I’ve been to many parts of London, but there are always some areas left to discover. This past April I made my first real foray into Holborn, which is a bustling yet historical area in central London. My main reason for visiting there was to tour Sir John Soane’s museum, but even as I walked to and from the museum there were many wonderful things to see.
Part of the facade of Sir John Soane’s Museum, which was formerly this prolific and visionary architect’s private residence
Visiting the museum was a very unusual experience. Unfortunately (yet understandably due to the rarity and age of many of the artifacts), photography inside is prohibited; so I’ll have to do my best to describe the atmosphere. The rooms which had classical statues and stonework hanging from the walls can hardly be described– it was like being in a mismatched, haphazard cathedral full of gargoyles and figures from every culture and time period imaginable. Apparently, John Soane began his magnificent collection to benefit contemporary students of architecture. He allowed them to visit his house and study all the artifacts he had acquired; and I wish I’d had the time to spend hours there scrutinizing the collection as they would have done!
There must be thousands upon thousands of pounds of stone and plaster hanging from the walls in this room– a testament to Soane’s skill as an architect! Image from Wikimedia Commons, attributed to Acroterion. CC-BY-SA 3.0
I appreciated the more livable rooms of the house just as much. It was fascinating to see Georgian-era decorations, and to imagine the way in which people of this era (one of my favourites) lived. The breakfast room was especially memorable– it wasn’t enormous, but it incorporated mirrors in almost every corner in order to maximize the light and illusion of space. Sir John Soane was without doubt a very talented man, and touring his house and seeing his legacy were privileges I won’t soon forget.
A drawing of the breakfast room in Sir John Soane’s house, seen in the “Illustrated London News” in 1864. Image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
After the magnificent experience of Sir John Soane’s museum, I saw a similarly magnificent motor on the street outside. There were plenty of old cars about in London, but in Holborn I was fortunate enough to see one of my dream cars– a Jaguar Mark 2.
In addition to being a piece of British motoring history, this model was British racing green– my favourite automotive colour!
Next up was a walk along High Holborn– having never been there before, we were a bit disoriented and only came round once a lovely local lady stopped to help us find our way! I noticed on this trip more than ever, that people were surprisingly kind and friendly. Whether it was a clerk at the supermarket or, in this case, a local on her lunch break, people were happy to take the time to talk and help out. That’s not to say that every other person on the street said hello to us– but every now and again, someone showed us some sort of generosity, which is often hard to find in such a big and busy city!
The Tudor facade of the Staple Inn on High Holborn, which dates from 1585! It’s one of the few surviving Tudor buildings in central London
Holborn Bars, also called the Prudential Assurance building. A very Victorian structure!
High Holborn was a busy street, but it also had some charm. The Staple Inn was a very picturesque place (it reminded me of Lavenham, a half-timbered mecca in Suffolk), and there were pubs every few hundred feet which are always a comforting sight to lost tourists!
We didn’t go in, but this was a lovely-looking pub! It was a Fuller’s pub, and it carried the name of one of my favourite foods ever– what could be more wonderful?
We eventually did find our way out of Holborn and to Smithfield Market– but that’s a story for another day. Even though we spent much of our time in this area wandering about and feeling lost, we saw so much and enjoyed ourselves immensely. It really proved that the joy is in the journey, not only the destination!