Hidden London: 55 Broadway

“I don’t know what London’s coming to – the higher the buildings the lower the morals”

Noel Coward, 1931

 

55 broadway

I have long wanted to do a behind the scenes tour in London but am rarely around for the open house weekends. Last year, I noticed TFL’s Hidden London events and so signed up to London Transport Museum newsletter so that I’d be the first to hear when new events were advertised and get priority booking 24 hours before they go on general sale.

We finally went on a tour at the end of February, having chosen 55 Broadway as the dates and price suited us best. This was once the headquarters of London Transport and as London’s first skyscraper, was controversial from the outset. It was completed in 1929 so I thought Noel Coward’s quote above was pretty apt! For much of the 19th century, the area was essentially a slum but the opening of St James’s Park station began to change this.

55 Broadway was designed by the architect Charles Holden, who’s modernist style set him apart. Frank Pick, Managing Director of the Underground, chose Holden as they shared a liking of matching form with function. The unconventional crucifix shape allowed a maximum amount of natural light into the offices. The other visionary instrumental in making 55 Broadway possible was Lord Ashfield, Chairman of the Board.

55 statue willy

Holden commissioned seven of Britain’s leading artists to create ten sculptures for the buildings exterior. Eight of these represent the four directional winds, two each on the corresponding façade. Jacob Epstein was asked to sculpt Night and Day, which were widely criticised, resulting in Day (pictured above) having his appendage shortened…

Our tour started in the foyer, where I was intrigued by the clocks which showed how often tubes ran through various stations and in which direction. There were numerous old tfl posters, photos of various important people from tfls history and nice touches like the post shoots for internal mail. We were told about the hierarchy extending both to which floor your office was on to which canteen and toilets you were allowed to use!

55 clocks

 

We had booked onto the last tour of the day, starting at 16.45 at the end of February, and lasting for 90 minutes. As luck would have it, this meant that we reached the outside viewing deck for sunset and thus got beautiful views over London in the evening light.

55 dusk

As I’m very behind with my blog posts, we’ve already booked for more Hidden London events this year, with both Euston tunnels and Down Street to come. Hopefully our guides will be just as fantastic next time too!

55 poster edit

 

 

A weekend in Rye

“Come, listen to my ditty, while of Rye I sing the fame;

For ’tis indeed an ancient town in character and name.

At first it was an island rock all lonely in the sea;

And neither man nor woman there the mariner could see.

I think ’tis more than probable; the seagulls settled here,

And were the sole inhabitants thro’ many a distant year.”

William Holloway (excerpt from ‘Rye: a ballad’)

 

Rye planning

We spent last weekend in Rye for the boys birthday. I chose Rye because we had our first ever weekend away there almost exactly three years ago! We even stayed at the same hotel (http://thegeorgeinrye.com) although my budget didn’t quite extend to the same level of luxury as his! The bed was comfortable but the room was really hot – we ended up unplugging the heater so we could sleep better!

Last time we visited, we went kite surfing which was great fun but i’d definitely recommend waiting until the weather is warmer! We had also climbed the tower of St Mary’s church, which is definitely well worth doing. Keep your eyes looking up so you don’t miss the oldest functioning church turret clock. The Quarterboys strike the quarter hours and there is a tenor bell to announce the hour.

Ypres castle

Somehow, we managed to miss Ypres Tower last time, despite this being just behind the church! I would thoroughly recommend a visit – it’s only £4 for an adult and packed with much more than you’d expect from the outside. The two staff we met were great fun and told us more about the exhibits. I enjoyed reading about the smugglers and other local legends. As you can see from my photo, we didn’t have the best weather (rain in England in February – who’d have thought it!) so didn’t spend too long out on the balcony! Ypres Tower was built in the 14th century, making it the second oldest building in Rye. Walking out towards the cannons after we’d finished looking around, we spotted the Ypres Castle pub. The rain provided a good excuse to pop in and we were lucky to grab seats by the fire. The staff were lovely and the hops above the bar were a lovely touch. We were still full from our generous breakfasts but the food smelt great!

Other pubs worth a mention are the Mermaid Inn, where the notorious Hawkhurst smugglers used to meet. As we were not staying in the hotel, we could only sit in the Inn area. I liked the stained glass and historic wall decorations. The Old Bell, Rye’s oldest pub, has a lovely beer garden (for warmer days) and is quaint in it’s décor.

We made sure we popped into The Tiny Book Store which is crammed full of books of all genres. The Rye map shown in the top picture was bought in Campion Frames which was a treasure trove of goodies – the boy is still talking about a picture he wished he’d bought!

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Overall, we had a lovely chilled weekend. Sadly we had to leave early on Sunday, just as the sun came out and the whole historic town looked beautiful with the backdrop of blue skies. We’ve already said we’ll come back when the weather is warmer, with a view to going to Camber Sands and visiting one of the three nearby vineyards.

Dorking and Denbies

“Penicillin cures but wine makes people happy”
Alexander Fleming

My friend, who has lived in Australia for the last four years, has been back in the UK over the festive period so we thought we’d use one of our catch-ups to get out of London  and do something fun. After much deliberation, we settled on Dorking due to its close proximity to London and the presence of Denbies and a large number of pubs!

We stayed in the newly refurbished White Horse (bespokehotels.com/dorking-white-horse), which had lots of lovely touches in the room such as Dickens books and horse shaped shortbread. The bed was super soft and we loved all the equine touches in the bar/restaurant.

 

white horse

 

The next morning, we headed off to Denbies, which is one of the largest wine producers in the UK. I am a member of the loyalty club – well worth the £25 annual fee. We had an informative tour which included a film on the history of the vineyard, followed by a tour of the working winery and then a tasting. We had opted for the classic tasting, trying two whites and a rose in the cellar room, with beautiful barrels as the decoration. I am definitely going to return in warmer weather when you can have an outdoor train tour through the beautiful vineyard setting. After our tour we treated ourselves to a glass of Denbies award winning sparkling wine in the cafe.

 

wine tasting

 

We then had a lovely lunch before strolling through Dorking, browsing the antique shops with a quick pit stop in a pub or two… The museum was closed as it was midweek so it looks like I have a few good excuses to pop to Dorking again soon!