Day 31 (part 1) -Spitalfields – Broadgate – Liverpool Street Station

Back on the east side again with a sizeable trek that starts off on the edge of the City of London, where we were a few weeks back, on Norton Folgate. We then tour the streets either side of Commercial Street (a.k.a the Commercial Road), taking in Spitalfields Market (both Old and New), before doing a circuit of Liverpool Street station and the various Broadgate developments that surround it.

The area immediately to the east of Bishopsgate and north of Spitalfields market is on the frontline of the battle between City developers and conservationists and after a long-running struggle it looks as though the former have gained the upper hand with Boris Johnson green-lighting the Blossom Street office development in January 2016. This could mean the end for the historic Victorian-era warehouses that inhabit the space between Folgate Street and the west side of Blossom Street.

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Turning right onto Fleur de Lis Street and then north on Elder Street takes us out onto Commercial Street.

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Returning west on Fleur de Lis we turn left onto the southern stretch of Elder Street where many of the terraced properties from its origin in the 1720’s are still intact. Among these are nos. 19 & 21 which are both listed. In the doorway of the former still just visible painted lettering proclaims the leasehold of a straw-chip dealer named Troake and a printer named Leghorn.

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Across the street at no.32 is a blue plaque commemorating the residence here of the painter Mark Gertler (1891 – 1939). Gertler was unrequitedly in love with his fellow artist, Dora Carrington, who was equally devoted to the gay author Lytton Strachey. In 1939 Gertler took his own life just seven years after Carrington had herself committed suicide. His most famous work is probably Merry-Go-Round painted in 1916.

Turn left onto Folgate Street again and then branch off down Lamb Street which emerges on the north side of Spitalfield market. Head back west and reach Spital Square, home to gourmet French restaurant Galvin La Chapelle which occupies a former Victorian chapel.

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Doubling back we take a turn round Bishops Square which was created as part of the 2005 Spitalfields regeneration programme. During the excavations the remains of a charnel house (repository for human bones) dating back to the 14th century were uncovered. These remains have been preserved as part of the development beneath a glass pavement.

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Return eastward on Lamb Street where the open-air food stalls are preparing for lunchtime business then about-turn again to enter into Old Spitalfields Market. Spitalfields takes its name from the hospital and priory, St. Mary’s Spittel that was founded in 1197. The origins of a market on this site go back to the years immediately following the Great Fire of 1666; then in 1682 Charles II granted another of his charters – this time to one John Balch, giving him the right to hold a market for fresh produce here on Thursdays and Saturdays. After several decades of success the area went into decline from the 1820’s onward and it was only when a former market porter called Robert Horner bought a short lease on the market, and started work on a new market building which was completed in 1893 at a cost of £80,000, that its fortunes recovered. The City of London took control of the market in 1920 and it continued to prosper. By the end of the 1980’s however the same congestion issues that forced the closure of Covent Garden resulted in the removal of the fruit and veg market to Leyton further out east. Following this the aforementioned regeneration programme was embarked upon (not without a good deal of controversy). Nowadays, the Old Market continues as a mix of temporary stalls with mainly a vintage/arts & crafts flavour whereas the New Market, further west in the redeveloped section and surrounded by chain restaurants, is filled with permanent stalls with more of a fashion and design feel.

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Having arrived back in Bishops Square we turn east again down Brushfield Street. Beyond the southern side of the street the City’s relentless eastern march is in full swing though a few of the 18th century buildings are holding their ground. Despite appearances this one below is home to yet another coffee shop.

