Symbols & Secrets

Walking the City of London

Month: June 2018

Anniversary Blog! Things that made me smile.

I am really pleased to be celebrating the 52nd edition of my blog. Thank you so much for subscribing – especially those of you who have been doing so since the beginning.

As this is a special occasion, I am departing from the usual format and have been looking back at pictures from previous editions as well as other pictures that, for various reasons, I did not use. My only criteria for inclusion is that they made me smile and I hope you find them amusing too – where there is a blog you can click on the links to access it.

First up are these cherubs busy assembling a bazooka – I particularly like the ‘LOVE’ tattoo that one of them has on his arm …

And what about these two chatting on a 19th century telephone …

They all appeared in my blog Charming Cherubs

On looking through the archive I was surprised at just how many animals have found their way into my blog. For example, when I was photographing John Bunyan’s tomb in the Bunhill Burial Ground, I was photobombed by this cheeky squirrel. He decided to tuck into his lunch just as I was about to take the picture …

You can read more here

Everyone knows the story of Dick Whittington and his cat and here the animal is portrayed in stained glass. He looks like he has just seen a mouse – and I love his perky tail …

This and other stunning stained glass windows are celebrated here

Another well known cat can be found in Gough Square. His name is Hodge and he is sitting on his master’s famous dictionary …

His owner, Dr Johnson, declared him  ‘A very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed’

From famous cats to mysterious mice. Nibbling a piece of cheese, they add charm to a building in Philpot Lane off Eastcheap and have been described as London’s smallest sculpture.

No one knows their origin but there are a few theories. You can read more about the mice and other animals here

When deciding on how to decorate this imposing City building the sculptor had a bit of fun by adding this little boy struggling to hold a goose …

The street it is on is, of course, Poultry

Floppy eared dogs and smiling boars’ heads compete for your attention at the corner of Eastcheap and Philpot Lane …

Unfortunately when I looked recently they had been repainted a dull, boring cream.

They reference a Shakespeare play and you can read more here

I really liked this poster for the movie King Kong and then had to smile when, looking closely, I noticed an unusual feature. As Kong rampages through New York, he also seems to be chasing a double-decker London bus …

Edgar Wallace worked on the script for the film and I recount some of his story here

Is this the only statue in London portraying a man with a pronounced squint?

The inscription on his statue reads as follows: ‘A champion of English freedom, John Wilkes 1727-1797, Member of Parliament, Lord Mayor.’ You can read more about him here

Unveiled in November 2017, this splendid sculpture in the Christchurch Greyfriars Church Garden commemorates Christ’s Hospital School’s 350 years presence in the City of London from 1552 to 1902.

The sculpture is ‘designed to curve gently, reflecting the care and support provided to children, who flow from the youngest entering the School to confident adolescents marching boldly into their futures’.

What made me smile was the portrayal of the ragamuffins at the far right, obviously before they benefited from the school’s civilising influence …

They look like they are having great fun running wild.

The Cornhill Devils are said to resemble the rector of the church next door …

I tell the story of the devils in this blog

If you walk down Fleet Street you will notice that many of the narrow alleyways leading off to the north have plaques embedded in their entrance telling stories of Fleet Street in its heyday as the print news capital of the UK. The one at the entry to St Dunstan’s Court reminds one of the way game technology has moved on. Older readers will recognise figures from Pacman, the game used here to illustrate ‘hi tech’ developments. Younger readers will probably have no idea what we are talking about …

I don’t normally like graffiti but this seemed fair comment when you look around the City today …

‘Let’s bung up another skyscraper while they’re not looking.’

And I will end with a picture from my first blog. Happily these camels are still being led towards Tower hill …

Here’s a link to my first blog

Thank you again for subscribing!

Terminal Tales 3 – Liverpool Street Station

Liverpool Street is the UK’s third busiest station after Victoria and Waterloo. This will no doubt come as no surprise to those of you who battle your way through here every day in the rush hours. However, maybe I can persuade you to spend a little time exploring the station and its surroundings since it does have some really fascinating aspects to it.

Next to the station eastern entrance is a Wetherspoons in a building called Hamilton Hall. It is named after Lord Claud Hamilton, chairman of the Great Eastern Railway Company (1893–1923), and is the former ballroom of the old Great Eastern Hotel. Pop in for a drink and cast your eyes upwards …

The bar area.

Yes, the original ballroom decorations are still there, and you can get an even closer look if you go upstairs …

At least one source states that the design was copied directly from the Palais Soubise in Paris in 1901. Opulent is the word that springs to mind.

Named after the British Prime Minister Lord Liverpool, Liverpool Street was the Great Eastern Railway’s London Terminus with the first suburban trains departing in 1874.The Great Eastern, and its successor the London & North Eastern Railway, concentrated on developing and increasing its suburban steam services, a business model that continued until steam was withdrawn in the 1960s. Under its modernisation plan, British Railways electrified all suburban services running form Liverpool Street station, and all steam had been replaced by diesel locomotives by the end of 1962.

