Symbols & Secrets

Walking the City of London

My attempt to cheer you up if you’re a bit fed up!

These really are strange times and so this week I have been browsing my photo library for images that made me smile. Apologies to Instagram followers since some of them have appeared there already.

First of all, a reminder that there is a market for almost anything …

A tattooed angel has appeared in Whitecross Street …

She replaces the cherubs that were assembling a bazooka …

I wonder what was special about these girls …

I remember when many schools had one of these living on the premises …

I always think ‘man struggling with golf umbrella’ …

Incidentally, this one either means watch out for elderly people or beware of pickpockets …

Cute garden furniture …

And more – even the dustpan is smiling …

Eclectic windowsill collection …

If you are looking for smart garden furniture there is this great stall in Kings Lynn. What about the duck pushing a wheelbarrow? …

Sadly poetic closure notice …

Coffee shop humour …

A witty licence plate from Pimlico Plumbers …

And another …

And yet more …

Suited and Booted tailors in Moorgate. ‘It’s all gonna end in tiers (or with a vaccine)’ …

But this chap seems to be doing OK. I wonder what he advises on …

A sealed door on St John’s Gate Clerkenwell. I don’t think the monks were tiny, just that the level of the street has risen …

The Stag at The Jugged Hare bar and restaurant is very angry about being in Tier 2 …

I have never, ever seen a dog dressed like this. ‘Please mum, I need to go to the loo’ …

Rainbow and red crane combo …

Yet another spooky clothes model to add to the collection …

Finally, I make no apology for including this picture again. It had been raining and this pigeon was drying his feathers and warming his bottom on a spotlight. He is doing this whilst half asleep and balanced on one leg …

Hope these cheered you up a bit if you needed it – I enjoyed putting the selection together.

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

https://www.instagram.com/london_city_gent/

City ladies, a magic square and some gentle amusement

Women feature on many City sculptures (often in an allegorical role) and I have been on another sculpture safari to see how many I can identify. I have written about female sculptures twice before and you can find links here and here.

In quite a few cases they are located high up on buildings and so are easily missed.

A good example is this pediment group on what once was the Cripplegate Institute building on Golden Lane (EC1Y 0RR) …

Education is seated in the centre, whilst Art and Science recline at either side. Although the building opened in 1896 the pediment was only added in 1910-11 when the upper stories were modified to provide, among other facilities, a rifle range.

You can read much more about the Institute in the excellent London Inheritance blog which also contains this 1947 photograph highlighting the vast extent of the wartime bomb damage. The Institute building is circled in red …

If you stand outside the Royal Exchange you will be rewarded with two more female figures along with the mysterious Magic Square, but again you have to look up.

The first lady is sited in a pediment above the Bank of England and is known as The Lady of the Bank …

Sculptor Charles Wheeler 1929-1930.

She is seated on a globe and her right hand holds a cloak which billows out to her left. Her left hand holds a temple-like building which contains a miniature relief of the Lady herself and beside her right leg is a cascade of coins. She is a replacement for the original ‘Old Lady of Threadneedle Street’, which resembled Britannia, since it was considered stylistically incompatible with the new building. She is intended to represent ‘the stability and security of the Bank of England’. Inside the wreath on the right is the date of construction in Roman numerals, MCMXXX.

On the corner across Bank junction is the impressive NatWest building and if you look up you will see this (rather grubby) allegorical group …

Sculptor Ernest Gillick – 1931-2.

Britannia rises on a winged seat, flanked by Mercury (representing Commerce) and Truth with his torch. At Britannia’s knees are crouching nude females representing Higher and Lower Mathematics. Higher Mathematics, on the left, holds a carved version of Dürer’s Magic Square, a numerical acrostic whose numbers add up to 34 when added horizontally, vertically or diagonally. Lower mathematics holds a pen and a book whilst beside her two owls sit on piles of books.

The square is not very clear now due to the dirt on the carving so here are the numbers it contains …

Innovation Factory — Magic Squares

Dürer included it in an engraving entitled Melancholia I

It can be seen in the top right hand corner and you can read more about it here and here.

