Walking the City of London

Author: The City Gent Page 1 of 11

Fun at the Whitecross Street Party!

Last Saturday I knew I would be in for a treat when I saw these creatures blocking the road …

Poetry on one of the performance stages …

Time to get creative …

Who needs brushes when a handful of paint will do!

Concentration is so important …

There were lots of places to hunker down and enjoy the day …

Learn about saving our planet whilst having fun …

The grown-ups get to work on Saturday and Sunday …

The big paintbrush is back!

New murals take shape …

Artists at work …

The day wouldn’t be complete without the bonkers balloons …

Don’t forget, there’s an exciting new installation created by my friend Natalie Robinson now set up for you to visit. The display is based on her body of work  ‘Reflection: what lies beneath – new maps’  and will be part of the Totally Thames 2021 Festival until the 30th.

You’ll find Natalie’s banners on the Thames Path at Walbrook Wharf. Here are a few images to whet your appetite …

You can find more details of her display here and its digital counterpart here

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

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

Old Street – from spinal columns to record players. A walk along Old Street.

I do enjoy a wander along Old Street – remembering as I walk that it is, as its name suggests, an ancient thoroughfare that probably even pre-dates Roman times. The earliest records of the name are Ealdestrate around 1200, Eldestrete in 1275, and le Oldestrete in 1373. In other words, it was already known as the ‘old street’ when Edward I sat on the throne.

Starting at its Shoreditch end, I always admire the street art surrounding the gigantic spinal column that graces the Osteopathy and Sports clinic …

Across the road is some ‘work’ by the notorious ’10 foot’ character (or someone impersonating him) …

According to the My London blog the guy’s real name is Samuel Moore. In 2010 he was arrested over his work and bailed, but continued to create artwork in public places. He was eventually convicted for committing over £100,000 worth of criminal damage and sent to prison for 26 months.

I love the beautiful civic building that is the old Shoreditch Town Hall …

When it opened in 1866 it was one of the grandest Vestry Halls of its time and its ambitious founders wanted the building to embody their progressive values. Until the 1960s, the Town Hall operated as the centre of local democracy and civic life in the borough and now, after a somewhat rocky time when it was seriously at risk, it is a thriving event venue and community space.

Throughout the building the motto ‘More Light, More Power’ can be seen beneath the crest of Shoreditch. This motto, together with the statue of Progress on the front of the tower, commemorates the borough’s reputation for pioneering bold ideas such as the building’s revolutionary 1897 Refuse Destructor, which generated electricity and powered street lighting in the borough. You can read more about this extraordinary invention here.

Old Street Magistrates Court was transformed into a hotel in 2016 (previous temporary visitors included Reggie and Ronnie Kray) …

Originally known as a Police Court, it dealt with a wide range of business coming under the general heading of ‘summary jurisdiction’, i.e. trial without a jury. The cases heard were largely criminal and of the less serious kind. Examples included: drunk and disorderly conduct, assault, theft, begging, possessing stolen goods, cruelty to animals, desertion from the armed forces, betting, soliciting, loitering with intent, obstructing highways, and motoring offences. Non-criminal matters included small debts concerning income tax and local rates, landlord and tenant matters, matrimonial problems and bastardy (for example, fathers of illegitimate children failing to pay maintenance). There is a fascinating account of bastardy, and its associated tragedies, in the London Lives blog.

The eastern half of the building contained a police station …

It included accommodation for a married inspector on the first floor and for 40 single men on the second and third floors. There was a kitchen and mess room along with rooms for storing, drying and brushing clothes and boots. You really could say there was a ‘police presence’ in those days.

The building in 1974 …

I paused at the Old Street roundabout to admire the Bezier Building …

Unfortunately, I can’t get out of my mind the Gentle Author’s assertion that it looks like a pair of buttocks.

I have written about the west end of the street before, but I hope readers won’t mind if I revisit a few of the buildings again.

Look up and you will see the old Salvation Army Hostel ghost sign …

‘Hostel for working men. Cheap beds and food’.

Number 116 used to be the Margolin Gramophone Company factory (the place is now called Stylus … get it?) …

They manufactured the Dansette record player – a name very familiar to us baby-boomers. During the years 1950-70 over one million were sold …

You could even buy a portable one!

Dansette production ended in December 1969, following the introduction of relatively cheap and efficient Japanese and other Far Eastern imported Hi-Fi equipment. Margolin subsequently went into liquidation.

Look out for the now de-consecrated St Luke’s church. It was designed by John James, though the obelisk spire, a most unusual feature for an Anglican church, the west tower and the flanking staircase wings were by Nicholas Hawksmoor

It was built between 1727-1733 to meet St Giles Without Cripplegate’s booming population.

The weathervane is actually a red-eyed dragon but for some reason locals thought it resembled a louse and nicknamed the church Lousy St Luke’s …

The church was closed in 1964 due to subsidence, but the previously derelict building has now been restored by the London Symphony Orchestra as a beautiful space for performances, rehearsals, recording and educational purposes.

William Caslon the Elder is buried in the churchyard. …

Caslon’s family grave. He died in 1766.

A typefounder, the distinction and legibility of his type secured him the patronage of the leading printers of the day in England and on the continent. His typefaces transformed English type design and first established an English national typographic style. Here is a specimen sheet of his typefaces from 1728. In its own way I think it is beautiful …

Caslon’s first workshop was in Helmet Row, next to the church. It has some Grade II listed early 19th century terraced houses, a few of which later had their ground floors converted into shops …

At 12 Old Street is the building that once housed The Old Rodney’s Head public house …

George Brydges Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney (1718-1792) was a famous Admiral best known for his victory over the French at the Battle of the Saintes in 1782 which ended the French threat to Jamaica. The building dates from 1876 and Rodney still gazes down on Old Street …

Some commentators mistakenly attribute the likeness to Lord Nelson.

Sadly the Hat and Feathers, on the corner of Clerkenwell Road, has not reopened after a short time operating as a restaurant …

British History Online tells us that the building dates from 1860 and the facade – ‘gay without being crude’ – is decorated with classical statues, urns and richly ornate capitals and consoles. There are quite a few ghost pubs in the City and you can read more about them here.

I love this old photograph of tram lines being laid at the same junction …

You can find out more about Old Street and its history using the following links:

The Londonist : How old is Old Street?

The Gentle Author : Along Old Street

My earlier blog : Secrets of Old Street – who remembers the Dansette record player?

Don’t forget, there’s an exciting new installation created by my friend Natalie Robinson now set up for you to visit. The display is based on her body of work  ‘Reflection: what lies beneath – new maps’  and will be part of the Totally Thames 2021 Festival until the 30th.

You’ll find Natalie’s banners on the Thames Path at Walbrook Wharf. Here are a few images to whet your appetite …

You can find more details of her display here and its digital counterpart here

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

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

Some things that made me smile …

I know London is gradually creeping back to a feeling of normality but it still seems a bit grim on occasion, so I’d like to share with you some of the things I have seen or done over the last year that have made me smile.

As lockdown dragged on, I solved the problem of not knowing what day of the week it was. These socks, stored in the correct order, were invaluable (and still are) …

When alcohol was only allowed to be sold when accompanying a meal this was a creative approach …

Mrs Duck and her happy little family – I think most survived to adulthood this year because the seagulls (who enjoy a tasty duckling snack) seem to have gone AWOL …

The big bird of Narrow Street …

‘Herring Gull’ by Jane Ackroyd.

Slightly bonkers window display on Ludgate Hill …

A seat called The Friendly Blob in Bow Churchyard …

You can read more about it here …

Another seat from the Festival installed nearby …

I enjoyed reading this ‘correspondence’ …

Great flower display work by our car park attendants (the origins of the boxes say much about the drinking habits in our block) …

I just had to publish this again …

Sweet message left outside Waitrose …

It’s a bit disconcerting when you visit the Museum of London and see an item you once wore when it was the height of fashion …

Remind you of anyone? …

Big nose at St Pancras …

For a moment I thought this sign was aimed at a guy called Graham … duh!

Wig shop ladies …

A little bit scary, I think …

I’ve seen similar plaques all over London. But then, I suppose, a time traveller would have ‘touched down’ in numerous places …

Humour in Highgate Cemetery – Better a spectacular failure than a benign success

The final chapter

Unequivocal statement …

Pimlico Plumbers registration plates – a small collection …

A timely message from the Clerkenwell Road Chiropractic Clinic …

Another nice suggestion for these difficult times …

Finally, two important dates for your diary.

Firstly, an exciting new installation created by my friend Natalie Robinson commences this Sunday, 5th September. The display is based on her body of work  ‘Reflection: what lies beneath – new maps’  and will be part of the Totally Thames 2021 Festival until the 30th.

You can find details of her display here and its digital counterpart here.

Secondly, the wonderful Whitcross Street Party is on again – see you there!

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

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

Some mysteries, solved and unsolved … from strange street markings to wandering gravestones.

One of the best pieces of advice I was given when I began to write about the City was to continually look up and it’s true to say that I have often been surprised by what I have observed – from the Cornhill Devils to Mercer Maidens to a beautiful lighthouse on, of all places, Moorgate.

It’s also true to say, however, that looking down can be just as interesting.

Like me, you must have occasionally wondered what symbols like these painted on roads and pavements actually signify. I found this nice collection at the east end of Carter Lane …

Well, wonder no more, all the answers are here. For example …

Not surprisingly, and used in warning signs the world over, red paint denotes electricity. Thus red lines show where electricity cables run and mean that anyone digging there must do so with extreme caution.

White is like a little Post-It note for future contractors …

Blue is usually for water pipes …

Yellow refers to all things gas …

A growing hue in the pavement-marking business is green, the colour of cable communications, which includes town and city CCTV networks and cable television lines …

And finally some others in orange …

All are explained in this fascinating article entitled ‘What do those squiggles on the pavement actually mean? from which I have drawn extensively for this week’s blog.

