Necropolis Now

In Orvieto there are lots of things to see; a beautiful cathedral, museums, quaint little streets and squares, a funicula!

There are also a million other tourists wanting to see all these lovely things. On at least one of my visits, I managed to avoid the large tourist groups but even I couldn’t evade the school outing group of screeching teenagers. It was ok though. They did what all school outing groups of screeching teenagers do: charge about screeching for 15 minutes and then go for lunch. And, to be fair, it is actually their own local history that we were looking at so if anyone has more right to be there, it’s them. Anyway, the kids in no way spoiled my enjoyment of the site and even gave me a thinking point or two.

The site in question was a rather fancy Etruscan necropolis, Necropoli Etrusca di Crocifisso del tufo, which is just on the northern slope of the rock of Orvieto.

The area around the rock of Orvieto contains numerous rock-cut tombs, the final resting places of the ancient (roughly mid-6th – late-5th century BCE) people of Velzna, the Etruscan city on this site. The particular necropolis that I’d come to see, however, consisted of neat rows of little house-tombs, built close together and kitted out with suitable resting places for the deceased.

The tombs are pretty uniform, with only minor variations, which has lead to hypotheses about Etruscan equality and a relative lack of hierarchy in Etruscan society in this area. There is certainly none of the conspicuously competitive display of Roman tombs, just a neat, rather middle-class conformity.

You wouldn’t believe it from these photos but I was dodging excited teens the whole time.

Anyway, I took my time, because these tombs have some very interesting construction features that I wanted to have a look at. On a hot hot Italian day, it was deliciously cool inside the tombs. You can see that they’re not underground, although the ground surface on which they were built is several feet lower than the modern ground level. Still, just stepping down the foot or two from the excavated ground level into the tombs, the temperature drops really noticeably.

Inside the tomb you can see pretty clearly how it’s made. The walls are built up with tufa blocks, using no mortar, and then the roof is built by setting blocks lengthways, projecting progressively inwards. These are then locked in place using t-shaped keystones along the roof spine. You’ll notice that from the outside, the roofs are flat. This shaped roof is a ‘pseudo roof’ on the inside of the tombs.

The remaining tomb furniture consists of benches for the bodies.

The deceased were interred with a range of tomb goods which have since been removed. These consisted of Greek pottery vases, in both red- and black-figure; bronze and iron objects; weapons; jewellery and personal items. Some are on display at the on-site museum.

Back outside, above or beside the doorway, the names of the inhabitants are inscribed. I can’t read Etruscan but I am reliably informed that the range of names seen on tombs in this area indicates high levels of immigration. Many new Orvietans were foreigners.

Seeing these names inscribed on the tombs while dodging screeching teenagers caused me to think about who the people interred in the tombs actually were, and how, or if, the screeching teenagers were connected to them by more than just geography. I wondered if any of the modern people of Orvieto can, even tenuously, claim descent from the more ancient people of this area. I suspect that it’s impossible to know. The random comings and goings of peoples, immigration, emigration, conflicts, invasions and exodus all change who the ‘locals’ are, and over the course of twenty-six centuries, the ‘locals’ are apt to change a lot.

Still, those screeching teens and these silent Etruscans do have one thing in common; the rock of Orvieto.

Three days in May

Loop. Three nights of Loop. Three consecutive, ear bashing nights of Loop. 😀

Ear bashing night 1: Bristol Exchange

Bristol. The scene of past Loop disasters and past Loop triumphs.

I met fellow ‘enthusiast’ Dave in Bristol and we went for a nice cup of tea before the gig. Then we trolled along to The Exchange, running into Soundhead Martin and guitarist Dan in the pub.

Support for the night was by Salope (Gareth out of Anthroprophh, Big Naturals and Kuro), which consisted of a drone of electric cello and theramins. I rather liked this.

When Loop came onstage to their usual drone-intro, which is when I always get a bit excited, they launched straight into The Nail Will Burn. The set included several older tracks and two tracks from the most recent Array 1 ep, Precession and Aphelion but, alas, not the groovy Radial.

