Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I Exhibition at the Queen’s House in Greenwich

Last week I took the short ride over to Greenwich to come face to face with the three surviving versions of the famous Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I which are on public display together in a free exhibition at the Queen’s House in Greenwich. The exhibition, entitled Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I, is the first time the paintings have been displayed together in their 430-year history.

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I, circa 1588 © National Maritime Museum, London

The Armada Portraits  are considered one of the most iconic images in British history and commemorates the most famous conflict in Elizabeth’s reign when the Spanish Armada failed in their attempt to invade England in 1588. Royal Museums Greenwich showcases its own version of the Armada Portrait alongside the two other surviving versions, from the collections of Woburn Abbey and the National Portrait Gallery.

The Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. From the Woburn Abbey Collection

For all the fame of the Armada Portraits, very little is known about them, they were believed to have been painted shortly after the Armada, in 1588. The origins of the paintings and artists are shrouded in mystery with some experts suggesting that three different artists or studios could be responsible for the three principal Armada Portraits working from a single template.

Queen Elizabeth I by Unknown English artist, circa 1588 © National Portrait Gallery, London

The Queen’s House is a wonderful setting for the exhibition which presents an unprecedented opportunity for visitors to explore closely the  three iconic depictions of Elizabeth I. In all three versions, the Queen is shown in a rich gold-embroidered and jewelled dress with seascapes showing different episodes of the Spanish Armada story.

The Queen’s House is part of Royal Museums Greenwich. It is 17th century Palladian villa, designed by Inigo Jones, which is situated on the site of the original Greenwich Palace complex, which was a major political centre of the Tudor dynasty and the birthplace of Elizabeth I herself.

So in many respects, Greenwich with its Tudor and Maritime history is the ideal place to full understand how the paintings relate to an important part of British history, England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada was considered one of the greatest military victories in English history and Elizabeth was celebrated in portraits, pageants, and the literature of the day.  Evidence of the  Elizabethan era has largely disappeared from Greenwich, these portraits are a reminder that for hundreds of years that this part of London was the centre of British power and prestige.

Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I is open from 13 February – 31 August 2020 at the Queen’s House in Greenwich alongside the Woburn Treasures exhibition that runs from 13 February to 17 January 2021, both are free to visit.

Rare objects discovered in the Havering Hoard reveal life in Bronze Age London

Photo – David Parry/PA Wire

One exhibition, I am looking forward to seeing at the Museum of London Docklands this April  is related to the Havering Hoard. This major exhibition called Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery will take visitors on a journey through life in the Late Bronze Age. Artefacts from the hoard, including tools and weapons, will feature alongside objects from the museum’s collection to tell the story of the people who lived and worked during this period.

Photo – David Parry/PA Wire

Among the objects are a pair of terret rings, a rare discovery and it is believed these are the first Bronze Age examples of their kind ever to be found in the UK. These objects are believed to have been used on horse-drawn carts. The discovery of these terret rings, bracelets and copper ingots possibly originating from the Alps suggests there was a well established trade route across Europe.

Photo – David Parry/PA Wire

Buried in four separate parts, the largest Bronze Age hoard ever discovered in London provides fascinating clues about the beliefs, values and nature of a complex and little known society.

Photo – David Parry/PA Wire

The Havering Hoard is a total of 453 bronze objects dating between c.900 and c.800 which were uncovered by archaeologists from Archaeological Solutions as part of a planned archaeological excavation.

Photo – David Parry/PA Wire

This internationally significant find will be on display from April to November 2020 and offers the opportunity to go back in history and find out what Late Bronze Age Havering folk got up to and how they lived.

Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery
Museum of London Docklands
Fri 3 Apr – Sun 1 Nov 2020

The Fancy at the Ferry House in 1832

The nearby O2 arena has been the scene of a number of major boxing matches in the last few years, however many people may not realise that the Isle of Dogs was a popular location for a number of sporting activities in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of these activities were illegal and the Island which was barely inhabited at the time was a way to get on with the ‘business’ away from prying eyes. In the early 19th century, boxing was a very popular sport but was very different from the boxing of today.

There were very few rules and the fight would go on until one fighter was unable to continue or would give up, seconds would wait in the ring assist the boxer between rounds. The bareknuckle fights were often brutal and severe injuries or death were not uncommon. The ‘Fancy’ was the name given to aristocrats who followed the sport in the 18th and 19th centuries. Although all sections of society followed the sport and fights could attract huge amounts of gamblers’ money.

Isle of Dogs 1837

A news report from 1832 illustrates that even with relatively small purses, people were willing to fight and risk serious injury or death.


