Day 62 – Tower Bridge – Queen’s Walk – Hay’s Wharf

Well it’s taken nearly four years, which is about three and a half more than originally planned, but after 62 days and god knows how many miles every street covered by the central section of the London A-Z has finally been walked. Of course, give it a few more years and no-one will have a clue what that means as they’ll only ever have used Google maps to get around but, just as a reminder, this is roughly the area we’re talking about :

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or to put it another way :

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And (having just counted them up) that’s roughly 2,028 streets, roads, lanes, walks, passages, avenues, mews(es) and rents altogether. Though I probably shouldn’t count Downing Street as it wasn’t actually possible to set foot there.

Anyway back to today’s valedictory lap which is mercifully short – just across Tower Bridge and west along the river to London Bridge.

Day 63 Route

Tower Bridge was built between 1886 and 1894 and is a combined bascule (the bit that raises and lowers – from the French for “see-saw”) and suspension bridge. It has a total length of 244m and the two towers are 65m high. Over 50 designs had been submitted for the new river crossing and the successful proposal for a bascule bridge was a collaboration between Horace Jones, the City Architect, and engineer, John Wolfe Barry. The incorporation of twin towers with connecting walkways was intended to allow pedestrians to be able to continue to cross the river when the bridge was raised. However, in 1910 the walkways were closed due to lack of use – the general public preferred to wait for the bascules to close rather than clamber up the two hundred-odd stairs and (allegedly) run a gauntlet of pickpockets and prostitutes once they got to the top. Only in 1982 with the creation of the Tower Bridge exhibition were the Walkways re-opened and covered over. Two massive piers were sunk into the river bed to support the construction and over 11,000 tons of steel provided the framework for the Towers and Walkways. This framework was clad in Cornish granite and Portland stone to protect the underlying steelwork and to give the Bridge a more pleasing appearance.

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Compared to many London attractions entry to the Tower Bridge exhibition is relatively reasonably priced at just under a tenner. This gets you up to the walkways, 42m above the river, and also includes access to the engine rooms. I chose to climb up the 200-plus steps inside the north tower rather than take the lift. Those that go for the latter option miss out on half the exhibition (including the “dad-dancing diver – you’ll see what I mean). Each walkway now includes a short glass-floored section which is not great for those that lack a head for heights. If these had only been configured “à la bascule” then the world would be able to rid itself of a bevy of annoying teenagers on regular basis.

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To get to the Engine Rooms, which are situated underneath the southern end of the bridge, you follow a blue line from the base of the south tower. The bascules are operated by hydraulics, originally using steam to power the enormous pumping engines. The energy created was stored in six massive accumulators so that, as soon as power was required to lift the bridge, it was always readily available. The accumulators fed the driving engines, which drove the bascules up and down. Despite the complexity of the system, the bascules only took about a minute to raise to their maximum angle of 86 degrees. Today, the bascules are still operated by hydraulic power, but since 1976 they have been driven by oil and electricity rather than steam. The original pumping engines, accumulators and boilers are now exhibits within the Engine Rooms.

We descend from the west side Tower Bridge Road down onto Queen’s Walk and then turn left immediately and follow Duchess Walk past a line of upscale eateries to Queen Elizabeth Street. On the triangular island bordered by this, Tooley Street and TBR stands a statue of Samuel Bourne Bevington (1832 – 1907) who was Bermondsey’s first mayor and came from a Quaker family who made their fortune in the local leather trade.  The sculptor was Sydney March (1876 – 1968) who was something of a go-to guy at the start of the 20th century if you wanted a monument to a major figure of Empire or a WW1 memorial. Beyond this statue (and you can only just see the plinth in the photo below) is a bust of the far more significant figure of Ernest Bevin (1881 – 1951) who was co-founder of the Transport and General Workers’ Union and served as Foreign Secretary in the 1945-51 Labour Government.
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At the junction of Queen Elizabeth Street and Tooley Street sits the building that was built in 1893 as a new permanent home for St Olaves’ Grammar School. The school was founded in the late 16th century following a legacy of £8 a year granted in the will of Southwark brewer, Henry Leeke. The building on QE Street was designed by Edward William Mountford, the architect of the Old Bailey. The school upped and decamped to suburban Orpington in 1968 and the building was acquired for use as an annexe by South London College. That tenure lasted until 2004 after which the listed building lay idle for ten years until it was bought by the Lalit Group as the latest addition to their chain of luxury boutique hotels, opening in 2017.

We turn right past the west side of the hotel down Potters Fields which runs into its eponymous park where a lunchtime session of Bikram yoga is in full swing.

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On the north side of the park, heading back towards Tower Bridge is London’s newest major theatre, the Bridge, founded by former National Theatre luminaries, Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr, and opened in 2017.  Diagonally opposite across the park stands City Hall the headquarters of the Greater London Authority (GLA) a combination of the Mayor of London’s office and the London Assembly. The building was designed by Norman Foster and opened for business in 2002, two years after the creation of the GLA. The unusual shape of the building was supposedly intended to minimise surface area and thus improve energy efficiency but the exclusive use of glass for the exterior has more than offset any benefit this confers. In a singular display of unity, former Mayors, Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson, have both likened the form of the building to a particular element of the male anatomy; the former dubbing it “the Glass Testicle” and the latter “the Glass Gonad”.

City Hall forms part of a larger riverside development, called More London, with the usual mix of offices, shops and restaurants, which covers the area once filled with wharves and warehouses forming part of the so-called Upper Pool of London. Adjacent to City Hall is a sunken amphitheatre called The Scoop which hosts open-air music performances and film screenings during the summer months (and more lunchtime yoga as you can see below).

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In order to arrive at The Scoop we cross Potters Fields Park back to Tooley Street and return via Weaver’s Lane and More London Riverside. En route we pass through a herbaceous garden, of forty different perennial species, designed by the man responsible for the highline garden in New York, Piet Oudolf.

The thoroughfare known as More London Riverside continues beyond The Scoop, veering away from the river in between new HQ’s for accountancy firms Ernst & Young and PWC and lawyers, Norton Rose.

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On arriving at More London Place we head back down to river along Morgan’s Lane, which joins Queen’s Walk by the mooring of HMS Belfast. Although I have been aboard HMS Belfast before that was about 45 years ago I reckon so I was sorely tempted to repeat the experience but time was against me so I spurned the opportunity.

