Day 51 (Part 2) – Victoria Embankment – Whitehall – Horse Guards Road

Second leg of this one resumes outside New (Old New) Scotland Yard on the Victoria Embankment, proceeds down to Westminster tube, goes up Parliament Street and Whitehall past Downing Street and cuts through Horse Guards Parade before finishing at the Mall.

Day 51 Route

I had hoped to take a look at the Crime Museum (aka The Black Museum) attached to New Scotland Yard but it turns out it’s only accessible to serving police officers. So with the river on my left I walk down the Victoria Embankment to Westminster Tube and then turn right up Westminster Bridge Road towards Parliament Square. Heading away from the square north up Parliament Street on its west side the next major government building that comes our way is HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs). This stands back to back with HM Treasury (of which more later) as part of a complex of government buildings developed between 1908 and 1917, originally called the New Public Offices but later referred to as GOGGS (Government Offices Great George Street). Great George Street flanks the southern side of the buildings.

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Across the road is the Red Lion pub which is the closest hostelry to Downing Street, though the last sitting Prime Minister to pop in for a drink apparently was Edward Heath. Less surprising is the fact that Charles Dickens was a regular back in the day (since just about every pub in central London claims the old literary boozehound as a one-time habitué).

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The next block up, standing to the west of the cenotaph where Parliament Street changes into Whitehall, is home to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This was completed in 1868 and was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811 – 1878) who was later responsible for the Midland Hotel at St Pancras (see Day 9).  Scott designed the new Foreign Office as ‘a kind of national palace or drawing room for the nation’ with the use of rich decoration to impress foreign visitors. The building is adorned with a series of sculptural reliefs which, in typical Victorian fashion, take the form of a woman with her top at least half off accessorised to represent either a geographic area or a high concept. So in these creations of H.H Armistead and J. Birnie Philip we have Australia, Africa, America, Asia and Europe (more modestly depicted than the others of course) along with Education, Government, Law, Literature, Agriculture, Manufacture and Commerce. And I didn’t choose this one so I could make some cheap jug-based quip – it just happened to be the easiest to photograph.

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Which brings us to Downing Street and something of a breakdown in the mission because, since 1989, access to the street has been blocked by a security checkpoint and it has been patrolled by armed police since the IRA mortar bomb attack of 1991. The street is named after the diplomat George Downing (1624 – 1684) who had the street and its houses built in the 1680’s. Described by the official Government website as unpleasant, miserly and brutal, Downing came to prominence under Cromwell and then switched allegiance with alacrity when the Restoration became inevitable. For his assistance in purging many of his former Parliamentarian allies he was knighted by Charles II in 1660. The first Prime Minister to take up residence at no. 10 was Sir Robert Walpole in 1735, it having been presented to him by King George II. It was used on and off by subsequent 18th century Prime Ministers more as an office than as a home. Viscount Goderich engaged Sir John Soane to do a makeover on the house in the 1820’s but this didn’t tempt any of his immediate successors to move in. And although no.11 was made the official residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1828 the surrounding area became increasingly seedy and demolition looked a real possibility. However during the era when Disraeli and Gladstone traded the premiership the house was refurbished and modernised several times. It was later fully renovated during the 1950’s and again in the Thatcher and Blair years. The IRA mortar bomb mentioned above was fired from a white transit van in Whitehall and exploded in the garden of Number 10, only a few metres away from where then PM John Major was chairing a Cabinet meeting to discuss the Gulf War.

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We’ve passed over many of the statues and memorials on Whitehall but I quite admire this equestrian bronze of Field Marshal Earl Haig (1861 – 1928), a 1936 work of Alfred Hardiman. At the time, however, it aroused considerable controversy on account of the riding position and the stance of the horse. Earl Haig commanded the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front during WW1 including during the Battle of the Somme which saw the highest number of casualties in British military history. Although treated as a national hero in the aftermath of the war subsequent reappraisals of his wartime strategies have earned him the soubriquet “Butcher of the Somme”. Bizarrely there is a football club in Argentina named after him. Club Atletico Douglas Haig was founded in 1918 and currently plays in the second tier of Argentinian football.

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We continue a short way further up Whitehall and turn left to pass through the central arch of the Horse Guards building to get to Horse Guards Parade. The first building on the site was commissioned by Charles II in 1663 but the current one dates from the reign of George II. The originally commissioned architect for the new building, William Kent, more or less retained the plan of the original with its clocktower, courtyard and two oversize sentry boxes but utilised the then fashionable Palladian style of architecture. The Duke of Wellington was based here while Commander in Chief of the British Army. The building is still in use by the military and also houses the Household Cavalry Museum (gave that one a miss). There are a lot of jobs I don’t envy people having to do but standing for hours in full military regalia while gurning tourists act the prat in front of you must be high up on the list.

Horse Guards Parade occupies the site of the old Palace of Whitehall’s tiltyard where jousting tournaments were held in the time of Henry VIII. For much of the 20th century is was used as a car park for civil servants but following that mortar attack a review of security arrangements recommended that it be restored to public use. So in 1996 it was resurfaced and a year later car parking banned (apart from tourist coaches apparently). Horse Guards Parade notoriously hosted the beach volleyball tournament during the London 2012 Olympics.

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Circling around the Parade we arrive on Horse Guards Road to the east of St James’s Park and head north back up to the Mall. We turn right towards Admiralty Arch as far as the bronze statue of Captain James Cook (1728 – 1779), by Thomas Brock and erected in 1914, before doubling back. Cook, born the son of a farm worker, is one of the most remarkable examples of 18th century social mobility. After his success in exploring and mapping the Antipodes, Cook’s luck ran out on his third voyage to the South Pacific when a dispute with Hawaiian islanders escalated to the point where he tried to take a local leader hostage and in the ensuing melee was stabbed and killed.

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Incidentally, the flag on the left there is that of Mozambique, one of the many put up along the Mall for the meeting of the Heads of Commonwealth. As you can see it includes an image of an AK-47 rifle – meant to represent defence and vigilance. It’s one of three national flags to feature a firearm, the others being Guatemala and Luxembourg (only kidding it’s actually Haiti). In 2005 a competition was held to design a new flag; a winner was selected from 119 entries but rejected by the ruling government.

So we head right down to the southern end of Horse Guards Road and HM Treasury which occupies the western side of GOGGS (hopefully you were paying attention earlier) and has been based here since 1940. The royal treasure was originally located in Winchester, and was moved to the Whitehall area following the Norman Conquest. The Treasury then operated from the Exchequer Receipt Office in Westminster Cloisters until the Restoration in 1660. On ascending to the throne Charles II, perhaps wanting to keep a close eye on his finances, allocated it rooms in Whitehall Palace. In 1698 a huge blaze, caused by a servant airing some linen too close to the fire, destroyed all of the Palace but the Banqueting House (see last post) and Cardinal Wolsey’s wine cellar which is now under the Ministry of Defence building. Following the fire, the homeless Treasury moved to Henry VIII’s former Cockpit (near today’s Horse Guards Parade). Then in 1734 a new Treasury was built by William Kent on Horse Guards and this was later joined by an adjacent expansion building designed by John Soane. Both those buildings were severely damaged by bombs in 1940 prompting the move to GOGGS.

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In the north-west corner of GOGGS you can visit Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms. In the build–up to the Second World War, the government began looking for a strong basement in which a map room and a Cabinet Room could be constructed without major alterations. The basement of GOGGS was chosen, not only because it was convenient for Downing Street, but because its concrete frame 2 would help prevent the collapse of the building if it received a direct hit from a bomb. Initially, only a few rooms were commandeered but when Horse Guards was bombed on October 14, 1940, wrecking parts of 10 Downing Street, all Churchill’s staff moved into GOGGS. After the war the War Rooms were left in aspic, with access restricted to small groups and strictly regulated, until the Imperial War Museum took them over and opened them up to the public in 1984.

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The entrance to the War Rooms is located at the western end of King Charles Street which intersects GOGGS (I may have overdone that particular acronym just a tad) and the Foreign Office. In the middle of the steps leading up to the street stands a statue of Robert Clive (aka Clive of India) (1725 – 1774) by John Tweed which was positioned here in 1916 having been unveiled outside what is now the Welsh Office on Whitehall four years earlier. Clive is indelibly associated with the British East India Company and its excursions into India, laying the foundations for the establishment of the Raj. His finest hour came in 1756 when, having just been appointed as a Lieutenant Colonel and Deputy Governor of Fort St David, he re-took the city of Calcutta from the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud Daula, with just 3,000 men against the Nawab’s 68,000-strong French-backed army. This led to release of 23 out of 146 captured Britons held in the so-called “Black Hole of Calcutta”, a cell just 18 feet square. Though that doesn’t necessarily compensate for his overall impact on Anglo-Indian relations.

At the other end of King Charles Street is a triumphal arch connecting the Foreign Office and Treasury buildings erected in 1908 and incorporating a frieze by sculptor Paul Montford of nine figures representing trade and travel by sea.

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And so with just a short stroll back to Westminster tube station to finish that’s Whitehall and its surroundings done and dusted. Next time it’s the turn of Parliament.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 50 – The Mall – Waterloo Place – St James’s Park

The weather has put paid to any excursion attempts for the last couple of weeks but normal service is belatedly resumed with a meandering route taking in the western end of the St James’s district between Piccadilly and Pall Mall, then moving east around the area between Pall Mall and The Mall and finishing off with a circuit of St James’s Park. On the way we pay a visit to Waterloo Place which has the largest outdoor collection of statues to dead national heroes to be found in the capital. So if you’re a fan of the odd bronze memorial or ten stay tuned. And if you’re not stay tuned anyway for some nice photos of the wildfowl in the park at the end.

