Besides far superior public transportation systems and many more public smokers, I think the thing that Americans notice the most when they travel to Europe is texture: a built environment that looks comparatively embellished, nuanced with symbolism, and venerable. Despite London’s dynamic growth over the past twenty years or so, there is still a lot of historic fabric in the city–but much of it is deceptively and relatively “modern”, i.e., Victorian. The Houses of Parliament are probably the best example, but scattered around the city are myriad buildings that “look” older than they really are: especially pubs! I was charged with finding Tudor sites in London on this trip: a task that was not as easy as you might think. The successive catastrophes of the Great Fire of London and the Blitz obliterated much of the city’s pre-modern fabric and in between there were those “improving” Victorians! So what remains of Tudor London? Lots of things, primarily to be found in the National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain, The Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Museum of London. Several places, namely the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey, St. Margaret’s Church nearby, Lambeth Palace just across the river, and the Tower of London and the sister churches of St. Helen’s Bishopsgate and St. Andrew Undershaft in the City. There is also the Staple Inn of my last post, whose very Tudor appearance probably owes much to an early twentieth-century “restoration”, and St. Bartholomew’s Gatehouse and the oldest residence in London, located on the picturesque City street of Cloth Fair. To the west, Hampton Court Palace, and to the east, Sutton House in Hackney, which was one of the highlights of my recent tour. You can’t quite immerse yourself in the Tudor era in modern London–but you can come close, for an hour or two, if you find the right spot.
Windows into the Tudor era: exterior of the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court (where we attended a service!), featuring the Tudor emblems of the portcullis and rose; looking out from the Tower towards the Queen’s apartments, built c. 1530 for Anne Boleyn; windows at the Sutton House, c. 1535; one of many impressive oriel windows at Hampton Court Palace.
Tudor People: Henry VIII at Hampton Court; my favorite of his wives, Katherine Parr at the National Portrait Gallery; the tomb of his niece (and the grandmother of King James VI and I) Margaret, Countess of Lennox, in the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey; not quite Tudor-era people but I love this triptych portrait of the Holme family in the Victoria & Albert Museum, c. 1628.
Hampton Court courtyards and Sutton House and its central courtyards in Hackney; St. Andrew Undershaft in the City of London dwarfed by the Gherkin (my photograph didn’t turn out so well as the Gherkin wasn’t so textured; this is one credited to Duncan which I found here. It’s a pretty classic composition now, as you can imagine!)
So now finally for some real interior texture: the Tudors could not bear an unembellished surface and were particular fond of tapestries and wood paneling for their interiors. At Hampton Court, the private Tudor apartments were demolished to make way for the Baroque “restoration” of William and Mary’s reign, but the Great Hall of Henry VIII’s time remains, with its decorated hammer-beam roof and walls lined with The Story of Abraham tapestries. On the day that I was there last week, this room was full of English schoolgirls (in the best uniforms ever) drawing details from the tapestries in close consultation with their teachers, so it was hard for me to get a clear shot of the interior details (plus I was very taken with these uniforms–fortunately there are lots of pictures of the Great Hall online). Later in the week, at Sutton House, I walked around the house in complete isolation and marveled at each and every surface: it was like stepping back in time in some rooms, while in others the National Trust’s conservation/interpretation approach enabled one to look beyond the decorative facade into the bones of the house, which is a must-see for any Tudor fan.
Schoolgirls in the Great Hall at Hampton Court; The very famous “Great Ware Bed”, c. 1590, at the Victoria & Albert Museum (this item could have a post of its own); The National Trust’s Sutton House in Hackney: front door, doorway, paneling, details from fireplace surround & hops woodcarving; upstairs drawing room.
March 23rd, 2016 at 8:12 am
The Great Bed of Ware-mentioned in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night!
March 23rd, 2016 at 10:41 am
It is indeed a very famous bed, Mary–and big!
March 23rd, 2016 at 9:39 am
Another vote for Katherine Parr! For once the hackneyed phrase is appropriate: grace under pressure.
March 23rd, 2016 at 10:25 am
I love the little alleyway to, one assumes, the necessary offices of the house, not clear from your blurb if it’s Hampton Court or Sutton House. I love looking round the backs of places.
March 23rd, 2016 at 10:42 am
Oh, I’m sorry, Sarah. I’ll fix that. Yes, indeed–the narrow courtyard that links all the food prep. rooms at Hampton Court.
March 23rd, 2016 at 11:18 am
I thought the architecture looked as though it should be, and it tallies with a floor plan I have [in the excellent book ‘all the king’s cooks’] but thanks for confirming
March 23rd, 2016 at 12:56 pm
Love that book.
March 23rd, 2016 at 10:33 am
it is not tudor
but try this one for an old pub
March 23rd, 2016 at 10:37 am
Oh shoot; missed that one! I didn’t do well with pubs this time around.
March 23rd, 2016 at 10:52 am
lol. the great fire did gut a lot of them in london. out in the countryside you can get much older ones. my local is quite nice for example
March 23rd, 2016 at 10:58 am
Well, I am coming over this summer–and again in the fall–so I will make sure to consult you for my pub itinerary!
March 23rd, 2016 at 11:04 am
and there are all sorts of debates as to what should count as england’s oldest pub
March 23rd, 2016 at 5:49 pm
Donna, great Tudor tour.
On my last visit to the Portrait Gallery I saw a beautifully restored portrait of Ann Bolyen, with lustrous pearls glistening on her lovely neck. I never tire of that place.
Also that pic of the school girls is priceless – they must attend a very toney school.
Will continue to follow…
March 23rd, 2016 at 6:06 pm
Thanks Helen. Don’t miss Sutton House on your tour!!!
March 24th, 2016 at 6:29 pm
Absolutely love those red tights, matching caps, and blue caps! Did you manage to eavesdrop anything on the school? Did they seem to like their uniforms? They strike me as rather unusual, or maybe not for England.
Great annotated photos. Thanks so much!
March 24th, 2016 at 6:29 pm
I meant blue capes, not caps 🙂
March 24th, 2016 at 6:44 pm
unusual even for England, almost certainly a public [private in US-speak] or private school and possibly, though not necessarily, Catholic. I suspect half the little girls adore their very individualistic uniforms and the rest hate them.
March 24th, 2016 at 7:39 pm
Groups of schoolchildren everywhere I went last week, or at least at the touristy sites, but these were definitely the best-dressed. It was quite a site to see them marching up to the palace from the ticket booth, almost two by two!
March 24th, 2016 at 7:54 pm
Again, that is a great pic of the school girls. Must be quite a toney school – those capes alone look expensive.
I have seen many adorable children in school uniforms throughout Europe – one in particular at Yorkminster School in York – but these little gals are something else.
Look forward to more of your London adventures…
March 24th, 2016 at 7:56 pm
I know: I got distracted from the Great Hall!