Thursday, 29 December 2016

2 Willow Road - Winter Clean December 2016

The house closes from beginning of November to end of February for essential maintenance and conservation work. It also allows the rooms to be minutely inspected for damage for damp, dust and infestations!

As a regular volunteer the house feels strange all curtained and cloaked, quiet and eerie, furniture carefully stored all the familiar ephemera cleared away.

Work starts immediately, when I arrived for the first clean the house smelt of paint, the stairwell had been painted, it was a dull day but it did look refreshed. The house is always kept cool as possible to protect the furnishings and paintings, we all know to wrap up warm on the cleaning days! Made a coffee and found the biscuit barrel, essential to this type of work.

This year Jen and I will tackle the main bedroom. I am usually on kitchen duty as I proved rather good at dusting empty tins, and working with kitchenware, all of which had to be returned to their exact positions, after hoovering drawers and cupboard. See post here.

The built-in wardrobe we open for visitors is to be decanted and thoroughly cleaned out. I tackled the coat hangers! They are skittish things, like to hook on to each other and lay awkwardly once cleaned with the hog’s hair brush and soft duster. Also, checked the felt linings for any potential moth casings. If coat hangers could speak all these fine specimens would have a story to tell. Some look home-made but the majority are of quality manufacture, from a time when everything was made to last!

Perhaps Mr Goldfinger had carried some of them with him from Hungary to Paris and back to England, or perhaps purchased in Paris in the 1920s. The mechanisms to close in your skirt or trousers are complex constructs, none of the skimpy lightweight things we use today. One or two had names on, we think this might be a boarding school item, perhaps passed from person to person as you went up a year to finally come to the Goldfinger's children and laid rest in Mum and Dad's wardrobe unnoticed until 2016.

Perhaps I should not get started on the shoehorns! A couple of pairs manufactured and some handmade albeit showing wear and tear, as in parts looking like a puzzle. The exciting inspection was of the boot horns in what we assumed were Ursula Goldfinger's riding boots, slim of foot.

It is very likely they are bespoke possibly made for her in her twenties. The workmanship is something you will not find today except of course at the highest end of bespoke bookmakers who still exist in small numbers. We decided to take the horns out to inspect that nothing untoward was going on inside. We managed the two halves but decided against taking out the hinged central piece that went inside the foot of the boot.

A revelation, the boot horns are hand carved with knots of wood plus a sliver or wood inserted to improve the shape and fit. On closer inspection words and numbers, the letters denoted left and right horn in Hungarian, the number probably a reference to Ursula Goldfinger’s template with bookmaker. All items softly polished inside and out and returned to their place in the wardrobe.

An old tweed suit of Erno Goldfinger was quite an emotional piece. Excellent quality material, well-worn to the extent the lining was ripped and strained. The cuffs had leather stitched trim over the frayed ends and leather elbow patches, obviously a favourite. No labels, again a bespoke item we guessed made by a family tailor in Hungary and worn to the end of Erno’s life. I was half hoping it still had the whiff of the cigar, traces of the great man in his suit, sadly not.

Several stylish raincoats belonging to Urusla Goldfinger, one herringbone right up there in the fashion stakes presently, so you see, throw nothing away, or better still buy quality rather than quantity.  All items of clothing gently inspected and then lightly hoovered to remove dust and hang back in the wardrobe to be close to one another once more.

A bundle revealed a shabby duffle coat, could this be navy issue, with a name tag? Pockets full of garden debris, a gardening coat, possible worn by Ursula? We also found a lovely tartan poncho, tartan has made a comeback as has the poncho, both a fashion staple in 2016!

All other items including the skates were wrapped in acid free tissue, a shame as not much will be on view the next time we open the wardrobe door. But we can admire Goldfinger’s attention to detail, everything has its designated place. As time goes by the house may seem to stand still in time but unfortunately the vagaries of exposure to visitors, dust, sunlight hot and cold all have an impact on this protected property so we must do everything we can to ensure all the items at 2 Willow Road remain in good condition for the future.

The Doll’s House, lampshade and under the bed!

On my next visit back in the main bedroom.

The Doll’s House is not always on show at 2 Willow Road, but when it does appear it delights everyone who sees it. A modernist’s creation for his daughter, who, it is said, was not entirely pleased with it! We feel she may have hankered after the 'Tudorbethan' versions some of us enjoyed, black and white detail, red tile roof and flowers growing over the front door! We are left with this lovely toy to take care of.  We start by using the soft brushes to get dust out of the tiny corners, being careful with the doors and their tiny hinges.  Windows are Perspex but still wiped over gently. The roof has a spiral staircase leading up to it.  We then must carefully put it all together and lift it up to the top shelf of the built-in wardrobes.

