London’s never short of great things to see, but particularly on Open House weekend, the annual event when loads of private and public buildings are free to visit – of course, ‘free’ is like catnip for me, so I was right there.
There’s a mix of stuff to see all across the capital – there are a number of examples of modern style and design (including at least one place that featured on Grand Designs), but it was mainly the historical things that tickled my pickle, so I picked out a few places I fancied seeing and headed into town.
First up was the ‘Roman’ bath that’s tucked beneath King’s College and as you can see from the pics, it’s seen better days – it’s not even 2,000 years old, so there’s not much excuse. Still, it does have some history – it’s been there 400 years and used to be part of a larger complex, which you can see from the blocked up doorways.
After a slow start, it was time to go properly Roman and visit the remains of a property from the era on Lower Thames Street – and that was much more impressive.
Originally a house that was on the shoreline before the river got pushed back, the guides said that as the empire retreated back to Italy, the owners decided the only way to keep hold of their prestigious address was to build a bath house in their courtyard and turn their place into cheap lodgings for visitors to Londinium.
The day pretty much peaked with that – I nipped over the road to Custom House and then did a walk that gave a potted history of the Great Fire of London, but even though there was the odd interesting bit, oral history doesn’t quite have the same impact as seeing stuff that’s hundreds – or thousands – of years old.
Open House London takes place every year and for the best buildings – places like 10 Downing Street – you have to get in a ballot for a ticket a month or so in advance. I didn’t find out about it early enough this time around, but suffice to say, I’ll be keeping an eye out for the biggies next year.