The Thames, Britain’s Great River – Part Five

“Nothing ever seems impossible in spring, you know.”
L.M. Montgomery

“Primavera” by Ludovico Einaudi (courtesy of Andreea Petcu):

“For happiness one needs security,
but joy can spring like a flower
even from the cliffs of despair.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“Mariage d’Amour” by Paul de Senneville (courtesy of 555simson, who as the creator of this video seems to have attributed in error the music as being “Spring Waltz” by Frédéric Chopin):

In this post about the Thames and London, I shall concentrate on many unusual, beautiful but not known to visitors and sadly to many Londoners, places.


Middle Temple Lane,  EC4Y  9AT

The Hall forms the western quarter of the precinct known as The Temple, which, until their dissolution in 1312, was once the headquarters of the Knights Templar. Situated on Fountain Court, the Hall pre-dates the Spanish Armada. It is the finest surviving Elizabethan building in central London. Elizabeth I dined here frequently, and the first performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night took place in the Hall at Candlemas in 1602. The Hall was begun in 1562 by Edmund Plowden, the Treasurer of the Inn. Its architect was probably John Lewis, the master carpenter from Longleat in Wiltshire, who was summoned to London by Plowden. The building was completed in 1570. Over the centuries it has undergone various modifications.

Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery:






The bust above is of Edmund Plowden


The Hall has a huge double hammerbeam roof, the great curved braces enhancing the the sense of height. Ornamental urns decorate the lower hammerbeams. The highlight of the entire Hall is the stunning two-storey screen created c1570, the round-headed doorways embellished with elaborately carved figures of Hercules on the pedestals. At the centre of the screen is a white marble Victorian bust of Edward Plowden. The Hall is panelled and enriched with the painted arms of the Readers from 1579 to 1899. The High Table comprises three 29ft planks from a single oak from Windsor Forest, a gift from Elizabeth I, the timber being floated down the Thames.





Sir Francis Drake


In August 1586 Sir Francis Drake was given a rapturous welcome here by the Benchers and Members on his return from his exploits in the Spanish West Indies and North America. The ‘cupboard’ or table which stands below the High Table and is a centre of the ceremonies, was crafted from the hatch cover of his ship The Golden Hind. On it is laid the book which members sign when they are called to the Bar. In a similar manner to the Oxbridge colleges, the Hall remains the centre of social life of Middle Temple. Students are required to dine in Hall for a minimum of 12 qualifying sessions.


Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I

One of Emery Molyneux’s globes at Middle Temple


Today the Inn provides education and support for newly qualified barristers and training in ethics and advocacy for pupil barristers. The nearby Middle Temple Library contains a pair of Emery Molyneux’s priceless Elizabethan terrestrial and celestial globes, the first to be made in England. Middle Temple Hall remains a remarkable survival of Elizabethan London and a direct link to the glory days of Drake and Raleigh.

Courtesy of Virtual Venue Visit:

Below is the adopted emblem of Middle Temple, the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God.


“Barcarolle” from “The Tales of Hoffman” by Jacques Offenbach (courtesy of Classical Music Only):


10-11 Northumberland Street


Only a few British characters from fiction have achieved universal renown – Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, James Bond and Harry Potter. Such is the reputation of Sherlock Holmes and the appeal of Victorian and Edwardian London that overseas many believe he actually existed. This is perhaps understandable, as a complete recreation of his lodgings was built by Marylebone Borough Library for the Festival of Britain in 1951, and subsequently, it went on a world tour. In 1957 the entire exhibit was acquired by Whitbread (the brewery company), who installed it in The Northumberland Arms (designed by J W Brooker in 1891) and renamed the pub The Sherlock Holmes. The Northumberland  Hotel featured in several stories. It was here that Sir Hugo Baskerville lost his boot before leaving for Dartmoor, while Holmes and Watson frequented the adjacent Turkish baths, the old entrance to which can still be discerned in Craven Passage to the side of the pub.

Courtesy of Museum of London:

Below is the recreation of the study of Sherlock Holmes








.                                               Anyone for fish and chips?

The pub is strewn with original cartoons, newspaper cuttings, film stills and memorabilia, including Dr Watson’s old service revolver and a distinctly tacky but lugubrious stuffed head of the Hound of Baskervilles. In the restaurant on the upper floor is a complete replica of  Holmes and Watson’s sitting room and study set behind a glass partition. To add to the authenticity, the wall is peppered with revolver shots marking out the royal insignia ‘VR’.