Collision sounded great and Arc Lite was spot on 😀 Ending on Burning World is a lovely way to go out too.

I’d say that this was a good solid Loop gig, very enjoyable and a great start to the weekend of Loop gigs.

Set list:

Ear bashing night 2: London, Raw Power Festival

Baba Yaga’s Hut, one of the best London promoters, also presents one of the best London weekenders, Raw Power, now in its fourth year. At The Dome (Boston Arms) in Tufnell Park from Friday to Sunday evening various levels of psych heaviosity is hurled out onto an expectant audience. This year included some Loop heaviosity.

As is the way with me, I didn’t go for the whole day straight through. The Dome is not far from where I live so I can pop in and out. This time I popped in for Japanese New Music Festival (brilliant and hilarious), Qujaku (scary wailing), Cosmic Dead (very hairy) and, obviously, Loop. I think that Loop worked really well in the context of this event. They’re heavy enough to hold their own in the assembled line-up but also dancey enough for people who don’t really know them to just have a good old frug. The sound at the Dome was pretty well spot on so we were getting all the volume and distortion as it’s meant to sound without any mess or superfluous fuzz.

The audience was upbeat and totally went with the band on this journey into sound 😀 Robert was pretty jolly too so there was a nice level of banter: audience member, “play Fix to Fall”,  Robert, ” we can’t play that. It’s too hard” and (while tuning his guitar) “I’m having trouble with my g-string” (how we laughed!).

The setlist was the same as in Bristol.

Ear bashing night 3: Manchester, Transformer Festival

Ooh, controversy. When The Victoria Warehouse announced the ‘too good to be true’ line-up which included Swans, The Fall, Royal Trux and, of course, Loop, the gig-hivemind drew in its collective breath and said, “smells like Barry Hogan”. Barry Hogan; he of a swathe of ATP triumphs and disasters. This assumed connection, together with a couple of, frankly, disastrous and heavily criticized events at the Victoria Warehouse seemed to really put people off buying tickets, despite the hilariously cheap price.

Sure enough, when we got to the venue it was nowhere near full. On the plus side, this made it a much more comfortable experience than friends of mine have had there in the past; no queues for the bar or loos, no crushes getting into the different rooms, plenty of space to just hang out with friends and we were able to actually see the bands. On the minus side, the lack of bodies may have contributed to the extremely echoey sound, rattling around inside this giant box. The Fall sounded (from the back of the main room) like they were playing in a tin can and Loop’s set was definitely affected by an eerie echo.

It sounded like they spent the first couple of songs battling valiantly with the sound onstage before giving up on subtlety and wacking everything up to 11. I think that Wayne (drums) in particular, was having to work extremely hard to hold it all together.

Nevertheless, Loop playing a ridiculously loud, ridiculously heavy set in a disused warehouse is a scenario that I can happily get behind and I enjoyed the gig enormously, despite the problems. And I wasn’t the only one. New best occasional pal Rob was seeing Loop  for only the second time and responded with a level of joie de vivre that is to be applauded. He was giving out badges!

So, of the three nights, I enjoyed all of them but the London gig was the best. A great atmosphere, pretty heavy playing and excellent sound all worked together to make this the best one. Lots of Soundheads were out and about over the weekend so it was also nice to see people and catch up with them (you all know who you are. Thanks for being great company x).

And now I’m looking forward to Liverpool Psych Fest in September for some more Loop action.

PLAY RADIAL!!

The future of the past

Have you ever seen those programmes and films from the ’50s and ’60s that were concerned with how we would be living in the future? Futuristic cities in the sky, hover cars, and jet packs. Lots and lots of jet packs.

EUR, a southern suburb of Rome is a bit like that.

But perhaps a bit more fascistic.

