Tag - london

The Medieval Secrets of Smithfield, London

London Charterhouse - Joachim Moxon

London Charterhouse – Joachim Moxon

In Smithfield, amidst the heap of a neglected area in London, lie some of the city’s most intriguing medieval fragments.

Smithfield, once at the fringe of a great heaving metropolis during the last stages of the Middle Ages, has since been engulfed to the point of getting lost in a maze.

Nominally within the financial heart of business London, the relative peripheral position within that center has ensured a separate character. The streets follow a bewildering pattern that defies orientation, making Smithfield something of a point to nowhere, a nonentity on the London map. Consequently, visitors and locals habitually miss out on intriguing fragments of the past.

The area is at first glance a shabby collection of brick buildings, in which offices cram for space in structures ill-suited for the purpose. Tenants and owners do not seem to be here out of choice and up-keep is often kept to a rather sorry minimum.

However, the fate of neglect has also ensured a curious twist of survival. Secure beyond the famous flames that raged in 1666, vestiges of older times still have room to crop up in the midst of the Victorian city fabric.

For one thing, there is the curiously unknown St. Bartholomew’s the Great, which is perhaps the finest example of Norman church architecture still extant in London. The church exists now in a much-mutilated state, and the exterior betrays little of the archaic air of wonder within. However, the church was once the lesser only to St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in size.

St. Johns gate , Cr:en.wikipedia.org

St. Johns gate , Cr:en.wikipedia.org

St Bartholomew’s was originally part of an Augustinian priory and a jumble of monastic buildings surrounded the site, creating an imposing complex, which the remaining fragments still hint at. However, The western façade is all but gone, and its surviving gateway leads into open air, rather than to a murky nave. In fact, only half of the church has survived the upheavals of history. Nonetheless, the surviving interiors are as if suspended in time and a must-visit for fans of religious architecture. Entry charge is 4 pounds.

Above the remaining stump of a gateway sits a half-timbered Tudor structure looking onto Smithfield market. The open space gathered crowds for centuries to take part in cloth fairs and witness ghastly executions. Movie fans will be intrigued to know that this was the site for the execution of William Wallace, the hero portrayed by Mel Gibson in Braveheart. In the 16th century, plenty more blood was spilled as Catholics and Protestants made use of the site to burn each other as heretics.

The market is still operated by meat vendors, and is the last of its kind in London, though the open-air existence was ended in Victorian times. The resulting structure is a boastful piece of Victorian engineering, with iron and steel rendered in loving classical detail. The scene is a far cry from the long gone fields of pasture that once abutted the area to the west and made the market ideal for the sale of meat in the first place.

Across the road is St Bartholomew’s hospital, which still serves the needs of the infirm and harkens back to the traditional role of the priory. St. Bartholomew’s the less, a smaller church, still peeps out amongst the largely classical buildings of the complex.

The Augustinian monks were not alone in choosing Smithfield for monastic life. London Charterhouse was once a Carthusian monastery, which was brutally suppressed during the early stages of the reformation by Henry VIII. Though since converted to other uses, it is still a rambling set of medieval houses in a Tudor style that only through occasional use of brick hints at the cusp of newer times.

Further north, St. Johns gate remains at the border with Clerkenwell and stands testimony to the priory of St John of Jerusalem, which once stood here. An order of the knights Hospitallers, the order once rivaled the knights Templars and succeeded it when the latter was suppressed.

That is not all, at the other end of Smithfield, just across from what used to be one of the gates to the City wall, we find the parish church of St. Sepulchre without Newgate. Though damaged by the fires of 1666, the church has kept a relatively authentic medieval exterior.

Just next to the church of St Bartholomew’s the Great, down the lane of Cloth fair, we also find one of the few remaining pre-1666 domestic buildings in the city. The building is now converted to offices.

Smithfield, thus, remains a seldom visited part of London, despite the impressive remains of a medieval past still lurking around every corner.

Top Ten Christmas Getaways

Paris in Xmas time, Cr-1vacation.com

Paris in Xmas time, Cr-1vacation.com

The Best European Destinations to Visit this Winter

From skiing to Santa, here are some of the most festive places to see and things to do across Europe during December.


This magical ski resort with its award-winning architecture forms part of the Portes du Soleil and provides access to over 650 km of ski runs across Switzerland and France. Other snow activities include glacier-walking, husky-sledding and heli-skiing. A horse drawn carriage offers transport around this pedestrianised village where Christmas markets, with over 100 stalls, are open on 12th – 13th December. From the 19th December, torch lit processions, shows and events culminate in a spectacular firework display on Christmas Eve.

There are over 20 restaurants in Avoriaz but visitors should head to La Table du Marché at the Hôtel des Dromonts for gourmet cuisine by an award-winning chef.


Over 50 Christmas markets run throughout the capital until 28th December; Gedächtniskirche, Unter den Linden and Alexanderplatz are the biggest. Other highlights this year include a toboggan run in the middle of the city, Chinese ice sculptures and a Christmas circus. For relaxation, visit the Badeschiff sauna and heated pool which overlooks on the River Spree.


The Twelve Days of Christmas Market runs from 10th-23rd December on George’s Dock. For fashionistas, the Cow’s Lane Market in Temple Bar is the largest designer market in the city.

A traditional nativity scene with live animals can be found outside Mansion House on Dawson Street and the Christmas decorations at Brown Thomas are also worth a look.