In 1990 the number 221b Baker Street was assigned to the much more convincing Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street which opened in the same year. A year later another opened in the basement of the old English Church in Meiringen, Switzerland, the village where Holmes stayed before his fateful encounter with Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls.

Below is Sherlock Holme’s residence, now a museum.


Courtesy of Londonist Ltd,

In the first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, some of Felix Mendelssohn’s work “Leider De Onne Worter” (Songs Without Words) were played by Holmes at Dr. Watson’s request as they were his favourites. Watson wrote in the story, “That he knew Holmes could play difficult pieces because he played some Mendelssohn and other favourites. He would also create his own pieces extemporaneously.”

Songs Without Words: Opus 62 No. 6 “Spring Song” by Felix Mendelssohn (courtesy of steven960929):


“Spring Song” was also sometimes known in England as “Camberwell Green”, being the place in London where Mendelssohn composed it while staying with the Benneckes, relatives of his wife.

“They still live for all that love them well;
in a romantic chamber of the heart,
in a nostalgic country of the mind;
where it is always 1895.”
Vincent Starrett


13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A  3BP


Sir John Soane’s treasure house has been a haunt of students of art and architecture for over 200 years, the place of an extraordinary collection of architectural fragments and curiosities all displayed in varied spaces and room for maximum theatrical effect to surprise, delight and mystify visitors.




Born in 1753, the son of a bricklayer, Soane was a peculiar man. Exceptionally tall, and with a face once likened to a ‘picture on the back of a spoon’, he was demanding and a voracious collector. He was also one of England’s most brilliant and original architects  who developed a unique architectural style of his own. He studied architecture at the Royal Academy and in Italy. Just eight years after returning to England, he was appointed architect to the Bank of England. After an advantageous marriage to Elizabeth Smith, an heiress, in 1792 he acquired No 12 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which he rebuilt as his family home and office. In 1813 he moved next door to No 13, which he rebuilt as a museum for his burgeoning collection. Ten years later, he bought No 14, which he rented out, using the stable yard at the rear to extend his museum.  On his death in 1837, the entire complex was bequeathed to the nation by an Act of Parliament.

Courtesy of The Guardian:

The visitor passes through a procession of carefully contrived spaces intended to induce particular effects and moods. On entering via No 13, to the right of the narrow stone staircase  with its distinctive Soanian iron balustrade, is the Dining Room and Library painted Pompeiian red and lit by coloured glass with artfully concealed mirrors conveying an illusion of space.


The Study and Dining Room contain a collection of antique marbles acquired in Italy in the 1790s. Both rooms overlook the Monument Court, a light well crammed with antiquarian fragments with a bust of Soane at the centre. In the Picture Room, built in 1824 on the old stable yard at the rear of No 14, are over a hundred pictures ingeniously displayed on ‘movable planes’ with works by Canaletto, Hogarth, Fuseli, Turner and Hodges, and some fine drawings by Piranesi.

Below the treasures in the Picture Room.


Below is the painting An Election I by William Hogarth (1697-1764)


Below a view of Venice by Antonio Canaletto (1697-1768)


Basilica: view of the interior from the East by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778)


The  Monk’s Parlour is a pure flight of gothic fantasy, designed to induce melancholia; a constricted space lit by stained-glass with medieval masonry and carvings taken from the Palace of Westminster salvage during Soane’s supervision of alterations there. The Crypt continues in the same vein intended to evoke the atmosphere of Roman catacombs. In the Sepulchral Chamber, pride of place is given to the Egyptian sarcophagus of Seti I,  the son of Ramses I and the father of Ramses II, purchased by Soane, after the British Museum declined to buy it.


Below is the alabaster sarcophagus of Seti I


Courtesy of SoaneMuseum:

The sarcophagus was found empty in the tomb shown below. The mummy of Seti I was found many years later in the Royal Mummy Cache nearby where it had been moved for safekeeping in antiquity. The mummy is now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.


The collection also includes a 5th century BC female torso from Acropolis, full-size Roman statues of Apollo Belvedere, and an 1829 marble bust of Soane. In the Breakfast Room beautifully lit from the above through a canopied dome of coloured glass  and mirror fragments, are portraits of Napoleon. Among the curiosities in the eclectic collection are pistols belonging to Napoleon and Peter the Great, a scold’s bridle for nagging wives, and a giant sponge from Sumatra.


