Walking the City of London

Author: The City Gent Page 1 of 18

Street Art update.

The street art around Brick Lane changes all the time so earlier this week I popped back to see developments.

A very good example of this is the changing face of number 33A Fournier Street.

April 2018 …

Gilbert and George live across the road (image copyright The Art Newspaper)

April 2021 …

September 2022 …

January 2023 …

This week …

More images from my walk …

This piece by Stik is ‘The UK’s 17th favourite artwork’ according to The Guardian. It has been here since 2010 and has obviously been treated with respect …

Read all about him and his art here.

I’m not quite sure what these images are about but I like them …

You don’t have to go into the shop to see what they have in stock …

On my way home.

Spitalfields Market …

Liverpool Street Station shopping …

Duck patrol – ‘Just keeping an eye on things’…

I have blogged before about street art in April 2021, September 2022 and in January 2023.

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Recent walks (and some holiday snaps).

Having been away I have neglected the blog somewhat so I hope you will forgive me if this week’s offering is a rather miscellaneous collection of City images and a few pics from my holiday by Lake Como!

HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge look good on a grey, cloudy day …

The City skyline from nearby …

The poor Gherkin is gradually being surrounded and the Walkie Talkie really is a monster from this viewpoint …

Control of protected views has still managed to give St Paul’s the priority it deserves. Long may this continue as even more development gains approval …

The Shard from Hay’s Galleria …

The refurbished facade of the old headquarters of the Eastern Telegraph Company on Moorgate is gradually being revealed including this fabulous stained glass …

At first it was called Electra House (named after the goddess of electricity) and the centre section shows her perched on top of the world. You can read more about her and the building in my April 2020 blog.

Nice brickwork in St Thomas Street on the south side of London Bridge Station …

A wacky installation at Vinegar Yard across the road …

Re-purposed warehouses nearby …

A re-purposed pub across the road from St Bartholomew the Great …

Angel III by Emily Young (2003), Paternoster Square, opposite St Paul’s Cathedral …

You can read my blog about City Angels (and Devils!) here.

Also outside the Cathedral …

The explanation …

Golden cherubs at Ludgate Circus …

This building was originally the London headquarters of the Thomas Cook travel agency. Built in 1865, the first floor was a temperance hotel in accordance with Cook’s beliefs. Read more about the cherubs, and many of their fellows, in my Blog Charming Cherubs.

The wording on this foundation stone in King Edward Street emanates pride in the British Empire at its height …

Across the road nearby are the coat of arms and the motto of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. It’s the Newgate Street Clock, the Worshipful Company’s 375th anniversary gift to the City of London …

The motto Tempus Rerum Imperator can be translated as Time, the Ruler of All Things.

On a lighthearted note – food and drink.

Branded ice in my Negroni at Bistro Freddie

And another, not quite so obvious, at Luca

Pudding at the Bleeding Heart Bistro …

Watching the calories whilst on holiday …

We visited lovely Lake Como for ten days.

The stunning Cathedral …

In a nearby church …

Lost souls ..

Some fascinating outdoor sculpture …

The extraordinary two above are by Fabio Viale.

This one is by Daniel Libeskind

I know what the box on the left is for but I’m not sure about the one on the right …

Shopping opportunities …

Como silk is very, very beautiful …

Finally, some classy tourist stuff to take home as a memento …

Back home to London in the evening – nice to see a duck on night patrol …

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Shakespeare at the Guildhall Library.

Drawing on Guildhall Library’s remarkable Shakespeare collections, this exhibition examines the history of the printing of William Shakespeare’s plays, from the small ‘Quartos’ of the late 16th century and the Folios of the 17th century, to the reworking of the text in the 18th century and the rediscovery of the original texts in the 19th century …

Just inside the door you are greeted with an image of the funerary monument of William Shakespeare in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon circa 1616-1622 …

There are a series of excellent, informative panels …

They range over subjucts such as the difference between a Folio and a Quarto …

… printing technology …

…and how the works were viewed and appreciated over the centuries …

The books, of course, are the stars of the show (and they do not all relate solely to Shakespeare).

It was not until some years after his death that the majority of his plays were gathered together, edited to create a definitive version of the text, and published 400 years ago in the now iconic First Folio, 1632.

And here it is in facsimile …

The engraved portriat by Martin Droeshout is one of the few likenesses with any claim to authenticity.

A facsimile of the Second Folio, also published in 1632 …

An original Third Folio, 1664 …

And the Fourth, 1685 …

The Library Shakespeare – An example of the late 19th century emergence of ‘gift books’, nicely bound with coloured illustrations …

There are other delights on display.

The Knight of the Burning Pestle by Francis Beaumont, printed in 1613 …

An 1853 spoof comic version of Macbeth Macbeth Travestie. Macbeth somewhat removed from the text of Shakespear: in two acts

There are almost thirty items in the exhibition …

… and there is a splendid free guide …

There is also an interesting photowall showing some of the Guildhall Library’s other treasures …

After you leave the building, walk across the road to the little green space on the corner of Aldermanbury and Love Lane …

Constructed in 1896, this pink granite monument stands within the former churchyard of St Mary Aldermanbury. Its primary purpose is to honour the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, but it also serves as a tribute to Henry Condell and John Heminge, two associates of the Bard who worked with him at the Globe …

They played a cucial role in compiling and printing the First Folio after his death in 1616 …

Both lived nearby and were buried in this churchyard …

The church was gutted in the Blitz with only the walls remaining standing. The stones were subsequently transported to Fulton, Missouri in 1966 and rebuilt in the grounds of Westminster College as a memorial to Winston Churchill who had made his Sinews of Peace, “Iron Curtain” speech in the College gymnasium in 1946.

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More Guildhall Art Gallery favourites.

I know, it seems like I’m not wandering far from home lately, but the weather has been so miserable and I needed to get a few blogs ‘in the bank’ before going on holiday. Anyway, that’s my excuse for visiting again somewhere that I really like!

Here come a few of my favourites from the Gallery.

My First Sermon by Sir John Everett Millais Bt PRA (1829-96), exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1863 …

The child is the centre of attention in her red cape, with black trim, and soft furry muff, a bright splash of colour in the dim church, her short legs in their red stockings nicely supported, concentrating as hard and seriously as she can on the sermon. You can guess that it’s probably way over her head.

My Second Sermon

After the success of My First Sermon Millais painted a companion piece the following year, showing the same little girl – his daughter Effie – in church after the novelty of going has worn off. In his speech at the next Royal Academy Banquet, the Archbishop of Canterbury claimed the picture was a warning against ‘the evil of lengthy sermons and drowsy discourses’. Millais (and his largely middle class audience) were well aware of the gap between ideals and reality, and this witty follow-up to First Sermon reveals a taste for amusing, affectionate imagery that was relatable to many Victorian parents.

The Wounded Cavalier by William Shakespeare Burton (1824-1916) …

There is so much symbolism and mystery about this picture that writing about it would take the enire blog. What is the relationship between the young woman and the austere puritan chap standing in the background? Maybe her brother, she’s not wearing a wedding ring, and surely wouldn’t be wandering the forest unchaperoned? He’s carrying a bible – is there any significance in the visible bookmark? The young cavalier doesn’t look in good shape, is he dying – maybe she’s helping him staunch a wound by his neck? And what’s the significance of the broken sword and the scattered playing cards? Or the butterfly resting on the sword blade? For various theories you can read more here and here.