The genius of the sport, Italo Griselli

Planned and begun under Mussolini as the intended site of the Esposizione Universale Roma, a world fair to celebrate the beginning of the Fascist era. Designed as a modern echo of the ancient city, construction began in 1939 but was abandoned due to the entrance of Italy into the second world war. Works stopped in 1942 and the site was more or less abandoned until the 1950s, when the authorities recommenced building works with the intention of creating a new business district for modern Rome.

The Palazzo dei Congressi (formally the Palazzo dei Ricevimenti e dei Congressi), now with added BMXer

Although it has had its ups and downs, the recent renovation of some of the buildings has resulted in a resurgence of interest in the area.

I was visiting on a Saturday and, in the usual way with business districts, the area was half deserted. I did run into little clusters of people around particular buildings and there was constant traffic on the main road but many of the streets and piazzas were completely devoid of people. This made me think of those futuristic but bleakly apocalyptic films in which all the people disappear due to alien invasion or as the result of human folly.

 

My initial interest in the area was because it’s where the Museo Nazionale dellAlto Medioevo, the medieval museum, is situated. In a city with so many sights, museums and historic buildings, this museum seems to get a little overlooked, possibly due to its location away from the tourist centre. The museum concentrates on the period from the late-antique to the medieval; 4th-14th centuries and contains a range of religious, household, military and decorative objects.

I’m not going to post lots of photos from the museum here, I’ll link a separate post later because the collection is really worth a look. It’s only about 20 minutes on the metro from Termini and a short walk to visit this museum so do make the effort if you can. It’s worth it.

When I left the museum I headed west to have a look at some of the fascist-era and other 20th century buildings. Many of the buildings, open spaces and public art have been designed as a sort of echo of Rome’s ancient imperial and renaissance past. So buildings are arcaded; there are curving colonades; there are monumental statues, friezes, mosaics, pools and fountains.

Materials used in construction are mainly travertine marble, granite and tuff, giving the area a gleaming whiteness, echoing ideas of classical purity (though not the more colourful reality of the ancient world).

Right next to the museum, in the middle of the, frankly, lethal road*, the Via Cristoforo Colombo, is the Obelisco di Marconi. Built in 1959, for the 1960 Summer Olympics, this obelisk is decorated with scenes from Marconi’s career and achievements.

Just along the road is the Piazza dell Nazione Unite. Begun in 1938 but not completed until 1952, this consists of two large semi-circular arcades on either side of the main road,

 

On the external walls are these high relief panels.

Quite a bit of this was boarded up when I visited and it looks, generally, like a number of the buildings are either in the process of, or waiting for renovation.

Next I walked over to a really nice, relaxing, cooling spot by the Salone delle Fontane, there are these cool lines of water fountains, flanked with near-spherical bushes. It’s all very very architectural but with just enough greenery to soften its edges.

In the pool there are mosaics, mimicking the monochrome mosaics seen at Ostia Antica. These are, unfortunately, quite faded and difficult to photograph, but you can get at least an idea of how they look.

  

This one looks like a map of the area.

Standing in a wooded area nearby, the Parco del Ninfeo, is this statue of a youth, apparently called ‘The fields are redeemed’.

This statue is interesting because, even though it’s a modern rendition, it looks like the sculptor has consciously mimicked the look of a bronze statue created using the lost-wax technique.

 

The building here is the Palazzo degli Uffici di EUR and the entrance at the end of the fountained pool is flanked by this monumental bas relief panel by Publio Morbiducci; ‘The History of Rome through its buildings’.

   

This is a really interesting artwork, taking modern Rome and mixing it with its ancient counterpart, presenting them as the same. It shows events, building works, industry, notable people; it’s like Mussolini’s very own ‘Trajan’s column’.

And so to the really iconic building of EUR; the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, also known as the Colosseo Quadrato (Square Colosseum).

Designed in 1937 by Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno La Padula and Mario Romano, the building works were begun in 1938 and finished in 1943 but, due to the cancellation of the trade fair, the building remained empty for over a decade. It has been used on and off over the years since 1953 but its latest incarnation is as the headquarters of the Italian fashion house Fendi.

