Walking the City of London

Author: The City Gent Page 1 of 13

More City Animals.

I love my City Animals collection and I have gathered so many images now I can start to put them into little categories and that’s what I’ve done today.

For example, in the ‘faithful friends’ category would be the following.

Dr Johnson’s cat Hodge …

Here in Gough Square he sits proudly on top of his master’s famous dictionary having just enjoyed a tasty oyster snack. Johnson was immensely fond of him (‘A very fine cat indeed!’) and personally bought oysters for him rather than ask the servants to. He was (probably justifiably) concerned that the staff would resent this and take their annoyance out on poor Hodge.

He looks towards the house where they both lived at the time and where the dictionary was written …

The House is open to the public …

Now two dogs.

Philip Thomas Byard Clayton (1885-1972), popularly known as ‘Tubby’ Clayton, served as a priest during the First World War, and opened and maintained a place of rest near Ypres, an Everyman’s Club, much frequented by officers and men alike. This became the TocH movement which continues to this day but has, sadly, struggled in recent years.

Tubby became Vicar of All Hallows by the Tower in 1922 and remained there for forty years, until his retirement in 1962. His effigy in the church is one of the last works by Cecil Thomas, the ‘soldier sculptor’, and Tubby’s dog Chippy sits on a tasselled cushion at his feet …

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

King Charles II was very fond of his spaniels. Here one runs alongside his horse as they parade down Cheapside …

The terracotta frieze was saved from a Victorian building that previously occupied the site. It’s now displayed on the north side of 1 Poultry.

Whilst on Poultry look up and you’ll see a reference to the old poultry market that once stood here, a boy struggling to hold a goose …

The goose was a suggestion by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. The building is now a private club and restaurant, called The Ned in Sir Edwin’s honour.

My collection contains many water creatures.

At the incredibly moving memorial to the men of the Merchant Navy lost at sea during the two World Wars a boy rides a dolphin surrounded by fishes and sea horses …

These two dolphins on The Ship pub in Hart street look rather miserable despite being Grade II listed like the building itself …

Mr Grumpy …

There are some nicely carved fishes in Cheapside, part of a Zodiac motif …

Not surprisingly, there are lots of fishy folk along the Thames Walk, both on and near what was once Billingsgate Market …

I’m told that could be a Herring Sky in the background – very appropriate …

This one looks like he’s poking his tongue out at us …

I also have a fine collection of insects.

Bees in Fleet Street …

Bees in Pope’s Head Alley …

And a solitary bee in Cheapside …

There’s a flea in the Seething Lane Garden

And numerous grasshoppers celebrating the philanthropy of Thomas Gresham …

And finally, a few slightly quirky ones – two from London and two from a recent trip to Malta.

A beaver referencing the Hudson’s Bay Company …

A ram at the entrance to an old wool warehouse …

And the Maltese selection:

A crane disguised as a giraffe …

And a colourful cat …

Incidentally, when I do a blog on ‘weird signage’ I shall definitely include this one …

The temptation to leave a footprint was almost irresistible.

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Mythical creatures, famous Londoners and the City gardeners’ campaign against thoughtless smokers.

Isn’t it nice when the sun is out! I decided it was time for another wander around the City and from the Barbican Highwalk I spotted an old friend who it seems has at last found a permanent resting place …

The Minotaur was made by Michael Ayrton. The creature in the sculpture has been described as ‘looking powerful and muscular. It stands hunched over when on his plinth, but he looks ready to take off running at any moment. It has the body of a man, with heavy muscles in his legs and chest, and two cloven feet. It has the head of a bull with two pointed horns and large, hunched shoulders. Its body is hairy, and its hair moves even though it is made of metal’ …

The myth of Theseus and the Minotaur is one of the most tragic and fascinating myths of the Greek Mythology and you can read more about it here.

Onward to Lombard Street.

I took a walk down the shadowy and rather mysterious Change Alley and came across a building that once housed the Scottish Widows insurance company along with its magnificent crest. At the centre is the mythical winged horse, Pegasus, symbol of immortality and mastery of time. A naked figure, the Greek hero Bellerophon, is shown grasping its mane.  In mythology, Bellerophon captured Pegasus and rode him into battle. This explains the motto ‘Take time by the forelock’, or ‘seize the opportunity’. Presumably time could be tamed by taking out a Scottish Widows policy to make provision against the uncertainties of the future …

I next headed down King William Street.

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

Incidentally, have you ever paused to admire the Duke of Wellington statue at Bank junction? And do you think, like I once did, that it was there to celebrate his prowess as a military commander? Well, actually, it’s to commemorate the fact that he helped to get a road built!

It was erected to show the City’s gratitude for Wellington’s help in assisting the passage of the London Bridge Approaches Act 1827 which led to the creation of King William Street. The government donated the metal, which is bronze from captured enemy cannon melted down after the Battle of Waterloo.

A gardener labours diligently at the rear of Brewers’ Hall (EC2V 7HR) …

Philip Ward-Jackson, in his book Public Sculpture of the City of London, tells us of the Trees, Gardens and Open Spaces Committee of the Corporation which was chaired by Frederick Cleary. In his autobiography Cleary recorded that Jonzen’s figure below was intended as a tribute to the efforts of his committee but Ward-Jackson feels that ‘it might have been better described as a symbol of the ‘greening’ of the City in the post-war period’. Most appropriately, Mr Cleary has a garden named after him, and you can read about it in my earlier blog about City gardens generally.

Apparently Jonzen, on being given the subject by the Corporation …

… decided on a kneeling figure of a young man, who, having planted a bulb, was gently stroking over the earth.

There are several other works by Jonzen in the City.

This one, Beyond Tomorrow (1972), is in Basinghall Street, behind the Guildhall …

Sited opposite is this pretty glass fountain by Allen David …

It was commissioned by Mrs Gilbert Edgar, wife of Gilbert H. Edgar CBE, who was a City of London Sheriff between 1963-4. It was unveiled by the Lord Mayor of London on 10th December 1969.

Another work by Jonzen, in the Seething Lane Gardens, is of one of my favourite Londoners, Samuel Pepys. It was commissioned and erected by The Samuel Pepys Club in 1983 …

It contains musical notes, so of you can read music you can not only see Sam but also ‘hear’ his voice …

I thought the Guildhall looked nice against the blue sky …

A remarkably wart-free Oliver Cromwell looks fearsome outside the Guildhall Art Gallery with Samuel Pepys and Dick Whittington in the background (EC2V 5AE) …

Dick is on Highgate Hill and has just heard the bells of St Mary-le-Bow ring out ‘Turn again Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London’. He’s giving it some serious thought as his cat curls around his legs (note the tear in his leggings indicating that he has experienced hard times) …

Look closely at the elegant limestone facade of the building and you will see a great collection of bivalves – oyster shells from the Jurassic period when dinosaurs really did walk the earth …

Read more about more of the fossils on view in the City in my blog Jurassic City.

George Peabody was an American financier and philanthropist and is widely regarded as the father of modern philanthropy. Here he sits, looking pretty relaxed, at the northern end of the Royal Exchange Buildings …

Born in Baltimore he became extremely wealthy importing British dried goods and, after visiting frequently, became a permanent London resident in 1838. In retirement he devoted himself to charitable causes setting up a trust, the Peabody Donation Fund, to assist ‘the honest and industrious poor of London’. The Peabody Trustees would use the fund to provide ‘cheap, clean, well-drained and healthful dwellings for the poor’ with the first donation being made in 1862.

Peabody buildings are easily recognised by their attractive honey-coloured brickwork. This block is in Errol Street, Islington …

Immensely respected in later life, he was offered a baronetcy by Queen Victoria but declined it. After his death in 1869 his body rested for a month in Westminster Abbey after which, on the Queen’s orders, his body was returned to America for burial on the British battleship HMS Monarch.

