London Hotel Near Westminster Abbey

The History of London Westminster’s Four Most Famous Gardens

The History of London Westminster’s Four Most Famous Gardens

Planning to spend some time with us in Victoria? We’re excited for your arrival! Our little historical neighbourhood is home to some of England’s most treasured historical locations, making it the perfect home base for first-time visitors and history buffs.

The Melita is close to both the Thames and the famous Tate Britain art gallery, is surrounded by delightful restaurants and pubs, and is just steps away from a long list of unique historical locations that will inspire your adventurous heart. While we very much recommend seeing these, sometimes what our guests desire most is a bit of time spent in the great outdoors.

Fortunately, The Melita’s amazing location places us just steps away from four of Westminster’s best gardens, three of which reside in Westminster Abbey itself, and most of which have been in place for decades, if not centuries.

Not sure where to stop first? We’ve highlighted a few of the best options and dug up a bit of their history to tempt your imagination and draw you in. The perks of a staying at a hotel near Westminster Abbey.

 

Eccleston Square Gardens

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Though you’d never guess today, Eccleston Square Gardens was originally the location of little more than a large swamp. This small but beautiful gardens was originally owned by the Dukes of Westminster, and was drained and then developed into a garden by Thomas Cubitt over the course of 1838.

Eccleston Square Gardens sits in a particularly advantageous location in much the same way as all of Westminster; it’s technically situated on floodplains from the Thames, making it especially fertile. This is just one of the reasons it was originally used as a market garden in the 1800s. Before it was developed, this beautiful garden provided both food and willow shoots for basket making to all of the local Westminster area.

When Thomas Cubitt began developing the area into a more habitable social gathering point, his original goal was to bring the charm of the English countryside into the city. Not everyone was in agreement to this, however; the farmers who were originally using the land objected to its removal and reconfiguration and protested for a time. A compromise was eventually reached: the farmers were moved to Lincolnshire, and barricades were erected around all of Eccleston Square to keep out undesirables while the work was completed.

Today, Eccleston Square Gardens belongs, for all intents and purposes, to the community that surrounds it. This wasn’t always the case; over the years, it came under threat several times, first after damage in the Great Storm of 1987, and then again when it was purchased out by a local real estate company with the intention of creating a car park. The current ownership, an organisation titled Eccleston Square Garden Ltd, was created solely to purchase and protect the land for years to come.

Because Eccleston Square is a private communal garden, you cannot enter without being accompanied by a member. However, the gardens do hold a number of public events throughout the year. For more information about access and tours, write to ecclestonsquare@harrisonholt.co.uk.

 

Westminster Abbey Gardens

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Considered to be some of England’s oldest gardens, Westminster Abbey Gardens isn’t just one garden, but three individual gardens in total. These include the College Garden, the Garth, and Little Cloisters, each intimately connected in history, development, and cultivation.

A quick note: The Abbey gardens are best seen on a tour, as not all areas are accessible to the general public, but booking a tour is fairly easy and highly recommended anyway. The history of Westminster Abbey itself is fascinating and detailed, making it an excellent adjunct to any English garden lover’s itinerary.

 

The College Gardens

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The College Garden is thought to be the oldest of all three, and is believed to date back approximately 900 years. Most historians agree that it is the oldest garden still in cultivation throughout England, and to a less specific degree, most of the British Isles. It was originally used by the Benedictine monks to grow healing herbs and plants, many of which were used not only to minister to the monks, but also to Britain’s citizenship.

The College Garden is unique in many ways, the least of which is the fact that the majority of infirmary gardens have long since been removed. It was also home to the monk’s cemetery and paid homage to the cycle of life and death itself. An orchard planted directly beside the original cemetery drew attention to new life from death, while plants like Lady’s Bedstraw were said to honour the Virgin Mary herself.

The College Gardens still retain many historic elements, some of which date back hundreds of years. The somewhat crumbling stone precinct wall itself is the oldest of these, dating back to the late 1300s. Each of the four saint statues in the centre of the gardens was carved in 1686 by sculptor Arnold Quellin, and while they aren’t in the best of shape today, they still inspire and call out to the soul. Most of the other features, including the fountain and bronze statue that sits at one end of the garden, are newer, having been installed within the last 20 years.

 

The Garth

London Hotel Near Westminster Abbey

Just a few steps away from the College Garden lies The Garth. This garden, too, was originally owned by the Benedictine monastery, and was important in the daily lives of the monks who sometimes lived out their entire lives there. It was considered the primary place for monks to go to rest their eyes and escape the intrusion of everyday life.