Incidentally, whilst on Carter Lane I briefly looked up and was puzzled by the small plaque on the left of the parish boundary mark …

According to a document on the Essex Fire Brigade web site, FP stands for Fire Plug. Apparently in the early days of the fire service, and when many underground water pipes were made out of wood, firemen would dig down to the water main and bore a small, circular hole in the pipe to obtain a supply of water to fight the fire.

When finished, they would put a wooden plug into the hole, and leave an FP plate on a nearby wall to alert future firefighters that a water main with a plug already existed.

When wooden pipes were replaced by cast iron pipes in the 19th century, workmen would often bore a small hole in the pipe and fit with a wooden plug when they saw an FP plate. This would later be replaced with the Fire Hydrant method, which would be identified by a large H. Many thanks to the London Inheritance blog for this information.

Looking down can be a bit addictive and another puzzle it presented me with were these ‘V’- shaped incisions into kerb stones. I found a number of examples in EC1.

On Old Street …

Look carefully and you can see there are two of them.

And Dufferin Street …

And Roscoe Street …

Discovering what they might mean proved rather difficult and I entered a whole new world when I started my research. Look at this article entitled The World of Carvings and Stories and click on some of the useful links. I shall continue to look down and see if I encounter any more.

In last week’s blog I spoke of a mystery connected to these two gravestones in the old parish churchyard of St Ann Blackfriars in Church Entry (EC4V 5HB) …

My ‘go to’ source of information when it comes to grave markers is the estimable Percy C. Rushen who published this guide in 1910 when he noticed that memorials were disappearing at a worrying rate due to pollution and redevelopment …

So when I came across the last two stones in this graveyard with difficult to read inscriptions I did what I normally do which is to consult Percy’s book in order to see what the full dedication was.

There was, however, a snag. Neither headstone is recorded in Percy’s list for St Ann Blackfriars. Let’s look at them one by one. This is the stone for Thomas Wright …

Fortunately, the book lists people in alphabetical order and, although there isn’t a Wright recorded at St Ann’s, there is one recorded at St Peter, Paul’s Wharf. It’s definitely the same one and reads as follows :

THOMAS WRIGHT, died 29 May 1845, father of the late Mrs Mary Ann Burnet.

The inscription of another stone recorded in the same churchyard reads …

CAROLINE, wife of JAMES BURNET , died 26 July 1830, aged 36.

MARY ANN, his second wife, died 12 April1840, aged 36.

JAMES BURNET, above, died … 1842, aged …3

St Peter, Paul’s Wharf, was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and not rebuilt but obviously its churchyard was still there in 1910. And it was still there in the 1950s as this map shows. I have indicated it in the bottom right hand corner with the other pencil showing the location of Church Entry and St Ann’s burial ground …

This is the present day site of Thomas Wright’s original burial place, now Peter’s Hill and the approach to the Millennium Bridge …

The stone must have been moved some time in the mid-20th century, but the question is, was Thomas moved as well? Have his bones finally come to rest in Church Entry? I have been unable to find out.

This is the headstone alongside Thomas’s …

It reads as follows …

In Memory of MARY ROBERTS who died the 14th February 1787. Also two of their children who died in their infancy like the wife of the aforesaid DAVID ROBERTS who died the 25th May 1802, aged 52 years.

I have read this to mean that Mary died in childbirth – a terrible risk at the time. About one in three children born in 1800 did not make it to their fifth birthday and maternal deaths at birth have been estimated at about five per thousand (although that is probably on the low side). Just by way of comparison, in 2016 to 2018, among the 2.2 million women who gave birth in the UK, 547 died during or up to a year after pregnancy from causes associated with their pregnancy. The 1800 equivalent rate would have meant 11,000 deaths.

If you are interested to know more about maternal mortality, its history and causes, you’ll find this incredibly informative article in The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Most disturbing is how doctors who discovered the underlying cause of many deaths were disbelieved and vilified by the medical profession as a whole, thus allowing unnecessarily high mortality to continue for decades.

The mystery surrounding this stone is that, although there are quite a few people called Roberts recorded in Percy’s memorial list, none of them are called Mary or David. So, assuming, the book is complete (and Percy was obviously very fastidious) I wonder where this marker comes from.

That’s all for this week – I shall continue to try to solve the mysteries I have written about.

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

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

What is a wazzbaffle? And why was a soldier brutally stabbed in Church Entry?

More alleys this week.

My first visit is to Charterhouse Mews (EC1M 6BB). I have visited the Charterhouse itself before, so if you would like to read more about the fascinating history of this area and the building itself just go to the blog At the Charterhouse.

The most distinctive feature as you approach the alley is the Georgian townhouse, built in 1786, that sits astride the passage. First occupied by the artist Thomas Stowers, who is thought to have decorated the interior ceilings with art that is still conserved within. The building is now rented out as offices …

It displays some very nice Coade stone dressings.

Look down the covered passage and you will notice the stone setts on the ground with solid lines for carriage wheels to make it more comfortable for passengers …

Further along is the French restaurant, Le Cafe du Marche, which was founded in 1986 by Charlie Graham-Wood in what is a converted bookbinders warehouse. Opposite the restaurant is the hotel building, with the walls lined with classic Edwardian white tiles to bring light down into the alley and curved window recesses. …

The darkest area contains a urine deflector, also known as a wazzbaffle, which ensured that any men seeking to relieve themselves in the recess will get very wet feet as a reward …

You can find my blog identifying the few other examples that remain in the City here.

The mews is quite short and ends in private property just past the entrance to the restaurant. Here I paused and admired this rather nice old brick wall …

The entrance to Faulkner’s Alley is a great example of things architectural not being quite as they seem. Running between Cowcross Street and Benjamin Street, its ornate metal gate is not as old as it looks …

It wasn’t there in the 1930s …

Picture: Historic England.

Or in 1976 (the entrance is just below the letters LTD) …

Picture: London Picture Archive

The Cowcross Street entrance is not exactly welcoming …

No one seems to know who Faulkner was or why an alley was named after him (or her).

Inside is narrow and a bit spooky. One of those places where you wouldn’t like to hear footsteps behind you …

But there are some encouraging signs of life as you approach the Benjamin Street end …

Across the road is St Johns Garden along with this very helpful signage …

It’s one of those nice surprises you get – a little shaded oasis of calm in the bustling City …

It’s a shame this little water feature is broken.

And now, finally, to the interestingly-named Church Entry (EC4V 5EU) and a nasty incident that occurred there in 1763.

Here you will find another little haven of peace …

There is a sign giving a brief history …

There is a mystery associated with these two gravestones which I shall explore in a future blog …

Like some other City churchyards, its ground level is much higher than the pavement, indicating the large number of burials crammed in before it was closed in 1849 …

Opposite is St Ann’s Vestry Hall which, despite its architecture, only dates from 1923 …

It’s the home of the estimable Friends of Friendless Churches.

Finally, a dreadful incident that occurred in Church Entry as reported in Pope’s Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette on the 9th June 1763:

“Yesterday morning, about Three o’Clock, two young men, one a Peruke-maker, the other a Watch-maker, went into a House of ill Fame in Church Entry, Black-friars, when a Dispute arose about paying the Reckoning; on which the old Bawd gave the Barber a violent blow on the Head with a Poker, and called a soldier, who was then in the House, to her Assistance, who fell upon them with the aforesaid Weapon; the Watch-maker, in his Defence, drew a Knife and cut the Soldier cross the Belly, who was carried to St Batholomew’s Hospital, where he lies dangerously ill. The Barber has received a most dreadful Blow on his Head, several inches in length, quite to his Brain; and, with the Mistress of the House and one of the prostitutes, is committed to Clerkenwell Bridewell; and the Watch-maker, who is charged with wounding the Soldier, is committed to New Prison, Clerkenwell”.

Those were the days!

Thanks to A London Inheritance for that story and also to the Ian Visits blog for background on both Faulkner’s Alley and Charterhouse Mews.

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

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

A couple of great surprises – exploring alleys and courts.

Where do you think this pretty marble fountain is located?

And Italian piazza? A rather posh park? A country house garden?

A little boy holds a goose’s neck from whose mouth water would flow if the fountain was working …

The big surprise about its location is apparent when you gaze upwards …

Looming over you is the 600ft Tower 42, previously the NatWest Tower.

This is Adam’s Court and you gain entrance from either Old Broad Street or Threadneedle Street. This is the entrance from the former …

The elegant clock above the entrance is supported by two fishes. Unfortunately it’s not working and the glass has got rather grubby …

Shortly after entering you will see these attractive wrought iron gates bearing the initials NPBE and the date 1833. The initials refer to the National Provincial Bank of England which was founded in that year …

Further on is a totally unexpected green open space (alongside which is the little boy’s fountain) …

If you carry on and exit on to Threadneedle Street and look back you will see another set of ornate gates …

These are 19th-century, and were originally for the Oriental Bank. The grand building with the arch in the background was also part of the Bank, but the building was later taken over by the neighbouring National Provincial Bank, and their monogram added.

Look at the spandrels above the window … …

Two men are holding the reins of two camels.

Across the road from Adam’s Court on Old Broad Street is the enticing entrance to Austin Friars …

Before you cross the road, look right and admire the old City of London Police call box which has retained its flashing light indicating a caller was in need of help …

Walking through Austin Friars you pass a studious monk, writing in a book with his quill pen …

Eventually in front of you is the tucked away entrance to the atmospheric Austin Friars Passage, where I came across my next big surprise …

Almost at the end I encountered an extraordinary sight, a bulging, sagging wall that was clearly very old …

Up high is a parish marker for All Hallows-on-the-Wall, dating to 1853 …

But the wall looks even older and, sure enough, standing in the alcove that leads to the other side and looking up, I saw this …

Another parish marker dating from 1715 – from the since-demolished church of St Peter le Poer. What a miracle that this old wall (which is not listed) has survived for over 3oo years as new buildings have sprung up all around it.

