Day 54 – South Bank – Waterloo Bridge – Blackfriars Bridge – Stamford Street

Today’s perambulations are mainly about the riverfronts either side of the Thames between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge with a particular focus on the South Bank though, as you can see, we do venture a bit further south of the river in the latter stages. It’s an area I’m mostly more than familiar with as, when I could be arsed to walk, I passed through here on my way from Waterloo to an office near St Pauls for many years.

Day 54 Route

Before we kick off however here’s a bit of bonus material relating to the previous post in which we featured the London Eye. As coincidence would have it, just a couple of weeks after that walk I found myself actually aboard the Eye (for the first time in many years)courtesy of a family visit – and here are the pics from on high.

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Right, back to the business in hand. We start out this time from Waterloo Station once again and having crossed York Road make our way along Concert Hall Approach towards the Royal Festival Hall. The RFH was built in 1951 as part of that year’s Festival of Britain. As London’s new main concert hall it would be the only permanent structure amongst the temporary pavilions and constructions on the Festival’s south bank site. The architects were Sir Robert Matthew and Dr Leslie Martin and the hall took 18 months to build at a cost of £2 million. Initially it was run by the LCC and then its successor the GLC but on the demise of the latter in 1986 responsibility was devolved to the Arts Council. Two years later the building was granted Grade 1 listed status.

Following a public appeal for assistance with the recovery of lost artworks, Peter Laszlo Peri’s Sunbathers sculpture, which was originally installed outside Waterloo underground station during the Festival, was retrieved from the garden of the Clarendon Hotel in Blackheath, restored and re-hung in the foyer of the RFH. That was in 2017 and it was originally only intended to stay there for one summer – but, as you can see, it’s still in situ. The bust of Nelson Mandela outside the western entrance to the hall was commissioned by Ken Livingstone’s GLC, sculpted by Ian Walters and initially unveiled in 1985 by the then ANC leader Oliver Tambo. Unfortunately, following what was described at the time as “politically-motivated vandalism” the sculpture had to be re-cast and was re-installed in 1988.

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The “brutalist” Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room were added to the South Bank site in 1967 adjacent to the RFH. These smaller venues were designed to play host to chamber orchestras and other smaller musical ensembles. Then in 1968 the Hayward Gallery, named after the late Sir Isaac Hayward, the then leader of the London County Council, was opened. The gallery’s first exhibition was a major retrospective of the paintings of Henri Matisse. All three venues were re-opened in 2018 after a two year refurbishment programme. The slideshow below includes shots of the Lee Bul exhibition that was showing at the Hayward when this walk took place.

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The area beneath the concrete walkway joining the RFH with the QE Hall (known as the Undercroft) has, for decades now, been used as a semi-officially sanctioned skateboard and BMX park. After fending off the latest threat to close and redevelop the site the users of the Undercroft have recently won a £700,000 grant from City Hall to enable the park to be extended and improved.

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From the Hayward Gallery we ascend the steps up on to Waterloo Bridge. The current bridge, built to a design of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (the creator of the red telephone box if you remember), was “officially opened” in 1942. Not great timing as you can imagine and somewhat ironically this was the only bridge across the Thames to suffer damage from the German bombing campaign. As a consequence it was only fully completed in 1945. The bridge is sometimes referred to colloquially as the Ladies Bridge due to the fact that when the Irish labourers who had been working on its construction went back to Ireland at the outbreak of WW2 they were largely replaced by women.

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Having crossed the bridge we head east along the Victoria Embankment towards Blackfriars Bridge. In the previous post we noted that the benches on the Albert Embankment use a swan motif in their metalwork supports while their counterparts on the Victoria Embankment incorporate camels and sphinxes into their design. And here’s the evidence.

