Unseen London – 5 places you never knew existed in the city

LONDON – We once quoted the English poet Samuel Johnson in an earlier article where he said, ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford’. It’s one of our favorite quotes as it pretty much sums up, in our humble opinion, the essence of this great city. While some may disagree with us, one can’t deny the sheer amount of attractions, monuments, events, and things to do in London. This global city has more than its fair share of iconic landmarks and must-see sights but tucked away behind these famous attractions, is a myriad of charming and relatively unknown sights. Get to know London that little bit better with these five places you never knew existed in the city.

1. Ashby’s Windmill –  Yes, you saw right. There are windmills in London. A sight most commonly seen in countries like Holland and Belgium, there is an actual windmill in the city of London! Located at Brixton the Ashby’s Windmill popularly referred to as the Brixton Windmill was built in 1816 and is now a national listed landmark.

Operated by Joshua Ashby and his sons, the mill supplied wholemeal flour to West End hotels and restaurants.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, credit to Secretlondon

This superbly-restored windmill is a marvellous sight to behold, especially on a good day against a clear blue sky. A reminder of what once was a pastoral village, the windmill is open in the afternoons for a few days a month between April and October, usually at weekends. Brixton Windmill is now closed for the winter. It will reopen at Easter 2013 – look out for details of dates and how to book on their visit page.

By train
Brixton 1 mile; Brixton Underground (Victoria line) 1 mile; Clapham North (Northern line) 1.2 miles; Streatham Hill 1.2 miles.

2. Chelsea Physic Garden – Enjoy a calm and restorative walk through one of London’s largest botanical gardens. Established as the Apothecaries’ Garden in the 17th century for the purpose of training apprentices in identifying plants, this physic garden is the second oldest botanical garden in Britain, after the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, which was founded in 1621. One of the few ‘secret’ gardens in London, the Chelsea Physic Garden has a unique and varied collection of around 5000 different plants all set in a delightful green urban oasis.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, credit to Tomhannen

The garden’s mild microclimate as a result of the garden’s heat-trapping high brick walls allows many tender plants to flourish and amongst the collection is the largest fruiting olive tree in Britain, an ancient pomegranate, a Victorian Cool Fernery and an outdoor grapefruit tree. Visitor will be able to come across many rare and endangered species of plants, some of which can be for many purposes such as medicinal, perfumery, aromatherapy, textiles and dyes. Thanks to its central location, the gardens are ideal for city folks who want to escape the bustle of the city and enjoy a few moments of respite among these secluded and meditative grounds.

Admission: Adult £9.00 including guided tour or audio guide

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, credit to DavidCane

3. Michelin House – Considered an art nouveau by many, the Michelin House was built for the Michelin Tyre company as their first permanent UK headquarters between 1905 and 1911. Designed by François Espinasse, a employee of Michelin, the building has three large stained-glass windows featuring the iconic Michelin Man “Bibendum”. However the stained glass windows are not the originals. Before the outbreak of World War II, the stained glass panels were removed and stored at a basement in Michelin’s Stoke-on-Trent factory for safekeeping. Unfortunately after the war had ended, the panels were discovered to be missing.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, credit to DRD

After an exhaustive search, the original suppliers were found and replicas of the windows were made using exceptionally high quality modern recreations based on the best interpretations of tinted pictures and black and white photographs.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, credit to DRD

Michelin has launched an an amnesty to give people an opportunity to return the panels  – or parts of them without any fear or worries. In fact, anyone returning a substantial part of any of the windows will be rewarded with a meal for two at the Bibendum Restaurant!

Underground: South Kensington. Address: 81 Fulham Road, Chelsea

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, credit to John Salmon

4. Temple Church – Built by the Knights Templar as their English headquarters in the late 12th century, the Temple Church is one of London’s hoariest and holiest medieval treasures. The Knights Templar order was very powerful in England then, with the Master of the Temple sitting in parliament as primus baro (the first baron of the realm). After the destruction and abolition of the Knights Templar in 1307, it was taken over by the Crown. Don’t be surprised if you find this site vaguely familiar. It was featured in the controversial popular novel and film, The Da Vinci Code as the church was designed to resemble Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre and containing the effigies of past crusading knights on its hallowed floor – and the Chancel.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, credit to AlanFord

There is an entry charge of £4.00. It is free to 18s and under, senior citizens, members or staff of the Inns or of Chambers; and those who would like to say a prayer. The nearest underground stations are Temple and Blackfriars stations on the Circle and District lines.

Address: Temple EC4

5. Dennis Severs’ House – This Grade II listed Georgian terraced house in Spitalfields, London was occupied by a Dennis Severs from 1979 – 1999, who gradually restored the house. The man was drawn to London by what he called “English light”, and made his home in the dilapidated property. Dennis Severs then proceeded to refurbish the ten rooms of the house, each in a different historic style, mainly from the 18th and 19th centuries. The rooms are arranged as if they are in use and the occupants have only just left—the Marie Celeste approach. Items such as half-eaten meals, and lit candles can be found in rooms with strewn with people’s possessions – a hat, coats etc.

Visitors are invited to wander around the house to observe Dennis Severs’ time capsules of a 18th century family living in the property. Guests are escorted, in total silence, into candlelit chambers from which, apparently, the Jervis family who are in situ, but just out of sight. In the words of Dennis Severs, ‘Aut Visum Aut Non!’ (You either see it or you don’t).

Address: 18 Folgate St, Spitalfields, London, E1 6BX Tel: +44 (0) 20 7247 4012. Email info@dennissevershouse.co.uk

Fraser Residence Bishopsgate

Frasers Hospitality

For your visit to London, stay with us at the stunning Fraser Residence Bishopsgate. Nestled in a historic street off the busy Bishopsgate, our stunning residence has 26 well-appointed designed contemporary and airy apartments ranging from studios, one and two bedroom apartments. Each apartment comes with the finest wood flooring, fully-fitted bathrooms and is furnished with beautifully appointed contemporary furniture. Colourful accents and the most superb fittings set the scene for effortless relaxation during your business or leisure stay.

Frasers Hospitality

A few minutes walk away from Liverpool Street Station and in the shadow of Old Spitalfields, one of London’s most historic markets, Fraser Residence Bishopsgate is amongst the finest and most desirable properties in the City.  With a host of restaurants, coffee shops and bars in the immediate vicinity, as well as galleries, shops and the famous Brick Lane, the property offers the ideal location to combine business with pleasure.

So book a stay with us today and experience the Fraser Difference!


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