Walking the City of London

Month: December 2021

Happy New Year!

Hello everyone. Happy New Year!

As usual, I shall end the year with a selection of the Shard’s Christmas lights, which I think were the best ever (please forgive the hand wobble evident in some of the images!) …

Greetings from our home to your home. Keep well and stay safe …

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The Christmas Quiz!

Hello, friends, Happy Christmas!

It’s time again for the Christmas Quiz based on my blogs from 2021. I trust you are all OK in these difficult times and send you my very best wishes for 2022. I am sure that, like me, you hope that it will bring happier times for everyone than the year gone by.

1, Whose dressing gown is this? He wore it when he met Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas in 1955 …

2. Who is this, holding a protective arm over a hind?

3. What conflict does this memorial on Tower Hill commemorate?

4. This elegant column in Paternoster Square also has a practical purpose. What is it?

5. Number 116 Old Street used to be the Margolin Gramophone Company factory. They manufactured a record player that was very famous right through from the 1950s to the early 1970s. What was it called?

6. Coloured lines painted on the roads and pavements carry messages for workers who may have to dig there. What do red lines signify?

7. This studious monk looks down at his missal in Austin Friars. What order of monks had their monastery here before the dissolution?

8. Who is this with their post-execution head stitched back on?

9. What lady wants her time with you when you meet at St Pancras International?

10. This famous Londoner is represented in stained glass at the church of St Michael Paternoster Royal. Someone once said he looked like a Hoxton Hipster. Who is he?

11. This sign, located in the Museum of London rotunda, was once affixed to a famous coaching inn. What was it called?

12. This is the view from the rooftop restaurant of famous City landmark building. Which building is it?

13. This street name commemorates the action of a brave young lady called Alice Ayres. She also has a plaque on the Watts Memorial. What brave act is she remembered for?

14. This magnificent Shakespeare Memorial Window was created in 1954 to replace another destroyed in enemy action. It shows characters from the Bard’s plays. Where is it?

15. This image was taken in the only surviving late 17th century Gothic church in the City of London and is especially notable for its unique plaster vaulting. What church is it?

16. In what great City pageant is this uniform worn?

17. In what ancient market would you find these extraordinary characters?

18. This pump was once described as ‘the pump of death’. Where is it and why did it get that name?

19. This service is taking place in the bombed-out, roofless ruins of a famous church. What is its name?

20. Where can you find this mural showing elephants helping the emperor Claudius invade Britain in AD 43?

Answers to the quiz along with links to previous blogs and sources :

  1. Noël Coward – see my blog on the recent exhibition at the Guildhall Art Gallery.

2. St Giles – read all about him here.

3. The Falklands War. Read more about this and other City memorials here.

4. It’s a ventilation shaft for the underground car park. Read about more interesting sculptures here.

5. The Dansette. See my walk along Old Street.

6. Red means ‘danger – electricity’. See what different colours mean in this blog.

7. It was the Augustinians.

8. Charles the First. See his and more faces at the Museum of London.

9. Tracey Emin. Read more about her and John Betjeman at St Pancras station here.

10. Dick Whittington. Read more about City of London stained glass here.

11. The Bull and Mouth.

12. It’s The Gherkin.

13. She bravely rescued three children from a fire but lost her own life in the process. Read more here in my visit to Southwark.

14. The window is in Southwark Cathedral. Read more about my visits to this wonderful place here and here.

15. It’s St Mary Aldermary.

16. This uniform is worn by Pikemen in the Lord Mayor’s Show. See more pictures here.

17. You’ll find them (along with other interesting public art) in Spitalfields Market.

18. At the junction of Fenchurch Street and Leadenhall Street you’ll find this, the Aldgate pump. It came to be known as the Pump of Death when, in the 1870s, it was discovered that the water was poisoning people. During its passage underground from north London it had passed through and under numerous new graveyards thereby picking up the bacteria, germs and calcium from the decaying bodies.

19. St Mary-le-Bow.

20. On a wall inside the Museum of London.

I hope you enjoyed this year’s Quiz.

My very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year!