Day 50 Route

Starting point for today is once again Green Park tube but this time we’re heading south along the eastern edge of the park down Queen’s Walk. First of many historical buildings of note on today’s journey is Spencer House, built between 1756-1766 for John, first Earl Spencer, an ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales. Designed by architect John Vardy it is proclaimed as London’s finest surviving eighteenth-century town house and was one of the very earliest examples of the ne-classical style. It’s open to the public but only on Sundays.

Occupying the corner position with the Mall, and largely obscured by trees, is Lancaster House. This was commissioned in 1825 by Frederick Hanover (a.k.a the Grand Old Duke of York), the favourite son of King George III – more of him later – so it was originally known as York House. Unfortunately for Freddie the paint was barely dry before he died. The house was acquired by the then Marquess of Stafford and renamed Stafford House. His family held on until 1913 when one Lord Leverhulme bought the lease for the nation and, perhaps, in a cheeky nod to the Wars of the Roses, changed the name again to Lancaster, after his home county. Today the building is run by The Foreign & Commonwealth Office and is regularly hired out as a film location for productions such as the King’s Speech and The Crown. Just ahead of Lancaster House is an alleyway by the name of Milkmaids Passage which is now closed off at both ends, presumably because there are no longer any milkmaids to pass through it.

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My arrival on the Mall happens to coincide with end of Buckingham Palace’s Changing of the Guard routine so I am able to follow the St James’s Palace detachment of the Old Guard as they return to their quarters accompanied by the 1st Battalion Irish Guards Corps of Drums & Pipes. This isn’t exactly a long march, just first left off the Mall up Marlborough Road and then left again into Friary Court (at the eastern end of St James’s Palace) for a final presentation of arms and dismissal.

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En route along the Mall we pass in front of Clarence House which is now the official residence of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall (so near yet so far from Buckingham Palace). Like the next door Lancaster House this was built in 1825-27 only the architect this time was John Nash and the prospective resident was Prince William Henry, Duke of Clarence, 3rd son of George III and later to be King William IV. Like its neighbour and St James’s Palace, Clarence House is covered by Section 128 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) of 2005 which deals with Trespass on Protected Sites.

Opposite Friary Court on Marlborough Road, set into the garden wall of Marlborough House, is the Queen Alexandra Memorial, installed in 1932 in commemoration of the wife of King Edward VII. It was the last major work of Sir Alfred Gilbert (1854 – 1934), the man also responsible for the statue of Eros at Piccadilly Circus.

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As Marlborough Road joins with Pall Mall we head left along Cleveland Row which runs parallel with the north side of another Royal residence, St James’s Palace. SJP was largely built between 1531 and 1536 in the reign of Henry VIII. Much of the original red-brick building still survives today, including the Chapel Royal, the gatehouse, some turrets and two surviving Tudor rooms in the State apartments. It was here in 1558 that Mary Tudor signed the treaty surrendering Calais to the French and Elizabeth I was resident during the threat posed by the Spanish Armada and set out from St James’s to address her troops assembled at Tilbury. The last monarch to use this as a residence was the aforementioned William IV (whose successor Queen Victoria was the first to take occupancy of Buckingham Palace as we learned previously).

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Perhaps a little surprisingly, the building opposite, adjacent to Russell Court, is the Embassy of Sudan.

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From Cleveland Row we turn north then east along Little St James’s Street bypassing Catherine Wheel Yard and the back of Dukes Hotel.

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This takes us into St James’s Street, which like many of its neighbours as we reported last time out, is a bastion of niche, (let’s say) traditional emporia aimed at the refined gentleman (or possibly lady) about town. At no.3 is Berry Brothers & Rudd, Wine & Spirit Merchants and holders of two Royal Warrants courtesy of HM and Prince Charles. The shop was opened in 1698 by a lady known as the Widow Bourne, originally selling Coffee and exotic spices. During the 19th century, by which time the Berry family had taken over, the focus became more and more on wines and spirits eventually to the exclusion of all else though the “Sign of the Coffee Mill” remains outside to this day. While in exile in London during the 1830’s the future Napoleon III held secret meetings in no.3’s cellars and the Titanic sank in 1912 69 cases of the firm’s wines and spirits went with it.

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Just past Pickering Place on the same side of the street is another holder of two Royal Warrants (Phil & Charles this time), John Lobb Ltd., bootmakers, described by Esquire magazine as “the most beautiful shop in the world”.  Their premises at no.9 once housed the bachelor pad of Lord Byron. The original John Lobb started life as a Cornish farmboy but acquired shoemaking skills that eventually led to international recognition and Royal approval.

Further up still at no.19 is one of a number of cigar merchants on the street.  James J Fox was formed in Dublin in 1881 and opened its first tobacco shop in London in 1947. In 1992 it acquired the business of Robert Lewis whose family concern had begun trading fine tobacco in St James’s Street in 1787.

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At the top of St James’s Street we turn left on Piccadilly for just a block before heading south again down Arlington Street by the side of the Ritz Hotel. The Ritz opened in May 1906 having been conceived by the renowned hotelier Cesar Ritz whose aim was create the most luxurious hotel in England. After an indifferent start, the hotel eventually began to flourish thanks in good measure to the patronage of The Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) who was a loyal client of César Ritz and is reputed to have said; “Where Ritz goes, I go”.  The Aga Khan and Paul Getty had suites at the hotel, and Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower and Charles de Gaulle met in the Marie Antoinette Suite to discuss operations during the Second World War. It was reputed that The Ritz was the first hotel to allow young unmarried women to visit unchaperoned. Since 1995 the hotel has been owned by the controversial Barclay Twins who from their fiefdom on the Channel Island of Sark also run the Telegraph newspapers and, unlike the EU nationals that their papers vilify, allegedly pay just about sod all in tax to the British exchequer.

Across the road at no.5 is the one-time home of Sir Robert Walpole (1676 – 1745) generally regarded as de facto the first Prime Minister of this country and also the longest serving incumbent of that position (20 years during the reigns of George I and George II). His youngest son, Horace Walpole (1717 – 1797) took over the lease on the house upon his death. By comparison with his father, Horace had a less than glittering parliamentarian career hence the plaque’s rather nebulous description of him as a connoisseur and man of letters.

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From Arlington Street we return to St James’s Street via Benet Street then turn south down the west side of the former. At the end of Park Place sits the London clubhouse of the Royal Overseas League which refers to itself as a non-profit private members’ club dedicated to championing international friendship and understanding. Despite its Imperial inspirations when Sir Evelyn Wrench launched the Overseas Club, as it was initially called, in 1910 he drew up a ‘creed for membership’ which refreshingly for the time emphasised that the club was non-sectarian, non-party, open to women and non-jingoist. (The ROSL is the building in the background in the photograph below).

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Next cul-de-sac down is Blue Ball Yard which leads to the rear of the Stafford Hotel another grand 5-star establishment which celebrated its centenary in 2012. During World War II, The Stafford London served as a club for American and Canadian officers stationed overseas who sought refuge in the Wine Cellars. This transatlantic connection is reflected in the institution that is the American Bar and the flying of the Stars and Stripes alongside the Union Jack over the front entrance. The Carriage House in Blue Ball Yard was originally built as stables and was converted into luxury accommodation in the 1990’s.

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The front of the hotel is reached by swinging round St James’s Place which is the next turning off St James’s Street on the right. En route we pass three more plaques, two blue and one green. The former two are at no. 4 and no. 28 commemorating respectively, the house from which Frederic Chopin left to give his final public performance in 1848 and the residence of the statesman William Huskisson (1770 – 1830). Huskisson served during several parliamentary terms, including as Leader of the House of Commons and Secretary of State for War but, sadly for him, is best known for being the world’s first casualty of a train accident, having been run over and fatally wounded by Stephenson’s Rocket. The green plaque is at no.29 where Winston Churchill lived from 1880-1883.

We carry on down to the end of St James’s Street then retrace our steps down Marlborough Road to the Mall where we continue eastward past Marlborough House which is the headquarters of the Commonwealth of Nations and the seat of the Commonwealth Secretariat. The house was built in 1711 for Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough and a close friend of Queen Anne. It was yet another piece of work by Sir Christopher Wren, this time aided by his son. The Crown took it over for use as another Royal residence in 1817 and from 1853 to 1861 it housed the Royal College of Art, courtesy of Prince Albert’s patronage.

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Beyond Marlborough House we ascend the steps by the memorials to Queen Elizabeth II and her father King George VI.

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This takes us up to Carlton Gardens where we find the former home of Lord Horatio Kitchener (1850 – 1916). Kitchener is best known for winning the 1898 Battle of Omdurman which facilitated the reconquest of the Sudan after the ignominy of the siege of Khartoum and the annihilation of General Gordon’s forces in 1885. He also played a key role during the Boer Wars and was Secretary of State for War at the outset of WWI. He died in 1916 when HMS Hampshire, on which he was travelling to attend negotiations in Russia, struck a German mine.

No.4 Carlton Gardens was where General Charles de Gaulle (1890 – 1970) set up the headquarters of the Free French Forces in 1940. In a previous incarnation it was also another of the houses where Lord Palmerston lived. There’s a statue to De Gaulle on the other side of the street and given his staunch opposition to the UK joining the EU I couldn’t help but imagine I detected a bit of a smirk on those bronze lips.

