Open House London

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The 20th and 21st of September was the weekend of the Open House London event for 2014. I had been to a previous Open House event with some friends and enjoyed it, even though we’d only managed to see one property, so I thought it was about time I went back and did it again. This time I went with Monica and we planned the day a little better. We had a few different places on the list of buildings we wanted to see, most of them around Westminster. We only managed to get to three in the end but I was pleased with the selection, and there’s always next year. The full set of photographs can be seen here.

The first building was the Royal Courts of Justice. It is a large Victorian Gothic style building built in the late 1800s on the Strand. Once through security you find yourself at the front of the 238 feet long Main Hall. The hall has an 80 foot high vaulted ceiling and detailed mosaic floor tiling, on either side hangs paintings of judges. There is access to the cells and courtyard (where three prison vans were on show) from the Main Hall.

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On the 1st floor a corridoor runs around the Main Hall with various viewing points including the Costume Gallery displaying the robes worn by different judges and a little history about them. Off this corridor are also 19 of the buildings court rooms. We were able to visit a number of these courtrooms where activities and talks were taking place.

After the courts we walked up Drury Lane to the Freemasons’ Hall on Great Queen Street. The Freemasons’ Hall is a grand grade II* listed art-deco building constructed in the late 1920s and early 1930s. We entered via the ceremonial doors under the tower and went up the stairs to the first of three vestibules leading to the Grand Temple. The vestibules are ornately decorated with modern stained-glass windows, painted ceilings and mosaic flooring. From here we entered the Grand Temple, a large room 123 feet long and 90 feet wide with a 62 foot high decorated ceiling. The ceiling and cornice is richly decorated with historic, knowledge, and mystical iconography.

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From the Grand Temple we went through the library and museum and on to the Grand Officers’ Room. The Grand Officers’ Robing Room contains a set of very large chairs commissioned in the late 1700s for George IV, with the Grand Master’s chair standing over 3 meters tall as well as paintings of members of the royal family who have been Grand Masters. We exited via the mahogany panneled Processional Corridor.

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The final building we visited, and the only one with a queue, was the Foreign & Commonwelth Office. This building, situated on King Charles Street, is a Grade I listed building made up of the former India Office and the former Foreign Office buildings. One of the main attractions of this building is the imposing internal courtyard of the India Office — Durbar Court. Origionally built as an open courtyard, a roof was built over it in 1868 to protect it from both the weather and the pidgeons of London. As well as the ornate stonework on the outside of the buildings making up the four sides of the courtyard, the flooring is huge grey, white and black marble tiles. From Durbar Court we made our way through various very grand meeting and state rooms, including the Locarno Suite, to the Grand Staircase. The Grand Staircase was designed by the architect George Gilbert Scott to impress foreign visitors. From top to bottom this sweeping staircase is ornate; with impressive ceiling art, marble pillars, murals painted by Sigmund Goetze and a delicate mosaic patterned ground floor. A truly wonderful way to finish off a fun day out in London.

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Posted on Tuesday 30th September, 2014 at 9:15 am in Photography.
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