My recent day trip to the City of London focused on the Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London, a canter around the rest of the exhibits and then a pleasant walk in the almost spring like conditions around the Guildhall in the City.
For me, a focus is the key on a day trip to London as I often miscalculate how long it can take to see places of interest and how long or how far I can walk in a limited time. So the aim this time was to stay within the square mile of the City of London and explore as much as I could that I had previously not seen.
Actually it’s fair to say I haven’t often visited the City of London for business or pleasure, although I have been to the Museum of London once before. The majority of the collection is free to access but a charge is made for the special exhibitions such as “Sherlock Holmes the man who never and will never die”. I wouldn’t say that I was a massive Sherlock fan or expert but, I hate to tell you, *whispers* he didn’t really exist.
I am sure it’s no coincidence that the museum has decided to revisit Sherlock after the success of the recent BBC series and the Benedict Cumberbatch Belstaff overcoat and blue scarf is resplendent in a glass case. The latest incarnation of the character is featured in a fair amount of visual footage running through the exhibition. But almost every other stage, TV and film Sherlock is also represented.
There are also some very interesting literary and Art loan exhibits, such as the manuscript of Edgar Allen Poe’s manuscript for the Murder of the Rue Morgue and Monet’s oil painting of London Bridge. For me the first part of the exhibitions resonated the most. Setting the scene for Doyle’s imagination in creating the character and the Victorian setting of London. For example, the smog, the hansom cabs, poverty, and the Victorian appetite for stories of murder and intrigue. It was a much darker London then thanks to the industrial grime. Visually represented by some superb photographs of the time.
Once I had passed through the exhibits that set the social and political tone for the stories, their progress and popularity are represented by manuscripts and first editions. Interesting to note that the popularity of the stories really escalated when they were serialised in the Strand magazine. Many a poster and original illustrations present the visual interpretation of the character. Lots of illustrations by Paget from the original stories. Some of them lent from the Speckled Band of Boston USA.
And then the final gallery is mostly of artefacts; THAT coat but plenty of deerstalker hats, top hats, evening suits, the pipe, the violin, the silk dressing gown, handguns and historical items that show the emerging scientific forensics (early finger printing kits, chemicals, analytical crime solving items) there was also the automaton ‘Psycho” from the museum collection providing an air of Victorian mystique.
Plenty of Film and TV history to enjoy too. Personally it was nice to see Jeremy Brett recognised, the Guy Richie films and Peter Cushing seemingly fighting a large potted palm in a railway carriage (I am sure that wasn’t the case)
And then all too soon you leave via a video wall of the Reichenbach falls, and Cumberbatch’s Sherlock narrating the exhibition to a close and me making progress to the café for a restorative cup of tea to try and absorb all that I had seen and heard before moving onto the general exhibits in the Museum of London.
After a cuppa I had a dash through some of the exhibits. I wanted to see the Roman exhibits in particular but was actually very impressed with “People’s London”; exhibits from the 1920’s onwards to the present day.
On such a lovely sunny afternoon my visit continued outside and a walk to the Guildhall. The main hall was unfortunately closed for a “special event” but the Guildhall art gallery and the innovative interpretation off the ruins of the roman amphitheatre under the Guildhall were a pleasant and interesting discovery.
Almost time to find my way back to the coach, but just enough time to pop into the St Lawrence Jewry. Originally one of the 51 churches designed by Sir Christopher Wren and badly damaged in the Blitz before being rebuilt to some of the original plans. The glass windows are a major feature.