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Katie Wignall

Katie Wignall

Katie is constantly looking up in London (being only 4ft 10"), and is always on the look out for historical, strange or artistic inspiration. She shares her finds at Look Up LondonFollow her on Twitter and Instagram at @look_uplondon or join her on her walking tours.

News (17)

Five historical things to look out for in... Shoreditch

Five historical things to look out for in... Shoreditch

Shoreditch‚Äôs not just about the latest pop-ups, bars and street art you know. Existing just outside the City of London meant it was a historical haven for those up to no good and creatives, like budding thespians.¬†It¬†was also famed for its furniture-making, particularly during the nineteenth¬†century, which drove¬†hundreds of eager workers into the area. Fantastic news for dodgy landlords, not so great¬†for those¬†living in the squalid slums. It does seem appropriate though that Shoreditch¬†was first recorded as 'Soerdich' in 1148 (literally, 'sewer ditch') after a¬†Roman freshwater spring in the area eventually went from boggy marshland¬†to open sewer.¬† Here are some more historical things to spot when you‚Äôre next in the area.¬† ¬† ¬† 1. Theatre Plaque, Curtain Road Did you know the first West End was actually in the East? The Curtain Theatre (named after the road) was built as a rival to James Burbage‚Äôs The Theatre in 1577. This was William Shakespeare‚Äôs first stomping ground before moving over to Southwark, as it was in the theatres of Shoreditch that some of his early works, including ‚ÄėRomeo and Juliet‚Äô, were¬†first performed.¬† ¬† ¬† 2. Courthouse Hotel, Old Street¬† Built between 1903 and 1905, the former Old Street Magistrates Court once held the¬†Kray twins here on a charge of ‚Äėdemanding money with menaces‚Äô. Derelict from 2007 until recently, it‚Äôs now gained a new lease of life as a five-star hotel. The Grade-II listed building retains most of its period features and its¬†history h

Five historical things to look out for in... Poplar

Five historical things to look out for in... Poplar

Poplar was once the heart of London's Docklands, a busy industrial area hit hard by the Blitz. Today it lies in the shadows of Canary Wharf and is famously the setting for 'Call the Midwife', but there are plenty of historical gems to be found.    Photo by Look Up London 1. The Spratt's Factory, Fawe Street Overlooking the Limehouse Cut (which just happens to be London's oldest canal) stands the former factory of the US-owned Spratt's. Now converted into flats, Spratt's was the world's first large-scale manufacturer of dog biscuits, and its 'Meat Fibrine Dog Cake' flooded London shelves around 1860. The dog links don't end there though. They hired a promising young clerk by the name of Charles Cruft, who went on to establish the famous dog show in the 1890s. Photo by Look Up London  2. Upper North Street School Memorial, Poplar Recreation Ground Its proximity to the docks meant Poplar suffered bombings in both World Wars. This statue remembers the 18 children who were killed when a bomb hit their school on 13 June 1917. The funeral soon after was a major public event: more than 600 wreaths were brought by mourners and King George V personally wrote a note to be read at the service.   Photo by Look Up London   3. The Burton Menswear Mosaic, Chrisp Street In 1900 an 18-year-old Lithuanian immigrant called Montague Burton arrived in Britain. He borrowed £100 and set up a pretty successful menswear business. This mosaic, which previously welcomed punters through the Chrisp

Five things about London that simply aren't true

Five things about London that simply aren't true

Like any city with a 2,000-year history, London has its fair share of misinformation and well, fake news. Here are five things about London's past that are nothing more than urban myths.¬† Photo by Look Up London Westminster lampposts aren't sponsored by Chanel The story goes that the sixth Duke of Westminster was so utterly in love with Coco Chanel that he did the most romantic thing he could think of and plastered her¬†symbol on every lamppost in Westminster. Although it's true that the pair did have a long affair in the 1930s,¬†Westminster Council (who apparently receive numerous calls about this) confirmed to The Telegraph a few years ago that it‚Äôs pure myth. The entwined ‚ÄėC‚Äô shapes in fact stand for City Council and were only installed in the 1950s. Sigh. Photo by Look Up London ¬† Admiral Nelson's nose isn't stored under Admiralty Arch Heard the one about Nelson's statue having a spare nose? Apparently it's safely kept under Admiralty Arch and¬†when soldiers are walking through, they¬†give it a tweak for good luck. In fact, the nose appeared in 1997 without any notice and this story developed around it. The intriguing thing is that it's not the only nose lingering around. In the same year, over 30 tiny sculptures¬†were fixed onto landmarks and public walls¬†by the street artist Rick Buckley and there's still at least seven hiding in Soho. Happy hunting! Photo by Michael Garnett, Time Out Flickr Pool ¬†The flag at Buckingham Palace isn't at half mast when the Queen's¬†out If