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Christmas lights and the Bash Street Kids!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found it rather difficult to feel very ‘Christmassy’ this year. However, the Christmas lights are beginning to cheer me up and here is my selection (plus a fascinating visit I made to Somerset House).

I’ll start with one of my favourites – hats off to Chartered Accountants Hall …

I think those icicles look really authentic …

Then there’s this installation at City Point …

And on the St Alphage Highwalk overlooking the Salters’ Hall garden. This one is constantly changing …

A profound message on the green wall nearby …

Onward to Spitalfields Market …

And Bishopsgate …

And Broadgate …

Here’s a small Christmas tree selection, starting with City of London Girls’ School …

Wood Street …

St Giles Church …

King’s Cross Station …

The Courtauld Gallery …

And Somerset House with the skating rink in the background …

What was I doing at Somerset House?

Visiting the Beano Exhibition of course. Here’s edition Number 1 …

There are reckoned to be only 25 copies still in existence and one sold in 2015 for £17,300.

I laughed out loud at this imagining of how the Bash Street Kids turned out 30 years on. Especially Smiffy!

There’s a first edition of the Dandy on display also …

In 2004 a copy fetched £20,350. Only 10 copies of the comic’s first edition are known to exist, but the free gift metal whistler sold in the auction is the only one to have survived.

It’s a great exhibition, highly recommended …

Be sure to log in next week because it’s the famous Christmas Quiz!

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A painful arrow wound and a ‘beloved’ pair of bankers. More tales from St Giles.

Last week I looked back at St Giles in the period immediately after the Second World war. Over the last few days I’ve been looking for much earlier images.

Here it is in 1739 in a picture from the British Museum archive described as: View of the church from the graveyard; one of the churches to escape the Great Fire. 1739. Etching and engraving

Now forward to 1815 in a painting by George Shepherd …

And another entitled St.Giles Cripplegate, Fore Street engraved by J.Henshall after a picture Shepherd (published in London in the Nineteenth Century, 1831) …

The church now (on a wet and windy day!) …

The churchyard and its graves suffered terribly in the Blitz and the old grave stones have been incorporated into low level seating

Some inscriptions still just about legible. For example, the deaths in the Williams family, recorded over the years 1802 to 1840, give typical examples of the high incidence of child mortality …

Let’s go inside now and have a look around.

There are a number of modern stained glass windows. In the baptistery is the Cripplegate Window, which celebrates the centenary of the Cripplegate Foundation www.cripplegate.org which gives grants, advice and support to local organisations. The Foundation was formally established in 1891 but its origins lie in gifts made to St Giles’ for the poor and the needy dating back centuries. John Sworder made the first recorded gift in his will, dated 2 April 1500, and the head at the top of the window represents him, the first of the pious donors of the parish that we know by name …

On the north wall is a memorial window to Edward Alleyn, the parish’s generous benefactor. The design is the work of John Lawson of stained glass studio Goddard & Gibbs and depicts Alleyn in the centre, as well as the Fortune Theatre (which he founded), almshouses (which he built in the parish and which were destroyed in the Second World War), and St Luke’s Church, Old Street …

Monuments include one to John Speed. He was born at Farndon in Cheshire in 1552 and followed his father’s trade as a tailor until nearly fifty. He lived in London (probably in Moorfields) and his wife Susanna bore him twelve sons and six daughters! His passion in life, however, was not tailoring; from his early years he was a keen amateur historian and map maker, producing maps for the Queen and the Merchant Tailors Company, of which he was a Freeman. He joined the Society of Antiquaries and in 1597 his interests came to the attention of Sir Fulke Greville, who subsequently gave Speed an allowance for his research. As a reward for his earlier efforts, Queen Elizabeth granted him the use of a room in the Custom House …

Here’s his map of England (note the Irish Sea, the British Sea and the German Ocean!)…

The oldest monument is that of Thomas Busby. A 19th century guide to the church describes him and his memorial as follows …

… a rich cooper who died in 1575. His painted figure shows him in a black coat, his face full of benevolence, and his epitaph tells us that he gave the poor of Cripplegate every year four loads of the best charcoal and 40 dozen loaves.