 

It sort of echoes the tiers of regular arches on the Colosseum and the ground level is lined with classical-esque statues and flanked by sculptures. The inscription at the top of all four sides is taken from one of Mussolini’s speeches, made on 2 October 1935: “Un popolo di poeti, di artisti, di eroi, di santi, di pensatori, di scienziati, di navigatori, di trasmigratori”, trans: ‘a nation of poets, of artists, of heroes, of saints, of thinkers, of scientists, of navigators, of migrants’.

Fendi has restored the  building to it former glory and hosts public exhibitions as part of its programme of ‘giving something back’. Fendi has also funded the renovation of several other sites in Rome, including the Trevi Fountain.

The ground level of the building is populated with ‘classical’ statues, emphasising Roman virtues such as industry, commerce, invention and so on, again emphasizing the connection between modern and ancient Rome

And so I spent a short afternoon in EUR. Not enough time at all, as there was much more to see, but it was good to at least have a brief look at the area. As so much of this trip was spent looking at ancient Rome, this area provided a really interesting counterpoint.

EUR can be reached by taking the Metro, Line B south from Termini or the historic centre. I got off at EUR Fermi for the museum. There are also plenty of buses from other parts of the city.

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* there are several roadside shrines attesting to the lethal nature of this road.

Bread and circuses. But mainly bread.

After a week in Italy with a couple of friends, my last few hours before my flight were spent scouting around a few minor sites by myself, failing to get into some (because they’re churches and it was a Sunday in Rome), wandering the streets looking at this and that, and hanging around on a roundabout surrounded by trams.
That last doesn’t sound very glamorous but there was a very particular reason to be on this particular roundabout.*

This is the Porta Maggiore, the ‘Larger Gate’ on the eastern side of the third-century CE Aurelian Wall. Over time, this ‘gate’ has served several purposes. Built in the year 52, under the Emperor Claudius, as a support for two of the aqueducts bringing water into Rome, the Aqua Claudia and Aqua Anio Novus, the arches were later incorporated into the city wall built under Marcus Aurelius in 271.

At the top of the central section, the two water channels are still visible.

But before all that, before the aqueduct and the wall and the gate, there was this:

Positioned at the intersection of two key roads leading into the City, the Via Praenestina and Via Labicana, this is the Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker and (possibly) his wife Atistia.

Wealthy merchants, freedmen, and prominent citizens of all classes were always keen to be remembered after their deaths, and  so set up tombs, sometimes very large and elaborate ones, at key positions along the roads leading into the City. A walk along the roads leading into the City takes in reams of memorials vying for attention and this tomb occupies a particularly prominent spot where the two major  roads meet.

The memorial is a tower tomb type, with much of the height now below ground level. Its trapezoidal ground plan (rather than square or rectangular) was necessary to fit it into the available space. It’s built of concrete faced with travertine on a tufa base and on one side, where the facing has gone, you can see the brick interior filled with a concrete and rubble core.

It’s a bit of an odd-looking structure. Sort-of classical but a bit squiffily classical.

The (surviving part of the) inscription tells us that Marcus Vergilius Eurysaces was a baker, a contractor and a public servant.

EST HOC MONIMENTVM MARCEI VERGILEI EVRYSACIS PISTORIS REDEMPTORIS APPARET,

The ‘contractor’ bit suggests that Eurysaces held government supply contracts, perhaps to supply the army with bread.

As is often the case with the tombs of wealthy tradespeople, the tomb displays the source of his wealth, with the decorative frieze around the top section depicting various stages of the bread-production process.

sorting and grinding grain; kneading; weighing; baking; transporting and selling.

The pilasters and pairs of engaged columns are squashed in tightly together.

But, undoubtedly, the most striking aspect of the tomb is the weird circular features on each face. It has been suggested that these may represent pieces of bakers’ equipment, probably grain measures.

