights of the procession was a chariot containing the two fearsome giants, Gog and Magog, who normally lived at the Guildhall. They represent the ancient legend that London was founded in the year 1000 by Trojan invaders after they had been helped by the two giants. Apparently these were made of wickerwork and were frequently eaten by the rats in the city. Therefore in 1708 two wooden figure were carved which unfortunately were later destroyed in the Blitz – luckily another pair were made and can still be seen in the Guildhall.

River Pageant
River Pageant

After this date the Lord mayor travelled to Westminster by barge in a river pageant – similar to the one we saw this year for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Apparently some of barges were so big that in one report they could hold a dinner and dance for eighty people. There were musicians, flags and guns firing along the way and on some occasions there were boats with dragons casting fire over the water. Unfortunately the river pageant ceased in 1856 and it went back to the processional route along the streets.

Mansion House in London
Mansion House

The Lord Mayor now travels through the City from Mansion House the official residence of the Lord Mayor to the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand and returns in procession to Mansion House to hold a huge banquet. He travels in a richly decorated state coach. The coach was built in 1757 and cost the grand sum of £1065 0s 3d. It weighs over 3 tons and is 19.8 metres long (approx 65 feet).

Illustration of the Lord Mayors Coach
Lord Mayors Coach

The procession is held each year and there is great account in the Illustrated London News of 17th November 1883 describing all the floats. You can also find them on our online database Times Digital Archive which include such wonderful phrase as “the window of the houses were filled with persons mostly ladies of most respectable appearance” and in the procession an “ancient knight mounted on a charger armed cap a pie in suit of polishes tell armour and plumed”.

Illustration of Dick Wittington
Dick Wittington

Some famous Lord Mayors include Richard (Dick) Whittington who really was Lord Mayor three times and which I have found out was worth the amazing sum of £7000 at his death in 1423. Sir William Walworth, was the Lord Mayor who killed Wat Tyler during the peasants revolt of 1381. One of the more inept Mayors was Sir Thomas Bludworth who famously underestimated the impact of a small fire in Pudding Lane in 1666, the result of which was the burning down of most of London, more famously known as the Great Fire.

More information:

Bibliography for the above blog post, was done using the following references:

  • Roud, Steve, London Lore the legend and traditions of the world’s most vibrant city , London, (Random House) 2008
  • Brentnall, Margaret, Old customs and ceremonies of London, Norfolk, (B.T Batsford Ltd) 1975.
  • Hayward Girtin, T, The Lord Mayor of London, London, (Oxford University press) 1948
Karen Ullesperger, Triborough Reference Manager
Karen Ullesperger

Karen Ullersperger, Tri-Borough Reference Manager