Tag Archives: England

Church Commissioners: faith in good investments

imageThe Church Commissioners won’t let their £1.6bn worth of property to just anyone, says Christopher Middleton.

Most landlords aren’t bothered about how their tenants raise their rent money, so long as they pay it on time.

The developers of the sleek Brassworks project, near Marble Arch in London’s West End, are rather different. Not only are they asking £3,250 per week to live in one of the apartments, but they want to know how that money has been earned.

If it’s in the wrong way: through the arms trade, alcohol or tobacco, for instance, they won’t let you live there. No matter how rich you are.

“We have an ethical guidelines policy, and in the course of our precontract checks, the nature of your business would show up,” says Rosemarie Jones, spokeswoman for the developers. “And your tenancy would not be approved.”

Simple as that. In a field known for its reverence towards “high net-worth individuals”, it’s an unusual approach.

War Horse – Movie Review

imageThe movie in limelight today is, War Horse, star casting Jeremy Irvine playing Albert along with his horse Joey in Steven Spielberg’s movie. The director, Steven Spielberg, has been doing his work in Britain for about as many as thirty years. This person has worked long enough to deserve an honorary knighthood. He has described his movie, War Horse, as a movie which is based on the children’s novel, which is written by Michael Morpurgo. This novel talks about the war’s madness in detail and this is Steven’s first ever truly British movie.

When Guernica Came to Town

imageIn 1938, one of Picasso’s most famous paintings was rolled up and taken to places previously untouched by art – even car showrooms

Every day, 11,000 people make the trip to the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid to see Picasso’s Guernica. The invisible infra-red wire around the painting is hyper-vigilant — the tiniest of leans (and I speak from experience) has alarms ringing, and guards to their feet, within seconds. Understandable, but a pity since all but the most eagle-eyed will miss the clues to an extraordinary story.

Over its 75-year history, it has been rolled and unrolled, stretched, nailed up, pulled down, driven, shipped and flown, all in the service of a cause. Creases and cracks mark its surface; its four corners are littered with puncture marks tracing the life it’s led.

Johan Zoffany, Royal Academy, review

imageThe Royal Academy’s Johan Zoffany show gives a spectacularly detailed vision of rumbustious 18th century life.

If you wish to understand why the German-born 18th-century painter Johan Zoffany is considered a good artist, then head straight for the sixth section of a new show at the Royal Academy, the first substantial exhibition of his work in Britain since 1977. There, visitors can pore over a staggering picture called The Tribuna of the Uffizi, which is often described as the best painting he ever made.

Posh actors have it easier, says Downton Abbey footman

imagePosh actors have it easier, says Downton Abbey footman
Working class actors are being squeezed out of the profession by “posh” actors who can afford to live without a regular wage, according to one of the stars of Downton Abbey.

Rob James-Collier, who plays Thomas the footman in the ITV period drama, said that those from privileged backgrounds have the “comfort blanket” of family wealth to fund their ambitions.

He likened the early years of an acting career to other professions in which only middle-class offspring can afford to do unpaid internships.

“You have to work for a year with no money. How on earth are you going to finance that?” he asked, adding that he had fought hard to make it as a “working class lad”.

Hall of Fame, Watts Gallery, review


GF Watts’s penetrating portraits amounted to a panorama of Victorian society, says Richard Dorment .

It’s like an artistic form of multiple-personality disorder: the minute you think you have a handle on the work of the Victorian painter GF Watts, you find you didn’t know it at all. The painter of myths and allegories we saw in the Tate Gallery’s Symbolist exhibition is unrecognisable as the portrait painter we discovered at the National Portrait Gallery a few years later.

From hairdresser to property enthusiast: a new style that turns heads

imageA hairdresser with a flair for renovation tells Zoe Dare Hall about doing up homes from rural England to Tuscany

As the founder of the Mahogany hairdressing chain, which has counted Samantha Cameron, Cheryl Cole and Greta Scaachi as clients, Richard Thompson has made some striking statements with his curling tongs.