In Roman society, social mobility was possible. People whom circumstances had dumped at or near the bottom of the social structure could, through hard work and dumb luck, rise in wealth and status and end their lives wealthy, important and influential. it’s very possible that Eurysaces was such a man. Although the tomb inscription is not conclusive, Eurysaces may have been a Freedman; an ex-slave who had been able to work his way out of slavery and end up a very rich man.

The tomb’s later history is a bit inauspicious but probably saved it for posterity. As the city of Rome declined and succumbed to invasions from the north, the tomb was utilized as the base for a fortified tower. Only in the nineteenth century was it uncovered again as the result of the archeological interests of Pope Gregory XVI.

And now it’s stuck on a traffic island at a tram stop, but this tomb has done its job in ensuring that Eurysaces the Baker hasn’t been entirely forgotten. You do have to exercise care getting across the road to see it, or just catch the tram!

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*Some of the photos are a little fuzzy because I had to take them with a long-ish lens. I wasn’t able to get as close as I’d have liked as that would have involved jumping a fence in plain sight of all the people waiting for their trams :/

The eccentric charioteer

I’ve never been to Hull before. It’s a bit of a schlep from London so it does require an actual effort to get there but it’s just one of those places that I’ve never had any particular reason to visit. However, I had been wanting to see the museum’s collection of Roman mosaics so, as I’m a lady of leisure at the moment, now seemed as good a time as any to make the effort.

The museum is fairly compact but is home to a pretty impressive collection of not only mosaics but also other Roman material, prehistoric, iron-age, anglo-saxon and medieval artefacts and an amazing, and very large, iron-age log boat. The mosaics in this collection were discovered at villa sites around the Humber region and there are fifteen villas are known in the area, with villa-building reaching its height in the fourth-century. Before visiting I had a quick look on the go-to place for information on Romano-British mosaics, ASPROM (The Association for the Study and Preservation of Roman Mosaics), where the Hull mosaics are described as “rather eccentrically interpreted” local versions of Mediterranean models. Here’s a few of the mosaics.

The Horkstow Mosaic. At the villa site at Horkstow an enormous 15m x 6m mosaic was found, the second largest Roman mosaic found in Britain. It’s fragmentary and has been displayed in pieces around a recreation of a Roman atrium house. Because it has been displayed in this way, it’s not that easy to really get an idea of how it would have looked when complete but, still, there are some decent sections to see.

It was divided into three panels. In the top panel (on the floor in the image above) sat Orpheus, with his lyre, surrounded by the wild beasts charmed by his song. Only about a third of it survives but it’s possible to see that it was laid out as a wheel with images of the animals surrounding the central Orpheus.

The central panel has been called ‘the Painted Ceiling’ or the ‘Medallions Panel’, and contains scenes from mythology. They aren’t that easy to make out.

The panel at the bottom of the mosaic shows a chariot race in a circus, complete with a spina, the central island, and the metae, or turning posts.

The various sets of horses and charioteers represent the action at the races with these horses stumbling dangerously.

On the left the team is storming ahead but, on the right, the chariot loses its wheel and the rider is leaning dangerously, about to fall.

And here, the rider, with his lasso, is coming out to recapture horses that have run wild.

From Brantingham, along with some very nice Geometric Mosaics, is this Tyche mosaic.

The figure at the centre, unfortunately displayed upside down and halfway under a sofa (!), has been identified as Tyche, the deity of a city, on account of her crown, which represents the city walls.

Also known as Fortuna in Latin, she watches over the city, protects it, brings it prosperity and good fortune. The flipside of Fortuna is the bad luck and disasters that can befall a city if they do not carry out the necessary rites and rituals of worship.

The panel on the wall, from the same mosaic, has been identified as one of the muses, wearing a coronet and with her head surrounded by a halo.

The mosaic border also includes these lovely reclining water nymphs.

From Rudston is this fantastic Venus mosaic.

A typically nude Venus holds a golden apple, the symbol of her victory in the tale of the Judgement of Paris. By her side is her mirror, symbolizing her beauty and vanity.