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey c.1834 by Paul Delaroche (1797-1856) …

Poor Lady Jane, ‘the nine days queen’, fumbles for the block on which she will lose her head (having, incidentally, been tried for high treason at the Guildhall next door to the gallery). To the left are her despairing ladies-in-waiting, one slumped to the ground with Jane’s outer clothing gathered in her lap, the other facing the wall unable to watch. The painting has always been enormously popular ever since it was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1834. The large original is owned by the National Gallery and this one is a reduced-scale study by the artist.

The Last Evening by James Tissot, (1836-1902), 1873, another painting with an ambiguous meaning …

One interpretation is that the scene shows the final moments of an on-board romance between a first class passenger and a crew member under the disapproving eyes of his captain and her father. More frequently suggested, however, is that the work depicts the night before a young man sets sail on a voyage leaving his sweetheart behind. She looks pretty bored to me! Read more here.

Next up is this picture entitled Garden of Eden by Hugh Goldwin Riviere (1860-1956). Painted in 1901, it depicts a young man and girl walking in a misty, wet park with a horse-drawn cab rank in the background. I like it because to me it’s another one of those pictures that immediately gets you making up a back story to the characters. Surely this is an assignation – a secret lovers meeting, he clasping her hand and she gazing lovingly into his face. Then it struck me: Garden of Eden! A place of dangerous temptation and banishment! …

Apparently some guides point out that this picture is actually about a mismatch between a wealthy woman who has fallen for a man much below her station: note his clumpy shoes, lack of gloves and his rolled up trouser bottoms. Also the way he’s carrying not one but two umbrellas, intertwined like the two lovers. There are tiny raindrops hanging from the black branches. Surely they represent tears to come? Or am I getting completely carried away? Another commentator has said that she is simply a smartly dressed maidservant on her day off, out walking with her beau.

At the far end of the gallery, in a space specially designed for it, you will find at the action-packed painting by John Singleton Copley: Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar 1782

The painting is best viewed from the balcony above

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.

There are two paintings of a Lord Mayor’s show near the main gallery entrance. This is 12:18 and 10 seconds (2010) by Carl Laubin

The other is another of my favourites, William Logsdail’s painting entitled The Ninth of November 1888

You can read more about them both in my January 2023 blog.

Also on show is a terrfific sculpture of this thoughtful, gentle man, created by someone who knew him very well personally, Ronald Moody (1900-1984) …

This is Terry-Thomas, a major star in the 1950s and 60s best known for playing disreputable members of the upper classes especially ‘cads’, ‘toffs’ and ‘bounders’ …

The last years of his life were tragic. Following his death, Lionel Jeffries called him ‘the last of the great gentlemen of the cinema’, while the director Michael Winner commented that ‘no matter what your position was in relation to his, as the star he was always terribly nice. He was the kindest man and he enjoyed life so much’.

And finally, don’t forget, one of Gallery’s most popular paintings is back on display. Described by the Pre-Raphaelite artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti as “my very best picture”, ‘La Ghirlandata’ was acquired by the City of London Corporation in 1927 for its permanent art collection and is displayed in the gallery’s main Victorian exhibition space …

The 1873 oil on canvas depicts ‘the garlanded woman’ playing an arpanetta and looking directly at the viewer. The artist’s muse for the central figure was the actor and model, Alexa Wilding, with two ‘angels’ in the top corners posed by William and Jane Morris’ youngest daughter, May Morris.

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Exploring the Crypt Museum at All Hallows by the Tower.

In my blog three weeks ago I wrote about the treasure trove that you’ll find at All Hallows by the Tower and promised to return again and explore the Crypt Museum. This week’s edition is the result.

I headed down the steps to the atmospheric interior …

One of the first exhibits you encounter is this floor of a 2nd century Roman dwelling …

Sometimes it’s just easier to take a picture of an information label!

Walk where the Romans walked …

The church historian told me that, if I stood on the tiles long enough, I would be transported back to Roman times. Sadly, I was in a bit of a hurry.

On display are several casts of Roman gravestones.

A ‘most devoted son’…

And an ‘incomparable husband’ …

This stone once depicted a couple but the woman’s head is now missing …

The inscription reads : Demetrius, to Heraclia, his wife (set up this stone) at the expense of her own estate, as a memorial to her.

Lots of treasures in display cases …

Including this beautiful carving in alabaster …

This is the ‘great hoist’ …

Costing £3 in 1682, it was made to suspend the beautiful Grinling Gibbons font cover which can now be found in the south west corner of the church …

This is the original north door from the 1884 construction of the North porch …

It was badly damaged in the fire bombing that happenened three weeks after the direct hit on the church on 19 December 1940.

There are several connections with famous Americans.

William Penn was baptised in All Hallows and this memorial to commemorate the event was erected in 1911. It was damaged in the wartime bombing …

William’s father, Admiral Sir William Penn, was Commissioner of the nearby Navy Office and his son was baptised here on 23 October 1644. The Baptismal Register recording the occasion …

Penn’s entry is number 23 on the right hand page.

And what about this lady. For almost two hundred years the only non-American First Lady until the inauguration of President Trump on 20 January 2017 …

The relevant entry in the 1797 Marriage Register …

Memorabilia relating to The Reverend ‘Tubby’ Clayton

Under the High Altar is sited the Undercroft Chapel …

The altar comprises stones brought back to All Hallows from Richard I’s Castle Athilt in Israel.

As I said in my earlier blog, All Hallows really is a treasure trove and my blogs really just give a brief glimpse of how interesting the church is. So well worth a visit.

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Fantastic City models at the London Centre on Aldermanbury.

Occasionally I come across something in the City that is fantastic but which, for some reason, I was completely unaware of. I found it here at The London Centre on Aldermanbury …

NLA (New London Architecture) is an independent organisation for anyone and everyone with an interest in London’s built environment. Their basic remit is to engage with government, business and the public to educate, challenge, connect and create positive change.

In April 2023 they opened this new facility in the West Wing of the Guildhall complex. It’s a quiet place filled with meeting rooms and facilities that make it an ideal “hub for the built environment profession”. Entry to the public area is free so there’s no need to book. You don’t need to be a member of the profession to explore either, so just turn up. Opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday 11:00-17:00, and on Fridays they host free lunchtime talks from 12:30 – 13:00.

To facilitate city planning and other discussions about buildings, growth and expansion, the Centre houses three large scale models …

Here is more about them.

The original City of London Model (1:500 scale)

Anything in grey was built before 1945, enabling you to see the extent of central London that was re-built after the Blitz. The scale allows for lots of detail to be articulated — it’s not just boxy blocks — and some of the newest, modern high-rises even light up …

Guess where …

New London Model (1:2000 scale)

In this newer model they’ve shrunk the buildings and doubled the footprint of the original, greatly expanding just how much you can see from a virtual ‘sky-high’ vantage point. The model represents a 200 km2 area of Greater London, showing 240,000 buildings using data from 2012 …

Note Wembley Stadium in the foreground …

Royal Docks Model (1:1000 scale)

This was fully 3D printed and gives an overview of developments across the area over the next 10 years. The solid white buildings are existing while the buildings in frosted white show masterplans with outline planning permission. The model represents 10,000 buildings and the label points out the the water in the docks alone covers an area larger than the whole of Venice!

Oh, and guess what – there’s a separate Barbican model …

‘In addition to the models there are dozens of wall displays exploring various areas, opportunities and the unique London logistics that city planners and builders must consider. The entire centre is a living, working resource that also serves as a fantastic educational opportunity for anyone with an active interest in the seemingly endless queue of expansion, renovation and regeneration projects.’ Here are a few of them …

The Great Estates …

I really loved my visit – highly recommended.