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As we continue up Brushfield Street with the market to our left Nicholas Hawksmoor’s imposing Christ Church looms ever closer. This Anglican church, built between 1714 and 1729, was another product of the “Commission for Building Fifty New Churches” created by a 1711 act of parliament (we have already encountered other examples of these in our previous travels though only twelve were actually built). Christ Church is probably the finest of these twelve with its impressive Tuscan columns out front and its soaring Gothic steeple. A major restoration of the interior of the church, begun in 2000 and completed in 2004, removed nineteenth- and twentieth-century alterations and reinstated the original arrangement of galleries, returning them to something as close as could be established to Hawksmoor’s original design. In 2015 the Crypt was also restored and converted into a cafe area. The organ which was originally installed in 1735 was the largest in England at the time with over 2,000 pipes.  After it fell into disuse and disrepair in the 1960’s the organ’s parts were removed for safe-keeping during the restoration project. Following its own restoration it was reassembled in the church in 2014.

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The monuments on either side of the altar recess are to Edward Peck and Sir Robert Ladbroke respectively. The former was one of the Commissioners who authorised the building of the church and the latter was a one-time Lord Mayor of London. When I visited the church was manned (if that’s the right word) by an Indian lady called Ava Bose who showed me a programme advertising Billy Graham’s crusade appearance in Victoria Park in 1996 when she shared a platform with him (I suspect she shows it to most visitors).

Continue east away from the church down Fournier Street. This area saw the arrival of many of the Huguenots driven out of France following the 1685 edict of Nantes (which featured in one of the Leicester Square posts). The Huguenot silk weavers were followed by a later wave of Irish weavers in the mid 1700’s and then from 1880 onward an influx of Jewish migrants fleeing the pogroms of Eastern Europe. The current population of the area is of largely Bangladeshi origin.

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Turn north on Wilkes Street and stop off at Puma Court to take a look at some Victorian almshouses built in 1860.

At the end of Wilkes Street, on Hanbury Street, is the Old Truman Brewery. A brewery was originally established here around 1666 and the Truman name arrived a decade or so later when one Joseph Truman took control of operations. Under the guidance of Joseph’s younger son, Benjamin (who inspired the Ben Truman brand), the brewery expanded rapidly to become one of the largest in London. Growth both organically and through acquisition continued under subsequent generations and by 1873 Truman had become the largest brewery in the world. Nothing lasts forever though and in 1971 Truman lost its independence when it was taken over by the conglomerate, Grand Metropolitan, and shortly thereafter merged with Watney Mann. A switch into keg beer in the late seventies and early eighties combined with a growing consumer preference for lagers proved to be the undoing of Truman and the brewery eventually closed in 1989. In a bizarre case of things turning full circle though the Truman brand name was bought from Scottish & Newcastle in 2010 by two London businessmen who opened a new micro-brewery in Hackney Wick producing a range of cask ales. The brewery site itself has over the last twenty years been turned into a centre for the arts and creative and media industries with gallery spaces, restaurants and independent retail outlets.

Head north up Corbet Place and then Grey Eagle Street which flanks the brewery (see bottom right above). Turning left onto Quaker Street there are three blocks of buildings which were put up by the Great Eastern Railway Company in 1890 in order to rehouse those whose homes had been demolished to accommodate the expansion of Liverpool Street Station. These buildings currently lie derelict (for how much longer) but like many other spots in the vicinity have provided a ready canvas for the local street artists. As have the walls on either side of Wheler Street and Braithwaite Street which combine to link Quaker Street with Bethnal Green Road.

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Retracing our steps back underneath the railway we enter the southern section of Wheler Street passing Bedford House. This Grade II listed building was built in 1894 to house the Bedford Institute, named in honour of Peter Bedford, a Quaker philanthropist and silk weaver who formed the Society for Lessening the Causes of Juvenile Delinquency. The institute moved out in 1947 and the building was converted for industrial use as a warehouse and bottling plant for E.J.Rose & Co Ltd, wholesale suppliers of spirits and wine. When they too left in the late eighties the building was empty for more than 20 years before squatters moved in 2011 followed shortly after by an artists’ collective from Berlin. Despite the group carrying out restoration work on the building and the owner, reputed to be in the UK top ten rich list, seemingly having no plans of his own, they were evicted after only four months. The building still lies empty a further five years on.