About half way along this stretch of the Embankment is HQS (formerly HMS) Wellington which acts as the Livery Hall for the Honourable Company of Master Mariners (Merchant Seamen in other words). The vessel is open for boarding at the moment due to an ongoing exhibition on the role of mercantile shipping in WW1; which was fortunate because as soon as I’d got below decks the heavens opened. HMS Wellington is the last surviving convoy escort ship from the Second World War. She was built at Devonport Dockyard in 1934 and initially served in the Pacific mainly on station in New Zealand and China. When war broke out she was fitted with anti-aircraft guns and loaded with depth charges for use against submarines and went on to conduct convoy escort duties in the North Atlantic. She shared in the destruction of one enemy U boat and was involved in Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk. The Master Mariners, who had been given their Royal Charter in 1926, acquired the Wellington in 1947.

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A short way further on is the monument erected in 1935 to celebrate King George V’s silver jubilee which I suspect most people walk past without giving a second glance. Much like…

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And so on to Blackfriars Bridge which in its present incarnation was opened in November 1869 by Queen Victoria (hence the statue). It was built to a design of Joseph Cubitt and is comprised of five wrought iron arches. On the piers of the bridge are stone carvings of water birds by sculptor John Birnie Philip and the ends of the bridge are shaped like a pulpit in a reference to Black Friars.It is owned and maintained by the Bridge House Estates, a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation. Blackfriars Bridge became internationally notorious in June 1982, when the body of Roberto Calvi, a former chairman of Italy’s largest private bank, was found hanging from one of its arches with five bricks and around $14,000 in three different currencies in his pockets. Calvi’s death was initially treated as suicide, but he was on the run from Italy accused of embezzlement and in 2002 forensic experts concluded that he had been murdered by the Mafia, to whom he was indebted.

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As you walk south across the bridge the view is dominated by No.1 Blackfriars a 52 storey tower comprising 274 private flats that was completed in 2018. The site was formerly occupied by the headquarters of Sainsbury’s but had lain empty at least throughout all those years I walked past it. Then no sooner had I retired than construction started.

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Having reached the southern end of the bridge we turn right past the Doggett’s Coat and Badge pub. Named after the world’s oldest rowing race, contested between apprentice Thames watermen since 1715, Doggett’s is one of only a handful of riverside hostelries in central London and, as such, does very well for itself.

We proceed along the river passing in front of Sea Containers House and the Oxo Tower. The latter was originally constructed as a power station to supply electricity to the Royal Mail post office towards the end of the 19th century. In the 1920’s it was acquired by the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, manufacturers of Oxo cubes, for conversion into a cold store. The building was largely rebuilt to an Art Deco design by company architect Albert Moore between 1928 and 1929. Much of the original power station was demolished, but the river facing facade was retained and extended. Liebig wanted to include a tower featuring illuminated signs advertising the name of their product. When permission for the advertisements was refused, the tower was built with four sets of three vertically-aligned windows, which “coincidentally” happened to be in the sequential shapes of a circle, a cross and another circle.

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Continuing west we pass by Bernie Spain Gardens (named after Bernadette Spain, a local housing campaigner in the 1980’s), Gabriel’s Wharf and the rear of the IBM and ITV HQ buildings before arriving at the National Theatre. After many years of debate and lobbying the NT was founded in 1963 and was based at the Old Vic until its new purpose-built home was opened in 1976. This latest addition to the South Bank’s modernist skyline, designed by architects Sir Denys Lasdun and Peter Softley and structural engineers Flint & Neill, divided opinion; Sir John Betjeman was an unlikely fan but, less surprisingly, Prince Charles referred to it as “a clever way of building a nuclear power station in the middle of London without anyone objecting”.  That was in 1988, the year that Sir Peter Hall relinquished the post of Artistic Director having succeeded Sir Laurence Olivier in that role in 1973. The building houses three separate theatre spaces, the Olivier Theatre, the Lyttleton Theatre and the Dorfman Theatre (formerly the Cottesloe). It’s been Grade II listed since 1994 and regularly appears simultaneously on publicly-surveyed lists of London most-loved and most-hated buildings.