There is no respite in Edinburgh prior to New Year revellers descending on the city for Hogmanay on 29th December. There is also something for everyone over the Christmas break. The Edinburgh Wheel on East Prince Street provides the best views, overlooking the traditional German market, Highland Market, the new Sparkles Snow Globe in Santa’s Gardens and one of Europe’s largest outdoor ice rinks. There is also the Ethical Market and Farmer’s Markets. Adrenaline junkies should head to the Bungy Snowdome while kids can head to the Children’s Christmas Corner and Christmas Fair, complete with a carousel and helter-skelter.


If visiting Santa on home turf or meeting his elves isn’t enough to fuel the festive mood, there are plenty of other snow-centered activities such as reindeer or husky sleigh rides, snowmobiling, skiing and skidoo rides.


Decorations at the department stores alone are spectacular during December. The Harrods Christmas Grotto is already booked up but Christmas World on the second floor is celebrating the anniversary of the Wizard of Oz this year. For vintage and more unique gifts and decorations, Christmas markets can be found across the city. Festive food markets are open at Borough Market, Covent Garden or the Cologne Christmas Market, which runs from the Southbank Centre to the London Eye. Most markets are open until 23rd December.

Stunning outdoor ice-rinks include Somerset House, Hampton Court, Tower of London and the Natural History Museum. For a real treat, take afternoon tea at one of London’s plushest hotels such as Claridges, The Ritz and or Brown’s. Prices start from £37 per person. For a cheaper alternative, head to the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square and enjoy one of the free carol concerts which take place between 5pm-9pm until 20th December.


Plaza Mayor hosts the main Christmas market every year although Christmas lights can also be enjoyed on the Gran Via, c/Goya and c/Ortega y Gasset. Outdoor ice rinks are located outside the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium or in Retiro Park. The latter transforms into a Children’s Christmas World from 23rd December to 3rd January. Every year, over half a million visitors take to the streets for The Procession of the Three Kings which features thirty carriages, brimming with sweets, making their way from the Park to the Plaza Mayor.


A walk along the tree-lined Champs-Elysees and a visit to Musee du Louvre is a must. The Christmas tree is outside Notre Dame and an outdoor ice skating rink is open at the City Hall. A number of Christmas markets are scattered across the city. Other than the Eiffel Tower, the department stores Printemps and Galleries Lafayette have some of the best Christmas lights. The Russian Christmas Circus is also in town.


The main markets in the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square are open until 23rd December. Smaller ones at Havelske Trziste and Namesti Republiky are within a ten minute walk. The Christmas tree is erected in the Old Town Square where choirs and international music provide the entertainment.


With less tourists and drier weather than autumn, winter is the perfect time to visit Venice. Christmas markets are held in the Campo Santi Apostoli, Campo San Luca, Campo San Salvador and Campo San Polo while Christmas on the Lagoon, which sees the Piazza San Marco transformed into a festive village, is filled with typical Venetian products.

Restaurants may be hard to find on Christmas Day but most hotels are open to the public. Alternatively, the original Harry’s Bar and Locanda Cipriani on the Island of Torcello are expensive but memorable alternatives.

London Heathrow Airport-Find the Cheapest Parking

Cheap car parking at Heathrow Airport can be difficult to find, but here we give you a few tips to find the deals. Heathrow Airport is the worlds busiest international airport and the UK’s largest. Car parking can be very expensive, but hopefully reading this will give you some ideas of saving money.

car parking, cr-fhr-net.co.uk

car parking, cr-fhr-net.co.uk

Parking at Heathrow car parks

There is a vast selection of car parks at Heathrow as you would expect, but a little investigating on the internet can pay dividends by giving you cheaper parking at Heathrow.

From searching on the internet today, parking charges vary from £50 to £116 for seven days, and are generally cheaper the further you are from the terminals. These prices do vary depending on which season you travel and these have been used just as an example.

What do you get for your car parking charges?
  • £51 – drop your car at the reception, help with your luggage and transfer to your terminal which could take about 15 minutes.
  • £70 – the same as above but the car parks are generally a bit closer, about 7 to 15 minutes away depending which of the five terminals you are leaving from.
  • £116 – the most expensive option of all, but within walking distance of your terminal.

The golden rule with all the airport parking companies is to book in advance, as far as possible. These companies, like airlines, offer much better details to those who book ahead of time and savings of 50% are not uncommon. When you are booking your flights and hotels, don’t forget the car parking as it could save you a fortune.

There are several other options you could look into when deciding where to leave your car and thus saving money.

Car parking at hotels

If you are traveling a long distance to the Airport and want to feel fresh to face your travels, check out the local hotels. Many hotels, depending on how much space they have, offer car parking for a reduced rate if you stay with them for a night. Most hotels would then provide a free transfer to the terminal and may offer the same when returning back to the UK.

Pre-booked taxis

Do you really need to take to the car to the airport? Many taxi firms offer great deals for airport runs, and will even collect you when you return to the UK. Quite often this can be a cheaper option depending on how far you are away.

Private parking

Sometimes local residents make quite a nice earning from providing parking to travellers. These can be difficult to find but you could benefit from big savings. Space is normally quite limited for this type of parking, so again booking in advance is essential.

With all these options, do check to make sure you are covered on insurance and that your car will be secure.

Parking at Heathrow comes with many choices, but hopefully you’ll find a good deal. You can then leave your car safe and look forward to your time away.