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Grant Museum of Zoology - Bloomsbury

(8 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

The Grant Museum of Zoology has moved. Formerly housed in a building not unlike a school science block, it's now located over the road and up a Pufferfish (AKA blowfish) in its agitated state. Second only to the golden tree frog in the toxicity of its poison - naturally they're on the menu in Japan. Linked to Voodoo practice, the coma which pufferfish poison sends you into, is known to be 'waking'. Ingesting small non-lethal quantities, puts the recipient into a zombie-like trancebit. Try to approach from Gower Street if possible, as the stunning Georgian residences are worth seeing en route. There's also a rich seam of blue heritage discs on the buildings, indicating that significant persons formerly lived at these addresses. Probably the densest concentration anywhere in the UK.


If you like your preserved specimens to be human in origin, you're probably thinking of another museum (The Hunterian), but it's nearby so you could visit both in one session. The Grant Museum of Zoology leans towards animals displayed in jars and antique viewing cabinets. Close to the entrance is a glass container, brimful of moles (18 apparently, but looks more). Not an image you're adequately prepared for, so it serves as a useful acclimatisation exhibit for the museum. It's difficult to look at - yet equally difficult to look away. You're caught in a form of intellectual, horror-tinged quicksand. Moving further into the museum, the emphasis veers more towards taxidermy and skeletal displays. A useful opportunity to stand back and survey the surroundings.



Bunhill Fields - Islington

(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Contrast is a word which flits in and out of my mind when walking the streets of London. Like wine it improves over sustained periods, The graves and monuments in Bunhill Fields are a selection of 'survivors' from both rebuilding programmes and bomb damage. Tens of thousands actually lie under the soil in Bunhill Fieldswhere sections of a city grow, prosper, wither and much later are revived to follow a new formula. One area is directly north of the City of London. Ancient, but curiously resistant to change in the last century. Infamous during the lead up to WW2 as a place where life was tough and the saltiest London characters lurked, turning any manner of coin to survive.

North and east of Cripplegate, was also an area levelled by bombs during the Second World War and successfully regenerated with the introduction of The Barbican Centre arts complex. The area to the east of the Barbican (so named for the Roman fort that stood here) and bounded by City Road is Bunhill Fields. If you head north from the City of London, passing Finsbury Circus, it feels like a city running out. Fading as you move from its commercial centre, but this is exactly the contrast I'm alluding to. Dip into the history and you'll find an area in flux. Armoury House, a castle-like building and home to the oldest regiment of the British Army, stands immovably beside the entrance to Bunhill Fields.


History of Bunhill/Bonehill Fields

First mentioned in 1104 as part of the Manor of Finsbury, it's believed to be the site of an older Saxon burial ground. The name Bunhill is a mutation of "Bone Hill". The 'fields' element implied that it was not to be used for growing crops and was a full 23 acres in size - much larger than its present dimensions. Grazing, cloth-tenting (newly woven linen was sun-bleached on tenterhooks) and archery practice were popular activities that required just this kind of space. In 1498, 11 acres of the allotment were set aside for members of the Honorable Artillery Company to practise their archery and later, for somewhere to wield their experimental muskets. The land still belongs to the Honorable Artillery Company and a number of significant events occurred here, including the establishment of the first cricket club. It also bore witness to the first person to float above the rooftops of London. Lunardi's balloon flight - which a quarter of London's entire population (200,000 people) came to watch. His balloon edged into the atmosphere, accompanied by both gasps of astonishment and mutterings of "witchcraft".


Hunterian Museum - Royal College of Surgeons

(7 votes, average 4.43 out of 5)

The Hunterian Museum is on the south side of Lincoln's Inn Fields, in an area which is host to many of London's hidden treasures (Sir John Soane's Museum is across the fields, Lincoln's Inn is a few doors down and Temple Church and the Royal Courts of Justice are a short walk away). It's housed within the headquarters of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, which can trace its lineage back to the mid-fourteenth century. As many paintings, etchings and cartoons attest to, there was considerable friction between barbers and surgeons in earlier times. They were eventually split into separate guilds, of surgeons and barber-surgeons, overseen by Henry VIII; though it would take several more centuries before surgeons became an independent body in their own right.