The sculpture above is London Pride by Frank Dobson (1886 – 1963). This was originally exhibited in plaster cast form at the Festival of Britain but after Dobson’s death was re-cast in bronze and in 1987 donated by his wife Mary to be exhibited in front of the National Theatre. Just to the west of this is the statue of Laurence Olivier (as Hamlet) that was unveiled in 2007.

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Adjacent to the NT and effectively right underneath Waterloo Bridge is the BFI Southbank (previously known as the National Film Theatre – its cinemas are still called NFT1, 2 & 3). The BFI (British Film Institute) was founded in 1933 and operates as a charity under Royal Charter. The BFI maintains the world’s largest film archive, containing more than 50,000 fiction films, over 100,000 non-fiction titles, and around 625,000 television programmes. In addition to the Southbank site it also runs the nearby London IMAX and the annual London Film Festival each October. The National Film Theatre was initially opened in a temporary building (the Telekinema) at the Festival of Britain and moved to this present location in 1957. In addition to the main three cinemas the building also incorporates the BFI Reuben Library and the Mediatheque which are both free to access. The upper level includes a gallery space which is currently displaying exhibits tying in with the ongoing Working Class Heroes season.

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Turning away from the river up past the BFI we arrive at Upper Ground and head back eastward passing, in sequence, the home of the Rambert Ballet Company, the front entrance of the IBM HQ and the ITV London Studios and Tower. The latter were constructed in the early 1970’s, when independent television was still provided by a plethora of separate regional operators, as a new studio complex for London Weekend Television (LWT).  It was originally called The South Bank Television Centre (a name that lasted until the early 1990s) and at the time was the most advanced television centre in Europe. LWT was acquired by Granada in 1994 and a decade later Granada was merged into Carlton Communications to form ITV plc. As well as being the main studios for ITV’s entertainment shows the complex has also been used by the BBC and Channel 4 as well as several independent production companies.  Good Morning Britain, The Graham Norton Show, Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and The Jonathan Ross Show are amongst the shows it has to bear some of the responsibility for. In April 2018 ITV closed the site for 5 years of large-scale redevelopment that will result in the loss of most of the studios space.

Doubling back a bit we head south next down Cornwall Road then turn right to take a trip up and down Doon Street which runs along the back of the Franklin-Wilkins building (named after Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin two of the pioneers who contributed to the discovery of the structure of DNA). This is now part of King’s College’s Waterloo Campus but it was built between 1912 and 1915 as a reinforced-concrete headquarters, known as Cornwall House, for Her Majesty’s Stationary Office. However before HMSO could move in the building was requisitioned for use as a military hospital during WW1. As the King George Military Hospital it accommodated, at its height, some 1800 patients on 63 wards.  Cornwall House had been built with underground tunnels connecting it to Waterloo Station and these tunnels were used by the hospital to transfer wounded soldiers arriving by train from the Front.

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At the junction with Stamford Street we turn left and then take another left up Coin Street back to Upper Ground. Resuming eastward we stop for lunch at the slightly insalubrious but generously-priced House of Crepes at the top of the Gabriel’s Wharf marketplace of “independent eateries and boutiques”.  The actual Gabriel’s Wharf building (in the background below) was formerly used as a scenery store by ITV.

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We return to Stamford Street via Duchy Street and then take the next left turning, Broadwall, back to Upper Ground. We continue east as far as Bargehouse Street which loops round the back of the actual Bargehouse, a 4-storey former factory building, which is now an exhibition and event space forming part of the OXO Tower Wharf development.

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After a quick look at the northern section of Hatfields we end up back by the river courtesy of another stretch of Upper Ground and Marigold Alley. Turning right we revisit the steps up to Doggett’s and then it’s a few paces along Blackfriars Road before the final bit of Upper Ground and Rennie Street return us to Stamford Street. We switch westward briefly before turning south down Paris Gardens and then cutting east through the churchyard of Christ Church Southwark. The first church on this site was built in 1670 bit that sank into the Lambeth Marshes after about seventy years and had to be demolished. Its replacement lasted a bit longer but failed to survive the 1941 bombing. The current building dates from 1959 and has an interesting (and secular) selection of stained glass windows depicting local trades and history.

