Heritage Tourism in 2021: Museums in London

Compiled by © David Gill

The ALVA figures for 2021 allow us to gain a glimpse of visit numbers across the heritage sector. Visitor numbers in London have not bounced back; indeed, they are marginally down on 2020. Is this due to the lack of visitors from outside the UK? Are members of the public concerned about visiting such venues where it is not possible to maintain social distancing?

Such a dramatic drop in numbers (from 36.6 million in 2019 to 7.7 million in 2021) will have an impact on income in terms of special exhibitions, retail outlets and catering. What is not clear is if this will be reflected in the numbers retaining membership of friends’ organisations.

Heritage Tourism in 2021: Historic Royal Palaces

Compiled by © David Gill

Three Historic Royal Palaces feature in the ALVA visitor figures for 2021. The Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace attracted just over 1 million visitors in 2021: this is down from 4.5 million visitors in 2019, and slightly up from 730,816 in 2020.

The Jewel Tower

The Jewel Tower © David Gill

The Jewel Tower was constructed in 1365 as part of the Royal Palace at Westminster. It stood at the south-west corner of the complex adjacent to Westminster Abbey. From 1869 to 1938 it served as the Weights and Measures Office and in 1941 was damaged by an incendiary device. The tower was repaired in the years following the war, after being placed in the care of the Ministry of Works in 1948. It is now in the care of English Heritage.

The first official guidebook was prepared by A.J. Taylor, the then Assistant Chief Inspector of monuments. It follows the standard format of History followed by description. A fold-out plan was inserted inside the rear cover. A note comments: ‘The purpose of this guide is to provide the visitor to the Jewel Tower with a full account of its history and a description of its different rooms. Those who prefer to save the former to read at leisure will find a shorter historical note exhibited on the ground floor of the tower’.

1956 (2nd ed. 1965; 2nd impress. 1966)

Taylor’s guide continued to be published for over 40 years, appearing as the English Heritage guide though with additional illustrations. Alan Sorrell’s reconstruction of the tower (along with part of the palace) was included on the back cover.

1996 (repr. 2001)

Jeremy Ashbee prepared the new English Heritage red guide (2013). This consists of a tour followed by a history. A number of special features are included. A series of plans are placed inside the read fold-out cover.

2013

Heritage Tourism in 2020: Historic Royal Palaces

© David Gill

One of the last heritage sites I visited in London prior to lockdown was the Tower of London (for the Heritage Alliance conference). ALVA has now released the visitor numbers for three of their properties in London: the Tower, Hampton Court Palace, and Kensington Palace. The combined number of visitors in 2019 was 4.5 million; in 2019 it fell to 730,816.

Historic Royal Palaces: pandemic impact

Tower of London © David Gill

The Tower of London is one of the Top Visitor Attractions in the UK with 2.9 million visitors in 2019. With Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace these three properties attracted 4.5 million visitors in 2019. However, due to the pandemic closure, there is a major impact on income for the properties (“Coronavirus: Tower of London Beefeaters face job cuts due to pandemic“, BBC News 20 July 2020).

Data Source: ALVA. Chart © David Gill.

Lockdown Impact: The Globe

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The Globe Theatre © David Gill

The Globe theatre on the south bank of the Thames is the latest organisation to admit that it is “critically vulnerable and at risk of closure in the wake of Covid-19” (“Shakespeare’s Globe theatre calls for urgent funds to avoid insolvency“, BBC News 18 May 2020). The theatre is not apparently eligible for funding from Arts Council England. Yet organisations like this will be well-placed to attract tourists to London in the post-CV19 world.

“And all that mighty heart is lying still!”

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Dove Cottage © David Gill

Today is the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Wordsworth.

His ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802‘ seems an appropriate poem to recall.

Kennington and classical allusions

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St Mark’s, Kennington © David Gill

St Mark’s, Kennington was one of four churches built in London in thanksgiving for the victory at the Battle of Waterloo, opening in June 1824. The architectural style is neo-classical. The front entrance is in effect a Doric portico, but above it is an Ionic cupola. This evokes the 4th century BC choregic monument of Lysikrates in Athens (though constructed in a Corinthian architectural style).

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Monument of Lysikrates, Athens © David Gill

The front of the church is in the Doric style evoking classical buildings such as the Hephaisteion at Athens that stands above the Agora.

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St Mark’s Kennington © David Gill

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The Hephaisteion, Athens © David Gill

London Mithraeum

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Mithraeum, Walbrook, London © David Gill

The Mithraeum was excavated by William Francis Grimes on Walbrook in London. This has now been repositioned in the basement of Bloomberg Space. Visitors experience the darkness of the space and light levels are increased so that the remains can be seen.

Some of the sculptures are displayed in the nearby Museum of London. They include a relief of Ulpius Silvanus, formerly of the II Augustan legion (based at Caerleon). He appears to have been initiated to the cult at Orange in modern France.

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Mithras Tauroctonos, Walbrook Mithraeum, Museum of London © David Gill

London: Roman Amphitheatre

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London, Roman Amphitheatre © David Gill

The amphitheatre of Londinium lies in the north-west of the Roman town. It was discovered near to the Guildhall in the City of London in 1988 as part of the development of the area prior to the creation of the new Guildhall Art Gallery.

The amphitheatre appears to date to c. AD 74 or 75 based on dendrochronology. One of the timbers from the seating had Latin markings. The structure was adapted in the 90s, and expanded, in stone, during the reign of the emperor Hadrian.

Some of the remains have been preserved (and scheduled) in the basement of the Art Gallery. Visitors enter from the east through the main entrance. The sense of space has been recreated by lit displays.

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2011

See here for an earlier guide to the remains of Roman London.

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