Look up and you’ll see that one of those buildings has a particularly scary fire escape. I wouldn’t fancy running down that in a panic …

As you leave you can admire the charming ghost sign for Pater & Co …

The company was run by Arthur Long and Edgar John Blackburn Pater and traded from the 1860s to 1923 when Long retired and Pater continued on his own.

As is often the case I am indebted to the excellent Ian Visits blog for some of my background information. Here are links to Ian’s comments on Adam’s Court and Austin Friars Passage.

My earlier blogs on courtyards and alleys can be found here and here.

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

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

Severed heads and serene ladies. Some Museum of London faces.

Oh, bliss, the Museum of London is easily accessible again and I paid a visit last week. It wasn’t at all crowded (Monday afternoon) and I was looking for a theme that might be interesting. I chose faces.

Let’s get two gruesome ones out of the way first.

Thousands of Londoners flocked to witness the execution of Charles I on 30th January 1649. This curious painting represents Charles as saintly martyr, his head re-attached to his body with stitches around the neck. The three lamenting women represent England, Scotland and Ireland …

British School; Charles I (1600-1649). Artist unknown but reckoned to date from circa 1660.*

Also commemorated in the museum is the most famous regicide, Oliver Cromwell, only instead of a portrait it’s his death mask* …

.

When he died on 3rd September 1658, aged 59, a wax mould was made of his features and was most probably kept by its maker, Thomas Simon. Plaster-casts were made from this original and many now exist in museums both in this country and abroad. Cromwell was buried with great ceremony in the burial place of the Kings at Westminster.

Oliver Cromwell, detail from a painting after Samuel Cooper, 1656, in the National Portrait Gallery, London.

He was not destined to rest in peace for long. On the morning of 30 January 1661, the 12th anniversary of the execution of King Charles I, his exhumed body, and that of two other regicides, was dragged in an open coffin on a sledge through the streets of London to Tyburn gallows. There each body was hanged in full public view until around four o’clock that afternoon. After being taken down, Cromwell’s head was severed with eight blows, stuck on a 20-foot pole, and raised above Westminster Hall …

His head is number 1, the pole on the left above the building. Fellow regicides also exhumed were John Bradshaw (head number 2) and Henry Ireton (number 3).

There are different theories as to what became of his remains – you can read about them here.

And now to a beautiful Roman lady who died young …

Facial reconstruction by Caroline Wilkinson of the Museum. The Museum Curator, Rebecca Redfern, describes her as ‘five foot three and delicately built, petite like a ballet dancer’.

In March 1999, builders working on the redevelopment of Spitalfields Market made a remarkable discovery – a beautifully carved stone sarcophagus, unopened, and obviously holding the remains of someone of exceptional wealth and status. When examined at the Museum of London, the lead coffin inside was found to contain the body of a young woman. Further analysis revealed that her head had rested on a pillow of bay leaves, that she had been embalmed with oils from the Arab world and the Mediterranean, and that she was wrapped in silk, interwoven with fine gold thread. Isotopic analysis of her teeth revealed, not only that she came from Italy, but from Imperial Rome itself. What we do not know is who she was, and why she was so far from home when she died in about AD 350.

Her final resting place.

There were two paintings I really enjoyed studying. The first is entitled Eastward Ho! and was painted by Henry Nelson O’Neil in 1857. It became his most popular work …

Soldiers are shown boarding a ship at Gravesend, leaving to fight in the ‘Indian Mutiny’ – the first Indian war of independence. In a poignant scene they are saying farewell to their loved ones and it is a very emotionally charged picture. For the men we can only see in their faces optimism and patriotism whilst in the faces of the women we see fear and a sense of foreboding …

The Times newspaper commented …

Hope and aspiration are busy among these departing soldiers, and if mothers and wives, and sisters and sweethearts, go down the side sorrowing, it is a sorrow in which there is no despair, and no stain of sin and frailty…

A year later he painted Home Again

The soldiers are seen coming down the gangway of their troop ship. The main character appears to be the bearded soldier in khaki uniform with his Kilmarnock ‘pork-pie’ cap under a white cotton Havelock, which was worn to afford the wearer’s neck protection from the blazing and merciless Indian sun. I again looked particularly at the women’s faces …

When the paintings were exhibited together in London thousands of Victorians queued to see them.

The Times had this to say about Home Again

The crowd round the picture delight to spell out the many stories it includes – its joyous reunitings, its agonies of bereavement; the latter kept judiciously down …

Referring to a giant who was supposed to have lived in the building, this figure, known as Gerald the Giant, stood in a niche on the front elevation of Gerard’s Hall in Basing Lane and dates from around 1670. He’s not what you’d call handsome …

But I like his daintily decorated shoes …

In this tobacconist’s shop sign from circa 1800 a Scottish Highlander figure is signalling that snuff is sold there. He would usually be holding a snuff mull of horn in his left hand and a pinch of snuff in his right …

This version has been nicely restored. I think he looks a bit scary …

I like this lady’s cheeky grin, like she knows something we don’t. She wears a fashionable ‘wimple’, or neck cloth, under her chin …

Over 700 years old, she once decorated a London building. Do you think she looks a bit like Anne Robinson?

Photo credit : BBC TV.

This is one of the Civic Virtues who enriched the medieval Guildhall porch around 1480. These virtues were Temperance, Fortitude, Justice and Prudence but we don’t know which one she is …

What we do know is that she was discovered in a garden in North Wales in 1972.

This painting, John Middleton with his Family in His Drawing Room, was painted circa 1796* …

Middleton turns towards an unknown woman and the room contains a ‘square piano’, a flute and a landscape painting above the fireplace. He holds what is probably a sample book since he claimed that he ‘served the principal Artists with their Cloths, Oils, Colours’. The family lived above his shop at 80-81 St Martin’s Lane.

In the picture his four children, Jesse, Anna, Sarah and Joshua pose appropriately. I like the serene expressions on the girls’ faces with the older son paying respectful attention to what his father is saying …

And finally, this cotton dress, emblazoned with the faces of the Fab Four, was available from C&A, a high street clothing shop. It testifies to the way young Londoners embraced the new music and fashions of the ‘Swinging Sixties’ …

Some true fans wearing images of their idols (note the wallpaper too!) …

Source Pinterest.

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*Picture credit Museum of London – I couldn’t get a good image because these items are behind glass.

Tracey Emin meets John Betjeman beside a very controversial sculpture – a visit to St Pancras.

Every now and then I have to travel to King’s Cross St Pancras and when I do I occasionally like to make my way up to the Upper Level (where Eurostar terminates). From there I admire the stunning architecture and one of my favourite statues, a bronze by Martin Jennings of the poet John Betjeman, the man who did most to save the station from demolition …

It depicts him walking into the new station for the first time carrying a bag of books. He is looking up at the great arc of the train shed – which he always did because it took his breath away. He is leaning back and holding onto his trilby hat, his coat tails billowing out behind him, as if caught by the wind from a passing train. He’s clad in suit and mackintosh with the work seeking to capture his ‘shabby appearance with scruffy collar undone and one shoelace knotted string’.

The central text in the Cumbrian slate around where he stands is an extract from his poem Cornish Cliffs

And in the shadowless unclouded glare, Deep blue above us fades to whiteness where, A misty sealine meets the wash of air. / John Betjeman, 1906 – 1984, poet, who saved this glorious station.

Surrounding the statue and base is a series of satellite discs of various sizes set into the floor and hand-inscribed by Jennings with quotations from Betjeman’s poetry …

The inscriptions on the discs are carved without the addition of poem titles. Jennings says: ‘I wanted texts that have a particular meaning but also point to something bigger, so some hint at the joy of trains and travel and stations and architecture, some the seascapes at the other ends of the lines, and one or two of the feelings of yearning associated with stations and life.’

Apart from the magnificent shed roof there are other installations to enjoy and you catch a glimpse of them in this picture …

Suspended from above is a revolving display of contemporary art. Currently it’s a hot pink neon sculpture by Tracy Emin, the largest she has ever created …

She made this sweet comment …

I cannot think of anything more romantic than being met by someone I love at a train station and as they put their arms around me, I hear them say ‘I want my time with you‘.

The clock is newer than it looks …

It is, in fact, a very painstaking reproduction of the original which was accidentally dropped and smashed into thousands of pieces in 1978, reportedly on its way to an American buyer who had paid £250,000 for it. The US gentleman didn’t want a very expensive jigsaw puzzle but the pieces were rescued by Roland Hoggard, a train driver who was shortly due to retire. He paid £25 for them and then spent much of his retirement restoring it so that his labour of love could be proudly displayed on the side of his barn …

It was far too fragile to be moved but Roland (now well into his nineties) very kindly gave access to the people creating the reproduction in order that it could be accurate in every way. It’s a great story and you can read it in more detail here.

It can’t be all that often when a fellow sculptor describes a contemporary’s work as ‘crap’ but that’s what Antony Gormley said about the statue called The Meeting Place

The sculptor,Paul Day, said that his chosen approach ‘was an embracing couple under a clock at a railway station; something that can be universally recognised as a symbol of travel is the couple being reunited. The clock becomes a moon at night. There is a sense of reunification. That had the romantic element’. Installed in 2007 you can’t miss it – it’s nine metres (30 feet) high and definitely inspires a love/hate reaction among passers by. The figures, incidentally, are modelled on Day himself and his wife.