Built by Messrs Harland & Wolff in 1936, HMS Belfast was launched by Anne Chamberlain, wife of the then Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, on St Patrick’s Day in 1938. A year later she was commissioned into the Royal Navy under the command of Captain G A Scott (the ship that is, not Mrs Chamberlain). The Belfast was immediately called into service patrolling northern waters in an effort to impose a maritime blockade on Germany. However, disaster struck after only two months at sea when she hit a magnetic mine. There were few casualties but the damage to her hull was so severe she was out of action for three years. On rejoining the fleet in 1942 the Belfast played a key role in protecting arctic convoys en route to the USSR. She then went on to spend five weeks supporting the 1944 D-Day landings. She retired from service in 1963 and a few years later a trust was formed under the auspices of the Imperial War Museum to preserve her. After a successful campaign HMS Belfast was opened to the public in 1971, the last remaining vessel of her type – one of the largest and most powerful light cruisers ever built.

Bang in front of HMS Belfast on the riverfront, and taking up valuable real estate that could be otherwise utilised for even more bars and restaurants, is the enduring loveliness that is Southwark Crown Court. Opened in 1983 its 15 courtrooms make it the fourth largest centre for criminal sentencing in the country. It specialises in serious fraud cases. High profile cases in 2019 include the founder of Extinction Rebellion and another activist being cleared of all charges relating to protests in which they entered Kings College London and spray painted “Divest from oil and gas” on the walls and Julian Assange being convicted for breaching bail conditions by taking refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy. (Who says judges are out of touch ?).
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The front entrance to the court building is away from the river on English Grounds which is off Battle Bridge Lane. Surrounded by the latter, Counter Street and Hay’s Lane is Hay’s Galleria. In 1651 merchant, Alexander Hay took over the lease of a brewhouse beside London Bridge which included a small wharf. By 1710 his family company owned most of the warehouses along the river between London Bridge and the future southern end of Tower Bridge and the expanded wharf officially became known as Hay’s Wharf. By 1838 the company had fallen under the control of John Humphrey Jnr, an Alderman of the City of London. He commissioned architect William Cubitt to design and build a new wharf with an enclosed dock which work was completed in 1857. Unfortunately, just four years later, the Great Fire of Southwark destroyed the warehouses surrounding the new wharf. The buildings that form Hay’s Galleria are some of those arose from the ashes of that fire. Within a few years Hay’s Wharf was handling nearly 80% of the dry produce coming into the capital earning it the soubriquet of “London’s Larder”. The area suffered terrible bombing during WW2 but the Hay’s Wharf company recovered and by 1960, was handling 2m tons of foodstuffs and had 11 cold and cool air stores. However, over the course of the following decade, the explosion in the use of container ships led to the shipping industry moving out to the deep water ports of Tilbury and Felixstowe. Quite rapidly the London docks began to close and in 1969 The Hay’s Wharf Company ceased operations. In the 1980’s the site was acquired for redevelopment by St Martin’s Property Corporation, the real estate arm of the State of Kuwait’s sovereign wealth fund. Hay’s Wharf, renamed Hay’s Galleria, was filled in and paved over and a glass barrel vault installed to join the two warehouse buildings at roof level to create an atrium like area with shops and stalls on ground level with offices in the upper levels. The adjoining wharf to the east, Wilson’s Wharf, was levelled to make way for the Crown Courts and the wharf buildings to the west, Chamberlain’s Wharf together with St Olaf House, were taken over by London Bridge Hospital (see below).

On leaving Hay’s Galleria we continue west along the river as far as London Bridge, passing the aforementioned eponymous hospital. On ascending up to bridge level we turn south and take the walkway that curves round to London Bridge Station then take the stairway down from Duke Street Hill to Tooley Street emerging opposite another part of London Bridge Hospital, a private hospital opened in 1986. St Olaf House, which houses the hospital’s Consulting rooms and Cardiology Department, was built as the Headquarters for Hay’s Wharf in 1931. This outstanding example of an Art Deco building was designed by the famous architect, H.S. Goodhart-Rendel, and is one of his best known works. It is a listed building, with its well-known river facade and its Doulton faience panels by Frank Dobson, showing dock life and the unloading of goods – ‘Capital, Labour and Commerce’.

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The building on Tooley Street is somewhat less impressive and so perhaps not the most fitting way to close this project. But then again this has not just been about venerable and grandiose old buildings and the ports of call for the open-top bus tours. It’s been about poking into every corner of the heart of this great city and circulating round each and every one of its arteries from the grandest boulevard to the grimiest cul-de-sac. In that spirit therefore, please salute these former shipping offices which first saw the light of day in 1860.
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And so it’s goodbye from me…..for now.

 

 

Day 45 – Bishopsgate – Leadenhall Market – Lime Street – Monument

Today’s journey’s a little bit different from the usual in that it coincided with the Sunday of this year’s Open House Weekend so I was afforded the possibility of seeing inside a few places en route that would normally be off limits. Case in point is the Drapers’ Hall which we encountered towards the end of Day 44 so we’re going to rewind a bit and kick off with that again this time. From there we’re going to head north up to London Wall then drop south on Bishopsgate to Leadenhall Market before wending our way east and south to finish up at the Monument.

Day 45 Route

As noted, today’s starting point is the Drapers’ Hall on Throgmorton Street. We already covered the history of the Drapers’ Company and the external architectural features last time out so I’m just going to let the images of the interior pretty much speak for themselves (aside from the commentary I’ve added to the individual slides that is). Suffice to say, I had expected something pretty grandiose as befitting third place on the Order of Precedence but I wasn’t prepared for something quite this opulent (and on such a scale).

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You will have noted that the Victorian artist, Herbert James Draper (1863 – 1920) had quite a prominent role in in the decoration of the Hall. Whether he got the commission on account of his name or because the guiding lights of the company appreciated his somewhat risqué interpretations of mythological and Shakespearean themes is not recorded (so far as I can tell). The thinking behind the tapestries and ceiling painting depicting scenes from the Legend of Jason and the Golden Fleece is rather easier to discern.

