In London town they say you see many things … surprising things and some which bring back funny memories long forgotten, yet this one had disappeared into the recesses of my mind …
… years ago, not quite centuries, but decades have passed since I visited Swiss House for some food or drink or to pass the time of day … what I had not forgotten was we had to go down stairs, sit on high bar stools where I had the most amazing Drambuie Cream Sorbet …
|Creamy Cherry Kirsch Icecream|
… a texture and taste I long remember, though whether or not it was Drambuie, I doubt – I’m not a happy camper with a whisky – so perhaps Cherry Kirsch … more suitable for the Swiss House … delicious is all I can say and remember …
… I’ll never find out now, I guess … and as I see a link for over 127 Kirsch Ice Cream recipes … I won’t even try!!
Cockerel on 4th plinth
in Trafalgar Squre
Still I had two reasons for going to London … to see “Primary Colours” – an exhibition at the National Gallery on pigments and their relationship with paintings from medieval days …
… and then round the corner to the National Portrait Gallery to see the exhibition on Virginia Woolf: Art, Vision and Life …
|The Cantonal Tree|
I’ll post shortly on both those … I went by bus from Victoria station to Piccadilly, then walked through the masses of students and throngs of visitors towards Leicester Square …
… as I was about to walk into Leicester Square at midday suddenly the most amazing Swiss bells ring out – I’m startled … I’m right underneath … cowbells in London?
|Photo taken by Dickon Love|
when installing the clock
I was mesmerized and stood listening for the five minute playtime, and watching as the minute/second hand went round, it was spoon shaped, then I noticed the procession of animals and cow-herders …
|c/o Figures by BBC|
… the original Glockenspiel on the Swiss Centre – consisting of 27 bells, an astronomical clock and a procession of 23 farmers herding their cows to Alpine pasture was given to the City of Westminster on its 400th anniversary in 1985 by Switzerland and Liechtenstein as a token of centuries of friendship.
When Swiss House was demolished and the area redeveloped … the Glockenspiel needed to be refurbished, which was done by Smith of Derby (clockmakers since 1856, and in fact back to 1708 – interesting firm with lots of fascinating clock installations … I see another post sometime!) …
… the installation was recreated into two parts this amazing ‘clock tower’: a Cantonal Tree displaying the 26 Coats of Arms of the Swiss Cantons and the Glockenspiel Clock …
I only heard the daily chimes that ring out:
Times of chiming given:
M-F 12.00pm, 17.00, 18.00, 1900 and 20.00
Sat and Sun: 12.00, 14.00, 15.00, 16.00, 17.00, 18.00, 19.00 and 20.00
But when the Glockenspiel was formally re-inaugurated in 2011 a demonstration was given of the way it could be played live - by plugging in a keyboard …
|Alphorn concert in Vals, Switzerland|
… and six Alphorn players were placed on various roofs around Leicester Square, some hidden … so that a degree of mystery surrounded the sudden emanation of sound …
… in the streets traditional bell-playing folklore groups from various parts of Switzerland paraded towards the Glockenspiel at the newly named Swiss Court … when the Glockenspiel was programmed to give solo performances and played in unison with the bell-ringers.
Must have been wonderful to have been there …
|Two of the bells taken by|
Dickon Love on installation
The details of the bells are given at this site … the bell number, region, weights, diameter, music note … all the bells were cast by the Bell Foundry, H Ruetschi in Aarau.
Each of the bells has the inscription of a different Swiss canton in the inscription band, with the name of a different Westminster ward along the sound bow. On the waist of each bell is a shield of shields of the canton to which it is dedicated.
|Federal Charter of 1291|
The precursors of Switzerland established a protective alliance at the end of 13th century (1291), forming a loose confederation of states which persisted for centuries.