Close to Peabody is a statue to another remarkable man – Paul Julius Reuter. The rough-cut granite sculpture by the Oxford-based sculptor Michael Black commemorates the 19th-century pioneer of communications and news delivery. It is a fitting place for the statue because the stone head faces the Royal Exchange which was the reason why Reuter set up his business in the City. He established his offices in 1851 to the east of the Royal Exchange building. The stone monument was erected by Reuters to mark the 125th anniversary of the Reuters Foundation. It was unveiled by Edmund L de Rothschild on 18 October 1976 …

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

Sir John Soane stands on Lothbury wearing a full-length cloak and holding a bundle of drawings and a set square. The niche is decorated with the neo-Grecian motifs associated with his style. Sir John’s day job was as architect and surveyor to the Bank of England, and he held the position for 45 years. When he resigned in 1833, most of the Bank’s three-acre footprint had been remodelled in some way, and a number of spectacular set-piece facades inserted…

In the wake of the Great War, Britain’s national debt grew to such an extent that Soane’s bank was too small for the business to be transacted; unfortunately, this renovation was done by the architect Herbert Baker in a way that virtually erased Soane’s work.

Many are still angry at the destruction. Here is what the blogger at Ornamental Passions has to say:

‘The irony of placing a tribute to the architect actually on the sad ruins of his masterpiece was not lost on critics, especially as it is so close to Soane’s much loved Tivoli Corner which Baker had promised to preserve but actually totally rebuilt. He is lucky to have his back turned to an act of vandalism more brutal than anything the Luftwaffe achieved. Indeed, nothing illustrates the Nazi’s abysmal cultural values than that fact that the Bank was untouched in the blitz’. Wow!

Carrying her sword and scales, Lady Justice stands above the Ukrainian flag at the Institute of Chartered Accountants …

Around the corner, the building boasts the poshest letter box in the City …

Speak to any one of the wonderful team of City gardeners and they will tell you that one of the greatest threats to their work are smokers discarding cigarette butts in flower beds. Nicotine is poisonous to plants and is a component of many weed killers.

So the City is fighting back using humour …

The final paragraph on the accompanying sign made me laugh out loud …

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Where Maggie wed Denis – a visit to Wesley’s Chapel.

Wesley’s Chapel on City Road was first opened in 1778 by John Wesley (1703-1791) as a home base for his fast growing network of churches and societies which eventually became the Methodist Church (EC1Y 1AU).

The house where he lived during his later years is next door. Here’s the view of the house from Bunhill Burial Ground where Wesley’s mother is buried. He could see her grave from his bedroom window on the second floor …

Here he is depicted visiting the grave in 1779 …

The original marker has now been replaced by one with a much shorter inscription …

This part of Bunhill is not open to the public.

There are dozens of memorials within the Chapel, along with 18 magnificent stained glass windows depicting Biblical scenes. Although it’s an active house of worship, it is open to the public during the week and many visitors come to see the place where Wesley preached and lived and last week I became one of them.

This window shows Sir Galahad overcoming the seven deadly sins and, through his victory, building the City of God. Sir Galahad is the patron saint of the Wesley Guild, which, when founded, was seen as a modern youth movement …

Here is a small selection of other glass you can admire …

This window gives thanks for the fact that the chapel escaped damage during the Second World War …

At either end of the vestibule there are two windows by Mark Cazalet. One shows God as fire …

And the other God as water …

The view from the balcony …

Margaret Thatcher (then Margaret Roberts) married Denis Thatcher here on 13 December 1951 and both their children were christened here. She donated the communion rail in 1993 …

The War memorial …

Old Boys’ Brigade flag …

The Brigade is still going strong and now welcomes girls as members. Have a look at their very lively website here.

A seat in the Foundery Chapel. ‘Primitive’ meant ‘simple’ or ‘relating to an original stage’; the Primitive Methodists saw themselves as practising a purer form of Christianity, closer to the earliest Methodists …

I strongly recommend a visit to the museum …

And the shop, where you can pick up a tasteful memento of your visit …

Wesley’s tomb is behind the Chapel …

In the basement of the Chapel there is a beautifully preserved Victorian lavatory dating from 1899. It’s a shrine to Thomas Crapper – the champion of the flushing toilet and inventor of the ballcock …

Unfortunately it was closed when I visited but you can, however, read about it and see more images in the Gentle Author’s blog At God’s Convenience.

The Chapel and the Museum are wonderful places to visit and this blog really doesn’t do them justice so do call in if you get the chance.

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Another visit to St Bride’s – lockable coffins and snoring churchgoers.

Walking down Ludgate Hill the other day I grabbed this quick picture of St Bride’s because there were also some nice fluffy clouds in the frame …

It occurred to me then that the church, with its famous ‘wedding cake’ steeple, had been extremely fortunate not to be now obscured by the extensive post-war development that took place in the City as it very gradually recovered from the War. Someone working in the City at the turn of the 20th century would have recognised both the church and the building in front of it.

This sent me in search of some other images. Here’s the view from a bit further up Ludgate Hill …

Here is a view from the hill in the 1940s from a postcard series called London Under Fire

I decided to visit St Bride’s again taking this picture as I approached the entrance door …

The church is surrounded by buildings so this print from 1753 is interesting since one can get a sense of its full scale as seen from the outside and its position relative to St Paul’s Cathedral …

I crossed St Bride’s Avenue, a narrow passageway that runs between the church and the buildings on the southern side of Fleet Street …

This is the view from the east end. The Old bell Tavern dates from the 1670s …

The church was gutted in the Blitz but was very sympathetically restored and reopened in 1957. Here are the ruins shortly after the bombing …

The interior we see today is loyal to Wren’s core design. Everything, however, including floor, all wooden structures, roof etc. is from the 1950s and later refurbishments …

Looking west, St Bride is commemorated in the statue on the left …

She was born in AD 453, a contemporary of St Patrick. The church’s association with St Bride (St Brigid of Kildare) may date back to the sixth century and is the only church on the east side of England to bear this dedication. She died on 1st February AD 525, and was buried with the remains of Ireland’s two other patron saints, Patrick and Columba. Her saint’s day continues to be celebrated on this date. You can read more about her and the church’s history here.

The royal arms weigh two tons and are carved from a block of Beer stone …

The eagle lectern was, according to tradition, rescued from the medieval church during the Great Fire of London in 1666 …

There are two ‘charity scholars’ tucked away in a corner . They originally stood outside St Bride’s Charity School in Bride’s Lane. …

Just above their heads is a small bust carved by Clare Waterhouse, replacing an earlier marble carving by Marjorie Meggit …

It represents Virginia Dare, the first recorded European child to be born in North America. Her parents had been married here before sailing to Roanoke in 1587 but what became of Virginia and the other colonists remains a mystery.

St Bride’s has a long association with the print trade and journalism, dating back to around 1500 when the printing press of Wynkyn de Worde was established near the church. This association grew with the rise of Fleet Street as a centre of journalism and the newspaper industry. There are a number of memorials to journalists killed, imprisoned or just missing in conflicts around the world and I have written more extensively about these in last week’s blog.

I headed downstairs to the fascinating museum in the crypt …

As I descended I remembered that the crowded burial chambers below the church were rediscovered by preparatory excavations in 1953. The crypts were found to contain the remains of 227 individually identified people interred since the 17th century, as well as an estimated 7000 human remains in the more communal charnel house, where bones removed from the cemetery during the Middle Ages (in order to make room for new burials) were arranged according to type (skulls with skulls, femurs with femurs, etc.) and laid out in a checkerboard pattern to an as-yet unknown depth …

There are guided tours to see the charnel house but I’ve decided to pass on that for the time being.

And so to the museum.

Until well into the 18th century the only source of corpses for medical research was the public hangman and supply was never enough to satisfy demand. As a result, a market arose to satisfy the needs of medical students and doctors and this was filled by the activities of the so-called ‘resurrection men’ or ‘body snatchers’. Some churches built watchtowers for guards to protect the churchyard, but these were by no means always effective – earning between £8 and £14 a body, the snatchers had plenty of cash available for bribery purposes.

One answer was a coffin that would be extremely difficult to open and such an invention was patented by one Edward Bridgman of Goswell Road in 1818. It was made of iron with spring clips on the lid and the coffin on display fulfils the patent …

A contemporary advertisement – secure coffins were not cheap …

As a nearby information panel points out, the idea was not popular with the clergy and in 1820 the churchwardens at St Andrew’s Holborn refused churchyard burial to an iron coffin. The body was taken out and buried, which led to a law suit. The judgment was that such coffins could not be refused but, since they took so much longer than wooden ones to disintegrate, much higher fees could be charged. This no doubt contributed to the relatively short time iron coffining was used.