The Company of Surgeons moved to their current address in 1797, though in a lessHunterian Museum entrance is the same entrance as the Royal College of Surgeons. Walk in through the main door and ask at reception. Charles Barry was the original architect, though it was rebuilt after the Second World War impressive building. There is a tradition that surgeons are not referred to as "Dr" but as "Mr", a nod to their historical origins. Physicians were originally required to hold a medical degree, but barber-surgeons were not. Due to prickly relations between the two guilds, surgeons reverted back to "Mr" even after they later became degree-qualified and earned the right to the title of "Dr". The original building suffered from early structural defects and was replaced by another in 1841, designed by Sir Charles Barry. Barry was the chief architect of the Palace of Westminster and many other significant buildings including: the Reform Club in Pall Mall, Cliveden and the remodelling of Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey, to its fans). Unfortunately, as you'll discover from numerous photographs if you visit, the building was destroyed by a Luftwaffe bomb in 1941, though the library and portico still remain.



Chelsea Physic Garden

(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)

Chelsea Physic Garden was founded by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London in 1673 as a The public entrance to Chelsea Physic Garden. The garden has numerous high brick walls which contribute to its microclimateplace for its apprentices to study the medicinal qualities of plants. It is the oldest botanic garden in London (and the second oldest in the UK - after the University of Oxford Botanic Garden), predating Kew Gardens and the fact that it was founded a mere 8 years after The Great Plague of 1665 suggests how important medicinal prevention was becoming. London was in the process of being rebuilt after the Great Fire of London 1666 (it took over 50 years), and although this section of London was unscathed by the flames, being some way distant to the west - it's important to understand the fire's impact on planning and design. London was nearly extinguished during the years 1665-1666, firstly by huge loss of life from the plague and then wholesale destruction of two-thirds of the City of London. Hooke and Wren when they rebuilt London adopted new rules and procedures (including - minimal flammable material, wide boulevards and gaps between housing blocks). This preventative approach filtered into a need to supply medicines, which were woefully inadequate during the Great Plague.


Chelsea Physic Garden began to take shape into its present form in 1722, when four acres of land were leased to the the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries for £5 per year in perpetuity. On condition that they supplied 50 Herbarium plants per year to the Royal Society (probably the most significant benefactor to scientific disciplines in the world). From this point the Chelsea Physic Garden took off and established seed programmes and exchanges with communities all over the world. Captain James Cook and Sir Thomas More would tie-up their vessels at the landing stage on the nearby Thames, and deposit their findings after distant and arduous voyages. The seed bank established here, supplied cotton to the colonies of Georgia and has established seed exchange practices, which have been adopted by similar institutions the world over.



Roosevelt's Statue - Grosvenor Square

(24 votes, average 4.83 out of 5)

Franklin D. Roosevelt - early years

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, FDR to the lazy or familiar, was the 32nd President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt during his 'New Deal' period. Although undoubtedly charismatic his long-term illness many believe gave him the heart which made him so popular at home and abroadand the only one to be elected for more than two terms. He emerged onto the political scene during a period of infectious hopelessness. Leadership had deserted the common American and FDR's combination of optimism and active intervention, rekindled America's spirit. "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself," was the stirring quote from his inauguration. The profusion of executive orders he dispatched, termed 'The New Deal' introduced relief, recovery and reform. In short: jobs, economic recovery and regulation to prevent similar disasters re-occuring (which they didn't, until 2008). Economic recovery was rapid, but dipped into recession in 1937, before booming during the war years, when unemployment dropped from 28% (in 1933) to 1.2% (in 1944).

In August 1921, while the Roosevelts were on holiday in Canada, FDR contracted an illness diagnosed at the time as polio, though is now considered more consistent with Guillain–Barré Syndrome. Fitting his hips and legs with iron braces, he taught himself to walk short distances by swivelling his torso while using a cane as support. In private, he used a wheelchair, but was careful never to be seen so in public. Frances Perkins believed that the illness changed Roosevelt's personality and in doing so, created a better man. "Roosevelt underwent a spiritual transformation during the years of his illness. I noticed when he came back, that the years of pain and suffering had purged the slightly arrogant attitude he had displayed on occasion. The man emerged completely warmhearted, with humility of spirit and a deeper philosophy. Having visited the depths of trouble, he readily empathised with those in trouble."

Roosevelt in the UK

Roosevelt used his charisma to build support in the US, for intervention. America should be the "Arsenal of Democracy", he told his fireside audience. On September 2, 1940, Roosevelt openly defied the Neutrality Acts by passing the Destroyers for Bases Agreement, which gave 50 American destroyers to Britain in exchange for military base rights. This was a precursor of the March 1941 Lend-Lease Agreement which began to direct military and economic aid to Britain and other Allies. Franklin D. Roosevelt, eager to secure public consent for this controversial plan, explained to the American Public that it was comparable to one neighbour lending another a garden hose, to put out a fire in his home.
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