Gotta love it when a passing thought from one post leads to an entire new fully-fleshed-out post. I had remarked, during my two-week tour in London, I was reminded often of places I’d seen Damian in images and film. In particular, when I was walking from Shakespeare’s Globe west towards Blackfriars Bridge along the Thames Path I looked down to the river and saw the moss covered walls where Damian and Helen leaned and loafed for a photoshoot, as well as the pier under which Hector made a phone call in Our Kind of Traitor.
That bit of Proustian mind-wandering lead Damianista to the thought, “Hey, why not do a post where we follow along in Damian’s footsteps throughout London?” “Isn’t that a bit stalkery?” I worried. “Nah,” we both concluded. Happily, Damian knows we are the most harmless variety of stalkers he could ever have. So, here it is, a catalog of all the places and sites where we “saw” Damian, characters he’s played, and stories he’s been a part of in his beloved home town.
Many actors have played Henry VIII thru the years, but, since Wolf Hall, the image of the historical figure in my mind’s eye will always be that of Damian Lewis. We know that many scenes in Wolf Hall were filmed in appropriately dated country estates outside London. Whitehall, the grand palace expanded by Henry VIII to house the monarchs within London, was largely destroyed in the fire of 1698. Alas, we had to get our Henry and Tudor fix from the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace.
Hampton Court Palace is one of the two surviving palaces of Henry VIII. The structure was built for Cardinal Wolsey, but Henry fancied it so, when Wolsey fell out of favor, Henry seized the place and made it his. There are many bits of his life with Anny Boleyn in the palace: Tudor roses in the banquet hall, their initials carved into the wood work. And here we are wandering through it all. Had to include a shot just outside Henry’s personal apartments. Wink wink nudge nudge.
The Tower of London is arguably THE must-see attraction in London, especially for fans of history and literature. Much has been moved around over the years, and Hilary Mantel may have taken some literary license in framing Anne’s time in the Tower and her eventual execution, but the original structures still remain to this day. From the perspective of a Yank living in a baby of nation on the west coast which is even more of a baby than the east coast, it boggles the mind that buildings centuries old are not only still standing in England, but so lovingly cared for by the National Trust. Not only are the buildings impeccably maintained, most to their original states, but everywhere I went, the docents were always friendly and ever knowledgeable of any arcane tidbit of information I’d care to ask them.
An example: I asked about the massive pillars in the armory which seemed to be carved from entire trees. During Henry’s time, since he had built up a huge store of weapons and ran out of room for it all, he had shelves constructed between the pillars. The space, now a large hall, was, in Henry’s day, used solely for weapons storage. Some marks from those shelves were still on the pillars. Upon hearing this, I imagined Damian’s Henry bellowing orders “Shelves! Shelves, don’t you see it! Throughout the expanse of the room!”
You can fall in love with London for many reasons, and for me, one of the biggest gifts is how the city has gone to such beautiful lengths to preserve its history.
I snapped a few shots on my trek around the Tower. Here’s one of me standing in an area of the Tower looking down at the Thames where Wolf Hall‘s Anne was taken on a barge by Cromwell up the river in her final days. The promenade between the Tower and the river was built many years later.
Here’s Damianista’s shots of the armor Henry actually wore and a memorial to the execution block. The initials you see on Henry’s hem are H and K, for Henry and Katherine. The chopping block isn’t the actual place Anne met her maker, that block is behind a display case within one of the buildings.
Among many other uses, at one time, the Tower served as a bestiary, a sort of precursor to a zoo. The only animals kept there now are ravens. Well after Henry’s time: “Legend says that the kingdom and the Tower will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress.” Seeing these creatures in the tower now, my mind immediately leapt to the Wolf Hall episode Crows.
Prior to having her head chopped off, Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen. Remember Henry looking on at the event from off stage? This historical event happened at Westminster Abbey.