Nearby in Prince’s Street, on the same building, you can view this elegant lady at street level …

Sculptor Charles Doman – 1931.

Representing Prosperity, she holds a basket with a rich assortment of fruit and corn.

You have to stretch your neck if you want to examine this relief sculpture at 7 Lothbury (EC2R 7HH) …

Sculptor James Redfern – 1866.

It is rather unusual and is intended as a pastiche of a late medieval Venetian palace. A crowned female figure at the centre sits on a padlocked strong-box and writes in a ledger held up for her by a standing woman with a bunch of large keys suspended from her girdle. Other figures include a woman holding a model steam engine and another figure holding a model boat.

It’s a fascinating building and you can read more about it here.

The frieze on the Institute of Chartered Accountants is magnificent and was intended as a grand symbolic depiction of all the areas of human activity which have benefited from the services of accountants (EC2R 7EF). Groups of figures represent the arts, science, crafts, education, commerce, manufactures, agriculture, mining, railways, shipping and India and the Colonies. I have chosen a few with female figures and the first is entitled ‘Crafts’ …

The shield in the tree is inscribed Laborare est Orareto work is to pray. To the left, two women represent ‘workers in metal’, the one on the left is holding a sword. On the other side of the panel are ‘Pottery’, a woman with a two-handled vase, and ‘Textiles’, a woman with a weaving frame.

Next is ‘Education’ …

The group on the left represents ‘Early Training’. A mother leads her son, who is carrying a cricket bat, towards a schoolmaster wearing a gown and carrying a textbook. On the other side is a student ‘in collegiate dress’ and holding a book, and a ‘College Don’ wearing a mortar-board and gown.

Onward to ‘Manufactures’ …

Behind the allegorical lady, and just about visible, are beehives ‘betokening industry’. The two women on the left represent ‘Fabrics’ – one holds a bolt of cloth and the other a shuttle and a spool of yarn. The two men on the right represent ‘Hardware goods’. The smith has his shirt open and stands next to an anvil. The other is ‘a Sheffield Knife Grinder’ feeling a chisel blade.

Another example is ‘Agriculture’ …

On the left are two men – a sower and a mower. On the other side are two girls – one reaping and the other carrying a basket of fruit.

In my favourite sculpture from the building Lady Justice looks like she has stepped out of her niche in order to upstage the accountants number-crunching away behind her …

She appears frequently in allegorical representations around the City and I have written about them before. If you are interested you can find my blog here.

You can see her again on the Old Bailey behind my final sculpture, the Peace drinking fountain in the Smithfield Rotunda Garden (EC1A 9DY). She is depicted with her right hand raised in a gesture of blessing while her left holds an olive branch …

Sculptors John Birnie Philip and Farmer & Brindley – 1871-3.

The structure was erected by the Corporation’s Market Improvement Committee in 1873 a few years after the armistice between France and Prussia was signed in 1871. The 11m-high fountain originally comprised a huge stone canopy in an eclectic style with four corner figures of Temperance, Hope, Faith and Charity but the structure fell into disrepair and was taken down. The illustration below appeared in The Builder magazine in 1871 …

I thought I’d add some light relief in these difficult times.

Happy Clerkenwell gnomes …

Santa’s elves, with appropriate face coverings, seconded for Covid prevention duty …

An optician on London Wall goes for the ‘minimalist’ window display approach …

And finally, more spooky clothes models to add to the collection …

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

https://www.instagram.com/london_city_gent/

‘Spot the grasshopper’, enemy cannon from Waterloo, fascinating men and a Native American lady

I think this picture tells a story. The Gresham grasshopper on the roof of the Royal Exchange is dwarfed by the new monster office block on Bishopsgate and, to a lesser extent, the Cheesegrater. Will these buildings now ever be full?