Carlton Gardens meets Carlton House Terrace at the corner of Waterloo Gardens. The statue here is of George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 – 1925), Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905 and failed Prime Ministerial candidate in 1923 (he was passed over in favour of Stanley Baldwin). His three daughters by his first wife were prominent and controversial figures during the 20’s and 30’s as documented in the book The Viceroy’s Daughters  which I can recommend.

The terraces of white stucco-faced houses that give Carlton House Terrace its name were built between 1827 and 1832 to designs by John Nash with input from other architects such as our old friend Decimus Burton. Current occupants of the terrace to the west of Waterloo Place include the Royal Academy of Engineering at no2. 3-4, the Turf Club at no.5 and the Royal Society at nos. 6-9 (this was once the German Embassy). The Royal Society is yet something else we have that man Christopher Wren at least partly to thank for. It was after a 1660 lecture given by Wren at Gresham College that a so-called ‘invisible college’ of natural philosophers and physicians first got together. Almost immediately this society received the approval of Charles II and his Royal Charter and by 1663 the name ‘The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge’ was established. To date there have been around 8,000 Fellows from Newton to Darwin to Einstein and beyond. Current Fellows include Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Richard Dawkins and Tim Berners-Lee. Up until this week that second list would have included the now sadly departed Stephen Hawking. If you get a chance to visit their Summer Exhibition which usually takes place at the start of July I can thoroughly recommend that as well. (The pictures of the interior below were taken during the 2106 exhibition).

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And so on to Waterloo Place, the southern end of which is dominated by the Duke of York column. As alluded to much earlier in this post, the column was erected as a memorial to the favourite son of King George III, Prince Frederick (the Grand Old Duke of York remember). The column is made from Aberdeenshire granite and was designed by Benjamin Dean Wyatt. It’s one centimetre shy of 42m in height and there is a spiral staircase of 168 steps inside that leads to a viewing platform that has been closed to the public for several decades. It would be something of an understatement to say that Frederick was a controversial figure – not many people have inspired a nursery rhyme commemorating their disastrous record on the battlefield. A womaniser and gambler, Frederick once drank and gambled his way through £40,000 in one year. He also found himself in serious trouble when one of his mistresses, Mary Clarke, admitted to having sold commissions to would-be army officers. Fortunately for him the House of Commons accepted his plea of ignorance and he was cleared of corruption charges.

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As I already noted, Waterloo Place, is a must-see destination for anyone who’s a fan of statues and monuments but I suspect that’s a rather small subset of the population so, for the sake of the rest of you, I’m not going to linger over any of them. Starting on the west side for now and moving south to north we have Field Marshal Sir John Fox Burgoyne (1782-1781) followed by Rear Admiral Sir John Franklin (1786 – 1847) and then Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Rodney Park (1892 – 1975). One from each of the armed services basically. And across the road in the middle of the place is the equestrian statue of Edward VII.

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Just north of Waterloo Gardens is the very grandiose-looking Athenaeum Club. It perhaps comes as no surprise that the architect of this extravagant piece of neo-classicism was once again the young Decimus Burton. Construction began in 1824, the year the Club was founded by John Wilson Croker as a meeting place for men who ‘enjoy the life if the mind’ (women were finally admitted in 2002). The frieze around the outside is a copy of the then recently rescued/stolen (depending on your point of view) Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon. It was executed by John Henning, a leading sculptor of the day, at a cost of over £2,000 which was about 5% of the entire budget for the building. Today the majority of the members of the Athenaeum are professionals concerned with science, engineering or medicine but the clergy, lawyers, writers and artists are also represented. A total of 52 past and present members have been the recipient of a Nobel Prize.

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At the north end of Waterloo Place we turn east along Charles II Street and then north up St Alban’s Street which leads past Carlton Street into St James’s Market. The St James’s Market Pavilion is currently showcasing an audio/visual exhibit (narrated by Stephen Fry) which tells the story of The Handsome Butcher of St James’s Market, a ballad written around 1790.

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Norris Street takes us into Haymarket where we drop south back to Charles II Street and then stroll through the Royal Opera Arcade to Pall Mall.

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A westward turn then brings us back to Waterloo Place and those remaining statues and memorials. In the square to the north of Pall Mall we have the Guards Crimean War Memorial  created by sculptor John Bell. Immediately in front of that on the left is Florence Nightingale (1820 -1910), nursing heroine of the Crimean War of course, and on the right a pensive-looking Sidney Herbert (1810 – 1961) who was her friend and confidant and Secretary of State for War during the Crimean conflict.

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Crossing over Pall Mall we pass, on the corner, the home of those cheerleaders for free market capitalism, the Institute of Directors. The IOD was founded in 1903 and moved into the Grade I Listed, John Nash designed, 116 Pall Mall in 1978.

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We now pass down the eastern side of Waterloo Place where the three honoured heroes of the nation are : Captain Robert Falcon Scott (1868 – 1912) the ill-fated “Scott of the Antarctic” who reached the South Pole five weeks after the Norwegian, Roald Amundsen, got there first and, unlike Amundsen, failed to survive the return journey; Field Marshal Colin Campbell, 1st Baron Clyde (1792 – 1863), who managed to make it unscathed through the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny and the two Opium Wars; and John Laird Mair Lawrence (1811 – 1879) who was Viceroy of India in the             1860’s.

Turning left after the  last of these we enter the eastern section of Carlton House Terrace. Nos, 10-11 house the British Academy. Not to be confused with BAFTA this is the national academy for the humanities and social sciences – if you follow the link you can see which fields that encompasses but it definitely doesn’t include those upstarts Film and Television. No. 11 was also one of the many places where William Gladstone resided.

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No.12 is The Institute of Contemporary Arts (better known as just the ICA) though the public entrance for exhibitions, cinema, bookshop etc. is on the Mall which also holds true for the Mall Galleries which occupies no.17 (and pretty much the opposite end of the artistic spectrum). Nos. 13-15 are owned by the Hinduja Brothers, Indian industrial magnates the eldest two of whom are reputed to be the wealthiest men in Britain, £16.2bn between them if you really want to know,

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At the end of this stretch of Carlton House Terrace we descend the steps leading off to the south which take us down onto the Mall again. Turning right we pass the Graspan Royal Marines Memorial which commemorates the Royal Marines who died in the Boxer Rebellion and the Second Boer War.

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Since I’d never been in the Mall Galleries before I thought I’d better take a look. As I already knew, this celebrates those artists whose practice focuses on traditional media and technical proficiency rather than innovation and conceptual ideas. Nothing wrong with that but it’s not really for me. One of the current exhibitions did however include a painting of the Woodentops so brownie points for that.

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The ICA, on the other hand, I’ve visited countless times. You can always get a decent cocktail in the bar even if you don’t like the exhibition. On this occasion I popped in to buy a cinema ticket for the late afternoon screening of Ladybird – a bargain at £6. The ICA was founded in 1947 by Roland Penrose, Peter Watson, Herbert Read, Peter Gregory, Geoffrey Grigson and E. L. T. Mesens in 1947 who wanted to establish a space where artists, writers and scientists could debate ideas outside the traditional confines of the Royal Academy. It has occupied this site on the Mall, Nash House, since 1968. The ICA has always tried to push the envelope where artistic expression is concerned – in 1986   Helen Chadwick’s artwork, Carcass, consisting of a stinking pile of rotting vegetables, had to be removed after complaints from neighbours and a visit by health inspectors and in 1994 artist Rosa Sanchez installed a video camera in the men’s toilets to relay live images of urinating visitors.

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And so finally we cross over the Mall into St James’s Park. This is the oldest of London’s Royal Parks and takes its name from a thirteenth century leper hospital which was the first human intervention into the space. In 1532 Henry VIII acquired the site as yet another deer park and it continued as a private royal playground until Charles II had it made over with lawns and tree lined avenues and opened it to the public. It was later redesigned again by John Nash with the canal being transformed into the lake we see today. In 1837 the ancestors ( I like to think) of the wildfowl that inhabit the lake were introduced by the Ornithological Society of London who also had a birdkeeper’s cottage built. I’ve got into a bit of the old twitching (or birding) of late so I was pleased to be able to identify most of the feathered residents.

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I realise that we’re already getting into War and Peace territory in terms of word count but we’ve just got a small section south of the park to tidy up then we’re done. Birdcage Walk (named after the Royal Menagerie & Aviary from the time of Charles I) runs from Buckingham Palace along the south side of the park. The Wellington Barracks front onto a good part of its length. The Barracks is home to the Foot Guards battalion which shares  guard duty for Buckingham Palace with the regiment stationed at St James’s Palace.

Beyond the Barracks we turn right into Queen Anne’s Gate. After an initial pedestrian-only section this splits three ways and we take the eastward option. No.26 was once home to the politician, lawyer and philosopher, Lord Richard Burdon Haldane (1856 – 1928) and no.20 is the house where Lord Palmerston was born in 1784. There are blue plaques at 14 and 16 as well but I won’t detain you with those since far more exciting is the fact that no.15 stood in as the home of Lord Brett Sinclair the character played by (the sadly missed) Roger Moore in The Persuaders (still the greatest theme tune in the history of television). No.15 also stands on one side of the statue of Queen Anne herself which has been in situ here since at least 1708. At the end of the street we double back and then head south down Carteret Street which takes us to the familiar territory of Tothill Street and Broadway which on a westerly trajectory link up with the north-south section of Queen Annes’s Gate. Returning to where we came from we make our final stop of the day outside no.40 which between 1814 and 1831 was the home of father and son philosophers James Mill (1773 – 1836) and (the more well known) John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873). The latter, in particular, had an enormous influence on the development of social and political theory in the 19th century. He was an advocate of Jeremy Bentham’s theory of utilitarianism, in crude terms, “the greatest good of the greatest number” and a strong defender of the principle of free speech. He was also the first Member of parliament to publicly call for Women’s Suffrage – an appropriate note to end on in this anniversary year.

