London: Where Everything Old is Sometimes New Again

London never fails to surprise me, no matter how many times I’ve visited. I always see something new. Like these folks, out for a leisurely ride. In busy Buckingham Palace Road. And, if I’m really lucky, I get to see things that are old with new eyes.

I usually stay in club rooms in Whitehall when I’m in Town. However, that area became ground zero when we were there last and Queen Elizabeth passed away. Victoria Hinshaw and I found our street barricaded at both ends, nearby old Scotland Yard was turned into a staging area for police horses and vehicles and vehicle traffic was banned in all surrounding roads. This time, we’d be in London during the run-up to the Coronation, which would also be centered around Whitehall and Westminster. I didn’t want a repeat disruption, and so I booked us into rooms at the Oriental Club, a reciprocal club off Oxford Street.

The Duke of Wellington was the Club’s first and only president – it was thereafter presided over by committee. The Oriental Club was new to me, as was the Spread Eagle pub, just over Oxford Street from us.

The Spread Eagle may be small, but the welcome was warm and the food top shelf. And it was at the Spread Eagle that I met up with my cousin, Arlene, who flew into Town after attending the Bruce Springsteen concert in Barcelona. It was her very first time in London. Whenever first timers ask me what they should see in London, I suggest that they take the Hop On, Hop Off bus tour, on which you can see all the major landmarks of London. Next day, I followed my own advice and Arlene and I set off down Regent Street in order to catch the Bus, stopping to admire the Coronation decorations along the way.

I hadn’t been on the tour bus in years and I have to admit, it was a lot of fun to sit back and take in the sights like a tourist. Below, media stands were going up ahead of the Coronation broadcasts.

My, that building looks awfully familiar . . . . .

White’s Club was all decked out for the Coronation. Having done a full circuit on the tour bus, we left at this point and went in search of oysters, which we were both hankering after. We just missed lunch service at Wilton’s, so we carried on to 45 Jermyn Street.

Afterwards, I took Arlene around the corner to Fortnum & Mason, a must see for everyone on their first visit to London. The candy section alone is worth the trip.

After browsing the candy and tea departments, we headed downstairs to the food court and wine store. We spent some time browsing the goods and Arlene did enjoy Fortnum’s, but what she was longing to see was Harrod’s, so off we went in a cab to the iconic landmark. Anyone who has been to Harrod’s has probably gotten lost at least once whilst inside. To avoid this, and to save us from wandering the floors aimlessly for hours, I suggested that we start in ladies clothing (1st floor).

And then I made the mistake of suggesting that we stop at the MAC counter on the way out, as I needed a lipstick. And then I also bought a mascara. And then the MAC lady gave me a sample of the Serumizer, to which I’m now addicted.

By this time, several hours had passed since we’d eaten the oysters, so Arlene and I strolled by a few more landmarks before meeting up with Vicky at Smith & Wollensky, just off the Strand, for dinner.

Yes, we went to an American steakhouse while in London. Andrea Stein and I had stumbled upon the place during a previous visit and we’d had a truly wonderful lunch there. This time, I had the cheeseburger and it was delicious.

And then there was the chocolate cake we split for dessert. But the sweetest treat was being able to see London as a tourist again. To have no agenda to follow, no meetings to take and no commitments. And, for a time, everything old was new again.


Recently, Victoria Hinshaw and I were fortunate enough to take in the Portraits of Dogs Exhibition at the Wallace Collection in London. From The Wallace Collection website:

“The exhibition explores our devotion to four-legged friends across the centuries. Through carefully selected paintings, sculptures, drawings, works of art and even taxidermy, the exhibition highlights the unique bond between humans and their canine companions.

“Dog portraiture developed as an artistic genre contemporaneously with its human counterpart – dogs are represented in the earliest cave paintings alongside humans – and it flourished, particularly in Britain, from the 17th century onwards. More than any other nationality perhaps, the British have both commissioned and collected portraits of dogs.”

The remarkable sculpture above is known as The Townley Greyhounds. Roman, by an unknown artist. Discovered by archaeologist Gavin Hamilton at Monte Cagnolo, outside Rome. Sold to antiquarian Charles Townley, whose decendants offered it to the British Museum in 1805.

