Just a 10-minute walk from the Putney Bridge Underground, Fulham Palace was acquired by Bishop Waldhere around the year 700 and served as a residence for the Bishop of London for over 12 centuries. Its stunning gardens boast a history no less episcopal. The most celebrated gardening bishop was Henry Compton (1632-1713), who developed a famous collection of hardy and exotic plants that gave the garden world significance. The first magnolia in Europe was grown at the palace, and other species were planted such as the cork oak, the black walnut and maples. But the most famous inhabitant (a Great Tree of London approximately 500 years old) is an evergreen oak purportedly planted in the 16th century by Bishop Grindal. The surviving layout is mainly 19th century with an earlier walled garden and some 18th century landscaping.
Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, the London locale of the RAF Museum is re-opened after an extensive refurbishment. Visitors can test their flying skills, explore RAF stories, sit inside an iconic cockpit and enjoy a picnic on new landscaping. The facility (with another location in Cosford) is Britain’s only national museum dedicated to telling the story of the RAF and its people. Admission is free.
Part of Museum Mile, the Brunei Gallery is located on Russell Square opposite the main entrance to the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. A three minute walk from the British Museum, SOAS is the only higher education institution in the U.K. specialising in the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East. One of the highlights of the gallery is its Japanese roof garden, a quiet haven amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. A place for contemplation and meditation, the garden is dedicated to forgiveness, which is the meaning of the Kanji character engraved on the garden’s granite water basin.
All Hallows by the Tower is the oldest church in the City of London, founded 300 years before the Tower of London by the Abbey of Barking in A.D. 675. Due to its proximity to the tower, it had handled (as one might suspect) many temporary burials for those beheaded at Tower Hill in bygone days. It survived the Great Fire of 1666 and extensive bombing during World War II and witnessed happier occasions like the marriage of U.S. President John Quincy Adams. Later this month on Ascension Day the parish will participate in Beating the Bounds, an ancient custom still observed in many English parishes wherein they reaffirm their boundaries by processing round them at Rogationtide, stopping to beat each boundary mark with wands and to pray for protection and blessings for the land. Every third year the ceremony includes a “battle” with the Governor and Yeomen Warders of HM Tower of London at the boundary mark shared by the Tower and the church. The next (friendly) battle will be in 2020.
Located in the large, irregularly shaped island in the middle of the Hyde Park Corner roundabout, Wellington Arch offers panoramic views of the city from its balconies. Originally intended as an entrance to Buckingham Palace, it later became a victory arch proclaiming Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon. The facing masonry of Portland stone is capped off with the largest bronze sculpture in Europe, “Peace Descending on the Quadriga of War,” by Adrian Jones.
Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, spent nearly 16 years at 36 Craven Street near Trafalgar Square in the heart of London. The terraced, Georgian house, built circa 1730, is both architecturally and historically significant. Structurally, it holds a Grade I listing and retains a majority of original features, like the central staircase, lathing, 18th century paneling, stoves, windows, fittings, beams and brick. Historically, Franklin worked there during Revolutionary War times, and the dwelling served as the first de facto U.S. Embassy. Open to the public since 2006, the house is the world’s only remaining Franklin homestead.
Some things never go out of style, like the fashion sense of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Still celebrated as a fashion icon, the evolution of her taste in clothes is the subject of the popular exhibition, Diana: Her Fashion Story. Hosted at Kensington Palace until 2019, the event showcases an extraordinary collection of garments, including Victor Edelstein’s iconic ink blue velvet gown, famously worn at the White House when the princess danced with John Travolta. Additionally, a recently discovered blue tartan Emanuel suit (worn on an official visit to Venice in the 1980s) will go on public display for the first time. You’ll also be able to view sketches provided to Diana during the design process. Given the popularity of this exhibition, expect lengthy queues and buy your tickets early.