Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Open House London 2010

Old Palace Croydon
 Next weekend some of the most exclusive and secretive doors in London are thrown open to allow hoi polloi like me to gawp at the architectural jewels found within and without. In the past as I have seen the remains of Henry VIII’s palace at Whitehall, the great wall of his tennis court with its leaded mullioned window now concealed behind a seemingly mundane cupboard door along a narrow corridor. Upon opening the door you step out onto a tiny balcony and the lit exterior wall soars in front of you like a hitherto unrecorded scene from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. A turret of the 16th century tennis court now finds itself stranded besides a modern staircase connecting the floors of a 20th century office block. Sadly security considerations mean that visitors can no longer include certain past delights in their itineraries.

I have also visited the former summer palace of the Archbishops of Canterbury at Croydon, the buildings of which now form part of a girl’s grammar school. It would almost be worth training to be a teacher just to be able to work in such surroundings on a full-time basis. Queen Elizabeth I’s personal bedchamber now serves as a classroom as does the former Long Gallery. After my first visit I took a leaflet and arranged to attend another Open Day later in the year with the Partridge. The day was memorable for me looking alarmingly like a sausage in my pink suede jacket and skirt and my coercing the Partridge into buying me a packet of Tetley Tea as a present, as she later stayed for supper at my house. The promotional packet of Tetley Tea came with a mug in the shape of Gromit of Wallace and Gromit fame. The nose used to turn bright red whenever hot water was poured into the mug. As for the tea itself, it has long since vanished down the appreciative gullets of various tradesmen summoned to Brimstone Towers over the years.
Lambeth Palace

In the 2009 Open House  London I took the opportunity  programme to make a return visit to the medieval palace of the current Archbishop of Canterbury and treated myself to a pot of honey produced by bees in the apiary housed in the palace gardens.

One lesson I have learned from 2009 is to refrain from wearing a steel-boned corset to any place where security is at a premium. It was rather embarrassing to have to explain why I had set off all the security alarms in the modern annexe to the Houses of Parliament.

My plan of campaign this season is to see as many new places as possible. I shall place a premium on those which are not normally open to the general public. I have also used the Transport for London Journey Planner webpage to cram in as many potential sites as possible over the two days. Invariably geographical distances mean that I must forgo certain locations in order to be certain to gain access to others. But at the very least I get to hear about places which might otherwise remain completely hidden to me. On Monday I hope to relate the specific delights  which I have  unearthed this year.