Five historical things to look out for in... Covent Garden

Five historical things to look out for in... Covent Garden

In medieval times, Covent Garden was owned by Westminster Abbey ‚Äď hence the original name, Convent Garden. But skip forward to the seventeenth century and Inigo Jones's original plans for fancy homes for the wealthy had become a place of gambling dens, brothels ‚Äď and a fruit and veg market. Despite it now being a bit of a tourist trap, here are five curiosities¬†you may not have noticed in the area before.¬† Photo by Look Up London 1. Punch and Judy plaque, Covent Garden Piazza¬† Look directly at St Paul's¬†Church and you'll spot a plaque that commemorates what Samuel Pepys saw ‚Äď an 'Italian puppet play' ‚Äď on this spot in 1662. The authentic Neapolitan¬†characters were Pulcinella and Joan (who morphed into the famous Punch and Judy) but before we get too nostalgic,¬†like most fairytales, the original story was horribly¬†violent. The show was an endless series of¬†Punch beating up Judy ‚Äď so not exactly family-friendly entertainment. Photo by Look Up London ¬† 2. Mysterious ears, Floral Street The next time you're at a loose end on Floral Street, have a look for one of Tim Fishlock's Covent Garden Ears. Several are rumoured to be dotted around the area, but there are definitely two to be found on this street. They're perfect casts of the artist's own ears¬†but other than that very little is known why they're there ‚Äď presumably so people can make the same 'the walls have ears' gag on repeat. ¬† Photo by Look Up London 3. Bridge, Floral Street Built in 2003 by Wilkinson Eyre Architect

Everything you need to know about Waterloo Bridge

Everything you need to know about Waterloo Bridge

You may have walked across it loads of times but how much do you really know about one of London's most central bridges? Look Up London's Katie takes a closer look.       A photo posted by Matt Pretty (@mattpretty) on Sep 25, 2016 at 10:42pm PDT     It's not the original First things first, this is the second version of Waterloo Bridge. The original one opened in 1817 but gained the sad notoriety of being a popular suicide spot. From the 1880s it was clear the bridge needed repair work and in the 1920s it was closed and the LCC decided to demolish it and commission another. It's known as the Ladies' Bridge The company put in charge was Rendel Palmer and Tritton who, because it was WWII, had a largely female workforce. This was overlooked at the time and throughout history, mainly because the wartime censorship of the project meant very little records were kept. However a recent documentary by Chris Hall and Karen Livesey shed more light on women behind the work. It was an extra kick in the teeth then when Herbert Morrison, in December 1945, opened Waterloo Bridge declaring: 'The men who built Waterloo Bridge are fortunate men. They know that although their names may be forgotten, their work will be a pride and use to London for many generations to come.' Ouch.  It has pretty epic views Because of its placement in a large bend of the Thames, looking East provides a cracking view of the London skyline.    A photo posted by Julian Gamm (@juliangamm) on Sep 24, 2016 at

Five historical things to look out for in... Bow

Five historical things to look out for in... Bow

Named after the bow-shaped river that used to flow through the area, E3¬†has an eclectic past full of poverty, protest and radical politics. It's what made it a perfect¬†spot¬†for¬†Sylvia¬†Pankhurst's East London Suffragette Head Quarters and why Bow High Street saw the Poplar Rate Marches. Here are five¬†historical spots you can still see in the area today. Photo by Look Up London 1. Bryant & May Match Factory (Now Bow Quarter, Fairfield Road) In the 1860s, Quaker businessmen William Bryant and Francis May established a¬†match factory in Bow, revolutionising production with the use of (deadly) white phosphorus. By 1888 the terrible working conditions for the 1,200 women and girls led to the first example of industrial action, *ahem* sparking¬†a wave of strikes throughout the East End. After production stopped in 1973 the whole site was converted into flats. Photo by Look Up London ¬†2. Old Town Hall (Now Bow Business Centre, 157 Bow Road) When it opened in 1938, Poplar was the first English Town Hall built in the modernist style, a choice made to¬†reflect¬†the borough's¬†radical politics. In 1921 Poplar councillors refused to levy what they considered an unfair tax on their constituents, resulting in 30 councillors serving six weeks¬†in prison. Their protest gained huge public support and more protests in neighbouring¬†boroughs. As a result, The Financial Provisions Act ‚Ästa more equal measurement of taxes for poor areas ‚Äď was¬†passed in the¬†same year.¬†'Poplarism' is still used today to