A collection of grave markers …

Early walls and foundations …

I think some of the explanatory panels are little works of art in their own right …

Terrifying times …

An amusing anecdote …

There are some interesting inscriptions at the east end of the church. 1702 was when the steeple was being completed …

Presumably these people are interred in the vaults below …

I hope you enjoyed today’s effort. I am indebted to the London Inheritance blog for some of the illustrations.

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A quick visit to St Bride’s. A tribute to the bravery of the men and women who bring us the news.

St Bride’s Fleet Street is a lovely church, particularly recognisable by its ‘wedding cake’ steeple …

It was totally gutted during the war …

But beautifully restored in the 1950s in a way which closely resembled Sir Christopher Wren’s original design …

St Bride’s has a long association with the print trade and journalism, dating back to around 1500 when the printing press of Wynkyn de Worde was established near the church. This association grew with the rise of Fleet Street as a centre of journalism and the newspaper industry and the association remains strong despite the exit of the profession from the area.

If you watch TV news today, or listen to a radio report, chances are these will be from a journalist and their support staff in Ukraine, kitted out in protective gear. Those who report from war zones run a very real risk of injury or death, and those who have been lost in previous wars are commemorated in St Bride’s, including this memorial to those who lost their lives whilst covering the 2003 Iraq war …

Particularly moving is the Journalists’ Altar, commemorating those within the profession who have died, are held hostage or have an unknown fate …

Unfortunately, there are too many to display at any one time, so the photos are rotated …

As I write, at least seven journalists have been killed while covering the war in Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion on February 24. A record is kept by the Committee to Protect Journalists whose website gives full details.

There is a lot more to see at St Bride’s, including a great little museum, and I shall report back next week. I felt that this week’s blog should just be a thoughtful one.

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Some cheerful Spring pics.

In this week’s blog I have just put together some of the random pictures I have been taking over the last few weeks that will hopefully create a cheerful mood.

Who wouldn’t smile on seeing this Baker Street doggie …

This time of year is, for me, a great opportunity to grab images from nature.

A corporate window box in Wood Street …

On the Barbican Estate …

An afternoon nap …

In Fortune Street Park …

A pretty piece of art …
With a sad back story …

Blossom time at Aldgate …

Opposite St Paul’s Underground Station …

The Festival Gardens at St Paul’s Cathedral …

On London Wall …

Visitors to the office whilst I was writing my blog. Mrs Duck …

And her handsome partner …

‘Goodbye – I have better things to do than pose for you!’

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Fun on the Tube – from a piece of Roman Wall to a beloved cat.

Every now and then I like to explore our fascinating Underground network to see what new discoveries I can make.

If you go to the east end of the westbound platform at Tower Hill you will see this sign …

And here is the piece of wall …

If you get off the train at Aldgate East you can admire these intriguing tiles …

There are many to choose from and you can read all about them in my visit to Aldgate East blog.

You’ll also find at the station a fine example of a 1930s roundel …

There’s another heritage example just outside Temple Station. It’s a London Passenger Transport Board Underground map from 1932 (to avoid potential confusion the attached notice points out that there is ‘An up-to-date Journey Planner located inside the station’!) …

Here is the part of the 1932 Map covering the stations I visit in this blog. ‘Post Office’ became ‘St Paul’s’ five years later …

Whilst you wait there for your train, look up and you will see the tops of the ornate columns that once supported the canopy covering the tracks and platforms …

When Temple Station was first opened locomotive drivers were forbidden to sound their whistles at the station lest they disturb the barristers working (or dozing) in the Inns of Court nearby.

Also on the platform are some images of historical interest. This, for example, is Blackfriars Station in 1876 …

And today (image courtesy of Network Rail) …

Nowadays, if you want to travel by rail to Continental Europe, you head for St Pancras International and Eurostar. Once upon a time though, your gateway to the Continent was Blackfriars.

The station was badly damaged during the Second World War but the wall displaying a selection of the locations you could catch a train to survived and you can see it today in the ticket hall. It was part of the original façade of the 1886  station (originally known as St Paul’s) and features the names of 54 destinations – each painstakingly carved into separate sandstone blocks and illuminated with gold leaf …

You can read more about the wall and the interesting area around the station in my Terminus Tales blog.

I noticed this instruction at the top of the escalator …

I believe that, on his first visit to London, Paddington Bear interpreted this as meaning you couldn’t use the escalator unless you were carrying a dog.

Onward now to the refurbished Farringdon Station. On climbing the stairs from the platform you can admire the original 19th century roof supports …

Just before exiting through the barriers I spotted some nice stained glass windows which date from 1923 …

Farringdon Station moved to its current location on 23 December 1865 when the Metropolitan Railway opened an extension to Moorgate. It was renamed Farringdon & High Holborn on 26 January 1922 when the new building by the architect Charles Walter Clark facing Cowcross Street was opened, and its present name was adopted on 21 April 1936 …

From mid-1914, the Metropolitan Railway introduced its own version of the Underground roundel. This originally appeared as a blue station name plate across a red diamond and the diamond is still there, above the entrance …

It has also been reproduced on Moorgate Station as a nod to the railway’s past history …

Trivia quiz question. Only two station names contain all the vowels …

This is one of them – what is the other? The answer is at the end of this week’s blog – no peeping!

And finally to Barbican. The station was originally known as Aldersgate Street when it opened in 1865, changing its name to Aldersgate in 1910, Aldersgate & Barbican in 1923 and finally settling for Barbican in 1968.

Just inside the barriers is a nice photo montage illustrating some of the station’s history …

The station platforms used to be covered by a glazed arch but after suffering serious bomb damage during the Second World War, it was eventually removed in 1955 …

Those were the days, with carriages pulled by steam locomotives …

You can still see the support brackets for the now demolished roof …

Do pause in the entrance hall and pay your respects to the memory of Pebbles the Blackfriars Station cat.

For many years Pebbles was a favourite of staff and passengers, often sleeping soundly on top of the exit barriers despite the rush hour pandemonium going on around him. This is a picture from the wonderfully named purr’n’furr website, a great source for moggie-related stories …

Clearly he was greatly missed when he died, as the plaque faithfully records, on 26th May 1997.

This was doubly sad because he was due to be given a Lifetime Achievement Award. This was sponsored by Spillers Pet Foods and named after Arthur, a cat they used in their advertising who ate with his paws. The Certificate that came with the award is also displayed (the co-winner, the aptly named Barbie, was Pebbles’ companion) …

Incidentally, here is Arthur in action …

The TV ads ran between 1966 and 1975 with a succession of Arthurs playing the role. At one time a terrible rumour circulated that the advertising agency had taken the original cat to the vet and had all his teeth removed in order to encourage his rather eccentric eating behaviour. This story was subsequently demonstrated to be untrue. Obviously there is a detailed entry about Arthur on the purr’n’furr website and there’s lots more about him if you just Google Arthur the cat that ate with his paws. There is some great footage of the ads themselves with hilarious voice-overs by eminent actors such as Peter Bull, Leo McKern and Joss Ackland.

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The other station with all the vowels is, of course …

St Dunstan-in-the-East – a peaceful place named after an extraordinary man.

I’ve already written in some detail about the church of St Dunstan-in-the-West so I thought it would be good, given last week’s lovely weather, to visit the ruins of St Dunstan-in-the-East. Dunstan (c. 909 – 19 May 988) was an extraordinary man being successively Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, Bishop of Worcester, Bishop of London and Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s not surprising, therefore, that in Greater London there are seven churches dedicated to him as well as seventeen roads and three educational establishments.

His work restored monastic life in England and reformed the English Church. His 11th-century biographer states that Dunstan was skilled in ‘making a picture and forming letters’, as were other clergy of his age who reached senior rank. At least one example of his work survives …

This is from the manuscript known as the Glastonbury Classbook. It’s a portrait of Christ, and the monk kneeling beside him may be a self-portrait of Dunstan.

He served as an important minister of state to several English kings and was the most popular saint in England for nearly two centuries, having gained fame for the many stories of his greatness, not least among which were those concerning his famed cunning in defeating the Devil by grabbing his nose in a pair of hot tongs …

If you want to read even more about St Dunstan I highly recommend The Clerk of Oxford blog.