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Next we take a left down Calvin Street and then follow Jerome Street round to rejoin Commercial Street.

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Cross over and take a second stroll down Folgate Street, past Dennis Severs House at no. 18 – a museum recreating the world of he 18th century Huguenot silkweavers. Arriving back on Bishopsgate head south briefly then turn west down Primrose Street. Almost immediately swing north again and cut through one of soulless new developments that cluster around Liverpool Street Station – all tinted glass and Pret A Manger. This brings us out onto Worship Street where we turn left and then swing round into Appold Street. From here we do a circuit of Snowden Street, Vardy Street, Finsbury Market, Clifton Street and Pindar Place to bring us back round to Exchange Square which sits on the site to the north of Liverpool Street Station which until 1986 was occupied by Broad Steet Railway Station. By that time only around 6,000 passengers a week were using this outpost of the North London Line so there was every imperative for British Rail to cash in by selling the site. The station was the inspiration for Paul McCartney’s 1984 album and film of the same name Give My Regards to Broad Street. Whether or not this contributed to the closure is open to conjecture. Exchange Square is a popular lunchtime destination for many of the thousands of workers in the surrounding offices and during the winter hosts an ice rink.

Cut through the eastern section of the Broadgate development and we’re back on Bishopsgate and turning right to cover the hundred metres or so to the eastern entrance of Liverpool Street Station. The station was fully opened as the new London terminus for the Greta Eastern Railway in 1875. When I used to travel from here to University in Norwich in the late Seventies and early Eighties it was (like most London mainline stations at the time) not somewhere you would want to linger for any length of time. The major redevelopment of the station was begun in conjunction with the Broadgate project (see above) and completed in 1991. Oddly this didn’t include an electronic departure display boards but a new mechanical “flapper” model that was the last of its kind when finally replaced in 2007 (by the one you see below).

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After traversing the concourse we emerge on the western side in Sun Street Passage then nip round into Broadgate Circle which used to be home to the ice rink that has now moved to Exchange Square but nonetheless remains a “dynamic food, drink and leisure offering to the City” (according to the Broadgate website).

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And that brings us to a close for this particular post though not for this particular day’s walk. We’ll be back to test your patience with highlights of the rest of that in around seven days or so I guess.

 

 

Day 29 – Bunhill Fields – Whitecross Street – Barbican

This walk begins opposite where the last one finished, on the western side of City Road at Bunhill Fields, the last remaining historic burial ground in central London. It then winds its way westwards and southwards, taking in Whitecross Street market before ending up at the behemoth of modernist architecture that is the Barbican Centre and estate.

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Bunhill Fields is the final resting place for an estimated 120,000 souls, a large proportion of them interred at the time of the great plague of 1665 when the area first came into use as a burial ground. As the ground was never consecrated by the Church of England it became a popular burial site for Nonconformists and Radicals among whose number were  John Bunyan (1628 – 1688), the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress and a Baptist, Daniel Defoe (1660 -1731), writer of Gulliver’s Travels and Moll Flanders and a Presbyterian, and William Blake (1757 – 1827), poet, artist and religious iconoclast.

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Tomb of John Bunyan
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Memorials to Daniel Defoe and William Blake

The last burial here took place in 1854 and the site was configured into its current layout in the 1860’s with a public garden area created alongside a hundred years later. The burial ground now contains 2,333 monuments, mostly simple headstones (of which there are 1,920) arranged in a grid formation. Among the more extravagant memorials is that of Dame Mary Page, wife of Sir Gregory Page, first baronet, wealthy City merchant and East India Company director. As you can see below, the tomb is unusual in bearing an inscription setting out the graphic detail of the disease that brought about the lady’s demise – believed to be what is now known as Meigs’ Syndrome.

