Reception – G, Roman House – B

Over the next couple of months, until August actually, the Museum of London will be putting on tours of the Billingsgate Roman House & Baths. These Roman Londonium remains are located under an old 1960s office block in Lower Thames Street, just across from Customs House.

The site is believed to be a private residence from about the 2nd century, with a bath house added on to it about a century later.

I’ve been a couple of times before when they’ve had open days. Usually you are visiting the site along with 20+ other people, so getting a good look, and getting all the info from the guide can be patchy.

Walkways over the Billingsgate Roman House & Baths
Glorious walkways! Also some tiled floor.

This time around, there were four of us in total on the tour which was nice. Since I was last there, they have also extended the walkways over the remains, allowing you to see oh so much more. Being able to see the entire site from the walkways really helps in being able to put it all together. 

The tour is great and explains all the parts of the site, and how they were connected.

Underfloor heating, Billingsgate Roman House & Baths
Underfloor heating in the tepidarium.

One of the best bits from our tour this past weekend was during the health and safety briefing. Stick with me here. The Museum of London staff were telling us to keep our belongings close, as if we drop something, say our phone while snapping pictures, there’s no way to get it back out of there. As a cautionary tale, we were told about a colleague of theirs who dropped their name badge the other day, and it’s still there…

Dropped Name Badge - Billingsgate Roman House & Baths
Just to the right of the badge are the remans of a Roman road, and then the edge of a Roman wall.

Guessing they’ll be able to get it next time some conservation work is done? Or maybe it will be found several centuries later for archeologists to puzzle over. Much like the Saxon brooch that was found on the site, on top of a pile of collapsed roof tiles.

There are loads of opportunities to see this site until August, and it’s definitely recommended.

And if you want to delve into Londinium a bit more, the City of London Guides do a Roman London walk every Monday afternoon and Friday morning from the City Info Centre.

Billingsgate Roman House & Baths
Roman bath built onto a (likely) private residence. You can see the furnace for the caldarium.

Cathedral Checklist: Worcester

Giving my site the usual yearly ‘hey let’s have a look at this and run some updates’, I came across this draft of a post. I figured I’d just share it as is, partly because I simply can’t recall the rest, and partly just for the sake of it. /blows dust off the post… here’s one I prepared on 30/4/2012

Way back in the cold, crisp days of February I took a day trip to Worcester. A bit far perhaps for a day trip, but I still have in my Canadian blood the tolerance for taking 4+ hours to get somewhere. London Midland trains were doing a sale for a couple of weeks where you could buy basically a day pass for their network for £15. One would be crazy not to grab that.

I wasn’t too familiar with many of the towns and cities their network covered, but Worcester stood out as being an old town with a medieval cathedral to check out.

Up and at them early on a Saturday morning to get to Euston for the first leg of my journey to Birmingham. There was a problem with some frozen points along the tracks near Leighton Buzzard that slowed us down a bit. But hey as long as I got there while it was still daylight I wasn’t too bothered.

I was tempted to have a quick peak at least around Birmingham New Street Station but I didn’t have much time at all to catch my next train that would take me to Worcester. Ah well, I don’t reckon it could have changed too much since I was last there four years ago.

Foregate Street Station

I arrived at Foregate Station, one of two stations in Worcester. The other one being Shurb Hill which I thought was too far out of the centre of the city, but that really wasn’t the case. Anyways, enough about rail stations. This is about the cathedral.

Worcester Cathedral

Worcester Cathedral, or to call it by its full name of The Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Mary the Virgin of Worcester, was built between 1084 and 1584. With such a long construction time, it ended up representing every English architectural styles on the go for those 500 years. If you ever want to have a peek at what the cathedral’s west facade looks like, just flip over a £20 note printed between 1999 and 2007. It’s there along with a portrait of Sir Edward Elgar. There is a memorial to him inside the cathedral.

Elgar Memorial, Worcester Cathedral

Here we have the two most dominant architectural styles side by side:

Worcester Cathedral

Rounded Norman arches on side and pointed gothic arches on the other. You can see the brickwork of the ceiling change as well between the two stages of building.

Worcester Cathedral

Standing in the choir…

Worcester Cathedral

… and looking up in the choir. Nice pipes.

That Tudor Hunting Lodge in Epping Forest

While I may not have done as much exploring over the Christmas break as I would have liked, I still managed to have a little afternoon trip within Greater London. Last week I hopped on a train at Liverpool Street Station with Chingford as my stop. Destination: Epping Forest, and more specifically, Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge.

