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More contact info


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Archive for January, 2013

Lions of London


A lion symbolises bravery, strength and royalty. Lions have been used in English heraldry since the 12th century as King Henry II is thought to have used a coat of arms with two lions on it.


Statues of lions can be spotted all over London. Indeed, there is a book about the 10,000 Lions of London but I won’t go that far. Here are some of my favourite lions to be seen in London.


Trafalgar Square

It would be foolish to not start a list of lion statues in London with any others. The four bronze lions at the base of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square were sculpted by Edwin Landseer, an English artist otherwise known for his paintings of horses, dogs and stags.


(c) Laura Porter

(c) Laura Porter


Trafalgar Square was constructed in the 1830s and Nelson’s Column was added in 1843. The lions came even later as they arrived in 1868.


Interestingly, Edwin Landseer had studied the animals kept at the Tower of London before they all moved to London Zoo when it opened in 1828. Wild animals were often given as gifts from a monarch or a country to England’s king or queen so there was a fine Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London for over 600 years! There is now a Royal Beasts exhibition at the Tower of London explaining the story further.


Search for hotels near Trafalgar Square.



River Lions

On the river walls of the River Thames, either side Westminster Bridge, you can see lions head’s with rings in their mouths. These mooring rings are a flood warning and were sculpted by Timothy Butler for Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s great sewage works in 1868-70.


(c) Laura Porter

(c) Laura Porter


If the Thames ever rose high enough to cover them the city would be in danger of flooding but thankfully the occasion has never occurred. We have this rhyme to remind us why the lion’s are there:


“When the lions drink, London will sink”

“When it’s up to their manes, we’ll go down the drains”

“When the water is sucked, you can be sure we’re all … in trouble”



South Bank Lion

This 13 ton lion was originally positioned on top of the Lion Brewery on the South Bank and was painted bright red. It stayed there from 1837 until the brewery was demolished in 1950 to make way for the Royal Festival Hall and the Festival of Britain in 1951.

(c) Laura Porter

(c) Laura Porter


King George VI ensured the lion was saved and it was taken to Waterloo Station. In 1966 it was moved to its present location at the start of the South Bank next to County Hall, on the south side of Westminster Bridge, opposite Big Ben.


The lion was modelled by W.F. Woodington and is a casting rather than a carving. It is made from Coade stone from a once secret recipe for a very hard artificial stone invented by Eleanor Coade. Her factory created the mould for this lion which was fired in a kiln for two days at 2,000F.


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St George’s Church, Bloomsbury

This English Baroque church was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and was built between 1716 and 1731. This was the sixth, and final, of his London churches. On the tower you can see the lion and unicorn, symbols of England and Scotland.



St George’s was reopened to the public in 2006 following a five-year restoration initiated and managed by the World Monuments Fund in Britain. The tower and steeple of St George’s is one of Hawkmoor’s most inspired dramatic and theatrical designs. It is based on the Roman author Pliny the Elder’s description of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (Bodrum, in Turkey). One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it was famed for its superb sculptures and friezes, fragments of which are now on display in the British Museum, close to the church.


Like the famed Mausoleum, St George’s spire is adorned with sculpture, but major elements of it were removed in a restoration of the 1870′s. Gigantic lions and unicorns originally clung to the four corners of the steeple. As part of the most restoration, these extraordinary sculptures were recreated and restored to the building by the Cambridge based Architectural Carvers and Stonemasons, Fairhaven of Anglesey Abbey Ltd (now Fairhaven and Woods Ltd).


Search hotels in Bloomsbury.




Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and is also a VisitBritain Super Blogger. She fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s. Laura is @AboutLondon on twitter and @AboutLondon Laura on Facebook. You can find out more about her at about.me/LauraPorter.

King Edward III’s Manor House


While taking a stroll by the river in south London I found the remains of one of the lesser known former royal residences in London – King Edward III’s Manor House – and I wanted to find out more about it.


King Edward III

Edward III was crowned king aged just 14 in 1327 and reigned until 1377. He began the Hundred Years War in 1337 and invaded France in 1339. By 1360 Edward controlled over a quarter of France.


While he is remembered for these victories less is known about his royal manor house in Rotherhithe, south London.


A sketch of what the manor house may have looked like, taken from an information board next to the remains.

A sketch of what the manor house may have looked like, taken from an information board next to the remains.


The Manor House

When it was built in around 1353, at a cost of £1200, this area was considered a prime location for large rural mansions. Rotherhithe was a small hamlet set in low lying marshland.


The manor house consisted of stone buildings around a central courtyard and was built on a small island directly next to the River Thames. There was a moat on three sides of the complex and the north side opened onto the River Thames so the king could arrive by boat at high tide.


The manor house had a hall with a large fireplace, the King’s private chambers and other utility spaces.


