Walking the City of London

Author: The City Gent Page 1 of 10

Hands, Lions and Sphinxes … Spitalfields doors and their knockers.

Writing this blog has led me to research some pretty unusual things and doorknockers must rate highly on the list.

What prompted my interest were the hands I encountered when I was wandering around the elegant houses on Elder, Fournier, Wilkes, Folgate and Princelet Streets. The area is well known as where Huguenot and other master silk weavers set up in business when they fled persecution in the late 17th century. Door knockers shaped as women’s hands proliferate, this one is wearing a bracelet …

Some are older and more worn than others …

These three are emerging from a lacy cuff and all are wearing a ring. In the second two the bracelet surrounds the cuff …

This one is on a door that has become a piece of artwork …

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Door knockers are still being manufactured today and researching the origins of their design has been a bit tricky because most of the published history appears on sales sites. Manufacturers may have a bit of a vested interest in making their wares as intriguing as possible.

Anyway, the consensus seems to be that the hand is the Hamsa, or Hand of Fatima, a symbol of protection which originates in Islam (Fatima was a daughter of Mohammed) but has since been adopted by Judaism and Christianity to ward off evil forces.

Incidentally, I only came across one man’s hand but it belonged to a very famous person. Known as a ‘Wellington’, it was invented in 1814 by David Bray, a London ironmonger. His sales pitch was that it represented …

The Hand of our immortal Hero grasping the Wreath of Victory, and the Baton of Field Marshal, as being the highest rank that can be conferred on military fame: the Lion’s face represents British valour overpowering the arms of Tyranny and Usurpation.

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Another ‘Wellington’ …

The following are described in catalogues as ‘Doctors door knockers’ since apparently they indicated a doctor’s house where medical assistance could be found in an emergency. One variety has (of course) been named ‘The Watson’ …

Lions are popular, symbolising protection …

This door also has an old-fashioned bell mechanism …

Sphinx versions are available …

Or ladies that are just decorative …

Some doors have seen better days and are untouched as yet by Messrs Farrow & Ball …

I loved this one, I think it represents a dolphin …

I deliberately haven’t specified on what streets these particular knockers can be found so you can have the pleasure of wandering around and finding them yourself. Elder, Fournier, Wilkes, Folgate and Princelet are all close to one another and easy to find. Or keep your eyes open for upcoming walking tours with Look up London.

If you are interested in researching this further just search Google using ‘door knockers’ (make sure you include the word ‘door’!). If you haven’t already had enough of doors have a look at these earlier blogs …

That Rings a Bell

City of London Doors and Doorways

More City Doors and Doorways

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Some cheery images for Easter.

It’s now just over four years since I started writing these blogs and I would like to thank all of you for subscribing and making my efforts seem worthwhile. I thought I’d celebrate my anniversary and Easter itself by publishing some jolly images that have cheered me up in these sometimes sad days of lockdown.

What could be nicer than the little daffodils that emerged a few weeks ago …

This slightly bonkers window display on Ludgate Hill made me laugh. I thought these little creatures looked like they were doing a dance but that’s probably a symptom of lockdown madness …

‘Who’s going to buy us with no tourists coming?’ …

I came across this eye-catching pair of doors in Fournier Street above which is a very old sign indicating the name of the business owner …

I resolved to do a bit more research and in doing so actually discovered what Mr Simon Schwartz looked like! What a distinguished looking gentleman he was …

To find out more about him, his business and the background to this picture go to the excellent Andrew Whitehead blog where the story is charmingly revealed.