Outside the Exchange is this handsome chap, sitting without saddle or stirrups, on his fine steed …

Erected in 1844, it is, of course, the Duke of Wellington but the statue was not created to celebrate just his military achievements. On 19th July 1838 the Court of Common Council of the City of London agreed to a contribution of £500 towards its cost in appreciation of his efforts in assisting the passage of the London Bridge Approaches Act 1827. This Act led to the creation of King William Street. The government donated the metal, which is bronze from captured enemy cannon melted down after the Battle of Waterloo …

Not everyone approved. A writer to The Times declared …

…did his Grace ride at Waterloo without a saddle, without boots, without a hat and carrying his own despatches? … Is the charger supposed to be neighing to a blast of trumpets, or whinnying to the mare in the Mansion House?

Nearby is the war memorial to the London Troops …

Standing on either side of the plinth are two soldiers of the London regiments, one middle-aged the other more youthful. It was unveiled on 12 November 1920 …

A leader in The Times was entitled ‘Our London Soldiers’ and extolled the bravery of the men who came …

… from counting-house and shop, from the far-reaching suburbs and the thronged centres … it will serve as a stimulus to the sense of unity and to the sense of duty now growing in our vast and diverse population.

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

When visiting the Imperial War Museum I 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 of slaughter, mud and filth, that was soon to follow …

Often described as ‘standing at the back’ of the Royal Exchange, is a statue to a remarkable man – Paul Julius Reuter. The rough-cut granite sculpture by the Oxford-based sculptor Michael Black commemorates the 19th-century pioneer of communications and news delivery. It is a fitting place for the statue because the stone head faces the Royal Exchange which was the reason why Reuter set up his business in the City. He established his offices in 1851 on the opposite side of the walkway to the Royal Exchange – in other words, they were to the east of the Royal Exchange. The stone monument was erected by Reuters to mark the 125th anniversary of the Reuters Foundation. It was unveiled by Edmund L de Rothschild on 18 October 1976 …

The life of Reuter was most interesting. Having started his career as a humble clerk in a bank, he went on to ‘see the future’ of transmitting the news – regardless of whether it was financial or world news. If the ‘modern’ technology of telegraphy – also known then as Telegrams – was not in place, Reuter used carrier pigeons and even canisters floating in the sea to convey news as fast as possible. Such was his ambition to be the first with the news.

Just across the road is another bearded gentleman, studiously studying some plans. 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 …

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 …

What about this fine fellow dominating the small courtyard outside St Mary-le-Bow (sporting another great beard) …

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is DSC_8164-668x1024.jpg

This is Captain John Smith. A colonial adventurer, Smith was a Citizen and Cordwainer, and set sail from Blackwall to found the colony of Virginia in 1606. Following a period as the prisoner of the native Americans he became head of the settler’s colony before returning to London in 1609-10. He later claimed that during his captivity his life had been saved by ‘Princess’ Pocahontas who pleaded with her father, the paramount Chief, that he be spared execution. Doubt has been cast on this story but early histories did establish that Pocahontas befriended Smith and the Jamestown colony. She often went to the settlement and played games with the boys there. When the colonists were starving, ‘every once in four or five days, Pocahontas with her attendants brought him [Smith] so much provision that saved many of their lives that else for all this had starved with hunger’.

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother unveiled the statue on 31st October 1960 and you can watch a Pathe News film of the event here.

Incidentally, Pocahontas went on to marry an Englishman, John Rolfe, visited London, and became quite a celebrity. Sadly she died on the return journey from causes unknown and was buried in St George’s Church Gravesend. Her grave has since been lost.

This is a 1616 portrait engraving of her by Simon de Passe. What a super hat …

She was also commemorated on a 1907 postage stamp, the first native American to be honoured in this way …

Now another adventurous gentleman.

A memorial to Admiral Phillip was originally erected at St Mildred’s Church Bread Street. Although the church was destroyed by enemy action in 1941 the bronze bust was salvaged from its ruins. This modern copy can now be found on the south side of the New Change shopping centre, the original is in St Mary-le-Bow church …

The plaque makes interesting reading …

And now a woman and a man dressed somewhat… er … unconventionally.

Let’s start with this extraordinary statue at 193 Fleet Street now, sadly, rather weathered …

I always thought that it resembled a rather effeminate youth but it is in fact a woman disguised as a pageboy, her name, Kaled, appears just under her right foot.

