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London’s Ecclesiastical Treasures

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London is a city of many churches, many of which have a long history of standing in the same location through the trials and tribulations that have faced the city and its residents throughout its history. Several of the churches, cathedrals and abbeys have a heritage dating back to the medieval era and boast some of the most spectacular interiors and external facades of any building in the city.

There are some particularly prize examples that are well worth a visit on your trip to London. Whether you wish to pay homage or simply wonder at the architecture, there are lots to attract you to the churches and cathedrals of London.

 

Oldest church

Although there are plenty of churches that have had places of worship on the same grounds dating back to the Middle Ages, the oldest church in continuous use in the city is St Bartholomew the Great in Smithfield, West London.

st bartholomew the great

St Bartholomew the Great, with its peaceful and austere interior

The church has stood in place and been used as a place of worship continuously since at least 1143 St Bartholomew’s, Or Bart’s as it’s affectionately known locally, has battled the odds and survived through two World Wars and the Great Fire of London to stand completely unscathed almost exactly as it did when it was first erected some 850 years ago. Today it is known for its excellent music and café, which serves a selection of monastic beers and fresh food seven days a week in the 15th century cloister.

 

Multi-purpose church

The church with probably the most varied use in London is the Union Chapel in Islington, North London. As well as having a growing congregation of worshipers that attend the chapel on a daily basis, the Union offers a number of other services that help make it into a thriving and vibrant community of people from all backgrounds.

The Chapel runs a charity that supports homeless people and people in crisis from across London. The Margin is a drop-in centre that offers food, shelter, healthcare and a social meeting place for people who have nowhere else to turn. A legion of volunteers keep the place running and offering to support to some of the most needy people in the city.

In addition to its charitable works, the Union Chapel has a busy events calendar that sees some top names in comedy and music appearing at the atmospheric gothic chapel with its domed interior making it perfect for both spoken word and musical performance. London’s top entertainment weekly Time Out recently voted the Union Chapel London’s number 1 music venue.

 

London’s grandest place of worship

If you’re looking for out-and-out grandeur, there can only be one church that tops the list of most spectacular churches in London.

st pauls cathedral building

St Paul’s Cathedral – easily London’s most imposing ecclesiastical building

Designed by the great British architect Sir Christopher Wren, the cathedral as it now stands covers consecrated ground that has been used as a site of worship since the early 4th century. The vast domed roof dominates the skyline and can be seen for miles around from both sides of the river.

The interior of the cathedral is no less imposing with a vast gilt high altar and thousands of engravings and paintings by some of the foremost painters and craftsmen of the age.

Visitors can wander around the interior of the church and enjoy some of the splendour that has seen princes and princesses married at the altar and the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2012.

 

Conclusion

London has some of the most varied and interesting places of worship that also counts amongst their number the grand and the beautiful. It wouldn’t be possible to visit London without seeing some of its thousands of churches, chapels and cathedrals, so keep your eyes peeled and your camera handy.

Image Credits: Wikipedia 1 and 2

Keep the Kids Entertained on a Fun-packed London Weekend

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If you’re traveling to the city with the family, it can be difficult to find a balance of activities that keep everyone entertained. While you might want to go and see museums and exhibitions, little ones are quickly bored and need fun activities that will keep them interested and engaged.

There are plenty of things to do in London that have enough to keep the adults happy while making sure that the kids have fun in the process. Plenty of London’s most popular museums have things that will keep the youngsters in your party enthralled while still having something to offer for the grown-ups.

 

The Science Museum

Less of a museum, more of a collection of interactive exhibits, the Science Museum is designed with young people in mind. With lots of fascinating information about advances in science and the ways in which scientific discoveries have impacted on the world around us, the various halls have plenty of places where kids can get hands-on with the exhibits to learn about science and have loads of fun in the process.

Current exhibits in the museum include the history of British innovation and the science of pain, both of which have games and interactive activities for kids to get involved with. Your trip will be interesting, exciting, educational and fun for all concerned as you wander through the halls and find something new around every corner.

The museum is open every day except between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day and has free entry.

 

Gory history

If your kids are fans of the Horrible History series, they’re likely to get a real kick out of the Old Operating Theatre Museum at St Thomas Church, near St Thomas Hospital. The oldest operating theatre in Europe is found at the top of a rickety old staircase surrounded by deliciously macabre exhibits and at the top, the steeply pitched seating surrounding the operating theatre at the bottom.