Liechtenstein has been included due to its working proximity to Switzerland, albeit it is a separate microstate ‘doubly landlocked alpine country’ - bordered on two sides by Switzerland and on the other two by Austria. The bell for Liechtenstein is dated 1791 ... reference to relevant Constitutional Documentation.
|Gutenberg Castle, Balzers, Liechtenstein|
is a museum
So anyone who is visiting London … I highly recommend a visit to listen to this amazing instrument … fascinating to watch, and highly entertaining to listen to – amidst the cacophony of tongues roundabout.
Coat of Arms
Strange but true … cow-herders can be seen in Leicester Square …
Website: Smith of Derby showing some slides ... and giving us a few more details: viz the design islike a free-standing totem pole, featuring 23 figures - 11 moving farmers and their animals - against a typical Swiss Alpine backdrop, images of the 27 cantons, 27 bells and 4 Swiss Jacomas representing bell ringers and two clocks.
Website: Westminster Lover's Guide re Glockenspiel - for information
Website: Anglo-Swiss Friendship - Memorial
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
That's one of the things I love about visiting London, there is always something new and interesting to see and experience. We are paying a visit in a couple of weeks, so will try and catch the bells, thanks for the recommendation, Hilary.
That's really wild about the bells and the clock. How tall are those figures?
The sorbet looks absolutely delicious. I can only imagine how beautiful the clock and the ringing of the bells could have been. I am sure it was a wonderful experience.
It's a long time since I visited the Swiss Centre, but I knew nothing of this Glockenspiel... but then if it was reinstalled in 2011 maybe it wasn't there when I visited in the period mid 80s to mid 2000s. I wouldnt have been there at midday anyway, though.
So very interesting, Hilary. You have to walk the streets to discover these delights.
The Glockenspiel sounds so cool. I'd love to the the bells!
Wonderful post, Hilary. I think it would be awesome to hear an Alphorn concert. And that Cherry Kirsch ice cream looks good.
I love London!
I am not a city person usually, and I'm the only person I know who doesn't love New York City ...
But London is different! There is always something magical about London. That is one impressive clock. The only clock tower with moving figures and bells and whatnot that I've ever seen was somewhere in Germany -- I forget where, exactly. I was on a tour with my husband (who was at that time merely my boyfriend).
@ Annalisa - well that was good timing wasn't it .. enjoy your London visit and let me know re the Glockenspiel ..
@ Alex - they were certainly a great deal of fun to see .. I've been trying to work out their heights .. about 2 feet or 18 inches - they can be seen .. but from how far I'm not sure ..
@ Murees - the 'sorbet' I've put there isn't exactly right .. but the colour is pretty! The sounds of the bells amazed me - fun too ..
@ Jemima - the Glockenspiel was only given in 1985, with the need to be stored in 2008 on redevelopment of the area; before being re-installed in 2011 ... but I think if you weren't aware, and weren't underneath as I was the sound would have blended in with all the other city noise .. buses, taxis hooting etc
@ Janice - I'm sure there's lots to see if we walk around - it's not my best form of travel unfortunately .. but I do manage what I can .. but this is worth visiting ..
@ Holly - it's an amazing site and very pretty, very informative and completely different to other London landmarks ..
@ Susanne - playing an Alphorn must be very technically clever - they look quite difficult .. but I agree to hear a concert would be fun. The ice-cream looked good too ..
@ Dianne - I struggle with cities .. but I do enjoy visiting London ...
You're right - there's a Glockenspiel in Munich's Marienplatz ... what a lovely memory to have a European trip with your hubby-to-be ... I haven't been to Munich for years ..
Thanks everyone - lovely to see you 'relate' to the Glock .. cheers Hilary
Hi Suzanne ... I muddled your name with Annalisa - apologies - just twigged!!
Enjoy your visit to London
I can only dream about a visit to London! The cherry ice cream looks yummy, and I look forward to hearing more about the Virginia Woolf display.
Sneaky to hide the Alphorn players. I bet it's wonderful to hear.
Glockenspiel is one of my favorite words. If I ever own a cocker spaniel, that's what I'll name it.
