The above photograph is one of the iconic images of London. The majority of people including Londoners refer to the whole tower as Big Ben but the correct name is the Elizabeth tower although previously it was known as the Clock Tower. It is one of the two towers incorporated in the Palace of Westminster.
At the time that the construction was completed, the name Big Ben was a nickname given to the great bell inside the tower. There are two theories for the name’s origin. The most likely was that the Great Bell was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, First Commissioner for Works 1855-1858. In fact this is the second great bell installed as the first one cracked almost immediately when put to use. The second weighing slightly less at 13½ tons was finally in regular use from 1863.
Christmas and New Year’s Eve in London
Christmas and New Year’s Eve is a great time to be in London, for adults and children alike. There’s so much happening: candle-lit carol services, the Christmas lights, the shows, the pantomimes, ice skating, festive meals, wonderful shop window displays, the sales, the list goes on…….
It’s not too late to secure nice accommodation, we still have some availability but it’s going fast. Here’s a selection of what’s still available today, but it might not be tomorrow…..
Ref: ETW: sleeps 4, 2 bed, 1 bath £125 (US$190) / night. Great value, modern 7/8th floor flat with private balcony and great views over Battersea Park.
Ref: QSC2: sleeps 4, 1 bed, 1 bath £130 (US$199) / night. Modern apartment located minutes from Kensington Gardens.
Ref: VAU: sleeps 5, 2 bed, 2 bath £195 (US$295) / night. Modern Pimlico apartment boasting views across the London skyline.
Ref: DNE: sleeps 4, 2 bed, 2 bath £215 (US$325) / night. Charming and elegant pied-à-terre in smart Chelsea location.
Ref: KHS: sleeps 5, 3 bed, 3 bath £270 (US$410) / night. Elegant family accommodation in prime Kensington location.
And remember that when you book with Coach House Rentals you get our full concierge service.
If you’re heading the other way to New York, we still have some great value vacation rentals available over the festive period – and we provide the same full concierge service there too.
London Jan/Feb 20% discount
Check out the 20% discount on several of our London properties for stays of 7 nights or more in January and February. With this discount, you can stay in London for as little as £25 (US$38) per person per night (property ref: ETW).
Spread the word
We’d like more people to know about us – Coach House Rentals. So tell a friend, or two or three. If they book let us know it was you who introduced them (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll send you a US$50 Amazon.com gift voucher to say thank you.
Many visitors to London probably only travel along Whitehall in tour buses but this important road is worth exploring on foot as Whitehall is arguably the heart of London and certainly the centre of governance of the United Kingdom.
Starting from Parliament Square, which is overlooked by Westminster Abbey on one side and the Houses of Parliament on another, the visitor should head north towards Trafalgar Square. The first building on the left corner is HM Treasury and just beyond is a side turning into King Charles Street at the bottom end of which Churchill’s War Rooms are located.
Continuing along Whitehall, the imposing Victorian building of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office comes next on the left while the main offices of the Department of Health are on the right-hand side. In the centre of the road between these two is the Cenotaph, the memorial to the soldiers who died in the First and Second World Wars and subsequent conflicts.
The next side road on the left is Downing Street. Number 10 is the official residence of the Prime Minister and next door is the official residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Number 11. For security reasons, the entrance to Downing Street is blocked by gates with police on duty but many years ago it was possible for the general public to walk freely past Number 10. Opposite Downing Street will be seen the Ministry of Defence.
Continuing northwards, you will pass the entrance to the Horse Guards Barracks and inside this entrance beyond the arch is Horse Guards Parade where many important ceremonies such as Trooping the Colour take place. During the day on Whitehall itself two mounted Horse Guards in their ceremonial uniforms stand guard at the entrance and are a great attraction for tourists.
Opposite Horse Guards is the Banqueting Hall, the only remaining part of the Palace of Whitehall after which the road is named. The Banqueting Hall has a ceiling painted by Rubens. In 1649 following the end of the English Civil War a scaffold was constructed immediately outside this building, upon which King Charles the First was beheaded.
A relatively short walk now leads into Trafalgar Square with the facade of the National Gallery on the far side. However the square is dominated by Nelson’s Column, which commemorates the 1805 victory of Admiral Lord Nelson over the combined French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar during the Napoleonic wars. Nelson himself was mortally wounded during the battle but following his victory Britain was the dominant world power at sea for the next hundred years.