There’s also something really interesting on at the Guildhall Library upstairs – something to visit at another time …

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From Taxi Man to the Camel Corps via the ‘most erotic statue in London’- a stroll along the Victoria Embankment.

The idea of an embankment along the Thames was first suggested by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666 and work eventually began in 1861 under the control of Sir Joseph Bazalgette the Metropolitan Board of Works’ Chief Engineer. Its purpose was not only to ease congestion but also to house the main sewer and it was opened on 13 July 1870 by the Prince of Wales. The total area of land reclaimed was over 37 acres and about 20 acres of this were laid out as gardens and these were the objective of my walk last week.

The gardens shortly after opening …

Walking west from Blackfriars I encountered one of my favourite pieces of street sculpture …

He’s had a tough day at the office and now just wants to get home but, sadly, he’s been trying to grab that cab since 2014. Sculpted by J. Seward Johnson Jr. in 1983, it originally stood on Park Avenue and 47th Street in New York. It’s called, not surprisingly, Taxi!

A little further west are the gates to the Temple private gardens – haunt of the legal profession.

The flying horse Pegasus is the emblem of Middle Temple …

The badge of the Middle Temple consists of the Lamb of God with a flag bearing the Saint George’s Cross …

I walked past the two formidable dragons symbolising the entrance to the City of London …

Seven feet high, they were once mounted above the entrance to the Coal Exchange which was demolished between 1962 and 1963.

They were cast by London founder, Dewer, in 1849 as can be seen on the back of the shield …

Alongside the dragon on the north side of the road is a tablet commemoration Queen Victoria’s last visit to the City in March 1900 …

Time now to enter the first of the gardens and to admire the memorials erected to the great, the good and the brave.

This is the Lady Henry Somerset Children’s Fountain. She was elected president of the British Women’s Temperance Association in 1890 and during her time with them its political and social influence grew. She promoted many endeavours, including the use of birth control, as she argued that sin begins with an unwelcome child …

The formidable Lady Somerset …

What I also discovered in my research was that she outed Lord Henry as a homosexual (a crime during the 1800s), which resulted in their separation and her gaining custody over their son. As a result of publicising his sexual orientation, she was ostracised from society since in those days women were expected to turn a blind eye to every kind of their husband’s infidelity. His lordship decamped to Italy.

Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900) was a composer and most famous for his collaborations with the librettist Sir William Schwenck Gilbert (1836-1911).  Their collaboration resulted in fourteen Comic Operas a number of which are still frequently performed today by both amateur and professional companies to the delight of people around the world …

His memorial features a bust atop of a pedestal together with a weeping Muse of Music. The plinth also carries lines from Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1888 opera The Yeomen of the Guard: “Is life a boon? / If so, it must befall / That Death, whene’er he call, / Must call too soon”.

The lines are repeated in the bronze sculpture at the base, which depicts an open book of music, one of the masks of Comedy and Tragedy and a mandolin …

Apparently the statue has been described as ‘the most erotic in London’.

Robert Raikes, pioneer of Sunday Schools …

Although Sunday schools were not original to Robert Raikes – they were in existence many years before he started his first in 1780 – it was he who put them on the map and whose efforts gave huge momentum to the movement in Britain. Hence, when in 1880 this memorial was erected to celebrate the centenary of the Sunday school movement, the statue featured Robert Raikes. Read more about this fascinating man here.

The flower beds are wonderful …

The Henry Fawcett memorial ‘erected by his grateful countrywomen’ …

Henry Fawcett was an economist and politician who was held in high regard by the public. He was born in 1833 and educated at the University of Cambridge. At the age of 25 he was involved in a shooting accident that left him blind. However, he refused to let his affliction dampen his life and ambitions. He rose to become a Professor in Economics at Cambridge University and was elected Member of Parliament for Brighton in 1865 to 1874, and subsequently for Hackney in 1874 to 1884. In 1880 he was also appointed the position of Her Majesty’s Postmaster-General. He introduced improvements in the Post Office such as the parcel post, postal orders and sixpenny telegrams. He was also an avid supporter of women’s rights and encouraged the Post Office to employ women. He married the renowned suffragist, Millicent Fawcett, in 1867.

More lovely flowers with the memorial to Lord Cheylesmore in the background …

This statue is in tribute to Sir Wilfrid Lawson, the 2nd Baronet probably best known as a temperance campaigner and radical, anti-imperialist wing of the Liberal Party. The statue depicts Lawson, standing as if about to speak while a member of parliament …

He was an extraordinary character and you can read more about him here.

I have always been fascinated by this memorial to the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade …

Do take a few minutes to read this article about them from the 20th Century Society Journal:

The Imperial Camel Corps were formed to patrol the western desert in the First World War and fought major campaigns in Egypt, Sinai and Palestine. Their job was to protect Allied troops (evacuated after the failure at Gallipoli) from risings by the Ottomans and Senussi confederation of tribes. The Senussi were eventually forced into submission late in 1916 by starvation, and by being denied the use of wells by camel corps units and light car patrols. The Camel Corps’ most famous moment was assisting Lawrence of Arabia to capture Jerusalem in the rebellion of 1916-18, although the damper weather meant many animals became victims of sarcoptic mange. The majority of the Infantry were Australian, some of whom were already experienced camel jockeys. The corps were so successful that they were expanded from four to eighteen companies. Six companies were formed from British Cavalry, two from New Zealand Cavalry. The corps were reorganised into four large battalions to fight the Turks, assisted by an artillery unit from Hong Kong and Singapore.

Always look after your camel …

A World War One Anzac Australian Camel Corps soldier giving his camel a drink of water from a chattu vase, 1916. You can find more images here and here.

By the end of the war 346 of their formation had died in action. The reality of the ultimate sacrifice, the names behind the numbers …

The nearby York Watergate is almost 400 years old. It was built in 1626 in the grounds of York House as a mooring point for the Duke of Buckingham’s boat or the boats of guests. As a result of the building of the Embankment, the river is now over 150 yards away …

The watergate around 1850 …

More flowers – couldn’t resist taking pics …

And now to more recent conflicts. These memorials are located at the far west end of the gardens near Westminster Underground Station.

The Korean War

Iraq and Afghanistan …

‘The boldest measures are the safest’ – The Chindit Memorial

The Fleet Air Arm

And finally, Queen Boudicca and her daughters tower over the tourists …

Wasn’t I clever to catch that seagull in flight!

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All Hallows by the Tower – an absolute treasure trove.

One of the aspects of this church that impresses me most is how it was reconstructed after direct hits by bombs during the Blitz.

The interior today …

The church was bombed on two occasions during the Blitz: first the east end was badly damaged by a bomb in December 1940, and three weeks later the whole building was gutted by incendiary bombs, leaving only the tower and outer walls standing. This photo from the 1947 publication The Lost Treasures of London by William Kent shows the devastation …

All Hallows by the Tower

Here it is last week on a wet and windy day looking from the east …

Before entering the church from this direction I suggest a short diversion.

On Tower Hill Terrace you will find this pretty sculpture. It’s called The Sea and incorporates a tribute to Sir Follett Holt, KBE, the first Chairman of the Tower Hill Improvement Trust, who died 20th March 1944 …

It is one of two gate posts – this is its partner …

The PMSA says ‘Each of these groups comprises two children with dolphins swimming around them. Their frolicking pagan style contrasts rather vividly with the relief of the Toc H Lamp, also by Cecil Thomas, on the east wall of All Hallows behind them’

The Toc H relief …

I walked down the little path alongside the west wall of the church …

Embedded in the wall was this memorial to Samuel Gittens MD. It has three little cherubs heads and refers to his parents ‘Samuel and Mary Gittens of Barbados’ …

Alongside the north wall is the ‘Secret Garden’ …

It is such a shame that, even though the church is right alongside the Tower of London, it doesn’t seem to get many visitors. Do visit if you have the opportunity.