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Day 44 – Bank – Threadneedle Street – Cornhill – Lombard Street

So we’re back after a bit of an extended summer break and we’re still in the City of London. Today’s expedition is all about the streets that radiate eastward from the Bank tube station junction, Threadneedle Street, Cornhill, Lombard Street and King William Street but also extends north up to Moorgate and London Wall. Might not look like a very wide area on paper but on pavement, once you’ve added in all the courts and alleyways, there’s a fair bit of shoe leather laid to rest. Highlights en route today include the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange along with the inevitable Wren churches and a couple more of those Livery Companies.

Day 44 Route

I’ve referenced it fleetingly in previous posts but for this outing I’m going to delve into this a bit more extensively as a source for the commentary (I don’t know the exact year of publication but it was some time in the 1930’s). Direct extracts will appear in italics.

Guide

We begin today from Bank underground station from where exit 1 leads us up to Princes Street heading northward. Set back from the west side of Princes Street is Grocers’ Hall, home to The Grocers’ Company, another of the original Twelve Great Livery Companies and proudly ensconced at no.2 in the Order of Precedence (appropriately in a “Nation of Shopkeepers”). This mob started out as the Ancient Guild of Pepperers as far back as 1100 then in the 14th century founded a new fraternity of spice traders in the City of London which came to be known as the Company of Grossers. It took them three years before they realised that this might cause a few sniggers come the 21st century and changed it to Grocers in 1376. They received their Royal Charter from Henry VI in 1428.  The current hall, the fifth, was built in 1970, its predecessor having survived WW2 only to be burnt down in 1965 reportedly due to a poorly situated lightbulb being left on in a cupboard.

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At the top of Princes Street we turn right into Lothbury and proceed along the back of the Bank of England where there is a statue of Sir John Soane (whose wonderful museum we visited on a previous excursion), architect and surveyor to the Bank from 1788 to 1833 during which time it doubled in size to 3.5 acres. It first moved to this site between Threadneedle Street and Lothbury in 1734, having previously leased the Grocers’ Hall (see above) from 1695, the year following its foundation. When the Bank was rebuilt between 1925 and 1939 by Sir Herbert Baker, the outer walls erected by Soane in 1828 were retained while all the interior buildings were demolished. Regarding these walls it will be observed that, for the purposes of security, they are completely windowless, all the rooms being lighted from interior courts; but even a Raffles who succeeded in passing this barrier would be baffled at the extraordinary series of defences surrounding the vaults, which include concentric walls of steel and concrete between which armed guards patrol day and night.

On the other side of Lothbury stands St Margaret’s Church, the first of a number of post-Great Fire Christopher Wren rebuilding jobs we’ll encounter today.

Right next door to the church is 7 Lothbury, built in 1868 and designed in a Venetian Gothic style by architect George Somers Clarke (1825 – 1882) as a head office for the General Credit and Discount Company. In the 1960’s it was taken over by the Overseas Bankers’ Club but despite a Grade II listing had fallen into disrepair by the early 21st century. It has now been converted for residential use.

Turn left next up Tokenhouse Yard then left again along King’s Arms Yard to Moorgate. Across the street is another Grade II listed building, Basildon House, which dates from the late 1800s and is in a Baroque style with Grecian details.

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Head north a short way then look in on Great Bell Alley on the westside before crossing back over and proceeding east down Telegraph Street. Loop round Whalebone Court and Copthall Court into Copthall Avenue and after a few paces north turn west again along Great Swan Alley. This is the site of the headquarters of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, though technically the address is no.1 Moorgate Place which is about half way along the street. Chartered Accountants’ Hall was built between 1890 and 1893 and is another Victorian neo-Baroque job courtesy of architect John Belcher. The façade on Great Swan Alley is part of an extension to the original building completed in 1930-31. In 1964-70 a much more extensive redevelopment was undertaken which included the creation of a Great Hall with five stories of office space above it. The ICAEW was granted a royal charter in 1880 and today has over 147,000 members. Presumably that’s one of them in the photo below (no not the guy the yellow jacket – he looks more like a Certified Accountant).

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After this it’s back to Moorgate and a continuation northward up to London Wall where we turn east and then head south once more all the way down Copthall Avenue. Swing round to the east and head up and back down the top section of Throgmorton Avenue with just a cursory glance at the Carpenters’ Hall – royal charter granted in 1477 and no.26 in order of precedence. Return along Copthall Avenue and then stroll down Angel Court to Throgmorton Street. Turn right a short distance to arrive at Bartholomew Lane which skirts the east flank of the Bank of England and houses the entrance to the museum. The Bank of England museum has two main things going for it; one it’s free and two it’s not that big. This does mean it can get quite crowded but it’s worth putting up with that.

The Bank was the brainchild of Scottish entrepreneur William Paterson (1658 – 1719). The aim was to provide a secure and continuous loan to the nation (at a healthy profit of course). Public subscriptions raised £1.2 million in a few weeks, which formed the initial capital stock of the Bank of England and was lent to Government in return for a Royal Charter. The Royal Charter was sealed on 27 July 1694, and the Bank started its role as the Government’s banker and debt manager. I’m not going to write at length about the history of the Bank but it does make for interesting reading so it’s worth clicking on the link.

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Just a bit about the gold held by the Bank to finish off with – as I know that’s what you’re really interested in. The Bank itself only owns two of the gold bars in its vaults (one of which is actually on display in the museum). The rest are stored on behalf of HM Treasury, other central banks and some commercial firms. As of April 2017 the vaults held a total of 164.7 million Fine Troy Ounces of gold (about 5.1m kg or c.400,000 gold bars). Gold is currently trading at around £1,000 an ounce so I guess you can just about do the math as they say.

After leaving the museum we return to Bank station along Threadneedle Street. The Bank has of course long been known colloquially as “the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street”.

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Across the street from the Bank, in the angle of Threadneedle Street and Cornhill, is the Royal Exchange, founded by Sir Thomas Gresham (1519 – 1579) in 1566 as London’s first purpose built centre for trading stocks and commodities. The first exchange, opened by Queen Elizabeth I in 1871, came to grief in the Great Fire and its successor also burnt down in 1838. The present building, designed by Sir William Tite and inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, was opened by Queen Victoria in 1844. After WW2, during which the building was damaged, the traders moved out and the building fell into disuse until the 1980s’ when it was repaired and taken over by LIFFE (the London International Financial Futures Exchange). By the turn of the millennium LIFFE had also moved on and the building was extensively remodelled to transform it into a luxury shopping and dining destination. In front of the building stands a memorial, designed by Sir Aston Webb, to London troops who fell in the Great War.  Close by is an equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington (riding without stirrups) by Chantrey cast from bronze from captured enemy cannons in 1844 . Historically the steps of the Royal Exchange have been one of the places from which the accession of a new monarch is proclaimed. It remains to be seen if this tradition is maintained.

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Walk through the Royal Exchange, without pausing to sample the fine dining though I did have a look in the Paul Smith sample store. Outside the eastern entrance on Royal Exchange Buildings are statues to George Peabody, founder of the Peabody Trust (several of whose housing estates we have encountered on previous journeys – and which look more and more like exemplary models of social housing with the passage of time) and Paul Julius Reuter, founder of the eponymous News Agency which had its first home nearby.

East of the Peabody statue, at the entrance to Royal Exchange Avenue, is a former drinking fountain dating to 1878 adorned by a sculpture entitled La Maternité by Jules Dalou (this was originally in marble but that weathered badly and so was replaced by a bronze copy in 1897). This was partly paid for by the Merchant Taylors’ Company, whose hall is just round the corner but falls into one of today’s blind spots.  So the Livery Company which is either 6th or 7th on the OOP (they alternate each year with the Skinners) miss out on their write up.

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Walk down Royal Exchange Avenue into Finch Lane, turn south down to Cornhill and then head back towards Bank. In the middle of Cornhill is a statue of James Henry Greathead (1844 – 1896), a Civil Engineer who was instrumental in the creation of the London Underground and patented a number of inventions that facilitated the tunnelling operations. The statue was erected in 1994 and is positioned on a plinth which hides a ventilation shaft for the Underground.

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Just a little way further back no. 24 Cornhill (now a cocktail bar and restaurant) has a Grade II listed façade designed by that man Sir Aston Webb (1849 – 1930) again. Webb’s most famous works are the façade of Buckingham Palace and the main V&A building.

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As we approach Bank station once more the Mansion House hoves into view. We pretty much circumvented this last time out so for the sake of completeness here are a few 80 year-old snippets about this official residence of the Lord Mayor of the City of London. It was built between 1739 and 1753, mainly, it is said from fines levied on stalwart Nonconformists. It has a fine Corinthian portico from the platform of which official announcements are often made. The chief room is the Egyptian Hall where the somewhat lavish hospitality expected from London’s chief citizen is exercised. The Lord Mayor receives a salary of £10,000 a year, but if rumour speaks correctly he is generally out of pocket at the end of his year of office.

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Just before we reach the Bank intersection we cut down Pope’s Head Alley to Lombard Street then turn right to where this apexes with King William Street. Here stands the church of St Mary Woolnoth, which surprise. surprise is not part of the Christopher Wren portfolio but one of the Queen Anne churches designed by that other great ecclesiastical architect, Nicholas Hawksmoor. Today the church is used by London’s German-speaking Swiss community and doubles up as the official London church of the government of British Columbia (why that is even a thing heaven knows).

