Edwin lutyens

How Margaret Thatcher could have saved London’s skyline

Looking around London on the eve of the millennium, it would have been difficult to think that the UK government had an adviser on architectural design. The 1990s had been a dismal decade. Yet such a body existed in the quaintly named Royal Fine Art Commission, refounded in 1924. The original Commission had been created as a way of giving Prince Albert, recently married to Queen Victoria, something to do – contriving the decorative scheme for the new Palace of Westminster. Fresco, the chosen medium, was not ideal in that damp position beside the Thames since the plaster took three years to dry; and the Duke of Wellington did not

The £14m Hyde Park mansion with an extraordinary story

When Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s hapless roving emissary, descended on London in 1936 with orders to negotiate an Anglo-German alliance, one of his first ports of call was the elegant mansion just off Hyde Park owned by Sir Roderick Jones, chairman of the Reuters news agency, and his wife Enid Bagnold, the writer of National Velvet. Wangling an invitation to dinner was a surprisingly astute move – the parties at 29 Hyde Park Gate were legendary, usually attracting a gilded mix of aristocrats, politicians, journalists and writers, such as H.G. Wells and Vita Sackville-West – and Ribbentrop had convinced himself that by schmoozing luminaries he could persuade Britain to side