In 2002 the BBC carried out a search for the Greatest Briton. Over 30000 people made nominations from which a top 100 was compiled. The case for each of the top 10 featured in a series of programmes. A final programme was broadcast in November when each of the presenters hoped to see their person voted the Great Briton.
The project was supported by the NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY which has images of all the top ten and sells the accompanying book in the shop. More information is on their website
The purpose of this article is to highlight some of the London connections of the top eleven Great Britons
WINNER: SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL 1874-1965
Churchill has a statue in Member's Lobby of the Houses of Parliament and in Parliament Square. This became a target for May Day protesters. There is also a statue of him seated on a bench with Roosevelt in Old Bond Street. There are plaques on the south side of Eccleston Square, on 28 Hyde Park Gate and on 3 Sussex Square where he lived and died. Churchill's lying in state was in Westminster Hall before a service in St Paul's and burial at Bladon. It is possible to visit the Cabinet War Rooms, the secret underground HQ from where Churchill directed the war. This now incorporates a Churchill Museum. You can also find out about his wartime service at the Britain at War exhibition and the Imperial War Museum. Churchill's former home at Chartwell in Kent is in the care of the National Trust.
ISAMBARD KINGDOM BRUNEL 1806-1859
Separate information [click here]
PRINCESS OF WALES 1961 - 1997
At Diana's former home of Kensington Palace the state rooms are open to the public. There is a 7 mile memorial walk which goes through the Royal Parks of Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park & St James's. It is marked by discs in the paths or there is a leaflet and book (A Walk for Diana) available. In the north west of Kensington Palace Gardens is a memorial playground and in Hyde Park the Memorial Fountain. Spencer House, overlooking Green Park and once owned by the Spencer family is open for tours on Sundays (charge).
DARWIN 1809 - 1882
There is a plaque to Darwin on the UCL building at 110 Gower Street as he lived in a house on the site from 1838-42 after which he moved to Down House in Kent, now in the care of English Heritage. You can find out more about Darwin's life & work at the Natural History Museum and the National Maritime Museum (especially the Beagle voyage). He is buried in Westminster Abbey.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 1564 - 1616
The sites of the Theatre in Shoreditch and the original Globe in Southwark are marked by plaques. Shakespeare's Globe, rebuilt by Sam Wanamaker, has an excellent exhibition which includes a tour of the theatre when not in use. There are memorial windows in St Helen's Bishopsgate and Southwark Cathedral which also has an alabaster memorial. He also has memorials in Westminster Abbey, in Leicester Square, on the former City of London School and at St Mary Aldmanbury. Some documents are on display in the British Library. Like Nelson he has given his name to a number of pubs. More Shakespeare sites are covered on my theatre walks around Southwark and Blackfriars.
6. SIR ISAAC
NEWTON 1642 - 1727
Newton's chief London connection is with the Royal Society. He was Warden of the Royal Mint from 1696 responsible for investigating and bringing to justice those who clipped and counterfeited the coin of the realm. He has a plaque on 87 Jermyn Street and a statue on the former City of London School. He worshipped at St Mary Abbots, Kensington and was buried in Westminster Abbey on 28 March having laid in the Jerusalem Chamber. He has an impressive memorial by William Kent and Michael Rysbrack in the Abbey and a bust in Leicester Square.
7. ELIZABETH I
1533 - 1603
Elizabeth was born in Greenwich Palace on 7 September. During 1554 she became a prisoner in the Tower of London on the orders of her half-sister Mary. It is said that on her release she had a meal in a Mark Lane tavern and gave thanks at the church of All Hallows Staining, of which only the tower remains. Elizabeth was welcomed as the new queen at Highgate in November 1558. The Bishop of Ely was ordered to let part of his property to her favourite Christopher Hatton where he built a house in 1577. There are the remains of a cherry tree in the corner of the Mitre Tavern around which the queen is said to have danced. There is a plaque at Deptford Strand marking where Francis Drake was knighted by the queen on return from his voyage. Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge (actually built in 1543) stands on Rangers Road in Chingford. This timber framed building which would have overlooked Epping Forest became a house in 1666 and was acquired by the Corporation of London in 1878. The Tudor palace of Hampton Court is open to the public. Elizabeth's death on 24 March at Richmond Palace is recorded on a plaque in Old Palace Lane. She was taken to Whitehall and buried in Westminster Abbey where she has a white marble effigy. There is also a figure of her in the Abbey's Undercroft Museum and a statue outside St Dunstan's in the West Church in Fleet Street.
JOHN LENNON 1940 - 1980
There is a walk booklet featuring places associated with the Beatles available from the Guildhall Library & Museum of London bookshops. My St John's Wood walk includes Abbey Road. There is a Beatles shop in Baker Street (near 221B!).
VISCOUNT HORATIO NELSON 1758-1805
The National Maritime Museum has Nelson artifacts. He would have had dealings with the Navy Office housed in what is now Somerset House. There is a plaque on 147 New Bond Street. He lived for a time with the Hamiltons at 'Paradise Merton'. The site of the house has been built on but Merton retains many Nelson associations. There is a small display at the Wandle Museum. His body on return from Trafalgar laid in state in the Painted Hall of the Naval Hospital now in the care of the Greenwich Foundation. He has a wax effigy in the Undercroft Museum of Westminster Abbey but was buried in a large tomb in St Pauls Cathedral. His statue stands on top of Nelson's column in Trafalgar Square. There is a statue outside the Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich. There are a number of pubs which commemorate Nelson and his associations.
CROMWELL 1599 - 1658
Cromwell has a statue outside Westminster Hall and a marble bust in the Lower Waiting Hall. He was married at St Giles Cripplegate. He died at Whitehall and his body was moved to Somerset House before his burial in Westminster Abbey on 3 September. At the Restoration in 1661 he was exhumed and taken to Tyburn to be hung and beheaded!
and at number 11...........
SHACKLETON 1874 - 1922
Shackleton came from Ireland with his large family in 1884 and lived at 12 Westwood Hill in Sydenham from where his father practised as a GP. He attended Fir Lodge School (since demolished) and then Dulwich College. The college has the James Caird lifeboat and photos of the crew of Endurance on display in the North Cloister. It also has Shackleton related items in its archive collection. There is a display about his expedition which includes a replica James Caird (used in the TV film) in the Oceans of Discovery gallery at the National Maritime Museum. There is a photograph of the Quest in which Shackleton made his final voyage at Hays Galleria. He has a statue sculptured by Charles Sargeant Jaggers on the Exhibition Road side of the Royal Geographical Society (pictured).
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Route You has created a mapped route based on this information - see www.routeyou.com/route/view/2965
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