LONDON’S ROUND BLUE PLAQUES

Dickens_plaqueAs you walk around London, look out for the round blue plaques to be seen on houses in which famous people have lived.

Known as “No. 1 London” is the Wellington Museum in Apsley House, 149 Piccadilly at Hyde Park Corner. The house exhibits a collection of Wellington relics, fine paintings, silver, plate and porcelain.

Not far away in fashionable Mayfair, a plaque on the wall of 11 Bolton Street records the fact that novelist Fanny Burney lived here from 1818-28. Henry James, the American novelist, had lodgings on the first floor of 3 Bolton Street. In 1886, he moved to 34 De Vere Gardens in Kensington.

Elsewhere in Kensington there is a plaque on 39 Harrington Gardens commemorating the fact that the house was designed by W.S. Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan fame. He lived here between 1883 and 1890.

American poet, Ezra Pound, rented the first-floor front room at 10 Kensington Church Walk from Mrs. Langley, his “unique and treasured landlady.” The room “had a cast-iron fireplace with a hob either side of the bars and a pair of good windows looking south.” His bath, which he celebrated in his poem, “The Bathtub,” was supplied by cans of hot water from the kitchen boiler. Pound lived here from 1909 until his marriage to Dorothy Shakespeare in 1914.

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace in Kensington Gardens was completed about 1605 for Sir George Coppin. In 1689, King William III and Queen Mary II acquired the house, which was redesigned by Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of London’s renowned St. Paul’s Cathedral. The royal apartments of the palace are now open to view. The house also has a fine collection of early Georgian and Victorian work, paintings from the Royal Collection, furniture and objets d’art formerly belonging to Queen Victoria and the late Queen Mary (consort of King George V), both of whom were born at the palace.

Queen Mary’s Gallery, panelled in oak, contains two large gilded mirrors, the only surviving pieces of the original room.

The Queen’s Bedroom, although badly damaged by German bombs in 1940, still retains its 17th-century floor. The Presence Chamber has a ceiling by Kent and wood decorations by G. Gibbons. The King’s Staircase, partly by Wren, has an iron balustrade by J. Tijou and walls painted by Kent representing a gallery.

Close by at 18 Stafford Terrace, the Linley Sambourne House contains a unique collection of furniture, paintings and objets d’art, which show the taste of an artist of the late Victorian period. Edward Linley Sambourne (1845-1910) was a leading cartoonist for Punch magazine.

Essayist, novelist and poet Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was born at 32 Sheffield Terrace, Kensington. He spent his early years (1879-99) at 11 Warwick Gardens, just south of Kensington High Street. His first book of poems, The Wild Knight (1900) was written here. A stone’s throw away is Young Street, where novelist William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-63) lived at No. 13 (now No. 16) from 1846 to 1853.

Further west, Chiswick House in Burlington Lane was completed about 1730 and was probably designed by the third Earl of Burlington, who modelled his house on the

Chiswick House

Chiswick House

work of Italian architect, Andrea Palladio. The rich interior and the gardens are the work of William Kent. King Edward VII lived here as Prince of Wales from 1866 to 1879.

Within walking distance of Chiswick House is Hogarth’s House in Hogarth Lane. The home of 18th-century artist William Hogarth (1697-1764), it contains relics and a permanent exhibition of the artist’s engravings.

Drop down into Chelsea and you will find Carlyle’s House, the 18th-century townhouse where the noted Scottish writer lived from 1834 until his death in 1881. The house remains virtually unaltered and contains personal artifacts, manuscripts and portraits. Carlyle’s House is at 24 Cheyne Walk, overlooking the River Thames.

Novelist George Eliot’s (1819-80 – real name, Mary Ann Evans) last home was at No.4 Cheyne Walk and poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82) lived at No.16 from 1862 to 1882. Novelist and playwright Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927) wrote Three Men in a Boat (1889) when he lived just around the corner in Chelsea Gardens.

Wilde_plaqueAlso in Chelsea was poet and playwright Oscar Wilde‘s (1854-1900) home at 34 Tite Street from the time of his marriage in 1884 until his disastrous trial and imprisonment in 1895. Most of his principal work was written here.

Other houses of literary interest include Dickens House at 48 Doughty Street, where novelist Charles Dickens (1812-1870) lived from 1837 to 1839.

Dr. Johnson, compiler of the first definitive English dictionary, lived at what is now Dr. Johnson’s House in Gough Square (he spelt it “Goff”). The original edition of his dictionary is on display here.

The Romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821) lived in his beloved rural Hampstead during his prolific period, 1818-20. Keats House in Keats Grove contains many mementos of the poet’s life and work. Hampstead has long become part of London’s urban sprawl, but it still manages to retain its quaint village ambiance.

For more information about London’s Blue Plaques, go to http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blue-plaques/.

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