The Strand in November

The Christmas tree goes up in Somerset House courtyard

A set of photographs taken by Clare Brant, showing the Christmas tree being assembled in Somerset House courtyard, and remembrance poppies on display in the window of Coutts bank. The Christmas tree goes up in Somerset House courtyard The Christmas tree goes up in Somerset House courtyard The Christmas tree goes up in Somerset House…

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Balloon on the Strand

A balloon

The history of crazes is an enormously rich subject. We seem to be in the middle of a craze for fidget spinners, of which all sorts of varieties are on sale in the Strand. In 1784, the Strand was a key location for what became, for two or three years, a mad craze for balloons…

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Souvenirs on the Strand

A Strand shop window

A recent walk along the Strand in search of fidget spinners led me to start thinking about souvenirs. Sadly the Strand doesn’t feature in London-themed merchandise – it’s not as cool as the other big streets. A couple of years ago I asked a souvenir seller why he didn’t have items with the Strand? He…

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‘Gaiety George’ and the Making of Modern Celebrity

The cast of The Shop Girl in an 1895 souvenir programme © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

During the 1890s and 1900s the Strand’s Gaiety theatre played host to a string of dazzlingly successful shows featuring the ‘Gaiety Girls.’ For the project Moving Past Present I invited artist Janina Lange to ‘reanimate’ two of the Gaiety’s best-known stars, Constance Collier and Ellaline Terriss, as digital avatars. The process of researching their lives…

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The All-New Watch House

A general view of the Watch House

The scaffolding has recently come down from around the Old Watch House in Strand Lane, after a five-month restoration project sponsored by King’s College London and carried out by PAYE Conservation . It has been completely re-rendered, the zinc sheathing of the penthouse storey has been replaced, and the zinc, woodwork and wrought iron of the balcony…

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Moving Past Present: Digitally Reanimating the Gaiety Girls

Photographs from the Moving Past Present performance

In the 1890s the Strand’s Gaiety theatre became famous as the home of a new genre: the musical comedy. The brainchild of Irish impressario George Edwardes, musical comedies like A Gaiety Girl, The Shop Girl, The Quaker Girl, A Runaway Girl and The Circus Girl beguiled audiences with a mixture of songs, spectacle, romance, daring…

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The Eagle Hut and King’s College London

The Eagle Hut, Aldwych, with St Mary-le-Strand, King’s College and Somerset House in the distance (watercolour by Henry Rushbury, Imperial War Museum © IWM (Art.IWM ART 1123); Rushbury was an official war artist during both World Wars.

World War One undoubtedly had an impact on the Strand area.  When the United States of America entered the European conflict in 1917, the American Y.M.C.A. found space along the Strand for the Eagle Hut – a rest and recreation centre for their troops in the Aldwych which began services in August 1917 – in…

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True harmony and brotherhood

Excerpt from a reproduction of John Evans’ A new and accurate plan of the Cities of London and Westminster and Borough of Southwark etc 1799, annotated to indicate lodges meeting in premises identified as being sited in or around the Strand between 1725 and 1825. More than one lodge might have met at a single venue over time.

18th century freemasons meeting in and around the Strand The history of freemasonry as a secular, fraternal organisation in England dates from the late seventeenth century, when several private lodges are known to have existed before four London-based lodges formed the first Grand Lodge in 1717. Another group of masons formed a rival Grand Lodge…

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Lord Nelson and the Strand

On a bright, cold afternoon at the end of January 2003 I made my way down the Strand towards Trafalgar Square in the company of American audio artist and playwright Gregory Whitehead and BBC radio producer Neil McCarthy. Ahead of us, high up on the column in Trafalgar Square and silhouetted against a clear blue…

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