The Fancy – Two Men Killed

On Wednesday night, an inquisition was held at the King’s Head, Church-street. Deptford, before Joseph Carter, Esq. Coroner and a respectable jury, on the body of Richard Dodd, aged 27 years, who was killed under the following deplorable circumstances.-

The deceased was a shoe-maker, and resided in Whiteheart-yard, Coleman street, A month since, a match was made between him and a man named James Cox, a shoemaker at the Crispin public-house, Milton street to fight for two sovereigns, and Monday last was fixed for the fight. The two men dined together at the house of the deceased, and were quite friendly. After dinner they, with a host of their partisans, proceeded to Battersea fields, where they fought 17 rounds, but being disturbed by the new police, the seconds proposed that they should proceed to the Isle of Dogs to terminate the fight. Thither they went, and a ring was formed near the Ferry house; but before the men set-to, they expressed a wish to draw the stakes and shake hands. The stakeholder, a man named Jordan, refused to give them up, saying, the money was placed in his hands for the men to fight, and he would be d-d if they should not. Many persons, and the men themselves remonstrated, but he and the seconds were inexorable, and the men then commenced fighting. Several blows were given on both sides, and the friends of Cox cried on to him “Kill him, murder him,”.

After about 14 rounds, both men fell insensible to the ground, and were unable to come life, and they lay on the grass to all appearances dead. Dodd was carried in a boat to the Grampus Hospital ship, where he was attended to by Dr. Lawson, and every thing that was possible was done to restore animation, but all to no purpose, and lie expired about an hour after. Cox was conveyed home in a dying state in a coach, and the news arrived at the inquest-room, on Wednesday, night, that he had also expired.

Several witnesses were examined, but they were unable to identify any of the parties engaged in the fight, with the exception of one man named Green, who held the clothes of the deceased. He was apprehended and carried to the cage at Deptford ; the others have at present escaped. Dr. Lawson stated, that he had made a post mortem examination of the body, which was most frightfully disfigured and found upwards of three ounces of coagulated blood on the brain, which was cause of death. At 11 o’clock, the Jury came to a determination to adjourn for further evidence to Friday, and the Coroner issued warrants against the seconds, and Jordan the stakeholder, to enforce their attendance.

Both deceased persons were married men, and have left families to deplore their untimely death.

This tragic event on the Island is a reminder that for many years in the 18th and 19th century, the Isle of Dogs had an unfortunate reputation from pirates hanging from gibbets to illegal fights.


The Commute of the Future at Canary Wharf

Bemused commuters outside Canary Wharf station were faced with what seemed like a large drone but may be part of the commute of the future.

A Bristol-based start-up Vertical Aerospace have been working on developing electric aircraft vehicles, designed specifically for vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL).

The company’s eVTOL aircraft named Seraph completed its first ever test flight in June last year when the 750kg aircraft successfully flew across Cotswold Airport in Kemble, Gloucestershire proving that its technology works and paving the way for eVTOL aircraft to be used in the future.

With the flight of the Seraph, Vertical Aerospace became the first company in the world to release flight footage of an eVTOL aircraft capable of carrying 250kg. The aircraft can reach speeds of up to 80kmph.

Founded by Stephen Fitzpatrick, Vertical Aerospace is building technology to revolutionise how people fly, by making air travel personal, on-demand and carbon free.

With more research and money being ploughed into electric aircraft vehicles like Vertical Aerospace’s eVTOL, there are a real possibility that many short-haul flights can be replaced with environmentally-friendly flying vehicles within four years.

It was a dream of many a young child in the 1960s, that flying vehicles would be the mode of the transport in the future, it may be possible  that over half a century later it may becoming a reality.

Chinese New Year Family Festival at the Museum of London Docklands – 8th and 9th February 2020

Chinese New Year (c) Museum of London

Celebrate the Year of the Rat at the Museum of London Docklands with the return of the popular two-day Chinese New Year family festival.

Chinese New Year (c) Museum of London

Located very near to London’s original Chinatown in Limehouse, the museum is the perfect place to enjoy the Chinese Lunar New Year festivities.

Chinese New Year (c) Museum of London

The event will include Chinese calligraphy, ancient folktales, ribbon dancing, board game making, dance performances, martial arts demonstrations, creative workshops, arts & crafts plus much more.

Chinese New Year (c) Museum of London

The event is free but you must book in advance for some of the activities which may have a small charge.

Chinese New Year (c) Museum of London

The Isle of Dogs and Limehouse have a long tradition of being the location of Chinese communities and this event is a great way to celebrate that connection.

