2 June 1953 was the coronation day of Elizabeth II. The 26 year old Elizabeth became Queen on the day her father, George VI died, on 6 February 1952, but it was required to have a period of mourning and also lengthy preparations were needed for the coronation ceremony. By then Elizabeth was married to Philip, with two children, — only her oldest son Charles was present at the ceremony, his sister Anne was considered to be too little.
The Westminster Abbey ceremony combined ancient traditions, with some elements dating back to the 10th century, and a modern approach – it was the first coronation shown on TV, with many people buying their first TV sets to watch it.
Elizabeth and Philip processed in the Gold State Coach from Buckingham Palace to the Westminster Abbey, to the cheers of the crowds, enthusiastic despite the rain. Over 8 thousand guests, among them 2,000 jounalists, representing 129 countries and overseas territories. The coronation regalia used during the ceremony is now on display at the Tower of London, including St. Edward’s Crown which is used for the actual crowning. The film of the coronation is also shown there.
After the ceremony the royal family went home and appeared on the Buckingham Palace balcony to wave to the crowds.
Interesting fact — principals of the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London invented a new dish for the coronation banquet, of cooked cold chicken with a mayonnaise type sauce with curry, dried fruit, herbs and spices, called Coronation Chicken, still popular in England today.
Now Elizabeth is 94, and despite the trials and tribulations of the royal family in the last 67 years, she is loved and respected by people in the UK and abroad. On 1 June the Palace issued photos of her riding in the grounds of Windsor Castle, — with a scarf for a helmet!
If you’ve ever been to the London’s Coliseum, the home of English National Opera, you will always remember the special feeling when you saw its interior for the first time – a kind of intimacy combined with baroque-like opulence, when the Victorian era met the Edwardian one. This was the creation of architect Frank Matcham, who died 200 years ago today. He was responsible for the building of over 90 theatres in the UK and involved in the refurbishment of 80 more. Matcham also worked on pubs, grand halls, hotels and a shopping arcade in Leeds.
Matcham did not have an academic education in architecture, but rather learnt his trade through practice, starting when he became apprenticed to an architect at the age of 14. At 21 he moved to London to join the architectural practice of J.T. Robinson, which specialised in theatres (who was also a surveyor to the Lord Chamberlain) — Matcham later married his daughter and took over the business.
In the early days of the 20th century you will find Matcham theatres all over the country — Belfast, Glasgow, Edinburgh, all the way down south, to Cardiff and Brighton.
Matcham approached the design of a theatre from a practical point of view, his theatres were built quickly and to budget, even on difficult sites, without compromising the overall effect and attention to detail. No two theatres are the same, but they all create a special feeling of magic for the theatre goers. Matcham found a way to replace columns supporting the upper galleries with cantilevers, to minimise the number of seats with an obstructive view of the stage. But it is the interior design that captivates you — when you enter the auditorium, you are enveloped in a special aura of a mystifying make belief of the theatre world, creating by an imaginative free style mixture of Renaissance, Tudor, Louis XIV, Italianate, Rococco, Classical and Baroque, including Anglo-Indian motifs, naval and military insignia. He developed own special fibrous plaster, which made it easier for his imagination to run wild.
Matcham’s Northern masterpiece — the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool (1899)
The Victorian era was the heyday of music hall, which broadened the appeal of theatre going for the general public. Often the safety standards left much to be desired, — some 91 major fires were reported in the British Isles in theatres in the period 1870-1900, involving great loss of life. Working along the lines of new safety and sanitary legislation introduced at that time, Matcham was in the forefront of creating a safe and enjoyable theatre for everyone, improving not only fire safety, but also ventilation, acoustics and stage design.
Only about 26 of his creations survive today, with some theatres having been transformed into bingo halls, nightclubs and cinemas.
His first project was the Elephant and Castle theatre in London in 1878. By the end of his working career he built or refurbished over 20 theatres in London alone, out of which only 7 survive today.
London (Hammersmith), Lyric Opera House, reconstructed 1979 within new structure
London (Richmond), Richmond Theatre (1899)
London (Westminster), London Hippodrome (1900)
London (Hackney), Hackney Empire (1901)
London (Newham), Stratford Theatre Royal (1902)
London (Hammersmith), Shepherd’s Bush Empire (1903)
London (Westminster), London Coliseum (1904)
London (Westminster), London Palladium (new theatre behind Lewis’s Corinthian facade) (1910)
Frank Matcham died on 17th May 1920 in Essex and is buried in Highgate Cemetery.
Interesting fact – Frank’s brother Charles Matcham moved to America, where he worked for the Bell Telephone Company. He was involved in the building of first telephone exchanges in Europe and the introduction of the telephone to St. Petersburg and Riga where he personally installed Alexander II of Russia’s phone system.
