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Took this on our trip to the UK in April 2010.
Canon Lens 15-85mm
Single RAW image converted to jpg.
3 February 2011 Featured in Canon DSLR
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The following is from Wikipedia:
Somerset House is a large building situated on the south side of the Strand in central London, England, overlooking the River Thames, just east of Waterloo Bridge. The central block of the Neoclassical building, the outstanding project of the architect Sir William Chambers, dates from 1776–96. It was extended by classical Victorian wings to north and south. A building of the same name was first built on the site more than two centuries earlier.
Sir William Chambers’ Somerset House
Since the middle of the 18th century there had been growing criticism that London had no great public buildings. Government departments and the learned societies were huddled away in small old buildings all over the city. Developing national pride found comparison with the capitals of the Continent disquieting. Edmund Burke was the leading proponent of the scheme for a “national building”, and in 1775 Parliament passed an Act for the purpose of, inter alia, “erecting and establishing Publick Offices in Somerset House, and for embanking Parts of the River Thames lying within the bounds of the Manor of Savoy”. The list of “Publick Offices” mentioned in the Act comprised “The Salt Office, The Stamp Office, The Tax Office, The Navy Office, The Navy Victualling Office, The Publick Lottery Office, The Hawkers and Pedlar Office, The Hackney Coach Office, The Surveyor General of the Crown Lands Office, The Auditors of the Imprest Office, The Pipe Office, The Office of the Dutchy of Lancaster, The Office of the Dutchy of Cornwall, The Office of Ordinance, The King’s Bargemaster’s House, The King’s Bargehouses”.
Sir William Chambers, Surveyor-General of Works was appointed at a salary of £2,000 p.a. to design and build the new Somerset House. He spent the last two decades of his life, beginning in 1775, in several phases of building at the present Somerset House. Thomas Telford, then a stone mason, but later an eminent civil engineer, was among those who worked on its construction. One of Chambers’s most famous pupils, Thomas Hardwick Jr, helped build parts of the building during his period of training and later wrote a short biography of Chambers. By 1780 the North Wing, fronting the Strand, was complete. Its design was based on Inigo Jones’s drawings for the riverfront of the former building.
We do not know for certain at what pace the rest of the construction progressed, but it is clear that the outbreak of war with France caused delays through lack of money. Chambers died in 1796; most of the building was completed after Chambers’ death by James Wyatt. However we know that building work was still going on in 1801; and there are indications that as late as 1819 some decorative work still needed to be completed. This original building (which did not yet include the “New Wing” and King’s College London, situated behind the West and East Wings of the quadrangle respectively) probably cost about £500,000.
At that time the river was not embanked and the Thames lapped the South Wing where three great arches allowed boats and barges to penetrate to landing places within the building.
Magnificent as the new building was, it was something short of what Chambers had intended, for he had planned for additional wings to the east and west of the quadrangle. Cost had been the inhibiting factor. Eventually King’s College London was erected to the east (the Government giving the land on condition that the siting and design conform to Chambers’ original plan) by subscription between 1829 and 1834. Then, increasing demand for space led to another and last step. The western edge of the site was occupied by a row of houses used as dwellings for Admiralty officials who worked in the South Wing. Between 1851 and 1856 these were demolished and a further wing erected. 150 years later this part of the building is still, in a very British way, known as the “New Wing”. Somerset House now presents more of the aspect of a terrace than Chambers would have intended.
The building housed various learned societies, including the Royal Academy, which Chambers was instrumental in founding, and the Royal Society and Society of Antiquaries (the RA had been among the last tenants of the previous building). The University of London also had accommodation there and the learned Societies retained a presence in the building until the 1870s.
Twentieth century and today
Somerset House had its share of trials and tribulations during World War II. Apart from comparatively minor blast effects at various times, sixteen rooms and the handsome rotunda staircase (the Nelson Stair) were completely destroyed in the South Wing, and a further 27 damaged in the West Wing by a direct hit in October 1940. Still more windows were shattered and balustrades toppled, but the worst was over by the end of May 1941.
It was not until the 1950s that this damage to the South Wing was repaired. The work required skilled masons, whose services were hard to come by in the early post-war years. Sir Albert Richardson was appointed architect for the reconstruction. He skillfully recreated the Nelson Room and rebuilt the Nelson Stair. The work was completed in 1952 at a cost of (then) £84,000. The newly restored part of the South Wing was taken by the Solicitor’s Office and the “Establishments” (now commonly “HR”) Division, augmenting their existing accommodation in the West Wing.
Other images from in and around London/Brighton below:
More about St Dunstan’s in the East from Wikipedia below:
The church was built about 1100. It was severely damaged in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Rather than being completely rebuilt, the damaged church was patched up between 1668 and 1671. A steeple, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, was added 30 years later. This was unusual in that Wren designed it in the Gothic style, to match the old church.
By the early 19th century the church was in a very poor state; and it was rebuilt between 1817 and 1821 by David Laing, with assistance by William Tite. Wren’s steeple was retained in the new building.
The church was severely damaged in the Blitz of 1941, during the Second World War. In the re-organisation of the Anglican Church in London following the War it was decided not to rebuild St Dunstan’s, and in 1967 the City of London Corporation decided to turn the ruins of the church into a public garden. This was opened in 1971.
Wren’s tower and steeple survived the bombs intact and now house the All Hallows House Foundation, a registered charity that provides core and complementary health services to those who live or work in the City of London, through its trading arm, The Wren Clinic. Of the rest of the church only the north and south walls remain. A lawn and trees have been planted within the ruins and a low fountain sits in the middle of the nave. The gardens are claimed to be the most beautiful public gardens in the City of London.
The church is now comprised within the parish of All Hallows by the Tower and occasional open-air services are held in the church, such as on Palm Sunday prior to a procession to All Hallows by the Tower along St Dunstan’s Hill and Great Tower Street. The church ruin was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.
More about St Dunstan below from Wikipedia:
Dunstan (born 909 — died 19 May 988) was an Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, a Bishop of Worcester, a Bishop of London, and an Archbishop of Canterbury, later canonised as a saint. His work restored monastic life in England and reformed the English Church. His 11th-century biographer, Osbern, himself an artist and scribe, states that Dunstan was skilled in “making a picture and forming letters”, as were other clergy of his age who reached senior rank.
Dunstan served as an important minister of state to several English kings. He was the most popular saint in England for nearly two centuries, having gained fame for the many stories of his greatness, not least among which were those concerning his famed cunning in defeating the Devil.
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Info on Somerset House London from Wikipedia