Symbols & Secrets

Walking the City of London

My visit to 22 Bishopsgate.

I think it would be fair to say that 22 Bishopsgate is ‘not everyone’s cup of tea’ and I too am rather ambivalent about it. Second only to The Shard in height, it dominates the City and stands at 278 m (912 ft) tall with 62 storeys. At an all-inclusive total of just over 195,000 sq metres, it’s probably the largest office building ever built in Britain. It even looks down on Tower 42, seen here in the foreground (and pictured later) along with The Gherkin and the Walkie Talkie …

The view of the building from Bank Junction and the Royal Exchange …

Last Saturday the viewing gallery on the 58th floor was opened specially for ‘local residents’ so, of course, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to look down on the City from a new perspective.

A nice surprise was to be had walking through the main reception area where special artwork has been commissioned …

I really liked these wall hangings …

Then onward to the lifts …

With ears popping, we watched the screen in the lift monitor our progress towards our destination, the 58th floor …

You walk out into a vast viewing area with rather disconcerting floor to ceiling glass (at least it’s rather disconcerting for people like me who are not mad keen on heights) …

The views are as spectacular as one might expect …

Looking down on Tower 42 you can see its original design replicating the NatWest Bank logo if seen from above (it was originally the NatWest Tower) …

Canary Wharf in the misty distance …

Next week I’ll be back down to earth, writing about my walk east along the river. Here’s a small sample.

Can you see the chap balanced on a plinth looking across the river …

Here he is again (rather in need of a clean-up, seagulls have no respect for art) …

More about him next week, as well as this ramp where, in 1857, a famous ship was launched …

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Churchyard gardens and a £65 haircut – a short City stroll.

I was so hot recently that I didn’t really want to wander far and today’s blog is the result. I hope you will find it interesting nonetheless.

I visited churchyards where, in some cases, the church they were associated with no longer exist.

First up is St Olave Silver Street, destroyed, the plaque tells us, in the ‘dreadfull fire in the year 1666‘ and never rebuilt …

Another stone commemorates the churchyard being ‘thrown back’ due to road widening in 1865 …

It’s a nice, modest little space – very green and lush at the moment …

With a little font-like pool that I rather like …

Interestingly, the church was notable as the place where the bodies of those dissected at the nearby Barber-Surgeons Hall would be buried. Prior to the Anatomy Act of 1832, only the bodies of those executed for murder could be used for dissection. The bodies would be used for anatomical study and then interred at St Olave’s.

Shakespeare once lived nearby but that building perished in the Great Fire as well …

I have written about the churchyard of St John Zachary before, with its lovely little fountain …

And Three Printers sculpture …

Wilfred Dudeney’s 1954 sculpture 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 …

Just across the road is St Anne and St Agnes with its pretty brickwork …

And quiet, secluded garden …

Christchurch Greyfriars Church Garden is on the site of the Franciscan Church of Greyfriars that was established in 1225. Numerous well-known people, including four queens, were buried in the old church, which was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. A new church, designed by Wren, was completed in 1704.

In 1940 incendiary bombs destroyed the body of the Wren church, and only the west tower now stands. In 1989 a rose garden was established that reflects the floor plan of the original church with box-edged beds representing the original position of the pews with wooden towers representing the stone columns of the former church …

These blocks of granite are relatively new additions to the site …

Information about them …

The nearby sculpture celebrates the Greryfriars School’s success in educating youngsters from a deprived background and turning them into model citizens …

Actually, I think the street ragamuffins on the right seem to be having a great time …

St Paul’s Cathedral churchyard …

St Thomas à Becket lies in agony …

And some great news, the little pond outside St Lawrence Jewry has been renovated …

I hope they put in some fish.

And finally, near St Paul’s, is this the most expensive barber in London?

Mind you, there is complimentary Japanese Whisky and Beer!

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A tale from the Crypt, pretty flowers and a strange sighting on the Highwalk!

If you want to have a brief experience of the St Paul’s Cathedral crypt without paying to enter the Cathedral itself just make your way down the stairs to the Crypt Cafe. The entrance is opposite the Temple Bar …

Down below you’ll encounter some extraordinary monuments to deceased heroes. This is the one to Sir William Ponsonby …

‘Created in white marble, the figure of the dying hero rests against his fallen horse. He is nude except for drapery, and a broken sword slips from the fingers of his right hand. His shield is on the ground beside him. He looks upwards at a winged female figure in a classical tunic, representing Victory, who approaches from the left. She holds a wreath above him, and he reaches for it with his left hand’ …

You can read more about his background along with the gripping story of his final battle on the Waterloo Association website.

Nearby is this monument to two Naval heroes …

Both men died in the 1801 Battle of Copenhagen.

Riou ‘ … …was sitting on a gun, was encouraging his men, and had been wounded in the head by a splinter. He had expressed himself grieved at being thus obliged to retreat, and nobly observed, ‘What will Nelson think of us?’ His clerk was killed by his side; and by another shot, several marines, while hauling on the main-brace, shared the same fate. Riou then exclaimed, ‘Come, then, my boys, let us all die together!’ The words were scarcely uttered, when the fatal shot severed him in two’.