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In the beginning of 17th century the aristocratic Boyle family bought an estate in Chiswick with a large Jacobean house, as a summer retreat. It caught fire in 1725, and the head of the family, Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, decided to build a new ‘villa’ in the grounds.
As the name suggests, it was not to be an ordinary English house. It was to be a Roman Villa — a masterpiece of classical architecture, coming to England all the way from Italy’s lost Roman buildings.
Richard inherited his title and riches at the age of 10, and, like many of his contemporaries, devoted himself to arts, going on Grand Tour of Europe in 1714 — 1719, and another one later on. The new villa was to house his collection of paintings and furniture, which he brought back from his travels. Lord Burlington regarded himself as an architect, and designed the house himself, based on his experiences in Italy and a substantial collection of books and drawings acquired there. Also in Italy he met his sidekick, a person who was to change the English garden design forever — William Kent.
Kent studied in Rome in the beginning of the 18th century. Having met Lord Burlington on his travels there, he secured a commission to work on the design of the house and gardens at his estate in Chiswick.
Chiswick House is a fine example of the Palladian Style — Lord Burlington was inspired by the recently published English translation of The Four Books of Architecture by the 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio. In contrast to typical English Gothic style, this was all about classically proportioned geometric shapes and clear lines. The Dome, crowning Chiswick House, is a rare feature of domestic architecture, normally reserved for temples. The house is faced with Portland Stone, glowing brilliantly white in the sun.
The house was built between 1726 and 1729. Innovative and beautiful as it was, it was the gardens that made history.
The formal Jacobean gardens of the Chiswick estate were replaced by the new ‘landscape’ style, as designed by William Kent. Being a painter and theatre set designer, Kent’s vision for the garden was derived from landscape paintings of the French artists Nicole Poussin and Claude Lorraine. It was all about the garden looking naturally beautiful, but every feature — either growing or man-made — carefully planned and in the right place, to achieve the most pleasing effect. The gardens included alleys shaded by trees, Ancient Greek statues, a lake and a cascade, as well as an obelisk and garden buildings, to evoke the appearance of Ancient Rome, combined with Lord Burlington’s Whig ideals.
The Ionic Temple survives from Lord Burlington’s times. It takes inspiration from either Pantheon in Rome, or the Temple of Romulus.
Both Lord Burlington and William Kent were keen on theatre, and theatrical design is reflected in a semi-circular hedge, known as the Exedra. The actors are the Roman statues. Kent’s originals were ‘identified’ by the writer Daniel Defoe as Ceasar (the one who invaded Britain), Pompey (responsible for the decline of the Roman Republic) and the philosopher Cicero. The Exedra also featured poets Horace, Homer and Virgil, and the philosopher Socrates. The current ones are reproductions — the originals are inside the house.
The lake was created in 1727 by widening an existing brook.
Kent’s Cascade — the two level waterfall — graces the end of it which is closest to the garden. The hill was made by piling the soil from the lake, and this created an elevated walkway above the cascade, affording views of the estate and the nearby River Thames. We climbed it, but could not see anything due to trees and hedges…..
Lord Burlington died in 1753, the estate passed to his daughter Charlotte, who had married William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire. It was their son William, the 5th Duke, who make the next major mark on the estate. His claim to fame is his famous wife Georgiana,
She loved Chiswick House and referred to it as her ‘earthly paradise’. The house was extended to provide accommodation for prominent members of the Whig party, aristocrats, writers and artists partying in the house and gardens. Georgiana commissioned architect James Wyatt to design the Classical Bridge in 1774. The family added new wings, so that they could entertain a multitude of important guests, who, over the subsequent years, included a couple of Russian Tsars, Queen Victoria and Print Albert, the musician Handel, the politician Charles James Fox.
Georgiana’s son, the Bachelor Duke (he never married, despite being one of the richest and most eligible men in England at the time), bought an adjourning estate, and in 1813 a conservatory went up, with a walled garden at the back and an Italian garden in the front.
His menagerie included an elephant, elks, emus, kangaroos and an Indian bull.
The conservatory housed England’s earliest collection of camellias.
After his death the family rented the estate to a number of tenants, who included the Prince of Wales in 1870s. Between 1892 and 1928 it became the Chiswick Asylum for wealthy patients. In 1929 Chiswick House was sold to Middlesex County Council, who raised funds by public subscription — among the subscribers was King George V. It became a view station during World War II and suffered bomb damage, resulting with a couple of wings having to be removed in the 1950s.
It is now managed by the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, formed in 2005 by Hounslow Council and English Heritage, and is an excellent day out experience for the whole family.