Why not illuminate your visit to one of London’s small museums or historic houses? Diane can bring your visit alive with tales of past lives and inhabitants. Here are some examples of places where Diane can guide you. If you wish to make a day of it you can combine any of these visits with walking tours in the area.
Number One London is still the home of the Duke of Wellington who allows us to visit the state apartments of his house and imagine them during the time of the first Duke who held opulent banquets to celebrate his famous victory at the Battle of Waterloo. Military leader, Prime Minister, Statesman, Art Collector, Husband and Lover – we will examine the different side of the first Duke of Wellington’s public and private life and we will admire the magnificent art collection which adorns the walls of this grand London house.
The Banqueting House
When this building was erected in 1622 the design by Inigo Jones was considered revolutionary when contrasted with the Tudor brick of the rest of Whitehall Palace. Let Diane take you back to the time when court masques were performed and when Charles I greeted Ambassadors from all over the world. Admire the wonderful painted ceiling by Peter Paul Rubens designed to reflect the glory of King James I’s rule. Imagine you are a courtier coming for an audience with King Charles I and hear the dramatic story of his execution just outside this unique building.
Once a royal palace with 15th century Great Hall still in tact, the 1930s saw the Palace’s transformation into London’s best example of “art deco”design for Stephen and Virginia Courtauld. Let Diane transport you back to one of the Courtaulds’ famous weekend parties visiting public and private rooms including Virginia’s luxurious bathroom. Hear about the palace’s recent restoration by designers and craftspeople who lovingly recreated the decor of the 1930s.
Founded in 1739 by Sea Captain Thomas Coram the Foundling Hospital was a home where abandoned children were educated for a life in domestic or military service. Both Handel and Hogarth were patrons and they organised concerts and exhibitions to raise money for the charity. Although the 18th century buildings were demolished in the 1920s, its most historic rooms were preserved and moved into the charity’s new headquarters which is now open as a museum. We will admire the 18th century fine rooms with magnificent plasterwork, furniture and paintings by artists such as Hogarth, Gainsborough and Reynolds. Diane will tell you about the hospital’s social history and the moving stories of the children who lived here.
After admiring the view of Central London from one of the capital’s highest points we enter this beautiful house which was remodelled for Lord Chief Justice Lord Mansfield by fellow Scotsman and renowned architect Robert Adam. “Meet” Lord Mansfield and his family, admire Adam’s design including a magnificent library and view the famous art collection bequeathed to the nation by Edward Guinness, Kenwood’s last private owner. The art collection includes work by Van Dyk, Rembrandt, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Vemeer, Turner and Joseph Wright of Derby.
Handel House Museum
This delightful small museum is situated in part of the house where the great composer lived, worked and rehearsed his temperamental singers. We will see the rooms which have been restored to create the atmosphere of Georgian London with furnishings and portraits of Handel and his contemporaries. Diane will relate stories of musical genius, artistic rivalry and highly strung divas as you tour the house. This tour can be accompanied by a walk to see other Handel sites in London.
This “private palace” was built to the specifications of leading Victorian artist Frederick Leighton. Its plain exterior belies an opulent interior including an “Arab Hall” complete with fountain and colourful tiling. In the studio which is the centrepiece of this house we will admire the art of both Leighton and his contemporaries and get an insight into his life and work.
National Portrait Gallery
Enjoy a guided tour of the National Portrait Gallery. Diane will either select highlights of the collection from a variety of periods or you can choose your favourite section. A tour can be arranged on a particular theme such as artists, writers, scientists, politicians, royalty etc. Maybe you would like a theme to fit in with a London walk. For example, a Bloomsbury walk can be followed with a look at the portraits of “Bloomsbury Set” members. Anything is possible in this fascinating gallery where the pictures come to life when you hear the life stories of the personalities portrayed.
Victoria and Albert Museum Highlights
Founded after the Great Exhibition of 1851 to show off the best in design, the V and A has grown to such an extent that it would now take you several days to explore the complete collection. Taking a guided tour of the highlights not only helps you navigate this large site but helps to make sense of the history and development of the building and the reasons for its varied collection. Diane can
“mix and match” according to your interests. Either take a highlights tour including the museum’s “greatest hits” such as Tipu’s Tiger from India, the Ardabil Carpet from Iran, The Raphael Cartoons from Italy and the eccentric but magnificent Plaster Courts. Alternatively, you can choose to focus on the British Galleries with artefacts representing the best in British design from the 16th to the 19th century. Finish with refreshments in the newly restored refreshment rooms – the first in any British museum established back in 1873 and decorated by top artists of the day.
The Wallace Collection
Housed in elegant 18th century Hertford House this is a gem of a collection and Diane can bring it to life by selecting some of the highlights for your group. French furniture and porcelain once owned by King Louis 15th of France and his mistress Madame de Pompadour, artwork by masters such as Rubens, Rembrandt, Hals, Reynolds, Titian and Boucher all feature. Explanation of the art treasures are mixed with anecdotes about the men who amassed this collection. Who was Richard Wallace, why did the Prince Regent visit the house so frequently and how did the 3rd Marquis of Hertford inspire a Victorian author? All will be revealed on this tour.
Many other museum and house tours can be arranged. Please ring for details or suggest a museum you would like to visit.