It is by Giuseppe Grandi, and dates from 1872. The shop owner, George Attenborough, had a niche created specially for it over the front door. Kaled is the page of Count Lara in Bryon’s poetic story of a nobleman who returns to his ancestral lands to restore justice. He antagonises the neighbouring chieftains who attack and kill him. Kaled stays with his master and lover to the end, when it is revealed he is in fact a woman. (Spoiler alert) She goes mad from grief and dies.

There seems to be no end to the wonderful paintings to be found at the Guildhall Art Gallery. This one is a representation of a famous Greek myth – the murder by Clytemnestra of her husband Agamemnon. Here she stands, wild-eyed in the Mediterranean sunlight, outside the room where she has committed the deed. In the background behind her we can just make out the outline of a dimly lit body …

‘Clytemnestra’ by John Collier (1882)

Agamemnon had commanded the Greek forces which besieged Troy during the Trojan Wars. Before setting sail for home, he sacrificed their youngest daughter Iphigenia to ensure a favourable wind for his fleet. To make matters worse, he returned with his lover, the prophetess Cassandra, the captured daughter of King Priam of Troy. Enraged and grieving, Clytemnestra and her son murdered them both in revenge

Collier was famous for his close attention to detail. There is light etching on the axe blade and the blood drips and runs authentically. All the little roundels we can see in the picture are different …

One has to say, however, that the more you study the figure the more it looks like a man. There is a pure physical dominance – and look at the muscular arms and large hands gripping the axe handle and holding back the curtain …

Collier brings extraordinary attention to detail in her blood-spattered garments.

It is now thought that Collier took his inspiration from an 1880 performance of Aeschylus’s Agamemnon at Balliol College, Oxford in which Clytemnestra was played by a male student, one Frank Benison.

Also in the gallery is this David Wynne sculpture of Prince Charles …

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).

Just by way of further light relief I have found another spooky clothes model to add to my collection (see last week’s blog) …

And these ‘eyebrows’ in the Cheapside Sunken Garden made me laugh. Part of the London Festival of Architecture, they entitled Look Up and are by Oli Colman …

Finally, I loved this joyful Hermes shop window at the Royal Exchange …

As is often the case I am grateful to Philip Ward-Jackson for much of the detail about the sculptures. I highly recommend his book Public Sculpture of the City of London, still available at Waterstones.

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

https://www.instagram.com/london_city_gent/

Around Leadenhall – Geishas, Sign Language, Maypoles and a Japanese proverb

I started my walk in Lime Street and just by Lloyd’s is the impressive Asia House. It was built in 1912-13 and designed by George Val Myer when he was only 30. His best known work is the BBC’s Broadcasting House on Portland Place …

Picture by Katie of Look up London Tours.

What makes it particularly interesting are the human figures. They were carved by John Broad of Doulton Ceramics and are entitled Japanese Man and Woman. He holds a model ship and a scroll …

She holds a fan and a paintbrush. Although she isn’t described anywhere as a Geisha I have just made that assumption because she looks so elegantly traditional and is obviously demonstrating artistic talents …

Beneath the pediment another lady sits enthroned, legs nonchalantly crossed, against a stylised sunburst motif …

Her headgear is very elaborate and she has dragons to her right and left.

The building was originally the premises of Mitsui & Co Ltd, a Tokyo firm described in the 1913 Post Office Directory as ‘steamship owners and general commission merchants, export and import’. The current tenant is the Scor Reinsurance Company.

The new skyscraper on Bishopsgate looms over the Victorian market …

During my walk I came across three examples of the current Sculpture in the City initiative.

Inside the market is The Source by Patrick Tuttofuoco which ‘depicts the artist’s hands as he mimes some words conveyed using a sign language’ …

Opposite Lloyd’s is a sign indicating that you have arrived in Arcadia (Utopia) rather than just the main entrance to the Willis Towers Watson building …

The artist, Leo Fitzmaurice, ‘has substituted the factual information, usually found on these signs, for something more poetic, allowing viewers to enjoy this material, along with the space around it in a new and more open-ended way’.

