Carved skeletons, Elizabethan theatre giants, and a cat: St Leonard’s, Shoreditch

There are so many fascinating old churches in London – however, St Leonard’s in Shoreditch is the first church where I’ve been greeted by a cat.  Schrödinger, who was featured in an article on Spitalfields Life earlier this year, is a former stray who now lives at the church.  The handsome black and white fellow seemed to spot me as soon as I arrived with my camera, and trotted into the church to wait for me to open the door to let him in.

Schrödinger the cat waits outside the church doors
Schrödinger the cat waits outside the church doors

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Winged skulls and hot air balloons: the grave of Étienne-Gaspard Robert, pioneer of phantasmagoria

Not too far from where musician Jim Morrison is buried in Paris’ Père Lachaise cemetery stands an imposing monument that often gets overlooked by those set on finding Morrison’s memorial.  It stands much taller than the graves around it, and on each corner winged skulls leer down at passers-by.  It’s a superb monument, full of interesting details and rich imagery, and the man it commemorates lived a fascinating life.

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Battersea Arts Centre: a Victorian gem rising from the ashes

When stepping into the grand entrance hall of Battersea Arts Centre, it’s not obvious that only a few months ago a terrible disaster struck the building.  On a Saturday afternoon in October, the place is bustling.  Families have gathered in one of the rooms for a child’s birthday party; half a dozen buggies are parked on one side of the marble staircase.  Other people sip coffee and tuck into snacks at the centre’s cafe bar.  It all seems like a normal day – business as usual – except for the group of people donning high-visibility jackets and hard hats.  They have come to the centre to see for themselves the devastation left by a fire in the centre’s Grand Hall in March 2015, and to hear about the plans to rebuild the venue that has been at the heart of social and cultural life in Battersea for over a century.

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Among the rioters and resurrectionists: the turbulent history of Spa Fields

Situated just to the south of trendy Exmouth Market, Spa Fields in Clerkenwell is today a park that is enjoyed by locals and office workers alike, a rare green space in an area filled with offices, tower blocks and retail units. Only a couple of plaques installed by Islington Council give any indication of the area’s raucous and sometimes dark history.

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The menagerist’s memorial: the story behind Abney Park’s marble lion

Among the trees and memorials of Abney Park cemetery in Stoke Newington, a huge white marble lion sleeps peacefully.  This beautiful tomb marks the final resting place of one of the great showmen from the turn of the 20th century, “The Animal King” Frank C Bostock.  By the time of his death in 1912, Frank’s wildly popular menageries had toured all over Europe and America.

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