Interesting, didn't know we had a glockenspiel in London. We do have one here in Kitchener which is the proud host of the second biggest Oktoberfest in the world. In fact I worked for the company some years ago at the time when the glockenspiel was commissioned from them.
The clock sounds amazing to watch and I bet even more awesome to hear.The ultramarine blue Cockerel is neat.
I'd like to hear those bells play!
Oh, what an extra special touch to your day in London! You were in the right place at the right time. Those bells must have been something to hear, but I'd reeeeally love to hear the Alphorn concert.
the glockenspiel is neat!
That is definitely on my list of things to see and do when I finally get to London. Thank you, you certainly piqued my interest. I enjoy reading of the places you go to. I have a brother in London and I would love to visit him some time in the not too distant future, I doubt he has seen half of the lovely things to see.
@ Karen - well I can only dream of a visit to Guatemala .. so we're both where we need to be right now. I'll get to catch up with posts soon .. Virginia Woolf will be amongst them ..
@ Diane - I'm sure the call of the Alphorns across the roofs of central London must have been quite amazing ...
@ Milo - Well I'm not sure if I do or I don't want you to own a cocker spaniel now .. !! Good name though ..
@ Jo - I looked your Glockenspiel up .. it's being refurbished and should be ready by the Octoberfest this year ..
The job must have been interesting ..
@ Mason - it was a total surprise .. you don't expect to be in London when that sound rings out!
The blue cockerel stands out - that's for sure!
@ Sherry - come over for a visit to Kew Gardens and then come into central London!?!
@ Susan - it was a wonderful surprise ... and lovely just to stand and listen, despite the noise of London around ..
A visit to the Alps for a concert is where you'll need to be for the Alphorns ..
.. and I was most definitely in the right place at the right time ..
@ TexWisGirl - it's fun isn't it ..
@ Cecilia - well as you've a brother here .. I sure hope you can get here and then go and see the Glockenspiel working ..
There's a lot to see in and around London - lots to take in and things to do ... perhaps you can do some together ..
Cheers everyone .. thanks and I'm so pleased you enjoyed hearing about the Glockenspiel .. Hilary
Now that would have been a sight to see and to hear. I'd have loved to hear the hidden alphorns. I can see why it would a rather mysterious sound. It also vibrates which would add to the mystery.
Sia McKye Over Coffee
I would love to visit London and to have some of that cherry ice cream. Yum!
The sounds must have been a lovely surprise, especially in the middle of London. The cows and goats in this clock are so adorable. My father's family is from Switzerland and these clocks are a perfect representation of that beautiful country.
@ Sia - it took me completely by surprise .. and I would love to have been there on inauguration day ... and the vibration may well have been felt across Leicester Square ...
@ Teresa - it'd be fun if you did get over one day .. and then we could share some cherry ice cream and listen to the Glock play ...
@ Lee - total surprise .. completely took me off guard - such fun too. Aren't the figures great ...
Fascinating to read about your father and the fact this clock and the Cantonal tree are such a good representation of Switzerland ..
Thank you so much .. good to see you - it is going to be very hot tomorrow - 27 degC/80 degF! That's hot for us!! Cheers Hilary
It sounds like you had a lovely trip to London. I can't wait to hear about the med-evil painting techniques.
Either that wasn't there when I last visited (2012), or I didn't see it!
I am a fan of cows in general. :)
Is it terrible if I admit I can't remember if I visited Gutenberg Castle? I want to say I did…but I'm not 100% sure. I bet that Primary Colors exhibit was fantastic!
Oh, this is so cool. As you know, my eldest daughter lives in London. We will hopefully be visiting in the spring.
I've decided to start a list of things you write about so I can go visit them. Leicester Square will definitely go on my list. I would love the Swiss clock and The Cantonal Tree:~)
I hoped you enjoyed the exhibits and look forward to the upcoming post on them.
Happy day to you, Hilary:~)
Mm. That sorbet looks delicious. I must be hungry...or maybe you're doing that intentionally. Cheese last week, sorbet this week. Hm.