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After a circuit of Bunhill Fields we head north up City Road a short distance before turning left into Featherstone Street and proceeding west to Bunhill Row with a brief deviation into Mallow Street. Cross over into Banner Street just off the south side of which sits the Bunhill Fields Quaker Friends House, originally the caretaker’s house of a set of Quaker mission buildings, the rest of which were destroyed in WWII. The surrounding gardens and playground occupy the site of the old ‘Quaker Burying Ground’ where the movement’s founder, George Fox, is buried along with many thousand early adherents.

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At the next intersection with we turn north for the first of several visits to Whitecross Street. This has been home to an eponymous market since the 17th century though by the late 19th century the area had become a by-word for poverty and alcohol, known colloquially as Squalors’ Market. When I used to visit it occasionally ten years or more ago it was very much in the “pile it cheap and high” tradition of street markets with just the odd food stall among the DVDs, kitchen implements and cut-price clothing. Nowadays the “street food” has effectively taken over completely and the market is more-or-less just a lunchtime affair. Naturally (in keeping with established tradition) I got here just as all the stalls were packing up.

We hit Old Street just opposite St Luke’s and resume west as far as Golden Lane where we turn south then east along Garrett Street back to Whitecross Street. The restaurants that line the street have gone pretty upmarket and edged out most of the old-school retailers. The second-hand record store run by a couple of aging Teddy Boys is long gone but one or two of the old guard cling on as you can see.

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Whitecross Street and its offshoots have also succumbed to the encroachment of “street art” (spreading west from its Shoreditch heartland). Topically and appositely, the latest manifestation is an image of someone very cross and very white.

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Next up it’s the western stretch of Banner Street which returns us to Golden Lane where we look in on Nags Head Court before turning back east along Roscoe Street. Loop round Baird Street then continue east along Chequer Street (through another Peabody Trust estate). On the return to Bunhill Row we dip south briefly then make a right into Dufferin Street and complete a circuit of Dufferin Avenue and Cahill Street before crossing Whitecross again, this time into Fortune Street. Where this meets Golden Lane once more we encounter what can only be a sign of things to come.

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Turning south we arrive at no.1 Golden Lane which is now offices of UBS Bank but started life in 1896 as the home of the Cripplegate Institute; a charitable foundation set up by the City of London Parish of the same name. The building, designed by architect Sidney Smith, who was also responsible for what is now known as Tate Britain, incorporated a reference library, news and magazine rooms and classrooms for teaching such subjects as photography, dressmaking and first aid. In 1898 a theatre, staging mainly amateur productions, was opened in the building. The institute left the premises in 1987 and relocated to Chiswick, having sold the building for £4.5m.

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At its southern end Golden Lane emerges into Beech Street, a lengthy stretch of which forms the Barbican Tunnel. Heading east again we pass the Barbican Cinema which is now housed in a separate building from the rest of the arts complex.

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Passing this we turn back into Whitecross Street where the last vestiges of the old 3-for-a-fiver style street market are huddled in a concrete forecourt to a Waitrose supermarket. I once bought a checkered trilby hat here for £6 and still get occasional use out of it when the sun deigns to make a proper effort.

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Next right is Errol Street which forks right again into Lambs Buildings where you can find the home of the Royal Statistical Society in a converted Victorian Sunday School building. In 1833 the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA) created a statistical section following a presentation by the Belgian statistician Adolphe Quetelet to its fellows. This proved so popular that, a year later, a Statistical Society was founded by Charles Babbage, Thomas Malthus and Richard Jones with the Marquis of Lansdowne as President. Florence Nightingale became the first female member in 1858. I failed miserably to come up with any interesting actual statistics about the RSS but a mildly interesting fact is that Harold Wilson was its President in 1972-73 whilst leader of the opposition to Ted Heath.

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Just around the corner is St Joseph’s Catholic Church featuring the memorial Cardinal Hume Quiet Garden.

