Every year London has one weekend of FREE admissions to over 750 sites across the city. We lucked out as that weekend happened to be our very first weekend in London! David found out about it this morning and since we didn’t really know where we were going we decided to just get off at Bank DLR station, pick up our cell phones from near Liverpool Street Station and start walking around. The event is called Open House London and runs from September 22nd – 23rd, 2012.
The first place we wandered into was Carpenters Hall. The Carpenters Company was granted their own coat of arms in 1466 and it was displayed throughout the building. The window to the left shows the crest with the words “Honour God” below it, the company motto. The crest has 3 compasses on it (representing the carpenters tools) and a chevron (representing roof support) The coat of arms was also on the gates out front of the hall. Within the hall were paintings, silver artifacts and beautifully carved furniture. We were fortunate to see inside the hall as tours of the hall are usually only available to pre-booked groups.
After Carpenter Hall we walked past the Bank of England where there was a line up of people around the entire building! From where we were standing it would take roughly 2 hours to get in for a tour. Since the Bank of England Museum is free most days anyways we decided to visit some of the churches in the area instead.
We managed to go see 4 today (Parish Church of St Stephen Walbrook, St. Mary Le Bow Church, St. Lawrence Jewry and St. Paul’s Catherdral) with each one having so many years of history you could write a novel. I’ll sum up for you our favourite parts about each in the next few paragraphs.
First one was Parish Church of St. Stephen Walbrook, located right beside the Mansion House. Inside was a beautiful organ above the entrance to the church as well as carved out ceilings and walls throughout. The organ is pictured to the right.
In St. Mary Le Bow Church we went down to the Crypt. The Crypt is in the basement of the church where they would hold trials and determine sentencing for those proven guilty. Now it doesn’t look nearly as intimidating as I could imagine it once was since it has been turned into a lovely restaurant and cafe for the public.
St. Lawrence Jewry is the official church of the corporation of London. Here we got side tracked because the Guildhall was right across the street. Look at it (image to your left), who wouldn’t be distracted by it?!?!? The Guildhall was built between 1411 and 1440 to reflect the importance of London’s growing elite. I’d say it does just that, sure distracted us.
There are 5 major rooms in the Guildhall. The Great Hall (the largest room), The Art Gallery (recent addition in 1999), The East and West Crypts (the largest medieval crypts in London), The Old Library and Print Room (it housed over 40,000 volumes, MSS and maps) and lastly The Livery Hall (listed as a Grade II structure). The Guildhall is the site used for many ceremonies, special events and conferences. They were setting up a dance floor and a mini stage in one of the rooms when we went through.
Our last stop of the day was a walk through St. Paul’s Cathedral gardens and then inside to see some of the Choral Evensong. The church is designed in the shape of a cross with a large dome in the intersection of it’s two arms. You’re not allowed to take photo’s inside the church, you’re just going to have to trust me when I tell you it’s unimaginable. The photo to the right is the West Front of the church. At the top of the two towers are pineapples – a symbol of peace, prosperity and hospitality. The clock on the tower to your right was installed in 1893 and above the clock are the bells with one of them being the largest swinging bell in Europe. We didn’t get to tour the entire church, that will just need to be another day.
Anyway, this is a very long post so congratulate yourself if you made it this far ;)