Like it or loathe it, however, the work also incorporates something I think is wonderful – the frieze beneath the characters’ feet. It extends all the way around the base of the statue, each panel seamlessly merging with the next. Each illustration (showing scenes from the railway’s past and present) is deserving of several minutes attention. Here is a selection …

Wounded men returning from the front contrast with soldiers being waved off enthusiastically.
Blinded by gas.
A homeless bag lady with her faithful companion.
Strap-hanging joys of the rush houra chance to do a bit of reading.
‘Lovely to see you again, darling! Just gotta check my messages!’
Repair works following the 7 July 2005 London bombings.
Deep in thought.

The original design featured – among other disturbing things – a train driven by the Grim Reaper (referencing suicides) and a couple indulging in a Matt Hancock-type snog. Obviously these were withdrawn on grounds of taste. You can read the MailOnline’s over-excited reaction here.

Finally, as you walk around the Upper Level, you can often hear a piano being played with varying degrees of competence. There are two pianos at ground level that you can practise on, one of them having been donated by Elton John …

Here’s a link to him actually playing it.

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A beautiful lighthouse, the poshest letterbox in the City and other sights around Moorgate.

I am always surprised when I come across something that I should have researched years ago but somehow missed and this is the case with the Moorgate lighthouse. Here it is, isn’t it wonderful ..

I love the little windows, the steps leading up from what looks like a choppy sea and the fully rigged ships in the background. And, even more extraordinary, the covering for the beacon at the top of the tower is actually made of real glass (and one source states that when first constructed the light flashed intermittently, just like a real warning to shipping).

42 Moorgate, where the lighthouse lives, is now the home of Habib Bank (EC2R 6EL) …

Originally, however, it was designed in 1910 by the famous architects Aston Webb & Son to house the headquarters of the Ocean Accident and Guarantee Corporation, the lighthouse and other decorations re-emphasising the ‘Ocean’ brand name. Neptune, the God of the sea, stares down at the City traffic (glancing slightly to his left for some reason – possibly searching for the real ocean)…

The arcade facade behind the building on Moorgate Place is by W H Atkin-Berry. More ships under sail …

A ship’s prow cutting through the waves …

3 Moorgate Place.

And another two Neptunes …

This is a nice image by Katie of Look up London showing the sea God crowned with flowers and, above his head, sea horses charging away from the cartouche containing an O and A, presumably for Ocean Accident …

Looking up higher still you can see even more ships’ prows …

Ocean Accident was taken over by Commercial Union in 1910 and is now a footnote in the commercial history of Aviva …

At the other end of Moorgate Place is the stunning Institute of Chartered Accountants building, described by Pevsner as ’eminently original and delightfully picturesque’ …

Look at those imposing bronze doors …

I think the serpent signifies wisdom.

And surely this must be the poshest letter box in the City …

You can read more about the building here.

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

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

Next is ‘Education’ …

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

Onward to ‘Manufactures’ …

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

And now ‘Agriculture’ …

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

I have written before about the Lady Justice sculpture. She looks like she has stepped out of her niche in order to upstage the accountants number-crunching away behind her …

If you return to Moorgate and look across the road you will find her again in the company of Prudence, Truth and Thrift at number 13-15 …

Here’s a link if you would like to know more about the two Lady Justices along with other representations of her in the City: Lady Justice.

I paused outside the impressive building that used to be called Electra House – you can read more about it here

Looking across the road, number 87 is a rather elegant listed building squeezed between The Globe pub and the Crossrail development …

It’s an early 19th century red brick terraced house with sash windows. The ground floor shop was added in the late 20th century.

Finally, I’ve always been intrigued by this carving near the entrance to Moorgate Station and presume it was part of the old station which was seriously damaged in the War. It seems to show a bridge over water with little boats sailing underneath it and below them tunnels containing underground trains …

My theory is that it represents the Tube train tunnel under the Thames at Wapping. Here’s an image from 1958 …

Photo credit – London Transport Museum.

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A trip to Highgate in search of a famous cat (and other animals).

Everyone knows the story of Dick Whittington and his cat. Poor young Dick has given up on his hopes of making a fortune in London and is heading back home. As he climbs Highgate Hill, faithful cat at his side, he hears the bells of St Mary-le-Bow Cheapside ring out the words ‘Turn again Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London!’. There are several representations of Whittington and his companion in the City.

The first is a stunning window by the artist and glass maker John David Hayward in St Michael Paternoster Royal on College Hill (EC4R 2RL) where Dick Whittington was buried in 1423. It depicts him on Highgate Hill …

He’s just heard the church bells and glances back …

It has been commented that he rather resembles a flat-capped Hoxton Hipster – maybe there is an iPad in that bag.

I love the expression on the cat’s face. Perhaps he has seen a mouse.

I only recently discovered this sculpture in the ambulatory to The Guildhall Art Gallery (EC2V 5AE). He looks very thoughtful, doesn’t he. Times have been hard (note his torn leggings) and a rather unpleasant creature is peeping out from his pile of clothes – ‘Shall I return to the City and try my luck one more time?’ The milestone indicates it’s three miles away …

The sculptor Lawrence Tindall has written : ‘My figure, in Portland stone, is carved in a style illustrative of children’s literature. It shows Dick and his cat at the point of turning again on hearing Bow Bells and — look behind him: there is a rat! My idea with this and the other figures was to lighten the atmosphere at the entrance of this impressive building and provide something for visiting children’.

The cat …

And a rat! …

Although the story is a total myth, it burned itself into folklore so deeply that the point on Highgate Hill where he supposedly heard the bells is also commemorated (and I knew exactly where it was). Take the Underground train to Archway, walk up Highgate Hill, and a hundred yards or so further on, you will encounter this charming little memorial …

Carved on the side of the stone facing the road are the dates of Whittington’s Mayoralties, the three Kings he served under and the year he was Sheriff …

It also records that the stone was restored by W Hillier in 1935.

You can read a comprehensive history of the stone and the cat here on the London Remembers website. I recall the cat (made from Irish limestone) being added in 1964 since I walked up the hill almost every day on my way to school. The cat also lives on in the signage of the nearby Whittington Hospital …

And the pub opposite the stone …

Knowing that I was going to be visiting Highgate I couldn’t resist the temptation to book a self-guided tour of the famous Cemetery.

To get there I walked further up the hill and turned left into Waterlow Park. I paused briefly to pay my respects to the wonderful philanthropist Henry Waterlow in the park that he donated to people who were ‘gardenless’ …

He’s prepared for inclement weather with hat, overcoat and neatly-furled umbrella.

The entrance to the Cemetery is opposite the west entrance to Waterlow Park and is in two sections separated by a road. Paid entry to the West part gets you free entry to the East and includes an excellent printed guide – what a fascinating experience it was. Regular readers will know that I am intrigued by the way animals are represented in sculptures and memorials and here are three from my visit.

Firstly a very loyal doggie, a huge black mastiff called ‘Lion’ …

Thomas ‘Tom’ Sayers (1826-65) was an English bare-knuckle prize fighter. There were no formal weight divisions at the time, and although Sayers was only five feet eight inches tall and never weighed much more than 150 pounds, he frequently fought much bigger men. In a career which lasted from 1849 until 1860, he lost only one of sixteen bouts. He was recognized as heavyweight champion of England in 1857, when he defeated William Perry (the ‘Tipton Slasher’).

‘Tom and his battles’, from The Police Gazette

On 17th April 1860 there took place what was claimed to be the first ‘international’ title fight. At 6ft 2in and 195lb John Carmel Heenan, the American contender, towered above Sayers’s 5ft 8in and 149lb as the first round started at 7.29 am. Each severely battered and bloodied, yet unbowed, they would finish, level pegging, tit for tat, their business unsettled as a draw and with all bets off, fully two hours 27 mins and 42 rounds later. The bout was halted when the Aldershot police, brandishing magistrates’ warrants, stormed the ring. This picture of the encounter was painted by a retired boxer called Jem Ward …

Tom in his prime circa 1860 …

Seriously ill from consumption (tuberculosis) aggravated by diabetes he died aged only 39 at No. 257 Camden High Street on 8 November 1865 in the presence of his father and two children. His funeral a week later attracted some 100,000 people. According to the Spectator magazine, the crowd that accompanied the coffin stretched for more than two miles in length and the bier was drawn by four sable-plumed horses. Lion, the mourner in chief, sat alone in a pony cart …

Tom’s Highgate Cemetery tomb.

A real lion called Nero rests, sleeping, on top of the tomb of George Wombwell (1777-1850) …

George became a household name as owner of three large travelling animal shows. His menagerie included an elephant, giraffes, a gorilla, a hyena, a kangaroo, leopards, six lions, llamas, monkeys, ocelots, ostriches, panthers, a rhino (billed as ‘the real unicorn of scripture’), three tigers, wildcats and zebras …

Sadly, because many of the animals were from hotter climes, lots of them died in the British climate. Sometimes Wombwell could profitably sell the body to a taxidermist or a medical school; other times he chose to exhibit the dead animal as a curiosity.

This poor horse on a pedestal looks old, tired and worn out …

Once upon a time this was taken to be the tomb of John ‘Jack’ Atcheler who claimed to be ‘Horse Slaughterer to Queen Victoria’, and is described as such in the guide. More research has revealed, however, that he is buried elsewhere although there is a John Atcheler beneath the monument. He is the famous man’s son, who died in 1853 aged twenty-two. The grave also holds Jack’s second wife, Sarah, and his son-in-law. The now faded inscription may contain a clue as to why there is a horse on the monument: ‘She’s gone; whose nerve could rein the swiftest steed’. Jack almost certainly paid for the grave and monument and no doubt intended that he would be buried there as well. You can read about Jack in this fascinating article from the Highgate Cemetery Newsletter.