But in the past 15 years, as his hair business has grown to include branches in London, Oxford, Bath and Manchester, Thompson has found another outlet for his creativity: property renovations. These have proven equally popular with celebrities, and include a penthouse in an old Highbury match factory, which Richard sold to the Alan Davies, the comedian, and a Georgian house in Hampstead that was bought by the singer David Gray.

Art sales: records and surprises in London


Art sales: records and surprises in London
Colin Gleadell reports on the latest goings on in the art market, including a Valentine-themed sale and a contemporary homage to Alghiero Boetti.
The Impressionist and Modern art sales in London last week saw an impressive £278 million change hands – one of the highest totals for a winter series of such sales in London. While it was generally Henry Moore’s week, with £33 million of sales, there were also strong prices for Impressionist paintings.

Citroen DS3 review

imageCitroën’s latest DS3 might be one model too many, says Neil Lyndon.

I am walking through a prosperous town in the south-east of England early on a Saturday evening. The young groovers are beginning to come out for their larks. A new Mini passes on the street, driven by a young man with a girl in the passenger seat. On the tail of the Mini comes an almost identical couple in a new Citroën DS3.

Off with his head – how Henry VIII was decapitated from royal painting

imageOne of Tudor England’s most famous paintings, The Field of the Cloth of Gold, contains an unsolved puzzle.

It is one of Tudor England’s most famous paintings, depicting the pomp and splendour of Henry VIII’s reign.

But a key feature of The Field of the Cloth of Gold remains shrouded in mystery – just how Henry lost his head.

The painting portrays the 1520 meeting between Henry and Francis I of France near Calais, an 18-day spectacle arranged by Henry to boost propaganda surrounding his reign and project an image of harmony between the two nations.

Snow: fresh travel chaos looms as Britain hit by ‘freezing rain’ weather

imageA blanket of snow will spread across the Home Counties on Thursday night amid warnings of fresh travel chaos and freezing rain.

Forecasters warned up to four inches of snow will hit most of the south as two weather systems collide, with temperatures struggling to remain above freezing.

The Met Office issued a rare “freezing rain” warning for most of northern England and southern Scotland, prompting fears of more havoc on the country’s fragile transport networks.

Edinburgh – The 10 best northern cities to buy property

imageFive years ago the towns and cities of northern England and Scotland symbolised the UK’s bullet-proof housing market. Prices were going up almost as quickly as new flats were being built. That has all changed now, of course. The days of endless price increases are over.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. These areas contain some of the most spacious properties in the country. Large gardens are the norm not the exception, and a decent family house is the price of a Mayfair garage. After the Government this week confirmed plans for a new high-speed railway line linking London and Birmingham, the distance between north and south is set to shrink even further.

Green Property: Refurbishing derelict homes

imageSarah Lonsdale tests the latest ‘eco’ products and sorts the fads from the finds. This week: refurbishing derelict homes

It is a contemporary scandal of monstrous proportions. There are about two million families in this country who need homes but who are priced out of buying or renting because of a lack of supply. Yet there are thousands upon thousands of houses lying empty – nearly three quarters of a million in England alone.

In the Midlands, North East and North West, great swathes of perfectly sound Victorian terraces, in better condition than ones in Fulham or Putney that change hands for over £1m each, are standing derelict; boarded up, their roofs stripped of lead, the elements slowly doing their destructive work.

Art and exhibitions preview of the year 2012

imageAlastair Sooke selects the key dates in the art year 2012 from January to the end of March.
Pick of the exhibitions 2012: Damien Hirst
Tate Modern, London SE1 (020 7887 8888), April 4-Sept 9
Britain’s most famous living artist has never had a retrospective at a major public gallery in this country. Yet Hirst has fashioned an artistic identity that resembles an enduring corporate brand, with currency in auction rooms on both sides of the Atlantic. It seems appropriate, therefore, that the Tate should turn to him during an Olympic year, when Britain is courting the attention of the world, and finally offer to stage one. It should allow us to evaluate his strengths and failings as an artist, not a showman, and whether he deserves a place in the pantheon of artistic greats.