Here are just a few of its treasures.

This is the tomb of the Reverend ‘Tubby’ Clayton CH MC who became vicar of the Church in 1922 and remained there until 1963. He is best known for his work initially as an army chaplain during the First World War and in particular the establishment of Talbot House, a unique place of rest and sanctuary for British troops. After the war the spirit and intent of Talbot House became expressed through the Toc H movement …

His effigy is one of the last works by Cecil Thomas, the ‘soldier sculptor’, and Tubby’s dog Chippie sits on a tassellated cushion at his feet …

Clayton owned a succession of Scottish Terriers, one of them a gift from the Queen Mother. All of them were called Chippie.

Another work by Thomas, the Forster Memorial …

The magnificent font cover is by Grinling Gibbons and dates from 1682 …

The present pulpit dates from around 1670 and is carved in the Gibbons style. It comes from the church of St Swithun’s, London Stone, which was destroyed by bombing and not rebuilt …

Above it is the tester, or sounding board, designed to represent three pilgrim shells associated with the pilgrimage of St James Compostella in Spain.

All Hallows is known as the seafarer’s church with strong connections to the Port of London Authority and to maritime history generally.

Mariners lost at sea with no known grave …

The stained glass windows, especially in the south aisle, also bear witness to the church’s close association with the sea and the river Thames …

There are also, as you might expect, some superb model ships …

And what about this, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s electrically heated crow’s nest from the ‘Good Ship Quest’ on which he died on 5 January 1922 while in harbour in South Georgia …

The man climbing to the crow’s nest in the picture is Frank Wild. He took over the leadership of the expedition after Shackleton died.

This picture was taken on the Nimrod Expedition (1907-1909). Wild is on the far left next to Shackleton. The other two men are Eric Marshall and Jameson Adams

The 16th century monument to the Italian merchant Hieronimus Benalius who lived in nearby Seething Lane and died in 1583. He left instructions for Masses to be said for his soul …

This wall monument contains the kneeling effigies of Francis Covell and his wife, each in long robes and with ruffs at the necks. They kneel facing one another, and probably originally had a desk between them which has disappeared …

In the Lady Chapel is the tomb of Alderman John Croke from 1477. It was destroyed during the war, but rebuilt and restored from the remaining fragments …

This is the formidable pillar monument to Giles Lytcott and his family …

The lower inscription …

Ten children but only three living at the time of the mother’s death. It didn’t matter how rich you were, child mortality was high.

You can read the full insciption here. Intriguingly it refers to an ancestor ‘poisoned in the Tower’.

A niche in the wall holds a 17th century wooden statue of St. Antony of Egypt …

There are several fine 18th century sword rests …

How fantastic that this brass from 1612 has survived to tell a sad story …

Here lyeth the bodie of Marie Bvrnell late wife of Iohn Bvrnell Citizen & marchant of Lon don ye only davghter of Mathew Brownrigg of Ipswich in ye covntye of Svffolk Esq. A woman Syncerely lyvinge in ye feare of god & dyinge con stantly in ye fayth of Christ Ihesvs she departed this lyfe ye 5 daye of Aprill 1612 beinge of yf age of 20 years havinge fynished in wedlock wth her sayd hvsband to yeafes & v moneths & bear ing him Issve one sone whereof she dyed in child bed & expecteth now wth ye Elect of god a Ioyfvll
resvrrection

Poor Marie. So typical of the time, a young woman dying in childbirth.

And now down to the crypt museum. A subject for a future blog …

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‘Unravel’ at the Barbican – an extraordinary experience.

Until 26th May 2024, Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art shines a light on artists from the 1960s to today who have explored the transformative and subversive potential of textiles, harnessing the medium to ask charged questions about power: who holds it, and how can it be challenged and reclaimed? Spanning intimate hand-crafted pieces to large-scale sculptural installations, this major exhibition brings together over 100 artworks by 50 international practitioners. Drawn to the tactile processes of stitching, weaving, braiding, beading and knotting, these artists have embraced fibre and thread to tell stories that challenge power structures, transgress boundaries and reimagine the world around them.

This review summed it up nicely for me -‘hybrid, heterodox, filled with strangeness and anger and beauty and horror, Unravel at the Barbican is often gorgeously excessive, at other moments quiet and private, not giving up its secrets until you linger’.

An extraordinary experience – not at all what I expected and highly recommended. I really wanted to ignore the ‘Do Not Touch’ signs!

Here are some of the images I took when I visited last Saturday.

Views from the upstairs gallery …

Yinka Shonibare’s figurative sculpture Boy On A Globe uses his signature Dutch Wax fabrics to address race, class and the legacy of imperialism by reflecting on colonial trade and the entangled economic histories embedded within fabrics …

The work of Małgorzata Mirga-Tas representing Roma people …

Family Treasues by Sheila Hicks

Faith Ringgold tells her life story in a quilt …

Hannah Ryggen’s Blut im Gras (Blood in the grass), 1966, protests against the US war in Vietnam. The then-US president Lyndon B. Johnson is depicted here nonchalantly wearing a cowboy hat …

Arch of Hysteria by Louise Bourgeois uses a textile doll or model to convey a psychic experience of pain …

Myrlande Constant’s tapestries are drawn from Haitian Vodou traditions, her father was a Vodou priest …

Tau Lewis uses recycled fabrics and seashells in The Coral Reef Preservation Society, partly in homage to enslaved people who lost their lives in the Middle Passage, a stage of the Atlantic slave trade …

These larger-than-life, deity-like macramé sculptures by Mrinalini Mukherjee surge up from the ground as though organic beings. Drawing on nature and myriad artistic references, their knotted, rippling forms confound expectations of textiles as two-dimensional …

Sarah Zapata’s work embraces her identity as a Peruvian American – two cultures in which textiles are integral …

Solange Pessoa’s work, Hammock, was created in response to the land of Minas Gerais, Brazil, where she grew up. Textiles, in the form of rags and canvas, act as a carrier for living and decaying matter …

Tracey Emin is here too with a hard hitting work, No chance – WHAT A YEAR, about being raped when she was a thirteen-year-old girl (Content trigger warning) …

Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art runs until 26th May 2024.

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My Easter Sunday – signs of Spring. Plus some rather aggressive doors.

The first bit of good news is that Mrs Coot is now firmly esconced on her Barbican Lake nest – a sight that always cheers me up …

This picture was taken from Gilbert Bridge.

The City Gardeners’ hard work is coming to fruition on London Wall and elsewhere in the City …

At the roundabout …

St Mary Aldermanbury and Love Lane…

Opposite St Paul’s Underground Station …

The little pond outside St Lawrence Jewry has been refurbished as has the west front of the church and its spire …

All that’s needed now are some fish.

The little garden at St Vedast Foster Lane …

In Postman’s Park …

Commercial enterprises also make a contribution to brightening up the City …

On Gresham Street …

I have to particularly congratulate the owners and tenants of 88 Wood Street who take planting seriously, both outside …

… and inside …

So, rather cleverly, it’s difficult to tell where the border between the two is.

A few images from around the Barbican …

The entrance to the Andrewes House car park is a welcoming sight!

Earlier this week you may have noticed the abseilers at work on the Lakeside Terrace …

The completed exercise …

It’s a work called Purple Hibiscus by Ibrahim Mahama and you can read more about it here.