To the left as one enters the square is a turning into The Mall, which runs between St James’s Park and Green Park and which is the main ceremonial route up to Buckingham Palace.
For accommodation in London go to www.chsrentals.com/london
Fortnum & Mason often referred to as Fortnum’s is an upmarket department store situated in Piccadilly in Central London, where it was established by William Fortnum and Hugh Mason. William Fortnum was a footman in the royal household of Queen Anne. He also had a sideline business as a grocer and convinced his landlord, Hugh Mason, to be his associate. They founded the first Fortnum & Mason store in Mason’s small shop in St James’s Market in 1707.
Founded as a grocery store, Fortnum’s reputation was built on supplying quality food, and saw rapid growth throughout the Victorian era. Though Fortnum’s developed into a department store, it continues to focus on stocking a variety of exotic and speciality provisions. The store has since opened several other departments, such as the Gentlemen’s department on the third floor. It is also the location of a celebrated tea shop and several restaurants. For information go to www.fortnumandmason.com.
The Monument commemorating the Great Fire of London and more commonly known simply as The Monument, is situated near the northern end of London Bridge in the City of London. It stands at the junction of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill, 202 ft (62 m) tall and 202 ft (62 m) from the spot in Pudding Lane where the Great Fire started on 2 September 1666.. Constructed between 1671 and 1677, it is the tallest isolated stone column in the world and was built on the site of St. Margaret’s, Fish Street, the first church to be burnt down by the Great Fire.
The Monument is a fluted Doric column built of Portland stone topped with a gilded urn of fire. It was designed by Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke. Its height marks its distance from the site of the shop of Thomas Farynor, the king’s baker, where the Great Fire began. The top of the Monument is reached by a narrow winding staircase of 311 steps For admission times and entry costs go to www.themonument.info.
Three sides of the base carry inscriptions in Latin. The one on the south side describes actions taken by King Charles II following the fire. The one on the east describes how the Monument was started and brought to perfection, and under which mayors. Inscriptions on the north side describe how the fire started, how much damage it caused, and how it was eventually extinguished.
Sir Christopher Wren, as surveyor-general of the King’s Works, was asked to submit a design. Wren worked with Robert Hooke on the design of the monument. It is impossible to disentangle the collaboration between Hooke and Wren, but Hooke’s drawings of possible designs for the column still exist, with Wren’s signature on them indicating his approval of the drawings rather than their authorship. There was real contention about the type of ornament to have at the top but ultimately it was the design of a flaming gilt-bronze urn suggested by Robert Hooke that was chosen.
Wren and Hooke designed the monument to double-up as a scientific instrument. It has a central shaft meant for use as a zenith telescope and for use in gravity and pendulum experiments that connect to an underground laboratory for observers to work (accessible from the present-day ticket booth). Vibrations from heavy traffic on Fish Hill rendered the experimental conditions unsuitable. A hinged lid in the urn covers the opening to the shaft. The steps in the shaft of the tower are all six inches high, allowing them to be used for barometric pressure studies.
For accommodation go to www.chsrentals.com/london
Visitors to London over Christmas and the New Year will have the opportunity to experience a unique theatrical event. Traditionally performed at Christmas and created for family audiences, British pantomime is a popular form of theatre, incorporating song, dance, buffoonery, slapstick, cross-dressing, in-jokes, topical references, audience participation, and mild sexual innuendo.
The stories of contemporary modern pantomime are loosely based on a well-known fairy tales. Some of the favourites are Aladdin, Cinderella, Dicj Whittington and His Cat, Jack and the Beanstalk and Mother Goose.
The following conventions are normally observed:-
- The leading male juvenile character (the pricipal boy) is traditionally played by a young woman, usually in tight-fitting male garments (such as breeches) that make her female charms evident. Her romantic partner is the principal girl, a female ingenue.
- An older woman (the pantomime dame – often the hero’s mother) is played by a man in drag, who is usually a well known British comedian and whose presence acts as a draw for audience attendance.
- Risqué double entendre, often wringing intimation out of perfectly innocent phrases. This is, in theory, over the heads of the children in the audience and is for the entertainment of the adults.
- Audience participation, including calls of ‘He’s behind you.’ or ‘Look behind you’, and ‘Oh, yes it is’ and ‘Oh, no it isn’t’. The audience is always encouraged to hiss the villain and ‘ah’ the poor victims, such as the rejected dame, who is usually enamoured with the prince.
