British Museum and Globe Theatre: Journey with the History Guru to England and Spain

Posted on Dec 11, 2011 in category

27 September 2011

A quick walk along the Thames from Chiswick to Hammersmith unearthed an unexpected historical event. An obscure plaque on the fence of one of the terrace houses revealed the site of the first telegraph experiment by Francis Ronalds. Apparently he successfully sent the first signals some 13 kms around his garden. Unfortunately, Ronalds was unable to convince any one of its benefits including the British Navy. His patent lapsed!

Low tide at Hammersmith Bridge (opened in June 1887 and the target of three IRA bomb attacks!).

A 'must-do' is to ride in the top front seat of a London red bus. I must admit, I prefer it to the London Underground any day.

Our destination today was the famous parks of London namely Hyde, Green and Regents Parks. A picnic lunch in Regents Park and a stroll through the park's lake, bandstand (also, a target of the IRA!) and rose gardens is great way to unwind after a long haul trip from Australia.

One of the lakes of Regents Park – in the 1860's 40 people drowned when the ice on top of a lake cracked beneath them.

Next on the list was Campden Town with its way-out fashion shops and of course, people. Built along- side one of England's busiest 19th.century commercial canals, Campden Town is truly a trendy mecca for alternative youth. The town deserves praise for the brilliant restoration of 'The Stables', a former massive complex of horse stables built in 1854 (horses were used to haul the barges). Today these two storeys stables are shops with a 'WOW' factor. Large equestrian-themed bronzes dominate the shopping plaza.

Bronze oestlers practising their wares


Pick the model among the mannequins


Brick Lane is famous for its Indian restaurants. Bargaining with the spruiker on the door, we were able to negotiate a generous meal with free bottles of Bangladeshi beer. Fired up with curries, we proceeded to one of London's Westend theatre productions, the very English melodrama, '39 Steps'. Melodramas are usually not my cup of tea, however, this production did shine with the actors' timing and simple comical special effects such as props and sound effects.

28 September 2011

Today the British Museum beckons! My plan of attack for the BM was to concentrate only on two rooms: Celtic and Roman Britain. Two and a half hours of historical bliss!

At first, visitors to the BM's 'Great Hall' are greeted by an incredible monumental light-well effect resulting from a criss-crossed glass dome along with a stunning life-size marble equestrian statue of the unknown Julio-Claudian 'Prince'.

On the upper floor (Room 50) is the section 'Europe 800 B.C. – A.D. 43'. Two bronze 'La Tene' flagons from Basse-Yutz, Lorraine in eastern Gaul circa. 450 B.C. adorn the entrance. Dogs on the handles and their shape reveal an Etruscan influence.

One of the two Basse-Yutz flagons

Leon Morel (1828-1909) was a French tax collector and amateur archaeologist from Chalons-sur-Marne, Champagne region. His collection was placed on the market in 1901 and subsequently purchased by the BM. On display is a variety of Iron Age grave goods including men and women's personal items like brooches, bracelets, anklets, torcs, daggers, ceramic items of many shapes and sizes ranging from 600 B.C. to 200 B.C., amber beads and a bronze 'jockey-cap' style helmet (La Tene III 120-50 B.C.).

the 'Morel Collection'


Bronze helmet found in the River Marne near Coolus

The BM's Roman Britain room had its gems too:

  • La Tene shield (350 BC - 50 BC) was found in the Thames River at Battersea Bridge


  • Very thin wooden tablets found at Vindolanda (a former Roman army camp) that document in Latin the varied life of people at the camp including the wives of officers


The Vindolanda wooden tablets written in cursive Latin script where an officer is asking another officer to strike people off 'the list'



Metto writing to Advectus (two civilians) with a business consignment to the Roman army consisting mainly of wooden vehicle fittings such as 38 axles, 34 hubs and 300 spokes  

  • Numerous 'hoard' finds with Roman coins, silver plate and precious personal jewellery



The 'Bredgar Hoard' found in Kent with the latest Claudian principate coins struck in A.D. 41-42. The hoard of 37 gold aurei may have been buried near Rochester just prior to the Roman invasion in A.D. 43.  

  • Religious votive offerings and imperial worship statues such as the bronze and silver/copper plating statue of Nero found in England (provenance is still disputed – either Suffolk or Ipswich)

    Nero in imperial pose



    The wheel: Celtic symbol of the god Taranis, god of the sun and sky; then, syncretised with the Roman god, Jupiter

  • A bust of Claudius, who conquered Britannia in AD 43, found in 1907


The bust is more likely to be that of Claudius (or possibly Nero) from a larger lost statue at Colchester 

I ended my visit to the BM literally on a high note – the alarm went off – a lock-down situation – spoke quickly to security personnel - whisked off through underground passageways - eventually escaped into Great Russell Street.

My urgent appointment was to attend an afternoon performance as a 'groundling' at the Globe Theatre. What a production! 'Dr Faustus', written by Marlowe, was an emotional 'tour de force' with gargantuan devilish props and period costumes along with some unexpected fire special effects that shot up towards a thatched roof. A two hour standing marathon with its inherent leg pain seemed to suit the religious pain portrayed in the play as Marlowe's characters battled the 'Seven Deadly Sins' as well as the new Elizabethan dilemma of science's role in society.


A 'hell' of a hot day at the Globe Theatre with fire and brimstone

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