After leaving the hall we repeat the walk up Throgmorton Avenue to Austin Friars which leads east to the Dutch Church. Originally this was the site of a 13th century Augustinian priory (Austin Friars) before, in 1550, what is regarded as the oldest Dutch-language Protestant church in the world church was founded here. That first building survived right up until the Blitz destroyed it; the present church was built in the early 1950’s. Perkin Walbeck, the pretender to the English crown (he claimed to be the younger son of Edward IV, one of the Princes in the Tower murdered by Richard III), was buried in the original church following his execution by Henry VII. Today the church still acts as a focal point for the Dutch community in London.

Opposite the church is the Furniture Makers’ Hall – which is the one that I could claim entry to by virtue of ancestry. Typical ! If only my Grand-dads had been drapers instead of chairmakers.

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Looping round the rest of Austin Friars we emerge onto Old Broad Street opposite the City of London Club, the oldest Gentlemen’s club in, well, the City of London. This was founded in 1832 by a group of prominent bankers, merchants and ship owners and held its first meetings at the George and Vulture pub (see last post). The original membership numbered 600 and included the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel. If you should want to join then you need to make the acquaintance and get the support of at least six people who are already members (and ladies are equally welcome these days apparently).

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As you can see, these days the City of London Club, sits in the shadow of Tower 42, which until 1990 and the construction of One Canada Square at Canary Wharf was the tallest building in the UK. Nowadays it’s only the third highest skyscraper in the City of London having been eclipsed in recent years by the Heron Tower (we’ll stick with that name thank you) and 122 Leadenhall Street (a.k.a “the Cheesegrater”). Tower 42, of course, started life as the NatWest Tower (seen from above the shape of the building echoes the NatWest logo). It was designed by Richard Seifert (1910 – 20011) and built by John Mowlem & Co between 1971 and 1980 at a cost of £72m. At 183m the tower dwarfed everything around it at the time of construction and was extremely controversial. It was built around a massive central concrete core from which the floors are cantilevered (anchored at just one end) making it exceptionally strong but reducing the amount of office space that could have been available with an alternative structure. On a note with contemporary resonance; at the time of design, fire sprinkler systems were not mandatory in the UK and so weren’t installed. It was this omission, coupled with a fire in the tower during a 1996 refurbishment, that prompted the GLC to amend its fire regulations and require sprinkler installations in all buildings. Today the building is multi-tenanted with a high-end restaurant on the 24th floor and a champagne and seafood bar on the 42nd.

Moving on we duck into Pinners Alley (by the side of Pinners Hall where I worked from 1996 to 2004) heading west briefly before turning north up Austin Friars Passage – which I always though should’ve been the name of a second division 1970’s pro-rock band.

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At the other end is Great Winchester Street which is home to Deutsche Bank’s London HQ. Among the artworks in their lobby is one of Damien Hirst’s multi-coloured dot efforts (more of him later).

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Turning left we end up back on London Wall which as we head east morphs into Wormwood Street. At the junction with Bishopsgate (a.k.a the A10) we switch southward and drop all the way down to Leadenhall Market. On the way we pass a NatWest building of a different vintage altogether; this one built in the 1860’s to a design of the architect John Gibson (1817 – 1892) when the bank was known as the National Provincial Bank of England.

At Leadenhall Market I was able to tag along with a tour that had just started (courtesy of Open House again). I wish I had made a note of the guide’s name so I could give a well deserved shout-out as she was excellent. Anyway, Leadenhall Market dates back to the 14th century and stands on a site that was once the heart of Roman London. As early as 1321 it was a meeting place of the Poulterers while the Cheesemongers (I think we must have missed them on our travels) sold their wares here from 1397. In 1411 the Corporation of London acquired the freehold of the site and it became an established market for fish, meat, poultry and corn. The present wrought iron and glass roofed structure was designed by City Architect, Horace Jones (1819 – 1887) and erected in 1881. The Market has been used as a location in a number of films, most notably Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where it represented Diagon Alley and the Leaky Cauldron pub.

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We leave the market via Whittington Avenue and, turning right on Leadenhall Street, pass the Lloyds of London building (not to be confused with the Lloyds Register building which we encountered previously). This iconic, Richard Rogers designed edifice, caused even more of a stir when it was put up (between 1978 and 1986) than the NatWest Tower had. In spite of this, 25 years after its completion it became the youngest structure ever to be granted Grade-I listed status. Lloyds is a leading example of what has been dubbed Bowellism, the practice of putting service areas of a building on its exterior so as to maximise space in the interior (c.f. Paris’s Pompidou Centre). The building consists of three main towers and three service towers around a central, rectangular space. Its core is the large Underwriting Room on the ground floor, which houses the Lutine Bell within the Rostrum. (It wasn’t taking part in Open House this year but the queues are normally prohibitive anyway).

The Lloyd’s building is at no.1 Lime Street; opposite at no.52 construction is underway of yet another skyscraper, The Scalpel. This time that’s an official designation, the developers yielding to the “if you can’t beat ’em join ’em” maxim. This one will top out at 38 storeys and be the new European HQ for insurers W.R Berkley (no me neither).

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Turn south down Lime Street and then return to the Market along Leadenhall Place. Take a left into Lime Street Passage and then traverse the Market a couple more times via Beehive Passage, Bull’s Head Passage and Ship Tavern Passage. This finds us back on Lime Street which we follow southward to Fenchurch Street. From here we go west back to Gracechurch Street then continue south before cutting round Talbot Court down onto Eastcheap. Turn east as far as Philpot Lane and use this to return northward, poking our noses into Brabant Court on the west side before arriving back on Fenchurch Street. This route takes us around no.20 Fenchurch Street, better known to you, me and everyone else as the “Walkie-Talkie” and the 2015 winner of Building Design Magazine’s Carbuncle Cup for the worst building in the UK. It is notorious of course because its concave shape makes it reflect sunlight into a concentrated beam that on reaching street level has been known to melt the bodywork of parked cars and facilitate the frying of eggs on the pavement. Those incidents took place in 2013, since when the glass exterior has been covered with a non-reflective film. In an interview with The Guardian the building’s architect, Rafael Vinoly, blamed the problem on global warming “When I first came to London years ago, it wasn’t like this … Now you have all these sunny days”.  The ‘sky garden’ at the top of the building was claimed to be London’s highest public park, but since opening there have been debates about whether it can be described as a ‘park’, and whether it is truly ‘public’ given the access restrictions. On the day there was a queue of about eighty or so people waiting to be allowed up.