There is lots of speculation about the purpose of this manor house as it was not surrounded by hunting ground which was more normal at the time for royal homes. A possibility comes from the fact the king was a keen falconer and could hunt with his falcons over the river and surrounding marshland.


16th Century Onwards

By this time land reclamation changed the riverbank and the manor house became completely surrounded by a moat on all four sides. Edward’s ancestors had less enthusiasm for falconry and the Crown sold the property to a private owner.


By the 17th and 18th centuries it was used as a pottery, as evidenced by the amount of Delftware found on the site in the 1980s.


In the 18th and 19th centuries the building eventually became swallowed up by the warehouses that were built across the site yet one of the facades of the north wall of the inner court of the manor house was still standing in 1907, incorporated into the structure of one of the warehouses.


The building’s survival is partly due to the fact that it avoided being subsumed into the network of docks to its east.


The warehouses were demolished in the 1970s and redevelopment of the area began in the 1980s. As is usual in London, an archaeological excavation of the area took place when the warehouses came down and the remains of the manor house were uncovered and attempts were made to preserve them and make them accessible to the public.


© Laura Porter

© Laura Porter


1985 Excavation

The two courtyards and moat were discovered in 1985. The King’s Stairs also survive today and mark the landing stage where the royal party disembarked to visit the ‘palace’.


English Heritage hoped to leave the remains on view to the public for free but sadly due to vandalism by 2005 it was decided to rebury some of the ruins to prevent further destruction.


There is not a lot to see but it’s still an ancient site and an interesting find in a residential area next to the river. English Heritage has provided an information board at the site with further information.




How To Find It

The site can be found in the corner to the south-west of the junction of Bermondsey Wall East and Cathay Street in Rotherhithe, London SE16. The Angel Pub is opposite. It’s easy to find from Bermondsey tube station but you could also walk along the south side of the river Thames beyond Tower Bridge as it’s only a 1.25km walk from there.


Just opposite these ruins is an excellent viewing platform to look towards central London. There’s also an information sign from 1985 labelling the buildings you can see and you can then realise how much has changed in recent history too.


There are some excellent hotels near Tower Bridge and this location is also just a short walk from the Hilton London Docklands.



Sphinxes Outside Islington Houses


Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson was a national hero when he died in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar. He is still a household name as we have Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.


Nelson's Column© RedCoat

Nelson’s Column
© RedCoat


In 1798, Nelson won the Battle of the Nile defeating the French Napoleon. Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt had raised public awareness of Egyptian imagery and Nelson’s victory had made ancient Egyptian motifs fashionable.



Egyptian Revival Architecture

You can find Egyptian Revival Architecture all over London from the more obvious Cleopatra’s Needle on the Embankment to tombs and mausoleums in cemeteries such as Abney Park and Highgate.


Cleopatra's Needle

Cleopatra’s Needle


Cleopatra’s Needle is one of a pair with the other in New York. They are both genuine Ancient Egyptian obelisks, but are actually older than Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt as they were already over a thousand years old in her lifetime making this the oldest man-made structure in London. It was given to the British Government in 1820 as a memorial to the victories of Nelson and Abercromby over the French in Egypt but it took until 1877 to arrive in London. Apparently, the two replica sphinxes at its base should be facing away to protect but the Victorians preferred them facing inwards as they thought it looked nicer.


Richmond Avenue, Islington

But why are there sphinxes outside a row of terraced houses in Islington?


Richmond Avenue, N1© Laura Porter

Richmond Avenue, N1
© Laura Porter


Between 1801 and 1841 the population of the parish of Islington grew from c.10,000 to c.56,000. Joseph Kay, who had previously been responsible for town improvements in Greenwich and Mecklenburgh Square in Bloomsbury, became the chief architect and surveyor for the Thornhill estate in Islington. George Thornhill’s estate was around 86 acres and building work began in about 1820. The Thornhill estate land was owned by a family which held land chiefly in Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire and this influenced a number of street names. The land here had previously been used for dairy farming.



Richmond Avenue, N1
© Laura Porter


The classic white stucco-fronted terraced houses of Islington were clearly influenced by John Nash, the chief architect to the Prince Regent who became King George IV.



Richmond Avenue, N1
© Laura Porter


Building started on Richmond Avenue in the late 1820s, which was called Richmond Road before 1938, to stimulate the development. Joseph Kay laid out Richmond Avenue in 1829 with giant Ionic pilasters on the end houses and doorways with Greek Doric columns.


It was not until the 1840s that William Dennis built the southern terrace in Richmond Avenue with sphinxes, as fierce as any hunting dog, guarding the steps. On each side of numbers 46 to 72 the entrance steps are flanked by graven sphinxes which have attracted the interest of many photographers. It has been noted most of the noses have broken off over the years but many have been restored (often badly).