Ah Cum, a Pekinese Dog – One of two dogs smuggled out of China in 1896 by explorer Douglas Murray, these dogs established the breed in Britain. Murray donated Ah Cum’s body after death to the Natural History Museum.

Hogarth’s dog, Trump – Produced by the Chelsea Porcelain Factory after a model by French sculptor Louis-Francois Roubiliac.

Dog of the Havana Breed by Jean Jacques Bachelier 1768. Here, the dog, obviously a favourite, seems to ask forgiveness after having played with its owner’s slippers, ribbon and coins.

Tristram and Fox by Thomas Gainesborough, circa 1775-85. While most canine portraits were produced for their owners, this is apparently a personal one, for Tristram and Fox were the artist’s own pets.

A Saluki Dog by Edwin Landseer, 1840-44. Landseer is known for his skill with canine portraits. Here, he breathes life into the subject via the dog’s curled lips and the flipped ear. It’s easy to imagine that the Saluki pounced just seconds later.

King Charles Spaniels (The Cavalier’s Pets) by Edwin Landseer 1845. Landseer painted this scene in two days for his patron, businessman Robert Vernon.

Hector, Nero and Dash with the Parrot, Lory by Landseer 1838. Here, Landseer portrays Queen Victoria’s favourite pets. The Queen pronounced the painting to be “the most beautiful thing imaginable.”

The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner by Landseer 1837. Admittedly one of two of my favourite Landseer paintings, the other being the portrait of Prince Albert’s greyhound, Eos, which was strangely missing from this exhibit. Landseer beautifully captures the collies’ heartbreak and devotion, the simple life of the shepherd is summed up in the few possessions depicted in the room. Contemporary art critic John Ruskin remarked on the painting’s “utter hopelessness.” Only the coldest heart could remain unmoved upon viewing the painting.


Doubtful Crumbs by Edwin Landseer 1858. A mastiff dozes with a bone while the terrier salivates with hunger – illustrating the Parable of Luke, in which Lazarus longed to “eat what fell from the rich man’s table.”

Laying Down the Law or Trial by Jury by Landseer c. 1840. One of the artist’s most successful works, it satirises the legal profession and its long and costly procedures. Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1840, it was purchased by the 6th Duke of Devonshire, who asked Landseer to add his Blenheim spaniel, Bony, to the scene behind the greyhound on the left. Usually, visitors to Chatsworth House will see the painting hanging in the entry hall.

The Exhibition runs at the Wallace Collection, London, until 15 October 2023.


I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited Windsor many times, but one of the most memorable visit was that on our 2014 Duke of Wellington Tour. As our coach drew into Windsor, our tour group was greeted by the sight of draft horses delivering beer to a nearby pub. From that moment, we knew that our visit to Windsor would be something special, and I’m glad to say that it was, indeed.

Our group stayed at the Castle Hotel, above, where Victoria and I had both stayed before and which is a personal favourite. The hotel is directly across from some of Windsor’s landmarks, including the Guildhall, below, and the Crooked House.
A wedding taking place at the Guildhall, above, a la Prince Charles and Camilla, who were married there in 2005.
Side view of the Guildhall with statue of George of Denmark, Queen Anne’s consort

Click here for a tour of the inside of the Guildhall and the history of the building, which we covered in a prior post.

Windsor’s Crooked House, built in 1592 and reputed to have a secret passage in the basement leading to Windsor Castle that facilitated trysts between Charles II and Nell Gwynn.
The statue of Queen Victoria which stands at the end of the street leading to the Castle.

It was a glorious day for our group visit to the Castle.

We even got a peek at the van belonging to “Her Majesty’s Supplier of Lighting Fittings and Allied Components.”
You can read Victoria’s prior post on the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle here. 
After our tour of the Castle, a pub lunch was enjoyed at The Horse and Groom, the very same pub that received the delivery of ale courtesy of the draft horses.

Our table afforded us a birdseye view of the Town, but unfortunately we didn’t get a glimpse of the Guard’s Band that day – these photos were taken a few days later by Victoria during our extended stay after the conclusion of the Tour.

We’ll once again be based in Windsor during Number One London’s Town & Country House tour in May, 2024. We hope you’ll consider joining us for what promises to be a truly unique experience – the tour ends with us staying at Hartwell House, a magnificent country house hotel. You’ll find the complete itinerary and further details here.