A box of Christmas decorations are also emptied out and carefully checked for any possible infestations and then carefully put back in the box, sadly never to see any sight of a festive tree ever again.

It was decided to move the bed, especially as there were two of us.  It looks handmade and very simple in design, solid but relatively easy to move out as we needed to check the carpet plus it had been used to store large pictures and posters keeping them flat in the space underneath. Mattress and bedding had to be carefully vacuumed. For the bed-cover, we used a muslin piece over the nozzle before carefully hoovering it all over.  The result was a horrid black matted clump of dust, so worthwhile, if tedious.

My favourite piece of the day was the lampshade from the uplighter. Far more complex in design than I had first realized and not sure the photographs do it justice. The results after cleaning it with damp cotton wool and cotton buds were worth the effort.  We found a maker’s mark and a patent number. I decided to find out if the company still exists, it does! We also found a spare glass shade in one of the other cupboards so comfort in knowing we have a spare!

Holophane  Pat. No. 20222 (?) Made in England

Several leather wallets dusted, and wrapped like presents ... in protective tissue.

Spare tiles floor and wall were discovered as well as lots of signage from long gone exhibitions, plus interesting photographs and posters. All to be carefully cleaned up and then wrapped up.

Old Map of Modernist properties in Hampstead

2 Willow Road opens again beginning of March 2017

Thursday, 10 November 2016

A Gift for Friends & Family - A bespoke walk for 2017 - LIMITED EDITION

The financial heart of the City of London - Bank - under snow.

Today we are generally being a little more circumspect about our exchange of gifts, especially if you have a large family or friendship circle.  This idea can also work for an office or special groups as Team Building or a great day out. A walk can be the answer, especially with a well versed guide of the City of London, a place still a mystery to many, especially those who work there!

A walk is also a lovely idea for visitors to our shores, especially if they have been before and seen the 'sights'.  The City of London is an excellent place to explore, and you will be surprised as to how many folk have not been beyond the magnificent St Pauls!

There are three walks on offer, but elements can be combined or a walk can be selected from my list of walks here.

At the cost of £100 for 10 people it is good value, and up to 20 people can join in at an extra charge of £8.50 per head. The offer is Monday to Sunday at a time to suit you, and MissB can also recommend somewhere to eat or have a drink afterwards.  The offer runs from 1st February with bookings to be made within three months. This does allow you to make a confirmed booking for later in 2017. There is a limit of six bookings available on this offer.

The walks are detailed on the voucher and you can also request a special Invitation on parchment and boxed or sent in a envelope as a gift at no extra charge. 
Purchase send an email to

The Voucher


Helen L - March 2014

It felt like a bit of a gamble to arrange a private walk with Miss B for some of my family as a Christmas present, but we've just had our City Sampler walk (a present that you join in on!) and everyone loved it. Tina has an amazing knowledge of the City of London and made sure there was something for everyone in our group -- some history, art, architecture -- with handy tips about pubs and cocktail bars along the way. Now everyone wants to do more of Tina's walks. You wouldn't believe the history of the pineapple..........

Family G - September 2016 - Tudor Walk

Tina, a great day and we are all very grateful to you. Your passion and enthusiasm for Tudor history is contagious. Your knowledge is absolutely exceptional and you have a real talent. You even managed to keep dad on his toes, which is hard to do! We would all highly recommend your tours and we all had a fantastic day - thank you!! The Tudor Walk - Family G

The Waste Land Walk - April 2016

It was great to meet you and go on your tour last Thurs. Very inspiring. I would love to bring members of the group I’m working with to experience the walk. As I mentioned I’m working with a group of volunteers from the Community to develop an exhibition here at Turner Contemporary, rooted in The Waste Land.

Trish Scott
Research Curator - Turner Contemporary, Margate

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

City's Police Museum - new venue opened this week!

Have you heard of the ‘The Houndsditch Murders’? Claimed the lives of three City of London Police officers and remains to this day the largest loss of life in one incident on duty in the UK! Check out the model of the building where the murders took place which was used at the trial. Plus a 3D animation of the original automatic Mauser pistols – a lethal weapon!

So where can you find all this and more? Make your way to the new City’s Police Museum housed in the Guildhall Library which opened on 7th November.

In the beginning ...

