Friday, March 21, 2014

What to do (and not to do) in London

So what did we do in London when we were with Daughter 2? Well, we visited Linley Sambourne's house in Chelsea, which I've wanted to see ever since there was an article about him and it in the "Sunday Times" a few years ago. He was a cartoonist for "Punch" for forty years (he died in 1910). Since he wasn't trained as an artist, he took photographs of himself, family and friends to help him with drawing political figures in silly positions, and thus these photos are rather entertaining. He was also a collector of stuff - prints and Georgian furniture and objects of various kinds. When he died, the house passed to his unmarried son, who kept most of it unchanged, and when the son died it all went to the daughter, who also didn't change much but kept it as a pied-a-terre (excuse missing accent there). She had married money so didn't need to live there. The family continued to go up in the world - his great-grandson was the Earl of Snowdon, Princess Margaret's husband. Eventually the house was of historical interest rather than just old-fashioned, and now belongs to Kensington and Chelsea and is open to the public (though you have to book).

It's interesting how these time-capsule houses survive. Most of us have to sell up when our parents die rather than being able to keep it all as it was. I did suggest to Daughter 2 that when we pop off, she and her siblings could keep our house as a monument to us - my bits of glass and porcelain left in their places for the future to marvel at - but - well, maybe not.

Anyway, I would recommend a visit to the house. We were shown round by a rather posh little lady - very nice but slightly firm - who, it later turned out, had written a book on the Sambournes and has been showing people round the house for 30 years! Her boredom threshold must be lower than mine. I would enjoy doing this for about a fortnight, I think. Daughter 2 bought the book for a Mother's Day present for me, since I love that sort of thing.

Then we went to Kensington Palace, which we very much wouldn't recommend. These are the pretty - and also free - gardens - though in fact you have to look at this particular bit through a fence...

... which is why Mr L and Daughter 2 are leaning on the gate instead of wandering by the pond. The palace itself costs £16 (or was it £16.50?) each to get in; and the part you're allowed into consists of lots of large, mainly rather empty rooms with arty displays of not very much. There are some actual Royal possessions, such as clothes from the current family, and the Queen Victoria room has some displays of photos with a bit of information, but it mainly feels as if they've tried to justify the entrance fee with some stuff from the back of cupboards and a few photographs.

Much better was the William Morris house (above), which is in Walthamstow, where Daughter 2 now lives. This is full of interesting and aesthetically pleasing exhibits of the work of Morris and some of his chums. The house itself isn't as it was in Morris's time - he lived in various Walthamstow houses with his parents and, reasonably enough, they took their things with them when they moved on. Indeed it now feels much more like a museum than a house - walls have been knocked down and so on. But a lot of effort has gone into it and it's all very informative.

Back home, Grandson and I went to the park yesterday. He's still very keen on Dolly and his buggy. Look at him marching along.

I enjoyed the flowerbeds. He enjoyed bumping his buggy along the cobblestone edging. A good time was had by both of us.


  1. Well, thank you for that information, and the photos......Kensington Palace doesn't look at all how I imagine a palace should look! Pretty gardens, though. Grandson and his buggy are very cute.

  2. Oh love him ! So cute with his pushchair. My grandkids came round this afternoon and spent ages emptying the big plastic box of cars that their Dad and his brothers used to own. (Girl 4 in JUne and boy 18 months)

  3. He's very cute with the buggy. It is very good to read about places to go in the UK from you. If we ever travel again I will be searching through your blog for tips!

  4. The Sambourne house sounds really interesting. Much more so than Kensington Palace!

    Good to know that you had a lovely break with your daughter.

  5. Thanks for the tip about Kensington Palace. Next time you'll have to do like us tourists do -- buy a London Pass for 80 or something pounds and then blitz a bunch of attractions in a few days. Kensington Palace is on the pass and that way you can go for "free" - haha!