On the other side of the church we revisit Blackfriars Road and drop south as far as Meymott Street where we take a westerly turn and look in on Colombo Street before using the longer stretch of Hatfields to return to Stamford Street. This building on Meymott Street always caught my eye on those journeys to work on account of its modest art deco stylings but I’ve been unable to find anything out about its history or current situation. Incidentally, Hatfields derives its name from the fact that this area was once used for drying animal skins that were made into hats.

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Just around the corner as we turn left onto Stamford Street is the London Nautical School, founded in 1915 as a consequence of the official report into the loss of the Titanic (according to their website though it doesn’t elaborate). Let’s assume it was something to do with the creation of the “nautical ethos” which they still promote to this day.

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Another section of Duchy Street is the next turning to the south and this is then linked to the southern section of Coin Street by Aquinas Street. The north side of Aquinas Street consists of a very nice three storey Victorian terrace. If you fancied living here though even a one bedroom flat is listed at more than £550k.

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After a final visit to Stamford Street we take the southern section of Cornwall Street down to Theed Street where we make an eastward circuit also involving Whittlesey StreetThen a further block south down Cornwall Street we turn east again along Roupell Street home to today’s pub of the day, the Kings Arms. After a quick pint of cider we carry on down to the end of Roupell Street then double back and cut through Windmill Walk by the side of the pub to reach Brad Street. Turn west here and we’re back to Cornwall Street and duck left through the railway arch to Sandell Street. This is the first of a series of streets that cross between Cornwall Street and Waterloo Road, the others being Alaska Street, Exton Street and Secker Street. The last two of these combine to circle round St John’s Church. The church was originally built to the designs of the architect Francis Octavius Bedford in 1824. It was struck by a bomb in 1940, when the roof and much of the interior was destroyed. The building stood open for ten years until it was restored and remodelled internally by Thomas Ford in 1950. In 1951 the Church was rededicated as the Festival of Britain Church. The interior isn’t much to write home about but the church is imbued with a very strong community spirit and has an extremely cosmopolitan congregation. It’s also home to the Southbank Sinfonia an orchestra formed anew each year through the 33 annual fellowships granted by its charitable foundation. The orchestra performs a series of Free Rush Hour (6pm – 7pm) concerts at St John’s throughout the year and I can testify as to the excellence of these.

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Just across from the church in the roundabout at the nexus of Waterloo Road, Stamford Street, Waterloo Bridge and York Road stands the BFI IMAX (as mentioned earlier).  Built in 1999, this houses the largest cinema screen in Britain (20m high and 26m wide). It has a seating capacity of just under 500 and a 12,000 Watt digital surround sound system. Since 2012 Odeon Cinemas have operated the IMAX under licence.

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It just remains to cross over at these lights to Tenison Way and from there take the escalator up to Waterloo Station and that’s one more out of the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 42 – Old Bailey – St Paul’s Cathedral – Queen Victoria Street

As you can see, we’ve got a couple of big beasts to tackle on today’s expedition; the Central Criminal Court (commonly known as the Old Bailey) and Christopher Wren’s crowning glory and tourist beehive. In between and after these diversions we’re wandering the streets that fill the space bounded by Newgate Street to the north and (just about) the River Thames to the south.

Day 42 Route

An unusually early start today as I’d booked myself on something called the Old Bailey Insight tour meeting at the Viaduct Tavern, opposite the courts on Newgate Street, at 9.15. The Viaduct Tavern is another of the Gin Palaces that sprang up in Victorian times and dates back to 1869, when Newgate Prison was still standing. It is claimed, though not fully substantiated, that the cellar of the pub contains five cells that are all that remain of Newgate after its demolition in 1902. An alternative explanation posits that these were actually once part of Giltspur Compter, a debtors’ prison that occupied this site between 1791 and 1853. Either way they may make you more appreciative of your next stopover at a Travelodge.