If you visit the East Cemetery other famous people resting there include …

Malcolm McLaren – Better a spectacular failure than a benign success

The ‘Great Train Robber’ Bruce Reynolds. The inscription reads ‘C’est la vie’, the words that Reynolds uttered when he was finally arrested in 1968 in Torquay by Tommy Butler, the dogged detective who pursued him to the end …

A very moving sculpture marking the tomb of Philip Gould, one of the architects and strategists of New Labour …

There is also some humour – the book spine reads The final chapter

The painter and print-maker Patrick Caulfield (1936-2005) was a contemporary of David Hockney. Regarded as part of the Pop Art movement, and a Turner Prize nominee in 1987, Caulfield designed the memorial which now sits on his grave. Brutally frank! …

And finally, of course …

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In search of the Bull & Mouth

One hundred and eleven years ago, in 1910, a wonderful chap called Percy C. Rushen published this meticulously researched piece of work …

He was extremely angry, stating in the Introduction to his work that the disappearance of external memorials …

Unfortunately, the ‘sordid tampering’ and action by ‘sacriligists’ that Percy detested was insignificant compared to the destruction meted out to the City’s churches and churchyards during the Second World War. I thought it would be interesting to take his painstaking list of memorials and see how many have survived to this day.

I started at the church of St Anne and St Agnes on Gresham Street (EC2V 7BX). In 1910 Rushen recorded eleven headstones and the first one I came across was this one …

It’s the one in the book with an inscription as follows: ‘Family Grave of EDWARD HENRY and MARY SANDERSON of the Bull and Mouth. Their children: EDWARD died 30 June 1835 aged 10 weeks, SAMUEL EMERY died 18 April 1846 aged 3 years, ANNE HUNT died – November 1851 aged 11’. This started me off on a quest to find out more about the Bull and Mouth where Edward and Mary had lived. An extraordinary relic of the inn survives to this day, which I will share with you later in this blog.

The excellent Know your London suggests that the original name was ‘Boulogne Mouth’, a reference to the mouth or entrance to the famous harbour at Boulogne, on the north coast of France. The name was a tribute to Henry VIII who captured the harbour in 1544*. The name ‘Boulogne Mouth’ was gradually corrupted to ‘Bull and Mouth’. The last inn by this name stood in St Martins le Grand, although there was once a Bull and Mouth Street as can be seen on Ogilby & Morgan’s 1676 map …

The coaching inn was a vital part of Europe’s inland transport infrastructure until the development of the railways, providing a resting point or ‘layover’ for people and horses. The inn served the needs of travellers, for food, drink, and rest. The attached stables, staffed by hostlers, cared for the horses, including changing a tired team for a fresh one. Coaching inns were used by private travellers in their coaches, the public riding stagecoaches between one town and another, and (in England at least) the mail coach. The Bull and Mouth had stabling for 700, yes 700, horses, most of it underground, and the yard could accommodate 30 coaches.

I have found a few pictures of the Bull & Mouth. This is one of the yard, probably painted around 1820 by H. Shepherd (1793-1864) …

And this is the frontage as painted by John Maggs (1819-1896) …

As you can see, the inn had a huge sign illustrating its name and, astonishingly, this was preserved after the building’s destruction and can now be found in the rotunda garden outside the Museum of London EC2Y 5HN) …

At the top is a bust of Edward VI and below that the arms of Christ’s Hospital which owned the land on which the inn stood.

Literally a bull and a mouth …

The inscription beneath reads: ‘Milo the Cretonian an ox slew with his fist and ate it up at one meal. Ye gods what a glorious twist’. It’s probably in reference to Milo of Croton, an ancient Greek wrestler and strongman sometimes depicted as carrying a bull on his shoulders.

The inn was extensively remodelled and rebuilt in 1830 and became the Queen’s Hotel, the old sign being reattached to the new building. The hotel itself was demolished in 1888 to make way for the new General Post Office which now displays this plaque …

One of my favourite blogs is Look up London by Katie Wignall. She writes ‘there’s a curious painted ghost sign under Smithfield’s rotunda car park (EC1A 9DY) …’

Katie goes on to say : ‘As tempting as it would be to imagine this was somehow part of the inn’s underground stables, sadly, I think that’s a bit far-fetched. It’s about half a mile from where the inn used to stand and (though it is covered) the paintwork looks pretty new to have been there since the 19th century.

Given how popular Smithfield is as a film location, it seems more likely that it’s simply a leftover film set that’s remained behind to puzzle us curious Londoners’.

Incidentally, there was another Bull and Mouth Inn on Aldersgate Street which also had a wonderful sign. Here it is …

Picture credit : Bishopsgate Institute. For more old street signs see this edition of Spitalfields Life.

I hope you enjoyed this tale of London’s past. I shall be tracking down more of Mr Rushen’s memorials in future weeks and hope to find some more fascinating stories.

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* I have to point out that not all commentators agree with the ‘Boulogne Mouth’ story, arguing that there were numerous strange combinations of words for inns (for example the Cat and Fiddle on Lombard Street). And some theories have been repeatedly shown to be untrue (for example claims that Elephant & Castle was a corruption of the Infanta de Castilla). It has been argued that the name of our inn really refers to the aforementioned wrestler ‘Milo the Croatian’ reputedly eating an entire ox at one meal after he slew it ‘with his fist’. But why name a number of English inns after a Croatian? I have no idea!

Reflections, colours and shapes – what fun I have had.

Sometimes, when the weather is nice, I find it great fun to just wander about taking whatever images I fancy, hoping they will eventually build into some kind of coherent whole. For a while now, sunshine has drawn me into looking at subjects in a slightly more abstract way rather than trying to make them tell a story, and this blog is the result.

I am really, really proud of this image. It’s the reflection on the bonnet and windscreen of a car parked in Wood Street. I love the way the nearby building seems to stretch away into infinity …

The Gherkin and part of the tower of St Andrew Undershaft are reflected in the Scalpel skyscraper (EC3M 7BS) …

The poor Gherkin is gradually vanishing behind its more intrusive neighbours …

But it’s still great to visit the restaurant on the roof and just look up …

A mirror sculpture across the road from St Paul’s Cathedral – I waited specially for the red bus …

Stephen Osborne was laid to rest here almost 320 years ago and since then the sunlight has been reflecting off his gravestone in the south aisle of Southwark Cathedral (SE1 9DA). Hundreds of years of footfall have worn down the elaborate family coat of arms but the quality of the stone and the carving mean we still know today the name of the person it commemorates …

Early morning colours, reflections and shadows …

A fiery, dramatic sunset reflection …

These walls alongside London Wall are from the chapel of St Mary Elsing. It was part of a hospital and priory which had been founded by Sir William Elsing early in the 14th century. I can just imagine a hunched medieval monk or nun emerging from the shadows …

If they could look up they’d get a bit of a shock. I like the way the modern building is framed by a six hundred-year-old arch …

Nearby are the lovely red bricks and diamond patterns of the medieval wall, built on top of the original Roman fortification (EC2Y 5DE) …

Now for some more colour.

A lucky shot – red crane and rainbow (a double rainbow, actually, if you look carefully) …

Modern architects seem to be using colour more adventurously …

Offices in Old Bailey – EC4M 7NB
View looking up from Sun Street (EC2A). The Georgian terrace house in the foreground and its neighbours are being converted into a hotel.

I like 88 Wood Street, but it’s a bit hemmed in by other buildings (EC2V 7QF) …

This optician on London Wall likes rather wacky window displays (EC2Y 5JA) …

Lady in red on Whitecross Street (EC1Y 8JA). She’s walking past the colourful exterior of the Prior Weston Primary School campus …

Now some very old colours. Crafts people restoring Holborn Viaduct recently discovered layers revealing 150 years of repainting …

Time for some shapes and shadows.

No one does symmetry quite like Mother Nature …

A concrete buttress in a car park resembles the prow of a ship as the sun shines through the grating above …

Practicality combined with aesthetic beauty …

At the corner of Clerkenwell Road and St John Street is the building which once housed the Criterion Hotel (EC1V 4JS). Look up and you will see this lovely, painstakingly created Victorian brick decoration. I don’t know what the frogs represent, or maybe they are toads …

Read more about the area in my blog City of London Pub Ghosts.

Where the Barbican archers will be placed if the Estate requires defending …

More morning shadows …

A gentle curve …

And seen from below …

And two more in sync …

Another outside Wax Chandler’s Hall in Gresham Street (EC2V 7AD) …

On a lighthearted note, ‘Luxury collar trim’ colour sample discarded in a skip outside the Barbican Theatre …

Finally, ‘Sunflower Surprise’ …

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Another visit to Southwark … ‘The outcast dead’.

After admiring the magnificent memorials in Southwark Cathedral, I wanted to visit the Cross Bones Graveyard Garden, which has a very different story to tell. It can be found at the junction of Redcross Way and Union Street (SE1 1SD) …

I also wanted to mark the connection between it and the remains of the Bishop of Winchester’s palace on Clink Street (SE1 9DN) …

A plaque outside the garden gives a very brief history …

Photo credit : Katy Nichols.

I found it a very moving place, even though the garden was closed when I visited. I caught a glimpse of several little shrines through the memorial ribbons and other tributes attached to the fence …

Some excavation work by Museum of London archaeologists in the 1990s resulted in the removal of 148 skeletons, over 60% of whom were children under five years of age. Overall it’s estimated that as many as 15,000 souls were buried here until the cemetery was closed in 1853 being ‘completely overcharged with dead’ and ‘inconsistent with due regard for the public health and public decency’.

So what was the connection with the Bishop of Winchester?

As the plaque tells us, in the late medieval period, the local prostitutes were known as ‘Winchester Geese’. They were not licensed by the City of London or Surrey authorities, but by the Bishop of Winchester who owned the surrounding lands, hence their namesake. The earliest known reference to the Graveyard was by John Stow in his Survey of London in 1598 …

I have heard ancient men of good credit report, that these single women were forbidden the rights of the Church, so long as they continued that sinful life, and were excluded from Christian burial, if they were not reconciled before their death. And therefore there was a plot of ground, called the single woman’s churchyard, appointed for them, far from the parish church.