And finally.

You may remember that, a little while ago on 29th February, I wrote about notices that I had come across that I thought were interesting. Well, I have been keeping my eyes open and come across two more. I can only describe them as ‘doors with attitude’!

This warning couldn’t be clearer (although masochists may ignore it) …

And I was really scared to touch this one …

Is it electrified?

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A visit to the wonderful Two Temple Place.

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to visit this extraordinary building but the wait was certainly worth it. And entry is free!

You know you’re in for a treat when, at the entrance, you encounter these charming cherubs chatting to one another over a late 19th century telephone …

The way in …

Two Temple Place is ‘a dazzling neo-Gothic gem’ on Victoria Embankment …

Then the richest man in the world, William Waldorf Astor emigrated to England from America in 1891 and he spared no expense when work began on Two Temple Place in 1892. It was designed by one of the foremost neo-Gothic architects of the late nineteenth-century, John Loughborough Pearson, and served as an impregnable bolthole with the eccentric Astor’s private apartment and bedroom upstairs. Its main purpose, however, was to accomodate the people managing Astor’s vast estate.

The man himself …

If you love stained glass as much as I do this must be on your list to visit. Here are just a few of the many images I took as I walked around. I haven’t included captions since the ones at the venue are so detailed this blog would be far too long. So I hope these pictures are good enough to encourage you to visit in person …

At the bottom of the stunning staircase you encounter D’Artagnan …

And further up, Athos …

More breathtaking glass awaits you upstairs …

In the foreground is a modern piece from a special exhibition that is also resident at Temple Place for the time being …

Entitled ‘The Glass Heart’, the guide tells us that ‘this bold new exploration of glass in the UK brings together for the very first time rarely seen works from key UK collections, celebrating this remarkable material – unforgiving, fragile, strong, sustainable. The Glass Heart will make you think again about glass as we explore how it has illuminated and contained human narratives and ideas’.

Here are a few images from this exciting and unusual exhibition …

Well written and beautifully illustrated, at £10 the guide book is fantastic value for money and a great memento of your visit …

Two Temple Place is a truly magnificent one-off. Make sure you check on the website for opening times before you visit since these can vary : https://twotempleplace.org/

If glass is your passion, don’t forget you can watch the creative process in action at the London Glassblowing Gallery

The items for sale there may change forever your perception of what glass can do and the way it can influence the way we see the world – a fantastic place to visit …

There are glass hearts like these in the Temple Place exhibition. If you visit see if you can spot them …

I enjoyed that glass of Rosé as well!

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A stunning dome, a dancing skeleton and a famous telephone. Another visit to St Stephen Walbrook.

The modest entrance to this church is so deceptive …

Nothing prepares you, as you climb the 13 steps, for what you will shortly encounter when you enter …

The majestic space within…

The dome is Wren’s finest and based on his original design for St Paul’s …

Wren lived at number 15 Walbrook and took special care in rebuilding this, his parish church, between 1672 and 1679, after the previous 15th century church was destroyed in the Great Fire. By the 18th century, the building was world famous, the Italian sculptor/architect Antonio Canova declaring, ‘We have nothing to touch it in Rome.’ And the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner lists it as one of the ten most important buildings in all of England.

Before considering the church as it looks now, you might be interested in its layout before the box pews were removed in 1888. This image, held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and dated 1809, shows a service in progress with figures in the pews listening to a minister in a pulpit to the right of the altar …

In 1987 the church was rearranged around a central, circular, polished stone altar, made of travartine marble by the famed sculptor Henry Moore. Patrick Heron (1920-1999) was one of Britain’s foremost abstract painters and he designed the colourful kneelers …

The idea was that the community would gather around it and for its central position to represent how the Gospel was central to their lives. 

It went against the Christian tradition of having the altar at the Eastern end of the church and so naturally there was huge opposition to idea from some. The case ended up being taken to the Ecclesiastical courts where it was found to be acceptable. 

The pulpit and font cover are attributed to the carpenters Thomas Creecher and Stephen Colledge, and the carvers William Newman and Jonathan Maine …

Look back towards the entrance to the church to see the rather magnificent organ case above the door. This dates from 1765 …

I took a prowl around the monuments and was stopped in my tracks by this one to John Lilburne (d.1678), citizen and grocer, of the Lilburn family of Sunderland, and his wife Isabella. It’s the earliest monument in the Church …

I love the little standing figures of the couple, he with cloak and long flowing hair above a tunic, with big cuffs and slender shoes, she a slim figure with long, flaring skirt, puffed out bodice and drapes over and behind her head. A charming pose with her arms crossed in front of her.

But what really caught my eye was the memento mori, a sculpture of a woman dancing with Death, who is a skeleton wearing a long skirt …

Then there’s George Alfred Croly of the Bengal Light Infantry who fell ‘gloriously by a cannon shot’ in the ‘assault on the entrenched camp of the sikhs’ in 1845, aged only 23 …

Robert Marriott’s splendid memorial …

Robert Marriott was Rector from 1662 until he died in 1689 aged 81
years. His monument in Latin describes him as ‘Professor of theology
and the watchful pastor of this Church. A man as a preacher so truly
Divine that by his preaching he at once charmed and convinced his
hearers. A man in whose character old time integrity was so tempered
with a sweetness that he made simplicity loveable. A man of so
spotless a life that his own example confirmed and recommended what
his lips taught.’ Praise indeed.

A long, rather touching inscription for Sir Samuel Moyer …

Many memorials of the time provide an insight into the dreadful child mortality rates of earlier centuries, even for those who were affluent. The tablet states that Samuel Moyer was a Baronet. He must have had money as the tablet states the family spent the summer at their home at Pitsey Hall in Essex and the winters in the parish of St Stephen Walbrook.

A Baronet who could afford homes in Essex and London still suffered numerous child deaths. Of their eleven children, eight died in their minority, with only three daughters surviving to “lament with their sorrowful mother, the great loss of so indulgent a father”.

The bust of Percivall Gilbourne …

Described in the excellent Bob Speel website as follows: ‘A short Latin inscription on a panel with a colourful marble surround … We see a noble bewigged head of an ageing man, firm of countenance and strong of neck, but with something of a jowl, above shoulders and chest wearing a drape rather than contemporary clothing’.

I make no apology for writing again about this brave man ..

Nathaniel Hodges was a 36-year-old doctor practising in London when the terrible plague of 1665 reached the City. Its arrival prompted a flight from London and, Hodges recalled later, this included four-fifths of the College of Physicians. The City was awash, he said, with ‘Chymists’ and ‘Quacks’ dispensing, as he put it: ‘… medicines that were more fatal than the plague and added to the numbers of the dead.’

Dr Hodges decided to stay and minister to his patients and first thing every morning before breakfast he spent two or three hours with them. He wrote later …

Some (had) ulcers yet uncured and others … under the first symptoms of seizure all of which I endeavoured to dispatch with all possible care …

hardly any children escaped; and it was not uncommon to see an Inheritance pass successively to three or four Heirs in as many Days.

After hours of visiting victims where they lived he walked home and, after dinner, saw more patients until nine at night and sometimes later.

He survived the epidemic and wrote two learned works on the plague. The first, in 1666, he called An Account of the first Rise, Progress, Symptoms and Cure of the Plague being a Letter from Dr Hodges to a Person of Quality. The second was Loimologia, published six years later …

A later edition of Dr Hodges’ work, translated from the original Latin and published when the plague had broken out in France.