Get an eyeful of these 12 gorgeous ceilings in London (for free)

Get an eyeful of these 12 gorgeous ceilings in London (for free)

Across London¬†there's plenty of¬†gorgeous buildings stuffed¬†with history ‚Äď but it's¬†often the ceilings that'll leave you even more awestruck. Look Up London's¬†Katie¬†has rounded up 12 inspiring¬†views above your eyeline that won't even cost you a penny (no one wants to pay for a crick¬†in the neck).¬† ¬† A photo posted by Kat Achtelik (@katachtelik) on Jul 25, 2016 at 2:41pm PDT 1.¬†Old Royal Navy College, SE10 ¬†Painted from 1708 to 1727 this epic ceiling covers an impressive 5,683 square foot. You can see why it's known as the 'Sistine Chapel of the UK'. ¬† A photo posted by Anna Castleton Simmons (@annacastletonsimmons) on Sep 1, 2016 at 9:13am PDT ¬† 2. Kenwood Library, NW3¬† Tucked on the edge¬†of Hampstead Heath, Kenwood House is a seventeenth-century Neoclassical Villa, boasting an art collection of¬†Rembrandts and Vermeers. The Library, built 1767 to 1769, has been restored back to its kitschy, pastel glory. ¬† A photo posted by Hannah ūüźČ (@hannah.siebert) on Jul 29, 2016 at 11:32pm PDT 3. Leadenhall Market, Gracechurch Street Dating back to the fourteenth century, the covered ceiling was designed by Horace¬†Jones in 1881. He seems to have carved out a niche in markets, designing Spitalfields and Billingsgate too. ¬† A photo posted by Look Up London (@look_uplondon) on Mar 17, 2016 at 6:59am PDT 4. Two Temple Place, WC2R Built in 1895 with no expenses spared, the grand staircase and stained glass ceiling above¬†were¬†no exception for¬†William Waldorf Astor, t

Five historical things to look out for in... Bank

Five historical things to look out for in... Bank

Bank has been the beating financial heart of London since the Middle Ages, with Jewish money lenders eventually replaced by twelfth-century Italian merchants from Lombardy (hence Lombard Street). So whether you tend to avoid it like the plague or you're one of the 400,000 plus employees that travel into the area each day, Bank has far more history to offer than just being the most hated tube station in London. Keep a look out for these gems. Photo by Look Up London   1. London's first Coffeeshop, St Michael's Alley Originally, this was the Jamaica Coffee House and a nearby plaque confirms it as the oldest of its kind in London, opened in 1652 by the Armenian Pasqua Rosée. Needless to say, coffee proved a hit and by 1739 there were over 550 shops across London serving up the 'Muhammedan Gruel' which, by today's taste standards, would've seemed bitter, thick and gritty. Lovely.  Photo by Look Up London 2. Garraway's Plaque, Change Alley Each coffee shop attracted clientele from specific industries and in one of Bank's hidden alleyways you'll spot a reminder of Garraway's, popular with shipmen, underwriters and merchants. Lloyd's of London was born from this establishment and it became a popular spot for gambling, buying and selling. They hosted auctions where ships were sold 'by the candle', meaning they lasted the time it takes for a candle to melt (the auctions, not the ships). The final sale was confirmed when a pin (stuck into the candle wax before melting) dropped in f

Everything you need to know about... Cabmen's Shelters

Everything you need to know about... Cabmen's Shelters

Ever spotted one of those quaint little green sheds on the street? Blogger Katie lets you in on a London secret that's hidden in plain sight.   Photo by Look Up London  They were the first London drive-throughs Cabmen's Shelters came about in the late nineteenth century when horse-drawn carriages called Handsom Cabs were the vehicles of choice. While the paying customer got a seat inside the carriage, the humble cabbie had to sit on top; exposed to the elements and in dire need of frequent pitstops for hot drinks (and often something stronger). They were great for food on the go In January 1875, The Globe newspaper editor George Armstrong became furious after he was told by his servant that all available cabbies were seeking shelter in a nearby pub during a blizzard. His response was to get together some like-minded philanthropists (including the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury) and create a charity to erect purpose-built shelters providing hot food and (non-alcoholic drinks).   Photo by Look Up London   They're no bigger than a horse and cart Between 1875 and 1914, 61 shelters popped up across London, costing around £200 each and the very first was in Acacia Avenue, St John's Wood (conveniently near George Armstrong's home).   All cabmen shelters are the same characteristic shed shape, due to Metropolitan Police ordering that they had to be situated on public highways and could be no bigger than a horse and cart. They also have the same vent at the top, a reminder of the woo

