From its roots as a Roman city through to the present day, London has had over 2000 years of building works, architecture and design. Witnessing everything from wooden Tudor houses right through to the Shard via towering Georgian palaces, gothic Victorian mansions and 1930s Art Deco, London encompasses it all. The Handbook has selected some of its favourite historical venues whose architectural design will add to any event.
Tower of London
When William the Conqueror first started building a massive stone tower on the edge of the Thames in the early 1080s, London had never seen anything like it. Almost a thousand years on and it is still one of the most iconic landmarks in the city, with a myriad of different architectural styles as different royals have put their own stamp on it. For hosting a summer drinks party we recommend The Medieval Palace. Why? One for the views, it overlooks the Tower, Tower Bridge and the river and two because being built for the kings and queens short but frequent visits, it definitely has a story or two to tell.
Don’t be fooled by the Foundling Museum’s 1920s exterior, it is a facade for a wonderfully, decadent Rococo interior. When the original 18th century, Foundling Hospital was demolished, the interior was saved to be restored in the new 1920’s building, turning the phrase young at heart on its head. We recommend the Court Room as the perfect place to hold an intimate supper party. Designed by William Hogarth in the 1740s to accommodate the hosptial’s art collection. Not only a beautifully stunning room, the paintings adorn the wall make the perfect topic for discussion should conversation ever run dry.
For hosting a truly decadent event, then you can’t fault Banqueting House in Whitehall. Magnificent pillars? Check. Exuberant features? Check. Grand? Double check. An irreplaceable ceiling painted by Rubens? Wait, pardon? Yes, that’s right, the last surviving in – situ ceiling painting by Rubens can be found in the Main Hall at the Banqueting House, very impressive to host your event beneath it. And if that is not a talking point then this should be, it was one of Charles I’s very last sights as he stepped from a window in the main hall onto his awaiting execution scaffold.
From a villa to a mental institute via a mansion, Chiswick House has definitely got a story or two behind it since it was first built by the 3rd Earl of Burlington in 1729. Inspired by the sights of the ‘Great Tour’ the Earl, had the right idea when he built the house, primarily for entertaining and showcasing art rather than for living in. And it has certainly entertained some infamous guests: the Duchess of Devonshire, Queen Victoria, Handel and Charles James Fox. But the reason we love Chiswick House? Its classic Italian styled garden, think stone bridges, landscaped lawns, Ionic Temples, wide paths and its own river, well best not to do things by halves.
One of London’s most exclusive venues, Spencer House was used by the first Earl of Spencer and his wife for entertaining the elite London society. James Stuart who became the Lord Spencer’s architect in 1758, took inspiration from his time in Greece to transform Spencer House into one of the first accurate examples of Greek interior decoration and neo classical design in London. Throughout the years a series of famous architects have left their mark, to create one of the most visually stunning houses in London. We suggest The Great Room for a wedding, because the original ballroom is the epitome of opulence and elegance, glittering chandeliers, dark walls adorned with portraits and ornate fire places. Never has a name been so apt.
Hackney Town Hall
They often say less is more, and that is certainly the case with the art deco movement. Starting in the 1930s, it did away with heavy, rich grandeur and replaced it with modern block colours, sweeping lines and curved staircases. Clean, round and extremely distinctive, Hackney Town Hall is a fine example of this style of design. Retaining its original features including the sprung dance floor and 1930s modern bold chandeliers, it is a timeless architectural nod to the movement, and brilliant for hosting events, where you can impose your own unique flair on it without competing with the venue for the most diamonds or gold.
Leadenhall is not a humble market, it is a fine example of Victorian design and a Grade II* listed market, and we say deservedly so. Having been part of the City since the 14th century, Sir Horace Jones, gave the market a redesign in 1881, replacing its stone structure with its instantly recognisable, ostentatious, gold, cream and red wrought iron and ornate glass frame. Whoever thought the Victorians were sombre and serious couldn't be more wrong. And it isn’t just a Grade II* listed building, it also doubles up as an events venue and many of the restaurants inside offer catering, so that’s a great location, great architecture and great food in one, huzzah!