No Lord Mayor’s Show last year but I spotted a Pikeman’s uniform in a tailor’s shop just off Carter Lane …

The magnificent I Goat outside Spitalfields Market …

Read about it here along with the background to the lovely elephants …

… and these crazy characters, Dogman and Rabbitgirl …

You can also read about this more sombre work …

Potato heads in Whitecross Street …

Costumes from a production of Grease at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in Milton Court …

A happy Clerkenwell couple sitting in their garden …

Along with some friends …

One of my favourites from last year – a pigeon dozes whilst drying his feathers and warming his bottom on a spotlight …

Ducks frequently pose for me on the Barbican Podium …

This is the time of year to celebrate the beautiful magnolia trees on the terrace at St Giles church …

Nearby is St Alphage Garden which boasts another stunning magnolia (EC2Y 5EL) …

A nice spot for lunch …

And now time for my Hotel Chocolat Easter treat …

Have a great Easter!

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Resurrection Stones – spiritual optimism in frightening times?

For centuries images of The Last Judgment were commonplace – particularly on church walls and in paintings. This is a typical example by Fra Angelico which is thought to have been painted between 1435 and 1440 …

Jesus sits enthroned in glory calling up the dead for judgment. He is surrounded by Saints and Apostles, his right hand pointing towards Heaven and his left to Hell. On one side people wearing their everyday clothes are led up to Heaven by winged angels …

But things are a bit grim on the bottom right. Demons prod and drag the condemned off to Hell where a horned Satan supervises a variety of terrible punishments. Look closely at the damned and you’ll see at least two monks and a bishop wearing a mitre …

The depictions of the Last Judgment I am going to write about are carved in stone and differ from the Fra Angelico composition in a number of ways. The first is in the narthex of St Mary-at-Hill on Lovat Lane (EC3R 8EE) …

Christ holding a banner stands amidst clouds. Satan, a figure with large claws, is being trampled under his feet.

It most likely dates from the 1670s. Its carver is unknown, but it is known that the prominent City mason Joshua Marshall was responsible for the rebuilding of the church in 1670-74 and his workshop may have produced the relief. Exactly where it was originally positioned is uncertain; most likely it stood over the entrance to the parish burial ground and was brought inside more recently.

In close up …

You can see open coffins as individuals respond to the call.
The winged Archangel Michael helps people rise again.

The main difference here from the traditional representations is the absence of Hell, so it’s a more optimistic portrayal. Also, people appear naked or just wrapped in a shroud rather than being differentiated by their clothing. Perhaps this signifies everyone is equal when the last judgment comes.

The second stone is just visible from Holborn Viaduct if you look down the steps of the church of St Andrew Holborn (EC4A 3AF) …

Although a bit more weather-beaten that the St Mary-at-Hill version, the figure of Christ’s head has not been damaged and he gazes serenely down as angels sound trumpets to summon the dead. He’s surrounded by little winged figures or putti …

Open coffins lie amongst the chaos as the angels do their work. Under his feet Christ is crushing a dragon-like creature with a long tail, again probably representing Satan …

People emerge, crawling towards the light …

One of the figures here is clinging to an angel and another holds his hands in prayer or supplication …

Once again, apart from Christ and the angels, everyone is naked and there is no representation of Hell. The stone once stood over the paupers’ cemetery in Shoe Lane and was maybe intended to give some succour and hope to those attending the burial of loved ones. It’s thought that this stone also dates from the 1670s but again the carver is unknown.

I am tempted to assume that, after the horrors of the plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666, portrayals of the resurrection were represented more positively by removing threats of Hell and damnation.

I’m always looking out for great London blogs and my publication this week was inspired by the Flickering Lamps blogger Caroline who has written on the same subject. Click here for a link to her website.

By way of light relief in our own difficult times, if you have the chance check out the Herd of Hope elephants at Spitalfields Market …

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City churches – 100 years ago and now.

The black and white pictures in today’s blog are old glass slides and were taken for the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society. They are held at the Bishopsgate Institute.

First up is St Mary-le-Bow, built by Christopher Wren between 1670 and 1680 after its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. It was gutted in the Second World War bombing (all that remained was the bell tower and the walls) but was rebuilt between 1956 and 1964. Incidentally, the church’s predecessor witnessed other dramas, apart from the catastrophic Great Fire.