Alas the Blitz ensured that only his bust with its benevolent face remains …

In the main body of the church, attached to a pillar on the right, is a sword rest, replacing one destroyed during the Second World War. Its function is to house the ceremonial swords carried on state occasions. This one contains the coats-of-arms of the five Aldermen of Cripplegate who became Lord Mayors of London, including Sir John Baddeley, Sir Peter Studd and Sir Allan Davis …

Nearby there is also a lovely 19th century brass lectern created in memory of Lancelot Andrewes …..

The East Window was designed by Gerald Smith of the Nicholson Studios, a London-based stained glass studio, which made the window in 1960. The firm’s output covered the years of restoration following both World Wars.
The work follows the pattern of the medieval window, of which traces came to light as a result of war damage. The design incorporates many figures of historical significance to the church, as well as the instruments of the crucifixion at the top …

St Giles is there, of course. He is traditionally depicted with a hind and there are various stories as to why that should be so. According to a 10th-century biography, Giles was an Athenian from a wealthy family who gave away his inherited wealth, fled to France and made himself a hermitage in a forest near the mouth of the Rhone, where, we are told, he lived on herbs and the milk of a hind. This retreat was finally discovered by the hunters of the King of the Franks, who had pursued the hind to its place of refuge. An arrow shot at the deer wounded Giles instead, as he put out his hand to protect the deer and was himself speared by the arrow …

Part of the medieval church can be still be seen on the right of the window, where it has been deliberately exposed for visitors to see. Here is the sedilia, where the priests sat, and the piscine, used for washing communion vessels. The tiles in the arch here are of Roman origin …

The Roman tiles …

The west window was designed by the Faircraft Studios and installed in 1968. In the centre is the coat-of-arms of the City of London, which is flanked on its left by the coat-of-arms of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and on its right by that of the Bishop of London. In the lower frame, from left to right, are the coats-of-arms of Robert Glover, Somerset Herald of Arms in the reign of Henry VIII, who was buried in the church; of John Milton; of the Earls of Bridgewater; Oliver Cromwell, and Sir Martin Frobisher. There were ten Earls of Bridgewater and three Earls of Kent buried in the church …

Nearby is this plaque dedicated to a pair of twins ‘respected and beloved by all who knew them’ …

They were joint secretaries to the Cripplegate Savings Bank …

Established in 1819, it became the Cripplegate Bank Limited in 1879. Renamed again in 1900 as London, Commercial & Cripplegate Bank Ltd it was acquired by the Union Bank of London Limited later in the same year (and was eventually swallowed up by NatWest).

As you leave you can say ‘goodbye’ to St Giles. He’s just above the north door, hind at his side. You can also see the scorch marks from the incendiary bombs dropped during the Blitz when even the stone caught fire …

He is depicted with a crutch, as it is thought he was lame …

I am indebted to the really helpful History section of the St Giles website for much of the blog. I strongly recommend you visit it, if only to watch the fascinating YouTube film of the City ruins in 1956.

If you walk around to the south side of the church you will see this odd commemorative stone …

What was the mistake that had to be erased? Maybe it originally referred to the ‘west’ or ‘east’ front when it should correctly have referred to ‘the front’!

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An exhumed poet, a proud Mayor and a very modest attorney. Stories from St Giles.

From where I live I have a nice view of my local church, St Giles Without Cripplegate. This image gives a good impression of where this wonderful old church is located within the strikingly modern Barbican Estate …

I am always pleased to come across old images of the area, particularly those taken in the three decades after the Second World War. I am indebted to the author of the splendid London Inheritance blog for this view from 1947 showing the devastated landscape …

The building on the left is the Red Cross Street Fire Station.