Stow comments that their churchyard was ‘far from the parish church’. That church, St Saviour’s, became Southwark Cathedral in 1905 and you can just see the top of its tower on the right in my first photo above. Far indeed.

You can read more about Cross Bones here.

I just had to visit nearby Ayres Street (SE1 1ES) …

It is named after a brave girl who is also commemorated in the Watts Memorial in Postman’s Park …

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

It was 25-year-old Alice’s brave act that prompted Watts to write to the Times newspaper and suggest the creation of a memorial

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

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

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

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

This imposing building at 47 Union Street dating from 1907 was once known as the ‘Ragged School’, a charity set up to help disadvantaged children (SE1 1SG) …

According to the London Remembers blog, ‘the Work Girls Protection Society was founded in 1875 and began with premises in New Kent Road. It was renamed the St Mary’s Girls’ Club. In 1899 the Club lost the New Kent Road site so they acquired a lease at 85 Union Street, a former tin plate works. They then raised funds, bought the site to the left of the Mission site, and constructed a building there. In 1930 the Girl’s Club merged with the Acland Club to form the co-ed St Mary’s and Acland Club’ …

I couldn’t find out any more about this club and have no idea why the bottom part of the poster has been concealed.

I headed for Southwark Street and wandered east to Borough High Street, adding this ghost sign to my collection along the way …

This building, John Harvard House, caught my eye since its narrowness seems to reflect medieval building plot dimensions …

John Harvard was born in Southwark in 1607 and was baptized in St Saviour’s Church, the present Southwark Cathedral. His mother, Katherine, owned the Queen’s Head Inn, which stood on this site, and left it to John when she died in 1636. In the spring of the following year John and his wife made the voyage to Massachusetts and arrived at Charlestown. John died there of tuberculosis in 1638 and bequeathed to the recently established local college half his fortune and the whole of his library of about 400 books. In 1639 it was renamed Harvard College, first calling itself a university in 1780. John Harvard is commemorated in Southwark today by a library in Borough High Street and by a chapel in the cathedral.

I always enjoy exploring alleys and I investigated two that run off the High Street.

In Chapel Court I came across this building …

The building itself didn’t look all that old but some of the timbers used in its construction did …

One source states that they came from a very old building that was demolished in Essex and were then utilised here in the 1980s.

And finally, Mermaid Court has a fine collection of old bollards …

I really enjoyed my trips south of the River – might even go back again one day!

Incidentally, by way of local news, Mrs Duck was showing off her little family last week. Ahhhh!

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Another visit to Southwark Cathedral.

In last week’s blog I wrote about the memorial on Borough High Street to the 344 members of St Saviour’s Parish who lost their lives in the First World War. Next year it will be one hundred years since the memorial was funded by public subscription. The £4,000 raised also allowed a bronze memorial plaque by Sir John Ninian Comper to be erected in the Cathedral. Here it is …

You can read the names on the memorial here. Some families clearly lost more than one member (for example, there are two Pluckroses listed) and a few look like they may have lost three (for example G.Field, F.Field senr, F.Field jnr).

The Cathedral is home to many lavish, elaborate monuments, but the four most simple ones stayed in my mind the longest. The first was this tribute to little 10 year old Susanna Barford who died in 1652 …

A VIRGIN PURE NOT STAIN’D BY CARNALL LUST
SUCH GRACE THE KING OF KINGS BESTOWD UPON HER
THAT NOW SHEE LIVES WITH HIM A MAID OF HONOUR
HER STAGE WAS SHORT HER THREAD WAS QUICKLY SPUNN
DRAWNE OUT, AND CUTT GOTT HEAVEN, HER WORKE WAS DONE
THIS WORLD TO HER WAS BUT A TRAGED PLAY
SHEE CAME AND SAW’T DISLIK’T AND PASS’D AWAY.

The second was where Shakespeare buried his younger brother Edmund, an actor aged just twenty-seven in 1607, at the cost of twenty shillings ‘with a forenoone knell of the great bell.

Thirdly, this child’s parents wanted to record the exact duration of her short life …

And finally, an unflinching portrayal of death with a very succinct epitaph …

William Emerson, who ‘lived and died an honest man’ in 1575 aged 92. He is said in some guides to be an ancestor of Ralph Waldo Emerson. You can read more about the Emerson family in the great London Inheritance blog entitled Emerson Stairs, Bankside.

Now something much more flamboyant, a memorial to Joyce, Lady Clerke, paid for by her son William, from her first marriage to James Austin. …

Carved along the bottom on the pediment are the words Vos Estis Dei Agricultura (You are the Agriculture of God). The central section shows standing corn behind which rises a rock on which a golden angel stands, pointing upwards to a golden sunburst on the wall above. Down the rock a stream runs, and a serpent twines itself around the rock. On either side sit life-sized figures of harvesters in attitudes of mourning, wearing smocks and wheaten hats; a rake and pitchfork are propped against their knees. Click here for a more complete description and notes on the symbolism.

This monument shows Alderman Richard Humble, and his two wives Elizabeth and Isabel, kneeling in prayer …

It’s is a typical example of the ‘Southwark School’ of monuments made by a group of Flemish refugee sculptors who lived and worked on Bankside. The area around the Cathedral has a long tradition of accepting refugees into the community. Incidentally, the banner in the background is an art installation by Mark Titchner which declares ‘Please believe these days will pass‘.

A generous epitaph: Had Kings a power to lend their subjects breath, Trehearne thou shouldst not be cast down by death …

So Trehearne, who died in 1618, was obviously a much respected servant of King James I, whose loss was keenly felt. The role of Gentleman Porter to the King was one of great responsibility and honour. It meant that John Trehearne kept the ‘keys of the castle’ and was responsible for opening and closing the gates and for the safe passage of all those that passed through. He and his wife Mary are ‘supported’ by their children …

John Bingham, saddler and Vestryman, was instrumental in founding the parish school. He died in 1625 …

Sir Frederick Wigan was a wealthy hop merchant and the first Treasurer of the newly created Cathedral in 1905 …

You may recall that I wrote about the hop trade in last week’s blog.

Richard Blisse wears a fine full-bottomed wig ..

… a most affectionate husband, his wife Elizabeth, out of a just sense of her loss hath caused this monument to be erected as ye lasting testimony of her love. He died suddenly ye 4th of August and was buried underneath ye 12th of the same month Anno Dom 1703 aetat 67 …

Amongst all the men, there is this cameo of a lady …

Isabella Gilmore (née Morris) oversaw the revival of the Deaconess Order in the Anglican Communion. She served actively in the poorest parishes in South London for almost two decades and was the sister of William Morris.

Incidentally, some time ago two patches of Roman mosaic were discovered in the churchyard and they are now incorporated into the Cathedral floor. See if you can spot them – this is one of them …

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Heroes, Hops and Housing. A short wander around Southwark.

For an expression of grim determination, it would be hard to beat the look on this man’s face …

This is the St Saviour’s War Memorial on Borough High Street, in the former parish of Southwark St Saviour (SE1 1NL). St Saviour’s Church became Southwark Cathedral in 1905 …

An infantryman in battledress advances resolutely through thick mud. He carries a rifle with bayonet attached slung over his shoulder …

Beneath his feet is a Portland Stone pedestal depicting St George doing battle with a dragon.

On the opposite side there is a carving of a mourning woman. Her child is reaching out to a dove …

On the pedestal’s long sides are bronze reliefs.

One with biplanes, to the west …

… and another with battleships, to the east.

The memorial’s sculptor was Philip Lindsey Clark (1889-1977). Having joined up with the Artists’ Rifles in 1914, he had distinguished himself in the First World War having been awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for ‘ … conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in command of the left flank of the Company of the Battalion’. Despite being severely wounded, he had fought on until relieved two days later. In 1926 he created the Bakers of Widegate Street, details of which can be found in my blog On the Tiles again.

The story of the Artists’ Rifles is a fascinating one, it came as a surprise to me that they had one of the highest casualty rates of the First World War. Click here to read a short History of the Regiment (and watch the last scene from Blackadder – ‘Good luck everyone‘).

Walking along Southwark Street, I came across this magnificent, gently curving building called The Hop Exchange (SE1 1TY) …

This area in Southwark was where the hops from the southern counties, and especially from Kent, were brought to after the autumn picking. After picking, the hops were dried in the oast houses and then packed into large compressed sacks of 6 by 2 feet, called ‘pockets’. These pockets were then transported to Southwark, first by horse and cart, but later by train …

The Hop Exchange was built in 1867 …

You can see the hop pickers at work in the carving contained in the pediment …

Up to the 1960s, many of the poorer London families went to the hop gardens each September for a working-holiday. Not just for the fresh air, but to supplement their all too meagre income …

At 67 Borough High Street you can find the former offices of the hop merchants, or factors as they were usually called, W.H. and H. Le May (SE1 1NF). It is a Grade II listed building with a spectacular frieze on the front depicting hop gatherers and proudly displaying the firm’s name. One may easily assume that the building is constructed of red sandstone, but according to the description on the British Listed Buildings site, it is ‘just’ coloured stucco …

A rather romanticized view of picking …

I am indebted to the London Details blog for much of my research. You can read two of the posts here and here.