In 1091 the roof blew off and in 1271 the steeple collapsed, in each case killing several parishioners. In 1284 Lawrence Duckett, an alleged murderer, sought sanctuary in the church, but a mob burst in and lynched him. In punishment for this act of sacrilege, sixteen men were hanged, drawn and quartered and one woman was burned at the stake. In 1331 a balcony collapsed during a jousting tournament casting Queen Philippa and her attendants into the street. Wren placed an iron balcony on the tower to celebrate the event. Next time you walk down Cheapside think of jousting horses galloping past and the rattle of knights’ armour.

Here’s the church in 1910 …

And the present day …

St Andrew Undershaft was so called because the maypole alongside it was taller than the church. The pole was set up opposite the church every year until Mayday 1517 when the tradition was suspended after the City apprentices (always a volatile bunch) rioted against foreign workers. Public gatherings on Mayday were therefore to be discouraged and the pole was hung up nearby in the appropriately named Shaft Alley. In 1549 the vicar of St Catharine Cree denounced the maypole as a pagan symbol and got his listeners so agitated they pulled the pole from its moorings, cut it up and burned it.

Here is a picture of the church around 1910 …

The view today, literally in the shadow of the Gherkin …

St Margaret Pattens is another Wren church, completed in 1702. The dedication is to St Margaret of Antioch and ‘pattens’ refers to wooden clog-like footwear which, strapped to the feet of medieval Londoners, enabled them to wade through the debris of the City with minimal damage to their shoes. The artisans who made them worked nearby in Rood Lane and a pair of pattens were on display at the Museum of London Secret Rivers exhibition in 2019 …

Here’s the church in 1920 …

And today …

St Mary Woolnoth is the only remaining complete City church by Wren’s gifted assistant, Nicholas Hawksmoor. It is also the only City church to have survived the Second World War unscathed. Built between 1716 and 1727 its exterior, with its flat topped turrets, is often regarded as being the most original in the City. Definitely worth visiting if only to see the memorial to the reformed slave trader John Newton whose preaching (from the pulpit still in the church) inspired William Wilberforce. You can read more about him and the church here.

This picture was taken around 1920 …

And here’s how it looks today …

St Stephen Walbrook was rebuilt by Wren in 1672-80 and was one of his earliest and largest City churches. The pains taken with the church are perhaps partly explained by the fact that he used to live next door. The beautiful dome was one of the first of its kind in any English church – a forerunner of Wren’s work on St Paul’s Cathedral. It is not known whether the wonderfully named Mr Pollixifen, who lived beside the church, was placated by the beauty of the building having, during its construction, complained bitterly that it was obstructing the light to his property. You can read more about what can be found inside the church here.

In 1917, when this picture was taken, a bookshop abutted the building …

The same view today from outside the Mansion House …

The dome – a Wren masterpiece …

St Alban Wood street was dedicated to the first English martyr who died in the fourth century. By the 17th century the original medieval church was in a very poor state of repair and was demolished and rebuilt in 1634 only to be destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. Christopher Wren undertook its second rebuilding which was completed in 1685.

The church was restored in 1858-9 by George Gilbert Scott, who added an apse, and the tower pinnacles were added in the 1890s. It was destroyed on a terrible night, 29 December 1940, when the bombing also claimed another eighteen churches and a number of livery halls. Some of St Alban’s walls survived but they were demolished in 1954 and now nothing remains apart from the tower – not even a little garden to give it some cover from the traffic passing on both sides. I’ve often been told someone lives there but I have never seen any evidence of it.

Here’s the church in its Wood Street setting around 1875 …

And in splendid isolation today …

I think that’s probably enough for the time being. I will return to the ‘then and now’ theme in a future blog. I am indebted to the wonderful little book London’s City Churches by Stephen Millar for the source of much of today’s information. Many thanks also to the Spitalfields Life blog for the old pictures – you can see them and more here.

