Open House London is on my extensive list of things I keep meaning to do in London.
On Saturday 16th to Sunday 17th September 2017 you – a mere citizen, the public generale, the riff raff – get free access and tours of 800 of the city’s best buildings, across every London borough, for a whole weekend.
And every year it comes along – an event that is quite literally right up my street in every sense of the phrase – and I think “god, that sounds good. I really should do that”. And then the idea of queues and planning ahead and keeping things reasonably sensible the night before usually conspires against me, and another year passes.
But not this year, bitches. Not this time around. This year I’ve gone to great lengths: I even signed up to be a volunteer. I have no idea what this will require me to do, hopefully nothing too energetic because, you know, Sunday. But I’ve just gone through all 800 to try and pick my slot.
So while I decide, here’s my shortlist of places I would 100% go along to either because I’ve been there before and they’re really cool, or I’ve always fancied having a nose around.
1. Eastcote House Gardens, Hillingdon
This place is pretty close to where I grew up, in Pinner. I’ve walked our dogs past this seemingly abandoned old, timber framed house thousands of times since I was a kid, and have always wanted to go inside it. Now they’ve restored it and you actually can – so please can someone, anyone, please go inside and tell me what it’s like.
Open: Sunday, 11am-6pm
2. Draper’s Hall, City of London
If you know anything about the city’s livery companies, you’ll know these halls are really bloody special. They’re proper fancy. I’ve only been inside Ironmongers Hall, but if Draper’s Hall is anything like that, you’ll bloody love it.
Open: Sunday, 10am – 4pm
3. BT Tower
I had to include one of the big mega popular ones on the list (there’s 10 Downing Street, the Gherkin and a few others which get loads of demand) and out of all of them, this would be my choice. To be honest, it’s worth just entering the ballot because mate, you’re not getting up there any other way, and the view’s meant to be banging.
4. Middle Temple Hall
“London’s finest surviving Elizabethan Hall” sounds pretty special, doesn’t it? Nip off round the back of Fleet Street and it’s a bit like going into olden times. Double points if you wear a barrister wig while you’re having a look around.
Open: Sunday 17th, 1pm – 5pm
5. Rio Cinema, Kingsland Road
Shout out to my local cinema, which is Edwardian and also Art Deco and also extremely old. I’d also stay for a film. It’s a lovely cinema.
6. Shoreditch Town Hall
Looks grotty from the outside, but I seem to remember an ex of mine going to an event there years ago and coming home pissed, telling me how beautiful it was so it’s probably worth a look. Most intrigued by the “rabbit warren of basement rooms”, tbh. Love a good warren.
Open: Sunday 17th, 10am – 4pm
7. Freemason’s Hall, Covent Garden
There’s a really cool mosaic on the ceiling, and if you do a funny handshake, they might let you see it. Just kidding, you don’t need to know the handshake. I bet you a hundred quid that you’ve walked past this massive building round the back of Covent Garden about 90 times and either never noticed it or casually wondered what’s inside before forgetting about it and doing something else.
Open: Sunday 17th, 10am-5pm
8. Union Chapel, Islington
If you’ve never been to a gig at this quite frankly insanely Instagrammable chapel in Islington, then I’m really not sure what you’ve been doing with your social media feeds because those stain glass windows aren’t going to wait forever, honey. Atmospheric and lovely, this place. Also does a decent cuppa tea.
9. Masonic Temple, Andasz, Liverpool Street
Want to see one, not two, not three, but TWELVE types of Italian marble and a weirdly hypnotic zodiac style ceiling? Course you do. They found this incredibly ornate temple, hidden behind a fake wall, so imagine what’s hiding behind that plaster wall in your HOUSE. Ok, probably nothing. But this room looks beaut.
Open: Sunday 17th, 10am – 5pm
10. Harrow School
*Fun Jo Fact*: when I had my driving lessons, we used to go past Harrow School and see all the boys wearing top hats and tails in the winter. This is another place I’ve just always been a bit curious about since I was little. And apparently this is the best preserved 17th century school room in the country. So yeah, worth a look probably.
Open: Sunday 17th, 2pm – 5pm
11. Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret, Southwark
Creepy or not creepy? Creepy or not creepy? Can’t lie, I am so up for looking around this 19th century operating theatre, because it’s in an attic and you know those Victorians were into some weird medical stuff, so imagine what they got up to in this attic. FYI: I have no idea what a Herb Garret is.
12. Kings College London, Strand Campus
Another one that I’ve walked past a zillion times, and would never guess that there’s this amazing gold wooden ornate looking chapel inside. Also you get to see the original foundations of the original Tudor Somerset House, which sounds like it might be fun.
13. Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley
One of the oldest cinemas in the UK? CHECK. So very up for this one. Off you go to East Finchley. Go on, up the Northern Line you go. Toodle pip.
14. Piccadilly Circus Station
This station is a bonafide nightmare to find your way out of, and smashed full of tourists looking confused, but it’s also got some really nice little features. Like, have you ever noticed the really weird world clock on the wall? No? There you go then, time for a tour.
15. Crossness Beam Engine House
Ok, visiting sewage stations would not normally be My Bag, but this place will definitely get you into your Victorian decorative ironwork if, indeed you are not already into it. Honestly, looks cool. And almost certainly doesn’t smell of poop, if that swings it.
16. Serpentine Pavilion, Hyde Park
I’ve never *ducks* been *ducks* to the *ducks* Serpentine Pavilion *ducks*, which is ridiculous because they change it every year and it’s meant to be really posh and great. Design people, your time.
17. Fitzrovia Chapel
This is just one of those buildings I saw on the list and a) never even knew it existed and b) thought BLIMEY LOOK AT THE INSIDE OF THAT BADBOY. It’s so GOLD.
Open: Sunday 17th, 10am-4pm
18. St Mary le Bow Church, City of London
Today, in Words I Never Thought I’d Say: Ohmygodddd, this church is amazing. The crypt is beautiful, and this place survived the Great Fire of London and WWII. Well, sort of. It got a bit bombed, but seriously. Great church.
19. W. Plumb Family Butchers, Hornsey N19
This one’s here for my dad, who I’m pretty sure would spend about an hour looking at the chopping blocks or whatever. He’s a butcher, and this is an original Victorian butcher’s shop with lots of original fittings. I’m also putting it here as as test to see if he makes it to the end of one of my blog posts.
Open: Saturday and Sunday, 10am – 7pm
Are you going to Open House? Have you been? Any tips for a newbie?
If you are, let me know and when I know when I’m volunteering you can come and harass me. I hope they give me a tabard and a whistle.