And so to the remains of the church named after him.

The original church (dating from around 1100) was severely damaged in the Great Fire of 1666 after which it was patched up and a steeple with a needle spire added, to the design of Sir Christopher Wren, between 1695 and 1701. In 1817, structural problems were identified and these led to the church being demolished. Wren’s tower was considered safe and was retained and incorporated into the new building which was completed in 1821.

Here’s St Dunstan’s in 1910 …

The church was partly destroyed in the Blitz of 1941. Wren’s tower and steeple survived the bombs’ impact but of the rest of the church only the north and south walls remained …

Following the War it was decided not to rebuild St Dunstan’s and in 1967 the City of London Corporation chose to turn the ruins into a public garden which opened in 1971. A lawn and trees were planted in the ruins, with a low fountain in the middle of the nave which is still happily bubbling away …

It’s a lovely, serene location to visit. Here are the images I took last Friday when I had the place almost entirely to myself …

You can get an idea of the ferocity of Blitz fires from the scorch marks on some of the church’s stone walls. Incendiary bombs were dropped in conjunction with high explosives …

Three old headstones have survived with inscriptions that are partially legible along with a flatstone. I have identified them from the excellent audit of churchyard inscriptions carried out by Percy Rushen in 1911.

Here are the entries in Percy’s book :

And here are the stones. First Thomas Sanders …

Then his mum and dad, Thomas and Elizabeth …

And then the Taynton family …

This is the flatstone, and I assume that it doesn’t appear in Percy’s audit because it was originally inside the church …

The pigeons and the weather have not been kind to it but I believe it reads as follows:

‘Here lies the body of Capt. NICHOLAS BATCHELER late of this parish who departed this life December 31st 1722 (possibly 1732) aged 60 years also three children, two sons one daughter, Thomas, William and Anne.

And also Anne a granddaughter of Elizabeth Batcheler.

Also the body of Mary his wife who departed this life July the 20th 1723 aged 58 years.

Also here lyeth the body of Anne Blackall a Beloved Relation.’

I have been able to identify most of the inscription because it appears in a lovely little film about the garden which you can access here on YouTube.

I find it very satisfying bringing these old stones to life and paying a kind of respect to their subjects, even though their mortal remains are long since gone.

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More Street art (particularly work supporting Ukraine).

I popped over to the Brick Lane area in order to see what was happening in the flourishing street art scene and noticed that Ukraine and its struggle is beginning to emerge as a subject. I took these images in Fournier Street …

I’m indebted to The Londonist blog for further images …

And one I particularly like. Crystal Palace folk know how to send an authentic London message! …

Meanwhile, in Paris …

And this City of London shop repainted its signage …

Here are some other pics from my wanderings …

And some that made me smile …
And I did!

This one (and several like it) is on the wall beneath a warehouse now converted into apartments. Made me stand back and wonder what on earth could fall on my head …

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It’s almost Springtime! Both the flowers and the film crews are coming out.

It’s not quite Spring yet but I thought it would be nice to have a wander around the City and see what’s happening – especially in the areas managed by the wonderful team of City of London gardeners.

I started close to home since the Magnolia trees are in blossom near St Giles Church …

Very old gravestones from the former churchyard with the medieval/Roman wall in the background …

If you work at 88 Wood Street you arrive to be greeted by a nice, living, green wall …

Onward to Postman’s Park (that’s the Watts Memorial in the background) …

On Silk Street …

At St Mary-le-Bow …

Just outside St Paul’s Underground Station …

The Cleary Gardens are on Queen Victoria Street …

Across the road at the junction with Bread Street …

So everything is coming along nicely. I shall report again in a few weeks’ time.

I noticed that Wood Street and London Wall were shut, saw this mysterious pile of boxes being assembled in the distance, and decided to investigate …

Just as I stood behind them a voice rang out ‘SILENCE’ … ‘THREE, TWO ONE … ACTION!’ and a stunt man plunged into the box pile from the balcony above. Unfortunately, I missed the action and could only catch him climbing out …

Sadly, they didn’t repeat the performance!

Finally, nice to see the Institute of Chartered Accountants demonstrating their support for Ukraine …

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St Olave’s memorials – from Samuel Pepys to the great sacrifices made by the employees of Wm Cory in both World Wars.

I love visiting St Olave Hart Street. It’s tiny and wonderfully atmospheric, being one of the few surviving Medieval buildings in London. It was badly damaged during the War but many of its treasures had been removed to safety and others have been beautifully restored.

I first visited with my camera some years ago when I was writing about Samuel Pepys and I was immediately captivated by this sculpture of his wife Elizabeth. She died of typhoid fever at the age of 29 and, despite his dalliances with other women, Pepys was devastated by her death at such a young age. He commissioned this bust in white marble from the sculptor John Bushnell …

She is shown with her gaze directed towards the location of the Navy Office Pew where her husband would have sat, her mouth open as if in conversation.

His pew was in the gallery he had had built on the south wall of the church with an added outside stairway from the Royal Navy Offices so that he could go to church without getting soaked by the rain. The gallery is now gone but a memorial to Pepys marks the location of the stairway’s door …

Pepys never married again and arranged to be buried in St Olave’s next to Christine. Now they face one another across the aisle for eternity.

Although small, the church is packed with other items of interest and I shall write about a few of them this week.

Sir James Deane has an impressive tripartite monument showing him and his three wives kneeling in prayer …

Two of the women carry skulls indicating that they died before their time. Three of his children died in infancy and their swaddled bodies are included in the monument with their little heads resting on skulls, again indicating mortality (images copyright Carole Tyrrell) …

Deane was knighted on 8 July 1604 and was a very wealthy man. He made his fortune as a merchant adventurer to India, China and the Spice Islands and was very generous to the poor in every parish in which he lived or owned property. He also built almshouses in Basingstoke that survive to this day …

There is a picturesque monument to two brothers, Andrew and Paul Bayning. They are shown in the red robes of Aldermen and were both closely involved with the Levant Company …

There are memorials with touching inscriptions. ‘Her noble soul and lovely body joined, were once the wonder and the joy of mankind’ …

Sir William Ogborne was ‘A most tender husband, loving parent and a sincere and kind friend’ …

In his will he left all his property (which included several houses) to his wife, Lady Joyce, along with his ‘coach, his chariot horses, plate, hay and corn’.

The pulpit came to St Olave’s from St Benet Gracechurch when it was demolished in 1868 …

Once thought to be the work of Grinling Gibbons, it is certainly a fine example of 17th century wood carving …

The monument of Dr Peter Turner. It was looted from the bombed out church in 1941 but was finally returned in 2011 having spent some time in the Netherlands! A curator at the Museum of London found out about an upcoming auction listing the statue in 2010, the Art Loss Register investigated, and the bust was removed from the sale …

He was an eminent physician and botanist.

All prewar windows were lost in the bombing and the new windows which replaced them were specially designed to take into account the tall buildings that were springing up in the rebuilding of the City.

Two other churches have parishes which have been joined with that of St Olave to form a united benefice and the Lady Chapel Window on the north side of the church has three lights representing them.

St Olave’s is in the centre and depicts the Virgin and Child. On the left, All Hallows Staining is represented by Queen Elizabeth I with the bells of the church at her feet …

Painstaking work was needed in order to create the gradient of colour from left to right across her dress.

On the right St Katharine of Alexandria represents the former parish of St Catherine Coleman …

Above, in the four tracery lights are depicted more modern types of Christian womanhood : Elizabeth Fry, Florence Nightingale, Josephine Butler and Edith Cavell

As I left by the north door this memorial reminded me of the tremendous sacrifices made during both World Wars by the employees of Wm Cory & Son …

At the outbreak of WW1 in 1914, Cory had a large workforce, many of them skilled as engineers, mechanics, bargees and physically fit labourers. Before conscription was introduced, Cory encouraged its workers to enlist in Kitchener’s Army – an all-volunteer force of the British Army – and guaranteed to keep their jobs open for them. The company also undertook to look after the family of anyone who joined up, setting aside a sum of £25,000 (equivalent to £3 million today) to care for the men and their dependents.

