Tuesday 13th February – fifth walk of 2012

This week we met at London Bridge and took the Northern Line to King’s Cross to visit The British Library. We stopped to admire the St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, which has recently been restored to its original glory. Designed in Gothic Revival style in 1873 by Sir George Scott, it laid in disrepair for many years. At one point it was to be demolished but was saved by a campaign lead by Sir John Betjeman and was reopened in 2011 completely renovated to its opulant glory. As we admired the building the commissionaire (who was very nice man) invited us in for a coffee in the lounge bar, which is also the reception for the hotel and is in the old booking hall of St Pancras station. Very nice tea but we thought £4.50 was a bit pricey!

After this we walked around and saw the fabulous main staircase and many of the features that have been fully restored.  Furnishing and decoration are all superb.

The British Library which is just next door is a completely new building opened in 1998.  It was built to house many collections stored around London and includes British Museum Library, King George III book collection and India Office Library. The newspaper collection is now kept at Colindale. It is light, airy, spacious building and very busy. 

In the Sir John Ritblat Gallery we saw the Treasures of the British Library.  An exhibition showing all the great and important historical items held by the Library. There were items from English Literature: Jane Austen, The Bronte’s, Oscar Wilde, Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to name a few, with notebooks, sketches and book writings.  The libraries collection also includes maps and musical documents: scores, notes, writings from Beethoven through to the Beatles. Historical items included documents relating to Mary Queen of Scots. There were many religious items, The King James’ Bible, Jewish documents, illustrated manuscripts from all parts of the world including, Europe, China and Japan.  There was a small room showing the story of the Magna Carta. 

From here we went to the Folio Gallery where there was a special exhibition to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens.  This showed his writings, sketches, life history and his great interest in the supernatural.

This turned out to be a very interesting day and one that I really enjoyed.

Next week we plan to visit London Museum.