A new year, a new decade. The perfect time to embrace the present and plan for the future. Of course, in order to move towards our own goals and ambitions, we must first reflect on the past, both our own and that of the ever-changing world around us.
And those keys to the past may be right outside our own front doors; historical gems beyond the confines of museums, lying in plain sight and waiting to be explored. Historic England celebrates the country’s spectacular historic environment by protecting, championing and saving the places that define who we are and where we’ve come from as a nation.
Chief Executive of Historic England Duncan Wilson said: “By celebrating the extraordinary historic places which surround us, we hope to inspire in people a greater interest in our shared heritage, and a commitment to pass it on.” In 2019, over 500 historic places were added to the National Heritage List for England, with 28 sites gaining protection in London, and 82 sites across the South East.
Regional director for Historic England Emily Gee said: “These highlights show the range of interest above and below ground in London and the South East. “Together these places offer a glimpse into our history and its relevance to our lives today.” The list identifies the buildings, sites and landscapes which receive special protection from the organisation so they can be enjoyed by current and future generations. Whether you are a history enthusiast, or simply interested to find out more about the surrounding area, we have collated a selection of the newly listed sites around London that offer an appreciation of bygone eras.
The Curtain Playhouse, Shoreditch
An Elizabethan theatre built around 1577, the Curtain Playhouse was the setting for original performances of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as well as Ben Jonson’s Every Man in His Humour in which Shakespeare himself is listed as a performer. Substantial archaeological remains of the Curtain were discovered during excavations from 2011-16, becoming some of the earliest physical evidence for
playhouses in London at this time. An Elizabethan ‘bird whistle’, perhaps used for sound effects during productions, and a floor made from cattle knuckle bones were among the objects and features unearthed.
Porchester Centre, Queensway, Bayswater
The Porchester Centre in Bayswater is an unusually elaborate civic building of the 1920s which survives with little alteration. The Centre’s Turkish bath complex was the first of its kind in England when it was opened in 1857 and is now exceptionally rare.
The bathhouse reflects the continuation of the essential Victorian Turkish bath arrangement into the 1920s, with three dry-heated chambers, a plunge pool, a body wash area and a distinct, upper-level cooling-room all surviving with original features intact. Porchester Baths is considered to be the best example of a Turkish bath in Britain, of which there are only five still
in use today.
Harwarth Mausoleum, Fulham
The Harwarth Mausoleum features carved stone sculptures and an elaborate interior that have been virtually unaltered since it was built around 1918. This stone burial site in the churchyard of St Thomas of Canterbury church was built by the notable architect Arthur Henry Durand who assisted on the design of the Eiffel Tower and was responsible for the interior design of the Titanic and her sister ship, the Olympic.
Nursemaids’ Tunnel, Regent’s Park
The Nursemaids’ Tunnel is one of the earliest surviving pedestrian subways in London. It was built in 1821 after local residents petitioned for a tunnel under the New Road (now Marylebone Road).
The name was given due to the number of nursemaids taking children from Park Crescent to the gardens in Park Square opposite.
The tunnel is decorated with fluted Doric columns flanking the arched entrance and retains iron hooks and chains embedded in the walls, thought to be fixtures for oil lamps.
Cabmen’s Shelter, Northumberland Avenue
Built in 1915, the ornamental structure is one of 13 examples to survive in the city and represents one of the few relics of the horse age to remain in use. The internal fittings of the oak-framed building are predominantly modern, as is common amongst the remaining London cabmen’s shelters.
However, the original open-plan galley kitchen and cabmen’s mess arrangement remains, as does the original roof structure beneath the suspended ceiling.
For those looking to explore historical sites slightly further afield, newly listed sites from First World War trenches in Kent to the wreck of the ‘SS Faith’ on the Isle of Wight are also worth a visit.
In total, there are over 400,000 items on the list of protected sites, covering England’s most valued historic places and promoting a passion not only for beautiful places across the country, but the stories, ideas and communities they represent.
You can find all listed buildings and search for historic sites in your area at historicengland.org.uk.