Open House is a charter for the nosey. Ever wondered what the inside of the Treasury looks like? Once a year it throws its doors open to the public as part of the Open House scheme. It is not alone, thousands of buildings across the country do the same. This weekend we headed to London to see what we could see. Our first port of call was Whitehall but the length of the queues to see inside Portcullis House or Horseguards made us look else where.
Carlton House Terrace overlooks St James’ Park. When it was first built, the houses were home to the great and the good, now they tend to house grand institutions. Numbers ten and eleven are home to the British Academy. Number eleven is special in our household as it was where we held our wedding reception, so there was no way that Junior CWs were going to get away without seeing inside. When we got married, portraits of Gladstone stared down at us, marking the fact that this used to be his house, but now he has been replaced by a rather fine collection of more modern works. Both buildings have lavish interiors that have been beautifully restored since the British Academy took up residence. The staircases are especially eye-popping.
Just a few doors down the road, at numbers six to nine, the Royal Society has its headquarters. Britain’s top scientists have pretty plush surroundings when they gather at the Royal Society. The ceiling of the entrance hall and neighbouring staircase are decorated with carved wood. The white flowers? They are mother of pearl inlay. Portraits of distinguished scientists gaze down at you from the walls. I noticed that the Royal Society puts on talks that are open to the general public, definitely something to add to my to do list.
We finished of our day of meandering with gawping at the stunning interior of Marlborough House, no cameras allowed inside so you will have to take my word that Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough didn’t stint on interior decoration. The house was designed by Christopher Wren and was built using red Dutch bricks that were bought back to England as ballast in the troop ships that carried soldiers for the Duke’s campaigns on mainland Europe. In the nineteenth century, the house became a royal one and was home to four heirs to the throne and three dowager Queens. It is currently home to the Commonwealth Secretariat.