Richmond Avenue, N1© Laura Porter

Richmond Avenue, N1
© Laura Porter


The period 1839 to 1841 was one in which Britain was much concerned with Egypt. In 1840 England, Russia, Austria and Prussia undertook to expel the forces of Ibrahim Pasha from Syria. A succession of victories and the capture of Acre induced them to quit Syria. These sphinxes were ‘motifs’ of this period and not directly the influence of Nelson’s Nile victory over 40 years before although most attribute them to be.


Richmond Avenue, N1© Laura Porter

Richmond Avenue, N1
© Laura Porter


More Egypt in London

You can find out about more places in London with Egyptian influence on the UCL Blog, at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and the Egypt in London flickr group is great too.


While I’ve not found an Egyptian-themed London hotel or hotel suite you can enjoy Egyptian cotton bedding in many London hotels.




Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and is also a VisitBritain Super Blogger. She fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s. Laura is @AboutLondon on twitter and @AboutLondon Laura on Facebook. You can find out more about her at about.me/LauraPorter.

The Metropolitan 18 Pounds offer




London-hotels.co.uk statement


In view of all the social media activity involving  the mass 18 pounds per night bookings at the Metropole and Halkin Hotels in London, we would like to run through the events of January 7 – 8, 2013 in chronological order so everyone is aware of the facts from our side.


On the london-hotel.co.uk webpages for areas and districts we state the lowest price available in that part of London for both single and double occupancy.


On the evening of the 7th, we noticed that for central London we had a low price of 18 pounds for The Metropolitan Hotel.


Knowing this to a 5 star, we questioned it with our coders and they confirmed it was not an issue within our system.  They also informed us that the 18 pound rate was bookable via booking.com direct ( we did not check this so can not confirm whether correct or not)


At 21.43 (CET), we made a test booking which was successful however the terms and conditions did not allow us to cancel it.


At this point we had two thoughts:


a) It was a promotional offer for what would normally be a quiet night

b) Booking.com probably only had 5 rooms on allocation so the maximum “damage” would be 5 rooms at 18 pounds.


At 22.33 (CET) the first booking arrived followed by 4 in the next hour.


At 22.55 We picked up on the increasing chatter volume on social media and on moneysavingexpert.com


At 23.30 (CET) the bookings started coming in at a rate of one every two minutes and we even had warnings that the server was under pressure.


At 24.00 we decided to try to block the bookings:

  • We contacted the Duty manager at the Metropolitan and informed them in no uncertain terms of what was happening.  We advised them to either amend the price or cancel the availability
  • We emailed Booking.com in Singapore hoping that they would be just opening and could resolve it from their end.
  • We telephoned Booking.com and spoke to a help desk in the USA and warned them to stop the feed

At that time of the night we had no way to disconnect our page feed to prohibit the price being accessed


During the night we took 104 bookings.

5 at the Halkin

99 at the Metropolitan


At 10 am on the 8th, Booking.com disconnected the price feed for the two hotels.


At no time did the hotel or Booking.com make an attempt to contact us despite our communications, so we removed the entire Booking.com feed to our websites on concerns that the issue may reappear on other hotels.


It was at that time that we realised that the two hotels were part of the same hotel group and it was therefore a fair assumption that the issue was down to the group rather than London-hotels.co.uk or Booking.com.


The rest is history:

you all received calls / emails as follows:


Thank you for choosing Booking.com.

I am contacting you with regards to your reservation number 634674280 at The Metropolitan with arrival date 1st – 2nd January 2013.

Please, be kindly advised that we have just been contacted by the Revenue Manager at The Metropolitan and they informed us that the rates of your reservation, i.e. GBP 18 per night, are unfortunately incorrect and cannot be accepted. The hotel has advised that this discrepancy comes as a result of a system error that had occurred at the time your reservation was made.

Please, kindly note that our co-operation with The Metropolitan has resulted in the hotel agreeing to offer you a compromise rate of GBP 149 per night, room only, exclusive of VAT – fully pre-paid, which is lower than the correct standard rate for this room type and dates.  Alternatively, the hotel would accept cancellation free of any charges.

We would appreciate it if you could inform us at your earliest convenience of whether you wish to accept the offer made by the hotel, or whether you would prefer to cancel your reservation without penalty.

In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact us, should you wish to discuss the matter further, or if you have any other questions.

Please, do accept our most sincere apologies on behalf of the hotel for any confusion and inconvenience this matter may cause you.

Once again, thank you for choosing Booking.com.


At the time this statement is made (20.45 CET), of  the 104 bookings we received only 4 have cancelled.


In our opinion:

The hotel group should be man enough to stick to the bookings.  If went into a shop and bought a chocolate bar, would the shop be correct in asking for more money the day after ?