Next up we switch between Lombard Street and King William Street for a while courtesy of Post Office Court, Abchurch Lane, Nicholas Passage and Nicholas Lane before we find ourselves heading south down Clement’s Lane at the bottom of which is the decidedly underwhelming St Clement’s Church (of “Oranges and Lemons” say fame). Clement was a disciple of Saint Peter and was ordained as Bishop of Rome in AD 93. Legend has it that his was martyred by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the Black Sea, hence his status as patron saint of sailors. The church is currently home to the administrative offices of the human rights’ charity the Amos Trust. So in lieu of shots of the interior here’s a reflection of the day.

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Back on King William Street we turn east and swing round past House of Fraser into Gracechurch Street. Continue north before turning west down Lombard Court and then cutting up Plough Court to return to Lombard Street. To the left here is the Church of St Edmund King & Martyr, reconstructed to a design of Wren incorporating a tower ornamented at the angles by flaming urns in allusion to the Great Fire that destroyed the medieval church.

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Across the street the entrance to the Royal Insurance Building is guarded by this bronze sculpture of three “allegorical” female figures – the lady on the left holds an anchor to represent the power of the sea, the one on the right a flaming torch to represent, well, fire and the sphinx in the centre (according to some sources) signifies the uncertainty of the future. The work is by Francis William Doyle Jones (1873 – 1938) and is entitled, with commendable literalness, Chimera with Personifications of Fire and the Sea.

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We double back a short distance and then proceed north into George Yard as far as the George & Vulture pub. This self-proclaimed Old Pickwickian Hostelrie dates from 1748 and is reputed to have been one of the meeting places of the notorious Hell-Fire Club. Dickens was a regular punter and the inn is mentioned at least 20 times in The Pickwick Papers.IMG_20170823_161505

Just before the pub we turn left down Bengal Court then cross Birchin Lane and follow Cowpers Court back to Cornhill. Turn eastward here as far as Ball Court on the south side which doglegs round to St Michael’s Alley where, opposite the George & Vulture is another legendary City drinking-hall, The Jamaica Wine House. Known locally as “the Jampot” this was originally the first coffee house in London, opening in 1652 and counting Samuel Pepys amongst its clientele.

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Taking St Michael’s Alley back to Cornhill we reach St Michael’s Church  rebuilt by Wren after the Fire and restored by Sir G.G. Scott. It has a fine Gothic tower, modelled on Magdalen Tower, Oxford and a pulpit carved by Grinling Gibbons. The organ of St Peter’s Church, almost next door, was played several times by Mendelssohn and in the vestry his autograph is treasured. The church was founded, according to an ancient tablet in the vestry, by “Lucius, the first Christian king of this land called Britaine”. Many remains of Roman London have been discovered hereabouts and many authorities place here the site of the Roman forum.

Beginning with St Peter’s Alley we trace a double loop southward additionally involving Corbet Court, St Michael’s Alley again (this is at least three alleys for the price of one) and Bell Inn Yard. That brings us back to Gracechurch Street where we drop further south to Lombard Street and then proceed west to Birchin Lane which takes us north again. After a quick detour exploring the labyrinth that is Change Alley we resume northward, crossing over Cornhill into Finch Lane then over Threadneedle Street into Old Broad Street. Almost immediately veer left down Threadneedle Walk to return to Throgmorton Street generally crowded by bare-headed individuals of varying degrees of frivolity, whose presence betrays the whereabouts of that important institution, the Stock Exchange in Capel Court. The Stock Exchange referred to is the one that was created in 1801 as the first purpose-built and regulated “Subscription Room” for brokers to ply their trade. Prior to that they had gravitated away from the Royal Exchange to conduct their business in the coffee-houses of Change Alley and beyond. Capel Court no longer exists as such; in 1972 a new Stock Exchange Tower was opened on Old Broad Street and the original site redeveloped. However, come the ‘Big Bang’ and the introduction of electronic trading in 1986, the Tower became something of a white elephant and when an IRA bomb blew a whole in the 26-storey building four years later the writing was firmly on the wall. It closed permanently in 1992 and it was another 20 years before this unloved totem of the “Brutalist” era was stripped back to its core and redeveloped as a 21st century glass-clad monolith. In 2004 the London Stock Exchange eventually found a new home in Paternoster Square. Coincidentally the company I worked for made the same journey from Old Broad Street the same year.

Bit of a digression there but back to Throgmorton Street and the Drapers’ Hall. The first hall here was bought from King Henry VIII in 1543 for the sum of 1,800 marks (c.£1,200) and had previously been the home of Thomas Cromwell (up until his execution in 1840). The hall was rebuilt after the Great Fire and again in 1772 after another fire. In the 1860’s the frontage and the interior were redesigned by Herbert Williams. Further changes at the end of the 19th century included the creation of the two Atlantes (male equivalents of Caryatids); turbaned and muscular Djinns that guard either side of the entrance. These are believed to be the work of sculptor H.A Pegram (1862 – 1937).

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The full title of the Drapers’ Company is “The Master and Wardens and Brethren and Sisters of the Guild or Fraternity of the Blessed Mary the Virgin of the Mystery of Drapers of the City of London”. The word Mystery comes from the Latin “misterium” meaning professional skill. You wouldn’t get away with that if you were much lower than no.3 on the Order of Precedence. We follow Drapers’ Hall and its gardens all the way up  Throgmorton Avenue to where it joins Copthall Avenue.

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There is a bit more to come  but since we’ve just about breached the 3,000 word barrier we’ll continue from this juncture next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 43 – Queen Victoria Street – Cannon Street – Cheapside

So what have we got for you today ? Well, we’re still in the City of London but no major landmarks this time so it’s half a dozen more of those Wren churches, a couple more Livery Halls and a lot of building sites. Fear not though, we’ll try and get through this a bit more briskly than of late and see if we can’t extract some reasonable entertainment value out of it.

Day 43 route

We begin at Bank tube station and making our way down the west side of Mansion House arrive at the first of those Wren churches, St Stephen Walbrook. This is considered to be among the very finest of Wren’s work, particularly admired by the great Italian sculptor-architect, Canova. The geometry of the church is perfectly rectangular, unusually for Wren, but it’s the interior that really impresses. In 1953 the rector at the time, Dr Chad Varah (1912 – 2007), founded the Samaritans charity in the church vestry.

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(Of course the exterior would look a little bit more impressive without another one of those bloody white vans parked in front of it). Head back up to Queen Victoria Street along Bucklersbury and then turn west. To the south, between here and Cannon Street, the massive Bloomberg Place development has been taking shape since 2014 under the combined force of architects, Foster & Partners and constructors, McAlpine. As the name suggests this is intended as Bloomberg’s new European HQ (though I imagine in 2014 they didn’t have much inkling that the UK would be in the process of divorcing itself from Europe come 2017).

Circumnavigate the development via the top section of Queen Street and east on Cannon Street before heading back to the church up Walbrook Street. After a quick peek at Bond Court on the south side of the church we turn eastward in between the north side and the back of Mansion House down St Stephens Row.  This leads into Mansion House Place which in turn emerges on St Swithin’s Lane. At the bottom of this we continue east on Cannon Street before switching northward again up Abchurch Lane. Here we find the second of today’s Wren reconstructions, St Mary Abchurch. The most striking feature of the church is the painted domed ceiling (though there is no exterior dome) believed to be the work of local artist, William Snow, who was paid £170 for his efforts according to the church accounts of the time – 1708.  Painted in oils directly on the plaster, the decorations are divided in two horizontally by a painted Trompe-l’œil cornice. Above this a choir of angels and cherubs in adoration surrounds a golden glow, in the centre of which it the name of God in Hebrew characters.

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Skirt left round the church via Abchurch Yard and follow Sherborne Lane up to King William Street. Turn right for a short distance then go all the way back down Abchurch Lane to Cannon Street again. Keep going east as far as the junction by Monument station where we turn south briefly (still on King William Street) before veering west down an alley that runs into Arthur Street. Next up is Martin Lane which is home to The Olde Wine Shades, one of London’s oldest pubs. Built just three years before the Great Fire as a Merchants house it managed to survive the conflagration and was later, reportedly, used by smugglers who exploited a tunnel running from the cellars to the river. It’s now part of the El Vino chain and currently under refurbishment.

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Back up to Cannon Street and then down the next turn on the left which is Laurence Pountney Lane. The name is a relic of St Laurence Pountney church which was one that wasn’t rebuilt after its destruction by the Great Fire. Pountney is a corruption of Pultneye, as in Sir John de Pultneye, one time Lord Mayor.

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With their street cobbles and heritage brickwork Laurence Pountney Lane and the adjoining Laurence Pountney Hill are a brief but welcome antidote to the frenzy and modern bluster of Cannon Street and its construction sites.

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We’re back on Cannon Street soon enough though having completed a circuit of Laurence Pountney Hill, Suffolk Lane, Gophir Lane and Bush Lane. Cross the road for a quick excursion into Oxford Court where we catch sight of what has to be the most reductive attempt to retain a historic façade yet encountered.