Nearby in Cullum Street (EC3M 7JJ) is Series Industrial Windows 1 by Marisa Ferreira …

The information notice tells us that ‘the artwork invokes Pierre Nora’s notion of ‘lieux de mémoire’ to reflect the urban landscape as fragment, memory and vision and to question how industrial ruins solicit affective, imaginative and sensual engagements with the past’.

Also in Cullum Street is the unusual Art Nouveau Bolton House. I haven’t been able to find out a lot more about it apart from the architect (A. Selby) and that it’s reportedly named after Prior Bolton who had close connections with St Bartholomew the Great (which I have written about here).

It’s blue and white faience with strong Moorish influences …

The building was completed in 1907, a few years before Art Nouveau went out of fashion.

In the market again, I always smile when I come across Old Tom’s Bar …

Old Tom was a gander from Ostend in Belgium who is said to have arrived in the Capital having followed a female member of his flock who took his fancy! Despite the swift dispatch of the other 34,000 members of his party, somehow Tom miraculously managed to survive the dinner table and became a regular fixture at the market and the surrounding inns, who kept scraps aside for him.

So beloved was Old Tom that he even made it into the Times Newspaper! Below is his obituary, published on 16 April 1835:

In memory of Old Tom the Gander.
Obit 19th March, 1835, aetat, 37 years, 9 months, and 6 days.

‘This famous gander, while in stubble,
Fed freely, without care or trouble:
Grew fat with corn and sitting still,
And scarce could cross the barn-door sill:
And seldom waddled forth to cool
His belly in the neighbouring pool.
Transplanted to another scene,
He stalk’d in state o’er Calais-green,
With full five hundred geese behind,
To his superior care consign’d,
Whom readily he would engage
To lead in march ten miles a-stage.
Thus a decoy he lived and died,
The chief of geese, the poulterer’s pride.’

Unfortunately, I can find no reliable contemporary picture of him. Despite claims to the contrary, he is not represented, along with a little boy, above the old Midland Bank Building on Poultry. The goose there was a suggestion by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens to commemorate its original market function.

On my way to the Cheesegrater I spotted this reflection of the Gherkin in the glass walls of The Scalpel along with two of the crosses on St Andrew Undershaft’s pinnacles …

Outside the Cheesegrater, 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.

Here is a picture of the church around 1910. You can see the Navigation statue on the building on the left …

The area has been brightened up recently with the ventilation exits covered in bold designs …

On a lighthearted note, I am collecting pictures of weird and creepy clothes models. There are these in Lime Street …

To add to these in Eastcheap …

And finally, an old Japanese proverb pasted on to the window of a temporarily closed restaurant …

I hope you have enjoyed today’s blog.

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

https://www.instagram.com/london_city_gent/

Clocktales

I do like a good clock story and the City has quite a few of them – from the clock that killed a man to the one mentioned in a famous poem.

I’ll start, however, with this beauty sited alongside St Magnus the Martyr on Lower Thames Street (EC3R 6DN) …

The clock was the gift of the Lord Mayor, Sir Charles Duncombe. The story goes that when he was a young apprentice, and rather poor, he missed an important meeting with his master on London Bridge because he had no way of telling the time. He vowed that, if ever he became rich, he would erect a clock in the vicinity and this magnificent example of the clockmakers’ art was the result. The artisan was Langley Bradley of Fenchurch Street who had worked with Sir Christopher Wren on several projects, including the early clock that adorned St. Paul’s Cathedral. Wren was evidently impressed with Bradley’s work since, in a letter the Lord Chamberlain’s Office in 1711, he went so far as to describe him as ‘a very able artist, very reasonable in his prices’.

In 1709 St Magnus was located at the north side of the ‘old’ London Bridge as this 18th century map illustrates …

You can also see the clock and its proximity to the bridge in this etching by Edward William Cooke entitled Part of Old London-Bridge, St Magnus and the Monument, taken at Low-water, August 15th, 1831.

