Symbols & Secrets

Walking the City of London

Month: January 2019

Post War plans for the City

My subjects are often inspired by what other bloggers have published and one of my blogging heroes is the author of the blog A London Inheritance. The author inherited a photographic archive from his father showing London scenes before, during and after the war. In the blog he follows up what those locations look like now along with beautifully illustrated stories of London’s history.

Recently he wrote about this Report published on behalf of the Corporation of London in 1951. It deals in detail with plans conceived by consultants in 1947 for the reconstruction of the City …

Published by the Architecture Press

I have taken some extracts from it that I found particularly fascinating but if you want to read the entire blog (and I recommend it highly) here is a link.

The first illustration that interested me was this Inventory of Accommodation within the City. The present day Barbican Estate falls firmly into section 9 …

The report then goes on to illustrate in this table the total floor space in 1939 along with the percentage destroyed during the War …

As you can see, the map highlights the considerable amount of damage caused by the early raids of 1940 / 41 when incendiaries caused significant fire damage in the areas around and to the north of St. Paul’s Cathedral as shown by the high percentage figures for blocks 2,7 and 9.

New roads and high and low level separation of pedestrians and vehicles was seen as the way forward for the City. The Barbican Highwalk is a present day example of what the new ‘pedways’ above the traffic might have looked like and there is an interesting article on the subject here.

The following drawing shows the proposed high level road in Lower Thames Street with the ground level occupied by a service road and a pedestrian area …

Lower Thames Street is not very nice to walk along nowadays, but the proposed high level road would probably not have had enough capacity

This drawing is of the proposed low level concourse at London Bridgehead, just to the west of the Monument …

I like the man getting a shoeshine and the Monument Tea Rooms

This is a clever piece of anticipation if you just swop the Sherry, Port and Madeira bar for a Wine bar and the Tea Rooms for a Cafe Nero. And nowadays men seem to be wearing hats again.

The following impression, also of the proposed London Bridgehead, is again (apart from the clothes) rather modern …

The report notes that the City is ‘chronically short of places to eat’ so no doubt the authors would be pleased to see how that situation has drastically improved.

The high level separation of traffic can be seen here as part of the large circulatory road system on the northern end of London Bridge …

Interesting that a pavement artist has been included

To the right is a glass sided entrance to the Monument Underground Station with the London Transport roundel on the side. This would have replaced the entrance on Fish Street Hill which today is an entrance directly on the ground floor of an office building rather than this rather nice, glass sided descent by escalator. I have to keep reminding myself that these ideas were being put forward over 70 years ago.

I really had to do a double-take when I saw this drawing entitled ‘An impression of a possible treatment of the proposed new approach to St. Paul’s from the river.’

What a great vision

And now we have a similar view after we cross the Millennium Bridge (however we are unlikely to spot a man in a top hat).

Just to show that not all the recommendations were attractive, a picture entitled ‘An impression of the suggested Cheapside Underpass, a proposal which has been postponed on grounds of cost.’

That’s the church of St Mary-le-Bow on the right

I think we had a lucky escape there.

And finally, a reminder of the utter destruction the War brought to some parts of the City. A photograph taken by the blogger’s father showing a very large pile of rubble following the demolition of bombed buildings in Aldersgate …

I hope you enjoyed today’s blog – apologies to those of you who already subscribe to the London Inheritance blog and have therefore seen these images before. If you don’t subscribe and are interested in London’s history I can’t recommend it more highly.

Whitecross Street Art and a very naughty lady

At the north end of Whitecross on the corner with Old Street a plaque on a wall tells us that there once lived here a lady called Priss Fotheringham who had been ranked ‘the second best whore in the City’. This description appeared in 1660 in a serial publication called The Wandring Whore by John Garfield, which described in some detail the antics of London’s prostitutes.

The tongue in cheek plaque is by ‘English Hedonists’ and was ‘Mad in England’

Described when young as a ‘cat-eyed gypsy, pleasing to the eye’, Priscilla Fotheringham (nee Carswell) was a colourful character very famous in her time. It is thought she was born in Scotland around 1615 and little is known of her early life. What we do know is that in 1652 she was sent to Newgate Gaol having been found in a house of ill-repute …

… sitting between two Dutchmen with her breasts naked to the waist and without stockings, drinking and singing in a very uncivil manner.

In 1658 she was still misbehaving and was bound over by a Middlesex Justice of the Peace for …

… being a notorious strumpet … that had undone several men by giving them the foul disease … and for keeping the husband of Susan Slaughter from her and for also threatening to stab said Susan Slaughter … and also for several notorious wickedness which is not fit to be named among the heathen.