These flats, Cromwell Buildings in Redcross Street (SE1 9HR), were constructed in 1864 by Sir Sydney Waterlow, founder of the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company, and were modelled after a pair of houses designed by the Prince Regent for the Great Exhibition of 1851. Waterlow set the company up in 1863 with capital of £50,000 and by 1900 it was said to be housing some 30,000 London people …

If you ever find yourself in Highgate, do visit the beautiful Waterlow Park (N6 5HD). It covers 26 acres and was given to the public by Sir Sydney as ‘a garden for the gardenless’ in 1889. Seek out this statue of the great man – it’s the only statue I have ever come across of a man carrying an umbrella. In his left hand you will see he is handing over the key to the garden gates …

The Friends of Waterlow Park have produced this useful map. If you have time, I strongly recommend a visit to the nearby Highgate Cemetery

Back in Southwark, if you’re feeling thirsty and a bit peckish treat yourself with a visit to the George Inn, the only surviving galleried coaching inn in London (SE1 1NH) …

When I popped in to take a photo this made me smile …

I’ll visit Southwark again when I also go back to the Cathedral.

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Shakespeare, a quack doctor and a cadaver – my visit to Southwark Cathedral.

Last Saturday I popped in to the wonderful Southwark Cathedral, paid £2 for a photography licence, and walked around entranced.

A few feet from the door is the magnificent Shakespeare Memorial Window, Designed by Christopher Webb, it was created in 1954 to replace another destroyed in enemy action. It shows characters from the Bard’s plays …

The design uses the concept of the Jesse Tree. Prospero in the central light forms the trunk, with Ariel above and Caliban at his feet …

I’m sure you can spot Falstaff …

In the right hand window we find Lady Macbeth ,,,

Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee …

and Hamlet …

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy …

At the base, the last two of the Seven Ages of Man … …

The sixth age slips into the lean and slippered pantaloon, with spectacles on nose … and his big manly voice turning again toward childish treble … Last scene of all, is second childishness … sans teeth, sans eyes sans everything.

All the characters portrayed in the window are identified in this short article.

Below the window is an alabaster sculpture. Made by Henry McCarthy in 1912, it shows the world’s most famous playwright resting outside the Globe Theatre. He usually has a sprig of rosemary in his hand. The aromatic herb rosemary, as Ophelia says to her brother Laertes in Hamlet, is for remembrance; ‘pray, love remember’ …

I was very taken with this remarkably lifelike bust …

This is Lancelot Andrewes (1555 – 25 September 1626), the English bishop and scholar who oversaw the translation of the King James Version of the Bible …

Most importantly, I live in a block of flats named after him.

This effigy of an unknown knight is one of the earliest monumental wooden effigies in England, his mail coat and coif dating him to around 1280. He is believed to be a member of the de Warenne family who were benefactors of the priory …

Thomas Cure was a very important person in Southwark and London. He was the MP locally, and in East Grinstead, as well as the Master Saddler to King Edward VI, Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I. He founded almshouses for the poor and these stood for nearly 300 years in Park Street, until the new railways forced their move to West Norwood. Eventually they were relocated, in the form of modern sheltered flats, to Purley, Surrey in 2006. Cure died in 1588 and this is a ‘cadaver tomb’, reminding us all of our mortality …

Is there anywhere in the world a more impressive monument to a quack ‘doctor’? Lionel Lockyer never qualified as a doctor (he was originally a tailor and a butcher) but became famous for his miracle pills that he claimed included sunbeams as an ingredient …

His tomb has an amusing inscription which includes the words …

His virtues & his PILLS are soe well known…
That envy can’t confine them vnder stone.
But they’ll surviue his dust and not expire
Till all things else at th’universall fire.

The man himself …

Lionel Lockyer. Line engraving by J. Sturt. Wellcome Library collections.

Following Lockyer’s death in 1672, his pills continued to be sold by his nephew, John Watts, in partnership with Thomas Fyge, an apothecary. The pills were sold wholesale in tins of 50 or 100 at a price of 4 shillings for 100. That equates to about two weeks’ wages for a skilled tradesman.

This is the tomb of John Gower. He was the Poet Laureate to Richard II and Henry IV and his head rests on his three best known books, Vox Clamantis in Latin, Speculum Meditantis in French, and Confessio Amantis in English. He died in 1408 …

I finished my short visit looking at a collection of medieval roof bosses. In 1469 the roof of the priory church collapsed and the stone vaulting was replaced by a carved wooden ceiling. This is one from that ceiling and shows the Devil swallowing Judas Iscariot …

There was, of course, lots more to see at Southwark, so I shall return. I went on to have a wander around the area and will report back on that next week.

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A visit to the Monster Supplies store (and some interesting sights on Hoxton Street).

Every now and then I head a short distance out of the City and look in at my favourite store – Hoxton Street Monster Supplies (N1 6PJ). A location hiding a fascinating and important secret which will be revealed later …

You know you are just about to visit somewhere special before you even go through the door. What kind of a place has a dispenser outside offering you free poems?

And what kind of creatures need this guidance to remind them of social distancing?

No need to worry about going in – they have the appropriate licences …

Glancing through the window, some of the merchandise looks decidedly … er … odd …

On the packed shelves inside you will find lots of items that will give pleasure to yourself and any monsters you know (both little and grown up). There are, for example …

Even non-flying reptiles love Dragon Treats but caution is needed with the Guts and Garlic Chutney – as the label warns, it is definitely not suitable for vampires.

Originally made for Banshees, these Banshee Balls have brought soothing relief to humans too …

These days sensible monsters regularly sanitise …

Even if you didn’t enter the shop with a vague sense of unease, you can leave with one …

A notice at the counter gives a clue as to what this very special place is all about …

Behind a secret, cunningly camouflaged door, wonderful things happen (staff will grudgingly show you the door if you promise not to eat them when they emerge from behind the counter).

The shop supports the fantastic work undertaken by my favourite charity, The Ministry of Stories. Co-founded by author Nick Hornby in 2010, the charity’s mission is to develop self-respect and communication skills through innovative writing programmes and one-to-one mentoring. Its clients are children living in under-resourced communities and its work is conducted both in schools and at the dedicated writing centre behind the secret door in the shop.

Do read more on their fascinating website : https://ministryofstories.org/

I have seen some of the results of their work and it has been absolutely extraordinary. They are literally changing children’s lives for the better. If you like what you see maybe you will be kind enough to make a donation – all charities have been finding the last year difficult.

Or, visit the shop and stock up on unusual treats.

Opening times are:

  • Thursday 1pm-5pm
  • Friday 1pm-5pm
  • Saturday 11am-5pm
  • Closed Sun-Wed

The website will give you much more information : https://www.monstersupplies.org/pages/about-us

Hoxton Street Monster Supplies was recently voted ‘No. 1 Kids’ Shop in London’ by Time Out Magazine – which was weird, because we are self-evidently a shop for monsters’.

You’ll see some interesting sights as you walk up Hoxton Street from the junction with Old Street.

A short way along on the left, at the entrance to Hoxton Square, is this piece of street art …

A few yards away is another work by the same artist but I can’t quite make out the signature …

Chivalry is not dead.

Keep walking north and check out this beautiful little garden, created in memory of Khadija Saye who, along with her mother, Mary Mendy, was tragically killed in the Grenfell Tower fire …

I wonder how much longer these old business premises will remain untouched. The firm was run by the wonderfully named Lazarus Lambert until it closed in 2002. ‘JFB 1892’ is etched into the concrete brackets …

I like this retro local business sign. The store stocks ‘actually everything’ …

That’s all for now.

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Monkeys and lions in Seething Lane

I couldn’t resist going back to visit the fascinating carvings in the Seething Lane Garden that I wrote about last week. They all relate to the life of Samuel Pepys and have revealed a few things that I did not know.

I was puzzled by this carving of a monkey who is sitting on some books and appears to have taken a bite out of a rolled up document …

Then I found the following entry in Pepys’s diary for Friday 18th January 1661 …

I took horse and guide for London; and through some rain, and a great wind in my face, I got to London at eleven o’clock. At home found all well, but the monkey loose, which did anger me, and so I did strike her till she was almost dead …

I’m not sure whether it was his pet or his wife’s, but it certainly paid a heavy price for its misbehaviour.

He also got upset with his wife’s pet dog. On 16th February 1660 he wrote …

So to bed, where my wife and I had some high words upon my telling her that I would fling the dog which her brother gave her out at the window if he pissed in the house any more.

On 11th January 1660 he visited the Tower of London menagerie and ‘went in to see Crowly, who was now grown a very great lion and very tame’. And here he is …

Amazingly, Pepys once owned a pet lion himself.

As the Navy’s principal administrator he wielded considerable influence and was frequently sent gifts in order to curry favour. Kate Loveman, in her book Samuel Pepys and His Books: Reading, Newsgathering, and Sociability, 1660-1703 writes : ‘In Algiers the consul Samuel Martin found providing suitable presents taxing … He sent Pepys naval intelligence and (in despair) …

A Tame Lion, which is the only rarity that offers from this place …

Pepys kept the creature in his home at Derby House and sent the following gracious message to Martin, assuring him that the animal was …

… as tame as you sent him and as good company.

In 1679 tragedy struck when Pepys was arrested, dismissed from service and sent to the Tower of London on charges of ‘Piracy, Popery and Treachery’. The first two were outlandish and easily disproved but much more damaging and dangerous was the rumour that he had sold state secrets to the French (a crime which carried the terrifying penalty of being hanged, drawn and quartered).

Using his own resources and considerable network, he tracked down the story to a lying scoundrel called John Scott. Pepys was subsequently freed but was left homeless, jobless and in a perilous situation financially. In her book Samuel Pepys, The Unequalled Self, Claire Tomalin made the poignant observation that whilst in the Tower ‘he could console himself only with the sound of the familiar bells of All Hallows and St Olave’s’.

Here is the carving of Pepys in the Tower …

You can read the full story of his first imprisonment in The Plot against Pepys by Ben and James Long.

He was to return to office in 1686 with the full support of the new king, James II, and set up a special ‘Navy Commission’ to clear the navy’s accounts and restore the force to its 1679 levels. This was completed six months ahead of schedule and was probably his last, and arguably greatest, achievement.