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Back on the other side we continue west passing the eponymous Cannon Street Station. The original incarnation of this terminus, now serving south east London and Kent, dates back to 1866. That Victorian station was fronted by a five storey hotel in the Italianate style which was converted into offices in the 1930’s. Prior to that though, in 1920, it had hosted the first meetings of the Communist Party of Great Britain. The station was  pretty much wiped out during the Second World War and after a 1960’s redevelopment overseen by the infamous John Poulson (1930 – 1993) all that remained of the original station were its 120ft twin red brick towers (Grade II listed in 1972). In the 1980’s office blocks were constructed above the platforms and Poulson’s main station building was replaced as part of a major regeneration programme by Network Rail starting in 2007.

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On the other side of the station we head south once more down Dowgate Hill and on the right here we have three Livery Company halls all in a row. First up is the Tallow Chandlers Company, granted its charter by King Edward IV in 1462. The trade in tallow (rendered animal fats) candles had pretty much run its course by the 17th century as tallow was superseded by new materials such as spermaceti (a waxy substance found in the head cavities of the sperm whale) and paraffin wax. This decline was partly offset by the use of tallow in the manufacture of soap in the 19th century (in 1853 Lord Palmerston,  seeking to encourage public cleanliness, removed all duty on tallow). Today like most of the Livery Companies, as we know, the Tallow Chandlers are a purely charitable institution. They do nonetheless sit at a fairly lofty no.21 in the Order of Precedence.

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Right next door is the Skinners’ Hall, the Grade I listed home of the Skinners’ Company (re)-built in 1670. The Skinners (developed out of the medieval guild of fur traders) are one of the so-called Great Twelve Livery Companies, incorporated by Royal Charter in 1327 and standing firm right up there at no. 6 in the OoP (you have probably twigged by now how much I enjoy a good chart). For a ten year period at the turn of the 18th century the hall was rented by the East India company who, upon departure, left as a gift a mahogany East India table which is still in use today.

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Final member of this triumvirate is the Worshipful Company of Dyers with their, frankly, quite disturbing coat of arms. The Dyers received their first charter from Henry VI in 1471 and they occupy the 13th position on the OoP. That might have had something to do with the fact that having been rebuilt after the Great Fire the Dyers Hall burned down again just 14 years later.

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And just round the corner in College Street we have a fourth, the Worshipful Company of Innholders, number 32 on the OoP and receiving its first charter from Henry VIII in 1514.  In a familiar story, the hall was rebuilt after the Great Fire and completed in 1670.

Back then, in the 17th century, there was often a shortage of small denomination coins of the realm and tradesmen found it impossible to give change for small items – in the case of innkeepers for a drink of ale or a bale of hay. They therefore solved their problem by issuing their own tokens which could only be redeemed where they had been issued.

The Innholders’ motto, Hinc Spes Affulget, is Latin for Hence Hope Shines Forth.

Further along College Street we arrive at the Church of Saint Michael Paternoster Royal which is strongly associated with our old mate Richard Whittington, four times Mayor of London. In 1409 good old Dick paid for the rebuilding and extension of the church and in 1422 he was buried here, though the actual tomb has not survived. The three stained glass windows you can see below where designed by John Hayward in 1968. The main window depicts St Michael trampling a red-winged Satan and the windows on either side show, respectively, the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus and Adam and Eve with St Gabriel and the serpent. There is a separate window depicting Dick Whittington with his cat.

Whittington also founded an almshouse and chantry college adjacent to the church on College Hill which lasted there until the early 1800s when they moved to Highgate. The façades of both institutions from the late 17th century can still be seen on the east side as you go up the hill (one of them with a distinctly Pirates of the Caribbean feel).

Halfway up College Hill we turn right into Cloak Lane then follow a loop of Dowgate Hill, Cannon Street and College Hill again to return to the western section of Cloak Lane and then head south down Queen Street. At the bottom we turn right again into Skinners Lane which leads down to the Church of St James Garlickhythe. Unfortunately (or not depending on your perspective) this one wasn’t open for visits today. The name of the church is derived from the Saxon word ‘hythe’ meaning a landing place.  So this spot, formerly on the river, was where garlic (a vital medicine and preservative in the Middle Ages) was unloaded and probably traded on Garlick Hill at the foot of which the church stands. The forty foot ceiling in the church is the highest in the City apart from St Pauls. In the landscaped area to the west of the church stands a bronze statue of ‘The Barge Master and Swan Marker of the Vintners Company’.

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We ascend the aforementioned Garlick Hill and two thirds of the way up turn east again along Great St Thomas Apostle (just that, no Street no Lane). At the end we do another loop back round Queen Street, Cannon Street and the top bit of Garlick Hill and this time go west on Great Trinity Lane which is much smaller than Little Trinity Lane which occupies us next. Backtrack up to Queen Victoria Street  take a few steps to the west and then head south again down Huggin Hill (which is only an alleyway) to Upper Thames Street. Continue west alongside the Castle Baynard section of the east -west cycle superhighway before returning to Queen Victoria Street via Lambeth Hill. Turning east then north up Friday Street and Bread Street we reach the One New Change shopping mall. This was created only a few years ago, not without controversy given its proximity to St Pauls. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for the exterior if not for the range of stores contained within. In my judgement it also hasn’t exactly achieved the desired level of footfall since it opened.

On the edge of the small garden to the south of the mall is a memorial to Admiral Arthur Philip (1738 – 1814) the first Governor of New South Wales and the man who founded the British penal colony that eventually formed the basis of the city of Sydney. His early years were spent in a tenanted family home near Cheapside.

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And Cheapside is where we head next, cutting through the shopping complex to make this latest visit. Proceeding east we arrive at the church of St Mary-le-Bow, famous of course for its bells which, according to tradition, you have to be born within earshot of to be considered a true Cockney. The bells also feature prominently in the story of how that man Dick Whittington (yes him again) came to be Lord Mayor. Hearing the sound of them supposedly persuaded him to return to London (with his cat) when he was on his way to leaving the capital. As he was reported to have heard the bells in Highgate this would incidentally imply quite a large catchment area for your native Cockneys. During WWII the church was hit by a bomb which brought the bells crashing to the ground. New bells were cast in 1956 and ringing only resumed in 1961. Since the early 1940s, a recording of the Bow Bells made in 1926 has been used by the BBC World Service as an interval signal for its English-language broadcasts.

In Bow courtyard stands a statue of Captain John Smith (1580 – 1631) the soldier and explorer, best known these days (thanks to the Disney film) for the story of his capture by the Powhatan Native American tribe and his release courtesy of the chief’s daughter Pocahontas who, according to Smith, threw herself across his body: “at the minute of my execution, she hazarded the beating out of her own brains to save mine; and not only that, but so prevailed with her father, that I was safely conducted to Jamestown”.

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Cut through the courtyard and into Bow Lane then turn south down to Watling Street which we complete a quick up and down of before resuming on Bow Lane and taking in our final church of the day, St Mary Aldermary. According to the eminent architectural historian, Nikolaus Pevsner, this is one of the two most important 17th century Gothic churches in England. It was one of the very few churches rebuilt by Wren to employ the Gothic style.

After that it just remains to complete the return to Bank station via a circuit of Queen Street, Pancras Lane and Sise Lane. Thank you and goodnight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 39 – Smithfield – St Bartholomew’s Hospital – Newgate Street

Today’s trip covers the triangle formed by Charterhouse Street to the North, Holborn Viaduct/Newgate Street (A40) to the South and Aldersgate Street (A1) to the West, encompassing both Smithfield Market and St Bart’s Hospital. Another compact area but once again one that’s teeming with historical echoes of the likes of William Wallace, Wat Tyler and Henry VIII (of course).

Day 39 Route

We start out from Holborn Circus and head east along Charterhouse Street, almost immediately taking a detour into Ely Place, apparently the last privately-owned street in London. This is the site of the first of several churches we’re going to cover this time out, St Ethelreda’s RC. It might not look that impressive from the outside but St Ethelreda’s is the oldest Catholic church in England and one of only two remaining buildings in London from the reign of Edward I. It was the town chapel of the Bishops of Ely from about 1250 to 1570 (hence Ely Place). Ethelreda, daughter of King Anna, ruler of the Kingdom of East Anglia, was born in 630. She wanted to be a nun but agreed to a political marriage with a neighbouring King, Egfrith, on condition that she could remain a virgin. When the King tried to break the agreement she fled back to Ely where she built a magnificent church on the ruins of one founded by St Augustine. For reasons more obvious than is generally the case with such designations she is the Patron Saint of Chastity.

Continuing along Charterhouse Street we cross Farringdon Street and enter the surrounds of Smithfield Market. This area was originally known as Smoothfield, meaning a flat plain, from the Saxon word smeth, eventually corrupted again to become Smith. In the 12th Century it was used as a vast recreational area where jousts and tournaments took place and by the late Middle Ages had become the most famous livestock market in the country. It was also the location of Bartholomew Fair – three days of merrymaking, dancing, trading and music which over the centuries became the most debauched and drunken holiday in the calendar. This went on for almost 700 years before it was eventually closed in 1855.

Before we get to the actual market though there are a couple of buildings on Charterhouse Street to take stock of. First up is the Port of London Authority (PLA) building. The PLA is the self-funding public trust that governs the Port of London and has responsibility the maintenance and supervision of navigation on the tidal stretch of the Thames from the estuary upstream to Teddington. Built in 1914, this only lasted five years as the main HQ of the PLA before being superseded by a grandiose monolith adjacent to the Tower of London.  The motto at the top of the building “floreat imperii portus” translates as “let the imperial port flourish” (curse of the commentator as it turned out of course).

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Right next door is the Central Cold Store (constructed in 1899 for the Dutch margarine manufacturers, Van Den Bergh). In 1992 the two buildings were gutted and behind their facades a power station was installed; the Citigen CHP (combined heat and power) plant which supplies 31 MW of electricity to the London Electricity network and provides heat and cooling through a system of heating and chilled water pipes to a variety of buildings in central London.