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This time we strike eastward until we reach Cullum Street which curves back onto Lime Street. At the junction here that man Damien Hirst makes a second appearance in today’s post, lowering the tone of the neighbourhood with one of his giant anatomical models as part of Sculpture in the City.

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This time we make an easterly retreat from Lime Street along Fenchurch Avenue and after a short distance cut back to Fenchurch Street via Fen Court. There is a small garden here in what was once the churchyard of St Gabriel Fenchurch, lost in the Great Fire. The sculpture “The Gilt of Cain” by Michael Vissochi was unveiled by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 2008 and commemorates the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. It takes its name from a poem of Lemn Sissay which is inscribed on the sculpture and combines Old Testament text with the language of the Stock Exchange.

You’re probably wondering by now where all the churches had got to but don’t worry, there are one or two on the menu today – though fewer than you’ve had to put up with in the last few posts. First up is All Hallows Staining which we reach by taking Star Alley south from Fenchurch Street through to Mark Lane. Mind you, all that remains of this one is its tower which was built around 1320 AD. The rest was demolished c.1870 when All Hallows merged with nearby St Olave Hart Street (see Day 40). The latter was badly damaged in WW2 so a prefab church was erected next to the tower and named St Olave Mark Lane (as you see the sign in the photo confusingly still refers to St Olave). The tower is maintained by the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers, whose hall sits in nearby Mincing Lane.

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Next we follow Mark Lane down to Great Tower Street which at its eastern extremity adjoins with Byward Street which as it heads west turns into Lower Thames Street. At the juncture here sits The Hung Drawn & Quartered pub which acts as a reminder of the public executions which once took place on nearby Tower Hill, including those of Thomases More and Cromwell.

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We leave Lower Thames Street almost immediately and wend our way through Bakers Hall Court, Harp Lane and Cross Lane to St Dunstan’s Hill where lie the ruins of the church of St Dunstan in the East, now set within a public garden that was laid out in 1967. St Dunstan’s wasn’t completely destroyed in the Great Fire so it was patched up in the immediate aftermath and then a Wren-designed tower and steeple were added at the end of the 17th century. Apart from a couple of walls this tower was all that remained intact after the WW2 bombing and it was decided not to rebuild again. Personally I like it as it is now – as do the birds.

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Dropping back down onto Lower Thames Street it’s time for another Open House visit – to the Billingsgate Roman House and Baths (or rather the very partial remains thereof) located beneath a drab 1980’s office block. Discovered in 1848 during the construction of the Coal Exchange building (more of that in a while) these are the only remains of a Roman house accessible in London. It is believed that the house was originally built around the late 2nd century AD and the baths added in the following century. The latest theory is that at the time the baths were constructed the building had become a resting-place for travellers, essentially a Roman version of a hotel. I have to again commend the guides who were exceptionally informative and engaging. Visits to the site are restricted but you can book a tour through the Museum of London outside of Open House weekend.

Opposite here, straddling the area between Lower Thames Street and the river is another Open House destination, Custom House. An English Customs service on an ad hoc basis has existed since at least the middle of the 8th century and was formalised by King Edward I in 1275 as a means of beefing up the royal finances. The current Custom House is thought to be the fifth such to have been built on this site, chosen because beyond this point London Bridge has historically prevented ships from going further upriver. The present building was put up between 1813 and 1817 and initially designed by David Laing (1774 – 1856), Surveyor to the Customs. However within a few years of completion the ceiling of the Long Room had partially collapsed and the floor completely given way. The latter event occurred just a day after Sir Robert Smirke (1780 – 1867) had concluded an inspection of the premises and advised staff to evacuate. Smirke was then engaged to oversee the rebuilding and Laing’s career suffered the same fate as the floor. The Custom House now comprises a west wing built by Laing, a central block built by Smirke and an east wing dating from 1962-66. The southern façade, made of Portland stone, is much more aesthetically-pleasing than the northern face of yellow stock brick; this is because the building was designed to be seen from the river and impress shipfarers from overseas.

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The Great Long Room was an innovation of Christopher Wren (prolific doesn’t even begin to do the man justice) for his version of the Custom House, built in 1671. This was to be the public room where all import and export business was to be transacted. Because of this room, the public rooms in Custom Houses around the world have become known as ‘Long Rooms’ irrespective of their shape or size. The current Long Room is the work of the aforementioned Sir Robert Smirke, it is 190 feet long and 63 feet wide and has one of the largest unsupported wooden ceilings in Europe.

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The Long Room

The Coal Exchange which I mentioned earlier was one of the glories of Victorian Architecture, built in 1847-49 to the designs of City architect, James Bunstone Bunning (1802 – 1863) and opened to great fanfare by Queen Vic herself. The interior was one of the earliest and most remarkable examples of cast-iron construction in the world, several years before the Crystal Palace. However that didn’t cut any ice with the town planners of the 1960’s who had little regard for Victorian extravagance. Despite the objections of the Victorian Society and Sir John Betjeman (naturally) the building was demolished in 1962 in preparation for a road-widening scheme that didn’t actually take place until the 1980s. Why do I mention this ? Because the alternative would have been to shave off that unlovely north face of the Custom House, an option which from a 21st century perspective appears immeasurably more appealing.

Coal Exchange

James Bunning was also responsible for the original Billingsgate Fish Market built just to west of the Custom House in 1850 but rendered obsolete by increased levels of trade within 25 years. Work on a new market building, designed by Horace Jones in the Italianate style, began in 1874 and was completed three years later. In 1982 the fish market was relocated to the Isle of Dogs and the building on Lower Thames Street was refurbished under the guidance of Richard Rogers (he gets about a bit as well). The Grade II listed building is now used as an events venue.

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Time we got moving again I think. Head up Idol Lane which runs to the west of St Dunstan’s and turn right on Great Tower Street before proceeding north (with a manly stride) up Mincing Lane. Next move is west along Plantation Lane which leads into Rood Lane. Venture northward first before doubling back towards Eastcheap. On the corner here stands the Guild church of St Margaret Pattens (unlike Parish churches Guild churches hold regular weekday services rather than serving a Sunday congregation). The church’s exterior is notable for its 200-ft high spire, Wren’s third highest and the only one that he designed in a medieval style. The name of the church derives from pattens, wooden-soled overshoes which historically enabled Londoners to walk about the city without sinking too deep into the mud and effluent which covered the streets. The church still has an affiliation with the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers.