Although the mosaic depicts a very typically classical subject matter, the image itself is not very typically classical, particularly Venus’ body-shape. She is pretty low-slung and broad in the beam, and look at that jelly belly!

Nevertheless, it’s a fun, lively mosaic, with Venus herself looking quite wild and free, especially her hair! I think that this is definitely one of those “rather eccentrically interpreted” mosaics.

Next to Venus is this, frankly, weird looking Triton, or merman, holding a flaming torch. He reminds me the Creature from the Black Lagoon (from the 1954 film).

Other panels in this mosaic contain wild beasts like a lion, a bull and a leopard; a figure identified as Mercury by the inclusion of the caduceus, and other lively figures. The leopard, in particular, looks like it was created by a workman who only had a vague idea of what a leopard looked like.

And finally, here is that eccentric charioteer; the  Victorious Charioteer mosaic from Rudston.

The central image is of the winner of a chariot race, with the victorious charioteer riding a ‘quadriga’, or four-horse chariot.

In his left hand is the winner’s wreath and in his right is the palm frond, these symbols indicating his win.

In the corners of the mosaic are the Four Seasons and the border panes have some rather odd looking birds.

 

Well, it was definitely worth the trip up to Hull to see this collection. It’s true that some of these aren’t the most finely worked mosaics and some of the images are pretty squiffy but they do have  plenty of life and personality, and must have really enhanced the homes of the Roman villa  owners in this area.

Open Doors at The People’s Palace

Yesterday I was out in North London, visiting a site that has always been a visible part of my life. Literally visible; from my school, from my parents’ house, from places I’ve worked, from my balcony at home…

Alexandra Palace. The People’s Palace of North London.

It’s a lovely place, even if it has that rather bonkers Victorian/Edwardian nuttiness about it. Norf Landan’s version of the Crystal Palace, cursed by witches*, plagued by financial woes and fires (I remember being stood on a table in my classroom at school, watching it burn down). By rights it should have been demolished years ago but we just like it too much so we just keep trying to make a go of it, and this time it actually seems to be working. There’s an ice rink and a playground (that I played in as a child), a boating lake, it was the site of the first regular TV broadcasting studio in the UK. There’s a barely-known ‘hidden’ theatre (I saw a highly inventive production of the Odyssey there), crazy golf and, in the grounds below the Palace, a million zillion blackberry bushes (there are some serious blackberrying opportunities at Ally Pally).

But today I wasn’t here for all that, but for an Open Doors Construction Tour. I’ve been on these before at a few different building sites, and they’re a great way to get a nosey at some of the most interesting construction projects going on in London**. Craig also managed to bag a ticket at short notice. This project is the restoration of the East Wing, where the theatre is situated, and the ongoing works are restoring the structure and decoration improving access, renovation the East Court, building in areas for a new museum of the the early history of television, cafes and function rooms, and generally making it an even better place for visitors.

 

We got to visit some of the area that were used by the BBC as studio, recording and staff spaces.

I was delighted to get out onto one of the balconies overlooking the view of London.

 

Here, a small section of an earlier decorative scheme. And someone has scrawled on the wall in pencil:

“The wages of sin is death. The wages of a carpenter is worse”

As the works have been ongoing, a number of artefacts have been unearthed and are on show, including a copy of the Haringey Star with the front page highlighting the “yes” vote from locals to the renovation of the recently-burnt Palace. And look, the man from the ministry said “no”.

A lot of the documents and images have been scanned by Google so, I guess, they’ll be available online at some point.

Outside of Islington, North London isn’t exactly flush with theatre spaces, despite its reputation for showbiz lovies, so the renovation of the beautiful theatre at Ally Pally is pretty exciting. We went into the theatre via the backstage passageway and ended up standing on the stage.

This is the view out into the auditorium.

The raked floor is being levelled up and the stalls area will have flexible seating so that the space can be used for a range of different types of events, including plays and concerts, maybe cabaret and, I’d guess, weddings. This would be a stunning place for a party.