- There is often a pantomime horse or cow, played by two actors in a single costume, one as the head and front legs, the other as the body and back legs.
Many theatres in London, especially smaller theatres in outskirts of the capital stage pantomimes every year. As an example, a delightful smaller theatre in Richmond (access by underground train on the District Line) is staging Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with Jerry Hall in the role of the wicked queen. For some other suggestions go to www.bigpantoguide.co.uk and select London from the list on the left. Although there are many theatres listed, this may not be a complete list.
For accommodation go to www.chsrentals.com/london
The 800th Lord Mayors show will take place on Saturday 14th November. The day starts with a River Pageant featuring an impressive array of traditional Thames barges and small boats bringing the Mayor to the City. Tower Bridge opens in salute. This is followed by the Lord Mayor’s Procession through the streets of the City featuring over 7000 participants, 20 bands and 150 horses, along with hundreds of other carriages, carts, coaches and other vehicles including vintage cars, steam buses, tanks, tractors, ambulances, fire engines, unicycles, steamrollers, giant robots, helicopters, ships, penny farthings, beds and bathtubs. For further details go to: https://lordmayorsshow.london/
For accommodation go to www.chsrentals.com/london.
The Prospect Of Whitby is a traditional British pub in Wapping serving great cask ales and freshly cooked traditional pub food. It is London’s oldest riverside pub dating back to 1520. Originally known as the Devil’s Tavern, it was rebuilt following a fire in the early 19th century and renamed The Prospect of Whitby, after a Tyne collier that used to berth next to the pub. The original 400 year old flagstone floor still survives and the pub also has a rare pewter-topped bar as well as old barrels and ships masts built into the structure. Most areas of the pub have spectacular views over the River Thames, including the beer garden. The restaurant is located on the first floor where a balcony and terrace are found.
Claiming to be mostly self taught, Francisco de Goya was already 37 when he secured his first important portrait commission from Spain’s Prime Minister, Count Floridablanca, after which the artist’s reputation grew quickly. Being ambitious and proud of his status, he gained patrons from the entire breadth of Spanish society including the royal family and aristocrats, politicians and military figures, intellectuals and even his own friends and family.
Deeply affected by his profound deafness, the result of serious illness in his mid-40s, portraiture remained a means by which Goya could communicate. Providing penetrating insight into the public and private aspects of his life, ‘Goya: The Portraits’ in London’s National Gallery, which runs from October 2015 to the 10th of January 2016, traces the artist’s development, from his first commissions to more intimate later works painted during his ‘self-imposed exile’ in France in the 1820s – a career that spanned revolution and restoration, war with France, and the cultural upheaval of the Spanish Enlightenment.
This exhibition focuses solely on Goya’s spectacular skill as a portraitist. His approach was unhindered and he was unafraid to reveal what he saw. His portraits demonstrate his daringly unconventional approach and remarkable skill at capturing the psychology of his sitters. Featured are 70 of the artist’s most outstanding works from public and private collections from around the world, including paintings, drawings, and miniatures never seen before in Britain. For admission times and ticket prices go to www.nationalgallery.org.uk/goya-portraits.
For accommodation go to www.chsrentals.com/london
In 1957 Russia launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, and just four years later sent the first ever human Yuri Gagarin into space. Visitors to the exhibition Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age at London’s Science Museum will discover the dramatic story of how Russia turned the dream of space travel into a reality and became the first nation to explore space in this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition.
The exhibition contains the most significant collection of Russian spacecraft and artefacts ever to be shown in the UK, including:-
– VOSTOK 6: the capsule flown by Valentina Tereshkova, the first ever woman in space.
– VOSKHOD 1: the capsule used on the first mission to carry more than one crew member.
– LK-3 LUNAR LANDER: a single cosmonaut craft built to compete with Apollo.
– Plus a collection of gadgets that cosmonauts and pioneering space dogs needed to live in space, including a shower, toilet, medical instruments and survival kits for crash landings.
You will be able to explore the historical, cultural and spiritual context of Russian space travel, shaped especially by the turbulent early decades of the twentieth century. See poignant testimonies and memorabilia belonging to some of the biggest names in spaceflight and discover the deeply personal stories of the pioneers who kick-started the space age.
The exhibition, which runs until the 13th March, is open Monday to Sunday with a late night opening on Fridays. For more details go to www.sciencemuseum.org.uk.
For accommodation go to www.chsrentals.com/london