Situated in the centre of the Abbey itself, and entirely closed off from the outside world by its four gothic walls, the Garth’s beauty isn’t in its plants, but in its surroundings. By itself, it’s little more than a well-kept square of green grass, albeit a very well-kept square indeed.

Though it is closed off to the public, members of the Abbey and those on tour can catch a glimpse of it in person. Unfortunately, no pictures are permitted inside Westminster Abbey, so the only thing you can take away is sweet memories.

 

Little Cloisters

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The third and final garden in Westminster Abbey, Little Cloisters, originally served as a restful garden for sick and infirm monks. Services were often held here for monks who weren’t well enough to attend the Abbey’s services, or for those who were aged and in their last years. It was considered a place of restorative rest, but was accessible to any monk at the Abbey who desired peace.

This small but beautiful garden shaded monks from the sun, protected them from the wind, and was easily accessed by any one of the surrounding cloisters. Strolling the pathways here slowly, it’s easy to see how this type of lifestyle could become more attractive than living on the outside.

Along its Eastern side remains the Chapel of Saint Catherine, one of England’s most famous religious meeting spaces prior to the 15th Century. It is also the site of several historically relevant events and decisions, including Henry III’s sworn pledge of allegiance to uphold the Magna Carta in 1176. The chapel itself, built in the 12th Century, consisted of little more than a congregation section surrounded by two aisles.

Out of the three main gardens in the Abbey, this is in many ways the most charming and the most popular, perhaps because it is the only one of the three to be open to the public all year round. Ancient walls imprinted by the erosion of time stand dramatically aside the gardens, draped with beautiful green ivy during the summer months. The centre fountain, while not an original installation, deserves respect for its age, too: it dates back as far as 1871.

The gardens are carefully cultivated and planned out to burst forth with colour during the growing season, but don’t count out Little Cloisters in the winter; there’s something truly charming about watching the snow fall down over the fountain at Christmas, too.

If you want to book a hotel near Westminster Abbey choose Melita and spend unforgettable time in London.


Family Friendly Restaurants Nearby

You’ve booked your family trip to London and all you need to do now is find the right hotel.  You’ve visited other places and stayed in the chain hotels but now you’re looking for something a little bit different, something which is a little more personal, something which is better suited to your family holiday.

Where better for a family to stay than a family run hotel like The Melita?  You can rest assured that a warm welcome from friendly staff and an authentic London experience awaits you.  In January the hotel is also offering massive discounts to families who book direct.

So you’ve chosen your hotel but what about eating out?  You know that London is renowned for some of the best restaurants in the world but unfortunately your children’s palates are not quite ready for the exquisite and, let’s be honest, expensive cuisine available at these establishments.

Not to worry, The Melita is ideally located for anything you need in London, including restaurants and eateries ideally suited to family dining.

 

Rainforest Cafe

Just a tube ride away from The Melita and metres away from Piccadilly underground station you can find a little piece of the Amazon Rainforest, right in the middle of London.

This is a visual treat for the whole family, waterfalls, fish tanks and some amazing animals brought to life by animatronics.  Where else can you tuck into your dinner whilst crocodiles, elephants, jaguars and gorillas watch over you?

With this much going on around you it’s easy to forget the reason you’ve gone to the Rainforest Cafe!  Luckily the American and International menu is just as good as the surroundings.  You can enjoy steaks, racks of ribs, burgers and pasta, for the children there’s the restaurants own take on a number of favourites including chicken strips, baked potatoes, macaroni cheese and a create your own pizza option which the kids will love.

If you want a restaurant that’s going to keep your children entertained from start to finish then this could very well be it.  If you’ve always wanted to eat a burger in the company of an orangutang, then this is the place.

 

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

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You’re relaxing in your cozy and homely room in the Melita Hotel and you’re thinking about which family friendly restaurant to try.  How about a restaurant themed around a well loved family movie?  How about an eatery that pays tribute to the infamous movie, Forrest Gump?  Intrigued?  Confused?!

It’s true, the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. is a restaurant that gives you the opportunity to experience America’s deep south whilst tipping a wink to a much loved film.  Again, this restaurant is very close to Piccadilly and Leicester Square stations and therefore simple to get to from The Melita Hotel.

The menu offers everything you would expect to find in the deep south of the USA, naturally shrimp is the speciality (or prawns as they are called in the UK).  Also available are burgers, salads and unforgettable desserts.  The kid’s menu continues the Forrest Gump theme with Mama Gump’s Chicken Strips and Ping Pong Pepperoni Pizza.

 

Masala Zone

Maybe your children are feeling a little more adventurous in their appetites, why not pop out for a curry as we do in the UK on a regular basis?  England is home to some of the world’s best curry houses, the cuisine has been developed here to the extent that many consider it our national dish!

