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Viewing category "London's Hidden Secrets"

Blewcoat School

Posted on: 28th Apr 2014

Address: 23 Caxton Street, SW1H 0PY (nationaltrust.org.uk/blewcoat-school-shop).

Opening hours: Unrestricted access to the exterior (which is the main attraction). The building isn’t currently open to the public.

Cost: Free.

Transport: St James’s Park tube.

This is a gem of a building, an elegant early 18th-century detached townhouse of red brick sitting unexpectedly among undistinguished modern office blocks. It isn’t known who the architect was, but it’s built in Sir Christopher Wren’s style, so even if he had no direct involvement he seems to have been influential.

            It was built in 1709 as a school for poor children. The man behind it (and who paid for the building) was William Green, a local brewer and owner of the Stag brewery. He wanted a charity school to teach pupils how to ‘read, write, cast accounts and the catechism’. The school itself was founded in 1688, and its first building was in Duck Lane, established for the...

Tyburn Convent & The Tyburn Tree

Posted on: 28th Apr 2014

Address: 8-9 Hyde Park Place, W2 2LJ (020-7723 7262, tyburnconvent.org.uk).

Opening hours: Tours of the shrine and crypt daily at 10.30am, 3.30pm and 5.30pm. Groups should make a prior appointment.

Cost: Free.

Transport: Marble Arch tube.

The Tyburn Convent was founded as recently as 1901, but it’s dedicated to something much older (and decidedly grisly) located nearby. It’s a Catholic convent, a cloistered community of around 25 Benedictine contemplatives (who never leave their enclosed walls, except for medical treatment), dedicated to the memory of martyrs executed at the nearby Tyburn Tree gallows (and elsewhere) for their Catholic faith. Around 105 Roman Catholics were hanged at Tyburn during the Reformation (1535-1681).

            The convent is a peaceful sanctuary among the surrounding noise and chaos of the West End, and in the crypt you can see a series of gruesome of the Catholic martyrs’ executions, including bloodstained clothing, unpolished fingernails, bone fragments and locks of hair, which...