She had married Edward Fotheringham, an odious character from a brothel-owning family, in 1656, and he set her up as a madam at the Jack-a-Newberry Tavern on the corner where her plaque now stands. As her looks faded with time she became more ‘creative’ in the way customers were entertained – you can read more detail in her Wikipedia entry. She made enough money to set up her own brothel and died (of syphilis) a wealthy woman around 1668.

I have found a great 17th century ballad about the area and placed it at the end of the blog.

Whilst walking up from Beech Street to visit Priss’s little plaque I was struck by the extraordinary variety and quality of the street art, much of it a legacy of Whitecross Street parties.

The one that always catches my eye is this mural by Conor Harrington, an Irish artist living and working in London …

It was created in 2012

Beneath it and to the left is one of my favourites, the cherubs assembling a bazooka …

Stencil work by DS Art


Paul Don Smith is a prolific artist and I have come across a lot of his work around Brick Lane. Here are two of his Whitecross Street offerings …

You can also catch a glimpse of his work here, the lady on the side of the street furniture on the left …

I think the figure on the door with the party hat is a homage to Jean-Michel  Basquiat

And I always smile when I see the installation by the Italian artists Urban Solid below the window of the Curious Duke Gallery …

And what about this rather rude representation of someone taking a selfie …

Referring back to Priss and the days when much of this part of London was a centre of prostitution, I would like to end with this from the Roxburghe Ballad collection …


In Whitecross Street and Golden Lane
Do strapping lasses dwell,
And so there do in every street
‘Twixt that and Clerkenwell.
At Cowcross and at Smithfield
I have much pleasure found,
Where wenches like to fairies
Did often trace the ground.

Nowadays the big attraction is Waitrose.



On the Tiles again


A few days ago I visited the Lamb Tavern in Leadenhall Market (EC4V 1LR) and came across these splendid tiles depicting Sir Christopher Wren. He is standing in front of The Monument (which still has scaffolding around it) holding up a drawing of how it will look when finished …

Just look at the characters gathered around him …

A lady holding a fan leans out of her carriage window to chat to the architect. A child (possibly her servant) stands nearby holding what looks like a pet King Charles spaniel. Some nearby gentlemen are also intrigued, but the chap with the red hat who looks like Errol Flynn might be more interested in the lady. Observe the elegant shoes of the man holding an eyeglass. Not really appropriate for the City’s muddy streets, so maybe he is her carriage companion. The carriage driver looks over his shoulder at the scene. The panel is by W.B. Simpson & Sons and is faintly dated 12th March 1882.

And now another wonderful new discovery for me, the exterior of the former Nordheim Model Bakery at 12-13 Widegate Street (E1 7HP), just off Middlesex Street near Liverpool Street Station. Here are the glazed faience reliefs as a group – they are a joy – showing the bread-making process in beautiful detail …

Hauling in the flour
Kneading the dough
Into the oven for baking
Triumphantly carrying the finished product

They date from 1926 and their creator was the sculptor Philip Lindsey Clark (1889-1977). Having joined up with the Artists’ Rifles in 1914, he had distinguished himself in the First World War having been awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for ‘ … conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in command of the left flank of the Company of the Battalion’. Despite being severely wounded, he had fought on until relieved two days later. His work became more and more religious and he eventually entered a Carmelite order, retired to the West Country, and died there at the age of 88. The panels reminded the Gentle Author of the Stations of the Cross and you can read his posting about these works here.

I love this bright red high-relief terracotta frieze on the exterior of Cutlers’ Hall (1886-7) in Warwick Lane (EC3M 7BR). The ancient Cutlers’ Company’s origins go back to 1416, their business originally produced and traded in knives and swords but eventually expanding into household cutlery and domestic wares such as razors and scissors.

The work realistically depicts late Victorian cutlery production. This is not surprising since the sculptor, Benjamin Creswick (1853-1946) of Sheffield, was once a cutler himself. The frieze (containing 33 figures) was made by E. Goodall & Co of Manchester …

The detail is extraordinary

I had to smile when I noticed this plastic owl just above the terracotta on the right. He’s obviously intended to deter pigeons …

‘To-whit to-whoo!’

The Bishopsgate Institute (230 Bishopsgate EC2M 4QH) is a fascinating cultural centre in the City of London.

The website tells us that the architect for the building was decided by a design competition and Charles Harrison Townsend (1851-1928) was chosen as the winner. Townsend was an inspiring and original architect whose work was individual rather than adhering to any particular style or movement. The Grade II* listed building combines elements of the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau styles, but the influences of Townsend’s interest in Romanesque and Byzantine architecture can be seen in the broad semi-circular arched entrance, twin roof turrets and mosaic interior floors. Do go inside and visit the beautifully restored library.