The theatre occasionally has re-enactments of the surgery that would have taken place before crowds of morbidly curious wealthy patrons and would-be surgeons. These are, of course, somewhat sanitised from the original versions but are likely to have the older kids in your party squirming with gruesome delight.

 

Visit Hamley’s

This might be one you want to save for a time when you have a bit of money in your wallet, because you’re unlikely to leave empty-handed! Hamley’s toy store is the largest in the UK and has floors of toys of all kinds for kids of all ages.

hamley lego queen

Hamley’s Lego Queen, complete with corgi!

The displays of toys and games change throughout the year, and visiting close to Christmas is a particularly magical experience. Its window displays are legendary and kids will have a wonderful time wandering around and ogling all the wonderful toys from small to seriously large.

 

Princess Diana Memorial Playground

If you have a bunch of little monkeys with lots of energy to burn, head down to Kensington for an afternoon at the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. While they run themselves ragged, you can take the opportunity to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of Kensington Gardens.

sunny day memorial playground

A lovely sunny day at the Memorial Playground

In sight of Diana’s former residence at Kensington Palace, the playground has a sensory trail, teepees, sandpits and a full-scale wooden pirate ship inspired by The Jolly Roger in Peter Pan on which children can climb and play. There are plenty of areas where children who are less able to run and climb can play with those who are more physically active, making it a wonderfully inclusive place for kids to spend an afternoon.

 

Conclusion

London has plenty of places that are fun and rewarding to visit with children. Whatever it is your kids enjoy, you’ll be able to find something to keep them entertained.

Image Credits: Wingingit and alecea

From Aerial View to Underground – Take a Trip to the London Dungeons

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london dungeon

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Close to Westminster Bridge, something is stirring. The ghosts, ghouls and skeletons in the closet of London’s past are waiting to thrill and entertain you on a gruesome tour through London’s history.

The London Dungeon is a one-of-a-kind look through the history of the city for young and old on London’s south bank. Close to the London Eye and next door to the Aquarium, it’s a stop-off with a difference on the tourist trail of London.

Above ground, the Dungeon might not be much to look at though you quickly get the impression of something lurking as strange apparitions stalk the streets around the area, looking for unsuspecting victims for a horrifying trip back to the past. Once inside, you’ll get a totally different slant on London’s history, leaving no macabre fact unexamined.

 

London’s murky history

While there have been some great tales of derring-do and heroism in London’s past, there have also been infamous villains and historical infamy. The Dungeon takes you through some of the most dramatic incidents from London’s gory history with glee.

bones the london dungeon

Whose bones are these? You’ll have to visit to find out!

A mixture of exhibits and performance, the experiences in the Dungeons takes visitors on a walk through history re-enacted before your eyes. A cast of talented actors take on the roles of some of the most celebrated and infamous characters from London’s past, from Henry VIII through to Jack the Ripper. There will be scares, laughs and jumps aplenty as you make your way through these great histories.

 

Gunpowder, treason and plot

The tale of Guy Fawkes and his Gunpowder Plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament is told through the story-telling of actors in the roles of the main players of the attempted coup. In an exciting story for teenagers and adults, you’ll learn all about the conspiracy in a room full of gunpowder. Not for the faint-hearted, the tale of Guy and his co-conspirators will also go into quite some detail about the torture he endured after his capture by the soldiers of Parliament. It’s a grim, gruesome tale told with great gusto by the actors who take their parts perfectly.

 

The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Not all of the characters portrayed in the Dungeon are real-life former citizens of London. One exception is Sweeney Todd, the well-known murderous barber who, along with his landlady Mrs Lovett, killed his customers and used their bodies to fuel a grizzly trade in meat pies. At the Dungeon you can visit Mrs Lovett’s Meat Pie shop and have the chance to put your hair – or possibly your throat – in the hands of Mr Todd and his cutthroat blade.

 

Not just entertainment

While the main aim of the Dungeon is to thrill and entertain, there’s a lot that you can learn on your visit and your trip through some of the macabre histories on show. Find out just how far modern medicine has come from its rudimentary roots during the Black Plague where leeches were used for everything from consumption to hysteria. You’ll also have the chance to learn some of the most horrifying facts about Henry VIII’s reign over the British Isles, including what happened to his wives and the kind of tough justice he dished out to his subjects during his time on the throne.

 

Conclusion

Not for those who are easily made queasy by gruesome details and grizzly facts, the London Dungeons are a brilliant place to indulge those who delight in the gore and grime of London’s history.

Image Credits: Wikipedia and .Martin.

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