19th Century · 20th Century · 21st Century · Cairo

Taking a walk through history at Cairo’s Museum of Egyptian Antiquities

Artefacts from Ancient Egypt are scattered in museums across the world, with many of them being excavated and removed from Egypt by European- and American-led expeditions during the 19th Century and finding their way into the hands of private collectors or foreign museums.  However, some of the best-known treasures of ancient Egypt – the contents of the tomb of the boy-king Tutankhamun, discovered in the Valley of the Kings in 1922 – have remained in Cairo, leaving Egypt only very occasionally for wildly popular world tours. A new exhibition featuring artefacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb is due to open in London in November 2019, after a record-breaking run in Paris.  Dubbed a ‘farewell tour’, these artefacts will be moving to a new, permanent home at the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza when they return to Egypt. The museum that has housed Tutankhamun’s treasures since their discovery in 1922 is a Cairo landmark, a visit to which was described by a recent article as ‘like walking through history itself, even before taking into account that it also houses one of the world’s most significant collections of ancient artifacts.’ (source)

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1st-5th Centuries · 20th Century · 21st Century · City of London

Uncovering the story of Roman London’s mysterious Mithraeum

In November 2017 one of London’s most famous Roman sites reopened to the public after spending several years hidden away in storage.  The Mithraeum, a subterranean temple dedicated to the god Mithras, has had an eventful afterlife since its celebrated rediscovery in 1954.  Moved from its original site to make way for a new office development, it was reconstructed at a new location nearby before the great wheel of redevelopment turned again and offered the chance for the Mithraeum to be reinstated at its original location on the banks of the now-underground river Walbrook.  The Mithraeum offers modern Londoners a glimpse into one of the Roman period’s more unusual elements: the secretive cult of Mithras, and the work to restore its ruins to the banks of the Walbrook also gave archaeologists an incredible opportunity to discover more about Roman-era Londinium.

The new entrance to the Mithraeum at 12 Walbrook

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19th Century · 20th Century · West Norwood

West Norwood: the first Gothic Revival cemetery

West Norwood, which opened as the South Metropolitan Cemetery in 1837, is one of London’s most spectacular cemeteries, its grand tombs and monuments laid out along landscaped paths and mature trees.  Of the “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries that opened on London’s outskirts in the early Victorian period, West Norwood was arguably the most sought-after of them all as a burial place, with its beautiful location on a south London hillside.  The wealth of many of those interred there is reflected by the beautiful memorials raised in their memory.

Mausoleum of Alexander Berens, a wealthy linen draper and seller of luxury goods

We’ve already visited the Greek Orthodox enclave within West Norwood, but now it’s time to explore the rest of the cemetery and the plethora of historic and interesting graves that can be found there. Continue reading “West Norwood: the first Gothic Revival cemetery”

19th Century · 20th Century · Crystal Palace

A Victorian marvel beneath the streets: Crystal Palace subway

Part of the A212 road runs along one side of Crystal Palace Park, carrying traffic between the suburbs of south east London.  However, beneath a section of the road – unbeknownst to those passing above – is a quite astonishing structure, usually hidden from the public.  This is a subway, but not of the concrete, graffiti-ed, dubious-smelling variety more commonly seen beneath Britain’s roads: it is something else altogether.

The entrance to the Crystal Palace subway, usually sealed off

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20th Century · Lydd

Romanov rumours and the lonely grave of a mysterious woman in Kent

In a corner of a burial ground in the remote marshland town of Lydd in Kent is a lonely grave, set a little apart from the others.  It is the final resting place of a a soldier’s wife – there’s nothing particularly out of the ordinary in that, as Lydd is home to a military base, but her unusual name has attracted attention over the years and rumours spread that this mysterious woman may in fact have been a member of the Russian imperial family.

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17th Century · 20th Century · King's Lynn

A 17th Century cottage with an unusual past: the “Exorcist’s House” of King’s Lynn

The fenland town of King’s Lynn has a long history, and unsurprisingly a few dark tales have been remembered and passed on through generations of townspeople over the years.  Once a thriving port and a member of the prestigious medieval Hanseatic League, King’s Lynn (known as Lynn to locals) retains many of its historic buildings.  One such building, an unassuming 17th Century cottage huddled close to the churchyard of St Nicholas’ chapel, is known as the “Exorcist’s house.”

The "Exorcist's House", close to the church of St Nicholas
The “Exorcist’s House”, close to the chapel of St Nicholas

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19th Century · 20th Century · West Norwood

Exploring West Norwood’s magnificent Greek Necropolis

The word “necropolis” is incredibly evocative – it is somehow a far more atmospheric term for a burial ground than “graveyard” or “cemetery.”  The word derives from the Ancient Greek term nekropolis (νεκρόπολις), which translates as “city of the dead.”  Rather fittingly, given the origins of the term necropolis, today we are visiting the Greek Necropolis, a small but dramatic section of West Norwood Cemetery in south London – a Greek Orthodox cemetery that contains the highest concentration of listed funerary monuments anywhere in Britain.

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