BlueBay Hotels EU and MENA


Adviceguide provides information on your rights, including benefits, housing, family matters and employment, and on debt, consumer and legal issues. Produced by Citizens Advice, you can get information for all four UK countries – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Why studio audiences do no favours to radio comedy

Gillian Reynolds assesses some of the changes Radio 4 Controller Gwyneth Williams has made and reviews the week’s radio, including the new Radio 4 panel game Dilemma and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (Radio 4).


Gwyneth Williams, Radio 4’s Controller, is adamant. She is, she told Feedback (Radio 4, Friday, repeated Sunday) “editorially driven”, convinced that she is right to have extended The World at One by 15 minutes because “we need it”. So far, Feedback’s correspondents don’t agree. What was the point, said one, of the “dull and pointless” interview with Bill Gates? Why, asked another, was economist Vicky Price quizzed more on the break-up of her marriage (to Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change) than economics?

Ford Madox Brown, Manchester Art Gallery, review

imageA new show captures the brilliance of Ford Madox Brown, says Richard Dorment

Ford Madox Brown is the odd man out among the Pre-Raphaelites. Born in 1821 to English parents in Calais, he learnt to paint in the academies at Antwerp, Ghent and Paris. But from the beginning Brown was a paid-up member of the awkward squad. He rejected the academic systems and conventions he’d been taught at these institutions in favour of the archaic purity of line he found in the work of the German Nazarene painters, and although he shared the ideals of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, he never felt the need to became a member.

Online House Hunter: Middle ground

imageIF you want to live at the very centre of things, where should you start searching?

The centre of Britain has long been sought but even in this age of the Sat Nav it’s not easy to find. For a start, do you want the start of Britain, the UK, the British Isles, England or some other definition of your home land. And what do you mean by the ‘centre’ – the middle of a circle that encompasses everything, or the middle of diagonal lines from the furthest land points?

The BBC looked to settle the argument in 2002 when they reported on Ordnance Survey’s definition of the centre of Great Britain: “According to the Ordnance Survey’s definition, the centre of Great Britain (factoring in its 401 associated islands) lies on Brennand Farm, about seven kilometres north-west of Dunsop Bridge.” That’s Dunsop Bridge in Lancashire. But all you’ll find at the ‘centre’ is a peat bog.

From The Fades to Misfits – is youth drama leading the way?


Fantasy series The Fades joins Misfits, Skins and Being Human in demonstrating that youth drama is among the most bold and innovative on TV

“It was about a boy who investigates ghosts that live in pipes with his Grandad,” says writer Jack Thorne of the very early drafts of his BBC3 fantasy series The Fades. “It was shit”. Fortunately the show that the Skins and This is England scriptwriter did eventually come to complete – the first episode of which aired last night – is weird, off the wall, annoying in places and with a bit too much wisecracking. But far from shit.

St Lucia: Bowled over by the island of calm

Trust Andrew Strauss to do something a little bit different. When England cricket captains buy Caribbean property, you expect them to plump for the Royal Westmoreland in Barbados, a luxury resort where every other villa seems to be owned by a celebrity sportsman. Michael Vaughan has a villa there. So does Freddie Flintoff.


Not Strauss. The man who has just led England to world domination on the cricket field by crushing India 4-0, is a mild-mannered, retiring type who seems happier away from the limelight than hogging centre stage. He lives in the quiet Buckinghamshire town of Marlow with his Australian wife, Ruth, and their two small boys.

Instead of the glitz of Barbados, Strauss has opted for the understated chic of St Lucia. It is the most beautiful island in the Caribbean to its admirers, but not one where you would expect to find Simon Cowell chatting to Sienna Miller under a palm tree.

The perfect setting for outdoor opera

The gardens at West Green House, Hampshire will offer the perfect setting for outdoor opera, says Francine Raymond.


Marylyn Abbott is an extraordinary person. When the view from her garden at Kinnerton Green in Australia (featured by Monty Don in his series Extraordinary Gardens of the World) was threatened, she upped sticks and moved to England.

