Spring Tips from Charles

Explore London with One Aldwych Curator, Charles Burns

1 - National Portrait Gallery

Hubert Leslie was a World War I veteran who cut silhouettes on Brighton Pier, on the south coast of England, during the 1920s and 30s. When he died, in 1976, he left to the National Portrait Gallery a set of duplicate albums containing some 20,000 silhouettes. Charles never met him, yet regards Leslie as his first teacher; he learned his craft by studying these albums in the archive room.

The albums are not on public display, but you can make an appointment to see them in the archive room if you wish to see this extraordinary and little-known collection close up.

2 - Covent Garden

The piazza at Covent Garden is still the centre of London's thriving street performance scene. You can wander these ancient cobbles to see all manner of musicians, jugglers and other curiosities. Some are truly amazing however, you're unlikely to spot a silhouettist (although you never know) but why not stop to have your portrait drawn?

3 - borough market

London is full of old markets to explore. One of my favourites is Borough Market, which you'll find under the railway arches at the southern end of London Bridge. The atmosphere is authentic London: slightly rough at the edges, but with plenty of cafés and bars in which to sit and soak it all up.


4 - mile end park

This innovative and well laid-out new park sprawls alongside the Regent's Canal in East London. It offers beautiful walking and cycling and includes a green bridge, with trees planted over the A11, as well as the canal towpath. Regents Canal was built in the Regency period, opening in 1820 to connect North London with the Thames Docks. It stretches from Paddington to Limehouse and is home to many who choose to live in barges and narrowboats.


5 - dennis severs' house

Not far from Spitalfields market you'll find Dennis Severs' House. This ordinary-seeming London townhouse has been recreated throughout as it would have appeared in the eighteenth century. It feels as though the untidy Huguenot family who lived there had left just five minutes earlier. Lookout for a silhouette or two amongst the drapery. Booking is essential.

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