There’s something delicious about visiting a place that is really really familiar (I’ve lived within sight of it virtually all my life) and getting to see bits of it that I’ve never seen before, or from angles that I’ve never seen before.

The Friends of Ally Pally Theatre have been campaigning for donkey’s years to make this possible, so kudos to them. The renovation has also been funded in part by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Local Authority. http://www.alexandrapalace.com/about-us/regeneration/masterplan/

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* The whole witch thing is completely made up 😀

** These open days aren’t only in London. Check out their website to find tours near where you live.

Caught by the fuzz.

Another day, another London outing with pal Craig.

London is an interesting city, it’s not all bankers and luxury flats and Russian money laundering, you know. Talking of money laundering (and tenuous connections), our latest London day out included a visit to one of those off-the-beaten-track relatively little-known sites that London is so good at. Today it was the City of London Police Museum, a fairly new addition to the London museum-scape.

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Truncheon made by the Worshipful Company of Bakers, 1737.

Since 1839, the City of London Police force has been policing the Square Mile and that’s what this museum is about; the force itself. How it came into being, how it has developed, its methods, successes, setbacks, it’s role  in counter-terrorism, and in the financial frauds that have tainted the City. The exhibits are used as prompts to highlight how the cases were cracked using careful investigative method and science, and how the investigation of crime has developed, rather than going for sensation and gore.

That doesn’t mean that it’s boring though. There are installations; there’s a view into a police cell containing a rather huffy hologram of one of Jack the Ripper’s victims, Catherine Eddowes.

She was banged up for being flat out drunk in the street, and then later released and sent on her way, only to be murdered shortly afterwards. Whenever I see that there’s a Jack the Ripper display, I start to roll my eyes but, for once, in this display the victim is a person not just a prop in a gory story.  The display is actually fairly low key and looks at the police officer’s beat, the murder spot, and how the unfortunate Eddowes ended up where she ended up.

There is a larger display on The Houndsditch Murders of December 1910, and the associated Siege of Sydney Street in January 1911.

‘City policemen murdered by alien burglars’

Three officers were killed in the line of duty, and another two wounded while attempting to capture members of a Latvian gang who were robbing a jewellery shop in Houndsditch. After the robbery and murders, members of the gang were captured or killed but the last two suspected members were holed up in a house in Sydney Street, which was besieged by the police, and a shoot-out ensued. The building in which the miscreants were hiding then caught fire and, once the fire was damped down, the bodies of the two were found inside.  Some of these events were actually caught on film by Pathé news and the whole kerfuffle was immortalized in the 1934 film The Man Who Knew Too Much and again in 1960 in The Siege of Sydney Street.

In the museum there’s quite a lot about this case and they really reflect on evidence and detection techniques at the time. These small jars contain bullet fragments carefully collected and labelled as evidence and a replica of the murder weapon.

There are also mugshots of suspected gang members and an image of the ‘Wanted’ poster, which was printed up in Hebrew and Russian as well as English (Sydney street is in what was the Jewish East End).

The museum also contains a range of items and images to do with the history of terrorism in the City. Interestingly, and perhaps controversially, Suffragette action is included in this section. The point made is that the actions taken by Suffragettes could today fall under the modern definition of terrorism:

The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.

This innocent looking tin of Keen’s mustard is, in fact, a bomb!

And there are images of the destruction caused by IRA bombings in the City. I remember this stuff.

I loved the rather alarming display of weapons used by criminals, some improvised, including this crude but effective rock-in-a-sock.

Right at the end, as is so often the case in museums, there’s the opportunity to dress up. Craig, as always, obliged 😀

This is actually a really good little museum (it is actually really little, but packs a lot in). It’s also free to visit so go and have a look.

The City of London Police Museum can be found at The Guildhall. Go towards the Guildhall Library entrance on Aldermanbury and follow the arrows.

https://www.cityoflondon.police.uk/about-us/history/museum/Pages/default.aspx