14 historical things to look out for on the London Marathon route

14 historical things to look out for on the London Marathon route

Whether you're running the 26.2 miles or just cheering someone on, the Marathon is a chance to explore bits of London you've never seen before. Look Up London's Katie Wignall has put together a list of interesting sights for spectators and runners to take in on April 24.     1. Our Lady of Grace Parish House (Mile 1) On the left-hand side of Charlton Road, next to Our Lady of Grace Church, you'll spot a small, white, regency-style building built around 1770. As it's only mile one, runners will probably fly by too fast to notice the blue plaque on the wall. It's in memory of Sir William Henry Barlow, the railway Civil Engineer and designer of the train shed roof at St Pancras station. He lived here until he died aged 90.   Photo by Look Up London 2. Charlton House (Mile 1.5) This grand old building off to your right along Charlton Road is a Grade I-listed Manor House and the best preserved Jacobean mansion in London. It was built during 1607-12 for Sir Adam Newton, who was the tutor of James I's son.  Photo by Look Up London 3. Kingsman Green Mosaic (Mile 5) Along the otherwise grey dual-carriageway, look to the left at the underpass (which connects Kingsman Road to the Woolwich Dockyard Estate) and you'll see a colourful mosaic. Unveiled in June 2000, it was created by Greenwich Mural Workshop along with local Woolwich youth groups and depicts the launching of HMS Trafalgar from Woolwich by Queen Victoria in 1841.  Photo by Look Up London  4. Greenwich Foot Tunnel (Mil

Five historical things to look out for in... Whitechapel

Five historical things to look out for in... Whitechapel

It's not all Jack the Ripper trivia in this part of the East End, y'know. London blogger¬†Katie Wignall shares¬†five interesting historical finds in Whitechapel ‚Äď and you won't need to stray too far from the main road. 1. Whitechapel Gallery, 82 Whitechapel Road This impressive space was established in the 1880s when local vicar Samuel Barnett set up free art shows for Whitechapel's working class.¬†If you stand at the entrance and look up, you'll spot two things: artist¬†Rachel Whiteread's glistening golden leaves installation and an unusual weathervane. Designed by the¬†Canadian artist Rodney Graham, it had been planned¬†since the nineteenth century but they¬†only got around to installing¬†it¬†in 2009. It shows¬†the sixteenth-century humanist scholar Deciderius Erasmus perched backwards on a horse,¬†engrossed in¬†his most famous¬†work 'The Praise of Folly' which, according to legend, he¬†wrote on horseback from Italy to England. Photo by Look Up London 2. Altab Ali Park, Alder Street E1 The park used to be the¬†grounds of St Mary Matfelon, a fourteenth-century¬†white stone church that was blown to smithereens during the Blitz. It's worth taking a closer look for its remnants, though,¬†because it was the white chapel that gave the area its name. But the¬†park¬†got its moniker¬†under very different circumstances after an event on May 4, 1978. A¬†young Bangladeshi man named Altab Ali was walking home from his¬†textile job on Hanbury Street in the evening when he was attacked and stabbed to death i

Ten lovely London sites with a love connection

Ten lovely London sites with a love connection

Whether you're rolling solo or come as a pair, Valentine's Day could be a great chance to explore the city's lovey-dovey sites. Start with these ten. 1. St Brides' Steeple, Fleet Street In 1703, a young patisserie chef named Thomas Rich was daydreaming about his upcoming wedding. His shop was on Ludgate Hill and as he gazed out of the window at the nearby steeple, he came up with the idea of a multi-tiered cake, which is the now iconic wedding cake design.   Photo by Look Up London  2. The Meeting Place, St Pancras Station When Paul Day was commissioned to create his iconic 30ft bronze sculpture in 2007, he was told to create something that reflected the romance of a bygone era. But here’s a tidbit: one of the panels around the base apparently displayed a man falling to his death in front of a train driven by the grim reaper. Funnily enough, TfL wasn't keen on the idea and it was replaced. Photo by Look Up London 3. Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington The whole building was a big gift from Queen Victoria to Prince Albert when it opened in 1857. Our smitten Queen Vic also wanted to name it simply The Albert Museum, but the powers that be managed to persuade her this wasn't sensible.  Photo by Look Up London 4. Young Lovers, St Paul's Cathedral Sitting in the Festival Gardens surrounding St Paul's, this sculpture was installed in 1973 and shows two young lovers so smitten and entwined that they're literally fused together.    Photo by Look Up London  5. Willia