Back in 1649 Pepys had skipped school and witnessed the execution of King Charles the First outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall. Here is the poor King’s head being held aloft by his executioner …

The death warrant of King Charles I, 29 January 1649 (detail). Parliamentary Archives.
HL/PO/JO/10/1/297A.

Eleven years later, on 13th October 1660, he witnessed the execution of Major-General Thomas Harrison, one of the regicide signatories to the warrant. The punishment was hanging drawing and quartering. Pepys’s droll diary entry made me smile …

I went out to Charing Cross, to see Major-General Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered; which was done there, he looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition.

Pepys loved theatrical performances and represented in the garden is an early version of Punch and Judy …

On 9th May 1662 he wrote …

Thence with Mr Salisbury, who I met there, into Covent Garden to an alehouse, to see a picture that hangs there, which is offered for 20s., and I offered fourteen – but it is worth much more money – but did not buy it, I having no mind to break my oath. Thence to see an Italian puppet play that is within the rayles there, which is very pretty, the best that ever I saw, and great resort of gallants. So to the Temple and by water home …

On 4th September 1663 he visited the notorious Bartholomew Fair in Smithfield and toured the attractions with his wife. He wrote, ‘above all there was at last represented the sea, with Neptune, Venus, mermaids, and Ayrid on a dolphin‘. The mermaid is also here in the park …

The first page of the diary in the shorthand code he had devised for it …

Blessed be God, at the end of last year I was in very good health, without any sense of my old pain but upon taking of cold. I live in Axe Yard, having my wife and servant Jane, and no more family than us three. My wife, after the absence of her terms for seven weeks, gave me hopes of her being with child, but on the last day of the year she hath them again.

Samuel had been a student at Magdalene College, Cambridge and bequeathed the College his vast library of over 3,000 tomes (including the six volumes of his diary). The library, which bears his name, is represented here (the Wyvern is the College crest) …

Photo credit : Spitalfields Life.

The Gentle Author, who publishes Spitalfields Life, has written an eloquent description of his visit to the library which you can read here.

I have written about Pepys before : Samuel Pepys and his ‘own church’ and Samuel Pepys and the Plague.

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Bladderstones and fleas in the Seething Lane Garden

I mentioned in my blog last week that I’d been visiting the garden dedicated to a famous Londoner and it was a real thrill to discover some garden pavers with fascinating carvings (EC3N 4AT). The famous Londoner was, of course, Samuel Pepys and I haves since discovered a lot more about the carvings.

But first of all, some examples. The first one I noticed made me smile.

Pepys had been plagued by recurring stones since childhood and, at the age of 25, decided to tackle it once and for all and opt for surgery. He consulted a surgeon, Thomas Hollier, who worked for St Thomas’ Hospital and was one of the leading lithotomists (stone removers) of the time. The procedure was very risky, gruesome and, since anaesthetics were unknown in those days, excruciatingly painful. But Pepys survived and had the stone, ‘the size of a tennis ball’, mounted and kept it on his desk as a paperweight. It may even have been buried with him. One of the garden carvings shows a stone held in a pair of forceps …

You can read more about the procedure Pepys underwent here.

Pepys survived the Great Plague of 1665 even though he remained in London most of the time. The pestilence is referenced by a plague doctor carrying a winged hourglass and fully dressed in 17th century protective clothing …

No one at the time realised that the plague could be spread by fleas carried on rats. One of the species sits cheekily at the doctor’s feet.

There is a flea in the garden but it has nothing to do with the plague …

While visiting his bookseller on a frosty day in early January 1665 Pepys noticed a copy of Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, ‘which‘, Pepys recorded in his diary, ‘is so pretty that I presently bespoke it‘ …

Like many other readers after him, Pepys was immediately drawn in by the beautiful engravings printed in what was the world’s first fully-illustrated book of microscopy. When he picked up his own copy later in the month Pepys was even more pleased with the book, calling it ‘a most excellent piece . . . of which I am very proud‘. The following night he sat up until two o’clock in the morning reading it, and voted it ‘the most ingenious book that ever I read in my life‘. Here is the engraving Hooke made of a flea …

It’s on a huge fold-out page 43 by 33 centimetres.

You can explore the wonders of Micrographia yourself by clicking on this link to the British Library website.

In the garden Pepys is commemorated with a splendid bust by Karin Jonzen (1914-1998), commissioned and erected by The Samuel Pepys Club in 1983 …

The plinth design was part of the recent project and the music carved on it is the tune of Beauty Retire, a song that Pepys wrote. So if you read music you can hear Pepys as well as see his bust …

Pepys was evidently extremely proud of Beauty Retire, for he holds a copy of the song in his most famous portrait by John Hayls, now in the National Portrait Gallery. A copy of the portrait hangs in the Pepys Library …

Every year, on the anniversary of his surgery, Pepys held what he called his ‘Stone Feast’ to celebrate his continued good health and there is a carving in the garden of a table laden with food and drink …

The Great Fire of London began on 2 September 1666 and lasted just under five days. One-third of London was destroyed and about 100,000 people were made homeless. He wrote in his diary …

I (went) down to the water-side, and there got a boat … through (the) bridge, and there saw a lamentable fire. Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods: poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the water-side to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconys till … some of them burned their wings and fell down.

A boat in the foreground with the City ablaze in the distance while a piece of furniture floats nearby …

His house was in the path of the fire and on September 3rd his diary tells us that he borrowed a cart ‘to carry away all my money, and plate, and best things‘. The following day he personally carried more items to be taken away on a Thames barge, and later that evening with Sir William Pen, ‘I did dig another [hole], and put our wine in it; and I my Parmazan cheese, as well as my wine and some other things.’ And here is his cheese and wine …

Why did he bury cheese? Read more about the value of Parmesan (then and now) here.

Then there are these musical instruments, all of which Pepys could play …

From the Pepys Club website: ‘To Pepys, music wasn’t just a pleasant pastime; it was also an art of great significance – something that could change lives and affect everyone who heard it. He was a keen amateur, playing various instruments and studying singing – he even designed a room in his home specially for music-making. He attended the services at the Chapel Royal; he collected a vast library of scores, frequented the theatre and concerts and even commented with affection on the ringing of the church bells that filled the air in London’s bustling streets where he lived and worked’.

The Navy Office where he worked, eventually rising to become Chief Secretary to the Admiralty …

Source: London Remembers.

There are thirty pavers in all and I shall return to them in a later blog. In the meantime, great credit is due to the folk who worked on this incredibly interesting project.

The designs were created by a team of students and alumni of City & Guilds London Art School working under the direction of Alan Lamb of Swan Farm Studios Ltd. Further contributions to the design were made by Sam Flintham, Jackie Blackman, Clem Nuthall, Tom Ball, Sae Na Ku, Sophie Woodhouse and Alan Lamb himself. Here are some pictures of the sculptors at work.

Tom Ball working on the flea …

Mike Watson working on Pepys’s monogram …

And finally, Alan Lamb working on a theorbo lute, another instrument Pepys could play …

Do visit the garden if you have the chance. Another of its interesting features is that it is irrigated by rainwater harvested from the roof of the hotel next door!

I have written about Pepys before : Samuel Pepys and his ‘own church’ and Samuel Pepys and the Plague.

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Trees, flowers and a medical procedure.

This is my 200th blog and to celebrate I thought I’d do one of the things I enjoy most, just wander around the City taking pictures of the incredibly diverse trees and plants that live there.

First up is this noble fig tree that lives in the Smithfield Rotunda garden (EC1A 9DY) …

I don’t know how old it is but the Rotunda was laid out as a public garden in 1872 and fig trees have been known to live over 200 years so it’s possible that this one has been around for a very, very long time. Just look at the trunk …

The figs are just starting to form …

There’s a great blog post about this tree and figs in general by my fellow blogger Bug Woman and you can find it here.

One tree we know for sure is over 200 years old is this magnificent London Plane in Wood Street …

No one knows precisely how old it is but what we do know is that it was there in 1797 when its presence inspired the poet Wordsworth to compose a poem ‘where the natural world breaks through Cheapside in visionary splendour’. You can read the poem and find out more about the tree and its interesting location here.

The next stop is Postman’s Park for Davidia involucrata. It’s also known as the handkerchief tree for obvious reasons and it’s in bloom now so you can see it if you’re quick (EC1A 7BT) …

Aldermanbury boasts a line of Cercis siliquastrum …

There are two notions as to why they are also called ‘Judas Trees’, the first pertaining to the myth that Judas Iscariot hung himself from this tree after his betrayal of Jesus Christ. The second is that it is a derivation from the French Arbre de Judée (tree of Judea) where the tree was a common sight. Its flowers are edible but they haven’t appeared yet and I don’t intend to have a nibble!

The leaves are pretty and heart shaped …

The Cleary Garden on Queen Victoria Street is named after Fred Cleary (1905-1984), a great campaigner for increasing the City’s open spaces (EC4V 2AR). I’m just choosing two features from the packed garden. The first is a swamp cypress. Most famously associated with the mangrove swamps of the Everglades, it is one of the few deciduous conifers found growing in Britain. …

The second is this lovely gift from Japan …

Here are some of the images I took on a miserable, cloudy 2nd May. The colours quite cheered me up …

There’s a pretty line of Silver Limes in Festival Gardens (EC4M 8AD) …

Nearby, the wonderful team of City gardeners have been hard at work …

As they have been outside St Paul’s Underground Station …

And on Aldermanbury …

I call this ‘the rogue tulip’ …

It’s in the flower beds on Silk Street outside the entrance to the Barbican.

Funnily enough, there was one there last year as well …

And finally, the medical procedure. In a quite new City garden a pair of forceps clasp a bladderstone …

There’s also a drawing of a flea as seen through a microscope …

The garden is dedicated to a famous Londoner and I shall write more about it next week …

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