If you thought British heritage was confined to stately homes and imposing castles, think again. British heritage boasts some intriguing urban gems. Our pick of London’s quirkiest includes apothecaries’ gardens, the bed chamber of a Royal mistress and provocative architecture.
2 Willow Road
Home of modernist architect Ernö Goldfinger, 2 Willow Road is a celebrated example of brutalist architecture, and it certainly provokes a reaction.
Inside the house you can discover more about this remarkable architect, including his curious rift with James Bond author Ian Flemming, which led to the creation of the author’s most notorious villain. 2 Willow Road also houses intriguing examples of Goldfinger’s personal collection of art and furniture.
One of only two surviving sections of the medieval Palace of Westminster, the Jewel Tower stands proud in the heart of Westminster, in close proximity to the Houses of Parliament.
Known as the ‘King’s Privy Wardrobe’, the Jewel Tower was built around 1834 to house the treasures of King Edward III. Constructed with defence in mind, visitors to the Tower today can see the remains of a moat and a 14th-century ribbed vault.
There is also a fascinating exhibition on the history of Parliament – Parliament Past and Present – which details the significance of this small yet influential building.
Chelsea Physic Garden
Parks in London do not come more distinctive than this. Founded in 1673 by the Society of Apothecaries, Chelsea Physic Garden is a little-known haven in the heart of London.
Visitors to this magnificent garden can view the oldest man-made rock garden in Europe; Britain’s largest outdoor olive tree; wander the Gardens of World Medicine and the Pharmaceutical Garden and sample the delights of the highly acclaimed Tangerine Café.
Red House was pivotal to the fraternity known as The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, prominent members including artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais.
Red House was commissioned by eccentric designer and member of The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood William Morris, who envisioned his house to be ‘a Palace of Art.’ Today Red House stands true to that vision.
There are stunning stained-glass windows painted by Edward Burne-Jones and original features and furniture designed by Morris himself. Designed as a series of external ‘rooms’, the gardens were designed to be a continuation of the House, and today they showcase a fine array of plants, herbs and fruit trees.
Marble Hill House
Built exclusively for Henrietta Howard, the one-time mistress of King George II and “Woman of the Bed Chamber,” Marble Hill House is wonderfully evocative of the opulence of the Georgian elite.
Set in 66 acres of glorious parkland in Twickenham, Marble Hill House is widely credited as being a model for plantation houses in the American colonies. Visitors today can walk in the footsteps of writers Alexander Pope and Jonathon Swift – great friends of Henrietta and regular visitors to the House. You can also marvel at the intricate hand-painted Chinese wallpaper and admire the striking portrait of this fascinating woman.
For UK heritage passes check out Heritage Pass Britain.