Symbols & Secrets

Walking the City of London

Author: The City Gent Page 1 of 4

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.

 

Things that made me smile!

One of the great pleasures of writing this blog is that I am constantly coming across things that make me smile. Since I am still in a lighthearted Christmas mood, I thought I would share some of them with you and hope you find them amusing too.

I wrote about the First World War Cyclist battalions in an earlier blog and then came across this recruitment poster for the S. Midland Divisional Cyclist Company.

Dental hygiene was poor at the time and so it was obviously necessary to stress that you didn’t need a perfect set of gnashers to be accepted by the Company.

In Postman’s Park in the City is the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice consisting of 54 plaques commemorating the bravery of ‘humble’ individuals who gave their lives to save others. No disrespect intended to the brave John Cranmer Cambridge, but I did smile when I noticed that his act was apparently more noble since he saved not only a stranger but also a ‘foreigner’.

The plaques were the idea of the painter G.F. Watts and the wording on John Cambridge’s seems to reflect Watts’ firm belief in the superior character of the British. You can read more about Watts and the other heroes he sought to memorialise in John Price’s splendid book Heroes of Postman’s Park (ISBN 9780750956437).

One of these days when I visit this museum I will accept the slice of bread and drink this rather serious nun is offering. In the meantime I just smile and say ‘no thanks’.

You will find her along with some absolutely fascinating artifacts in the St Bartholomew’s Hospital Museum including a document signed by Henry VIII only a month before he died.

Walking along Gresham Street I was surprised to find myself being stared at by a zebra …

The zebra is part of the brand image of the Investec banking and asset management group whose offices are on Gresham Street. According to their Facebook page, they chose the zebra because it’s ‘a humble and modest creature, yet it surprises, delights and represents the distinctiveness that we strive for’. So now you know.

Men working on St Paul’s Cathedral in the 18th century left a plethora of graffiti around and near the west door. It includes this slightly pompous looking bald individual drawn to look like a pigeon puffing out its breast. Maybe he was a rather unpopular supervisor.

I did laugh when I saw this beady-eyed bird on a wall alongside Brick Lane …

And I like this fish on the Embankment near Billingsgate who looks like he is sticking out his fishy tongue at passers by …

This happy, smiling, chubby Mr Sun always cheers me up …

Especially as he is in Gresham Street above the oddly apostrophised St Martins’ House …

Surely is should be St Martin’s?

Outside the Cheesegrater building on Leadenhall Street, this Godlike figure entitled Navigation holds a passenger ship in his left hand and is flanked by a binnacle and a ship’s wheel. Originally owned by the P&O Banking Corporation, he once looked down from the facade of their building at the junction of Leadenhall Street and St Mary Axe. I smiled because he seems to be glancing rather suspiciously at the replica maypole that has been installed next to him …

It references the maypole that once stood nearby outside St Andrew Undershaft (so called because the maypole alongside it was taller than the church). The pole was set up opposite the church every year until Mayday 1517 when the tradition was suspended after the City apprentices (always a volatile bunch) rioted against foreigners. Public gatherings on Mayday were therefore to be discouraged and the pole was hung up nearby in the appropriately named Shaft Alley. In 1549 the vicar of St Catharine Cree denounced the maypole as a pagan symbol and got his listeners so agitated they pulled the pole from its moorings, cut it up and burned it.

The Royal Exchange is built on land owned by the Mercer livery company whose ancient symbol is what’s known as a Mercer Maiden and she adorns many City buildings. The emblem appears on one set of Royal Exchange gates and I don’t mean to be rude, but do you think the image’s face looks a bit like Michael Portillo?

Then there is this David Wynne sculpture of Prince Charles in the Guildhall Art Gallery

He just doesn’t look happy, does he? Maybe he wasn’t too keen on the rather spiky modern version of a coronet that he is wearing here at his 1969 Investiture as Prince of Wales. It was designed by a committee chaired by his auntie Princess Margaret’s husband, Antony Armstrong-Jones (later Lord Snowdon). The globe and cross at the top was originally intended to be solid gold but the committee concluded that this would be far too heavy. The solution was to use a gold plated ping-pong ball – which is why I always smile at this portrayal of the Prince (and possibly why he doesn’t appear to have ever worn the item again).

And finally …

City pigeons just don’t believe it.

 

The Christmas Quiz!

Hello, friends,

Wow, doesn’t time fly. It’s time for another Christmas quiz!

There are 20 questions with answers supplied at the end of the blog. All questions relate to subjects I have written about during 2018.

1. Can you spot the thief in this painting of the Lord Mayor’s procession The Ninth of November 1888?

2. Who designed and created these lovely murals that can be found on the Highwalk between the Barbican Centre and Speed House?

3. People have obviously been stroking the head of this curled up bronze lion. He is portrayed on the door of what famous building?

4. This man is frantically waving his arm at the Embankment traffic. What is he trying to do?

5. The Tower Hill Memorial records that all these men lost their lives when one ship was sunk by a U Boat on 7 May 1915. What was the name of the ship?

6. A handsome, bearded Sir Thomas Gresham looks down from the gates at the entrance to what building?

7. This naughty 18th century fireplace tile showing a lady spanking a man’s bottom is now, along with other even naughtier ones, held ‘securely’ in the Museum of London. In what famous Fleet Street pub was it discovered?

8. In the old churchyard of St John Zachary are these three figures. What profession do they represent?

9. A South African engineer stands atop a ventilation shaft outside Bank Underground Station – an appropriate location bearing in mind his great invention. What is his name and what did he invent?

10. This stained glass window in Liverpool Anglican Cathedral celebrates the actions of a brave lady. She also has a commemorative plaque in a small City of London park along with plaques recognising the heroic self sacrifice of 53 other ‘humble’ folk.

What is the name of the park?

11. Non-resident dogs no doubt read this sign and go elsewhere. Resident dogs are reminded how to behave.

Where are these gardens?

12. This rodent balancing on a weathervane above Bishopsgate is a reminder of an 18th century institution that dominated the fur trade. What was the most popular fur and what was the institution?

13. What’s unusual about this Greek inscription on the font in St Martin within Ludgate: Niyon anomhma mh monan oyin?

14. Sir Henry was murdered shortly after unveiling the war memorial in what City of London Station?

15. I am sure there are very few dishonest solicitors nowadays, but there seems to have been a time when an honest one was rather unusual, and this virtue was so exceptional that his clients paid for a memorial plaque saying so. It reads ‘Hobson Judkin, late of Clifford’s Inn, THE HONEST SOLICITOR who departed this life June 30th 1812’. In what church can it be found?

16. The Reverend Dr Chad Varah takes a call at St Stephen Walbrook in November 1953 – what Charity did he found?

17. What is the connection between this famous movie and the Fleet Street legend and prolific author Edgar Wallace?

18. Who is this handsome chap? His bust stands outside St Paul’s Cathedral and his effigy was the only one that survived when the old cathedral burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666.

19. And who is this not so handsome fellow with a distinct squint? The statue’s inscription describes him as a ‘champion of English freedom’.

20. A legendary Lord Mayor, one commentator claimed that this stained glass representation of him in St Lawrence Jewry made him look like a ‘Hoxton hipster’. Who was he?

ANSWERS 

Here are the answers along with links to the relevant blog:

1. It’s the little boy reaching around to nick an orange from the old lady’s basket. You can view the full picture here.

2. Dorothy Annan, who I wrote about last week.

3. The Bank of England. Fascinating details of other doors (and the ‘Lothbury Ladies’) can be found here.

4. The poor guy has been trying to hail a taxi since 1983.

5. The Lusitania. I have researched some of the men’s stories and you can read about them here.

6. The Royal Exchange. Read more about Sir Thomas and the Royal Exchange here and here.

7. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of 1666. Read more about it, and Fleet Street’s lanes and alleys, here.

8. The newsprint profession. Read more about this sculpture and others here.

9. It’s James Henry Greathead. He invented the Greathead Shield which transformed the art of tunneling to the significant advantage of London’s Underground. Go to the blog to see where you can actually find an example.

10. Postman’s Park. See details of other memorials and stories behind them here.

11. They are next to the gates to Inner Temple Gardens.

12. The fur was from the beaver and the institution the Hudson’s Bay Company. Read about more City animals here.

13. It’s a palindrome. Translated it reads ‘Cleanse my sin not only my face’. See more unusual church discoveries here.

14. Liverpool Street Station.  Read more about the Field Marshal here and the station itself here.

15. St Dunstan-in-the-West on Fleet Street. Read more about this tribute and other unusual memorials here.

16. The Samaritans. Here’s the full story.

17. He wrote the original screenplay. Read about his extraordinarily productive life here.

18. John Donne, poet and Dean of St Paul’s. Read more about him here.

19. John Wilkes. Read more about him here.

20. It’s Dick Whittington accompanied by his loyal cat. There is much more beautiful stained glass in the City and I write about it here.

Finally, if you are interested, here is a link to last year’s quiz.

Thank you so much for following the blog – my sincere best wishes for Christmas and the New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Barbican Highwalk – dancers, gladiators and more

The Barbican Highwalk is the last significant remnant of the post War City ‘pedway’ dream – the ambitious plan to separate pedestrians from traffic using elevated ‘pavements in the sky’. The Highwalk, at first floor or Podium level, threads its way through the Estate, also embracing entrances to the Arts Centre, library and restaurants. City planners for a long time insisted that new developments had to include potential pedway access, which also explains why the main entrance to the Museum of London is at first floor level. The grand plan was gradually abandoned but exploring the Highwalk will give you a glimpse of the original vision, especially if you seek out the extension over London Wall Place.

Today, however, I am going to concentrate on some of the items that have found a home on the walkways since their construction, starting at the Museum of London.

Outside the Museum entrance is Union – Horse with Two Discs by Christopher Le Brun (2001) …

In a note nearby the artist explains that to him it is important that horses and riders are ‘not seen as real (but) an entrance or key to the place that I want to enter. It’s as if “the horse” enables the journey rather than providing the final subject’.

At the other side of the entrance is The Aldersgate Flame …

Placed here in 1981, it commemorates the approximate location at street level of John Wesley’s conversion on 24 May 1738 and consists of facsimile extracts from his Journal. From that day onward the founder of Methodism set out on a mission covering thousands of miles and delivering over 40,000 sermons -‘The world is my parish’. The monument, which is in bronze, has recently been restored and there is an interesting article about that work and its challenges here.

Crossing the Bastion Highwalk towards the bar and restaurant on Alban Gate you will encounter two naked writhing dancers. Quite often I have seen people pose for photographs whilst trying to mimic the figures’ movements – they have not found it easy …

The work, called Unity, is by the Croatian Sculptor Ivan Klapez. It was commissioned by the building developers MEPC in 1992 and marked a turning point is his career.

Follow the infamous yellow line on the pavement and you will be guided into the Barbican Centre itself where Zoe the Barbican Muse indicates the way in …

A little further ahead on the left is the Osteria restaurant and opposite, in a space that is rather poorly lit, is this figure …

Entitled Gladiator, it was presented by Lady Sarah Cohen in memory of her late husband Sir John Edward Cohen, the founder of Tesco. The work was created in 1973 by Canadian born Israeli sculptor Eli Elan (1928-1982).

I have saved my favourite installation to last – Dorothy Annan’s magnificent murals on the Highwalk between the Centre and Speed House …

Commissioned by the Ministry of Works in 1960, they originally graced the largest telephone exchange in London, the Fleet Building on Farringdon Street. The panels feature stylistic images of telecommunications equipment and are a striking example of 1960s mural art. When the demolition of the building was planned the murals were granted Listed status and moved in 2013 to their present location.

Annan visited the Hathernware pottery in Loughborough and hand-scored her designs onto each wet clay tile. There are nine panels in all and here are three of them with their titles …

Radio Communications and Television.

Cable Chamber with Cables Entering from Street.

Impressions Derived from the Patterns Produced in Cathode Ray Oscilligraphs used in testing.

I love the creamy texture of the ceramic surfaces, their look much enhanced by carefully designed lighting …

Part of Cables and Communication in Buildings.

And here is the lady herself …

The murals’ original location photographed in 2011 …

By the way, as you retrace your steps having looked at Gladiator, take a look at the wall on your left. Here are kept the various locking mechanisms for the Centre and, when I first glimpsed them, I honestly thought they were a Modern Art installation …

Well they could be, couldn’t they!

 

Some of my favourite City Art

If you haven’t yet visited the Guildhall Art Gallery I do strongly recommend it (EC2V 5AE). Established in 1886 it contains works dating from 1670 to the present. A visitor described it as ‘free and fabulous’ and I wholeheartedly agree.

Here is one of my favourite pictures, William Logsdail’s painting entitled The Ninth of November 1888

It is, of course, the Lord Mayor’s procession, but in this picture he is nowhere to be seen and the artist has concentrated on the liveried beadles (who he actually painted in his studio)…

… and the people in the crowd …

There is a minstrel in blackface with his banjo and, although I have studied this picture dozens of times, I have only just noticed the little boy next to him nicking an orange from the old lady’s basket. On the right of the picture the man in the brown hat, next to the soldier with the very pale face, is Logsdail’s friend the painter Sir James Whitehead. It’s a sobering thought that, not far away in the East End that afternoon, police were discovering the body of Mary Kelly, believed to be the last of Jack the Ripper’s victims.

Up the stairs at the far end of the gallery, in a space specially designed for it, you look down on the action-packed painting by John Singleton Copley: Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar 1782

A Spanish attack on Gibraltar was foiled when the Spanish battering ships, also known as floating batteries, were attacked by the British using shot heated up to red hot temperatures (sailors nicknamed them ‘hot potatoes’). Fire spread among the Spanish vessels and, as the battle turned in Britain’s favour, an officer called Roger Curtis set out with gunboats on a brave rescue mission which saved almost 350 people.

Look at the painstaking detail in the faces of the officers and Governor General Augustus Eliot, who is portrayed riding to the edge of the battlements to direct the rescue …

The officers were dispersed after the Gibraltar action and poor Copley had to travel all over Europe to track them down and paint them – a task that took him seven years at considerable expense. He recouped some of his cash in 1791 by exhibiting the picture in a tent in Green Park and charging people a shilling to see it (about £10 in today’s value).

Here is a facsimile of an admission ticket …

And now some more contemporary pieces of art.

In the entrance hall to the London Mithraeum at 12 Walbrook (EC4N 8AA) your eyes are drawn immediately to this stunning tapestry by Isabel Nolan: Another View from Nowhen

You can just pop in to look at the tapestry but I hope you will also book a time slot to go downstairs and visit the beautifully restored and exhibited Temple of Mithras. You can read all about it and see some pictures in my blog The Romans in London: Mithras, Walbrook and the Games.

In September 2017 Banksy paid a clandestine visit to the City to coincide with a retrospective of the work of American graffiti artist-turned-painter Jean-Michel Basquiat. The first work, a Ferris wheel with people queuing for tickets, is captioned as follows on Banksy’s website:

Major new Basquiat opens at the Barbican – a place that is normally very keen to clean any graffiti from its walls …

The three-pointed crown is a symbol often used in the artist’s own work.

The painting on the other side of the road references a Basquiat picture showing a New Yorker being searched by the police …

Steps have been taken to protect both paintings and you can see them at the junction of Beech Street and Golden Lane (EC1Y 0QT).

And finally, I often smile as I walk along Whitecross Street and see this jolly illustration of the street’s shops portrayed on street furniture …

… along with this cheerful picture inviting you to nip around the corner and dine at the lovely, friendly Baracca Restaurant, highly recommended …

 

 

The Bank of England, the Lothbury Ladies and more doors

I really like the exterior of the bank of England, Soane’s curtain wall speaking as it does of security and confidence.

Before I write about the doors, however, there are the four ladies to admire. Carved by Sir Charles Wheeler between 1932 and 1937, and nicknamed the Lothbury Ladies, they are located against the ends of the upper pavilion blocks.

The eastern pair stand in front of cornucopias and piles of money …

According to the splendid Ornamental Passions website, from which these pictures are taken, Wheeler was slightly queasy about these images of prosperity given that this was a time of financial crisis (Britain having just been forced off the gold standard). He thought sheaves of corn might be more suitable and wrote to the architect Sir Herbert Baker suggesting this. Baker ‘clearly told him not to be silly’.

The ladies on the western side are each hold a standing naked child between their legs, one male …

… and one female …

They ‘represent the hope of the future of the renewed Bank and its ideals’.

I wrote about the main Threadneedle Street doors in an earlier blog but you will encounter more as you walk around the building. These are the Goods Yard Doors in Lothbury which contain symbols of work – in the tympanum between the two lions rampant are a hammer and anvil, a monkey wrench and a rivet.

The roundels in the door are surrounded by rope motifs, the upper ones containing half-length nude male figures also symbolising work. The one on the left is carrying a load on his back …

… the one on the right is bent over a vice

The lower roundels contain curled up lions …

People have obviously been stroking his head.

These are the daunting, even menacing, Lothbury Court or Bullion Doors …

 

Loops of chains hang from a ring in the lion’s mouth and the doors themselves are decorated with huge double-warded keys, the handle of each containing a caduceus. These are the only sliding doors at the bank and Herbert Baker sent a Wheeler a sketch with the rather rude comment …

We already have too many prancing lions and a bullion door must be a more forbidding thing, simple in expression and to a big scale.

And finally, here are the doors on Princes Street with, yes, more ‘prancing lions’ …

I love their curly tails, and above them a smiling male sun and lady moon.

Incidentally, the main doors are magnificent and this is a link to the blog where I write about them in more detail …

 

 

Some of my favourite City sculptures

In a grim courtyard outside the gruesome Baynard House on Queen Victoria Street (EC4V 4BQ) is the quite extraordinary sculpture The Seven Ages of Man by Richard Kindersley (1980) …

At first the infant – mewing and puking in the nurse’s arms …then the whining schoolboy creeping like a snail unwillingly to school … then the lover … then a soldier full of strange oaths …

… and then the justice full of wise saws … then the sixth age …the big manly voice turning again toward childish treble, pipes and whistles in his sound … then second childishness and mere oblivion, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

(Jacques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It Act II Scene vii)

In my local church, St Giles-without-Cripplegate (EC2Y 8DA), there are a set of busts that I have always admired that are on loan from the Cripplegate Foundation. They were presented by J Passmore Edwards (1823-1911), the journalist and lifelong champion of the working classes. His bequests can still be seen today throughout the country and included 24 libraries and numerous schools and convalescence homes.

Oliver Cromwell married Elizabeth Bourchier here in 1620. His bust portrays him ‘warts and all’ just as he preferred …

John Milton, the poet and polemicist, was buried here in 1674. By 1652 he had gone completely blind, probably from glaucoma, as is obvious from this representation …

All the Passmore-Edwards busts in the church are by George Frampton (1860-1928).

Miraculously, the church tower survived World War II bombing. It dates from the 1394 rebuilding of the church and at the base there is some of the original stone from 1090. The unusual upper part of the tower dates from the 17th century and overall provides an interesting contrast with the soaring 20th century Barbican development …

What could be more fun than this chap frantically hailing a taxi …

Taxi! by the American Sculptor J Seward Johnson is cast bronze and dates from 1983. You can find it on the Embankment at the south end of John Carpenter Street (EC4Y 0JP).

It is difficult to grasp nowadays just how much Medieval London was dominated by the Church, but its traces are still very evident today in, for example, the names of streets and surviving districts. Before the Dissolution under Henry VIII more than thirty monasteries, convents, priories and hospitals squeezed into the City’s ‘square mile’ or huddled outside against the still-surviving Roman wall.

This statue of a friar writing in a book with a quill pen is a reminder that the house of the Augustinian Friars stood in what is now Austin Friars (EC2N 2HA) …

Sculptor: T Metcalfe (1989).

These two beautifully carved characters recall the presence here of the Friars of the Holy Cross, also known as the Crutched Friars, after which this street is named (EC3N 2AE) …

Sculptor: Michael Black   Architects: Chapman Taylor Partners (1984-85).

The materials are Swedish red granite with heads, hands and feet in off-white Bardiglio marble. They stand on steps, the friar holding the staff and bag representing the active life with his companion holding a scroll representing the contemplative life. Both staff and scroll are made of bronze.

And finally to this great architect, his statue in a niche on the wall of the Bank of England facing Lothbury (EC2R 7HG) …

Sir John Soane  Sculptor: William Reid Dick (1930-37).

Sir John wears a long cloak and holds in his left hand a roll of drawings and a set square with the back of the niche discretely decorated with the motifs he habitually used in his buildings. He built his reputation on the work he did as architect of the Bank from 1788 to 1833. Much was lost in later reconstruction, but you can get an idea of what his work was like if you visit the fascinating Bank of England Museum (I have written about it here).

The house where Sir John once lived in Lincoln’s Inn Fields is now a museum and I tell visitors to London it’s a must-see experience. Click here to view the website.

 

Adding life stories to names

Often when I look at war memorials I think about the life stories behind the names, some of which will obviously have been lost forever as memories fade and family members die. Sometimes, however, very detailed personal records have been accurately preserved for reasons other than just family history.

Such was the case for this vessel that departed Pier 54 in New York on 1st May 1915 bound for Liverpool. Her name is recorded here on the Mercantile Marine Memorial on Tower hill …

Below the name, as is the practice on the memorial, the names of the crew who were lost and whose bodies were never recovered are listed in alphabetical order …

Some of the tablets listing the Lusitania crew.

In total 1,193 people perished when the ship was sunk by a torpedo fired by the German U Boat U 20 on 7th May 1915 off the coast of Ireland. The number of crew lost was 402.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I was intrigued by men who chose to serve under names other than the name on their birth certificate and have researched many of them using the invaluable Merseyside Maritime Museum Lusitania database. One of the reasons this exists is that, since the crew were employees of the Cunard Line, insurance, pensions and the balance of their wages had to be distributed to their families, and so research was necessary to ensure the correct beneficiaries were identified.

On the tablet below are inscribed the names of three men in this ‘served as’ category – Kyle, Land and Pardew. Edward Kyle was 44 when he died and we don’t know why he chose to serve under the name of Robins. Similarly, we don’t know why Cann Cooper Land chose the name Jones when he signed up as a ‘Second Butcher’ on 12 April 1915 (although after his death the local paper stated ‘he was always known as Charlie Jones’). We do know he was 27 years old but gave his age as 25. In August 1915 his family was given the balance of his wages.

Much more is known about Charles Pardew who served as Charles John Scott …

Charles had been engaged as a fireman in the engineering department on a wage of six pounds ten shillings a month (£6.50). In July 1915 his widow Sarah swore an affidavit (supported by a lifelong friend called Fennell) that Charles had used the alias Scott since 1894. Apparently he had once sailed from Australia in a ship named the Charles Scott and decided to adopt that as his service name. For some reason he had also claimed he was 60 when in fact he was 57. Sarah received £300 compensation from the company and in August The Liverpool & London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted her a monthly pension of one pound six shillings (£1.30).

There is someone on the memorial who shouldn’t be there at all …

We don’t know why Joseph Patrick Huston engaged as an able seaman under the name of Joseph Robb. His body was one of the first to be recovered, but for some reason the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was not aware of this, so his body was listed among the missing. He was 24 when he died and was buried in the Old Church Cemetery, Queenstown, County Cork on 10th May 1915.

The Lusitania mass burial ceremony. Joseph Huston’s body was among those recovered.

The memorial now …

I will carry on researching the Lusitania crew and will report back on any more interesting facts I come across.

You may remember that in my blog of 25th October I mentioned the London Cyclists Battalion …

A recruitment poster from 1912.

It was therefore quite a coincidence that, on 9th November this year, Theresa May laid wreath at the grave of a cyclist, John Parr, the first UK soldier to be killed in the First World War on 21 August 1914. He was 15 when he signed up in 1912 but claimed to be eighteen years and one month. His comrades nicknamed him ‘Ole Parr’, which suggests that everyone knew he was much younger than he claimed, especially since on joining he was only 5 foot 3 inches tall and weighed just 8.5 stone!

John Henry Parr’s grave at St Symphorium Military Cemetery, Mons, Belgium.

Parr was a reconnaissance cyclist in the 4th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment and died on the outskirts of Mons, Belgium. Bicycles were commonly used in the War, not only for troop transport, but also for carrying dispatches. Field telephones were also limited by the need for cables, and ‘wireless’ communications were still unreliable. So cyclists – and runners, motorbike riders, pigeons and dogs – were frequently preferred by both the Allies and the German army. There is an interesting article on the subject by Carlton Reid in Forbes magazine 

I want to end this week’s blog with a story that moved me greatly when I reported it before in my blog about the City’s Little Museums.

These three battlefield crosses can be found in the crypt museum in All Hallows-by-the-Tower and I wrote in detail about the one in the centre …

This marked the grave of 2nd Lt. G.C.S Tennant. His last letter home was found unposted on his body after his death. It reads:

Sept. 2nd 1917.

Dearest Mother,

All well I come out tonight. By the time you get this you will know I am through all right. I got your wire last night, also your three letters. Many thanks for that little book of poems. It is a great joy having it out here. There is nothing much to do all day except sleep now and then. It will soon be English leave, and that will be splendid! I got hit in the face by a small piece of shrapnel this morning, but it was a spent piece, and did not even cut me. One becomes a great fatalist out here.

God bless you, your loving Cruff.

He was killed later that night, at about 4.00 am, and is now buried at Canada Farm Cemetery. He was 19 years old.

George Christopher Serocold Tennant (1897-1917).

After his death one of his men attested:

‘He was specially loved by us men because he wasn’t like some officers who go into their dug-outs and stay there, leaving the men outside. He had us all in all day long … The men would have done more for him than for many another officer because he was so friendly with them and he knew his job. He was a fine soldier, and they knew it.’

Incidentally, there is also a lovely tribute to the 83 men commemorated on the memorial outside Christ Church Spitalfields. It includes biographical details and a map of where they lived and surrounding areas. It was published in the Spitalfields Life blog and can be accessed here.

 

A moving discovery at Tower Hill – and two more City war memorials

I was walking through the Tower Hill memorial garden last Sunday when I noticed a small cross resting on one of the allegorical figures, just above the dolphin’s head …

Here it is in close up …

How wonderful. Arthur Myers remembered by a grandchild and two great, great grandchildren. His ship, the Empire Lakeland, was sunk by a U Boat on 11 March 1943.

I also noticed when I was there that, with Remembrance Sunday approaching, wreaths and other little crosses are beginning to appear.

Many are from institutions …

… and some in respect of just one vessel …

HMT stands for His Majesty’s Transport. The Rohna was requisitioned as a troop ship in 1940 and sunk in the Mediterranean in November 1943. Most of those killed were American troops.

And so on to my next two memorials, the first being the National Submarine War Memorial on Victoria Embankment (EC4Y 0HJ). Although able to hide when submerged, once struck the vessels were often unable to rise to the surface and became effectively underwater coffins. In the First World War fifty four boats were lost and with them the lives of 138 officers and 1,225 men. At the inauguration in 1922 Rear Admiral Sinclair, the Chief of the Submarine Service, reminded those present that, during the Great War …

The number of those killed in the Submarine Service was greater in proportion to its size than any other branch of His Majesty’s fighting forces … one third of the total personnel.

In November 1959 new panels commemorating Second World war losses were unveiled by Rear Admiral B W Taylor.

Wright and Moore, writing for the 20th Century Architecture website, describe the memorial as a complex mixture of narrative and symbolism …

Sculptor: F B Hitch Architect: A H R Tenison Founder: E J Parlanti

The central figures recreate the scene set inside the submarine exaggerating it into a small, claustrophobic tunnel. The crew use charts and follow dials, the captain is braced at the centre with the periscope behind his head. Around the vessel a shallow relief depicts an array of sea creatures or mermen appearing to trap and haul the submarine in fishing nets, reminding us that the submarines were as much prey to the tempestuous elements as they were to the enemy.

On both corners are allegorical figures. Next to the list of vessels lost between 1914 and 1918, Truth holds up her mirror. Just further to the left in the picture are two of the 40 bronze wreath hooks in the form of anchors …

On the right, next to the vessels lost in the Second World War, Justice wears a blindfold and as usual holds a sword and scales …

I have written about Justice and other representations in the City of the cardinal virtues in an earlier blog which you can find here.

And now to the Grand Avenue, Central Markets, Smithfield (EC1A 9PS) and this monument commemorating men, women and children who perished both overseas and nearby …

The original memorial (above the red granite plinth) is by G Hawkings & Son and was unveiled on 22  July 1921. 212 names are listed.

Between Fame and Victory holding laurel wreaths, the cartouche at the top reads …

1914-1918 Remember with thanksgiving the true and faithful men who in these years of war went forth from this place for God and the right. The names of those who returned not again are here inscribed to be honoured evermore.

At 11:30 in the morning on 8th March 1945 the market was extremely busy, with long queues formed to buy from a consignment of rabbits that had just been delivered. Many in the queue were women and children. With an explosion that was heard all over London, a V2 rocket landed in a direct hit which also cast victims into railway tunnels beneath – 110 people died and many more were seriously injured.

The aftermath.

The monument was refurbished in 2004/5 and unveiled on 15 June 2005 by the Princess Royal and Lord Mayor Savory. The red granite plinth had been added and refers to lives lost in ‘conflict since the Great War’. On it mention is made of the women and children although the V2 event is not specifically referred to.

‘Thou hast put all things under his feet, all Sheep and Oxen’.

At the base is the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Butchers who helped to fund the refurbishment, along with the Corporation of London and the Smithfield Market Tenants’ Association.

Incidentally, the market was also hit by bombs dropped from a Zeppelin in the First World War – you can still see the shrapnel marks nearby on the walls of St Bartholomew’s Hospital …

I have written about these and other scars of war that can be found around the City in an earlier blog: Bombs and Boundaries.

 

 

 

 

 

The Tower Hill Memorials – wars and executions

Trinity Square Gardens outside Tower Hill underground station is home to a number of memorials, one of which relates to events going back centuries.

In the south east corner and in the foreground of this picture is a circular granite sundial which has a cast iron anchor in the centre which acts as a gnomon …

The Falklands War Memorial. Designed by Gordon Newton of War Memorial Limited (2005).

On 2 April 1982, Argentine forces landed in and captured the Falklands Islands. A task force was dispatched in order to retake the territory and this was accomplished when the occupying forces surrendered on 14 June that year. Nine members of the Merchant Navy and eight members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary were killed in the conflict and their names are recorded here beneath those of their ships …

In the main photograph’s background you can see two other memorial structures. On the left are commemorated the 12,000 men of the merchant navy and fishing fleets who lost their lives in the the First World War ‘who have no grave but the sea’ …

Sculptor: William Reid Dick   Architect: Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Made of Portland stone, the walls are covered with bronze panels with the names of the dead arranged alphabetically under their ships with the name of the Master or Skipper first in each case if they were among the lost.

On visiting a few years ago it was clear than many of those unfortunate mariners were still being remembered by family descendants …

When I first looked really closely at the panels I noticed something strange in one section of the memorial, see if you do too …

At least four of the men, Moyle A.J., O’Mealie J., Kelly T.E. and Pardew C.J. served under names other than those that were registered at their birth. I am trying to research their stories and will hopefully have something to report in my next blog. There is also a ship recorded here that was actually lost in the Second World War – something also for a future blog.

Just to the north is the Second World War memorial to the further 24,000 men lost between 1939 and 1945 …

Sculptor: Charles Wheeler   Architect: Edward Maufe.

It is a sunken garden with the steps leading down to it flanked by a Mercantile Marine officer …

… and a seaman of the Merchant Service. Behind him, in his eyrie above what was once the Port of London Authority building, Father Thames points towards the sea …

Within the garden the walls are overlaid with bronze plaques on which the names of the men and their ships are inscribed in relief. At regular intervals, between the inscription panels, are allegorical figures representing the Seven Seas. Here is one of them, Neptune with his trident …

And another, a mermaid combing her hair …

One can’t write about Tower Hill without some mention of its gruesome history as a place of execution …

This memorial is located on the approximate site of public executions. Nearby, within the walls of the Tower of London, is Tower Green, where people such as Henry VIII’s unwanted Queens were disposed of more discretely. On 19 May 1536 Anne Boleyn was beheaded there, the deed carried out by a swordsman which ensured a speedy death.

Her old adversary Thomas Cromwell watched her decapitation, but was to end his days on the public gallows a mere four years later on 28 July 1540. The executioner being drunk, his end was a nasty, botched affair. On the same day Henry married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, but the marriage only lasted a few years until she too was executed at the Tower.

Records are incomplete but the known execution tally for both locations is well over 100 ranging from the first (Sir Simon Burley on 5 May 1388) to the last (three Gordon rioters hanged on 11 July 1780). Two of the Jacobite ‘Rebel Lords’ beheaded for high treason have a special plaque …

Site of the ancient scaffold where the Earl of Kilmarnock and Lord Balmerino suffered 18th August 1746.

In this 1746 etching of their execution, the scaffold on the left is surrounded by horse and foot guards, holding back the throng of spectators, who also watch from tiers erected for the purpose. The executioner is raising the axe above his head …

Copyright Trustees of the British Museum.

 

War Memorials in the City

The aftermath of the First World War saw tens of thousands of memorials erected across the country. This reflected not only the huge impact on individual communities but also the official policy of not repatriating the dead: the memorials provided the main focus of the grief felt at the loss of three quarters of a million British lives.

As we approach the centenary of the end of the First World War, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at some of the many City memorials that commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice serving King and Country. I am particularly fascinated by the different approaches taken by sculptors and the allegories they chose to use.

Firstly, I revisited St Michael Cornhill and this sculpture by Richard Reginald Goulden. The memorial commemorates 2,130 men from three parishes  who served in the War of whom about 170 died ‘for the freedom of the world’ …

Allegorical figures surround the base as St Michael with his flaming sword stands steadfastly above …

On the left, the quarreling beasts typify war, but are ‘sliding slowly but surely from their previously paramount position. Life, in the shape of young children, rises with increasing confidence under the protection of the champion of right’.

And now to Holborn and this work by Albert Toft. Unveiled by the Lord Mayor in 1922, the inscriptions read …

To the glorious memory of the 22,000 Royal Fusiliers who fell in the Great War 1914-1919 (and added later) To the Royal Fusiliers who fell in the World war 1939-1945 and those fusiliers killed in subsequent campaigns.

 

Toft’s soldier stands confidently as he surveys the terrain, his foot resting on a rock, his rifle bayoneted, his left hand clenched in determination. At the boundary of the City, he looks defiantly towards Westminster. The general consensus on the internet is that the model for the sculpture was a Sergeant Cox, who served throughout the First World War.

Behind him is the magnificent, red terracotta, Gothic-style building by J.W. Waterhouse, which once housed the headquarters of the Prudential Insurance Company. Walk through the entrance arch to the courtyard and you will see the work of a sculptor who has chosen to illustrate war in a very different fashion. The memorial carries the names of the 786 Prudential employees who lost their lives …

The sculptor was F.V. Blundstone and the work was inaugurated on 2 March 1922. All Prudential employees had been offered ‘the opportunity of taking a personal share in the tribute by subscribing to the cost of the memorial’ (suggested donations were between one and five shillings).

The main group represents a soldier sustained in his death agony by two angels. He is lying amidst war detritus with his right arm resting on the wheel of some wrecked artillery piece. His careworn face contrasts with that of the sombre, beautiful girls with their uplifted wings. I find it incredibly moving.

I have written about angels in the City before and they are usually asexual, but these are clearly female.

At the four corners of the pedestal stand four more female figures.

One holds a field gun and represents the army …

One holds a boat representing the navy …

At the back is a figure holding a shell representing National Service …

The fourth lady holds a bi-plane representing the air force …

The work is tucked away in the building’s courtyard, Waterhouse Square (EC1N 2SW), and I am sure that most of the thousands of people who walk along Holborn every day have no idea it is there.

And finally, I looked again at the War Memorial to London Troops outside the Royal Exchange …

At the bottom of the list of battalions, two in particular caught my eye …

I am going to do further research on the Artists Rifles and the London Cyclists and hopefully include the results in a later blog.

As luck would have it, I visited the Imperial War Museum last week and came across a postcard of this splendid recruitment poster from 1912. It is poignant to look at this picture with its pretty village setting and then think of the industrial age war and slaughter that was soon to follow …

I will continue writing about war memorials for the next few weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

The Royal Exchange

Last week I wrote about the talented Sir Thomas Gresham, the part he played in founding the Royal Exchange and how his generosity is still commemorated on the building itself.

This week I am taking a look at other aspects of the structure starting with the magnificent Portland stone pediment which you can’t miss if you look up as you cross the road at Bank junction. As is often the case, I am indebted to Dr Philip Ward-Jackson and his book Public Sculpture of the City of London for some of the descriptions …

The Exchange itself was designed by William Tite. The pediment sculpture is by Richard Westmacott Junior and deploys seventeen figures.

The inscription on the base on which the figure of commerce stands is from Psalm 24.1., a text chosen by Prince Albert. He laid the foundation stone in 1842.

Commerce holds in her left hand a ‘charter of exchange’ and in her right a rudder. There is also a ship’s prow, a beehive and a cornucopia.

Looking to the left …

… there are three City merchants in the civic robes of Lord Mayor, Alderman and Common Councilman. Beyond these are a Hindu and a Muslim. A young Greek carrying a vase strides towards them whilst looking over his shoulder towards the outermost group. These are an Armenian (occupied with a scroll) and a Turk (‘busy with his daily accounts’). The extreme angle is filled with an anchor and other nautical instruments.

Looking to the right …

… two British merchants are being shown fabric by a Persian. The next group consists of a Chinese merchant, a kneeling African and a Levantine sailor. Beyond these is a British sailor cording a bale of merchandise. The outermost figure, kneeling amongst jars, packages etc, is a supercargo, or shipboard sales manager.

Interestingly, the Exchange was built at the time of the Chinese ‘Opium Wars’, a period which saw the collapse of the Chinese economy. In China today the period 1839 to 1939 is referred to as The Century of Humiliation (which some commentators believe still has an important influence on Chinese attitudes to the West in the 21st century).

In the foreground stands London Troops War Memorial. Above you can see part of the Latin inscription stating that the Exchange was founded in the thirteenth year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and restored in the eighth of Queen Victoria (1844) …

The memorial architect was Sir Aston Webb, the bronzes are by Alfred Drury and the stone carver was William Frith.

On the column is listed all the London regiments that served in the First and Second World Wars and on either side two soldiers stand at ease, one representing the Royal Fusiliers and the other the Royal Field Artillery.

On the south side of the Exchange in Cornhill is this elegant clock …

Britannia and Neptune hold a shield that contains an image of Gresham’s original Royal Exchange. In the distance, peeping up below, is the latest addition to the City skyline, ‘The Scalpel’ in Lime Street.

The inside of the Exchange is now a much used open space where today’s City folk meet once more to gossip, dine, drink coffee and do deals just as Gresham originally intended almost 450 years ago …

 Image: ‘Say I do’ Islington

When visiting the Exchange I usually use the main West door but, whilst researching this blog, I went into the East foyer and was really surprised to come across this remarkable, formidable bust of Abraham Lincoln …

Carver: Andrew O’Connor (1928).

The bust is carved from stone quarried in the vicinity of Lincoln’s birthplace. It was presented to the City by the Lincoln Presentation Committee and was unveiled by the Lord Mayor on 12 February 1930.

Finally, behind the posh retail outlets that nestle near the walls of the Exchange, lie an extraordinary set of murals. This one commemorates the loss of the second Royal exchange to fire in 1838 …

Painting by Stanhope Forbes (1899).

 

To view them you have to climb to the mezzanine floor and look over the balcony. They date from 1892 and are by artists including Sir Frederick Leighton, Sir Frank Brangwyn and Stanhope Forbes.

Amazingly, plans for the building in 2016 would have meant bisecting them in order to extend the retail space. Fierce criticism meant the plans were shelved but you can see what they would have meant if you look at the Spitalfields Life website from August 2016. The site also has some great pictures of all the murals – they are stunning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sir Thomas Gresham and The Royal Exchange

The Royal Exchange will forever be associated with Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-1579). Here he is, portrayed as a confident young man in his mid-twenties:

Portrait – Gresham College.

Apprenticed for seven years in the Mercer trade, he spent much of his time on the continent, learning French and Flemish in the process. His astuteness with finance came to the attention of Thomas Cromwell who started putting royal work his way, and Gresham’s connection with royalty continued under Elizabeth I. As well as managing his family’s trading interests (primarily clothing, guns and ammunition) as a royal agent he was charged with reducing the royal debt held by Antwerp merchants. When he took over this task the debt stood at £250,000 but by 1565, applying a combination of shrewd trading and interest rate speculation, he had reduced it to only £20,000 (earning himself a knighthood). These skills increased his own wealth considerably as well, and this was further enhanced on the death of his father.

By the late 1560s he was reputed to be the richest commoner in the country. Having no heir (his only son died in 1564), in his later years he used some of his vast wealth to produce two lasting legacies – Gresham College and the first Royal Exchange. The College was established at his house in Bishopsgate where lectures were given on a wide range of subjects including astronomy, geography, medicine and music. The College still offers lectures today at its Holborn premises. The Royal Exchange, based on the Antwerp model, was his gift to the City’s merchant negotiators who up to that time ‘had done their business in the wind and weather of the public street’.

Queen Elizabeth formally opened the Exchange on 23 January 1571, giving the building its Royal title along with a licence to sell alcohol. The building was lost in the Great Fire of 1666 and its successor also burned down in 1838. The third building which stands today was opened in 1844 with much ceremony by Queen Victoria herself, Prince Albert having laid the foundation stone two years earlier.

In this blog I will be looking at some of the features of the present building that perpetuate Gresham’s memory and I will deal with other aspects in a later blog.

Let’s start with the main gates that face Bank junction …

Best observed when closed, they incorporate an image of the great man himself. Above his head are the arms of Gresham College with the sword and mace representing the City …

The gates were supplied by the firm of H. and M.D. Grissell whose foundry also produced the railings for Buckingham Palace and the British Museum. Henry Grissell (nicknamed ‘Iron Henry’) was famous not only for the quality of his work but also his attention to detail, evident here in the entrance to the Exchange in Threadneedle Street …

If you look closely you will see that the ironwork incorporates Gresham’s initials:

Along with a Mercer Maiden …

I have written about the Maidens in more detail in an earlier blog and their use as a symbol denoting property owned by the Worshipful Company of Mercers of which Gresham was a member. They still own the land on which the Exchange stands.

Look up at the Exchange and you will see several grasshoppers, the symbol of the Gresham family …

Facing Threadneedle Street.

And the weathervane on the roof, which was saved from the fire that destroyed the second Exchange in 1838 …

The story goes that one of Thomas’s ancestors, Roger de Gresham, was abandoned as an infant in the marshlands of Norfolk and would have perished had not a passing woman been attracted to the child by a chirruping grasshopper. Heraldic spoilsports assert that it is more likely a ‘canting heraldic crest’ playing on the sound ‘grassh’ and ‘gresh’.

There is, course, also a statue of Gresham himself on the building but it is so high up you can only view it from practically underneath …

The Ornamental Passions’ website tells us the following about the sculptor William Behnes. He was, apparently …

… a half-English Irish-educated artist whose financial profligacy had reduced him to penury. He was declared bankrupt half way through the commission but he successfully completed it and was paid £550 (roughly £50,000 today).

Incidentally, the Exchange was lucky to survive the wartime bombing especially when, on 11 January 1941, a direct hit on Bank Station killed 111 people. These pictures show the aftermath then and the view today …

 

The view at Bank on a quiet Sunday.

 

Fleet Street’s courts, lanes and alleys

A quiet suburb before the Great Fire of 1666, but a key route between the City and Westminster, Fleet Street subsequently developed quickly. As a result, it has a range of associations, from the Knights Templar to the newspaper industry, along with literary folk such as Dr Johnson. What are particularly evocative of the past are its intimate courts, lanes and alleys, particularly to the north.

I have been exploring a selection of them.

I have chosen Wine Office Court to begin with because it is home to the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub, Ye Olde being an accurate description in this case since the pub dates from 1667. It also lives up to expectations inside, being spread over four floors with numerous nooks and crannies.

Looking north.

Looking south towards Fleet Street.

The pub cellar bars were once part of the Carmelite monastery, and look it …

Licenses to sell wine were issued from a building there, hence the ‘Wine Office’ name. Oliver Goldsmith, the Irish novelist, playwright and poet, lived at number 6 and enjoyed a drink at ‘The Cheese’ along with Johnson, Dickens, Carlyle, Teddy Roosevelt and me.

A fire at the pub in 1962 revealed some very naughty 18th century fireplace tiles. The are now in safe keeping at the Museum of London and are so naughty that I can only find a picture of one of them – a lady spanking a man’s bottom with a bunch of twigs. I wonder what the rest are like …

The plaque on the pavement at the Fleet Street entrance references the periodical All the Year Round which was founded by Dickens and published between 1859 and 1895 …

Here is the plaque for Crane Court …

The plaque here is arguably the most significant because it commemorates the Daily Courant and its edition of 11 March 1702 made it the first daily paper in Britain. Here is the first edition – one page with news on the front and advertisements on the reverse …

 On 14 April 1785 it ran a story about a man murdered after a visit to the barber. Some claim that this was the inspiration behind Victorian penny dreadful Sweeney Todd (allegedly a resident of 183 Fleet St) and the spawning of lots of movies …

It’s worth taking a walk through Crane Court and seeing how it opens up into an area full of character where development has been careful and restrained …

For slightly sinister atmosphere it is hard to beat Clifford’s Inn Passage with this door at the end …

Here is some history, courtesy of the blog Alleys and Courtyards of London

In 1307 Robert Clifford was granted the lease on a substantial house and a plot of land towards the northern end of the passage. At that time lawyers had not settled into any particular area of London and it was completely by chance that when Clifford died in 1343 his widow leased the house to a number of law students. Clifford’s Inn, or Clifford’s House as it was called, was the first established Inn of Chancery and from this beginning the long history of legal London started. Clifford’s Inn ceased to function as a legal establishment in 1802 and one by one the buildings were demolished.

There are some interesting boundary marks to the left of the door …

Also in Clifford’s Inn Passage, near the door and also at the entrance, are some rare examples of ‘deflectors’ …

Before public toilets were readily available, men would often slip away down alleys like this to urinate (unfortunately some still do). Building owners fitted these devices so that the stream would be deflected back onto the perpetrators’ feet and act as a deterrent.

There is another one outside the Bank of England in Lothbury …


You’ll be relieved to hear that these are the only ones I have found.

A pair of doors in Cornhill

When I started this blog I never thought I would be dedicating an entire issue to a pair of doors, but I hope you will agree that in this case it is appropriate.

32 Cornhill is the old headquarters of the Cornhill Insurance Company (EC3V 3BT) and I am going to write about the mahogany doors you can see on the right …

Here is a closer view …

Walter Gilbert (1871-1946) designed these doors in 1939. He was a designer and craftsman who developed his visual style in the Arts & Crafts movement at the end of the nineteenth century and then applied it to a wide range of architectural commissions in the twentieth century, including the gates of Buckingham Palace, sculpture for the facade of Selfridges and some distinctive war memorials. In this instance, he modelled the reliefs in clay which were then translated into wood carvings by B.P Arnold at H. H. Martyn & Co Ltd of Cheltenham.

They tell of events that took place in the area over the centuries. Below is a picture of each panel along with a description …

‘St Peter’s Cornhill founded by King Lucius 179 A. D. to be an Archbishop’s see and chief church of his kingdom and so it endured the space of 400 years until the coming of Augustine the monk of Canterbury’.

An architect holds up the church plans and a builder holds up a compass.

‘Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester, did penance walking barefoot to St Michael’s Church from Queen Hithe, 1441’.

The Duchess, holding a lighted taper, performs public penance having been convicted of sorcery in 1441. Rather unwisely, because it was ‘treasonable necromancy’, she had asked the astrologers Thomas Southwell and Roger Bolingbroke to cast the horoscope of the then King Henry VI. Southwell died in the Tower of London, Bolingbroke was hanged, drawn and quartered, she was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The explanation reads: ‘Cornhill was anciently a soke of the Bishop of London who had the Seigneurial oven in which all tenants were obliged to bake their bread and pay furnage or baking dues.‘ A soke was a right of jurisdiction and the women have just paid the priest and are carrying away their freshly baked bread – they certainly don’t look very happy about the arrangement.

‘Cornhill is the only market allowed to be held after noon in the 14th century’. A stallholder sells apples to two ladies.

 

‘Birchin Lane, Cornhill, place of considerable trade for men’s apparel, 1604‘. A tailor adjusts a gentleman’s hem, an assistant holds a tape measure, the gentleman admires himself in a mirror. Suits you, sir.

Pope’s Head Tavern in existence in 1750 belonged to Merchant Taylor’s Company. The Vintners were prominent in the life of Cornhill Ward.‘ Nearby today is Pope’s Head Alley.

‘Garraway’s Coffee House, a place of great commercial transaction and frequented by people of quality’. Garraway’s was nearby in Change Alley and is commemorated now with this plaque incorporating Sir Thomas Gresham’s grasshopper emblem.

Change Alley EC3V 3ND.

‘Thackeray and the Brontes at the publishing house of Smith Elder & Co. Cowper, the poet, Gray the poet, Guy, the bookseller and founder of Guy’s Hospital, lived in Cornhill.’

The panel depicts Charlotte and Anne Bronte meeting with William Makepeace Thackeray at the premises of Smith Elder.

I hope you found the doors and their stories as fascinating as I did. These pictures were taken at the weekend but the doors open inwards, so you can still see them when the building is open.

 

 

 

 

 

Sculptures with striking poses

I’ll start with a work that caused some controversy, the Charity Drinking Fountain (also known as La Maternité) by Aimé-Jules Dalou (1877-9).

In his book Public Sculpture of the City of London, Philip Ward-Jackson describes the lady as follows:

Despite her casual garb she has a diadem or tiara on her head. With her left arm she enfolds a baby, who she is suckling, whilst with her right she draws to her knee a naked boy, who gazes up at her.

She is outside Royal Exchange Buildings EC3V 3NL.

Nearby is a very relaxed George Peabody who I have written about in an earlier blog

Ward-Jackson tells us that the suckling lady’s very authentic exposed breast produced at least one letter of protest to the editor of The Globe. The correspondent urged that ‘common decency’ should be observed and went on …

Do you not think, Sir, that Mr Peabody’s chair should be turned, at least until the delicate operation of ‘lacteal sustenation’ be concluded … or the young woman and youngsters provided with the requisite clothing.

On a more serious theme, St Thomas à Becket lies in agony in St Paul’s Churchyard on the south side of St Paul’s Cathedral (EC4M 8AD) …

‘Becket’ by Edward Bainbridge Copnall (1970-71).

The Ornamental Passions website gives the following description :

(The sculptor) depicts the Archbishop in the agony of death, his right hand extended as if to ward off the blows of his knightly assassins. The plinth is stepped to recall the steps into the choir of Canterbury Cathedral … This memorable image was created in 1970 as part of the commemorations of the saint’s martyrdom.
The material looks like bronze but is in fact resin coloured to look like bronze.

Just across the road from St Paul’s, on the right as you approach the Millennium Bridge, you will see the National Firefighters Memorial (EC4M 8BX) which depicts a Fire Officer and two Firemen, cast in bronze engaged in firefighting duties. Unveiled by the Queen Mother in 1991, it was originally called ‘Blitz’ and was dedicated to the men and women of the Fire Service who lost their lives as a result of their duties during World War II.  In 2000 it was renamed the Firefighters Memorial in order to commemorate all firefighters killed whilst in service and a new raised plinth now records almost 2,300 names.

Two of the men are ‘working a branch’, their legs braced to take the strain …

Churchill memorably called them ‘Heroes with grimy faces’.

The Officer below looking over his shoulder, possibly calling up reinforcements, is Cyril Demarne OBE who provided photographs to help the sculptor (who also happened to be his son-in-law) …

According to Philip Ward-Jackson, Demarne’s initials CTD are scattered among the brickwork on which the men stand but his old colleagues needed no such clues. One stated in an interview …

You can tell it’s Cyril by the way he’s standing … He always waved his arms about like that when he was ordering us about.

Officer Demarne in full flow …

By 1943 over 70,00 women had enrolled in the National Fire Service in the United Kingdom. This memorial commemorates those who lost their lives in the London Blitz …

The lady on the left is an incident recorder and the one on the right a despatch rider.

Finally, would you like to see Zoe, the floating Barbican Muse? If so, make your way to the Barbican Library on the second floor of the Centre, stand with your back to it, and walk through the automatic doors. She’s a few yards ahead on your left …

Sculpted by Matthew Spender in 1993-4, she is made of polyurethane and glass fibre and finished in gold leaf. She holds in her left hand the masks of Comedy and Tragedy whilst her right hand points the way to the entrance to the Centre (hopefully assisting folk lost in the highwalk system). She’s nicknamed Zoe after the Cambridge student who had posed for the sculptor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

City work and public sculpture 2

This week I am looking at sculptures representing work in the City in the 20th Century.

Although I mentioned them in an earlier blog I wanted to show these figures again because they are so unusual …

Old churchyard of St John Zachary, 25 Gresham Street EC2V 7HN.

Wilfred Dudeney’s monument Three Printers (1954) has been here since 2009. Commissioned by the Westminster Press Group, it represents the newspaper process with a newsboy (sales), printer and editor (or proprietor), and used to stand by their offices in New Street Square. When the square was redeveloped the Goldsmiths’ Company, as the freeholders of the square, relocated the sculpture here (they had to rescue it from a demolition yard). Look closely, the printer is grasping a ‘stick’ for holding metal type, and Dudeney’s name is in ‘mirror writing’ just as it would have been when typeset the old-fashioned way.

This sculpture reminded me of words from Auden’s The Waste Land:

 Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.

It is entitled Rush Hour by George Segal (1983-7) and is in Broadgate (EC2M 3WA) …

Trudging wearily off home in the rain …

Segal created this sculpture from live models, encasing them in wire mesh and plaster bandages, before cutting each cast open to free the model, rejoining the mould and casting bronze figures from the plaster versions. You will notice that all their eyes are closed …

And now something a bit more cheerful …

Philip Ward-Jackson, in his book Public Sculpture of the City of London, tells us of the Trees, Gardens and Open Spaces Committee of the Corporation which was chaired by Frederick Cleary. In his autobiography Cleary recorded that Jonzen’s figure below was intended as a tribute to the efforts of his committee but Ward-Jackson feels that ‘it might have been better described as a symbol of the ‘greening’ of the City in the post-war period’. Most appropriately, Mr Cleary has a garden named after him, and you can read about it in my earlier blog about City gardens generally.

‘The Gardener’ by Karin Jonzen FBS (1971) – Brewers’ Hall Gardens, London Wall EC2V 7HR.

Apparently Jonzen, on being given the subject by the Corporation …

… decided on a kneeling figure of a young man, who, having planted a bulb, was gently stroking over the earth.

Easy to miss but worth seeking out is The Building Worker, a bronze statue of a building worker in a pose based on Michelangelo’s David, but in working clothes and wearing a hard hat and carrying a spirit level. He is on Tower Hill EC3 just across the road from the station outside the Tower of London …

The sculptor was Alan Wilson (2006).

It commemorates the ‘thousands of workers who have lost their lives at work … (and) workers who are today building and rebuilding towns and cities across the United Kingdom.’ Wreaths are laid here each year on April 28, International Workers Memorial Day, and a two minute silence is observed at noon in memory of those who have suffered fatal injuries in accidents at work.

The Plumbers’ Hall was compulsorily purchased in 1863 to make way for the expansion of Cannon Street Railway station and this statue on the concourse is a reminder of that connection …

The Plumber’s Apprentice by Mark Jennings (2011).

The inscription reads ‘This statue was erected on the site of its last Livery Hall by The Worshipful Company of Plumbers to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the granting of its Charter by King James I in 1611 and to recognise the support given by the Company to the training of apprentices.’

To round off my day I went looking for a statue I personally remember being erected on Cannon Street in 1996 – The LIFFE Trader (LIFFE standing for the London International Financial Futures Exchange). But he has been moved and tucked away behind glass at the Guildhall Yard in a corridor that the public cannot access …

Please let him go outside, or at least turn him around.

Here he is in his glory days at Cannon Street – a bit of a character with his loosened tie, no doubt doing a deal on his then fashionable clamshell mobile phone …

Photograph copyright Loïc Brohard.

 

City work and public sculpture

I thought it would be interesting to explore how public sculpture has been used to illustrate some of occupations that have been undertaken in the City over the centuries.

First up is one of my favourite pieces, The Cordwainer. Here on Watling Street (EC4N 1SR) you are in the Ward of Cordwainer which in medieval times was the centre of shoe-making in the City of London. The finest leather from Cordoba in Spain was used which gave rise to the name of the craftsmen and the Ward. In the background is the wall of St Mary Aldermary church …

Sculpted by Alma Boyes (2002). You can visit her website here.

I love the detail in the work, the craftsman’s face and particularly the hands straining with effort. The statue’s shoes are very beautifully represented too – but then they would have to be.

It’s a bit of an over-simplification but, basically, cordwainers made shoes (and were not allowed to repair them) and cobblers repaired shoes (and were not allowed to make them). Cobblers got around this injunction by salvaging old leather and making ‘new’ shoes out of that, but in the end a pragmatic solution evolved and the two professions merged under the Cordwainers Company auspices. But if you want your shoes repaired today you still go to a cobbler.

Beside the slope in Aldersgate Street that leads up to the Barbican Estate is this frieze (EC2Y 8AF). It used to be above the premises of W. Bryer & Sons who were gold refiners and assayers at numbers 53 and 54 Barbican. Having survived the Blitz the building was demolished in 1962 and the frieze re-erected here.