It seems particularly sad to report that his life ended in personal tragedy when, in his early fifties, his practice dwindled and fell away. Finally he was arrested as a debtor, committed to Ludgate Prison, and died there, a broken man, in 1688.

The Latin on his memorial translates as follows:

Learn to number thy days, for age advances with furtive step, the shadow never truly rests. Seeking mortals, born that they might succumb, the executioner comes from behind. While you breathe you are a victim of death; you know not the hour in which your fate will call you. While you look at monuments, time passes irrevocably. In this tomb is laid the physician Nathaniel Hodges in the hope of heaven; now a son of earth, who was once a son of Oxford. May you survive the plague by his writings. Born 13 September AD 1629 Died 10 June 1688.

There are two glass display cases in the church.

This model allows the overall design of the church to be appreciated, not easy when viewed from outside …

For example. this is the view from the south …

Inside in another glass case you’ll see this famous phone …

You can read more about it and Dr Varah in my April 2018 blog.

As you leave and walk down the steps, look to your left and you will see a modern mosaic of St Stephen …

I would like to finish with a quotation that I particularly like from the church’s own publication setting out its history.

Wren considered geometry to be the basis of the whole world and the manifestation of its Creator, while light not only made that geometry visible but also represented the gift of Reason, of which geometry was for him the highest expression. Like the solution to a mathematical problem, everything fits into place with apparent simplicity; yet this simplicity itself is mysterious and magical. Whether one experiences St. Stephen’s alone, in stillness and quiet, or in a full congregation resounding with music, the effect is always the same. Life outside is complicated and chaotic. To enter is not to escape into fantasy; rather is it to submit to the strongest positive assertion of the true order of the universe.

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My favourite London scenes from the Guildhall Art Gallery (and the return of a popular masterpiece).

Regular readers will know that I love the Guildhall Art Gallery! It describes itself as one of the City’s best kept secrets and that certainly seems to be true since when I visit I often feel like I almost have the place to myself.

This week I popped in to see what was on display with particular reference to London. My usual favourites were there along with some interesting new additions.

Among the new arrivals was this painting by Doreen Fletcher (b.1952) 0f the Carlyle Hotel, Bayswater, around 1981 …

I think her paintings are fabulous and I am the proud owner of a signed copy of a book about her work published by The Gentle Author. I also own two of her prints, Still Standing – Commercial Road

And Hot Dog Stand, Mile End

You can read more about her here and here. The book I own is now out of print but you may be lucky and find a copy on eBay.

Another new arrival at the Gallery is this work by Grete Marks (1899-1990) entitled London Wharves (1972) …

I really like the textures of the material she has incorporated …

Margarete or Grete Marks was born in Cologne, Germany, where she studied at the School of Arts and later at Dusseldorf Academy before entering the Bauhaus School of Arts in Weimar in November 1920. At this time the Bauhaus was in its first incarnation under Walter Gropius and enjoyed enormous influence over the fine and decorative arts throughout Europe.

A painting by Sharon Beavan (b.1956) entitled View from Rotherfield Street to the Barbican (1989) …

I really get a sense of the higgledy piggledy that is London. You can read more about Sharon here.

Another newcomer I like is this oil on canvas Camberwell Flats by Night (1983) by David Hepher (b.1935) …


Hepher first started painting South East London’s high-rise architecture in the 1970s, inspired by the scale and impact of the tower blocks on the London skyline. Camberwell Flats by Night reflects Hepher’s sustained focus on residential architecture, and the details of ordinary, everyday life. He refers to his architecturally-themed works as landscape paintings, equating the powerful effects of the built environment on human experience to those of the natural world. He has said, “I think of myself as a landscape painter; I live in the city, so I paint the urban landscape.”

The Gallery acquired the painting in 2022 and it required some conservation. You can read about what that entailed here.

I looked up a few old favourites as well.

Two examples of City pomp and ceremony.

First, The Ceremony of Administering the Mayoralty Oath to Nathaniel Newnham, 8 November 1782. Nathaniel Newnham (before a sugar-baker and a founder of the private bank of Newnham) became Lord Mayor in 1782 and is seen here in his black and gold state robe being admitted in Guildhall on November 8 in the Silent Ceremony …

He faces William Bishop, the Common Cryer, who holds the book from which he reads his Oath with William Rix, the Town Clerk; behind stands Heron Powney, the Sword Bearer with the upraised Sword of State and beside him is William Montague, the Clerk of the Chamber of London …

The two small boys at the bottom right are nephews of the Lord Mayor …

The other is one of my favourites, William Logsdail’s painting entitled The Ninth of November 1888

Although it’s the Lord Mayor’s procession 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 next to him a little boy is 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.

Naughty boy!

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.

A view of Blackfriars Bridge and the City from Lambeth about 1762 by William Marlow (1740-1813) who was, as can be seen, very influenced by Canaletto. The City’s wharves are viewed through the Portland Stone elliptical arches while St Paul’s stands out in the background. At the north end are the buildings of New Bridge Street and the spire of St Martin Ludgate. In the centre of the picture, a wherry conveys passengers and their belongings downriver …

The demolition of old London Bridge increased the flow of the river under Blackfriars Bridge, weakening it. It therefore had to be replaced with the current iron and granite bridge built between 1860 and 1869.

The Thames and Southwark Bridge in 1884 by John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893) are represented here on a quiet night under the moonlight. St. Paul’s prominent dome is seen on the right side, along with the spires of St Augustine, St Mary-le-Bow and St Antholin. A few vessels are in the dark on the left. The river and the sky are open pathways for the flood of light …

John Atkinson Grimshaw began working as a railway clerk for Great Northern Railway and had no formal training. Despite parental opposition, he took up painting at the age of twenty-five. In the 1880s, he began to paint London views, concentrating on moonlight subjects. From 1885 to 1887 Grimshaw had a studio at Trafalgar Studios, Manresa Road, Chelsea and knew Whistler well. It is said that Whistler confessed he had regarded himself as the inventor of nocturnes until he saw Atkinson Grimshaw’s ‘moonlights’.

The Monument from Gracechurch Street after Canaletto (artist unknown). We are looking towards Fish Street Hill and old London Bridge, with the Church of St. Magnus the Martyr in the background. Many reproductions were made after Giovanni Antonio Canal, who was colloquially known as Canaletto. These were in high demand after various British nobles and even King George III started collecting them …

This painting shows the wide thoroughfares of eighteenth century London and the bustle of the city. The Monument, designed by Dr Robert Hooke and the architect Christopher Wren, was erected between 1671 and 1677 to commemorate the fire and the rebuilding of the City.

Finally, if you visit the Gallery now you will see a notice about the Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch …

and the nearby garden …

It’s really nice to see some green space in the Guildhall courtyard …

And art by the children of serving families …

As the notice says, the painted dolls at the front of the garden represent unity and love for children everywhere who are suffering in times of conflict …

Oh, and by the way, one of Gallery’s most popular paintings is back on display after being featured in Tate Britain’s ‘The Rossettis’ exhibitions in London and the Delaware Art Museum. Described by the Pre-Raphaelite artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti as “my very best picture”, ‘La Ghirlandata’ was acquired by the City of London Corporation in 1927 for its permanent art collection and is displayed in the gallery’s main Victorian exhibition space …

The 1873 oil on canvas depicts ‘the garlanded woman’ playing an arpanetta and looking directly at the viewer. The artist’s muse for the central figure was the actor and model, Alexa Wilding, with two ‘angels’ in the top corners posed by William and Jane Morris’ youngest daughter, May Morris.

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Famous monarchs with City connections.

What better place and person to start with than the Tower of London and William I (a.k.a ‘The Conqueror’ and ‘The Bastard’).