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In total contrast, just a few steps further along is the recently-reprieved, world famous nightclub, Fabric.
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The building just to the right of Fabric at 79-83 dates from 1930 and was home to the Corporation of London Meat Inspectors. 

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Following the relocation of Covent Garden and Billingsgate, Smithfield is the last of London’s three big food & produce markets still operating from its original home. Just to rub this in it also goes by the alternative name of London Central Markets and, not surprisingly, its the largest and oldest wholesale meat market in the country. It came into being when the livestock market was re-sited north of Islington in 1852 and plans were drawn up to create a new market in the area which would specialise in cut meat. Built to a design of Sir Horace Jones, the cathedral-like structure of ornamental cast iron, stone, Welsh slate and glass was completed in 1868. It consisted of two main buildings linked under a great roof and separated by a central arcade, the Grand Avenue and also included an underground area where fresh meat delivered from all over the country by the new railways could be unloaded in specially constructed sidings.
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Within in a few years four more buildings had been added including the Poultry Market, opened in 1875, which is the only one still in use today.  The original building however was destroyed by a major fire in 1958. A new building was commissioned, at a cost of £2 million, and was completed in 1963. While unremarkable from the outside, inside it is a feat of engineering: at the time its domed roof was, at 225 feet, the largest clear spanning dome roof in Europe. The appositely named West Poultry Avenue and East Poultry Avenue run beneath the arches either side and taking the former we emerge onto West Smithfield.

 

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Head west from here then take a sharp right down Snow Hill before returning to the market via Smithfield Street. Nip up East Poultry Avenue, turn right and then duck into the aforementioned Grand Avenue. The market opens for business at 2 a.m. and is pretty much done for the day by 7 a.m. Some of the local pubs have adjusted opening hours to cater for this, and they no doubt pick up a bit of extra business when Fabric chucks out.

Opposite the southern end of the Grand Avenue is where the underground railway used to terminate. Nowadays it’s a car park and is topped by the West Smithfield Rotunda Garden which features a bronze statue of Peace courtesy of John Birnie Philip (1824-1875), echoing the statue of Lady Justice atop the Old Bailey which you can see in the distance below. 

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Circling round to the other side of the garden/car park we reach the west gate of St Bartholomew’s Hospital (or just Barts Hospital as it is generally known).  Barts and the adjacent priory of St Bartholomew the Great (of which more later) were established it 1123 by the priest/monk Rahere, a favourite courtier of King Henry I. It was refounded by Henry VIII in 1546 on the signing of an agreement granting the hospital to the Corporation of London which endowed it with properties and income entitlements that replaced the support from the priory taken away by the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Barts is the oldest hospital in Britain still providing all medical services and which occupies the site it was originally built on. The west gate continues to be the main public entrance; and the statue of Henry VIII above it is the only remaining statue of him in London.

Passing through the gate we arrive almost straight away at the church of St Bartholomew-the-Less St Bartholomew-the-Less. The church’s tower and west façade date from 15th century, with two of its three bells dating from 1380 and 1420 respectively. These hang within an original medieval bell frame, believed to be the oldest in the City of London.

The North Wing of the hospital contains the Barts Museum which tells the story of this renowned institution and showcases historical medical and surgical equipment as well as displaying a facsimile of that agreement between Henry VIII and the City of London.

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The museum overlooks the main square which was designed by James Gibbs (1682 – 1754) and built in the 1730’s. The fountain in the centre dates from 1859.
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After a circuit of the square we exit the grounds of St Barts onto Giltspur Street, almost immediately crossing over and proceeding west along Hosier Street. This takes us back to Smithfield Street where we turn south to reach the lower section of Snow Hill. The police station here has a plaque commemorating it as the site of the Saracen’s Head Inn (demolished 1868) which merited several mentions in Samuel Pepys’ Diary and one in Dicken’s Nicholas Nickleby. The station also has a bit of an homage to yours truly painted on the street in front.

The quaint No.1 Snow Hill Court was formerly a parish schoolhouse but these days is a suite of consulting rooms for hire. Next port of call, Cock Lane, is closed off for building work so we have to trek all the way back round Hosier Street to get to the eastern end.

Once we get there we’re in the presence of the Golden Boy of Pye Corner. This small wooden statue covered in gold marks the reputed spot where the Great Fire of 1666 was brought to a halt. The inscription immediately beneath the (pretty surly looking) boy reads This Boy is in Memmory Put up for the late FIRE of LONDON Occasion’d by the Sin of Gluttony. Presumably that’s a reference to the fire having started in the baker’s on Pudding Lane. I won’t repeat the full inscription positioned at eye level but it’s worth clicking the link to see that. Suffice to say that papists get equal billing with gluttony here when it comes to the causality of the fire.

At the southern end of Giltspur Street where it joins Holborn Viaduct as it turns into Newgate Street is the Church of St Sepulchre without Newgate. As seems to often be the case, a church has existed on this site since Saxon times. It was rebuilt after being destroyed in the Great Fire (a few yards further up the street and it might have made it) and extensively restored in Victorian times. Today it is the largest parish church in the City. The bells of Old Bailey in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons refer to those of St Sepulchre which were tolled on execution days as the condemned were led to the gallows of Tyburn.  For hangings at the even nearer-by Newgate, between the 17th and 19th centuries, a handbell was rung outside the condemned man’s cell by the clerk of St Sepulchre’s. This handbell had been acquired for the parish in 1605 at a cost of £50 by London merchant tailor Mr. John Dowe for this express purpose. It now resides in a glass case to the south of the nave.

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The church has been the official musicians’ church for many years and is associated with many famous musicians. Its north aisle is dedicated as the Musicians’ Chapel, with four windows commemorating John Ireland, the singer Dame Nellie Melba, Walter Carroll and the conductor Sir Henry Wood respectively. Wood, who “at the age of fourteen, learned to play the organ” at this church and later became its organist, also has his ashes buried in this church. The south aisle of the church holds the regimental chapel of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)  and its gardens are a memorial garden to that regiment.

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Proceed eastward next along Newgate Street then cut through Christchurch Greyfriars Garden to King Edward Street. The site of the Franciscan church of Greyfriars was established in 1225.  Four queens were buried in the medieval church, which was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, including Margeurite, 2nd wife of Edward I, Isabella, widow of Edward II and Eleanor of Provence, wife of Henry III (though in her case it was only her heart that was interred here) . A new church, designed by Wren, was completed in 1704 and survived until incendiary bombs destroyed the main body of it in 1940. Only the west tower now stands.

 

A short way up King Edward Street is a statue to Sir Rowland Hill (1795 – 1879) the inventor and social reformer generally credited with the concept of the postage stamp.

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Continue east along Angel Street as far as St Martin Le Grand and follow this north as it turns into Aldersgate Street. Here there is one of the few remaining (though no longer used) Police “Call Posts” which from 1888 to 1969 provided bobbies on the beat and the general public with the means to make emergency calls to the local Old Bill station. The larger variant of these, the Police Call Box, was of course the inspiration for Dr Who’s TARDIS.

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Turn west again through Postman’s Park which contains a real oddity in the form of G.F Watts’s Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice. Conceived and created by the Victorian Artist George Frederic Watts (1817 – 1904) this wooden pavilion contains an array of 120 tile plaques commemorating individuals who lost their lives trying to save others.

Double back to Aldersgate Street via Little Britain (and no I’m not going to mention that TV series – doh !). Then proceed clockwise round the Museum of London roundabout to Montague Street and take this back to the northerly section of Little Britain which runs along the back of St Barts. On the eastern side more major development work is taking place.

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(I just liked the colours of the crane). Anyway we’re back now at the north face of St Barts where there are separate memorials to the two historical figures I mentioned right back at the start of the post (I know it seems at eternity ago), Wat Tyler and William Wallace.

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Taking these chronologically we’ll deal with William Wallace (c.1270 – 1305) first. Wallace led a Scottish rebellion against Edward I. Having won a famous victory at the battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 Wallace was defeated by a much larger English force at Falkirk a year later. He fled to France and in his absence Robert the Bruce negotiated a truce with Edward that he was excluded from. A large reward was posted on him and 2 years after his 1303 return to Scotland he was captured and brought to London where he was hung, drawn and quartered at Smithfield having been dragged there behind a horse. (Again I shall say nothing about that Mel Gibson film – doh!)

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The main trigger for the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 was the levying of new taxes to finance wars in France. A group of rebels from Kent and Essex marched on London under the leadership of Wat Tyler, Jack Straw and John Ball. After they had burnt and ransacked part of the city and supporters had murdered the Archbishop of Canterbury they were met at Mile End by the 14-year old King Richard II. After he had heard their grievances and made certain promises some of the mob dispersed and the rest set up camp at Smithfield. When the King returned to see them accompanied by a number of loyal soldiers and William Walworth, the Mayor of London an altercation broke out which led to Walworth stabbing Wat Tyler who was dragged into the church of St Bartholomew the Great. Troops then surrounded the rebels who effectively surrendered. Tyler was beheaded and his head placed on London Bridge. The memorial below commemorating the Great Rising of 1381 (alternative title) was unveiled in 2015.

