Sunday, January 22, 2017

From Spitalhouse to Somerset House

The Spitalfields Market

Spitalfields Market is nestled in the heart of the city, in the shadow of Christ Church.  This site once housed an old covered market that has been transformed in to a mixture of market stalls with modern shops and restaurants.  Sunday is the busiest day with over 150 stalls operating.  We were under the impression that we could find a great farmers' market within the greater market area.  Alas, no.  But we did enjoy wandering through the market and the surrounding public space where we discovered an old Roman burial ground exposed with a glass view point.  We also found a good Cuban restaurant where our palate got some relief from English blandness.

Wayne in the Somerset House Courtyard

We've decided to walk most places for exercise.  This has also afforded us the pleasure of discovering beautiful hidden gems of architecture, gardens, and neighborhood small businesses.  The walk from Spitalfields to Somerset House took us along the Thames where we met up with joggers, dog walkers and great views of the Westminster area of the city.  Somerset House (don't let the word house fool you) is a large Neoclassical building that was originally the palatial residence of Edward Seymour.  You may remember him as the brother of Jane Seymour, 3rd wife of Henry VIII.  Edward didn't fare too well after Henry VIII died.  He was attainted by Parliament and executed on Tower Hill.  The house then came into the possession of the Crown.  Elizabeth I lived here during the reign of her 1/2 sister, Mary I.  There proceeded a rich history of royal use, murder, civil war use, and continued expansion.  At one point prior to the Thames embankment, water lapped the front where arches allowed boats and barges to land within the building.  Leap forward to today and the building has been reinvigorated as a center for the visual arts.  One of these institutions, the Courtauld Gallery was what brought us here.  The Gallery houses the art collection of the Courtauld Institute of Art and has an important collection of old master and impressionist paintings.  My goal was to see The Bar at Folies-Berger.  In the same room with the Manet was a version of his Luncheon on the Grass, and Card Player.  A small concert of 2 classical guitarists was taking place in the gallery.  Heavenly.  For those so interested in the collection, works can be seen here.  My pictures can be seen at flickr.