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18th Century

A Wind of Tingling Fullness on the Strand: Sir William Chambers’ Sculptural Design and Somerset House as ‘the object of national splendor’

Top image: Detail of George II and The River Thames, by John Bacon.

An Interview with Professor Michael Trapp, Department of Classics, King’s College London By Freya Zhang In her essay ‘The external sculptural decoration of Somerset House: And the documentary sources’, Susan Jenkins writes: “It is clear that Sir William Chambers planned a sustained and sophisticated iconographical program for the external sculptural decoration of Somerset House, which…

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Eighteenth-century lives in Devereux Court

Micah Anne Neale is a 3rd-year PhD student at Royal Holloway, University of London, and volunteered for Layers of London in Summer 2019. Her thesis topic is the musical lives of eighteenth-century domestic servants in Britain, and her research interests include early modern social and cultural history, the history of work and the history of…

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Layers of the Strand

Today, I have been time travelling. I explored the farm around Trafalgar Square. I squeezed into a tiny top room in Devereaux Court to hear Isaac Newton speak. I paid a ferryman tuppence to take me to the floating coffee house on the Thames to look over the water at Somerset House. This is all…

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Mrs Holt’s Italian Warehouse

In the 1720s, Mrs Holt’s Italian Warehouse (a warehouse was a sort of 18th-century department store) in the Strand opposite Exeter Change. According to the trade card that William Hogarth engraved for her, she stocked ‘all sort of Italian silks as Lustrings, Sattins, Padesois, Velvets, Damasks, &c, Fans, Leghorne Hats, Flowers, Lute and Violin Strings,…

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St Mary Le Strand

In 1147 the site was occupied by the church of The Nativity Of Our Lady and the Innocents. This was demolished in 1549 to make way for Somerset House, Protector Somerset promised to rebuild it but never did so and for nearly 200 years the parishioners had used the Savoy Chapel. A maypole used to…

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Panoramas, Dress Circles and Tubes

In 1787 Robert Barker put a patent on a way of seeing: ‘panorama’. It is said that he came upon the term when surveying the city of Edinburgh from the top of Calton Hill. Moving to London, Barker reconstructed 360 degree views in a Leicester Square art gallery; an initiative mimicked by his son on…

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Petrolheads and airheads

The future has come to the Strand, in the form of a beautiful machine – the Bloodhound. Currently filling the front window of Coutts Bank with its pointy-nosed enquiry into what sort of world might make use of it, this gleaming blur of potential encapsulates an ambition: to reach a speed of 1,000 mph and…

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