Sir John Soane’s Museum is one of London’s greatest treasures, fostering an understanding of history of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and widely regarded as the supreme example of the house museum in the world.

“Waterways” by Ludovico Einaudi (courtesy of Jack Evans):

29 St James’s Place,  SW1A  1NR


The house was built between 1756 and 1766 as the London residence of the 1st Earl Spencer and his wife, Georgiana. The exterior and grand floor interiors are rooted in the Palladian tradition but are one of the earliest examples of neo-classicism in England. In addition to Spencer’s magnificent collection of European art, the second Earl added a library of early printed books, regarded as the greatest private collection in the world. For over 100 years the house was the setting of for lavish balls, sumptuous suppers, and refined receptions for leading members of society. In 1857 a ball was held for Queen Victoria.


The classical entrance hall is embellished with a Doric frieze of swags from the Temple of Jupiter the Thunderer. The Ante-Room has a great niche in the manner of the Temple of Venus. The stunning Palm Room is one of London’s most magical spaces, the palms symbolising marital fidelity. Corinthian half-columns swathed in palms fronds frame an arch, which leads to a domed central space surrounded by three coffered apses.


The stone staircase with a Venetian window at half-landing level and a cut metal balustrade painted in trompe l’oeil – all lit by a magnificent Venetian lantern from the Doge’s barge. The enfilade of rooms leads on to the Great Room, which is lined with red damask rising to a coved ceiling, with four bronze medallions portraying Bacchus with panthers, Apollo with griffins.  The Painted Room beyond has its green walls decorated with painted scenes depicting the Triumph of Love.


The Spencers remained in occupation until 1895, when the house was let, before finally departing in 1927. The house is now on a long lease to the 4th Baron Rothschild, but still belongs to the 9th Earl Spencer, the brother of Diana, Princess of Wales.


The restoration of Spencer House by Joseph Rothschild as a reception space was a triumph since it has provided the setting for concerts, charitable events, political meetings, conferences and royal receptions. The house is open to the public every Sunday, except in January and August.

“Salut d’Amour” by Edward Elgar, (courtesy of NancyFloressantos):

King Charles Street,  SW1A  2AH


The Foreign and Commonwealth office is the grandest of all the great offices of government. In the 1960s and 70s serious proposals were put forward for its demolition, but following a huge public outcry the building was listed, Grade I, following which an ambitious phased programme of restoration was undertaken from 1988 to 1992 to restore the interiors to their original glory.


Founded in 1782, originally the Foreign Office occupied a different site. But when it relocated to the south side of Downing Street. Sir George Gilbert Scott was appointed to oversee the construction of the vast complex of buildings. Gilbert Scott envisaged the Foreign Office as a ‘kind of national palace, or drawing room for the nation’, designed to impress upon visiting foreign dignitaries the power and majesty of the British nation.



The Grand Staircase rises three storeys, culminating in a gilded dome decorated with allegorical female figures representing the 20 countries which had diplomatic relations with Great Britain at the time. The great coloured marble imperial stair divides in two as it soars majestically through the building, around its arcaded galleries. Lining the galleries is the famous sequence of murals depicting allegories of Britania.


The Grand Reception Room is a huge, vaulted, double-height space painted with the signs of the zodiac, stencilling and gilding. This leads to the Dining Room with green walls and gilt stencilled stars. Many more elaborate and sumptuous rooms follow. The history of the Foreign Office is a triumphant affirmation of the skill and expertise of the conservation team involved, and also a fascinating insight into Victorian perceptions of Britain’s place in the world at the height of its greatest power.




The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is open to the public for one weekend each year during Open House London.

See you next week for more unusual and special places.

“Spring will come and so will happiness.
Hold on. Life will get warmer.”
Anita Krizzan

Courtesy of Gheorghe Zamfir, part of “Spring” from “The Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi:

Courtesy of TED-Ed,




55 thoughts on “The Thames, Britain’s Great River – Part Five

  1. Just when I think you’ve done it all, we’ve seen it all you bring more depth, more history, quotes, videos and beauty. Kudos to you and all of your research and uploading this fascinating and important time in history. I’m most appreciative! The music is stupendous and the intricacy of the work is incredible. So ornate and the frescoes are lovely. Thanks truly for this post and labor of love of Part 5 of the Thame River!~ 💖💖🌻👏

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Cindy, for your wonderful and very first comments! The places I am compelled to write about are so beautiful and interesting that it would be a crime to stay silent. I had dinner once at the Temple Great Hall and it was an unforgettable experience and a special occasion. More fascinating places to discover next week.
    I do appreciate greatly, Cindy, your interest!!