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Cross over Eastcheap and drop down St Mary at Hill back towards the river. At no.18 we find the Watermen’s Hall, home to the Company of Watermen and Lightermen (in a riverfaring context the Watermen were the equivalent of taxi-drivers and the Lightermen the truckers). The hall was built in 1780 by William Blackburn and is the only remaining Georgian hall in the City of London. The Watermen are not a Livery Company as such, hence no Worshipful before the name. This is because the Waterman are governed by statutes and Royal Charters that extend beyond the boundaries of the City of London. So unlike the Pattenmakers (no.70) they don’t appear in the Order of Precedence.IMG_20170917_153709

So we’re almost at our final stop and to get there we have to negotiate as follows: north up Lovat Lane, left turn into Botolph Alley, north up Botolph Lane, west along Eastcheap, south down Pudding Lane, left along St George’s Lane back to Botolph Lane, south this time and then west into Monument Street. Which, as you might have guessed, brings us to The Monument itself. As I’m sure you’re aware, this was erected in commemoration of the Great Fire of 1666 and the subsequent rebuilding of the City and was completed in 1677. The fire was alleged to have begun in a baker’s shop on Pudding Lane and the height of The Monument is equal to its distance from that starting point, 202 feet. The designers of the memorial were Sir Christopher Wren (goes without saying really) and his friend Dr Robert Hooke (1635 – 1703). They came up with the idea of a classic Doric column with 311 steps up to a viewing platform and a summit topped with a drum and copper urn from which flames emerge. A total of seven people died falling from the viewing gallery (six suicides and one who accidentally fell after leaning over the balcony to look at a live eagle kept in a cage) before it was enclosed in an iron cage in 1842. It costs £5 (cash only) if you want to ascend up to the platform.

Keeping my five pounds in my pocket I walk on by and finish today’s epic with a stroll up and down Fish Street Hill.

And that’s us finally just about done with the City of London. Next time we’ll be heading back west over to Hyde Park for a complete change of scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 41 – London Wall – Cheapside – Guildhall

Today’s journey starts with a visit to the Museum of London and then weaves it way between London Wall and Cheapside before finishing (more or less) at the City of London Guildhall. It’s an area full of historical resonance (to which the scurrying office workers are blithely indifferent) despite almost wholesale reconstruction after WWII. It also has the highest concentration of Livery Company Halls in the City though they maintain a discreetly low profile .

Day 41 Route

Although today’s walk properly begins at the Museum of London I take time out beforehand to revive the tradition of the pub of the day. In this case that involves a visit to the Hand and Shears on Middle Street which is pretty much where we closed proceedings two posts ago. This is a proper unreconstructed old boys’ boozer and none the worse for it; though it does mean it’s not exactly heaving for a Friday lunchtime.

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Anyway back to the Museum which sits in the south-western corner of the Barbican complex. There are vague plans afoot to turn this site into a new concert hall and relocate the museum elsewhere locally but in the current climate I won’t be holding my breath for that. I won’t dwell too much on the collections in the museum;  if you haven’t been I can recommend it – and it’s still free entry as we speak. Here are some of my personal highlights though.

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The sandwich board in the final slide was worn by one Stanley Owen Green (1915 – 1993) who strolled up and down Oxford Street wearing it for 25 years from 1968 until his death. I remember him well from my younger days though I was never really sure how less sitting was supposed to dampen the libido.

On leaving the museum we head east along what remains of the Bastion Highwalk, taking its name from the 21 bastions built along wall by the Emperor Hadrian in AD 122. In short order descend the steps onto London Wall and then veer off-road to check out the remnants of the wall in this the north-west corner, the Aldersgate section, diametrically opposite the bit we looked at in the previous post (by Tower Hill for those with short memory). These remains include St Giles Cripplegate Tower which was one of the towers added when the wall was comprehensively rebuilt in the early 13th century. What’s left standing today represents about 2/3 of the original height. The Roman fort at Cripplegate was a bit further east as we shall shortly see.

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In the final slide (again) you can see the Barber’s Physic Garden which is on the site of the 13th of Hadrian’s bastions and showcases a selection of plants which have been used in medical and surgical practice throughout the ages. Barber-Surgeons Hall, the HQ of The Worshipful Company of Barbers, 17th out of 110 in order of precedence and 700 years old in 2008, is round the corner in Monkwell Square. The Company first included surgeons amongst its number in 1312. Barbers and surgeons had overlapped in their duties for many years, largely because in the 13th century Pope Honorarius III had prohibited all persons in holy orders from practising medicine. Barbers in the monasteries therefore began to add minor surgical skills to their repertoire, which in due course were passed on to barbers elsewhere.

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Across Wood Street from Monkwell Square is the former site of Cripplegate that I referred to above. This entrance to fortified London was rebuilt at least twice after its original construction in c. AD 120 and was finally demolished in 1760.

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To the east of here is St Alphage Gardens which, hemmed in by the massive ongoing redevelopment of this area, currently leads to nowhere. This former churchyard derives its name from St Alfege, the 29th Archbishop of Canterbury, who was killed by the Vikings in 1012. The garden is bordered by another chunk of the Roman city wall.

There are more wall remains back on the south side of London Wall at the top of Noble Street. It was actually the destruction of this area by the German bombing raids in WW2 which allowed the remains of the old City Wall to see the light of day again.

At the junction of Noble Street and Gresham Street sits St Anne & St Agnes Church which typically can trace its history back to Norman times. It was rebuilt to a design of Christopher Wren’s in 1680 then largely destroyed in the Blitz. Its restoration was largely paid for by the worldwide Lutheran church in order for it to be used by the exiled Estonian and Latvian communities. When that congregation moved on in 2013 the building became the secular Gresham Centre and home to the music-based charity, VCM.

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Heading a little way back up Noble Street we turn eastward next, down Oat Lane. On the corner with Staining Lane we find the hall of the Worshipful Company of Pewterers. These guys were granted their charter by Edward IV in 1473 and they sit at number 16 in the Livery Company charts. The use of pewter as an everyday production material had effectively died out by the end of the 17th century but the trade survives as a decorative art.

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Back on Gresham Street, opposite the bottom end of Staining Lane, is Wax Chandlers Hall, the sixth incarnation of the home of that particular Livery Company. Wax Chandlers were in the business of making products out of beeswax; before the Reformation acts of devotion to speed souls through Purgatory required vast quantities of beeswax for candles, tapers and images. These days I think its safe to assume that Wax Chandlers are even thinner on the ground than Pewterers, though there is apparently a European Wax Federation based in Brussels. Uniquely, their charter was granted by Richard III (I guess he wasn’t around long enough to do any more). In the Order of Precedence they rank a few places lower than the Pewterers at no.20.

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From here we turn north again up Wood Street. On an island in the middle of the street sits the 92ft tower which is all that remained of the Church of St Alban after WWII bombs destroyed the rest of Christopher Wren’s post-Great Fire handiwork. These days the tower is used as a private residence.

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Adjacent to the tower is Wood Street police station which was built in the mid-1960’s to the neoclassical design of architect Donald McMorran and has been Grade II listed since 1998.

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Just north of the Police Station we cut through between the buildings to get to Aldermanbury Square. This is the location of Brewers’ Hall, home of the Brewers’ Company, which as you might have worked out has a somewhat more extensive membership than its fellow Livery Companies we have encountered thus far. This lot got their charter from Henry VI (who completes the triumvirate of monarchs associated with the Wars of the Roses) in 1438. The current hall is the third on the site and was constructed in 1960 (I’m sure by now I don’t need to explain what happened to the previous two). Apparently there was something of a feud between the Brewers and Mayor Dick Whittington which blew up because the Brewers had fat swans at their feast on the morrow of St Martin and the Mayor didn’t. Whittington’s revenge was to make the Brewers sell their ale at 1d per gallon all the following day. The Brewers are at position 14 in the O.O.P. (between the Dyers and the Leathersellers).

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Nipping up Brewers’ Hall Gardens we emerge back on London Wall and then sortie eastward towards Moorgate. Although it’s not strictly on today’s route I just wanted to mention Electra House which stands at no.84 Moorgate, as it’s kind of fallen in between the cracks. This was completed in 1903 and was the headquarters of the Eastern telegraph and Allied Companies. The rather resplendent bronze sculpture atop the dome was created by F.W Pomeroy (1856 – 1924) and depicts a group of four cherubs holding aloft a globe within a wire structure showing the signs of the zodiac (why is anyone’s guess).

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Anyway, back on track we head south on Coleman Street before turning west along Basinghall Avenue which brings us to the home of the Worshipful Company of Girdlers (girdle makers). Unsurprisingly, this is one of the smaller Livery Companies with only around 80 active members and is no longer allied with an extant trade. Girdles, as in a kind of belt used to fasten a cassock rather than the elasticated figure-enhancing garment produced by Playtex in the 20th century, began to go out of fashion in the 16th century. Even in its heyday, the Company overlapped with other crafts concerned with metal or leather and was at various times associated with the Pinners, the Cordwainers and the Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers. Today the Girdlers’ Company no longer practises its craft, with the single proud exception that it has the privilege of presenting the sword belt for the Sword of State and stole for each Sovereign’s coronation. Oh, no.23 since you ask.

At the end of Basinghall Avenue we turn south into Aldermanbury Street where we find the Institute of Chartered Insurers which incorporates the Worshipful Company of Insurers (but I reckon we’re Livery Company’ed out for the moment and we know what these guys do and besides they’re only placed at a lowly no.92).

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In St Mary Aldermanbury Garden at the corner with Love Lane is a memorial to John Heminge and Henry Condell, members of the King’s Men actors’ company, who in 1623 published the “First Folio”of Shakespeare’s collected plays.

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I took this photo of One Love Lane because I was going to make a weak joke about this having nothing to do with Bob Marley, but I don’t think I’ll bother.

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So Love Lane takes us back to the St Alban Tower on Wood Street from where we go south back to Gresham Street then turn left for a short way before continuing south on Gutter Lane. From her we turn west along Carey Street which joins with Foster Lane. Foster Lane is the site of Goldsmiths’ Hall, the very grandiose home of the Goldsmiths’ Company (no.5 with a bullet !). The current hall is the third of its kind and was built in the early 1830’s to a design of Philip Hardwick, the Company’s Surveyor. the grand opening in 1835 was attended by the Duke of Wellington. In 1941 a bomb exploded in the south-west corner but as you can see in the picture below the hall (unlike most of the surrounding buildings) survived relatively unscathed. Goldsmith has always referred to someone who works in both gold and silver and today encompasses those who work in platinum and palladium as well. In 1300 King Edward I passed a statute requiring gold and silver to be of a defined standard and requiring ‘les Gardeins du Mester’ (Guardians of the Craft) to test it and mark it with the leopard’s head. This was supposedly taken from the royal arms and later known as the King’s mark. This is the first legal recognition of the Company, and the beginning of hallmarking in Britain. If you look closely you can see the leopards’ heads on the coat of arms sculpted on the exterior of the building.

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Turn back south down Foster Lane then make a round trip of Rose Crown Court and Priests Court before visiting the Church of St Vedast. Same old story here I’m afraid; originated in the 12th century, burnt down in the Great Fire, rebuilt by Christopher Wren, burnt out in the Blitz and restored after the war.  St Vedast is a fairly obscure French saint from the 6th century. His name in England has been corrupted from St Vaast, by way of Vastes, Fastes, Faster, Fauster and Forster to Foster, hence the name of the lane, and the reason that the official designation of the church is St Vedast-alias-Foster.

We return to Gutter Lane via Cheapside and find ourselves at Saddlers’ Hall which is where I was stationed as a volunteer for the Dominoes event commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire in 2016.  The Worshipful Company of Saddlers occupies 25th place on the list despite being one of the oldest companies, having received its first Royal Charter in 1395 courtesy of Richard II. The Saddlers attribute their relatively lowly placing to the fact that by the time the order of precedence was established in 1515 the economic balance of power in the City of London had shifted from the craft guilds to the merchant companies.

That’s the last mention of Livery Companies you’ll have to put up with for today you’ll be relieved to hear. So, moving swiftly on, we head east next down Goldsmiths’ Street then across Wood Street again and continue through Compter Passage to Milk Street. Crossing over again we enter Russia Row which in a brilliant twist of up-to-the-minute irony segues directly into Trump Street.

Swiftly leaving Trump Street behind we turn north up Lawrence Lane which takes us back up on to Gresham Street and the church of St Lawrence Jewry which is so-called because the original 12th century church was in an area occupied at the time by the Jewish community. Since then it’s been a familiar tale of Great Fire, Wren-designed rebuild, WWII destruction (as a result of action by the King’s enemies according to the plaque outside) and post-war restoration, in 1957 in this case. St Lawrence is now the official church of the Corporation of London. St Lawrence met a particularly grisly end at the hands of the Romans. You can follow the link to get the full details but suffice to say his symbol is a gridiron, a representation of which forms part of the weather vane on the church.

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St Lawrence occupies the south side of the square on the opposite of which stands the Guildhall. The Guildhall was built between 1411 and 1440 and was designed to reflect the power and prestige of the Lord Mayor and the ruling merchant class. It is the only non-ecclesiastical stone building from that era to have survived (at least in part) until the present day. The Great Hall lost its roof in both 1666 and 1940 but the walls stood firm. The second replacement roof, erected in 1954, was designed by our old friend Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. The giants, Gog and Magog, are associated with Guildhall. Legend has it that the two giants were defeated by Brutus and chained to the gates of his palace on the site of Guildhall. Carvings of Gog and Magog are kept in Guildhall and 7-foot high wicker effigies of them donated by the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers in 2007 lead the procession in the annual Lord Mayor’s Show. The Guildhall hosts the annual Lord Mayor’s Banquet which marks the change from one Lord Mayor to the next and includes a speech on world affairs by the incumbent Prime Minister.

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On the east side of the square you can find the Guildhall art gallery. Having visited this before I felt no compunction to repeat the experience, though you can see the (somewhat scant) remains of London’s Roman Amphitheatre in the basement.

Leave the square via Guildhall Buildings and turn right up Basinghall Street. The part of the Guildhall that faces onto this street was built as its library by Sir Horace Jones (architect of Tower Bridge) in 1870. Three niches that Jones incorporated into the building were later filled by statues of Queens Elizabeth I, Anne and Victoria. These were created by J.W. Searle of Lambeth and were representative rather than strictly realistic. (In real life, Anne was supposedly so short and stocky she was buried in a square coffin).

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Basinghall Street turns into Basinghall Avenue which sweeps east to Coleman Street. Head south here and after a quick poke around White Horse Yard continue down to Masons Avenue and cut through back to Basinghall Street. It’s gone 5pm by now so as it’s also Friday the Old Doctor Butler’s Head pub already has quite a congregation outside it. This is named after the court physician to King James I, Doctor William Butler who as well as setting up a number of taverns in the City also invented a medicinal ale for which he claimed rejuvenating properties. Since he lived to be 83 he may have been onto something.

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As I could do with some of that ale myself I’m racing through to the end of today’s trip; crossing back over Gresham Street into Old Jewry before threading my way westward between Cheapside and Gresham Street via St Olaves Court, Frederick’s Place, Ironmonger Lane, Prudent Passage and King Street before concluding at St Pauls’ station.

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If you ask me it’d be more prudent to take the long way round

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 38 – Fleet Street – Victoria Embankment – St Bride’s

So this walk takes place just a few days after the visit to Middle and Inner Temple and, beginning on the eastern side of the latter, completes the area between Fleet Street and the river.

Day 38 Route

As noted, we start out today from the eastern entrance to the grounds of the Temple Inns, heading south down Temple Avenue. On the way we pass the Temple Chambers building c.1887 with its two splendid warrior king sculptures (artist unknown). Technically these kind of sculptures, in the form of a man and acting as a column or support, are known as atlantes or atlases (after Atlas the Titan responsible for holding up the sky in Greek mythology). The female equivalent are called caryatids (see Day 7 post).

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At the junction with the Embankment stands Hamilton House a.k.a no.1 Temple Avenue. A listed building dating from 1880 this was once home to the Callender Cable and Construction Company.

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Continuing east along the Embankment we arrive next at Sion Hall, an 1886 tour-de-force of the Gothic perpendicular style designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield. This was built as new premises for Sion College, founded by Royal Charter in 1630 as a college, guild of parochial clergy and almshouse, under the will of Thomas White, vicar of St Dunstan’s in the West. In the mid nineties it was sold for redevelopment as offices and is now occupied by a subsidiary of the German insurance behemoth, Allianz.

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Sion Hall sits on the corner of John Carpenter Street, sadly not named after the director of such cinematic classics as Assault on Precinct 13 but after the man tenuously responsible for the next building along to the east, the City of London School (CLS). John Carpenter the younger (about 1372 – 1442), was  elected as Town Clerk to the City of London during the reigns of Henry V and Henry VI. He was also the author of the first book of English common law, known as Liber Albus (the White Book). In his will Carpenter bequeathed a plot of land (not here) “for the finding and bringing up of four poor men’s children with meat, drink, apparel, learning at the schools, in the universities, etc., until they be preferred, and then others in their places for ever.”To cut a very long story short this ultimately led, in 1834, to the founding of the City of London School, which still exists today as an Independent School for Boys. In 1883 the CLS moved into the Victoria Embankment building, designed in a high Victorian style with a steep pitched roof resembling that of a French chateau, by Davis and Emanuel and constructed by John Mowlem & Co at a cost exceeding £100,000. On the front of the building are statues of Shakespeare, Milton, Bacon, Newton and Sir Thomas More. After a hundred years give or take the school moved to a new home in 1987. Investment bank, JP Morgan, are now in residency here.

As we reach the end of Victoria Embankment, joining with the north side of Blackfriars Bridge and the southern end of New Bridge Street we find ourselves in front of no.100, the impressive Unilever House. This was built between 1929 and 1933 in the hybrid Neoclassical Art Deco style and the design was a collaboration between James Lomax-Simpson ( a member of the Unilever board) and architects John James Burnet and Thomas Tait; though the precise apportionment of credit has been somewhat contested. The corners of the building are marked by entrances surmounted by large plinths on which are placed sculptures by Sir William Reid Dick of human figures restraining horses (entitled Controlled Energy) . The merman and mermaid figures elsewhere on the exterior are by Gilbert Ledward. There have been two major refurbishments of the interior, one in 1977-83 and the other from 2004 to 2007 which won an RIBA Award for architects KPF.

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Just around the corner on New Bridge Street is Blackfriars House built 1916 architect F.W Troup. Ten years or so ago this was converted from offices into the Crowne Plaza Hotel which somewhat wince-inducingly boasts a restaurant called the Chinese Cricket Club.

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Skirt round the back of the hotel via Watergate and Kingscote Street and emerge onto Tudor Street. Turning left back down John Carpenter Street we come across the first permanent home of the Guildhall School of Music, opened just seven years after the school was founded in 1880.   Designed by architect Sir Horace Jones, the new building incorporated a Common Room for Professors and 45 studios, each surrounded by a one foot thick layer of concrete to ‘deaden the sound’ and each containing both a grand piano and an upright piano. As you can see in the photo below the facade of the building includes a series of round windows memorialising renowned British composers.

Initially, all tuition was on a part-time basis, but full-time courses were introduced by public request in 1920. Departments of Speech, Voice and Acting were added and by 1935 the School had added “and Drama” to its title. In 1977, as you may recall from one of our earlier posts, the school moved into the Barbican complex.

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Complete a circuit of Tallis Street (named after  one of those composers), Carmelite Street and Temple Avenue again before returning down Tudor Street and then continuing further up New Bridge Street. Next left, Bridewell Place, takes us unremarkably back onto Tudor Street from where we head north next up Dorset Rise. Having dipped very briefly into Dorset Buildings we take the next right down St Bride’s Passage. At the end of this we find the St Bride Institute (as it says on the building) though Foundation is the preferred title nowadays. This was established in 1891 to provide a social, cultural and recreational centre for London’s Fleet Street and its burgeoning print and publishing trade. Today it still acts as a hub for local community events and projects.

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Head down the steps to the left of the entrance and descend on to Bride Lane, the location of the Foundation-supported Bridewell Theatre which, in addition to an evening programme,  puts on 45-minute lunchtime plays for the edification of local office workers.

Loop up round the intersection of New Bridge Street and Ludgate Circus into Fleet Street again, pausing at no.99, the Punch Tavern. This was originally called the Crown and Sugar Loaf but around the middle of the 19th century the landlord changed it in honour of the sadly-departed satirical magazine, founded in 1841, whose staff had begun to frequent the tavern. At the end of the 19th c. it was refitted as a so-called Gin Palace with a requisitely ornate tiled entrance and interior.

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Next turning on the left is Bride Lane which takes us to St Bride’s Church. It is believed that the current church is the eighth to have stood on this site. The seventh rose from the ashes of the Great Fire of 1666 under the guiding hand of Sir Christopher Wren taking nine years to complete. The famous spire was added later in 1701 and it is popularly believed that it inspired (sorry) the apprentice to a local baker, one William Rich, to create the tradition of the tiered wedding cake for the celebration of his marriage to the baker’s daughter. It took nearly twice as long to rebuild again after German bombs had reduced the main building to a burnt-out shell in WW2 though the “wedding cake” steeple survived.  During this period a series of  excavations led by the medieval archaeologist Professor W. F. Grimes uncovered the foundations of all six previous churches on the site together with part of a Roman Road; which if you venture down into the crypt you can see elements of as part of a standing exhibition.

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The church became indelibly associated with  the printing and press industries that took over the surrounding area from the 18th century on – earning such soubriquets as “the Printers’ Cathedral” and “the Journalists’ Church”- but the links went even further back. England’s first printing press was brought to the pre-fire church, in 1500, nine years after the death of William Caxton by his assistant Wynand “Wynkyn” de Worde (how brilliantly apposite a name is that !). In 1702 London’s first regular newspaper, the Daily Courant, began publication nearby. The Guild of St Bride reputedly dates back to 1375 and since its reconstitution in 1953 has comprised one hundred Liverymen representing a cross-section of Fleet Street interests and activities. On the morning of my visit they were out in force in their orange robes officiating at the funeral of one of the old school Fleet Street press photographers.

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Adjacent to the church at no.85 Fleet Street is the 1939 building designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens to be the new home of the Reuters news agency. The building was also the headquarters of the Press Association up until 1995. A decade later Reuters themselves jumped ship.

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As we venture down Salisbury Court we pass a plaque marking no.4 as the place where the first issue of the Sunday Times was produced, on 20 October 1822.

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After a circuit of Salisbury Square we return down Dorset Rise, cut through Hutton Street, do a quick up-and-down of Primrose Hill (not that one obviously) and then find ourselves in Whitefriars Street. Whitefriars Street itself has little to commend it and we quickly find ourselves back on Fleet Street before turning southward again on Bouverie Street. Quickly veer off down Pleydell Street, which turns into Lombard Lane and then joins with Temple Lane which runs down to Tudor Street. Head back up Bouverie Street as far as the Polish Embassy – which is no doubt pretty busy these days.

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Then cross over the road into Magpie Alley which runs round the back of the offices of lawyers, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer at no.65 Fleet Street. As you can see the alley is adorned with tiles illustrating the history of Fleet Street.

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At the end of the alleyway though is something more interesting. Descending some steps you come across the screened off remains of a crypt which is the last surviving vestige of the medieval priory that was home to the Carmelite order known as the White Friars. The order was founded on Mount Carmel (in present day Israel) in 1150 but driven from the Holy Land by the Saracens in 1238. The crypt was unearthed during building works in 1895 and then cleared and restored in the 1920’s when the site was taken over by the News of the World. The NOTW and its sister paper, the Sun, occupied the Whitefriars Building until 1986 and the Wapping exodus. Northcliffe House next door, named after Lord Northcliffe (born Alfred Harmsworth) the creator of the Daily Mail along with his brother Harold (Lord Rothermere), saw a hundred years of publication of the dreaded Mail, up until 1988 when the printing operations moved to Surrey Quays. Northcliffe and Whitefriars are currently both leased to Freshfields

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Continuing onto Ashentree Court we come back to Whitefriars Street and trudge back up to Fleet Street. As this is the final visit to the former “Street of Shame” I guess we can’t leave without a couple of words on its other iniquitous association – that with Sweeney Todd the “Demon Barber”. Sweeney Todd is a fictional character who first appeared as the villain of the Victorian penny dreadful The String of Pearls (1846–47). Numerous claims have been made that he was based on an actual living person but none of these have gained any serious traction. Fascination with the character is enduring however; he has inspired at least five feature films, up to and including Tim Burton’s 2007 effort, plus the Sondheim musical, a 1959 Ballet and several television adaptations (not counting The Sweeney though that of course did get its name from the rhyming slang Sweeney Todd – Flying Squad).

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