I'm so far away that it makes me sad there isn't enough time left in my life to see all these wonders. Next best way is through your blog, Hilary!
@ Sharon .. it was a good trip and the Glockenspiel was such a wonderful surprise to find! I hope the medieval colours will get put up soon ...
@ Trisha - I'm afraid you didn't see it or hear it .. I'd have walked past, if it hadn't rung out! I'll have to go and have another look .. that cow is amazing isn't it ...
@ Elsie - good to see you ... I know I haven't visited Liechtenstein - so definitely haven't seen Gutenberg Castle ...
The Primary Colours exhibition was really good and interesting ..
@ Sara - that will be so wonderful if you come over .. and get to see the Glockenspiel in person - granted you'll be here to see your daughter!!
A list of things I write about - oh oh .. better get my sensible hat on!! Thank you though - such an honour for you to say that .. and I hope you'll enjoy some of my blog-posts ...
Lots of posts coming up ..
@ Crystal - I must stop writing about food! Next will be something cultural I hope! I could do with a sorbet now - it's hot!!
@ Joylene - but you have wonderful scenery and places to visit - I'd love to have time to look round Canada ..
But thanks to you too - that you enjoy being here ..
Thanks so much to you all - really generous comments .. cheers Hilary
London, to this day, remains on my "Bucket List"...maybe some day. Very cool pictures and it looks like a place worth visiting!
Wonderful and informative post.
I would love some of the cherry ice cream ....
I've sat outside a cafe in Leicester Square sipping coffee and listening to those bells. It's a fascinating part of London, so full of life and the unusual.
This sounds interesting to see. There is a smaller one in a town close to where I am camping.
@ Mark - well I sure hope you make a plan sometime ... there's lots to see here and history to be had ... see you then?!
@ Margie - good to see you and the ice-cream today would be good today ... then I'd sleep from the kirsch!
@ Ros - I just hadn't heard the Glockenspiel before .. now I shall make a beeline to hear them again! Certainly full (full!) of life and the unusual as you say ..
@ Out on the Prairie - fascinating sounds they make .. and how lovely you get to hear one when you're camping ...
Cheers to you all .. Hilary
What a delightful surprise to have the bells ring out for you.
I had no idea about this place. Now I must add it to my itinerary when I visit again! That ice cream looks delicious.
I knew I would love this post as it brought back memories of my trip to London but I didn't expect the Glockenspiel! How amazing! I would love to both see and hear that. Now I want to go read more details at the link you shared. :)
@ Juliet - it took me by surprise that's for sure .. cow bells was not what I was expecting to hear.
@ Theresa - well I hope you get across again - the Glockenspiel is an extraordinary thing to see ...
.. and ice-cream today - would be a good idea ... it is very hot!
@ Julie - I'm glad the post was able to bring back some memories for you .. I hope you get a chance to come across again and hear and see the Glock ring out ..
I also hope you enjoyed the links ..
Cheers to you three .. glad you enjoyed the post and those memories of England .. Hilary
How wonderful to spend the day having delicious ice cream, and hearing the bells sound off - not to mention the spectacular view! Now I really want to go back to London!
@ Julie - the flavour of the ice-cream boozy drink I had all those years ago - really came flooding back while I was standing listening to the bells .. I just took a different route that day - and opened my eyes to a few things ..
Thanks for coming by - cheers Hilary
What a deliciously colourful, artistic post, Hilary :O) x
Hi Madeleine .. many thanks - good to see you here ...cheers Hilary
It's fascinating how we take for granted something so important to so many things. It makes sense that color is as much science and motivation as art. Interesting stuff, Hilary.
How excitingly wonderful!! Someday I'd like to cross the ocean to see London and all it has to offer!!
@ Mary - I don't think we think of what we do take for granted that often - and nature is just there ... with its amazing colours.
Colours now influence us so much in many discliplines don't they ...
@ Cathrina - good to see you ... I hope you get that chance to cross the ocean and come and see this little country ... just glad you enjoyed my posts ..
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