For more information, visit the Museum of London Docklands website here

Winter Lights Festival 2020 at Canary Wharf from 16 to 25th January 2020

If you are suffering January blues, it might worth making your way to Canary Wharf for their Winter Lights Festival. The festival returns for a sixth year bringing together some of the most imaginative light artists to create spectacular artworks, installations and experiences.

Some old favourites return and each year the festival seems to get bigger and better. The festival is great for all the family with plenty to entertain the children.

This year there are over 25 spectacular installations, there are pieces which can be admired from afar as well as those which will allow people to get up close and interact with them.

1: Mi-E Dor De Tine by Daisler Association, Middle Dock
This romantic message declares “I miss you”. Whilst there is no perfect translation, this is the closest adaptation for this Romanian saying. It refers to a deeper meaning about longing or missing someone.


2: Bit.fall by Julius Popp, Chancellor Passage
An ever-changing cascade of words created by thousands of falling illuminated water droplets. The words are derived from a number of live news sources including The Times, The Guardian and the BBC News.


3: The Clew by OTTOTTO, Cubitt Steps
Made from 100 circles of red light, The Clew is a beautiful structure created around the Cubitt Steps Bridge.


4: Liquid Sound by Entertainment Effects, Cabot Square
Once again, the much-loved fountain in Cabot Square has a makeover for Winter Lights with a display of music and light.


5: Absorbed by Light by Gali May Lucas, Cabot Square
Take a seat in between the three figures of Absorbed by Light, designed by the British Gali May Lucas and executed by Berlin-based sculptor Karoline Hinz.
Experience how it feels to be next to the characters on the bench.


6: Sky on Earth by UAII Studio, Columbus Courtyard
This atmospheric UK premiere is inspired by the experience of a night flight over storm clouds. Columbus Courtyard will be transformed into an electrifying life sized cloud made of foam.

Czech Republic

7: Time & Tide by Paul & Pute, Columbus Courtyard
Time & Tide, with its hourglass design and colours inspired by nature, reminds us of the urgency of halting the plastic pollution of our oceans.

UK / Thailand

8: Shish-ka-buoy by Angus Muir Design, Westferry Circus
This fun installation is equally interesting by day as it is under the cover of darkness; during daylight hours, the large cluster landlocked six metre tall buoys absorb the light and give off a magical glow.
By night, thousands of LEDs inside create a whirl of colours and spherical gradients in this installation made from fully recyclable polyethylene marine buoys.

New Zealand

9: Lactolight by Lactolight, Westferry Circus
7,344 recycled plastic milk bottles become individual pixels in a giant low-res video screen. Programmed light depicting colours and patterns combined with a custom built soundscape gives you an overall sensory experience.


10: Stratum by Studio Chevalvert, Westferry Circus
Stratum is an interactive installation made up of 92 illuminated metal totems. Visitors are invited to move their hand over the sensor to trigger movement in the artwork.


11: Mountain of Light by Angus Muir Design, Wren Landing
Mountain of Light is a monolithic installation, towering to a height of four meters and brought to life by a dramatic repertoire of lighting effects that begin with subtle changes in shade and culminate in an intense mash up of colours.

New Zealand

12: Ditto by Ithaca Studio, Wren Landing
A column of light repeating infinitely above and below the audience. Enter the space and experience light and sound swirling around overhead and underfoot trailing into infinity and creating beautiful reflections and colours in both daytime and evening.


13: Luma Paint Light Graffiti by Lichtfaktor and Bomber Graffiti, Crossrail Place Roof Garden
Create your own unique light painting!
In 2008 Lichtfaktor developed the first real time Light Painting Software. It works on any object, from cars to buildings, transforming almost any object into a living paint canvas so you can create stunning paintings in just a few seconds.


14: Aquatics by Philipp Artus, Crossrail Place, Level -1, Quayside
Animated water creatures swim and dive around each other in this mesmerizing and delightful interactive light installation.


15: Desire by UxU Studio, Crossrail Place, Level -1, Quayside
Desire is a playful, sensual design that at first glance looks like giant, red lips. From the side, the image of the lips disappears, and you see a heartbeat instead – a heart beating faster with strong desires.


16: Constellations by Studio Joanie Lemercier, North Dock, viewing point at Crossrail Place, Level -1 Quayside
Making its London debut, Joanie Lemercier’s Constellations takes us on a trip through space with visuals projected onto a giant water screen with an electronic soundscapes by producer Paul Jebanasam.

France / Belgium

17: Seed of Life by Amberlights, Canada Place, Level -1, outside Waitrose
Enter the Seed of Life and discover a metallic rainbow spectrum of colours created by reflections and refractions from the natural elements of the daylight.