Within a few days of the appeal there were enough men to form the entire D Company of the 6th Battalion of the Buffs – also known as Cory’s Unit. Most of these men came from places like Greenwich, Erith and Plumstead.

There is a photograph of Cory’s Unit which was taken at Aldershot shortly before their departure for France on the 1st of June 1915. Within six months, so many of these young men would be a name on a memorial or buried in a battlefield grave in Belgium or France …

Cory also mobilised its boats in support of the war eff­­ort in both World Wars, losing 17 boats in WWI and 13 in WWII (usually due to German mines, submarine attacks or aerial bombardment).

There is a plaque on the Tower Hill Maritime Memorial relating to one of the boats lost in WW1 – the Sir Francis …

She was torpedoed 4 miles off Ravenscar, North Yorkshire, on a ballast run to the Tyne to pick up coal on 7 June 1917. You may be interested in the diversity of nationalities among the crew :

Wanless, A, master, whose place of birth, residence, and family is not recorded;

de Boer, J, seaman, born in Holland;

Jonsson, John, born in Iceland, resident in South Shields and married to an Englishwoman;

Kato, T, fireman, born in Japan;

Nishioka, B, fireman, also born in Japan;

Poulouch, N, fireman, born in Greece;

Sharp, Joseph, steward, of South Shields;

Talbot, Alfred, engineer’s steward, of Penarth;

Tippett, Albert, engineer, a Yorkshireman resident in Tyneside;

van der Pluym, Johannes Cornelis, seaman, a resident of Amsterdam.

A further 12 crew members survived.

Not all their names appear on the St Olave Memorial, presumably because not all of them were directly employed by the company.

You can read more about the Cory company’s involvement on both World Wars here and here. There is a great blog dealing with colliers and multi-national crews here – it’s also the source of my information about the crew of the Sir Francis.

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From Submariners to the Blitz Firefighters – a walk along Embankment towards St Paul’s.

A lovely Sunny day last Saturday tempted me out for a walk.

The national Submarine Memorial Memorial on Victoria Embankment (EC4Y 0HJ) is, I think, one of London’s most moving.

Although able to hide when submerged, once struck the vessels were often unable to rise to the surface and became effectively underwater coffins. In the First World War fifty four boats were lost and with them the lives of 138 officers and 1,225 men. At the inauguration in 1922 Rear Admiral Sinclair, the Chief of the Submarine Service, reminded those present that, during the Great War …

The number of those killed in the Submarine Service was greater in proportion to its size than any other branch of His Majesty’s fighting forces … one third of the total personnel.

In November 1959 new panels commemorating Second World war losses were unveiled by Rear Admiral B W Taylor.

Wright and Moore, writing for the 20th Century Architecture website, describe the memorial as a complex mixture of narrative and symbolism …

Sculptor: F B Hitch Architect: A H R Tenison Founder: E J Parlanti

The central figures recreate the scene set inside the submarine exaggerating it into a small, claustrophobic tunnel. The crew use charts and follow dials, the captain is braced at the centre with the periscope behind his head. Around the vessel a shallow relief depicts an array of sea creatures or mermen appearing to trap and haul the submarine in fishing nets, reminding us that the submarines were as much prey to the tempestuous elements as they were to the enemy.

On both corners are allegorical figures. Next to the list of vessels lost between 1914 and 1918, Truth holds up her mirror. Just further to the left in the picture are two of the 40 bronze wreath hooks in the form of anchors …

On the right, next to the vessels lost in the Second World War, Justice wears a blindfold and as usual holds a sword and scales …

On a more lighthearted vein, walk east from the Memorial on the north side of the road and you’ll find this chap frantically trying to hail a taxi …

Taxi! by the American Sculptor J Seward Johnson is cast bronze and is now interestingly weathered. If you think the baggy trousers, moustache and side parting are erring on the retro, that’s because this particular office worker was transferred from New York in 2014. It was sculpted in 1983 and originally stood on Park Avenue and 47th Street.

I love this pair of ‘dolphin’ lamps (although they are actually sturgeon) ..

Neptune also makes an appearance …

Further east you can wave to the pretty mermaid who embellishes the Art Deco style Unilever Building …

Further along the lamps repay detailed study …

Across the road, a jolly friar looks down from the Blackfriar pub …

Carry on along Queen Victoria Street and admire the imposing College of Arms building …

… and its ornate gate …

St Peter’s Hill runs north alongside the College and at the top you will find the Firefighters Memorial. On its octagonal bronze base are the names of the 997 men and women of the fire service who lost their lives during the conflict. The sculpture features two firemen ‘working a branch’, with their legs spread to take the strain of the hose …

A sub-officer directs others to assist. There are clues to the identity of this figure scattered among the debris at the figures’ feet: the letters CTD for C.T. Demarne. At the unveiling, his colleagues from the fire service claimed that there was no need for such clues. One who was interviewed by the Telegraph stated: ‘You can tell it’s Cyril by the way he’s standing…he always waved his arms about like that when he was ordering us about’.

Officer Demarne in full flow.

By 1943 over 70,00 women had enrolled in the National Fire Service in the United Kingdom. This memorial commemorates those who lost their lives in the London bombings …

The lady on the left is an incident recorder and the one on the right a despatch rider.

Across the road, just south of the Cathedral, is this rather handsome bearded gentleman …

John Donne 1572-1631 by Nigel Boonham (2012).

In 1617, two years after his ordination, Donne’s wife died at age 33 after giving birth to a stillborn child, their twelfth. Grief-stricken at having lost his emotional anchor, Donne vowed never to marry again, even though he was left with the task of raising his ten surviving children in modest financial circumstances. His bereavement turned him fully to his vocation as an Anglican divine and, on November 22, 1621, Donne was installed as Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The power and eloquence of his sermons soon secured for him a reputation as the foremost preacher in the England of his day, and he became a favourite of both Kings James I and Charles I.

His bust points almost due west but shows him turning to the east towards his birthplace on Bread Street. The directions of the compass were important to Donne in his metaphysical work: east is the Rising Sun, the Holy Land and Christ, while west is the place of decline and death. Underneath the bust are inscribed words from his poem Good Friday – Riding Westward :

Hence is’t that I am carried towards the west, This day when my soul’s form bends to the east

The most familiar quotation from Donne comes from his Meditation XVII – Devotions upon Emergent Occasions published in 1624:

‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main … and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.’

Incidentally, if you walk around the east side of the Cathedral you will see scars from the Second World War bombing which illustrate just how close the building came to destruction …

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‘True love will find you in the end!’ Whitecross Street art to cheer us up.

All today’s pictures were taken on Whitecross Street or very near it in adjacent roads.

I’m sorry to say that I hadn’t heard of the singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston before and so I am very grateful to this piece of street art by Steve Chapman for bringing him to my attention …

You can listen to Johnston actually singing this song here. If the link doesn’t work you can Google it – it’s lovely.

Here’s the rest of Chapman’s painting …

A quote by José Argüelles, (1939 – 2011), an American New-age author and artist …

Spring by Jimmy C …

This magnificent Camellia is obviously very happy here in the car park …

Jimmy also painted this sweet little heart …

Tyger Tyger by mural artists Paul Skelding and Tim Sanders is usually largely hidden by the fig tree in front. You can read more about it (and other tigers) here in the Londonist blog …

On Peabody Buildings …

Nearby …

See if you can find this little chap …

During creation at the Whitecross Street Party in September last year …

One of my favourites – the tattooed angel and her weird companion …

I like the pigeon …

It was a dull day but these works really cheered me up as did these cheerful little daffodils popping up on London Wall. Thank you City of London Gardeners!

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‘True Hearts and Warm Hands’ at St Margaret Lothbury.

After the Great Fire of London of 1666 St Margaret’s was rebuilt by Christopher Wren between 1683 and 1692. As some churches around St Margaret’s were demolished under the 1860 Union of Benefices Act, St Margaret’s benefited from acquiring some of the interior furnishings of these buildings. The church now houses an outstanding collection of seventeenth century fittings, many by the sculptor and wood carver Grinling Gibbons. It is one of the few Wren churches that sustained only minor damage during the Second World War.

