London Mithraeum & St Stephen Walbrook

bloomsberg space

Bloomberg Space in the City of London


Most Londoners are aware of London’s Roman history, and that most of the Roman archaeological sites are buried underneath the City of London, London’s historic financial district. However, not many knew about a Roman temple ruin that was rediscovered by chance on a bomb site in 1952-54 during the construction of the Bucklersbury House. Later, the temple was dismantled and reconstructed – inaccurately – 100 metres from its original site to the car park roof at Temple Court ( I wonder how many Londoners had visited this site?).

After the demolition of the Bucklersbury House, the site was purchased by Bloomberg in 2010, and the company decided to restore The Temple of Mithras to its original site as part of their new European headquarters designed by Foster + Partners. Originally constructed around AD 240, the Temple of Mithras was finally restored close to its original position and level, which is seven metres below modern street level and by the – now subterranean – River Walbrook. Aside from the restoration work, Museum of London Archaeology also led a team of over 50 archaeologists and excavated the site between 2010-14. They recovered more than 14,000 artifacts, including a large assembly of tools.


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Top row: Isabel Nolan’s installtions at Bloomberg space: ‘Another View from Nowhen’; 2nd & bottom rows: around 600 items Roman artifacts are on display


In early November, the free cultural hub opened its doors to the public, and visitors could book a time slot to visit via the London Mithraeum website. On the ground level, there is an art gallery space showcasing contemporary art work, and a vast array of Roman artifacts excavated from the site. Apart from on-site guides, visitors are also given ipads explaining the functions of these items.

Then we were led down the stairs to a waiting area where we could learn more about the temple and its origin. When we were finally allowed to descend down into the pitch black and smoky temple space, there was a sense anticipation among the visitors. Slowly, the room started to light up while a soundscape of chanting, bells and horns was added to enhance the multi-sensory experience.


London Mithraeum  London Mithraeum






The Cult of Mithras was a mystery religion centered around the the Indo-Iranian deity Mithras, which was practised in the Roman Empire from about the 1st to the 4th century CE. The temples of Mithras were always an underground cave, featuring a relief of Mithras killing the bull. It’s all-male membership was drawn from soldiers, merchants and freeman who travelled widely through the Roman Empire. It is believed members gathered in windowless temples to drink and perform rituals and animal sacrifices naked in the dark, illuminated by torchlight. I wonder if this is what the Scientologists do when they get together?

I think Bloomberg has done a remarkable job of restoring the temple and in creating a mysterious atmosphere and immersive experience once inside the temple space. Best of all, it is free and visitors (both locals and tourists) can learn a great deal about the history of Roman London.



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After the visit of the temple, I walked past the nearby St Stephen Walbrook and decided to go inside to take a look. Interestingly, the church’s history is intertwined with the nearby temple of Mithras. The original church of St Stephen was built on the Mithraic foundations on the west side of River Walbrook between 700 to 980 A.D, but was moved to its present site, on the east side of the river (by then, it was no longer a river) in 15th century.

In 1666, the church was burnt down at the Great fire of London. After the fire, the English anatomist, astronomer, geometer, mathematician, physicist and architect Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to design and rebuild 52 churches within the city including St Stephen Walbrook and St Paul’s Cathedral. The constructions of the church started in 1672 and completed in 1679; this was his prototype for the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, and the first classical dome to be built in England at the time.




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I am surprised that I have never visited this Grade I listed church before – it is a stunning masterpiece. Unexpectedly in the middle of the historic church stands an 8-ton white polished stone altar commissioned from the artist/sculptor Henry Moore by churchwarden and property developer Lord Peter Palumbo in 1972 during the restoration of the church after it was badly damage during The Blitz in 1941. The controversial altar was considered unsuitable until it was approved by The Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved of the Church of England.

Later in 1993, a circle of brightly coloured kneelers designed by abstract painter Patrick Heron was added around the altar. The kneelers were made by Tapisserie, a shop in Chelsea that specialises in fine hand-painted needlework. Personally, I think the minimalist altar blends well with the surroundings, but I am less convinced about the kneelers. Nonetheless, it’s courageous to challenge the conventions, and I am all for breaking the dogmatic rules set by religious authorities.

There are days when I feel fed up with London, but when I discover something new or unusual in the city, it would always bring me joy, excitement and fascination. Sometimes we all have to be more like a tourist in order to see and appreciate the city we live in. Now I can’t wait for my next discovery!


4-day X’mas pop-up shop in Angel



We will be popping up with our Japanese partner Di Classe for 4 days next week from 30th November until 3rd Dec in Angel just off Chapel Market. This is the first pop-up shop that we organised and we are very excited!

The idea of doing a joint Christmas pop up shop came to us last year, but it somehow didn’t happen. This year, we started looking quite late in October and thought it was too late after being told that several venues we were interested in were booked up already. Yet with a bit of luck, we managed to find an art gallery space White Conduit Projects available during our requested weekend; and it was only then I found out that the gallery owner is Japanese (an interesting coincidence).


pop up shop

pop up shop


We did not do a pop up shop earlier because it is riskier, more expensive and it involves more work. Yet after a few rather disappointing Christmas fairs with different organisers, we decided that it’s time to take the matters into our own hands. Perhaps it is the right timing.

Instead of cramming most of our products onto one table, we will have more space to display more products this time. We will also be showcasing books, magazines and zines for the first time. Meanwhile, Di Classe will be selling their lighting and home accessories that are normally only available through retail shops like the Conran shop.


pop up shop


Please drop by to say ‘hello’ if you are in the area. We look forward to seeing you next week!