In 1799 James Mosse was appointed Captain of HMS Monarch, also under the overall command of Admiral Nelson. Mosse took a leading role, sailing from one end of the line to the other, whilst both firing and receiving fire. He was killed soon after adopting his required position, his last orders being to ‘cut away the anchor’. Like Riou, he was buried at sea …

If you look through the gates to the main crypt area you can just see in the distance the tomb of their commander, Horatio Nelson …

Here’s a picture I took on an earlier visit …

After all that death and drama you might like some of the images of flowers I have been taking!

Good corporate neighbours on Gresham Street …

Also on the same street, the Goldsmith’s Garden (the old churchyard of St John Zachary) …

A Goldsmith’s leopard guards the entrance …

Across the road …

Opposite St Paul’s underground Station …

Near St Paul’s Cathedral …

At Aldermanbury …

The Silk Street flower bed. From planting on 22nd June …

To a splendid display today …

Finally, three things I have seen from or on the Barbican Gilbert Bridge.

Water lillies …

Pigeons who don’t like the rain …

And, the weird contribution, what may or may not be a fashion shoot …

It’s definitely a fella …

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The old Bishopsgate Fire Station.

Have you ever paused outside Liverpool Street Station and looked across the road to admire this magnificent building …

Its Grade II listing describes it as a ‘lavish pastiche of Tudor gothic style in red brick and Portland stone’ and ‘lavish’ seems a very appropriate word. Built in 1888, it is a typical expression of Victorian civic pride with its original purpose still clearly visible 135 years later …

Sadly, however, beyond the arches there no longer resides the great engines and brave crews who used to keep Londoners safe but a retail outlet for Tesco.

Fire services in London emerged principally from the need for insurance providers to limit their losses through damage to property in the period after the Great Fire of 1666. Initially, each insurer maintained a separate brigade that only served subscribers until the foundation of an integrated service in 1833, funded by City businesses. A terrible fire in Tooley Street prompted a radical review of firefighting in London – read all about it in my earlier blog.

Great Fire at London Bridge

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: p5354642

The first publicly-funded authority charged with saving lives and protecting buildings from fire was founded in 1866: the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB), initially part of the Metropolitan Board of Works whose initials are still displayed on the building …

The earliest stations were generally plain brick and few pre-1880 examples survive. In the 1880s, under the MFB architect Robert Pearsall, fire stations acquired a true architectural identity, most notably in the rich Gothic style typical of Victorian municipal buildings such as Bishopsgate.

Let’s take a closer look.

The spandrels above the arches include the coat of arms of East Anglia (3 crowns) and Essex (3 swords) …

There’s also Kent (white horse) and Norwich (Castle) …

Plus the City of London (St George’s cross with sword of St Paul) and the Houses of Parliament (portcullis) …

From a distance you can admire the Victorian watch tower – literally for keeping a look out for fires from the top of the building …

Can you see the discreet Livery Company coat of arms?

Here it is in close-up …

The arms belong to the Goldsmith’s Company who probably own the freehold to the building.

I’ve been searching the archives for images of the Station in its heyday and here’s what I found.

The Station in 1907 (Image copyright London Metropolitan Archives / City of London Corporation)..

You can see more images using these links:

The station in 1908

Another 1908 image

The first retail outlet in the 1970s.

This 1904 picture isn’t of the Bishopsgate Station but it does show an interesting combination of horse-drawn and mechanical engines …

London’s oldest fire station was based in Clerkenwell but was closed down in 2014. Read all about it here in The Gentle Author’s blog.

This might be a good time to remember the bravery of individual firefighters and a Clerkenwell station ‘escape attendant’ called George Lee is commemorated on the Watts Memorial in Postman’s Park where brave police officers are also remembered.

At the inquest into George’s death the chief officer giving evidence declared that ‘after a very long experience he believed this was the greatest act of bravery ever shown by any fireman in the world’. There is a really comprehensive description of the event and George’s extraordinary courage here on the London Walking Tours website. Incidentally, I’m grateful to Katie Wignall of the Look Up London website for inspiring today’s blog – the picture of the watchtower and the coat of arms are from her blog.

Finally, as regular readers will know, I do tend to pay particular attention to bollards and have devoted a blog to them entitled Bollardology. I couldn’t resist, therefore, taking a picture of these rather colourful examples at Citypoint …

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Tubes on the Tube – and other interesting shapes.

Every now and then I start noticing new shapes appearing around the City in addition to the fascinating Sculpture in the City project that I wrote about recently. Here’s my selection for this week. I’ll start with the largest and most colourful, Holly Hendry’s joyful work entitled Slackwater currently exhibited on the flat roof of Temple Underground Station. That’s what I like, sculpture that makes you smile …

The view from above gives a really interesting perspective (image by CoLab) …

Read all about it …

For over a month I watched the very careful erection of this extraordinary structure on Moorfields …

Commissioned in 2019 as part of The Crossrail Art Foundation’s public art programme for the Elizabeth line (with the support of Victoria Miro Gallery), Manifold (Major Third) 5:4 is by British artist Conrad Shawcross RA. ‘It represents a chord falling into silence extrapolated from observations of a Victorian pendulum-driven drawing machine known as a harmonograph, which was instrumental in the birth of the science of synaesthesia. This sculpture is the physical incarnation of the mathematics within a chord’. So now you know.

A crazy oasis outside nearby City Point (EC2Y 9AW) …

Yummy colours …

And finally, have you ever noticed this chap? I often see him looking out of the window of the Chiropractic clinic. Like the Manifold sculpture he’s also on Moorfields, just off London Wall …

I presume he likes to watch the world going by when he’s not treating patients …

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