The tour costs £10 and for this you get twenty minutes of facts and anecdotes (mostly about executions) from the guide plus a look at the disputed “cells” in the basement and instructions on how to get into the public galleries at the Old Bailey with a printed list of the day’s trials. Not exactly bargain of the month even with coffee and croissants thrown in. Among the more interesting snippets of information were the facts that trials at the Old Bailey cost an average of around £150 a minute to run and that there is still a shard of glass embedded in one of the internal walls as a memento of the IRA car bomb of 1973 that shattered all the windows.

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The Old Bailey gets its vernacular name from the street on which it stands, Old Bailey, itself named after the fortified City Wall also known as “bailey”. The court has been around since 1673 when it was sited next to Newgate Prison and has been rebuilt several times. The current building, designed in the neo-Baroque style, by E.W. Mountford, was opened in 1907. The 67 foot high dome is topped with the 12 foot tall gold leaf statue of Lady of Justice”, sword in one hand, scales of justice in the other. However, she is not, as is conventional with such figures, blindfolded. Over the main entrance to the building figures were placed representing fortitude, the recording angel, and truth, along with the carved inscription, “defend the children of the poor and punish the wrongdoer”.  A new extension was added in 1972 (just in time to have all its windows blown out).

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Strangely enough, the only other time I’ve been to sit in on a trial at the Old Bailey was in 1973 during a school trip up from High Wycombe when I was 14 (the youngest age at which you’re allowed in nowadays). So that must have been just a few months after the IRA bombing yet I don’t have any recollection of particularly stringent security at the time. Now you can only get in if you practically strip down to your underwear. Mobile phones are a definite no-no so that had to be left at the pub. As it transpired I was the only spectator in the gallery for the trial I picked out, a terrorist charge. After about 45 minutes discussing whether or not it’s possible to recover deleted text messages from an I-phone they took a break and I took the opportunity to leave.

Begin by heading west along Holborn Viaduct to the bridge which gives that street its name. This was built between 1863 and 1869, spanning the River Fleet valley, at a cost of £2m. In fact it was the most ambitious and costly road improvement project in London during the 19th century, masterminded by engineer William Haywood. There are four so-called step-buildings at the corners of the viaduct which house steps down to Farringdon Street below.  The figures on the front of the step-buildings are representations of important Londoners, including Sir William Walworth, the Lord Mayor of London best known for having dispatched Wat Tyler to end the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 (see Day 39).

At the ends of the viaduct there are four winged lions, each with its left paw resting on a small globe. These were created by Farmer & Brindley, as were the two female statues on the north side, representing Science and Fine Arts. The figures on the south side, representing Commerce and Agriculture, are by Henry Bursill. The distinctive rich red cast-iron work of the arches and railings presages the ornate qualities of the Art Nouveau movement still decades away.

We descend the steps down to the east side of Farringdon Street and then proceed south towards Ludgate Circus, ducking in and out of Newcastle Court, Bear Alley and Old Fleet Lane en route. Just before the Circus we turn left down Old Seacoal Lane which leads into Limeburner Lane. Keep left here and then circle round Fleet Place, Fleet Passage and Bishop’s Court to return to Old Bailey. Next we drop all the way back down Limeburner Lane to Ludgate Hill. A short way up the hill going east is the church of St Martin’s-within-Ludgate, another one which has followed the Medieval foundation, Great Fire destruction, Christopher Wren rebuilding trajectory. Opposite the church was the site of the Ludgate, the westernmost gate of London Wall which, like all the others, was demolished in 1760.

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Turning back up Old Bailey for the final time we then nip through Warwick Passage (where the entrance to the public galleries for the majority of the 18 courts can be found) to Warwick Lane.