Another image showing nearby destruction …

The following photo taken in the days following the raid on the 29th December 1940 shows the damage to the interior of the church …

St Giles Cripplegate

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: m0017971cl

Since the walls and tower survived a service was possible with the parishioners able to look straight up to the sky …

The inside of the church today. I was fortunate enough to visit when a lady (on the left in the picture) was practising beautifully on the organ …

Here’s an aerial view from the 1960s and the church now has a roof. The more modern looking building on the right is Roman House which has recently been converted into apartments …

In this 21st century aerial image you can just make out the church’s green roof …

Some monuments remain from the old pre-Blitz building.

There is this touching memorial to a favourite character of mine, Sir William Staines …

And here is the man himself …

Staines had extremely humble beginnings working as a bricklayer’s labourer, but eventually accumulated a large fortune which he generously used for philanthropic purposes. He seemed to recall his own earlier penury when he ensured that the houses he built for ‘aged and indigent’ folk would have ‘nothing to distinguish them from the other dwelling-houses … to denote the poverty of the inhabitant’.

British History Online records an encounter he had with the notorious John Wilkes who referred rather rudely to Staines’ original occupation …

The alderman was an illiterate man, and was a sort of butt amongst his brethren. At one of the Old Bailey dinners, after a sumptuous repast of turtle and venison, Sir William was eating a great quantity of butter with his cheese. “Why, brother,” said Wilkes, “you lay it on with a trowel!”

Incidentally, Wilkes is also commemorated in the the City in Fetter Lane where a striking statue of him honestly portrays his famous squint …

John Milton (1608-1674), the poet and republican, is perhaps the most famous former parishioner of St Giles and his statue stands by the south wall of the church …

It’s made of metal, which means it is one of the few memorials in the church that survived the bombing in the Second World War. It is the work of the sculptor Horace Montford (c1840-1919) and is based on a bust made in about 1654.

He used to be outside and was blasted off his plinth during the bombing …

There is also this commemorative plaque …

And a bust which clearly indicates his later-life blindness …

Milton was buried in the church next to his father, however he was not allowed to rest in peace.

British History Online reports the shocking event as follows …

‘A sacrilegious desecration of his remains, we regret to record, took place in 1790 … The disinterment had been agreed upon after a merry meeting at the house of Mr. Fountain, overseer, in Beech Lane, the night before, Mr. Cole, another overseer, and the journeyman of Mr. Ascough, the parish clerk, who was a coffin-maker, assisting’.

Having identified where they thought Milton’s grave was, they dug down almost six feet, found a coffin, and removed the lid. The report goes on …

‘Upon first view of the body, it appeared perfect, and completely enveloped in the shroud, which was of many folds, the ribs standing up regularly. When they disturbed the shroud the ribs fell. Mr. Fountain confessed that he pulled hard at the teeth, which resisted, until some one hit them a knock with a stone, when they easily came out. There were but five in the upper jaw, which were all perfectly sound and white, and all taken by Mr. Fountain. He gave one of them to Mr. Laming. Mr. Laming also took one from the lower jaw; and Mr. Taylor took two from it. Mr. Laming said that he had at one time a mind to bring away the whole under-jaw with the teeth in it; he had it in his hand, but tossed it back again’.

As if that wasn’t undignified enough,’Elizabeth Grant, the gravedigger … now took possession of the coffin; and, as its situation under the common councilmen’s pew would not admit of its being seen without the help of a candle, she kept a tinder-box in the excavation, and, when any persons came, struck a light, and conducted them under the pew; where, by reversing the part of the lid which had been cut, she exhibited the body, at first for sixpence and afterwards for threepence and twopence each person’.

The body was reburied but rumours spread that it wasn’t Milton in the coffin, but a woman. So Milton was dug up a second time and the surgeon in attendance examined the bones — what were left of them — and pronounced them to be masculine. Only then was Milton, at last, allowed to rest only to be permanently obliterated in the bombing.

Notwithstanding the generous memorials to the great and the good, I was captivated by this modest plaque on the south wall …

An attorney at law who obviously believed in brevity. No Latin exhortation of his virtues, no figures of a grieving widow and children, only the important facts and the bald, concluding statement ‘That is all’.

There is a lot more to see at St Giles such as modern stained glass …

And intriguing inscriptions, both inside …

And outside …

But for the moment ‘that is all!’

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