In 1698–9 the top stage of the tower with large belfry openings and all of the spire were added and this work was probably designed by Robert Hooke. Hooke was Surveyor to the City of London and chief assistant to Christopher Wren, in which capacity he helped Wren rebuild London after the Great Fire.

The church and tower (EC2R 7HH).

The baptismal font, believed to be by Grinling Gibbons (1648–1721), came from St Olave, Old Jewry, after that church was partially demolished in 1887. The font is a carved bowl with cherub heads at each corner and the sides are decorated with Adam and Eve, the dove returning to the ark, the baptism of Jesus and the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip.

Of the subsequent additions to the church the most splendid is the choir screen, one of only two in a Wren church, erected originally in the Church of All Hallows the Great, Thames St. in 1683-84 …

The screen, along with the tester above the pulpit, was moved to St Margaret’s in 1894 when the Church of All Hallows the Great was demolished, to allow widening of Thames Street and building of the City of London Brewery on the site.

The tester above the pulpit.

The Stuart royal arms are part of the screen which was originally donated by the German merchant Theodore Jacobson in c.1685. The eagle is supposed to refer to Herr Jacobson’s nationality …

The lovely stained glass windows celebrate St Margaret’s links with a number of City Livery Companies and Institutions. The windows were donated by either the Livery Companies or their Masters.

The Worshipful Company of Glovers of London – True hearts and warm hands

The Worshipful Company of Tin Plate Workers alias Wire Workers’ motto is Amore Sitis Uniti, Latin for Be United in Love (rather sweet!) …

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. The phrase Recte Numerare means to reckon or number rightly in Latin …

The Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers : In God is all our trust, let us never be confounded.

The Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers. The motto Sine Nobis Scientia Languet Knowledge cannot flourish without us – reflects the fundamental role the craft has played in the achievement of science over the past centuries …

The Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers. The Company’s present Coat of Arms was granted in 1709 and incorporates the former arms of the Armourers granted in 1556 with a new coat for the Brasiers. The two mottos are Make All Sure for the Armourers, and We are one for the joint Company. ‘Put on the whole armour of God’ …

There’s much more to see at St Margaret’s so I shall return.

Incidentally, if you are passing near the Royal Exchange check out Paparazzi Dogs

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Another stroll through Bunhill Burial Ground.

I was astonished to find that it has been well over four years since I wrote in detail about Bunhill so earlier this week, when the sun was in exactly the right place, I decided to take some pictures and write about it again.

I thought I’d show you the pictures first and then re-publish details of the area’s fascinating history. Around 120,000 people are believed to have been buried here and about 2,500 monuments survive.

The gentleman whose face is looking out from the obelisk is the Calvinistic Methodist minister, poet and Bible commentator James Hughes …

It’s a bit spooky sideways on …

Sadly many of the memorials have deteriorated over the years due to wear and tear and pollution …

But some inscriptions survive. I was very taken with this marker for the grave of Reverend Joseph Cartwright who died on 5th November 1800 at the age of 72 …

It seems to me that he composed the poem engraved on the stone himself (sadly the last few lines are obliterated). Here it is …

What if death may sleep provide

Should I be of death afraid.

What if beams of opening day

Shine around my breathless clay.

Tender friends a while may mourn

Me from their embraces torn.

Dearer better friends I have

In the realm beneath the grave.

I have written before about some of the more famous memorials but here are a few of them again.

There is the extraordinary tomb of Dame Mary Page …

It appears that Mary Page suffered from what is now known as Meigs’ Syndrome and her body had to be ‘tap’d’ to relieve the pressure. She had to undergo this treatment for over five years and was so justifiably proud of her bravery and endurance she left instructions in her will that her tombstone should tell her story. And it does …

Further on is John Bunyan’s tomb of 1689. It is not quite what it seems since the effigy of the great man and the bas-reliefs (inspired by Pilgrim’s Progress) were only added in 1862 when the tomb was restored. A preacher who spent over a decade in jail for his beliefs, he holds the bible in his left hand. He started the Christian allegory Pilgrim’s Progress whilst imprisoned and it became one of the most published works in the English language.

Bunhill is a nice place for a quiet spot of lunch …

William Blake’s final resting place was once lost but the present day Blake Society finally traced where it was. In August 2018 a beautiful stone was placed there exactly 191 years after his death …

Here’s some Bunhill history for those of you who might be interested.

The history of the land is fascinating. Owned by the Dean & Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral between 1514 and 1867, it was continuously leased to the City Corporation who themselves sub-leased it to others. The name Bunhill seems to have been a corruption of the word Bonehill.  Theories range from people being interred there during Saxon times to the suggestion that various types of refuse, including animal bones from Smithfield, were disposed of there. However, an extraordinary event in 1549 made the name literally true.

Since the 13th century corpses had been buried in St Paul’s churchyard just long enough for the flesh to rot away, after which the bones were placed in a nearby Charnel House ‘to await the resurrection of the dead’. After the Reformation this was seen as an unacceptable Popish practice, the Charnel House was demolished, and 1,000, yes 1,000, cartloads of bones were dumped at Bunhill. A City Golgotha, it is said the the resulting hill was high enough to accommodate three windmills.

In 1665 it was designated a possible ‘plague pit’ but there is no evidence that it was used as such. At the same time, however, a crisis arose concerning St Paul’s, the ‘noisome stench arising from the great number of dead’ buried there. Many other parishes had the same problem and the Mayor and Aldermen were forced to act quickly as a terrible smell of putrefaction was permeating the City. After negotiations with the existing tenants, the ‘new burial place in Bunhill Fields’ was created and had been walled in by the 19th October that year with gates being added in 1666.

The Act of Uniformity of 1663 had established the Church of England as the national church and at the same time established a distinct category of Christian believers who wished to remain outside the national church. These became known as the nonconformists or dissenters and Bunhill became for many of them the burial ground of choice due to its location outside the City boundary and its independence from any Established place of worship.

The last burial took place in January 1854 and the area was designated as a public park with some memorials being removed and some restored or relocated. Heavy bombing during the war resulted in major landscaping work and the northern part was cleared of memorials and laid out much as it is now with grassy areas and benches.

Across City Road you can see the house where the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, once lived. I hope to write about it soon …

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Fun in the Seething Lane Garden.

Last Saturday I was once again drawn to the Seething Lane Garden. It was a sunny afternoon and I thought I’d revisit the wonderful carved paving stones that I have reported on before. The garden is much more open than it used to be …

These are the carvings I like best out of the 30 that are laid there..

A scene from a Punch & Judy show …

Trigger warning! They’ve dropped the baby …

A monkey sitting on a pile of books chewing a rolled up document …

A meticulous representation of a flea …

A plague doctor in 17th century PPE. He wouldn’t have known that the rat crouching cheekily at his feet was a carrier of the pestilence …

After his decapitation, the head of poor King Charles I is held up by the executioner …

A very happy lion …

A galleon under full sail …

All the carvings refer to incidents in the life of Samuel Pepys – some of which are recorded in his famous diary. In the examples above, he wrote of visiting a Punch & Judy show, of his pet monkey getting loose and misbehaving, his purchase of Robert Hooke’s Micrographia (which contained the flea drawing) and his visit to the zoo to see an old lion called Crowly.

As a schoolboy he witnessed the execution of the King and in 1665 he stayed in London throughout the time of the plague (represented by the doctor). The galleon is the Royal Charles that brought Charles II back to England at the Restoration (and Pepys was on board). Trinitas refers to Trinity House where Pepys was a Master on two occasions.

He was in London during the Great Fire of 1666 and took a boat out on the River Thames to witness the destruction …

Note the piece of furniture floating past.

At the age of 25 he survived an operation to remove a bladder stone ‘the size of a tennis ball’ and this too is represented 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 …

The paving 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. 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, one of many instruments 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 two blogs about Pepys in London and also two about this garden. You can find them here:

Samuel Pepys and his ‘own church’.

Samuel Pepys and the Plague – ‘God preserve us all’.

Bladderstones and fleas in the Seething Lane Garden.

Monkeys and lions in Seething Lane.

All of them contain quotes from his famous diary.

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A mystery solved and some things that made me smile.

Let’s start with the mystery.

Back in August last year 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 wife of David Roberts who died the 14th February 1787 aged 34 years. Also two of their children who died in their infancy … the aforesaid DAVID ROBERTS who died the 25th May 1802, aged 52 years.

The mystery surrounding this stone was 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 wondered where this marker came from.

As a result of the blog, I was contacted by Leah Earl who had been researching old parish records. She discovered that the burials of David and Mary Roberts are recorded in the burial registers for St Peter, Paul’s Wharf, so the grave marker ought to have been there when Percy was transcribing. Since Percy was so careful I can only imagine that he missed this stone either because it had fallen on its face or it had been hidden behind some stones that had been stacked up.

Here are the two pages from the records.

David Roberts is fourth from the bottom on this page …

In this page you can see the tragic year of 1787 unfolding …

The record states that Mary, David’s wife, was buried on the 18th February and her newborn son, John, ten days later. Another child, Sophia, is buried three months after her mother on 30th May. These must be the two children of theirs who ‘died in infancy’. You’ll see that Mary’s age is given as 34 on the gravestone but 35 in the written record.

There is also a record of an Ann Roberts who died aged four on 22nd November 1787 but presumably she is not the child of David and Mary since she’s not mentioned on the marker.

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.

Now, on a more cheerful note, here are a few things that made me smile recently.

As I descended the stairs to Mansion House Station from Bow Lane I came across this little oasis of calm tucked away in a corner …

I have no idea what this is all about but it really cheered me up – so nice that it hasn’t been vandalised.

A couple of cars caught my eye …

Lord knows what this was doing parked outside the Linklaters law firm. Maybe the partners were going to a wedding.

And surely this car belongs to an old – school yuppie …

I wouldn’t argue with the sentiment above this door …

And finally, the City is being populated with some cheery new benches. These are in Aldermanbury …

Incidentally, the tree in the background is Cercis siliquastrum. It is also known as the ‘Judas tree’. This comes from the legend that Judas Iscariot, full of shame after his betrayal of Jesus, hanged himself from one of its branches.

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Smithfield stories (some a bit gruesome).

A few years ago I became intrigued by a particular pub name – the Bishops Finger …

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For a while, this was the signage …

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But, after a bit of research, I realised that this wasn’t a very good representation of what people used to call ‘a bishop’s finger’.

It actually referred to the shape of the hand when giving a blessing. Here is a stained glass representation of Jesus Christ giving the gesture …

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The present day sign gives the clue to its original slang meaning …

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Yes, it’s a finger post indicating directions.

Not to be confused, of course, with the Vulcan Greeting …

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‘Live long and prosper!’

Incidentally, the Bishops Finger name dates from 1981. The pub had been purchased by Shepherd Neame in the 1970s, and the change in name was to name the pub after one of their leading beers. The pub had originally been called the Rutland and had also been the Rutland Hotel.

For centuries Smithfield (or smooth field) was a place of execution where many suffered terribly for their beliefs, one of the most famous being William Wallace, ‘Braveheart’ in the movie of that name. Two plaques commemorate him and his execution. This one is facing the street, its railings often adorned with flowers and Scottish flags …

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Translations from the Latin: I tell you the truth. Freedom is what is best. Sons, never live life like slaves. And the Gaelic: Death and Victory, an old Scottish battle cry.

The other is quite discreet and you’ll find it on the wall just inside the entrance to the churchyard of St Bartholomew the Great …

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Wallace, manacled, stands upright and proud awaiting what looks like decapitation with an axe, a basket ready to catch his head when the deed is done. The noose that he glances at, however, indicates a different fate and decapitation would have been decidedly merciful. The plaque is, therefore, a little misleading.

Having been sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, Wallace was first dragged naked behind a horse from the Tower of London to Smithfield, being jeered and booed by onlookers the whole way. He was hanged but cut down before dead after which the rest of the gruesome sentence was carried out. There is no record of any last words. Parts of his body were sent to Newcastle, Berwick, Perth and Stirling for public display. Wallace’s head, meanwhile, was dipped in tar and set on a spike on London bridge, ‘a grisly reminder of King Edward’s justice’.

No contemporary image of how he looked exists but we do know how Mel Gibson portrayed him …

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There’s a great article in The Scotsman newspaper about Wallace and the myths surrounding him and you can read it here.

Almost adjacent to Wallace’s memorial is the one to Protestant martyrs, erected in 1870 by the Protestant Alliance London. …

A few feet from this spot, more than 60 Protestants were burned at the stake, mainly in the reign of Queen Mary (1553-1558), hence they are known as the Marian Martyrs …

Through Mary’s short reign at least 277 persons were burnt, including five bishops, twenty one clergymen, eight gentlemen, eighty four tradesmen, one hundred husband-men and servants, fifty five women, and four children.

Nearby, the Hand and Shears Pub boasts of offering ‘Last Ales before Newgate Public Executions’. The pub’s name relates to the cloth workers who would gather here ahead of the ancient Bartholomew Fair …

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Here it is in 1952 … …

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Here’s the signage in close up …

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The Justices Licence refers to the Alehouse Act of 1552 which defined in law that it was illegal to sell beer or ale without the consent of the local Justices of the Peace. This was the first time that a licence was required to sell beer and ale and was an attempt to address the drunkenness and disorder that was being caused by the widespread availability of alcohol.

The Act required that each person granted a licence was responsible for maintaining good behavior at their premises and any problems could result in a fine or loss of licence. From the sign it appears that the Hand and Shears was granted a licence in 1552.

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Here’s the pub in 1852, the year the present building dates from …

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Its predecessor in 1811 …

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As is often the case, you’ll find more fascinating detail about the pub and its history in the brilliant London Inheritance blog.

The lovely Sir John Betjeman lived nearby at 43 Cloth Fair …

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Walk into the adjacent Cloth Court and look up. Near Sir John’s blue plaque you’ll see a wonderful Trompe-l’œil painting The Sailor’s Home Coming

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When the next door neighbours bought Betjeman’s flat, intending to rent it out, they had this window bricked up to give themselves more privacy. However, they found they didn’t like staring at a wall. So they got the mural and stained glass artist Brian Thomas (some of whose work can still be seen in St Paul’s Cathedral) to create the Sailor’s Home Coming Window in order to give them something to look at …

Unfortunately it’s rather difficult to see from the street but it has been described as follows : A happy re-union in which a ruddy faced sailor, freshly returned from his travels, is welcomed back into the bosom of his family. His children hug him enthusiastically, whilst an exotic songbird, perhaps a souvenir of an earlier voyage to some far flung corner of the Globe, wobbles unsteadily over the whole harmonious scene.

Sir John’s old flat is available to rent. You can find more details here.

Live long and prosper!

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

Special edition : Pubs and Inns.

City pubs often have a rather interesting history so I thought I’d do a bit of research on some of my favourites, starting with the Hoop & Grapes on Aldgate High Street (EC3N 1AL).

Here it is in 1961 when, before or after a beer, you could also get your eyes tested at the adjacent optician and acquire teeth at Supreme Denture Service Ltd. If your new teeth looked good you could have a picture taken of your happy smile at the Regal Studios …

The Hoop & Grapes is the oldest licensed house in the City, built in 1593 and originally called The Castle, then the Angel & Crown, then Christopher Hills, finally becoming the Hoop & Grapes in the nineteen twenties.

Here it is today …

The pub has been described as being like a skinny waif sat between two fat people on a bus.

The name Hoop & Grapes advertised the fact that you could buy both beer and wine there. The first impression, when you turn your back on the traffic to enter, is of the appealingly crooked frontage with sash windows fitted in the seventeen twenties at eccentric angles …

Two 18th century oak posts guard the entrance, each with primitive designs of vines incised upon them …

There are two old parish boundary markers …

The top one, dated 1837, is for the parish of St Mary’s Whitechapel (lost in the Blitz) and the lower, from 1722, refers to St Botolph Without Aldgate (still thriving across the road).

If you are interested in how parishes marked out their territories I have written two blogs on the subject : Bombs and Boundaries and City Parishes and their Boundaries.

The very old door still bears traces of when it was the entrance to the, posher, ‘Saloon’ Bar …

I like the old lantern with the street number on it …

You can read more about the site and medieval Aldgate here.