Turning left we’re back on Bunhill Row which was originally called Artillery Walk (as it runs along the western side of the grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company – as featured in the last post). John Milton lived here for a time, during which he completed Paradise Regained.

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We go south from here onto Chiswell Street and then complete a circuit of Lamb’s Passage, Sutton’s Way and Whitecross Street (for one final time) before crossing into Silk Street and entering the Barbican Centre just as the rain starts to fall.

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The Grade II listed Barbican is Europe’s largest multi-arts and conference venue and one of London’s best examples of Brutalist architecture. It was developed from designs by architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon as part of a utopian vision to transform an area of London left devastated by bombing during the Second World War. Although the first proposals were submitted in 1955 it wasn’t until 1971 that construction started and 1982 when the Queen formally opened the building. For a whistle-stop  history of the Barbican site from medieval times to the present day I would recommend this animated video inspired by an essay from the pen of Peter Ackroyd. The image below shows how things looked in 1955, with only the church of St Giles Cripplegate having miraculously survived the carnage wrought by the German air raids.

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The following selection of images feature :

  • a spatial installation in the foyer (until 10/09/2016), exploring the theme of collision, in which two revolving arms narrowly evade each other in a mobile of light and sound in constant motion.
  • the Barbican Muse – a sculpture, created by artist Matthew Spender, of a woman holding the separate masks of tragedy and comedy.
  • the Guildhall School of Music and Drama – founded in 1880 and taking up residence in the Barbican complex in 1977.
  • the “lakeside” terrace (thronged on this day with graduating students from King’s College)
  • the residential tower blocks (now some of last remaining from their era)

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Nip in to see the latest exhibition in the art gallery which is a retrospective of work by the Icelandic performance artist, Ragnar Kjartansson which you can catch until the first week of September 2016. Centrepiece of the exhibition is a work entitled Take Me Here by the Dishwasher: Memorial for a Marriage (2011) a live performance featuring ten guitar-strumming troubadours singing for up to eight hours a day against a backdrop of a clip from an Icelandic softcore film of the Seventies starring the artist’s parents.

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Leave the Barbican by the Silk Street entrance again, head east and loop round Milton Street and Moor Lane. This area is home to several of the monolithic glass skyscrapers that have come to dominate the City and these days there are as many residential as there are office blocks and I find myself asking if there isn’t perhaps a finite pool of people who can stump up £3.75m plus for an apartment, however stunning the view.

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Moor Lane backs onto another massive instalment of the Crossrail redevelopment.

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Fore Street takes us round to the southern side of the Barbican complex where we find the aforementioned St Giles Cripplegate church.  It is believed that there has been a church on this site since Saxon times though it was during the Middle Ages that it was dedicated to St Giles. The name “Cripplegate” refers to one of the gates through the old City wall, which had its origins in Roman times as a fortification to protect the Roman city from attackers. There is no definitive explanation of the origin of the word ‘Cripplegate’ but it is thought unlikely that it relates to cripples despite the fact that St Giles is their patron saint (along with beggars and blacksmiths).  It is more likely that the word comes from the Anglo-Saxon “cruplegate” which means a covered way or tunnel, which would have run from the town gate of Cripplegate to the original Barbican, a fortified watchtower on the City wall. Sections of the old wall can still be seen near the church.

The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950 and it was extensively restored in 1966. Against the northern flank of the church is one of 14 artworks located around central London which were organised during Lent 2016 into a trail telling the story of the Passion of Christ under the umbrella title Stations of the Cross. Some of these (like the Jean Cocteau mural reported on a couple of posts back) are longstanding features of the city but the one you can see below, station no.9 by G.Roland Biermann, is one of four freshly commissioned pieces in 2016.

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As you see, after an absence of several weeks, some more of my pigeon friends have managed to inveigle themselves into this final collection of images.

Leaving the many fascinations of the Barbican behind we finish for today by walking down Wood Street to London Wall (which we will return to on other occasion).