There are many hidden corners of London and the longer I live near this great city the more I find to inform and entertain me. What’s more, many of the treasures which London has to offer are free if you know where to look.
One treasure of a place which I discovered recently is the Wallace collection museum, tucked away just behind busy Bond Street. This house once belonged to the Marquesses of Hertford who, over several generations during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries made it their life’s work to collect beautiful and interesting works of art, porcelain, weapons, armour and furniture amongst other things.
When this house and its wonderful collection was inherited by Sir Richard Wallace, the illegitimate son of the 4th earl, he took the decision to bequeath the house and its works to the British nation: it remains the largest private collection which was ever donated to the people of any country. There are 575 paintings, 510 ceramic items, and 2370 examples of armour and weapons dating from the fifteenth century onwards.
Absolutely free of charge, you can spend a very pleasant few hours appreciating and admiring these wonderful objects. Here are a few highlights to ponder:
• The Laughing Cavalier. one of the world’s most famous paintings
• hundreds of porcelain items dyed in vivid, deep colours
• eight Canaletto paintings
• a wealth of paintings by Dutch masters
• ornately decorated suits of armour
• a calm lovely restaurant
• an enticing shop with attractive books and souvenirs
• carefully protected mediaeval illustrations featuring human figures painted with well delineated muscles at a very early date
• paintings by Joshua Reynolds conveying marvellously “tactile” fabric
• a regular programme of talks and lectures, exhibitions and guided tours
Of course, there is so much to see, that it is impossible to absorb it all in in one go, so perhaps a few short , focused visits will be more helpful. Consult their programme to see what’s on offer at the moment, then go back a few more times to enjoy what you haven’t seen on your first visit – after all, it won’t cost you a penny!