It is a small space, but like Dr Who's tardis, once entered it seems much bigger! Brilliantly designed and decorated with excellent graphics, large bright show cases, 3D elements and all on a tight budget.  The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £90,000 towards the development of the museum and associated community engagement. Success of the project is not only down to the team of staff and volunteers at City of London Police and the Guildhall Library, but working in partnership with Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and the City of London Corporation (who owns the school). Plus the City Guides who helped promote the Police Open Day and who we hope will play an important role in encouraging visitors to go to the Museum.

City of London badge on early uniform

The Museum also offers tours to schools, so do check the web site for further details of tours, plus walks and talks.

My admiration is of course biased as I am a City Guide and very proud of the City and all those mentioned above to create from a large, dare I say, disorganised, collection of historical records and many macabre artefacts, this very modern and elegant little museum.  I was like a kid in a sweet shop when I was invited to the private view.  My photographs only give a taster, you must visit to really appreciate why I am so excited about it.

Not to give too much away, I am only offering headlines here of what you will find:

Catherine Eddowes – last victim of the Ripper

The Hounditch Murders – as mentioned above

The recruitment of women into the force

The Two World Wars and their impact on policing

Olympic Gold Medal – won in 1920 – City of London Police are still the reigning champions

Terrorism – from the home-made bombs by the suffragettes on display

Technological progress of communications

Police Uniforms and kit

The force’s animals

There is something of interest for everyone and hands on too! 

City of London Police Commissioner Ian Dyson said:

 “We are a unique force and everyone who works here is incredibly proud to serve the City. This museum illustrates much of what makes us special, our partnerships, our close links to our communities and most significantly, a long history that entwines us with the Square Mile and London.” Sara Pink, Head of the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Library and City Business Library, said: “The museum will certainly attract a wide range of visitors, including City workers, residents, tourists and crime historians. From the horrors of Jack the Ripper’s murders in Whitechapel to how all of us must be extra-vigilant about identity fraud and terrorism, the exhibits will bring the personal stories and issues alive.”

The Commissioner mentioned 'Z Cars' in his speech at the Private View, and those of who remember the TV series can no doubt still hum the theme tune.  Just in case you have forgotten here is a You Tube link: .

Sara Pink, Head of the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Library and City Business Library, said:

“The museum will certainly attract a wide range of visitors, including City workers, residents, tourists and crime historians. From the horrors of Jack the Ripper’s murders in Whitechapel to how all of us must be extra-vigilant about identity fraud and terrorism, the exhibits will bring the personal stories and issues alive.”

Admission is FREE
Details of opening times can be found here:

For those of my readers who are not City local, the information below explains something of the workings and connections of and with the City of London:

About the City of London Corporation:
The City of London Corporation is a uniquely diverse organisation. It supports and promotes the City as a world leader in international finance and business services and provides local services and policing for those working in, living in, and visiting the Square Mile. It also provides valued services to London and the nation. These include the Barbican Centre, Barbican Music Library, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Guildhall Library, Guildhall Art Gallery and Roman Amphitheatre, London Metropolitan Archives, a range of education provision (including three City Academies); five Thames bridges (including Tower Bridge and Millennium Bridge), Central Criminal Court at Old Bailey, over 10,000 acres of open spaces (including Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest), and three wholesale food markets. The City of London Corporation is London’s Port Health Authority and also runs the Animal Reception Centre at Heathrow. For more details, visit

About the City of London Police:
The City of London Police is responsible for policing the City’s business district, the ‘Square Mile’ in the historical centre of London.  In addition, it holds national responsibility for Economic Crime and under this remit is host to Action Fraud (the national fraud and cybercrime reporting service), the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department and the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit. The City of London continues to be one of the safest urban areas in the country.

About the Guildhall School of Music & Drama
The Guildhall School is a vibrant, international community of young musicians, actors and theatre technicians in the heart of the City of London. Twice-rated No.1 specialist institution in the UK by the Guardian University Guide, and recently selected as one of the top ten institutions for performing arts in the world (QS World University Rankings 2016), the School is a global leader of creative and professional practice which promotes innovation, experiment and research, with over 900 students in higher education, drawn from nearly 60 countries around the world. It is also the UK’s leading provider of specialist music training at the under-18 level with nearly 2,500 students in Junior Guildhall and Centre for Young Musicians. The School is widely recognised for the quality of its teaching and its graduates, and its new building, Milton Court which opened in September 2013, offers state-of-the-art facilities to match the talent within its walls, ensuring that students enter their chosen profession at the highest level. Milton Court is part of the unique Guildhall School/Barbican partnership delivering world-class arts and learning.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund:
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings that we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. @heritagelottery

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The Queen's House - ‘jewel in the crown’

of the Museum and the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site.

A chilly but sunny day brought me by MBNA Clipper to Greenwich, how else would you travel except by boat to the famous naval college and museum? However, my appointment was with the London Historians team to visit the recently opened Queen’s House.

The Inigo Jones designed house was the first great classical building of its kind and the last part of what was the great Tudor Palace of Greenwich as created by Henry VIII on a site of a Palace built by his father Henry VII. It was also the home of his son and then his daughter, Elizabeth I.

The manor of Greenwich was gifted by James I to his Danish queen, Anne, apparently as an apology for losing his temper after she accidentally shot one of his hunting dogs whilst on the hunt. It was Queen Anne who employed Inigo Jones to design and build what was initially a house within garden retreat. The front is in fact the back and the views from here look across the park up the hill, where the Observatory is now. Interestingly, the Greenwich to Woolwich Road ran behind (the front of the house) and in fact the later additions, the colonnades follow the line of the then road.  Queen Anne never saw the house completed this was left to the wife of Charles I, Queen Henrietta Marie.  When it was finished in 1638, it became her building of choice for her Court.

There is much to be said about the history before James I's reign and there is much to be said about the history after the house became part of the Greenwich Naval College. Please note, the later specific siting of which, was to ensure the view from the Queen’s House would be clear sight line to the Thames.

There is a book on sale at the National Maritime Museum (just next door for those not in the know) at a reduced price called The Queen’s House Greenwich’ by Pieter van der Merwe, who was our guide on my first visit. The book is gem and a bargain!

Into the Queen’s House we go via a door in what were the foundation vaults with no access to the piano mobile.  A mound of soil would have been banked up against it and grassed over. A plain set of steps up one level brought us to the Tulip Stairs, apparently one of the most photographed stairwells in the country if not the world! From the book - ‘This is the earliest centrally unsupported spiral stair in England, on the Italian Renaissance model’. It was designed as a descending flight so one might make a grand entrance in to the Hall.  A point of interest are the flowers in the design are which are lilies, the royal flower of France and incorporated as a compliment to Henrietta Maria. So why ‘tulips’? The wrought-iron rail design was first called this in an account for a smith’s repairs in 1694, he was probably unaware of their significance.

The Hall is ‘nominally a 40-foot cube but not precisely’ due to construction adjustment, but beautiful it is. A bright room with a floor of Italian marble, with a wooden gallery, which still shows some of Jones’s original paint scheme of white and gold. What is also golden is the detail on the walls and ceiling, one might think it is a schematic from an earlier period but in fact it is a contemporary design, by the Turner Prize winner, Richard Wright.  I viewed the gold-leaf fresco for the first time with the sun pouring in through the tall windows, on closer inspection on the gallery and looking up you begin to see the patterns forming, a perspective appearing and then reforming again. The gilt flowers, inspired by the tulips, or lilies of the staircase are mesmerizing. 

On my second visit on a grey cold day, found them even more fascinating as I could see even more iridescent shimmer in the pattern. A lovely inspired addition after some 400 years.

The Queen’s House has more rooms than you would imagine, extravagant ceiling painting, art by many a great master, including a Lowry, many dead Admirals, not surprising really. A family-tree of Tudors all in a row. As well as the Armada Portrait which has recently been saved for the Nation by the Nation!

I have been twice and plan to go again as each time I see something new, and can revisit my favourite areas. There are also several anterooms which showcase the wide-ranging objects and painting subjects in the huge collection of the Royal Museums Greenwich.

William de Morgan

The drawings of plants and flowers from the brave botanists who sailed with Captain Cook, You will find Emma Hamilton and Lord Nelsondisplayed with a bust of their daughter Horatia. The position shows how like her father she was.

The Nelson Family

Display of instruments to guide the seafarers and landlubbers, such as the Astrolabe (a blog to follow).  Last but not least, the room with the drawings of Indigo Jones, particularly the sketch for a ceiling painting, the perspective draws you in.  There is some fine photography too. Something for everyone I would venture to say.

Inigo Jones Sketch for a ceiling decoration

I will leave you to find your own favourites, it is an intense couple of hours, I shall return soon to explore again the very fine Queen’s House.

Note the laughing Unicorn!

Entrance to The Queen's House is free.

You may also like to visit the fabulous SEDUCTION & CELEBRITY: Life and Times of Emma Hamilton which is showing next door at the National Maritime Museum.