Some of you may remember the charming neo-gothic Mappin & Webb building that was controversially demolished in 1994 …

It was replaced by Number 1 Poultry, designed by James Stirling and destined to become the youngest City building to be listed as Grade II* …

Prince Charles was unimpressed and said it resembled ‘a 1930s wireless set’.

I prefer it, however, to the Mies van der Rohe skyscraper that was also considered …

If you walk through the new building at street level you’ll see that the old Mappin & Webb clock has been incorporated …

And a wonderful frieze from the old building illustrating royal processions has also been preserved and relocated facing Poultry. Here is a small section …

King Charles II rides past accompanied by his pet spaniels

Now the clock that killed a man. Here it is attached to the Royal Courts of Justice – designed by George Edmund Street, it has been described as ‘exuberant’ …

On 5th November 1954 a clock mechanic, Thomas Manners, was killed when his clothes were caught up in the machinery as he wound up the mechanism. He had been carrying out this task every week since 1937, as well as looking after the 800 or so other clocks in the law court buildings. You can read the press cutting I came across here.

In 1711 Nicholas Hawksmoor was fifty years old yet, although he had already worked with Christopher Wren on St Paul’s Cathedral and for John Vanbrugh on Castle Howard, the buildings that were to make his name were still to come. In that year, an Act of Parliament created the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches to serve the growing population on the fringes of the expanding city.

Nicholas Hawksmoor c1661-1736.

Only twelve of these churches were ever built, but Hawksmoor designed six of them and – miraculously – they have all survived, displaying his unique architectural talent to subsequent generations and permitting his reputation to rise as time has passed. One of them is St Mary Woolnoth.

The outside of the church is very unusual and it has a fine position on the corner of King William Street and Lombard Street, just off the major Bank road junction (EC3V 9AN). The clock is mentioned in a famous poem …

In a corner sits the clock’s mechanism surrounded by a cover on which is etched an extract from T.S. Eliot’s poem The Wasteland

Eliot worked nearby in Lloyds Bank and, having watched the commuters trudge over London Bridge, wrote these cheerful lines …

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.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

No doubt if you were not at the office by the ‘final stroke of nine’ you were going to be late.

I have always liked this clock at the corner of Fleet Street and Ludgate Circus …

I read somewhere that, during the Blitz, an incendiary device became entangled in the ball at the top and dangled there for hours until it was deactivated. I often have this image in my head of gently swaying ordnance when I walk up Fleet Street.

The building was originally the London headquarters of the Thomas Cook Travel Agency and, since Mr Cook was a keen supporter of the temperance movement, the first floor contained a temperance hotel. The building is adorned with numerous charming cherubs …

‘This is where we’re going on holiday’.

There are dozens of City cherubs and I have written about some of them here.

The Royal Exchange has two ‘twin’ clocks, both exactly the same, one facing Threadneedle Street and one facing Cornhill …

Britannia and Neptune hold a shield that contains an image of Gresham’s original Royal Exchange whilst above Atlas lifts a globe. I have seen it described as a Valentine’s Day clock because of the two red hearts. Ahhhh, sweet!

Here’s Atlas again, straining under his burden in King Street …

The building was once the home of the Atlas Insurance Company.

The clock at the church of St Edmund King and Martyr in Lombard Street sports a delicate, pretty crown (EC3V 9EA) …

This is Throgmorton Street at the turn of the last century, straw hats (or boaters) being clearly in fashion. You’ll find a short history of them here

The clock on the left is still there (EC2N 2AT) …

You’ll see that Warnford Court was rebuilt in 1884 but, out of interest, I did a bit more research and came across this list of the tenants in 1842 …

Stock brokers, solicitors and merchants mainly but also a hatter, a ‘commercial teacher’, an auctioneer and, strangely, the Danish Consul General’s Office. Interestingly, the Bolivar Mining Association was also located there. The Association was formed to work copper mines at Aroa, Venezuela and were owned for some time by the Bolivar family who leased them to an English company to help finance the war of independence. You can read more here.