‘Gold Smelters’ – Made in Portland stone by J Daymond & Son (1901).

The photographs are mine but I am indebted to The Victorian Web for the descriptions of what is happening.

The left side of the frieze depicts the arrival, weighing, recording the results (by man with the quill pen), and melting the ore. The man with the quill pen, a superviser rather than a workman, is the only one in this part of the scene whose clothes obviously date to the seventeenth century or earlier …

The middle portion of the frieze depicts men working at the smelter: the man at left, whom we have already seen in the previous detail, holds a vessel with tongs while the man to his right stirs the fire, shielding his face from the heat with his right arm. The next man either rests or supervises the work, and the young man kneeling behind him most likely feeds the furnace …

The right side of the frieze shows a worker pouring the refined gold into a mould, and the man behind him examines a small ingot. Outside the workshop, which a curtain divides from the smelting operation, a seated man presents the refined gold to a customer. Here the figures all wear clothing from earlier periods …

What a shame that the friendly shop cat rubbing himself up against the table leg has been damaged.

James Henry Greathead was a South African engineer (note the hat) who invented what was to become known as the Greathead Shield. He came to be here on Cornhill because a new ventilation shaft was needed for Bank Underground Station and it was decided that he should be honoured on the plinth covering the shaft …

Designed by James Butler (1994) – Cornhill EC3V 3NR.

The Shield enabled the London Underground to be constructed at greater depths through the London clay. The miners doing the tunneling, using pneumatic spades and hand shovels, would create a cavity in the earth where the Shield would be inserted to hold back the walls whilst the miners installed cast-iron segments to create a ring. The process would be repeated until a tunnel had formed in the shape of a ‘tube’, which is where we get the nickname for the network today. A plaque on the side of the plinth shows the men at work …

Would you like to see a Greathead Shield? It’s easier than you might think since Shields were often abandoned when work was completed. Take the Northern Line to Bank and (without leaving the station) follow the signs for the Waterloo and City Line. This is what you will come across …

Here is some detail …

The plaque underneath explains all …

In next week’s blog I will be looking at some 20th century occupations and the way they have been celebrated in sculpture.

 

 

 

Postman’s Park and the Watts Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice

Postman’s Park was once the churchyard to the adjacent church, St Botolph Aldersgate, but between 1858 and 1860 it was cleared of human remains and re-landscaped as a public space. A number of gravestones remain and you can see some of them now stacked neatly against the northern churchyard wall …

Nearby, in 1829, the General Post Office had moved in to a vast new building on St Martin Le Grand and, when the new park opened, it quickly became a popular leisure area for the post office workers and, as a result, the park soon became known as Postman’s Park (EC1A 7BT).

It contains now what is, in my view, one of the most interesting, poignant and rather melancholy memorials in the City – The G F Watts Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice. This plaque nearby contains a useful mini-history …

In the late 1890s the idea was mooted that the park would be an ideal location for a memorial to ‘ordinary’ and ‘humble’ folk who had lost their lives endeavouring to save the lives of others. Two of its most enthusiastic supporters were the artists George Frederic Watts (1817 – 1904) and his wife Mary (1849 – 1938). There are some nice images of both him and his wife on the National Portrait Gallery website. Here he is  and here his wife Mary.

After much debate about its positioning and design, the memorial was finally declared finished and open on 30 July 1900, the building looking very much as it does today …

The memorial consists of 54 ceramic tablets which were gradually added over the years, each describing a particular act of selfless heroism. I have chosen to write about four of them using as my source the splendid book by the historian John Price: Heroes of Postman’s Park (ISBN 9780750956437). You can also, like me, become a Friend of the Watts Memorial, and more details can be found here.

The first of my four heroes is Alice Ayres …

The picture above shows Alice Ayres as portrayed by the Illustrated London News in 1885 (Copyright the British Library Board). Her commemorative plaque reads as follows and was the first to be installed …

It was Alice’s brave act that prompted Watts to write to the Times newspaper and suggest the creation of a memorial

That would celebrate the sacrifices made by ‘likely to be forgotten heroes’ by collecting ‘…a complete record of the stories of heroism in every-day life’.

Alice threw down a mattress from a burning building and successfully used it to rescue three children …

From The Illustrated Police News 2nd May 1885 Copyright, The British Library Board.

Alice eventually jumped herself but received terrible injuries and died two days later. Incidentally, if her name rings a bell with you it could be because, in the 2004 film Closer, one of the characters, Jane Jones, sees Alice’s memorial and decides to adopt her name.

John Clinton was only 10 when he dived into the Thames to save another little boy’s life. Unfortunately, after the rescue, John himself slipped back into the water and drowned. According to his father this wasn’t his first brave act, having saved a baby from a fire and tearing down burning curtains that were threatening the house. Both acts were commemorated in this illustration …

From The Illustrated Police News, 28th July 1894. Copyright, The British Library Board.

His funeral was widely reported …

I am indebted to the editor of the London Walking Tours website for this photograph of John Clinton’s image on his tombstone in Manor Park cemetery …

His Postman’s Park plaque …

And now another brave lady,

Many of these memorials give us glimpses of the nature of society at the time these events took place, and Mary’s story is a typical example. It is most unlikely that she would ever have found herself serving at sea had it not been for the fact that her husband, Richard, was drowned when the cross channel steamer SS Honfleur sank in the English Channel on 21 October 1880.

The steamer was operated by the London & South Western Railway Company (LSWR) and so Richard was one of their employees. It was common practice at the time for railway companies to offer employment to the widows or children of deceased employees so as to avoid having to pay compensation or provide a pension. Almost immediately after the birth of her son in January 1881, Mary began work as a stewardess for LSWR. Her earnings were 15 shillings a week plus any tips received from passengers. For a woman in her circumstances, this was a decent, stable income and in modern terms, a job with prospects. It also kept her family out of the workhouse.

Mary Rogers – 1855-1899

The story of the sinking of the SS Stella is a gripping one and rather too complicated to relate in detail here. If you want all the details either get hold of a copy of John Price’s book and/or have a look at this website run by Jake Simpkin, a Blue Badge holder and south of England historian.

From The Illustrated Police News – 8th April 1899. Copyright, The British Library Board

The Times reported that Rogers …

Helped ‘her ladies’ from the cabin into the lifeboats. Next she gave up her own lifejacket, and then when urged to get into the lifeboat refused for fear of capsizing it. She was told it was her only chance, but she persisted that she could not save her own life at the cost of a fellow creature’s. She waved the lifeboat ‘farewell’ and bid the survivors to be of ‘good cheer’.

In 1908, the committee of the new Anglican Liverpool Cathedral chose 21 ‘noble women’ for commemoration in stained glass windows. Mary was included, and is depicted in her window alongside Grace Darling and Elizabeth Fry …

Walking down Central Street one day I noticed this green plaque on the other side of the road …

On crossing over to take a look this is what I saw …

I took a picture, resolving to do further research and then discovered that the brave Alfred Smith is commemorated on the Watts Memorial …

PC Smith, 37 years old, was on duty in Central Street when the noise was heard of an approaching group of fourteen German bombers. One press report reads as follows …

In the case of PC Alfred Smith, a popular member of the Metropolitan Force, who leaves a widow and three children, the deceased was on point duty near a warehouse. When the bombs began to fall the girls from the warehouse ran down into the street. Smith got them back, and stood in the porch to prevent them returning. In doing his duty he thus sacrificed his own life.

Smith had no visible injuries but had been killed by the blast from the bombs dropped nearby. He was one of 162 people killed that day in one of the deadliest raids of the war.

His widow was treated much more kindly than Mary Rogers. She received automatically a police pension (£88 1s per annum, with an additional allowance of £6 12s per annum for her son) but also had her MP, Allen Baker, working on her behalf. He approached the directors of Debenhams (whose staff PC Smith had saved) and solicited from them a donation of £100 guineas (£105). A further fund, chaired by Baker, raised almost £472 and some of this was used to pay for the Watts Memorial tablet, which was officially unveiled on the second anniversary of Alfred’s death.

Watts used newspaper reports to decide who should receive the honour of a plaque, but in one case the report was false and the ‘hero’ didn’t exist. Unfortunately, Watts didn’t see the newspaper article correcting the mistake and the plaque went up anyway. If you want to know the identity of the non-existent ‘hero’ I am not going to reveal it here, and you will have to buy John Price’s book to find out.

I wrote about some more of the heroes from the memorial in an earlier blog which you can access here.

 

 

 

 

 

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