After some delays through Docklands, we met our London guide and had coffee
in The Knights Templar freehouse (appropriately decorated), behind the Law
Back on the coach for the tour of Mayfair. In medieval times a May Fair was
held there every year, but was eventually closed down because it had
acquired a bad reputation by the time this part of the city was being
developed and smartened up. Despite heavy traffic, we had ample time to look
at Senate House, a 1930s building used as the University of London's
administrative centre. In Orwell's 1984, his Ministry of Truth was located
Bloomsbury was a run-down neighbourhood in the time of the eponymous Group,
hence writers and artists could afford to live there. The Bloomsberries
'lived in squares, loved in triangles and talked in circles', as one wit put
it. We eventually reached the Mecca of Mayfair. The medieval city with its
old street patterns had needed to be modernised; it was the start of the
17th century westward expansion, away from the East End with its 'smelly'
populace and industries. (I can recommend John Summerson's Georgian London
on this westward expansion.)
Originally Mayfair had been made up of aristocratic estates whose owners
leased or sold off their land for up-market development; hence Berkeley
Square etc. The area is an irregular square bounded by Oxford Street, (New)
Bond Street, Piccadilly and Regent Street. We passed posh shops and
galleries and smartly-dressed people (no sign of recession here). Alas, due
to delays we had to forego our intended walking tour, including the
Burlington Arcade. Along to Piccadilly Circus, past Trafalgar Square with
its fourth plinth currently occupied by a huge, eye-catching blue cockerel,
we returned to the Knights Templar for lunch.
On foot to the Freemason's Grand Lodge in Covent Garden, we passed the 'Old
Curiosity Shop', now dwarfed by later buildings but still possessing period
charm. The United Grand Lodge of England was created in 1813 and the Masonic
Grand Lodge lives up to its name. It was completed in 1933 and is a Grade II
Listed, Art Deco building.
We met our Lodge guide in the Library and Museum and were shown some royal
portraits including 'Prinny' and King George VI; the Duke of Kent is the
present Grand Master. We walked down the Processional Corridor with its
mahogany panelling - polished every morning - and softly-coloured stained
glass windows. This led to the Grand Temple, modelled on a Grecian temple.
To me, there was something Egyptian about it with its richly-decorated
mosaic ceilings, carved doors and marble pillars and staircases: a feeling
of calm, monumental simplicity - extremely impressive.
At 3.30pm I regretfully had to leave for an appointment back in Ipswich, so
couldn't explore further. Fifty-six members, a coachful, give their thanks
to Barbara Barker for organising such a fascinating day and adjusting to our
delays. Also to Gavin, our Soames' driver, for his patience and navigational
skills in central London's gridlock.