Wow. On a recent trip to Lisbon, I made a point of visiting the National Coach Museum, as I’d run out of time to do so on a prior trip. Again, wow. I knew it was one of the largest and most comprehensive coaching museums in the world, yet I was still bowled over by the massive collection. So impressed was I that I suggested to my fellow guide, Gareth Glover, that we add it to the itinerary of Number One London’s Peninsular War Tour in May 2024. And so we have.

The National Coach Museum (Museu Nacional dos Coches) houses an important horse-drawn carriage collection of vehicles from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including coaches, berlins, sedan chairs and carriages of all kinds. Over one hundred of them, in fact. The photo below will give you a rough idea of the space that houses this amazing collection and the following carriages just a taste of the vast collection that is on show.

Here is a rare example of the “Carrosse Moderne,” that appeared first in Paris. It belonged to Queen Maria Francisca of Savoy-Nemours, cousin to King Louis XIV of France. It was brought to Portugal as part of her wedding dowry in 1666.

Below, a fold out camp bed used on long journeys.

Below, a Dutch carriage commissioned by Emperor Joseph I of Austria in 1798 for the marriage of his sister, Maria Ana, to the King of Portugal D. Joao V. The carriage body is covered with fine gold leaf and decorated with crowned lions, monograms and the Portuguese Coat of Arms. The wheel spokes are shaped like sceptres.

Above and below, an Italian built coach paying homage to the maritime history of Portugal. On the rear, Apollo is flanked by two female figures representing Spring and Summer. In front, two elderly men, representing the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, shake hands.

Above and below, a Portuguese procession coach built in 1729. The table inside could be used for meals during long journeys or when in procession.


Above, an Eyeglass Chaise, allowing the occupants to stay dry in wet weather.

Italian made promenade vehicles, used by the Royal Family on their estates and in the palace gardens. There is a seat at the back for the groom.

Litters, or sedan chairs.

Above, an Empire style state carriage commissioned in 1824 in London by King Joao VI. The coachman’s seat is very high and the roof displays a royal crown. Used for the coronation of King Carlos I.

An English state coach commissioned by Queen Maria II. The Portuguese Coat of Arms decorate the doors, access to the interior is made via folding steps. A rounded box sits at the rear to carry weapons.  Manufactured at J.R. Pearce’s workshop, London.

Above and below, a long distance coach built in 1854 by the Jones Freres workshop, Brussels. The body has two separate compartments for passengers and one for offical mail. Travel between Lisbon and Oporto took 34 hours, with 23 stops along the way.

Above and below, a Portuguese prisoner carriage. The metallic box body has eight fake windows surmounted by respirators. Inside are six individual cells, three on each side. Two prison guards locked the cells and remained seated at each end of the corridor, front and back. The rear fold down seat can be seen in the photo below.

If you’d like to visit Lisbon’s National Coach Museum, we hope you’ll consider joining us on Number One London’s Peninsular War Tour, May 2024. You’ll find complete itinerary and further details here.


by Victoria Hinshaw

The Percy family, now dukes of Northumberland, have lived at Syon House for many years. To follow the fortunes of the Percy family is to travel the twists and turns of British history.  From their arrival with William the Conqueror in the 11th century, they held a stronghold at Alnwick Castle in far Northumberland and frequently ran into conflicts with the English kings.  Because of their support for Mary Queen of Scots, they were commanded to live in the south, at their property at Petworth in Sussex.  There were many periods of imprisonment in the Tower for various earls over the centuries.

In its first few centuries, Syon seemed to exist under a dark cloud. Lord Somerset died on the scaffold before it was finished; Lady Jane Grey resided here; it served as a prison for the children of Charles I for a time. 

Syon came to the Percy family through the marriage of Henry Percy (1564- 1632) to Lady Dorothy Devereux (d. 1619), a sister of Robert, Earl of Essex, a favorite of Elizabeth I.  From a previous marriage, Lady Dorothy owned the lease to the valuable Syon estate.  When James I came to the throne, he gave Syon outright to Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland.  In 1605 the 9th earl himself landed in the Tower, where he lived for sixteen years, improving his estates and studying scientific topics from his prison.  He was known as the Wizard Earl for his many interests in science and the occult.  His wife Dorothy regularly sent him baskets of fruits from the Syon orchards.
Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland

By 1764, Syon was still basically a Tudor mansion, looking much as it had when first built in 1547, a courtyard house that offered many challenges to bring up to  current taste. The 3rd duke, who succeeded in 1817, rebuilt the walls of the house in Bath stone, and built the conservatory. He entertained “lavishly” at Syon during the reign of William IV and was succeeded by his brother Algernon in 1847. Their descendants today still live at Syon, the family of the 11th Duke, Henry Alan Walter Richard Percy.