If you’d like to go out for a family curry but are looking for an interesting twist on the theme then Masala Zone in Covent Garden is a must try.  The wonderful sights and shops of the world renowned Covent Garden are just 10 minutes on the tube from The Melita Hotel.  The Masala Zone restaurant is only a couple of minutes from the tube station.

As you would expect, this restaurant offers the mouth watering tastes of India, but it does so in a totally different way to traditional curry houses.  The theme is Indian street food and the menu contains biryanis, regional curries and family platters.  The kid’s menu contains Thalis (Indian platters) as well as the traditional food with the spice removed if need be.  Crayons and colouring books are plentiful too!

The restaurant also has its own ongoing theatre show.  Hundreds of Rajasthani puppets acting out a Royal wedding procession.

One of the best things to note about this restaurant is that lunch can cost from as little as £10 per person and dinner from as little as £15.  This from a curry restaurant that has been rated one of London’s best!

 

Belgo Centraal

A vast beer hall set out in an old London warehouse doesn’t sound like the kind of place to bring one’s family to.  Throw in a bustling atmosphere and staff dressed as Trappist monks with headsets on and the vibe becomes a little clearer.

Belgo Centraal is a huge, bustling, noisy Belgium restaurant located in the heart of the Covent Garden district.  If you’ve enjoyed your quiet, traditional English breakfast served at the homely Melita Hotel but want something a little more hectic for dinner, then this Belgium mussel restaurant could be what you are seeking.

Mussels are of course the speciality and bowls of them sit in front of most of the people here.  The restaurant also does a mean chicken and duck and all come served with french fries.  The children’s menu offers the standard mussels and chicken but also has pasta, fish and cheesy nuggets.

At the end of the night you’ll be thankful that your comfy bed at The Melita is just a short tube journey away, especially if you’ve sampled too many of the 50 Belgian beers on offer here!

 

Hard Rock Cafe

If this is your first visit to a Hard Rock Cafe then you will not be disappointed.  If you are one of those families who like to visit these establishments all over the world and collect the t-shirts then visiting the first one that opened will be a treat.

The story of the Hard Rock Cafe in Piccadilly is legendary.  Two Americans, desperate to find a decent American burger in London decided to open up their own restaurant instead.  The venue they chose was an old Rolls Royce dealership on the edge of Hyde Park, the worldwide story of the Hard Rock Cafe had begun.

The venue contains some of the most sought after and valuable music collections that can be seen anywhere in the world.  Elvis Presley’s coat, Eric Clapton’s guitar and even Madonna’s expired credit card can be seen on display here.

Do your kids not know their John Lennon from their John Legend?  Don’t worry, you can enjoy the memorabilia whilst your kids tuck into their Macaroni Cheese, Fish Sticks or Hot Dogs, which are just a selection of the huge menu offered to them by this venue.

Don’t forget, as well as being the most family friendly hotel in London with rooms to comfortably accommodate families of three or four,The Melita Hotel is also offering huge discounts for stays in January.  What better time to visit one of the world’s most fascinating cities?


Why London Fashion Week 2017 Was the Best Year Yet

 

Burberry Revolutionised Retail

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Part of what makes London Fashion Week so thrilling is its exclusivity; you’re getting a sneak peak at fashions that likely won’t make to to the public for an entire season or even an entire year. In some cases, you may even get to lay eyes on items only available directly from the designer. This is a major pull for fashion-lovers, designers and laymen alike from all across the world.

SoHo (situated just 6 mins on the tube from us) during the height of London Fashion Week is a buzzing hotspot of who’s-who’s, hobnobbing and shoulder-rubbing with the world’s best and budding designers, and everyone wants in.

But well-known clothing line Burberry (whose HQ is a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel), may have broken that mould this year in a single foul swoop.

In what can only be considered a breath of fresh air by some, and a questionable idea by others. Burberry chose to skip the delay-to-release this year and made their entire line available to the public online. No six-month wait, no chance for high-street chains to take advantage of copycat lines, no opportunity for wheeling and dealing really at all.

It’s essentially breaking free of the middleman game and going right to the source.

This “see now, buy now” model really breaks the mould, doing something that was virtually unheard  of previously in the fashion world. For decades, it was an unspoken rule that there be a three, six or 12-month gap between the runway and the road, giving journalists time to talk the lines up and stores time to invest in the products.

This old-school marketing style was once very effective, but many are challenging its use in the current digital world we live in. Why rely on the words of others and deals to market your clothing, when you can open your own online store and market them through social media instead?

