The Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery can open doors often closed to the general public and the season for 2017 starts with a visit to the much written about Speaker’s House, the grandiose office of the Speaker of the House.
Who can forget the many articles when one former Speaker refurbished his abode with wall paper remade to Pugin’s original pattern at an enormous cost and the present inhabitant, John Bercow has also had his refurbishments criticised in the media as he moved in with a young family, which had totally different needs. And then there was Mrs Bercow photographed in only a sheet, against the backdrop of Westminster from their window. Not quite done sighed many in the corridors of Westminster.
Now it is possible to have a peek at the spectacular apartments in the Palace of Westminster and to judge for yourself what you think about Pugin’s high gothic style. The Speaker’s House is the official meeting place for the two houses of the UK parliament, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. John Bercow has been the inhabitant with his family since June 2009 when his predecessor Michael Martin resigned in the wake of the expenses scandal. John Bercow is serving both sides of the Commons and his official role is as presiding officer of the House of Commons. It is his voice we hear telling rowdy Parlamentarians to cool down by calling “Order, Order” in a loud voice. He also represents the Commons to the Monarch and in state proceedings, dressed in wonderful robes and silver buckled shoes.
The grace and favour apartment consists of a private apartment and a set of grand state rooms used for receiving dignitaries of state and other distinguished guests. The tour will include The Speaker’s State Bed Chamber. This was originally a room set aside for the reigning monarch as to provide a bed the night before the Coronation, and in spite of the magnificent bed as a focus in the room, this is the area used for state receptions. There is also The State Dining Room, as well as a Private Dining Room to see and a fine library.
The visits and walks organised by the Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery are almost sold out on the day tickets are made available. The visit to The Speaker’s House takes place at 10.45 am Tuesday 10 January (allow an extra 20 minutes to clear security) and tickets for this event will be available online just before Christmas, other visits tickets will be available early January.
On Monday 6 February another exciting palace awaits, this time the newly refurbished Queen’s House in Greenwich. This was a royal residence between 1616 – 1635 and was an important early commission by Anne of Denmark the by the brilliant architect Inigo Jones. Later in February there will be a guided walk called The Great Fire Walk which will follow the trail of devastation caused by the great fire. The walk will cover two miles through the City to Fleet Street.
In March there is a visit to the British Library Conservation Studio, where the visitors will have a chance to see work carried out by two conservators, who will describe the techniques used. The visit will last about an hour. After which there is time to explore the British Library.
Less than a week later there is a visit arranged to Vintners Hall. The Vintners received their first charter in 1363. The Vintners Hall is known as the Wine Trades spiritual home but more than that it houses also fine art and wonderful carvings.
To coincide with the Vanessa Bell exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery there is a Bloomsbury Walk end of March. Included will be the homes of Vanessa Bell, her sister Virginia Woolf and other members of the Bloomsbury Group which influenced art and literature of that period. Last but not least, the season ends with a visit to Spencer House in April, one of the last of many private palaces which once adorned central London. It still belongs to the Spencer family but it was restored to its former glory by the 4th Baron Rothschild.
Visits and Walks organised by Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery
The Speaker’s House
Tuesday 10 January 10.45am (allow an extra twenty minutes for security clearance)
£12, Friends £10
Queen’s House, Greenwich
Monday 6 February 11am – 12.00 noon
£12, Friends £10
Great Fire Walk
Wednesday 22 February 10.30am
£12, Friends £10
British Library Conservatiom Studio
Thursday 9 March 2.00pm
£20, Friends £15
Vintners Hall, City
Tuesday 14 March 11am
£18, Friends £15
Bloomsbury Walk, Warren Street start
Thursday 23 March 10.30am
£15, Friends £12
Spencer House, St. James’s, SW1
Monday 10 April 11am
£16, Friends £14
Tickets can be bought online www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk
Or by phone 020 8299 8750 10am – 4pm. There is a £2 handling fee
Or from the ticket desk in the Gallery