In more modern days, Damian read at the Harvest Festival in the Abbey a few years ago.
Moving along in London history, let’s talk about the points of intersection we’ve seen between WWII, Churchill and the Blitz and Damian’s characters.
At the Churchill War Rooms, Damianista caught a display of The Second World War volumes, signed by Churchill and gifted to his cook. Naturally, this brings to mind the signed volumes that Bobby Axelrod grabbed up in Billions. Comparing the title pages on both, it seems either the cook didn’t get first editions, or, despite being a “rich fucking man”, it’s Bobby who’s left holding the later editions. More likely, production budgets being what they are, Bobby’s hands on are on a clever facsimile.
Speaking of WWII, who can forget Damian as Nicholas McGrady in Colditz? Here’s a shot of a theatrical embrace juxtaposed with a haunting image from the Churchill War Rooms of damage sustained by St. Paul’s cathedral during the London Blitz.
Now, speaking of Colditz, Damian and co-star Sophia Myles did some promos for the film at Chelsea Flower Show . Damianista walked those footsteps, and, like Damian, sneezed her way thru the festival of pollen.
Both Damianista and I, at different times, saw Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the Harold Pinter Theatre, which used to be the Comedy Theatre when Damian starred with Keira Knightley in The Misanthrope.
Truth be told, one can’t really cross a street in the West End without walking in Damian’s footsteps. Here’s the stage door behind Wyndhams, where Damianista saw and wrote about American Buffalo.
Here’s Damianista at Open Air Theatre in Regents Park, where Damian performed his first lead role in Hamlet.
The ads for The Goat, or Who is Sylvia were all over every tube stop too. Passed by these daily on my treks through Marylebone.
We know that Damian grew up on Abbey Road not far from the zebra crossing made famous by The Beatles. The crossing remains a magnet for tourists, where people wait for each other to cross alone for the best photo ops.
What did we see as soon as we came up out of the tube on a cold rainy day at Tufnell Park but Acland Burghley, the arts school where Damian spoke in commemoration of the school’s anniversary.
The Daily Mail wrote about that event HERE. And here’s what Damian had to say:
It strikes me every time I walk down the street that there is more creativity, independence and support in this neighbourhood than any other neighbourhood I have lived in in London.
That is of course exactly the qualities they teach the students here at Acland Burghley.
It’s central to its ethos, and why it has been such a success and why it has been recognised as special status in performing arts and creative studies.
What were we doing in Tufnell Park you ask? Well, trying out the grub at Damian’s favorite local, The Bull and Last, of course. And, yes, we did feel a particular compulsion to try out the Sticky Toffee Pudding. The picture I captured does not do justice to this insanely sweet treat. Damian’s relationship to the contoction is mentioned HERE.
Sitting in a pub with him in the afternoon is fun. He drinks lager, tells me my chocolate truffles look like poo balls and lets me dig into his sticky toffee pudding.
Speaking of food, before our second viewing of The Goat, or Who is Sylvia we broke for a quick bite at another one of Damian’s favorites: J. Sheekey. The oysters and ceviche were YUM.
Further on the good eating tip, Damianista and Lewisto had a chance to go to another restaurant where we’ve “seen” Damian: Kitty Fisher. We saw snaps of Damian and Helen leaving the restaurant after the London preview of Our Kind of Traitor.
Who doesn’t like to try out new places? So when Damianista heard the name, she checked the menu and decided to give it a try. When her hubbie asked where she heard of it and when she told him, his response was “Thank Damian from me!”
Damianista describes the place has having a soulful and romantic vibe. And she speaks highly of the Iberico Pork, which happens to be the feature dish on their website. On top of all that, from the restaurant she was able to watch the happenings below in Shepherds Market.
Suffice it to say, if the acting thing doesn’t pan out, Damian sure does have a future in picking out great eats in London!
Cheers and a clink of crystal to many more footsteps for Damian and many more opportunities for us to follow right along.