Mixed responses to the move ranged from some labelling the company as innovative, while others rued the change, suggesting that it would break the exclusivity and bring down the overall value of the clothing simply because it was more common, and therefore, less of a status symbol.

 

Technology Ruled the Roost

Fashion, much like art of any kind, is often not only about the end result itself but the culture that surrounds it. Many things can impact that culture, from the people chosen to attend to the venues and even the location or country in which the event is held.

This year, technology played a major role at London Fashion Week, shaping and changing not only how the event ran, but how designers were able to present their offerings as a whole.

The “see now, buy now” approach was a major element of this, and could potentially be considered a technological marvel in its own right, but it was far from the only advancement we saw this year. The use of chatbots, SnapChat, and even alternative realities made this year more interesting than any year prior.

Brands brought chatbots created by MSG.ai and social media together to market clothing directly to fans via instant messaging on both Facebook and Twitter. With research showing that the social media and personalised approach to marketing is more readily accepted by the public than ever, this was a smart move. “Messaging is becoming the new browser and the gateway to consumer life, with artificial intelligence bots being the new user interface.”

MSG.ai’s founder, Puneet Mehta, agrees. In an article with The Guardian, he spoke out in favour of the approach, stating that, “Messaging is becoming the new browser and the gateway to consumer life, with artificial intelligence bots being the new user interface.”

Some brands also made use of SnapChat over Instagram to give the public a live peek at the shows. Unlike Instagram, SnapChat’s instant, deletable format makes it easy to show images for just a few seconds at a time, promoting some of the exclusivity that the “see now, buy now” movement removed.

Augmented reality’s rol in London Fashion Week became immediately clear for those who chose to attend designer Martine Jarlgaard’s spring and summer show; truthfully, the designer presented almost the entire line to them via hologram. Each guest donned a Microsoft Hololens headset to make the clothing line pop into full colour right before their eyes.

 

Black Made a Comeback (With a Few Friends)

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The idea that “black is always in” is only partially true. As a colour in fashion (putting aside for the moment that it’s really not a colour at all), it tends to wax and wane season-to-season depending on trends. For lovers of all things sleek, elegant or goth, some seasons can end up feeling just a bit too bright and flighty. Within London Fashion Week 2017, nothing could have been further from the truth.

Overall, the colours we saw were heavily influenced by a distinctly 80s aesthetic. Black made a big comeback this season, dominating the runways with elegant and stylish creations laden with audacious lines, but often with its five most colour friends in tow.

In fact, colour creator Pantone analysed the show and identified that the five most common colours found throughout were:

  • Niagara blue
  • Primrose Yellow
  • Lapis Blue
  • Flame red
  • Island Paradise

We saw it sparkle, we saw it sequin, we saw it lace. We even saw soft black hair and black makeup – spurring on the return of the goth, perhaps?

 

Millennial Designers Multiplied

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If you haven’t heard of NewGen yet, you’re missing out. This London Fashion Week programme is renowned for bringing in best and brightest upcoming designers, giving them the support they need to showcase their collections for what may be the first time at London Fashion Week. While 2017 is hardly the first year for NextGen to take place, this TOPSHOP-sponsored event brought in some truly amazing first this year, and many fashion lovers were impressed with their creations.

24-year-old designer Clio Peppiatt made her debut this year, showcasing a collection rife with retro futurism and an almost Lisa Frank style appeal. Bright colours, rainbow sparkles and bold designs brought a fresh face that we haven’t often seen at London Fashion Week since the early 1990s.

Conversely, 29-year-old Youjia Jin’s collection was all about slowing down and appreciating each moment. The Chinese designer used a combination of orchestral instruments and soft, shimmery colours like grey and charcoal black to tell her story. Despite her young age, there’s an incredible maturity to each of her creations that carries a peaceful, minimal vibe.

 

Your Home Base for Style Exploration

Though this year’s fashion week is over, London remains a year-round hubub and hotspot for any fashion lover from around the world. If you’re considering coming for the next Fashion Week, are a designer showing your clothing, or are just looking for a central home base uptown that will keep you closer to the action, we want to help.  Stay with The Melita and you’ll be just steps away from all of Westminster and only a few stops away from SoHo, too.

Our cosy rooms are well-kept, quiet, and just right for getting some rest between excursions, whether you’re here for work or just to shop. Snag incredible style favourites from stores like Agent Provocateur, Albam, Absolute Vintage and Lazy Oaf and become one of the thousands of guests who fall in love with London’s fashion sense each and every year.

We have had fashionistas from over 45 countries staying with us, so you’re in good company.

In the planning stages of your trip? Call us. We’ll help you put together an itinerary and book your room. So once you arrive, all that’s left to do is relax, enjoy, and shop!