A Green Gem by the Gherkin

September 20, 2021
A Green Gem by the Gherkin

Hidden away in Bury Street, by the Gherkin, in the north east of the City is Holland House, one of Europe’s most important buildings. It may well be the first on the Continent to be constructed on a steel frame.

It was built in 1914-16 by the Dutch architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage for the Kroller-Mullers shipping company. Berlage had been deeply influenced by a visit to the US in 1911, especially by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The surface is decorated with green tiles, giving a highly distinctive appearance, which is accentuated on its south-eastern corner by a sculpture of a freighter sailing out towards pedestrians passing its entrance, carved by J Mendes da Costa. The building feels as though it is anticipating Art Deco.

Holland House is divided in two, to reflect its construction around another office block built in 1912 for a grain dealer, which adds to its slightly odd character. 

Bury Street is named after the abbots of Bury St Edmunds whose London residence was here until the Dissolution.


Bigger Than Shakespeare?

September 13, 2021

Lancelot Andrewes is hardly a household name, but he arguably had as much influence on the English language as William Shakespeare. Andrewes would have walked the same London streets as Shakespeare. He was born in the shadows of the Tower of London in 1555 and has a handsome tomb in what is now Southwark Cathedral, close to Shakespeare’s Globe. He was one of the most respected theologians and translators of his day and rose to become the Bishop of Winchester. He was the last Bishop of Winch...

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William Bury - Jack The Ripper Suspect

August 13, 2021

One of the lesser-known suspects for the Ripper murders is William Bury and his is a strange tale indeed!

He was born in May 1859, orphaned at an early age and attended a charitable school in the Midlands. After he left school, he was in regular employment for a while and then got into financial difficulties and was dismissed for stealing. He became a street pedlar. In 1887 he moved to London and met and married Ellen Elliot, who was probably a prostitute. Their marriage was stormy, punctuated...

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Saint Thomas Becket at the British Museum

August 11, 2021

The British Museum’s exhibition ‘Thomas Becket murder and the making of a saint’ is into its last days now and will close on 22 August. It is being held to mark the 850th year of his death (or the 900th of his birth), with the slight discrepancy of it now being 2021 (he lived 1120 to 1170) being explained by a postponement from last year due to lock-down.

The main drawback of exhibitions is usually the other people there, preventing you seeing what you want to see when you want to see it...

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A Scientist in Mayfair

August 6, 2021

Albemarle Street is one of Mayfair’s quieter streets, but it has not always been so. It is home to the Royal Institution and with its imposing classical columns it is one of the most notable buildings on the street. But it is also the reason Albemarle Street became Britain’s first one- way street.

The Royal Institution (RI for short) is one of the UK’s leading scientific institutions, founded in 1799. It has always had an emphasis not only on research but also teaching and you may have s...

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Suspect Montague John Druitt

July 29, 2021

Montague John Druitt was 31 years of age at the time of the Jack the Ripper murders. He had been born into a reasonably well-off family from Wimborne Dorset, and went to New College Oxford in 1876. He graduated three years later with a third-class honours degree in classics, thereafter taking up a post as a teacher at Blackheath Boys School, a boy’s preparatory school. It was a successful school, run by George Valentine who was widely respected as a headmaster.

Druitt played cricket at the M...

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