The days of steam.

Someone once described it as a ‘Dark Cathedral’.

A plan to demolish the station, and its neighbour Broad Street, was put forward in 1975 but fierce opposition meant a compromise had to be reached. Eventually, only Broad Street was demolished (in 1986) and Liverpool Street developed more sympathetically.

Nicely preserved are traces of a time when astonishing care was taken with what people would see on starting and finishing their journey.

What about these lovely reliefs sculpted in brick against the back wall of the Great Eastern Hotel …

A steam train …

One of the Great Eastern Railway’s own ships …

And a fireman, or stoker …

The western entrance towers hold a clock and the old railway emblems …

Just outside the entrance is the Kindertransport commemorative statue …

Photograph: Robin Coupland. Statue by Frank Meisler (2006).

In 1938 and 1939, nearly ten thousand unaccompanied Jewish children were transported to Britain to escape persecution in their hometowns in Germany, Czechoslovakia and Austria. These children arrived at Liverpool Street station to be taken in by British families and foster homes. Often they were the only members of their families to survive the Holocaust.

The station contains a number of other poignant memorials. The inscription above the largest one reads:

To the glory of God and in grateful memory of the Great Eastern Railway staff who in response to the call of their King and Country, sacrificed their lives during the Great War.

There are over 1,100 names.

There are two plaques below the main memorial …

You can read more about the Field Marshal and his murder in my blog from 15 February, Some Interesting Faces.

The Master of the Great Eastern Railway ship SS Brussels, Fryatt was court martialled for attempting to ram an attacking German submarine and being a franc-tireur (a civilian engaged in hostile military action). Having been found guilty, he was executed almost immediately by firing squad, after a show trial lasting barely two hours, during which he was afforded no proper defence. As happened following the execution of Edith Cavell in 1915, the event caused international outrage, and led to Fryatt’s body being repatriated after the war and given a ceremonial funeral. If you have the chance, read about him online – the story is absolutely fascinating.

This memorial was unveiled in 1920 by the Lord Mayor …

I have been unable to find out anything about The London Society of East Anglians.

The station was built on the site of the old Bethlehem asylum for the mentally ill commonly known as Bedlam. So when trains are totally disrupted and people say ‘it’s Bedlam here’ – once upon a time it really was.

 

 

 

 

Fish tales – a walk along the river

I started my westward walk at the old Billingsgate Market on Lower Thames Street. Once the centre of London’s fish trade, it has been comprehensively smartened up and no trace remains of its pulsating, pongy past, its interior now a soulless ‘event space’.

The market in its 20th century heyday.

Billingsgate was originally a general market for corn, coal, iron, wine, salt, pottery, fish and miscellaneous goods and does not seem to have become associated exclusively with the fish trade until the sixteenth century.

In 1699 an Act of Parliament was passed making it ‘a free and open market for all sorts of fish whatsoever’. The only exception to this was the sale of eels which was restricted to Dutch fishermen whose boats were moored in the Thames. This was because they had helped feed the people of London during the Great Fire.

The present building dates from 1876 and was designed by Sir Horace Jones, an architect perhaps best known for creating Tower Bridge but who also designed Leadenhall and Smithfield markets. Business boomed until 1982, when the fish market moved to the Isle of Dogs.

The south side of the old market today.

I love the weathervanes …

The weathervane at the west end of the market.

Similar weathervanes adorn the new market buildings in Docklands but they are fibreglass copies.

As you walk westwards you will see on your right a view of both the tower of St Magnus-the-Martyr and Wren’s monument to the Great Fire of 1666 …

The fishy environment is enhanced by the lamps that illuminate the path at night …

And, amazingly, I think the cloud formation behind is the beginning of what is known as a ‘mackerel sky’.

‘Hello, there!’ : Face-to-face with a fish at eye level.

Further along Adelaide House looms above you …

Built in 1925, it was then the City’s tallest block and is now Grade II listed. The building was named in honour of King William IV’s wife Adelaide who, in 1831, had performed the opening ceremony of London Bridge. Office workers there could once access an 18-hole mini-golf course on the roof. When I discovered this an image came to mind of an errant golf ball flying over the parapet and bonking a London Bridge commuter on the head.

Glance across the river for an interesting contrast of old and new …

On the right, the 16th century tower of Southwark Cathedral peeps over London Bridge. In the distance the Strata tower block at Elephant & Castle, with its three wind turbines, stares back at you. The turbines were supposed to generate electricity but I have never seen them move. I am told that locals have nicknamed the building Mordor.

The Fishmongers’ Livery Company is one of the most ancient of the City Guilds and you encounter the river frontage of their hall as you continue to walk westwards. You will also spot more fish motifs both on the lamps and on the railings …

The south side of Fishmongers’ Hall.

