Neil and I had a low-key 2019, at least in terms of photography. It might be fair to say that I was feeling a little photo-fatigued following our adventures of 2017-2018. However, I still found some subjects that I was really excited to photograph. Our big trip this year was a short stay in London, where I took the majority of the pictures on this list. We went on a couple of walking tours, checked out a few museums, and took day trips out to Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace.
My top five photos of 2019 correspond with my interest in war-time London. Historical fiction is my favourite literary genre, and one setting that catches my interest every time is London during the Blitz of September 1940-May 1941. During our visit I tracked down and photographed some sites that retain traces of that time period. My favourite sites to explore were two churches, Saint-Dunstan-in-the-East and Christchurch Greyfriars, that were damaged beyond repair during the bombing. Instead of having the churches torn down, the City of London chose to convert them into public gardens. Now they are a popular place for city workers to eat their lunch when the weather permits. Saint-Dustan-in-the-East looks a little more wild and overgrown, while Christchurch Greyfriars is more cultivated with garden beds. I’ve included a few pictures of Saint-Dustan-in-the-East below.
The first photo, not included in my top-10 count, is an exterior shot of the church. Saint-Dunstan-in-the-East was originally built around 1100. It was severely damaged during the Great Fire of London in 1666, but was later repaired. The church steeple, designed by Christopher Wren, was added in 1695-1701. It consists of a needle spire supported by four flying buttresses. In 1817, structural issues led to most of the church being taken down and entirely rebuilt; Wren’s tower was the only part that was retained. The tower also survived the bombs of the Blitz, as did the north and south walls. In 1967 the City of London decided to turn the ruins of the church into a garden, and it was opened in 1971. A lawn and several trees were planted, and a fountain was placed in the middle of the nave. Open-air services are still occasionally held here.
1. Below is my favourite picture of 2019. It shows several Londoners enjoying the sunshine during their lunch hour while seated in the ruins of Saint-Dunstan-in-the-East.
2. An angle looking up at Wren’s church spire. Note the black smoke damage.
3. A corner of the church.
4. Another trace of Blitz-time London can be seen on the building below. On either side of the lower white window are signs pointing out the location of an underground air-raid shelter.
Here are a couple of close-up shots of those signs. The sign below reads “Public Shelters In Vaults Under Pavements In This Street.”
5. The following is not a great photo, but I was really excited about finding its subject. It is a street lamp that remains tilted, 78 years later, after a nearby bomb blast during the Blitz. It is located just outside of Regent’s Park, by the Baker Street station. I can almost trick myself into thinking I’m time-traveling when I find small, seemingly-commonplace vestiges of the past such as this.
6. The photo below was taken while Neil and I were touring Hampton Court Palace, a favourite royal residence of King Henry VIII. It is located 20 kms (12 miles) southwest of London, and is one of only two surviving palaces that belonged to England’s most temperamental monarch; the other is St. James’s Palace in Westminster.
7. Hampton Court Palace, part of which is shown below, was originally built from 1514-1525 by Thomas Wolsey, the Archbishop of York, who served as Henry VIII’s chief minister. The Archbishop fell from the King’s favour when he failed to secure the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. This forced the monarch to delay his plans to wed Anne Boleyn, and Henry VIII is not the type of guy who likes to be kept waiting. Wolsey tried to get back in the King’s good graces by gifting him with Hampton Court Palace in 1528. Henry VIII accepted the gesture, but it was ultimately made in vain: Wolsey was accused of treason and arrested in 1529; he died soon after in 1530 due to an illness.
8. There is very little of Wosley’s original palace that remains unchanged. Henry VIII embarked on a massive expansion project so that the palace would be big enough to accommodate his court, which numbered more than 1,000 people. In 1689, William III and Mary II decided that they wanted to demolish the entirety of Hampton Court Palace one section at a time and replace the Tudor-era structure with a new Baroque-style residence. Louis XIV had recently moved his court to the Château de Versailles in 1682, and the English monarchs were determined to have a palace of their own that surpassed the Château’s grandeur. They hired Christopher Wren and William Talman to plan and build the new palace. The Fountain Court, shown below, was designed by Wren and completed during this time. Half of the Tudor palace ended up being replaced before Mary II’s death in 1694, at which point William III lost interest in the renovations. (A happy circumstance for the many people, including me, who prefer the Tudor aspect of Hampton Court Palace).
9. Onto another favoured royal residence! This one is preferred by a current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. The central keep of Windsor Castle is shown below. The keep is the oldest part of Windsor Castle but, sadly for me, is not open to the public as it is now an archive. The earthen mound it sits on top of is man-made, and dates back to the 11th century. William the Conqueror had the original wooden keep built here shortly after his invasion of England in 1066. The wooden keep was replaced by a stone one around 30 years later. The Queen’s standard flies from the Keep, indicating that she was in residence the day that Neil and I visited. The building to the left of the keep is the Norman Gate.
10. Time for a couple of pictures that are a little more locally based. On Easter weekend, Neil and I went to the “Bloom” Abbotsford Tulip Festival with some friends. The flowers were gorgeous. They had so many beautiful tulips with a variety of colours and petal shapes. My favourite tulips were ones that reminded me of peonies, such as the ones shown in the photograph below.
11. Below is a (bonus) picture from the festival, which includes a good sample of the varieties that were on display. I love the yellow ones with the frayed edges!
That’s it for another year! Thank you for reading!