From the website: Robert Adam and ‘Capability’ Brown

“The 7th Duke of Somerset died in 1750, and Hugh and Elizabeth, who were to become the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, inherited the estates.  They were leading figures in contemporary society, and would have inherited a house with dated interiors, surrounded by an unfashionable formal landscape.  Gardens and House were both in a poor condition.

“The solution was a complete redesign of Syon.  In one of his first major commissions, the landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown swept away the formal landscape to the south and west of the House, replacing it with the open views characteristic of the English Landscape movement.  Over the course of twenty years he extended this to the north and west, incorporating farmland to the west into the new park, and creating Pleasure Grounds to the north, both centred on large new ornamental lakes.  In the House the Scottish architect Robert Adam was commissioned to create a series of striking classical interiors, filled with antiquities shipped from Italy.  Adam was not able to change the interior layout of the House, and so used a number of architectural devices to create a suitable impression.”

Following  a carefully designed route through Capability Brown’s Park, then through a monumental portico, one enters the Great Hall. 

The visitor experiences a  dramatic contrast when stepping into the Ante-Room after the subdued serenity of the Hall.

 The floor is scagliola (composition of ground marble, plaster and glue often seen on tabletops) in brilliant colors, perfectly preserved and highly polished.  Some of the marble columns were found in the Tiber River in Rome and brought to Syon.  Others are copies, also made of scagliola.  The columns serve to square off the room size and to provide bases for the gilded statues, all reproductions of ancient figures.  It is difficult to underestimate the dazzling effect of standing in this room, which I am tempted to describe as gaudy, though it also has a unity of color and beauty that actually give it a different but equally impressive dignity as the Great Hall.

After the brilliant colors of the ante room, the dining room is almost restrained in its gilded elegance. From the Ante-Room, on the corner of the house, one steps into the ivory and gold magnificence of the Dining Room, a perfect example of classic Adam style.  Columns, apses, antique statues, and gilt combine with the rich wooden flooring in a pleasing pattern.  Adam rarely used soft materials in his eating rooms because carpets, curtains, tapestries and other hangings could absorb food odors.  Cleverly concealed in the doorways are compartments holding the dining tables, which were set up for meals and removed for dancing or other activities, while some of the statue bases conceal chamberpots. 

 The Red Drawing Room was described by Adam as a buffer to the real Withdrawing Room for the ladies, which was in the next chamber, the Gallery,  now the Library.  The walls are of red Spitalfields silk, while diamonds and octagons on the ceiling contrast with the painted medallions with gilded banding.

The Long Gallery was intended by Adam for the use of the ladies.  The Tudor room is 136 feet long with a width and height of only 14 feet. Adam solved the size and shape problem by softening the colors to pastel mauves and greens, installing shallow bookcases and clustering the tapestry-upholstered furniture in what we would call conversation groups.  There is a unity of design elements as well, with decorative swags on the walls, flat pilasters separating the bookshelves, and a pleasing pattern of geometric shapes, as in the ceiling.   When I visited this room, I found it astonishingly beautiful, yet comfortable.  As I gazed at the titles on the shelves, the Duke himself came by, showing the collection to a visitor. 

At the far end of the library, there is a little closet, once the site of the corner spiral staircase, now long gone.  In this little room, decorated in delicate pinks and grays, hangs a birdcage holding a mechanical bird which spreads his wings and warbles on the hour.  The bottom of the cage is the clock’s face, not a particularly practical place to put it, if you ask me.   It is known as one of Adam’s conceits.  Nevertheless, the “closet” serves the role of early closets for kings and dukes — a private room holding favorite collections and offering the closest thing to privacy a great personage could experience.  Ah, the trials and tribulations of fame and fortune!

Syon Park and House are on the itinerary of Number One London’s Town and Country House Tour in May 2024. You can find further details and the complete itinerary here.