Rebecca Louise Law at Kew Gardens




In the last year or so, I have visited Kew Gardens three times – all thanks to my friend who is a member, hence I was able to get free entry because of her. So, when she enthusiastically informed me about the new botanical installation by London-based artist Rebecca Louise Law , it got me excited again.

We wanted to visit the gardens on a nice day (for a change), but with the unpredictable British weather, it wasn’t exactly an easy task. Although we did meet on a sunny Sat morning, the chill wind was strong and it didn’t help by the fact that we were both slightly under the weather.

Despite that, it was still a joy to walk through Rebecca‘s interactive installation ‘Life in Death’ featuring 1000 garlands of preserved flowers, inspired by the ancient Egyptian funeral garlands of Ramesses II at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery. It is very difficult to capture the installation on camera, you’d have to walk through the room to fully appreciate the delicacy, intricate details and stunning arrangements hanging from the ceiling.


Rebecca Louise law  Rebecca Louise law



Since Rebecca hates waste, she tends to recycle and retain leftover flowers from her installations. This ‘life in death’ installation strives to create ‘life’ from no-longer-fresh-flowers and encourage visitors to appreciate age, nature and the beauty of preserved flowers.

The installation features 375,000 flowers cultivated from across the world, including her entire collection of preserved flowers from the past decade. All the flowers were treated by freezing in Kews’s giant freezer to kill off any potential pests before being turned into garlands. Each of the 1000 garlands took a day to make – luckily, the effort paid off.



Rebecca Louise law  Rebecca Louise law


After seeing the installation, we walked up to the Treetop Walkway to enjoy some autumn foliage. Even though it was rather chilly, it was still pleasant to see the gardens from above. I think the gardens are lovely all year round, but the mix of yellow, brown, green and red colour tones undoubtedly make autumn slightly more endearing than other seasons.



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Rebecca Louise Law: Life in Death will be showing at Kew Gardens until 11 March 2018.



The Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden



Ahead of winter, I wanted to take advantage of the mild autumn weather before the cold sets in. After an awe-inspiring trip to Dungeness, I was ready for another mini adventure, and I chose to visit The Hannah Peschar sculpture garden in Surrey before it closed for the winter season.

I have never heard of this garden until recently, and the images I saw online intrigued me immensely. I thought a few miles walk via the public footpath from Ockley station would be quite straight forward, but I was wrong – the first part through the woods was fine, then I got lost in the open field and somehow went off track.








I eventually ended up at The Cricketers Arms, a Grade II listed traditional pub circa 1450 in Ockley. I love the large inglenook fireplace and oak beams, and decided to have lunch here. The friendly staff gave me some directions towards the garden before I set off again.




By the time I reached the office of the sculpture garden, I was already feeling a bit tired. The friendly curator Vikki was surprised to learn that I walked all the way from the station (I guess not many visitors would do that) and offered to give me a lift back before my train’s departure time. Her warmth and kindness immediately made me feel that this garden is not an ordinary one.


 hannah Peschar sculpture park


hannah peschar


This special garden used to be part of a large estate, laid out between 1915 and 1920. Later it was split up and sold in several lots, and the garden fell into decline after the estate was sold. In 1983, art curator Hannah Peschar bought the ten-acre land, which included a grade II listed 15th Century cottage and a large water and rock garden. The garden was subsequently redesigned and replanted by her husband, the award-winning landscape designer Anthony Paul, who introduced many large-leaved plants in bold groups, tall grasses and created 3 new ponds. Over the past 30+ years, the garden has grown from a handful of sculptures to over 200 pieces exhibited every year, featuring artists from the U.K. and Europe.


hannah peschar

hannah Peschar sculpture park  hannah Peschar sculpture park



Later, I learnt from Vikki that her mentor Hannah Peschar decided to step back from her role two years ago, and now the garden is run and curated by her and Anthony Paul. Though Peschar still resides in the lovely ancient cottage, and her husband also has a landscape design office within the garden.




hannah Peschar sculpture park  hannah Peschar sculpture park


Unlike the Yorkshire sculpture park, most of the art works here are available for sale and all visitors are given a map with the list of work and prices upon arrival. The vast array of work varies from figurative to highly abstract, using both traditional and innovative materials. All the sculptures here are placed heedfully so that they would blend harmoniously with nature and other works within the garden.

The garden looked beautiful in spite of the drizzly and misty weather; I particularly love seeing the sculptures against the autumn colours. And I secretly congratulated myself for wearing the correct footwear for a change.




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Since there were not many visitors during my weekday visit, I was able to enjoy the tranquility that the garden has to offer. The garden is enchanting because you never know what you would encounter as you walk along the trail. There are hidden surprises as the landscape changes; and during the few hours walking in the garden, I felt excited, inspired, intrigued, and contemplative.


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hannah Peschar sculpture park  hannah Peschar sculpture park


hannah Peschar sculpture park  hannah Peschar sculpture park


Unlike the National trust or English Heritage properties, there is no cafe, picnic area nor souvenir shop here, so it feels somewhat less commercial. When almost every airport in the world has become more like a shopping mall nowadays, I found it a relief to not see a shop/cafe here (although I am sure some people would disagree with me).







When i finished the tour around the garden, Vikki said she would close the garden earlier as it was a quiet day, and we had an interesting chat about art and design as she drove me to the train station. Enviously, I told her that she is lucky to be working in such a wonderful and peaceful environment, and she agreed. She said that the garden looks different in every season and she recommends that I return again next spring/summer.

And yes, I definitely will return again – I can’t wait to see the garden in bloom!


Note: The garden will reopen on 1st April 2018.