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This brings us on to the aforementioned Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great which is more than worth a visit despite an entrance fee of £5 (keeps the rabble out). As noted earlier this was founded as an Augustinian Monastery by the monk cum priest, Rahere, in 1123 making it the oldest church in London. During the dissolution of the monasteries (1539 remember) the nave of the Church was demolished and one Sir Richard Rich (seriously), Lord Chancellor from 1547-51, took possession of the remaining buildings. During the religious rollercoaster of the reigns of Queens Mary and Elizabeth I a number of Protestant and Catholic Martyrs were burnt at the stake outside the west gate of St Bartholomews. The Tudor timber frontage of the gate that remains intact today was erected by Lord Rich.

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The Lady Chapel at the eastern end was used for secular purposes from the 16th century until the 1880’s including as a printing works where Benjamin Franklin was employed and a lace and fringe factory. In the latter years of the 19th century it was restored along with the rest of the church.

The church today contains a number of works by notable contemporary artists; some permanent fixtures, others on temporary loan (details in the slide show below). It has also featured extensively as a location for many recent films including Four Weddings and a Funeral (the fourth wedding), Shakespeare in Love and (somewhat incongruously) Avengers:Age of Ultron.

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The church also has a resident squirrel who must be the tamest one in London.

Leave the grounds of the church via steps down into Cloth Fair which connects with Long Lane via the alleyways of Barley Mow Passage, Cloth Court and Rising Sun Court.

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There are several pubs in this small area including the Hand & Shears on Cloth Fair which claims to have been established in 1532. The name of the pub derives from the prevalence of cloth merchants trading in the area in Tudor times (as does teh name of the street self-evidently). Apparently St Bartholomew’s Fair (see above) was for many years officially opened by the Lord Mayor from the doorway of the inn.

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The pub is on the corner with Kinghorn Street which we turn down as far as Bartholomew Court which is a dead end due to the building works. So we zig-zag west to east courtesy of Newbury Street, Middle Street and East Passage which all intersect with Cloth Street. Long Lane then sends us back to Aldersgate Street across the way from the Barbican Complex and turning south we finish up at the steps leading to the Museum of London – which you will be relieved to hear can wait for another day.

 

 

 

Day 31 (part 2) -Finsbury Square – Golden Lane – Charterhouse Square

Second part of today’s walk is itself split into two. First off we continue west from Liverpool Street Station and make a circuit of Finsbury Square before pausing on the eastern side of the Barbican Centre. Then it’s a return trip through the Beech Street tunnel to get to Golden Lane and its eponymous estate; after which we loop round the extensive site occupied by the Charterhouse and one of the four campuses of Queen Mary University traversing Clerkenwell Road, St John Street and Charterhouse Street to finish in Charterhouse Square.

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Leaving Broadgate Circus we turn right along Eldon Street then turn back north up Finsbury Avenue which leads into Finsbury Avenue Square which contains both table tennis tables and a few pieces of public art including this piece, Rush Hour.

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Exit the square from the north-east corner into Sun Street first turning left then swiftly right into Crown Place and completing a figure of eight involving those two along with Christopher Street, Earl Street and Wilson Street. Continue south on the latter past the Wilson Street Chapel which is currently besieged by both roadworks and redevelopment of the Flying Horse pub next door. The chapel was built in 1889 which (à propos of nothing) is one of the longest Roman Numeral dates to have yet occurred – MDCCCLXXXIX.

 

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At the end of Wilson Street turn right along South Place then right again into Dominion Street facing directly towards the back entrance of City Gate House. This was constructed in the mid 1920’s to the design of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880 – 1960) son of the better known and much more prolific George Gilbert Scott, creator of the Midland Hotel St Pancras (as was recorded many posts ago). Giles’ main claim to fame rests on the design of something on a much smaller scale but that’s one for our next post. City Gate House was originally built as a gentleman’s club but it’s not clear how long it lasted as such. American media giant Bloomberg acquired the building in 1991 though in 2015 they sold it on to developers (leasing it back on a temporary basis).

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Turn left next along Lackington Street then north up Finsbury Pavement (part of the A501) before turning the corner into Finsbury Square. First building you come to is the Norman Foster designed no.50 which is adjacent to City Gate House and which Bloomberg expanded into in 2000. Two years later they created the Bloomberg Space on the ground floor as a showcase for newly-commissioned contemporary visual art. The exhibitions there are generally worth a visit but the current offering left me distinctly underwhelmed I’m afraid.

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Continue round the square anti-clockwise passing the front of City Gate House and the drinking fountain that was erected by Tom and Walter Smith as a memorial to their mother Martha who died in 1898. Their father, another Tom, was the man who, in 1847, invented the Christmas Cracker. The business he created on the back of this, Tom Smith & Co., subsequently taken on by his three sons, operated from premises in Finsbury Square up until 1953 (when they moved to Norwich).

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The north side of the square is dominated by the former Triton Court (now known as the AlphaBeta Building). Triton Court was constructed in 1920, comprising three buildings, Mercury, Jupiter and Neptune Houses, internally arranged around a full height 9 storey central atrium. It underwent a first major refurbishment in 1984 and another, costing £36m, has just been completed following the change of name. On top of the tower stands a statue of the messenger of the Gods; Hermes or Mercury depending on whether you favour the Greeks or the Romans.

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After completing the circuit of Finsbury Square we head west on Chiswell Street where we pass Longbow House which now houses a branch of Currys PC World. This post-war building incorporates a relief of an archer, referencing back to the days when this area was to archery what St Andrews is to golf. That was before the advent of the musket though and the establishment of the Honourable Artillery Company whose grounds lie just to the north of here (see Day 28).

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Turn south down Finsbury Street and onto Ropemaker Street then continue west past the Barbican Centre and through the Beech Street tunnel to resume the trail at the southern end of Golden Lane. Take the first left into Brackley Street and when this junctions with Viscount Street head south initially into Bridgewater Street then double back and enter the Golden Lane estate from Fann Street.

The Golden Lane Estate was built in the 1950’s in an area which, as we have seen previously, was effectively razed to the ground by the blitz. A competition for the  design had been launched in 1951 and was won by Geoffrey Powell, a lecturer in architecture at Kingston School of Art. He then formed the partnership of Chamberlain, Powell & Bon with two of his fellow lecturers in order to carry out the project – the three had entered into an agreement that if any one of them won they would share the commission. The first  phase was opened in 1957 and the final block completed five years later. The estate consists of a series of relatively low-level maisonette blocks and the 16-storey centrepiece, Great Arthur House, which was the first residential tower block in London over 50 metres in height. The architectural style takes definite inspiration from the work of Le Corbusier but is softened by the use of primary colours on the facades.

At the time of construction the estate was regarded enthusiastically as a template for integrated social housing and it has indubitably stood test of time better than most of its contemporaries. Unsurprisingly, given the location, slightly over half of the 559 flats have been sold on leasehold since the Thatcher government’s introduction of the right to buy scheme. The attractiveness of taking advantage of such opportunity is enhanced by a level of on-site facilities replicated in scant few other London council estates – including a leisure centre with tennis courts and an indoor pool. Since 1997 the estate buildings have been Grade II listed.

So we exit the estate back out onto Golden Lane itself and continue north before turning west onto Baltic Street East and completing a grid consisting of this, Honduras Street, Timber Street, Domingo Street, Crescent Row, Memel Street, Memel Court, Sycamore Street and Baltic Street West. And the only thing of note to record in this whole area is this doorway of a former school which I can find no information about.

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Anyway, after all that we find ourselves out on the Goswell Road and then turning the corner into Clerkenwell Road where the mural that we saw back in Day 14 has now been replaced by a giant-sized Jessica Ennis-Hill.

Turn south all the way down St John Street to arrive opposite Smithfield Market then take a left down Charterhouse Street which soon splits in two. Take the left fork which takes us past a couple of pubs of note. First is the Smithfield Tavern which on the website which is still running advertises itself as Smithfields’ only vegetarian and vegan pub. You can see how well that worked from the picture below. Second is the Fox and Anchor which in its current four-storey art-nouveau facaded Grade II-listed incarnation has been around since the tail end of the 19th century (though there has been a pub of some kind here for several centuries).

Continuing on we arrive at Charterhouse Square. On the north side of the square sits the Charterhouse,  a former Carthusian monastery which since Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century the house has served as a private mansion, a boys’ school and an almshouse which it remains to this day. The site was originally set aside in the middle of the 14th century as a burial ground for victims of the Black Death and the monastery was established in 1371 on the unused portion of the land. In 1611, the year of his death, Thomas Sutton (1532 – 1611), businessman, civil servant and philanthropist, founded an almshouse for “80 impoverished gentlemen” and a school for 40 boys. Charterhouse School eventually outgrew its premises and moved to Godalming in Surrey in 1872 selling the site to another school, Merchant Taylor’s, which itself moved on in 1933. Today this part of the site is occupied by one of the four campuses of Queen Mary University London. The almshouse, which remains, is formally known as Sutton’s Hospital in Charterhouse and is a registered charity. For historic reasons the residents are still known as “Brothers”.

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The entrance to the University campus is via Rutland Place at the north-east corner of the square. On the east side of this lies Dean Rees House, part of the University now but built in 1894 as the Headmaster’s House and still bearing the motif of the Merchant Taylor’s School.

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The east side of Charterhouse Square itself is dominated by the Art Deco Florin Court built 1935-37 by Guy Morgan & Partners. When the building was refurbished in 1988 the original roof gardens were reinstated and a basement swimming pool added. Post-refurb and through the nineties it found fame in the guise of Whitehaven Mansions home to the TV version of Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

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Leaving the square via Carthusian Street (named after those monks of course) we arrive on Aldersgate Street, flanking the west side of the Barbican complex, and the finish of today’s perambulations.