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Turning the corner we find the first of three more Livery Company Halls to be encountered on today’s route. This one belongs to the Worshipful Company of Cutlers, craftsmen originally involved in the production of knives, swords and other implements with a cutting edge. Over the course of time the trade evolved away from instruments of war towards more domestic wares such as razors and scissors. The Cutlers received their first Royal Charter from Henry V in 1416 and they sit at no.18 in the Order of Precedence. The current hall dates from 1888 and the terracotta frieze on the outside wall, depicting cutlers working at their craft, is by the Sheffield sculptor Benjamin Cresswick (1853 – 1946).

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Turning south we pass Amen Court which  was once home to the scribes and minor canons of St Paul’s cathedral, but is more famous now for a reputation as one of the most haunted parts of the Square Mile. A large wall on the site is one of the only remnants of Newgate prison and behind that wall is the narrow passage known as Deadman’s Walk, along which condemned prisoners were taken to their executions.

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A few steps further on and as Warwick Lane mysteriously transforms into Ave Maria Lane we reach Amen Corner. Sadly this was not the inspiration for the naming of the popular 1960’s beat combo.

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On the other side of the Sassoon hair salon we enter Stationers’ Court which is where we find the second Livery Company Hall, that of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers whose current 900 members  work in the paper, print, publishing, packaging, office products and newspaper industries.  At the outset of the 15th century London’s formerly itinerant manuscript writers and illustrators decided to set up stalls or ‘stations’ around St Paul’s Cathedral and because of this they were given the nickname ‘Stationers’ which in turn became the name for the guild they established in 1403. The hall itself was completed in 1673 and it’s one of the few Livery Halls rebuilt just after the Great Fire that have survived into the present. Both the hall and its accompanying garden do a roaring trade in corporate and private entertaining. Only number 47 in the OOP however.

Come back out onto Ludgate Hill and turn east, proceeding past the north side of St Paul’s along Paternoster Row. In times past, on the feastday of Corpus Christi, monks would say prayers in a procession round the Cathedral. They would set off from Paternoster Row chanting the Lord’s Prayer (Pater noster… being the opening line in Latin) and they would reach the final ‘amen’ as they turned the corner in Ave Maria Lane; hence Amen Corner. Immediately opposite the north flank of the cathedral is the Grade II listed Chapter House which was designed and built by Sir Christopher Wren and his son in 1715.

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At the end of Paternoster Row we circle up past St Paul’s tube station and then duck in and out of Panyer Alley, Queen’s Head Passage and Rose Street to arrive in Paternoster Square, where I spent the last 12 years of my working life. This area was more or less completely obliterated during the Blitz and the initial reconstruction undertaken in the 1960’s was widely regarded as disastrous; a “monstrous carbuncle” sited embarrassingly close to one of the capital’s primary tourist attractions. A new redevelopment plan was finally agreed in 1996 and work completed 7 years later. While not to everyone’s taste, the architecture is at least more sympathetic to its historical context (and Prince Charles was happy with it). The main monument on the square is the 75ft tall Paternoster Square Column ( less prosaically also known as the Flaming Orb monument), a Corinthian column of Portland stone topped by a gold-leaf covered flaming copper urn illuminated by fibre-optic lighting at night. The square’s most famous resident is the London Stock Exchange though to some it is better known for the Paternoster Chop House, the restaurant used by Channel 4 as the meeting place in its First Dates programme.

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We leave via the southern entrance to the square beneath the Temple Bar. This was returned to the capital and erected here in 2004 having languished for 125 years in a clearing on the Hertfordshire estate of the brewer Henry Meux. As we learnt a few posts ago, it originally stood where Fleet Street meets the Strand, near to the Temple Church. That was in the 14th to 16th centuries. It was then rebuilt after the Great Fire under commission from King Charles II. The work is attributed to that man Sir Christopher Wren again (how did he ever find the time to sleep). The statues of Anne of Denmark, James l, Charles I, and Charles II, in niches in the upper floor were carved by John Bushnell. However, by the late 19th century it had become a serious impediment to the flow of horse and cart traffic in the city and the City of London Corporation had it dismantled (whereafter it was bought by the aforementioned Henry Meux).