Fleet Street has a lot to offer when it comes to clock spotting.

How about this masterpiece …

Installed just after the Great Fire of London in 1671, it was the first clock in London to have a minute hand, with two figures (perhaps representing Gog and Magog) striking the hours and quarters with clubs, turning their heads whilst doing so.

The present version of the clock was installed in 1738 before, in 1828, being moved to the 3rd Marquess of Hertford’s house in Regent’s Park. The Great War saw the Regent’s Park residence housing soldiers blinded from combat. The charity which undertook this went on to name itself after where the clock in the house came from: St Dunstan’s. It was returned to the Church in 1935 by Lord Rothermere to mark the Silver Jubilee of King George V. You can read a lot more about its history here.

If you like the occasional burst of colour, look up at this Art Deco treat, also in Fleet Street outside the old offices of the Daily Telegraph (EC4A 2BB) …

I am really pleased to report that the refurbishment of Bracken House is now complete and we can see again the extraordinary Zodiacal clock on the side of the building that faces Cannon Street (EC3M 9JA).

Here it is in all its glory …

If you look more closely at the centre this is what you will see …

On the gilt bronze sunburst at the centre you can clearly make out the features of Winston Churchill. The building used to be the headquarters of the Financial Times and is named after Brendan Bracken, its chief editor after the war.

During the War Bracken served in Churchill’s wartime cabinet as Minister of Information. George Orwell worked under Bracken on the BBC’s Indian Service and deeply resented wartime censorship and the need to manipulate information. If you like slightly wacky theories, there is one that the sinister ‘Leader’ in Orwell’s novel 1984, Big Brother, was inspired by Bracken, who was customarily referred to as ‘BB’ by his Ministry employees.

The oddly-shaped Blackfriar pub on Queen Victoria Street displays a pretty clock just above the jolly friar’s head …

Unfortunately it hasn’t worked for long time.

This wise old owl looks across the road to the north side of London Bridge, observing the thousands of commuters flowing back and forth every day from London Bridge Station (although not so many lately!). He is perched outside what was once the offices of the Guardian Royal Exchange Insurance Company (later just ‘Guardian’) and was for a while their symbol, presumably signifying wisdom and watchfulness.

Rising from the flames and just about to take off over the City is the legendary Phoenix bird and from 1915 until 1983 this was the headquarters of the Phoenix Assurance Company at 5 King William Street. One can see why the Phoenix legend of rebirth and restoration appealed as a name for an insurer (EC4N 7DA).

The clock shows the name of the present tenants, Daiwa Capital Markets.

Before clocks there were, of course, sundials and there are many fine examples in the City – both old and relatively new.

These are my two favourites …

The Jacobean church of St Katharine Cree in Leadenhall Street was built between 1628 and 1630 and survived the Great Fire of 1666. On the south wall is this wonderful dial, circa 1700, which is described as having ‘gilded embellishments including declining lines, Babylonian/Latin hours and Zodiac signs’. Its Latin motto Non Sine Lumine means Nothing without Light.

And this dial in Fournier Street …

It was once a Protestant church, then a Methodist Chapel, next a Jewish synagogue and is now the Brick Lane Mosque (E1 6QL).

In the late 17th century some 40-50,000 French Protestants, known as Huguenots, fleeing persecution in France, arrived in England with around half settling in Spitalfields. They started a local silk-weaving industry and, incidentally, gave us a new word ‘refugee’ from the French word réfugié, ‘one who seeks sanctuary’. They flourished and established this church in 1743 naming it La Neuve Eglise (The New Church) and installed the sundial we can see today. The Latin motto Umbra sumus translates as ‘we are shadow’, and is taken from Horace’s statement Pulvis et umbra sumus, meaning ‘We are dust and shadow’.

I have written in some detail about sundials in an earlier blog which you can find here.

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

https://www.instagram.com/london_city_gent/

PS Long time readers of this blog will recognise some of the above since I have written about clocks before. However, I had to cheat a bit since I took last week off! I hope the additional information I have included has meant that this week’s edition was still enjoyable.

Page 1 of 36

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén