Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Middle Temple, London

Legal history: The Middle Temple Gardens, London, has had lawyers rushing around its beautiful buildings for centuries.

Middle Temple is one of the four Inns of Court which have the exclusive right to Call men and women to the Bar, ie to admit those who have fulfilled the necessary qualifications to the degree of Barrister-at-Law, which entitles them, after a period of pupillage (vocational training) either to practise as independent advocates in the Courts of England and Wales or to take employment in government or local government service, industry, commerce or finance.-Middle Temple

Lots of dark woods and white plaster ceiling and portraits of important people. In short, another one of those wonderful places that takes you back in time to the London that was. The Middle Temple Hall was built during the reign of Elizabeth I, in 1576, as a dining and assembly hall. The Middle Temple Garden is a lovely spot as well, with all those windows and all that fine brickwork as a backdrop.

Being a bit of a bibliophile I was interest to find out that The Middle Temple has a Rare Book and Manuscript Collection with over 7000 early printed books, and approximately 200 Manuscripts. Access to the Collection is by appointment only, but if you are interested legal documents this is worth seeing. The regular library holds about 150,000 books of one sort or another, again mostly legal in nature.

Library Opening Times:

Monday to Thursday
- 9.00 am to 8.00 pm
- 9.00 am to 7.00 pm
- 10.00 am to 5.00 pm (every 4th Saturday)
Monday to Friday
- 9.00 am to 5.30 pm
The Library also opens every fourth Saturday on a
rota with the other Inn libraries from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm

Friday, November 20, 2009

Slow Down London

Slow Down London is a new project to inspire Londoners to improve their lives by slowing down to do things well, rather than as fast as possible.

I love the idea of Slow Down London, take the time to look around and see the city. I've always been a fan of Mindfulness and taking a moment to see where I am. I don't always succeed, and I must admit that most of my time in London was spent looking through a camera lens, but then, I tend see most of the world through a camera lens. I also like Tai Chi and the idea of doing Tai Chi on a busy spot in London.

I've never been a very good slow tourist, I'm more one of those that loves hop on and hop off bus tours and getting in as much in a day as I can. But I have started to slow down in my own life and I really like all the articles and slide shows I find on Slow Down London.

I like this slide show of The Slow Exposure Competition, an easy way to fuel my London thoughts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

London's Blue Plaques

The blue plaques scheme has been running for over 140 years and is one of the oldest of its kind in the world. The idea of erecting ‘memorial tablets’ in London was first proposed by William Ewart MP in the House of Commons in 1863. It had an immediate impact on the public imagination, and in 1866 the Society of Arts (later Royal Society of Arts) founded an official plaques scheme for the capital. The Society erected its first plaque – to the poet Lord Byron – in 1867. In all, the Society of Arts erected 35 plaques; today, less than half of them survive, the earliest of which commemorates Napoleon III (1867).-English Heritage

Blue plaques seem to be everywhere in London, and with about 800 blue plaques floating around it's no wonder. The London Blue Plaques are sort of like The Hollywood Walk of Fame-except they are a tad more prestigious. There are a couple of books on London's Blue Plaques and there is a website where you can go and make your own Blue Plaque. There's also a pretty nice blog dedicated to the topic of Blue Plaques, called Blue Plaques of London. Like a lot of Blogger taking on a large topic he seems to have slowed down a bit.

There is also a nice little Blue Plaque Map of Central London where you can click on the shadows and pull up buildings that have Blue Plaques. Clearly a work in progress, but I like what they have done so far. This is a fun way to while away the odd moment. In real life the Blue Plaques are a little on the subtle side and it is easy enough to walk past them all without noticing them. That's when those handy people with umbrellas called Tour Guides come in handy, they point out the little Blue Plaques and tell you who they are for.

Blue plaques are placed on buildings - occasionally grand, often ordinary - where famous people lived and worked. Sigmund Freud lived and worked in fashionable Hampstead; Charles Darwin in central London’s university campus; Isaac Newton in Soho; Charles Dickens in private street of Camden; Mozart composed his first symphony in the elegant neighbourhood of Chelsea. As with all fame, of course, many of the Blue Plaques of London commemorate people the average person don't know. British Heritage has kindly composed a list of the many names and a brief bio for those interested.

So be sure to look up for a bit of blue once in a while in London, you might see a Blue Plaque telling you that someone important once lived there.