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And so, after much preamble, to St Paul’s Cathedral itself. I could write about Wren’s masterpiece almost ad infinitum of course but I’ll keep it fairly brief and just encourage you to visit yourself, especially if you never have. Clutching my £16 online ticket, I join the line of tourists outside the west entrance. (If you do gift aid this ticket actually allows you to visit as many times as you want over the next 12 months). According to my 1930’s guidebook back then it cost 6d (2.5p) for admission that took you as far as the Stone Gallery and then 1s (5p) to get to the Golden Gallery. In those days you could also go right up to the Golden Ball on top of the dome for a further shilling. Today’s entry price includes all areas that are open and an audio-guide.

The present cathedral is at least the third to occupy this site and is actually somewhat smaller than its immediate predecessor which was burnt down in the Great Fire. Two years after the fire Christopher Wren was commissioned to design the replacement but it wasn’t until 1697 that the first service was held in the new cathedral. Incidentally, you’re not supposed to take photographs inside St Paul’s but it took me a while to cotton on to that.

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Once you’ve explored the Nave, looked up into the Dome and watched the Bill Viola video installations at the end of the two Quire Aisles it’s 257 steps up to the Whispering Gallery where you can hear a myriad of foreign tongues echoing round the perimeter. Another 119 steps will take you up to the Stone Gallery (at the base of the Dome). Unfortunately, you can’t do a full circuit here at the moment because of renovation work but you do still have good views to west and the south and the east. Because I’m rubbish with heights and pretty knackered already I wimp out of climbing the additional 152 steps to the Golden Gallery (which runs round the top of the dome).

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Once you’ve made your way back down the exit is via the Crypt which contains the tombs of Christopher Wren (naturally), Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington as well as memorials to William Blake and Florence Nightingale amongst others.

Once outside again, we swing east through the churchyard past the column mounted with a gilded statue of St Paul which commemorates the public preaching of the Christian gospel in this location.

Then we move round to the gardens on the south side of the cathedral, a popular spot for wedding photographs and, appropriately, home to George Ehrlich’s sculpture The Young Lovers.

Next we turn south away from St Paul’s heading towards the Millennium Bridge down Sermon Lane/Peter’s Hill, looking back for one final shot of the cathedral.

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Turn toward the east along Distaff Lane then loop round into Queen Victoria Street and back to Peter’s Hill. Continue south skirting the ramp up to the bridge and at the river’s edge turn left along Paul’s Walk. Very quickly head away from the Thames via Trig Lane, Broken Wharf and High Timber Street, with nods to Gardeners Lane and Stew Lane (both dead ends with no access to the river). Then we have to cross the two-lane high way that is Upper Thames Street, effected via Fyefoot Lane, a name wasted on what is essentially just a footbridge. From the other side we cut through to Queen Victoria Street turn westward and then roll back down Lambeth Hill at the bottom of which sits Saint Mary Somerset Tower. This is another one of the 51 churches rebuilt by you-know-who but the tower is all that remains now, the body of the church having been demolished in 1871. Before the Second World War the tower was used as a women’s rest room. Today there is talk of it being refurbished and extended to create a private residence but I saw little evidence of this.

Turn west next into Castle Baynard Street which these days is basically a cycle route that runs parallel with Upper Thames Street. Baynard’s Castle was originally a Norman fortification sited near the river here and then in the 15th century reconstructed on adjacent land. According to Shakespeare’s Richard III the infamous usurper assumed the title of King at Castle Baynard.

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At the end of the underpass turn north up Bennet’s Hill past the City of London School and St Benets Metropolitan Welsh Church onto Queen Victoria Street again. On the north side of the street is the College of Arms, the official heraldic authority for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and much of the Commonwealth founded in 1484. So this is the place you need to apply to if you’re looking to create your own coat-of-arms; unless you’re in Scotland, which has a separate heraldic executive, where you’d need to approach someone called the Lord Lyon King of Arms. The Officers of Arms who make up the College of Arms are all classified as Heralds in Ordinary but are titled as either Kings of Arms, Heralds or Pursuivants. All Heralds in Ordinary are members of the Royal Household and appointed either directly by the Sovereign or on the recommendation of the Duke of Norfolk. They receive yearly salaries from the Crown – Garter King of Arms £49.07, the two provincial Kings of Arms £20.25, the six heralds £17.80, and the four pursuivants £13.95. At the present time the posts of Rouge Dragon Pursuivant and Bluemantle Pursuivant are both vacant. If her majesty is reading this I’d be happy enough to be either of those for nowt.

The college building dates from the 1670s.

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Proceed northwards next up Godliman Street then cut a right into Knightrider Street, nothing to do with the cult 1980’s TV show though, anecdotally, David Hasselhoff has claimed that the Centre Page pub here is his favourite hostelry. Circle round Sermon Lane, Carter Lane back into the top part of Godliman Street then a bit more of St Paul’s Churchyard before dropping down Dean’s Court to the main stretch of Carter Lane. On the corner here is what must be the most heavily over-subscribed Youth Hostel in the UK. The building was formerly the St Paul’s Choir School, built in 1875 to a design of F.C Penrose. The YHA took it over in the early seventies and have retained most of the original features including the Latin wall paintings on the exterior and original choirboy graffiti in a wood-panelled classroom.

Do another loop starting east on Carter Lane and back via Godliman Street, Knightrider Street and New Bell Yard then turn south down Addle Hill before slipping westward through Wardrobe Terrace to the Church of St Andrew by the Wardrobe, Wren’s final city church. The name derives from the time when King Edward III moved his royal robes and other effects to a large building nearby that became known as the Great Wardrobe. The church has a connection with Shakespeare in that the playwright worked for 15 years with the local Blackfriars Theatre and also bought a house in the parish.

Emerge out on Queen Victoria Street on the other side of the church then head back up St Andrew’s Hill. Take a quick look at Wardobe Place which commemorates the aforementioned Great Wardobe before crossing between Carter Lane and the Ireland Yard (where Shakespeare bought that house) via Burgon Street, Friar Street and Church Entry respectively. Across Carter Lane from the latter is Cobb’s Court which doglegs onto Ludgate Broadway from where we return to Ludgate Hill via Pilgrim Street. Turn west here then back south down Pageantmaster Court, Ludgate Broadway again and then Blackfriars Lane. A short way down here on the left is the last of today’s three Livery Halls, belonging to the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries.

The word ‘apothecary’ is derived from apotheca, meaning a place where wine, spices and herbs were stored. During the thirteenth century it came into use in this country to describe a person who kept a stock of these commodities, which he sold from his shop or street stall. The Apothecaries were granted their royal charter by King James I in 1617 and they occupy 58th position in the Order of Precedence. The hall has been around since 1672 when it was rebuilt here after the Great Fire. The year following the Society founded the Chelsea Physic Garden which it had under management until 1899.

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After a brief diversion into Playhouse Yard (that Shakespeare connection again) we continue down to the bottom of Blackfriars Lane and turn right to where the Blackfriar pub sits on the junction of Queen Victoria Street and New Bridge Street. This historic Art Nouveau Grade II masterpiece of a pub was built in 1875 on the site of a Dominican friary, designed by architect H. Fuller-Clark and artist Henry Poole, both committed to the free-thinking of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Jolly friars appear everywhere in the pub in sculptures, mosaics and reliefs. That the pub survived the quite horrendous post-war redevelopment of the immediate area is down to a campaign against demolition led by Sir John Betjeman.

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And that you will be relieved to know is finally it for this time. If you made it this far then please feel free to claim a pint off me if and when we ever run into each other.