Happy 120th Tower Bridge!

084We’re wishing a hearty Happy 120th Birthday to our friends at Tower Bridge this month – on the 30th of June to be precise. To celebrate, we have digitised a copy of a lovely little book from our collections, published exactly 120 years ago to mark the opening: ‘Photographs of the Opening of the Tower Bridge, London, June 30th, 1894: by Their Royal Highnesses the Prince & Princess of Wales(London: Talbot, 1984).

078This little tome contains 24 black and white images from the big day itself, creating a real overview of the day. The photographs commence with one of the bridge at 9.30am on the day, then go on to document ensuing events, showing the opening of the bascules and various vessels passing through the bridge, with the final image taken one hour after the ceremony.

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We have created a Pinterest board showing each page from the book – which you can view at: http://www.pinterest.com/guildhalllib/photographs-of-the-opening-of-the-tower-bridge/

But you can of course view the item in real life here at Guildhall Library!

092Don’t forget to visit Guildhall Art Gallery’s striking exhibition of images depicting Tower Bridge throughout the years: 120 Years of Tower Bridge (1894-2014). Paintings, illustrations and photographs show how artists have perceived London’s iconic bridge over the last 120 years, and some engineering plans and ephemera are also on display. You can read London Historians’ excellent review of the exhibition here

Charles Pears (1873-1958), Blitz. Our London Docks, 1940, oil on canvas. Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London.

Charles Pears (1873-1958), ‘Blitz. Our London Docks’, 1940, oil on canvas. Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London. © The Artist’s Estate.

The exhibition is free and runs from 31 May to 30 June. And if you can’t make it in June the good news is that it is returning again during the Totally Thames festival, and will be on show from 12 September to early January 2015.

And if that’s not enough London bridges for you, the Museum of London Docklands’ Bridge exhibition will run from 27 June to 2nd November. Bridge promises to be the museum’s largest ever art exhibition, and will feature art, photography and film from their own collections. This exhibition will cover all of London’s major bridges and is also free to attend.

Anne-Marie Nankivell
Library Assistant

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Sheep Across London Bridge: The Freedom of the City

Guildhall Library was very pleased to welcome Murray Craig, the Clerk of the Chamberlain’s Court, to give a talk on the City Freedom, an institution which goes back to the early 13th century. Until the 19th century, one needed to be Free of the City, via a Livery Company or Guild in order to trade within the Square Mile.

Murray’s schedule is a busy one and he arrived, hot-foot from a ceremony, at 2 o’clock on the dot and launched straight into his talk.

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The audience enjoyed hearing about the history of the Freedom and how it is conducted in the present day. We were entertained with tales from his experience of meeting recipients of the Freedom and the Honorary Freedom.

Those receiving the Honorary Freedom are presented with an illuminated copy of the Freedom in a gold box, but there have been some notable exceptions. The boxes presented to Churchill and Florence Nightingale, for example, were made of wood. Churchill’s was made from relics of the wooden roof of Guildhall which had been destroyed in the Blitz. Florence Nightingale had requested something simpler and less expensive than gold for her Freedom casket – the result may have been made of wood – but no one could call it ‘plain’.

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Murray Craig told us about the fascination of hearing the many ways in which the declaration is spoken, sometimes whispered or even shouted, and on one memorable occasion recited in character.  His rendition of these speakers probably made the staff and readers next door jump – but the audience loved it.

A couple of years ago, Murray appeared with Len Goodman on ‘Who Do You Think You Are’.  We shared memories of the rush which descended upon Guildhall Library and the Chamberlain’s Court after the programme went on air and the nation heard that Guildhall Library holds records of City Weavers going back to 1600.  We had visitors forming an orderly queue for the same manuscripts for weeks!

Audience feedback was full of comments words like ‘Excellent’ and ‘Brilliant’ and there were several requests for us to ask him to speak again.  

But can you drive your sheep across London Bridge if you have the Freedom of the City?  Murray says the answer is no…because you would cause traffic chaos!

Jeanie Smith
Assistant Librarian

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