Incidentally, there is another Hoop and Grapes on Farringdon High Street …

It once had had a special licence for many years, allowing the pub to open between two and five in the morning for the convenience of printers who worked in nearby Fleet Street. This only allowed the pub to serve those working in the newspaper trade, and other trades which involved night or early morning working, such as London’s markets. I can personally attest to the fact that the pubs that held these special licences often were not too careful in checking that their customers worked in the allowed trades!

It was built in 1721 on part of the historic burial grounds of St Bride’s Church. As an inn, it gained notoriety as a location for illegitimate Fleet Weddings.

In the 1990s, it underwent several changes and was eventually closed down and scheduled for demolition. However, as the last surviving pub with a history of Fleet weddings, it was given a stay of execution and became a Grade II listed building …

Saved just in time.

During the renovation works burial remains from St Bride’s Church were discovered and many bodies found there were moved into the British Museum. 

Last year I briefly visited The George Inn in Southwark …

The George is a very old Inn, dating back to at least the 16th century. It was mentioned by Stowe in 1598 as one of the ‘fair inns of London’ and was rebuilt in 1676 after a serious fire. For many years it was owned by the trustees of Guy’s Hospital, which was on the eastern boundary of the original George Inn – the building we see today is a small part of the original inn and the associated buildings to support the coaching business.

Catching a coach from one of the Inns in Southwark was almost the equivalent of walking across London Bridge today and catching a train at London Bridge Station. And there were many inns to choose from as this old print illustrates …

Coaches from Southwark served numerous destinations in the counties of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire and in 1809 W.S. Scholefield, who was running the George at the time, published a list of the destinations from the inn, and their frequency:

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Gradually these enterprises went into decline as the railways put them out of business.

Here’s what Charles Dickens had to say about the old inns in his first novel The Pickwick Papers:

There are in London, several old inns, once the head-quarters of celebrated coaches in the days when coaches performed their journeys in a graver and more solemn manner than they do in these times; but which have now degenerated into little more than the abiding and booking places of country wagons … In the Borough especially there still remain some half-dozen old inns, which have preserved their external features unchanged, and which have escaped alike the rage for public improvement and the encroachments of private speculation. Great, rambling, queer old places they are, with galleries, and passages, and staircases wide enough and antiquated enough to furnish materials for a hundred ghost stories, supposing we should ever be reduced to the lamentable necessity of inventing any.

The George in 1858 …

In 1874, Guy’s Hospital sold the George Inn to the Great Northern Railway. The coming of the railways had seen a rapid decline in travel by horse and coach, so the sale of the inn to the GNR, who used the site as a receiving station for goods to be transported on their rail network, was in many ways a logical continuation of the main transport function of the inn.

The following photo shows the courtyard of the George, looking towards Borough High Street, with a sign above the entrance to the GNR offices …

Here it is in 1889 …

We are very fortunate to have The George to remind us of the coaching heyday.

By the way, I have written in a previous blog about the famous Bull & Mouth Inn, the signage for which can still be see in the Museum of London rotunda …

It had stabling for 700, yes 700, horses, most of it underground, and the yard could accommodate 30 coaches. This is a picture of the yard, probably painted around 1820 by H. Shepherd (1793-1864) …

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

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 …

I hope to write about more pubs and their history over the coming weeks.

As is often the case, I am indebted to two fellow bloggers for much of my research. The London Inheritance blog is absolutely superb on the history of The George and The Gentle Author writes as lyrically as usual about the Hoop and Grapes.

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New year quirkiness – a ‘cottage’ by the tracks, an eccentric doctor and an interesting piece of tree.

Regular readers will know that I can’t always think of a theme and, instead, produce a random collection of stories that may be of interest and today’s blog is one of those.

I’ll start with The Cottage at number 3 Hayne Street, just off Charterhouse Square …

I am indebted to Katie Wignall, the Look up London blogger, for some background information.

The road was first called Charterhouse Street and laid out in 1687 but then along came the Metropolitan Railway and, as part of the work to extend the railway from Moorgate to Farringdon, Charterhouse Street was demolished. In 1873-74 Hayne Street replaced it (according to Pevsner, it’s named after the developer).

So now, teetering on the edge of the tracks and overlooking Barbican Underground Station, house number 3 is the final remnant of this 19th century thoroughfare …

Photo credit : Katie Wignall.

The view from the station platform …

It was scheduled for demolition but I think that would be rather sad. It seems safe at the moment so let’s hope the plans to destroy it have been abandoned. Maybe one day someone might actually live there (would suit an Underground railway enthusiast!) …

So often entrances don’t look very promising but turn out to reveal something quite fascinating and this is true of Masons Avenue.

Firstly, it doesn’t look much like an ‘avenue’, defined in my dictionary as ‘a broad road in a town or city, typically having trees at regular intervals along its sides’. Really more of an alley, it runs between Basinghall Street in the west and Coleman Street in the east and contains a number of very interesting features …

It’s lined with a mock-tudor frontage, which is sadly less than 100 years old — it dates from 1928 …

There is also a nice boundary mark for the parish church of St Stephen Coleman Street dated 1860 …

That figure in the middle is a cockerell in a hoop. In 1431, John Sokelyng, who owned a neighbouring brewery called ‘La Cokke on the hoop’, died and left a bequest to St. Stephen’s on the condition that a mass be sung on the anniversary of his death and that of his two wives. The gift was commemorated by a cock in a hoop motif that would decorate the church until the building was destroyed in the Blitz in 1940. Here’s the marker again in its wider setting …

Number 12 boasts an attractive stained glass window (about which I have not been able to find any information) …

In my view, however, the alley’s crowning glory is this old pub …

It is very nice to find a pub sign where the portrait does justice to its name, in this case William Butler (1535–1618). Wikipedia states he was ‘an English academic and physician. A Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, he gained a reputation as an eccentric, a drunkard, and (was once described as) the greatest physician of his time’ …

Here is an image held at la Bibliothèque interuniversitaire de santé

I am always a bit wary of describing medical practitioners from previous centuries as ‘quacks’ since very often they were simply following traditional procedures and in many cases were incredibly well educated.

Some of Dr Butler’s remedies could, however, be described as ‘eccentric’ even for the times. For example, as a cure for epilepsy, he would fire a brace of pistols near his unsuspecting patient, to scare the condition out of them. He is said to have revived a man suffering from an accidental opium overdose by placing him in the chest cavity of a recently-slaughtered cow, and cured another patient of a fever by having him thrown off a balcony into the Thames. On a more enlightened note, he opposed the then common practice of blood-letting.

Here’s his portrait, held at Clare College, to which he bequeathed £260 (about £65,000 today) for the purchase of ‘finest gold,’ from which a chalice and a paten were made…

His biggest claim to fame (apart from being court physician to King James I) is his invention of a medicinal drink known as Dr Butler’s purging ale. Eighteenth-century recipes for the drink listed the ingredients as betony (a bitter grassland plant), sage, agrimony (a wayside plant popular in herbal medicine), scurvy-grass (a seaside plant high in Vitamin C, also used to make scurvy-grass ale), Roman wormwood (less potent than “regular” wormwood but still bitter), elecampane (a dandelion-like bitter plant that continues to be used in herbal cough mixtures) and horseradish, which were to be mixed and put in a bag which should be hung in casks of new ale while they underwent fermentation.

Whether this cured anything or not is unknown but it’s quite likely some degree of purging took place after drinking it! In any case, Doctor Butler’s ale became so successful that a number of pubs were named after him of which the Masons Avenue hostelry is the last remaining. Sadly, Purging Ale is no longer available on tap.

His archive is available to view at his old college and you can read more about it here. Look out for this document where he uses an extra thick nib to describe someone as a ‘Brasen faced lyer‘ …

The pub has some nice external decoration but I couldn’t visit the interior due to Covid-related closure …

Whilst in pedantic mode I couldn’t help but notice that the name of the alley in the City nameplate carries an apostrophe whereas the name in the pediment over the entrance does not …

And finally, a piece of tree. You’ll find it on the Barbican Highwalk if you access it from Barbican Underground Station …

The plaque explains all …

Perhaps I’ll sit there when looking for inspiration for next week’s blog.

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