18: Lightbench by LBO Lichtbank, Canada Square Park
A firm Canary Wharf favourite, our ten stunning light benches, form part of the permanent art collection.

19: Neon Tree by Hawthorn, Canada Square Park
Neon flex will transform a tree into a striking sculpture in the heart of Canada Square Park. This colourful display will shine subtly by day and dazzle by night.


20: The Bra Tree, Canada Square Park
Drawing inspiration from a tradition on the American ski slopes of throwing your bra onto a tree, Canary Wharf will host their own special illuminated version.

21: Affinity by Amigo & Amigo and S1T2, Montgomery Square
Affinity is an immersive, interactive light sculpture inspired by the dazzling complexity and connectivity of the human brain.


22: Pools of Light, Jubilee Park
The ponds at Jubilee Park are getting a makeover for Winter Lights. See them transformed by thousands of colourful illumined orbs, weaving a stunning stream of light and sound through the park.

23: Squiggle by Angus Muir Design, Jubilee Park
Squiggle is a winding mass of 450 metres of digital neon tubing twisting and turning to fill Jubilee Park. This unique sensory journey is created by the artist’s innovative manipulation of space and sense.

New Zealand

24: 16 bits by Parker Heyl, Jubilee Place
Parker Heyl has a mechanical engineering and robotics background and is interested in kinetic sculpture for live performance.

The installation was developed as part of the Analog Future project at the Interactive Architecture Lab at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

25: Chromatic Play by Tine Bech Studio, Jubilee Park
These fun, illuminated sculptures invite you to interact with them. Each glowing creature has alien-like antennae fitted with interactive sensors, so when a visitor is in close proximity their presence is detected and the colours begin to change.


26: SASHA Trees by ADAM DecoLight, Ten Bank Street Park
Ten Bank Street becomes a magical winterscape as this new park is illuminated with glowing fir trees. The striking neon colours of the trees create a fantastic contrast with the surrounding buildings.


The Festival takes place from Tuesday 16 – Saturday 25 January 2019 between 4-10pm throughout Canary Wharf, the festival is free to attend.

Click here to download a map to help guide you round the festival

The Return of the Waterman’s Arms

Recently I received information about the redevelopment of the Island’s most famous pubs. In January, The Great Eastern pub on Glenaffric Avenue will be closed for a major £587,000 refurbishment and will reopen in early April as the The Waterman’s Arms.

The Heineken owned Star Pubs and Bars are hoping 15 new jobs will be created on the back of the investment which will see the community pub and hostel being transformed into a top-quality neighbourhood bar with ensuite accommodation, offering high quality food, drink and service.

The new licensees, Laura Lythall and Sam Hawkes have extensive knowledge of the area after running The Ship Inn on the Island for four years. The interior is being opened up to provide seating for 70 and the bar extended through the pub’s two main rooms, with a raised snug created at the back of the pub.

Upstairs there will be seven luxurious individually styled ensuite boutique bedrooms. And outside, a courtyard garden is being created with a firepit and festoon lighting.

The Waterman’s Arms will open from 10am for a late breakfast, cakes and snacks followed by lunch and dinner. Barista style, artisan coffee will be served throughout the day. The aim is to make the pub a focal point of the community and a destination for top quality food and drink.

The pub has a fascinating history, it originally began life as the Newcastle Arms, built by William Cubitt and opened in 1853. However it was in the early 1960s that the pub changed its name to the Waterman’s Arms and it was taken over writer and broadcaster Dan Farson who became licensee in 1962. Farson made his name on television by presenting documentaries about various subcultures like the teddy boys. After he made a documentary about East End pub entertainment, he was determined to run his pub with a music hall atmosphere. Farson lived in Narrow St in Limehouse and was fascinated by the local characters and East End life.

Due to his high profile on television, the pub was an instant success with well-known performers on stage, and the rich and famous making their way to the Isle of Dogs. Clint Eastwood, artist Francis Bacon, Brian Epstein, Judy Garland and Shirley Bassey were just a few of the celebrities that visited the pub.

Farson’s talents as a broadcaster and writer were not matched by his business acumen and he quickly managed to lose a considerable amount of money in a relatively short time. By 1964, the party was over and the pub returned to being a neighourhood pub although there were still the occasional coach party that turned up for the live entertainment at the weekend. As the docks declined, so did the interest in the pub from outside of the Island, although it did feature in a number of films and television, most notably in The Long Good Friday.

More recently, the pub changed its name to the Great Eastern and was converted into a pub and backpacker’s hotel. The building is one of the few remaining original public houses on the Island and we wish the new owners and licensees the best of luck in restoring the pub to its past glories.

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