As everyone knows, he invaded England and defeated King Harold at the battle of Hastings in 1066. His reign is primarily remembered for the compilation of the Domesday Book in 1086 and for the building of many castles.

The castle which later became known as the Tower of London was begun in 1066 and was originally a timber fortification enclosed by a palisade. In the next decade work began on the White Tower, the great stone keep that still dominates the castle today …

William was keen to keep the City of London placated and not to disrupt commerce. In order to do this, after his coronation but before he entered the City, he issued the William Charter.

Written on vellum (parchment) in Old English, it measures just six inches by one-and-a-half inches …

Translated into modern English, the Charter reads as follows:

‘William the king, friendly salutes William the bishop and Godfrey the portreeve and all the burgesses within London both French and English. And I declare that I grant you to be all law-worthy, as you were in the days of King Edward; And I grant that every child shall be his father’s heir, after his father’s days; And I will not suffer any person to do you wrong; God keep you.’

City of London historians point out that one of the citizens’ primary concerns, as expressed by the words – “And I grant that every child shall be his father’s heir, after his father’s days” – was to ensure that their property handed down to the son and heir, rather than attracting the interest of the Crown.

Here he is as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry …

There are two main accounts of his death in 1087. While some vaguely state that he became ill on the battlefield, collapsing through heat and the effort of fighting, William of Malmesbury added the gruesome detail that William’s belly protruded so much that he was mortally wounded when he was thrown onto the pommel of his saddle. Since the wooden pommels of medieval saddles were high and hard, and often reinforced with metal, William of Malmesbury’s suggestion is a plausible one. There’s a witty article about William’s demise here in the journal Historic UK.

William was followed as king by his third son, also called William but commonly called Rufus because of his ruddy complexion and red hair. The gossipy William of Malmsbury hinted that the King was homosexual since he surrounded himself with young men who ‘rival young women in delicacy’. Here he is as illustrated in the miniature from Historia Anglorum, c. 1253 …

Whilst hunting in the New Forest on 2 August 1100 he was accidentally killed by an arrow from one of his own men …

A relic of Rufus’s time is the crypt of St Mary-le-Bow which I wrote about a few weeks ago. I wonder if any of Rufus’s ‘delicate’ young men ever walked down these beautifully worn steps …

You will find some very interesting history and more images in the crypt Conservation and Management Plan of 2007.

William II was followed on the throne by his youngest brother, Henry. He was crowned three days after his brother’s death (3rd August 1100) against the possibility that his eldest brother Robert might claim the English throne on his imminent return from the Crusade. His life was blighted in 1120 when the ‘White Ship’ bearing both his sons sank in the channel. This is a 13th century depiction of the tragic event …

Subsequently he made his barons swear to accept his daughter, Matilda, as his heir. Henry died on 2nd December 1135 from ‘a surfeit of lampreys’ – probably food poisoning.

For a sense of Henry’s time, make a visit to the church of St Bartholomew the Great.

St Bartholomew’s was established by Rahere, a courtier and favourite of the king. It is thought that it was the death of the Henry’s wife, Matilda, followed two years later by the White Ship drownings, that prompted Rahere to renounce his profession for a more worthy life and make his pilgrimage to Rome.

In Rome, like many pilgrims, he fell ill. As he lay delirious he prayed for his life vowing that, if he survived, he would set up a hospital for the poor in London. His prayers were answered and he recovered. As he turned for home the vision of Saint Bartholomew appeared to him and said “I am Bartholomew who have come to help thee in thy straights. I have chosen a spot in a suburb of London at Smoothfield where, in my name, thou shalt found a church.”

True to his word Rahere set up both a church, a priory of Augustinian canons, and the hospital. He lived to see their completion – indeed he served as both prior of the priory and master of the hospital – and it is possible that he was nursed at Barts before his death in 1145. His tomb lies in the church.

He wears the habit of an Augustinian canon and the angel carries a shield with the arms of the priory.

You get a nice view of the flint and Portland Stone western facade of the church from the raised churchyard. An old barrel tomb rests in the foreground …

Bear in mind that the original church was vast and also covered the area now occupied by the graveyard and the path. This used to be the nave, as illustrated in this plan on display in the church …

Stepping into the church seems to transport you to another time and place …

The patchworked exterior gives no hint of the stunning Romanesque interior, with its characteristic round arches and sturdy pillars. It’s a rare sight in London; indeed, this is reckoned to be the best preserved and finest Romanesque church interior in the City. I visited it back in 2020 and you can read the blog here.

Nearby is this impressive statue of Henry VIII over the main entrance to St Bartholomew’s hospital, the only outdoor statue of the king in London. If you have seen and admired the famous Holbein portrait, the king’s pose here is very familiar. He stands firmly and sternly with his legs apart, one hand on his dagger, the other holding a sceptre. He also sports an impressive codpiece …

Bart’s, as it became known affectionately, was put seriously at risk in 1534, when Henry VIII commenced the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The nearby priory of St Bartholomew was suppressed in 1539 and the hospital would have followed had not the City fathers petitioned the king and asked for it to be granted back to the City. Their motives were not entirely altruistic. The hospital, they said, was needed to help:

the myserable people lyeing in the streete, offendyng every clene person passyng by the way with theyre fylthye and nastye savors.

Henry finally agreed in December 1546 on condition that the refounded hospital was renamed ‘House of the poore on West Smithfield in the suburbs of the City of London, of King Henry’s foundation’. I suspect people still tended to call it Bart’s.

You can see the agreement document, along with Henry’s signature, in the hospital museum

It also bears Henry’s seal, the king charging into battle on horseback accompanied by a dog …

The King finally got full public recognition when the gatehouse was rebuilt in 1702 and his statue was placed where we still see it today. The work was undertaken and overseen by the mason John Strong, who was at the same time working for Sir Christopher Wren on St Paul’s Cathedral. Such were the masons’ talents, no architectural plans were needed to complete the work.

And finally, poor Queen Anne, whose statue stands outside St Paul’s Cathedral.

Wearing a golden crown, she has the Order of St George around her neck, a sceptre in her right hand and the orb in her left.

She was close to the architect, the brilliant Christopher Wren, who wrote to her to ask her to help when his salary was being witheld and his work obstructed …

The letter is held in the National Archives SP34/29 f 133.

It’s difficult not to feel sorry for Anne. Her personal life was marked by the tragedy of losing 18 children (including twins) through miscarriage, stillbirth and early death. Two of her daughters, Mary and Anne Sophia, died within days of each other, both aged under two years, of smallpox in 1687.

Anne was 37 years old when she became queen in 1702. At her coronation she was suffering from a bad attack of gout and had to be carried to the ceremony in an open sedan chair with a low back so that her six-yard train could pass to her ladies walking behind. Her medical conditions made her life very sedentary and she gradually put on a lot of weight. She died after suffering a stroke on Sunday 1st August 1714 at the age of 49. You can read much more about her in my blog Queen Anne – tales of tragedy, love and vandalism.

For a glimpse of the architecture of her time there are no finer City examples than 1 and 2 Laurence Pountney Hill …

They were built in 1703 as a pair of red brick, four-storey houses, on the site of a single post-fire house. They are considered to be finest surviving houses of this period in the City with elaborately carved foliage friezes around the doors and cornice above and ornate shell-hoods over the doorways.  The virtuosity of the woodwork is explained by the fact that the houses were built by a master carpenter, Thomas Denning. He had worked on Wren’s church of St Michael Paternoster Royal nearby and would later contribute to Hawksmoor’s St Mary Woolnoth. Like other ambitious craftsmen, Denning branched out into the cut throat world of speculative building. At Laurence Pountney Hill he appealed to the market by ingeniously contriving two basements beneath the houses. This created an abundance of storage space that would be attractive to the London merchants, whose houses doubled as business premises. Denning’s speculation paid off; on 15 July 1704 he sold both houses to Mr John Harris for £3,190, a tidy sum.