Glance across the river and there, perched in a dry dock, is a replica of a very famous Elizabethan vessel …

The Golden Hinde, under the captaincy of Sir Francis Drake, circumnavigated the globe between 1577 and 1580. It is open to visitors at St Mary Overie Dock SE1.

And now some bollards …

After the Battle of Trafalgar, it was discovered that the captured French cannons could not be retrofitted to British ships, and many of them were taken to London and erected as bollards. A cannon ball too large for the barrel was welded into the muzzle to give a distinctive shape. Most have disappeared, or are actually modern replicas, but I do think these fat black and white ones have an authentic look.

Further on, another fish lamp …

This one dates from 1998 when this part of the Thames Path was opened.

You will now pass under Cannon Street Station through the atmospheric Steelyard Passage which I wrote about in last week’s blog about Cannon Street Station.

One feature I didn’t mention was these blue lights built into the path …

The lights illustrate the edge of the River Thames at high tide before the Embankment was built in the 19th century. Shame about the skip.

At the end of the path turn left and you can look down onto the River …

You are standing above the old Walbrook River which entered the Thames at approximately this point. Now totally covered over, it was once quite a torrent. The historian John Stow wrote that it had …

Such a swift course that in the year 1564 a lad of eighteen years, minding to have leapt over the channel, was borne down that narrow stream towards the Thames with such violent swiftness as no man could rescue or stay him.

If you turn round now and walk up Cousin Lane you follow the course of the old Walbrook. On the north side of  Cannon Street it is commemorated in this sculpture entitled Forgotten Streams by the Spanish artist Cristina Iglesias …

Terminus tales 2 – Cannon Street Station

In medieval times you could buy wood in Wood Street, bread in Bread Street and you knew what you were after if you headed for Ropemaker Street. You couldn’t get hold of a cannon in Cannon Street, however, because then it was known as Candlewick Street and Cannon Street is a later derivation.

Nonetheless, I applaud the Nuffield Health club for brightening up the area with two terrific cannons, the metalwork of which looks very authentic …

4 Cousin Lane EC4R 3XJ on the south side of Cannon Street. More impressive than a candlestick.

Cannon Street Station opened on 1st September 1866 and inside a year was fronted by the Cannon Street Hotel which housed much of the station’s facilities…

The Cannon Street Hotel in 1867 – Picture: Illustrated London News.

If you think it looks like the hotel at today’s Charing Cross Station it is no coincidence. They were both designed by Edward Middleton Barry, the son of Charles Barry of Houses of Parliament fame.

Barry’s Italianate style masterpiece was demolished in 1960 and the station, having been redeveloped several times, now looks like this …

Some of you may remember when it looked like this …

The Station in 1965 just after the office block was completed.

Researching this blog reminded me of a scandal. This hit the newspapers when it was revealed that the office designer, John Poulson, had a dodgy friendship with a British Rail surveyor to whom he was ‘bunging’ £25 a week in return for contracts. The Cannon Street job was apparently worth a £200 bonus plus a new £80 suit. Both were found guilty of corruption (Poulson got seven years). His extensive corrupt activities were revealed to have stretched so far that the Home Secretary at the time, Reginald Maudling, felt obliged to resign at the height of the scandal in 1972.

The original station was characterised by its two Wren-style towers, 23 ft square and 135 ft high, which faced on to the River Thames and are still there …

Picture from ‘A Cabbie’s London’.

The towers supported a 700 ft  long iron train shed crowned by a high single arch, almost semicircular, of glass and iron.

This postcard from around 1910 is a great image looking north …

The glass roof was removed during the war to protect it but, in a terrible irony, the factory it was moved to was itself bombed and the station roof destroyed.

A walk down Cousin Lane will give a good idea of the scale of the station and a glimpse of the western tower …

Just past the Nuffield cannons you will see the entrance to Steelyard Passage which runs underneath the station …

The very atmospheric Steelyard Passage …

Rather spookily there is a sound installation of the noise made in a steelworking environment.

This steelyard was the London headquarters the Hanseatic League, or Hansa. This was a northern European trading confederation, founded in the middle of the 13th century, which continued for some 600 years. Its network of alliances grew to 170 cities and it protected its interests from interfering rulers and rival traders using a powerful fleet financed by its members. Amazingly, this part of the City was a self-governing enclave of Germany and still owned by the cities of Lübeck, Bremen and Hamburg in 1852 when they sold their interest to the South Eastern Railway for the construction of the station.

There is a commemorative plaque nearby …

The inscription in German at the end translates as ‘The old falls, the times are changing and new life blooms from the ruins.’ A quote from William Tell – a drama written by Friedrich Schiller in 1804.

The original 1670 Hanseatic League plaque from their headquarters showing the League’s Arms (a double-headed eagle) can now be found in the Museum of London …

And the connection is also commemorated in the naming of part of the Thames River Walk …

 

 

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