  3. Thank you for sharing such an amazing post, Joanna .The interior designs and architecture are magnificent. I had never listened to “Waterways” by Ludovico Einaudi, it’s truly beautiful . There is always something to gain from your posts. Thanks again. 💕

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you, Grace, for your most generous comments! It is wonderful to hear that my post gives such pleasure, both visually and with my choice of music!
    Your praise is greatly appreciated, Grace!


    Liked by 2 people

  5. They sure do. Truly my pleasure.💕


  6. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a lot of information, pictures, videos and music in one post Joanna. You really do work hard at your blogs, and I really liked how you included the onset of spring to give us all a boost. I thought the opening Einaudi clip was the perfect start for what was to come.

    I agree that many of the places here would not have been seen by lots of people, at least not internally, and so it’s a good idea to show what’s behind the doors of some of the less well-known buildings.

    As it happens, Spencer House is the only place that has escaped my presence, and so I was particularly interested in learning more about it and what lies inside – so thank you for that.

    All in all, another thoroughly enjoyable look at this fascinating city next to the Thames 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you once more Joanna for an amazingly interesting and informative tour. There really are such gems in our country. I couldn’t help but spare a thought for the people of Ukraine who are not only suffering such appalling losses of life and degradation but whose infrastructure and heritage is being decimated.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you, Peter, for such kind comments. You are right about Ukraine, and I watch the unfolding news with heartbreak, but I did write in the previous comments that writing my post is keeping me sane. Also, the extraordinary help this country, including London, is giving to this tragic country diverts from despair. Today, a huge convoy of fire engines left for Ukraine to help with putting out fires of bombed buildings gives hope for the future of mankind and diminishes the evil dictator.


    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you, Malc, for your wonderful comments! I am glad that you have seen so many places, but I am not finished yet, so you might find something new in the following posts.
    Your interest is greatly appreciated.


    Liked by 1 person

  11. I certainly haven’t seen everything that London has to offer, so I’m sure you’ll enlighten me on somewhere else next time.

    I’ve done quite a few posts on London as well, and I’m still not finished yet either 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. We would need much more than a year to cover everything!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Resplendid pictures, history, and music videos of London. I am enchanted by the results of all of your efforts in this series. Will there be more? I must visit as soon as I can manage a trip across the pond.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Dear Joanna, I may not be posting on my own blog but I continue to read and learn, especially here on NATURETAILS. As you probably know, the Thames is close to my heart having spent a good deal of time in London and the region. Your wonderful post reminds me that the river still flows in my memories! 💖💝🌹🙋‍♂️


  15. Dear Ashley, I cannot find words to tell you how I have missed your comments and contact. I never wrote to you because I didn’t want to interrupt your work. I can only presume that it is going very well as you are so talented. If you have a minute, please let me know how are you and your family privately. Memories, especially of London, are in your heart and soul and in my too…
    I am going to write a few more posts about London, and it would be beyond wonderful if you were back, even for a short time.

    Joanna x

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thank you, Pat, for your wonderful comments! Yes, there will be a few more, although, even if I were to write every week for a year or more, I still would not cover everything!

    Thank you so much for your interest, greatly appreciated.


    Liked by 1 person

  17. Fifth part of the series on the Thames, as promised, is really unique and amazing. The stories of museums fascinated me a lot, though the same of Middle Temple Hall, Spencer House and Foreign Office are not less in any way. Wall peppered with revolver shots in the Sherlock Holmes pub reminded me of bullet holes in a brick wall at Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar. The story of Egyptian sarcophagus is also interesting.

    I loved the video of Spring Waltz. The photos are superb, as usual. Thank you so much, Joanna for adding one more gem. The way you have described the things so minutely with interesting facts that I doubt, any guide in London will give to tourists. I may or may not visit those places of interest, but your post has sufficed my need.

    The concluding quote of the post is a bit philosophical, but so true and apt for your next post:
    Spring will come and so will happiness.
    Hold on. Life will get warmer.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. It is evident that you put a lot of work into your posts — good job!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Thank you, Kenne, for your generous comment.



  20. Thank you, Kaushal, for your wonderful comments, and for finding the time to fully read it despite Holi celebrations. I realize who is my true friend, and feel privileged that you are mine.
    Perhaps, one day you will be able to visit and I would be delighted to be your host.