She had visions of a cool garden encircling an old English house. What she found at West Green House was an 18th-century baroque gem in dire straits, bombed by the IRA, whose lease she bought from the National Trust. It was surrounded by 10 acres of old parterres protected by brambles and fields of daffodils, bluebells and cow parsley.

Sporting estates are the greatest prize

Every self-respecting billionaire should own their own country estate – it’s the ultimate prestige purchase, discovers Caroline McGhie.


It is one of the things we do best. Our sporting estates offer more romance, spectacular landscape and historical resonance than any in the world. The great salmon rivers of Scotland, the dancing chalk streams of Hampshire, the majestic hills of Leicestershire where the Quorn Hunt rides out, the woodlands and pastures of rural England teeming with pheasants – these are crucial ingredients in this highly specialised niche market. What new billionaire doesn’t dream of being monarch of the glen to his own Glenbogle?

I’m black, I love Radio 4, and I don’t want to be patronised

imageI’m a black British (mixed-race) Londoner, and that’s precisely the reason I love Radio 4. If I want ragga music, grime or grammatically tortuous inane patois, I can easily tune into a myriad of local pirate radio stations, or even into the BBC’s very own Radio 1Xtra – the official “yoof” black music station, which specialises in moronic “street” drivel set to the latest syncopated beats.

We should remember that, as much as I would like to hear more non-white talent and ethnic minority interest stories on Radio 4, we still live in a country which is 94 per cent white. For better or for worse, I happily accept that.

Royal wedding: A motorbike is the perfect way for Prince William to get away from it all

imageYou don’t have to be a disaffected Hell’s Angel to appreciate life on two wheels , writes Stephen Bayley.

Mildred (a local girl): “What are you rebelling against?”

Johnny (a gang leader): “Whaddya got?”

This fine exchange is cinema’s source of the now universal idea that the motorbike is a symbol of rebellion. It comes from the 1953 movie The Wild One, which starred a 1950 Triumph Thunderbird 6T (and Marlon Brando). Just as Brando’s fictional Johnny – in his Schott Perfecto leather jacket – inspired many real-life imitators, The Wild One had its origins in fact.

Pound Notes with Melanie Wright


£BRITONS are spending an average of £900 a year going to weddings. A typical wedding guest spends £111 on travel and ­accommodation, £106 on clothes, £81 on wedding gifts, £63 at the reception and £91 on the night of the stag or hen do. That adds up to £452 and, with the average person going to two weddings a year, the annual cost comes to £904.

How Noah and the Whale resurfaced as guitar heroes


The band’s musical progress is proving refreshingly unpredictable says Neil McCormick.

Reviews for Noah and the Whale’s acclaimed, top-10 album Last Night On Earth have been peppered with references to Eighties pop.

Kate Middleton Biography

Britain's Prince William smiles as he walks with his girlfriend Kate Middleton at RAF Cranwell, central England

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (born Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, 9 January 1982), popularly known as “Kate”, is the wife of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. William is second in line to the thrones of the sixteen Commonwealth realms.

Prince William Biography

Prince William 2

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge KG FRS (William Arthur Philip Louis; born 21 June 1982) is the elder son of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Diana, Princess of Wales, and third eldest grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Prince Harry Biography


Prince Henry of Wales (Henry Charles Albert David; born 15 September 1984), commonly known as Prince Harry, is the younger son of Charles, Prince of Wales and the late Diana, Princess of Wales,

10 of the best spring gardens to visit


Tony Russell celebrates the seasonal planting highlights at a handful of Britain’s finest gardens

Armadale, Isle of Skye

This 40-acre garden, set around the romantic ruins of Armadale Castle, has a spectacular setting on the Sleat Peninsula of the Isle of Skye. The warm, generally frost-free climate of the west coast of Scotland allows this sheltered garden, dating back to the 17th century, to grow a diverse range of tender trees, shrubs and bulbs from all over the temperate world. South American shrubs, such as the Chilean fire bush (Embothrium coccineum) and

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