It appears to be the hotels fault, they should accept the consequences



London-Hotels would like to hear your comments on this matter so it of use to others


We thank you for any contributions


Update at 8pm Jan 9:

Private message from Como:

COMO Hotels

Metropolitan by COMO, London is looking forward to welcoming all lucky guests who have already booked their stay for Jan 2014
06:47 PM – 09 Jan 13

Not sure what to make of this – will update when we know more


Update 2230(CET)  Jan 9:

email to Booking.com

Thank you for your communication

We received this message from Como direct which tends to indicate that they are now accepting the bookings.
Can you confirm this to be correct?

Private message from Como:

COMO Hotels 

Metropolitan by COMO, London is looking forward to welcoming all lucky guests who have already booked their stay for Jan 2014
06:47 PM – 09 Jan 13



Jan 10, 13.18 (CET)

Bookings at the Met are being honored and in our opinion thats very good of them.

I for one will review the hotel – hopefully favourably and post good comments

You also have the opportunity to change your dates


As we advised you previously, The Metropolitan London had informed us they were experiencing some technical issues which were the cause of the rates for your desired dates being loaded incorrectly.

After further investigation and analysis of the situation it is our pleasure to inform you that your reservation at the Metropolitan London will be honoured as originally confirmed, at the original rate of GBP 18 per night (including VAT, room only).

Further to this, we are pleased to offer you the flexibility of changing the dates of your stay to run from any date of arrival from the 11th January 2013, through until your current date of arrival, at the original rate of GBP 18 per night. If you choose to make these changes, this would be subject to availability at the discretion of the hotel, and the number of nights must remain the same as per your original reservation.

We would appreciate it if you could contact us at your earliest convenience, should you wish to take advantage of this offer.

We would like to offer you our sincere apologies for any confusion or inconvenience this matter has caused you, however our co-operation with The Metropolitan London has resulted in an outcome in which we are delighted to present to you.

Once again, thank you for choosing Booking.com and we sincerely hope you will give us the opportunity to serve you again in the future.



On behalf of all bookers, we would like to thanks Booking.com and Como Hotels for their kind offer


Food and Drink Named after London Places


Purely for fun, I thought it would be interesting to have a list of food and drink that are named after London or places in the city.




The idea started with drinks such as London Dry Gin and ales such as London Pride. London breweries also include London Fields and the London beers from the Meantime Brewing Company in Greenwich. And London Porters deserve a special mention (because it’s my surname).


London Porter© SteveR-

London Porter
© SteveR-



Chelsea Bun


These currant buns were created at The Chelsea Bun House in the 18th century and were popular with high society, including Kings George II and III, who called in for a bun en route to the nearby Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens. The Chelsea Bun House closed in 1839 but the bun is still popular today. It’s spiced dough rolled into a square-shaped spiral then glazed with sugar water.



Chelsea Buns© dullhunk

Chelsea Buns
© dullhunk


Hotel tip: My favourite hotel in the Chelsea area is myhotel Chelsea. The rooms have a zen-like calmness and The Conservatory is a peaceful space for reading or indulging in afternoon tea.



Tottenham Cake


This is a tray-bake sponge cake with thick pink icing on top and sold cut into squares. It can be bought at many branches of Greggs.


It dates back to at least 1901 when it was given away free to local children to celebrate Tottenham Hotspur football club’s first victory in the FA Cup Final, and has connections to the Tottenham Quakers.




Tottenham Cake
© secretlondon123



London Cheesecake


This is certainly not like any other cheesecake you will have seen or tasted – it actually has no cheese! Maybe the name is because the shredded coconut on the top looks a bit like grated cheese. Again, Greggs is the place to find them in the London area.



London Cheesecake© secretlondon123

London Cheesecake
© secretlondon123



Too Many Puns


After confirming London Broil is actually nothing to do with London and comes from North America, my research mostly turned up puns. Of these the ham opportunities were the most popular with East Ham, West Ham, Hammersmith, Peckham and Hampton Court Palace all getting a mention.


It’s back to the cake theme with Victoria Sponge (Victoria) and Angel Cake (Angel Islington), plus the slightly tenuous Swiss Roll Cottage (Swiss Cottage). Sadly the puns continued with Hollandaise Park Sauce (Holland Park) and Shepherd’s Bush Pie (Shepherd’s Bush). My personal favourite was Piccalilli Circus (Piccadilly Circus). All to be enjoyed at Eaten Square (Eton Square). Anyone for a Ritz cracker?




Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and is also a VisitBritain Super Blogger. She fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s. Laura is @AboutLondon on twitter and @AboutLondon Laura on Facebook. You can find out more about her at about.me/LauraPorter.