    Liked by 1 person

  21. As always you have created a masterpiece. You have shared valuable information, great images, videos and wonderful music, the result of a research that must have taken a lot of effort
    As you suggested at the beginning of your post, I didn’t know a lot of the things I discovered by reading the article and for this I thank you very much,

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Thank you, Luisa, for your beyond kind comments! As I always learn something from your wonderful and unique posts and research, the feeling is mutual.

    Your interest and kindness is greatly appreciated.


    Liked by 1 person

  23. It was all my pleasure to express my views on a wonderful post 😊


  24. It’s always a pleasure to go through your post in silence, uninterrupted. One day, God willing, I might visit. Let’s hope so.


  25. Thank you, Kaushal, let’s hope that your God is listening!


    Liked by 1 person

  26. Thank you for sharing this fascinating history along with the images of ornate settings. I’m learning much more about your country from you than I ever learned in school. You’re a great teacher, Joanna! 🌞


  27. Thank you, Lisa, for your wonderful comment! I am very happy to be of service! Your praise is greatly appreciated! More coming up soon!


    Liked by 1 person

  28. I promise to write soon 💝💖🙏


  29. Huge amount of fascinating information! The videos and photos are wonderful s are the choices of music. Particularly like the Chopin and snowdrops!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Thank you, Carolyn, for your wonderful comments! Spring is here, and we have 20 degrees in many places, and birds are nesting. The next few post will give more interesting
    details. Your interest I greatly appreciated.



  31. Temple hall looks so grand. Its amazing. I literally spent more than half an hour watching and reading all those amaozng infos. Its so fascinating to me.

    Thank-you Joanna for all of this. Is there any more part about Thames?


  32. Thank you, Ritish, for your wonderful comments. Yes, a few more posts are coming, so your pleasant surprise will be soon!


    Liked by 1 person

  33. That’s great 🙌
    Have a wonderful Sunday, Joanna.


  34. Your research and deep understanding reflects so well in your writing, loved reading about your anecdotes; i was also reminded of ‘three men in a boat’ as i read you!


  35. Thank you, Deepak, for your kind comments. I am always happy when a reader feel interested and involved in my writing.
    Greatly appreciated.


    Liked by 1 person

  36. Dear Ashley, just to tell you that my email address is:



  37. Thank you Joanna for a great share, beautiful music, wonderful images, videos, and as always, filled with fascinating information. Looking forward to the next one.


  38. Thank you, Henrietta, for your wonderful comments! Next week more of the fascinating places to see in London.

    I love Vivaldi Mendelson and others too!

    Thank you again, greatly appreciated.


    Liked by 1 person

  39. Great job Joanna.


  40. Thank you, Rupali, for your kind comment.



  41. Grandiose. And i haven’t started reading the essay this time because i was caught rather i was immersed in ‘Primavera’, what a royal piece to start talking about something Royal, the great Thames. Until this series Dear Joanna, i never really thought of the Thames, not in terms of rivers but the history and all that she has been carrying along. This work is a state of art work on this magnificent Project covering the Rivers of the world.

    This part is expansive as its author, it takes us not just to the bank of the most popular river but to the cities it passes by, and not just them- the most peculiar, strange, popular, fictional of men and characters even came by its site. The architectural prowess that comes forth in this post takes us away like a thunderstorm of information. It awes the reader making sure he hasn’t read or absolutely not seen or heard something like this or even he or she did, not this way.

    I would love to congratulate Joanna for being this super, wonderous woman that she is, for giving us something that we can not imagine otherwise. Atleast I would have never known or may be not even interested in knowing had it not been put the way she puts. A complete guide to the world should the tagline of her life.

    So much love to her for this work of heart
    Narayan x


  42. Dearest Narayan, I cannot find words to thank you for your magnificent comments! I apologize for being late but as you know already, my laptop’s charger fell apart, and I have just received this evening the replacement. I will resume my news service tomorrow! You are a wonderful man and your words are greatly appreciated!

    All my love to you,


    Liked by 1 person

  43. Knights Templar.. I think I heard about it for the first time in the movie The Da Vinci Code. Your posts are always so informative and amazing. Thank you for sharing this.


  44. Thank you, Joyce, for your generous comments! As I love history it is a pleasure to write about the past.



  45. Your readers start missing you, for if you are even a few minutes late but it is alright. Thank you for always keeping us illuminated.

    Love received


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