London -behind the scenes

london scenes collageTravel around a little in London, look beyond the obvious and it’s easy to find out the stories from behind the scenes…

The Central Criminal Court is better known as the Old Bailey and features in all the best crime stories – you can take a sneak view from the public gallery on week-days

The Public Record Office at Kew holds the original documents from key historical moments through-out the ages. You can see the Doomsday Book, view Guy Fawkes’ confession and extracts from Pepys' diary as well as researching your family or house’s history.

Londons squares are famous (even more so thanks to Notting Hill) through-out the world, tranquil oases even in the most central areas. Most of them are very private, but many will open to the public for just one day on the 8th June 2003.

From the outside the Bank of England looks an impenetrable building but you can get a glimpse of the workshops behind the curtain wall by visiting the Museum there.

It’s easy to rush by Banqueting House on Whitehall without realising there’s a wonderful Rubens ceiling inside what was once part of Whitehall Palace and where Charles I was executed.

Get a glimpse of what happens behind the usually closed doors of a strictly A list celebrity celebration at Madame Tussaud’s Blush, where visitors become part of the action.

Florence Nightingale is well known as a nurse in the Crimean War but did you also know she was a brilliant statistician. Learn more at the Florence Nightingale Museum near St. Thomas’s hospital.

Many of London’s theatres offer backstage tours – you can also find out more about the history of the threatre at the Theatre Museum, at Shakespeare’s Globe or take a trip backstage at the Royal Opera House royaloperahouse.org

Sir John Soane’s house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields houses a wonderful collection which he accumulated through-out his interesting life. The house itself is like a tardis, opening up into unexpected rooms and alcoves. Don’t forget to ask the wardens to open up the shutters to show you the Hogarth paintings which are otherwise hidden from view.

Somerset House in the Strand is full of surprises – another imposing London building which it’s easy to pass by without realising just how much you can see inside. It’s home to three wonderful collections - the Courtauld Institute Gallery, Gilbert Collection and Hermitage Rooms, and offers splendid views of the Thames. It was built to house the Navy Board and has been the home to many different learned societies and institutions.

London’s been used as the setting for many films. You can “spot” the location of various scenes from 101 Dalmations in many familiar London places such as Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Burlington Arcade, Battersea Park and Kenwood House. The churches used in Four Weddings & a Funeral include the chapel of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich. Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels was “shot” at various places around London including Borough Market, Bethnal Green Town Hall and Staples Market in Camden.

You can see “scenes” (I’ll run out of puns soon) from Shakespeare in Love being “played out” in the Great Hall at Middle Temple (acting as the Banqueting Hall at Whitehall Palace), Marble Hill House, St Bartholomew the Great and the River Thames near Barnes. Sliding Doors features Gwyneth Paltrow in Bertorelli's restaurant in Charlotte Street, at Fat Boys Diner, the Blue Anchor pub in Hammersmith, and on Albert Bridge over the Thames.
Oscar Wilde uses Somerset House, Borough Market, Lincoln's Inn and Middle Temple, and the Cadogan Hotel in London.
In Harry Potter Little Whinging Zoo is really London Zoo, while Gringotts Bank is Australia House on The Strand. Kings Cross railway station has become more popular thanks to Platform 9 ¾ (filmed on Platform 4).