The delightful doorway hoods. Look closely – the cherubs on the right are playing bowls!

Here is a close-up (you may have to concentrate – they are not always obvious) …

The date is still visible despite years of over-painting …

The buildings in 1905 with the door to number 1 open revealing the lovely original curved staircase …

There are other fine architectural examples of the period in the very appropriately named Queen Anne’s Gate in Westminster …

The lady herself has a statue there …

When I worked nearby I was told that, at midnight on her birthday, she would step off her plinth and promenade along the street inspecting the houses. The statue has an interesting history which you can read about here.

There is also a fascinating description of the street’s cannopies and carvings in the excellent London Inheritance blog.

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Bunhill Birds, being told to ‘be quiet’ politely and other information curiosities. And ducks – lots of ducks.

For some reason lately I have been more aware of notices, signs, plaques and other sources of information. I’m usually a bit fixated on the next week’s blog but every now and then a piece of displayed information catches my eye and I take an image of it. So here’s a selection – I hope you find them interesting.

Bunhill Burial Ground is one of the places I love to walk through and indulge in a bit of quiet contemplation. It’s also a haven for bird wildlife as this informative notice shows …

The sighting of ring-necked parakeets is a bit ominous!

A polite way of telling customers to keep the noise down …

This pop up garden has really thrived …

I know at least four people who have had their bike stolen despite them having a locking device. There’s an extraordinary range of bike-stealing methods which you can read more about here if you’re interested. I was prompted to include a comment here because of this friendly warning posted outside the garden …

Around the City there are a number of signs for various City walks. You can do the old City Gates

Or follow the route of the original Roman and Medieval Wall

Here’s my favourite front door just off Whitecross Street …

Everything about it, for example paint colour and style of lettering, just seems so reminiscent of the 1970s. My theory is that people kept knocking on the door because they couldn’t see the bell so the owner fixed the problem with a painterly flourish.

In Whitecross Street itself is this spoof blue plaque erected by the ‘British Hedonists’ and ‘Mad in England’ …

The prison was capable of holding up to 500 prisoners and Wyld’s map of London produced during the 1790s shows how extensive the premises were …

Here is a view of the inside of the prison with probably more well off people meeting and promenading quite normally …

‘Inside the Debtors’ Prison, Whitecross Street, London’ by an unknown artist : City of London Corporation, Guildhall Art Gallery.

You can read more about it, and debtors’ prisons generally, in my blog Mansions of Misery.

This sign in Errol Street made me stop and think …

Nearby is the new YMCA. It seems like a fun place, I liked the colourful signage in the window …

The old multi-storey Whitbread stables in Garrett Street …


Read all about them in my blog Horses and Ale – the end of two eras.

A 17th century ‘price list’ at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate …

Everyone has probably heard of the Blitz and the carnage brought about by German bombing during the Second World War but it’s sometimes forgotten that aerial attacks on civilians were also a terrifying feature of World War 1. A plaque in Central Street commemorates the action of a brave man …

You will also find him on the Watts Mamorial …

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. I have written about him, and other brave officers, in my blog The brave policemen of Postman’s Park.

Proud boast by an Australian removal man …

In case you are wondering, a redback is a highly venomous Australian spider. What an informative blog this is!

What to watch out for …

An old shopfront with very old ads – once upon a time I smoked No.6 fags – really cheap if rather small!

The Players No6 brand, introduced in 1965, was Britain’s best selling cigarette brand for most of the 70s. Player’s advertising claimed it was ‘Part of the British Scene’. Packaging from 1965 to 1980 …

What finished the brand off wasn’t just the fact that more people were giving up smoking, it was the EU. In 1978, tobacco taxation was harmonised with the EU and cigarettes were taxed by retail price, rather than by weight of tobacco and this changed the cigarette market overnight.

Before this change small cigarettes were cheap and big ones were expensive. So King Size cigarettes were a luxury and small ones, like Player’s No 6, were popular. After the tax change, the price difference between a pack of Player’s No 6 and a pack of up-market Benson & Hedges Special Filter was almost incidental; 20 No 6 cost 52p and 20 Benson & Hedges cost 57p. Overnight sales of No 6 tumbled and in the status conscious 80s, No6 was about as popular as a pair flares and a kipper tie. The brand quietly disappeared in 1993.

An early morning visitor to my office …

What about this little chap …

He lives with his friends near the concourse at Liverpool Street station …

A duck for every occupation (and literally hundreds of other versions!) …

And now even more windows I have looked through recently …

The view from my table at the Ivy Asia restaurant …

The HYLO building on Bunhill Row has a virtual fishpond just inside the door …

The ‘fish’ move like they’re alive (it’s a bit spooky, to be honest).

Costumes and props at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama theatre on Silk Street …

I’m pleased this little tailor’s shop on Whitecross Street has survived …

A cute mini-jacket in the window …

A very big teddy!

For some reason this plaque at the Barbican Centre makes me feel a little sad …

And finally, thank you so much to those of you, my lovely subscribers, who made a donation to the Spitz Charitable Trust whom I featured on my blog last week. My friends at Spitz have been really thrilled by your generosity, which will go towards the life-enhancing services they provide. If you didn’t get a chance to read last week’s blog, this is a charity which brings live music to folk who may be feeling isolated or are experienceing dementia. Not just the elderly, but also young people in hospitals like Great Ormond Street who may be spending much of their life receiving care. All charities are having tough times at the moment so do, please, see if you can make a contribution, however modest, to help them in their work. Click here for their crowdfunding page and to find out more about them.

I also think that you might find the interview that Jane Glitre, Spitz’s founder, gave to Robert Elms on Radio London interesting. It’s only 11 minutes long and has a lovely song at the end! Here’s the link.

Remember you can follow me on Instagram …

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

Why WFH when you can WFC?

WFC? Working From Church, of course!

Forever trying to move with the times, some of the City churches have adapted brilliantly to take advantage of new technology which allows people to work virtually anywhere. This has also enabled me to indulge two of my main passions – churches and their history and cake.

St Nicholas Cole Abbey was the first church to be rebuilt by Wren after the Great Fire (1672-78). You can see one of its most interesting features before you actually go in the door. The beautiful galleon weathevane came from St Michael Queenhithe, another Wren church, demolished in 1876 under the Union of Benefices Act 1860 …

The view from the south side of Queen Victoria Street …

The interior is spacious and light …

My orange and cranberry cake was delicious and tasted home-made. The tea was good too (£6.70 in total – well, it is the City!) …

A striking ‘wall’ of innovative, modern glass depicts Christ’s Kingdom Spreading throughout the World (1962). Abstract elements connect all three windows with details of landscapes from across the globe at their base. Igloos, tepees and skyscrapers for the Americas, towers and domes for Europe, and minarets and domes for Africa and Asia …

The maker was Keith New (1926-2012), a pioneering British modernist stained glass artist. His career was launched by the 1952 Royal College of Art commission to design the windows for Coventry Cathedral.

On the way to the loo you encounter some old grave markers that have been re-sited on the floor ..

Somerset Place was a very posh address in the 18oos – no wonder Mrs Stewart wanted it on her gravestone.

Onward to St Mary Aldermary and its witty advertising board …