FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Open House London 2011

Posted in England, London by folkestonejack on September 17, 2011

Once a year the Open House London weekend offers an incredible opportunity to visit over 700 properties, many of which you would never normally get the chance to see. This year is the 19th running of the event and it’s always a pleasure to trawl through the listings to devise an itinerary for a day exploring London. On this occasion the plan was to visit five properties, though a wrong turn during the day added a sixth…

Trinity House is the body responsible for lighthouses in England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar. The building dates back to the end of the 18th century but the interior was destroyed by a fire from an incendiary bomb in 1940 and reconstructed using a series of photographs taken for Country Life magazine. Amongst the rooms you can visit is the library – which might conjure up images of walls lined with bookshelves, but in fact they are all hidden behind the doors that make up the room’s panelling.

Carpenters’ Hall is another building wrecked by fire. A landmine fell into London Wall and ignited the gas mains on the night of 10th May 1941 resulting in the destruction of the interior. A new steel structure was constructed inside the walls of the old building and a stunning modern interior was created to showcase the craft of the carpentry profession. You can see more about the history of the hall on the website of the Carpenters’ Company.

The IET London building in Savoy Place was originally built as a joint Examination Hall for the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons. It has a striking entrance lobby which must have seemed incredibly modern in 1909.

No. 2 Carlton House Terrace is a grand building overlooking the Mall which is now home to the Royal College of Pathologists. The building had suffered from wartime bombing but a relatively recent restoration has revived its grandeur. The series of bare-brick basement lecture and seminar rooms were very smart too.

Marlborough House was completed in 1711 to a design by Christopher Wren and initially served as a town house for the Dukes of Marlborough. Throughout the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth century the house was a royal palace with the list of occupiers including the widowed Queen Adelaide and the future kings Edward VII, George V and Edward VIII. The interior is a real feast for the eyes and it’s not hard to see why the Blenheim Saloon was once described as one of the most handsome rooms in London. Today the building is home to the Commonwealth Secretariat. You can take an online tour using a rather neat series of 360 degree virtual tours.

Methodist Central Hall is a building I have passed many times without ever seeing the incredible interior. It oozes style with a grand sweeping staircase, marble floors and wonderful ornamental metalwork. It was built in 1912 and requisitioned by the government in 1946 for the inaugural general assembly of the United Nations so there’s a fair amount of history too. The visit here was the most surprising with an unexpected opportunity to tour the dome. It seemed like a suitable finale for a great day out.

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