The Tree of Life

And finally (for now) the flamboyant Bolton House at 14-16 Cullum Street EC3M 7JJ. Built in 1907, it has a white faience facade with green and turquoise decoration including the heraldic device of Prior Bolton, after whom the building was named. It’s another lovely example of Art Nouveau completed just before that style went out of fashion.

Incidentally, I have already written about the Prior in an earlier blog because of his connection with St Bartholomew the Great. Under the oriel window in the church there is a nice example of a rebus, in this case a representation of a person’s name using a picture. Here Prior Bolton’s name is neatly implied by a crossbow bolt piercing a tun (a type of cask). Bolton was Prior of St Bartholomew the Great between 1505 and 1532 and carried out repair and construction work across the church.

Prior Bolton’s rebus

I am indebted to the Tiles & Architectural Ceramics Society for the source of much of today’s blog. They published a special Gazetteer on the City of London and I have used it for reference. The photographs are my own. My thanks also to Richard Jones of London Walking Tours.


City Lights

The City was enhanced this Christmas by some spectacular light shows.

Firstly, the Shard produced an even better light show than last year. Here are a few of its sequences …

Tower 42 had a festive look …

And, finally, these London Wall Place displays will be around until the end of January and operational between 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm.

This ‘greenhouse’ is on the St Alphage Highwalk …

The Salters’ Hall Garden is amazing …

2 London Wall Place is transformed …

Certainly worth a look if you have a chance before the end of the month.

The City Gent – out on the Tiles

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a nice Christmas and an enjoyable break.

There is an abundance of tiles around the City, many of them old Victorian examples that are functional rather than attractive. There are also, however, some really impressive examples of the tile makers skill and I have chosen a number for this week’s blog.

I shall start with what I consider to be the most spectacular.

Have you ever visited Waithman Street (EC4V 6JA)? I would be surprised if you have, since it’s really just a pavement running between Black Friars Lane and Pilgrim Street. Here you will encounter the back walls of 100 New Bridge Street and 23 stunning tiled panels containing 18,000 tiles. They were created in 1992 by the artist Rupert Spira – known primarily for his pottery, these are one of his few ventures into tile work and the only one in the UK. Three dimensional, they remind me of the work by M.C. Escher and when taking pictures I got quite carried away – there is no repetition …

The start of the display.

A few examples …

So Waithman Street is well worth a visit. It is named after Robert Waithman, a 19th century MP elected Lord Mayor of London in 1823.

As I strolled towards Fleet Street I noticed this pretty tile above the shop at 8 Salisbury Court (EC4Y 8AA) …

Tucked away in Magpie Alley (EC4Y 8DP) off Bouverie Street is a wall of tiles illustrating the history of the area’s long association with printing and print news. They are quite difficult to photograph but I had a few attempts …

They are beautifully detailed …

Wynken de Worde – what a great name for the first printer to set up a site on Fleet Street …

I like the printer’s dog dozing nearby …

Pictures from the 1960s …

Number 53 Fleet Street boasts some fancy tiling …

Incidentally, the building has been converted into five apartments priced from £585,000 to £1,550,000. I think there are still a few unsold if you are interested!

On the east side of the City near Liverpool Street Station is this extraordinary building (Bishopsgate Churchyard EC2M 3TJ) which once housed a Turkish bath. The tiles were manufactured in Egypt in the Turkish style and shipped over …

Designed by Harold Elphick, it was built in 1895 by Henry and James Forder Nevill who already owned more of these establishments in London than anyone else. A bit like the Tardis, the premises are in fact much larger than they look and are spread out underground. Customers went down a winding staircase to enter a ‘cooling room’ and then choose between three ‘hot rooms’ of varying temperatures (in the hottest, the calidarium, temperature reached 270 degrees Fahrenheit). They could then move on to a plunge pool and showers.  Baths like this gradually went out of fashion and this one ceased operating in 1954. You can still chill out there, but only in the cocktail bar.

I’ve walked through the lightwell at Number 1 Poultry dozens of times but only looked up recently. I was quite surprised to see this …

The three lightwell walls are lined with blue faience cladding topped by startlingly coloured window frames.

I’ve always liked this depiction in tiles of Sir Robert Peel above 178 Bishopsgate (EC2M 4NJ) which used to contain the pub named after him …

It’s based on a painting at the National Portrait Gallery.

And finally, in the courtyard behind Exchange House in Primrose Street (EC2A 2EG), I came across this fantastic tiled waterfall …

I enjoyed my time on the tiles and will certainly be visiting and photographing other examples in the future.

 

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