The walk from the station was a lot shorter than I thought it would be, and pretty quickly you get the feeling of being ‘out in the country’

Oh god, Epping Forest

The Forest (with a capital F) and the lodge, and indeed the whole lot are run by the City of London Corporation. I may not be in the City, but do I ever really leave it? There’s City crests a plenty. Here’s the entrance to The View visitor centre.

The View Visitor Centre, Epping Forest

And immediately next door is the building I’m here for, complete with 16th century guy waiting for the rest of his family outside. On hunting days, the lodge would have been covered with banners such as these.

Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

Calling it Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge is a bit erroneous though. The name didn’t crop up until the Victorians. It was at this time that a story surfaced of Elizabeth coming here to celebrate the victory over the Spanish Armada by riding her horse up the inside staircase. There’s no actual evidence that ever happened, or anything really substantial to say she was indeed ever here. There’s a chance she was. One of her favourites, the Earl of Leicester, owned nearby Wanstead Park so it’s possible she was in the area and maybe stopped by for a visit.

The timber-framed lodge was built for King Henry VIII in 1543 and originally called The Great Standynge (Standing) as it was the first one in England to have three floors. By this time the King was, how shall we say, far past his hunting prime but still wanted to shoot at some animals. When the lodge was first built the upper floors were completely open. Henry and his party would perch up at the top, and animals would be rounded up and fire off some rounds, a bit like a shooting gallery game.

Inside, the ground floor is a large kitchen which would have prepared all the food required for a hunting feast. The hearth remains and contains quite a bit of original brickwork.

Tudor kitchen hearth, Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

Tudo kitchen, Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

The large central beam in the kitchen has some interesting markings on it. These would have been made by rush lights places in front of it to provide lights for the kitchen workers. The flames would have burnt the grooves into the wood.

Marks in a wooden beam made by rush lights, Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

Before you head up the stairs, there’s a odd shaped bit of timber. In the bit that is cut out, there would have originally been an oven for baking bread.

The cut out bit is where a bread oven would have been, Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

Heading up the stairs that Henry VIII may or may not have been able to manage, and a warning about taking care on the stairs.

Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

A bit 'Tudor', Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

Lots of timber frame, roughly 90% of which is original. Not too shabby. The lodge would have been flat packed – the timbers were all pre-made and assembled on site. In the main entrance, there are some carpenter marks (that I didn’t get a photo of as it was too dark) that helped them put it all together. How very modern.

Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

The top floor where all the hunting was done from, with a rather nice timber frame roof. The curved pieces in the middle were made to resemble antlers.

Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

The floor below had a few of these markings called apotropaic marks. You can just about make this one out, it looks a bit like a flower in a circle. These were put near windows and chimneys to ward off evil spirits from entering.

Apotropaion mark, Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

It may not be very big, but it is definitely worth a visit. This year they are starting to do 30 minute guided tours of the lodge, as well as some guided tours of Epping Forest.

Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

For some more photos, head on over to Flickr.

The big 1-2-0, it’s Tower Bridge

120 years ago today Tower Bridge was officially opened in a large, Victorian spectacle with the the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) and his wife (the future Queen Alexandra) as the top billing, well other than the bridge itself.  Fittingly, for today entry to the Tower Bridge Exhibit is £1.20.

I thought I’d put together a mega-photo-and-video post. Here are some images I’ve captured of the bridge that a lot of people think is much older than it actually is…

The Spirit of Chartwell passes under Tower Bridge
The Royal Barge, The Spirit of Chartwell, goes under the bridge as part of the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. The bascules are fully raised in salute to the Queen.
Tower Bridge Lights
New lights fitted a few weeks before the opening of the 2012 summer Olympics.
Olympic Rings on Tower Bridge
Same shot, but in daylight with the Olympic Rings on show.
Victorian control room, Tower Bridge
Inside the old Victorian control room.
Accumulator in the south tower, Tower Bridge
Accumulator in the south tower, taken while en route to beneath river level…

Inside the south tower’s bascule chamber, beneath the water level of the river.

The end of the south bascule, Tower Bridge
Back end of the south bascule.
Tower Bridge Engine Room
The Victorian engine room
North tower from the west walkway, Tower Bridge
Up in the elevated walk way.
City stamp, Tower Bridge
City corporation tag on some of the engine room equipment. Tower Bridge was built by the City of London Corporation and they still maintain it.