Finally, some ‘reasons to be cheerful’.

The Magnolia is in bloom at St Giles …

And the wonderful City gardeners have continued to work tirelessly to keep the City looking its best …

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Why are some buildings on Fleet Street so skinny?

I was going to write about the unusually narrow frontage of some of Fleet Street’s buildings but ended up writing a short history of the area. I found doing the research fascinating and I hope you enjoy reading what I discovered.

The street is, of course, named after the ancient River Fleet that flows from its sources in the hills of Highgate and Hampstead down to the River Thames at Blackfriars. A major river in Roman times, it gradually deteriorated into an open sewer and even as early as 1290 the Carmelite monks of nearby Whitefriars Abbey were complaining to the King of the ‘putrid exhalations of the Fleet’ which overpowered the incense at Mass.

I have found two very early maps showing Fleet Street and the surrounding areas. The first by Braun and Hogenberg (1560/72) …

The street is not named on the map but it is the main road in the middle of the picture running west to east. You’ll see fields, gardens and orchards to the north and south west but the street itself is already lined with buildings. It proved a convenient link between the Court at Westminster and the commercial City as well as being an ideal location for printing with the growing number of legal and teaching establishments nearby. The wonderfully named Wynkyn de Worde, a colleague of William Caxton’s, moved to the Sign of the Sun near Shoe Lane around 1500 and printed approximately 800 works until his death in 1535. Many more printing enterprises were founded as the century progressed.

Also fascinating is the Agas Map from 1561 (as reproduced in 1633). To the east you can see the Fleet as it continues its flow south to the Thames entering it at Bridewell. Also on the Thames, between Bridewell and The Temple, is the Whitefriars Abbey but the monks were no longer there to complain about the smell. They had been thrown out during Henry the Eighth’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1538 …

The Great Fire in 1666 obliterated two-thirds of the street and its environs but was halted at Fetter Lane to the north and the Temples to the south. The street layout survived the Fire, with rebuilding following the same medieval plots as before, which explains the skinny nature of some of the buildings here in the 21st century. The plot narrowness is very apparent from the 1873 Ordnance Survey Map …

Here are some of the buildings you can see today that have been squeezed in ….

The one on the right was the Kings and Keys pub where the journalists from The Telegraph newspaper next door used to hang out. It closed in 2007.

By the 17th century the area was more urbanised and much of the remaining open space had been developed. To the north the surviving system of alleys and courts came into being, while to the south riverside land was parcelled up into tenements. You can see the growth of developments in the 1676 map by Ogilby and Morgan …

Already a notorious, stinking open sewer, in later years waste from slaughterhouses and tanneries made matters far worse. Observing a flood during a storm in 1710 Jonathan Swift penned the following lines …

Sweepings from Butchers Stalls, Dung, Guts and Blood,
Drown’d Puppies, stinking Sprats, all drench’d in Mud,
Dead Cats and Turnip-Tops come tumbling down the Flood.

The southern end of the Fleet was finally completely covered over in 1766. I must say, however, that this picture of circa 1750 by a follower of Samuel Scott (1702-1772) makes its entrance to the Thames look positively Venetian. You can see the obvious influence of Canaletto …

Guildhall Picture Gallery.

A few buildings survive from the massive rebuilding that took place after the Great Fire.

The Tipperary pub, circa 1667, on its narrow plot …

The rear of The Old Bell Inn, circa 1669 …

Numbers 5 and 6 Crane Court, circa 1670 (but largely reconstructed after a fire in 1971) …

The Cheshire Cheese pub, a merger of two 17th century houses …

The entrance is down the alley on the left of the picture …

The house built in 1700 where Dr Johnson lived from 1748 to 1759, 17 Gough Square …

Incidentally, Dr Johnson’s favourite cat, Hodge, gazes at his old home from across the Square. He’s sitting on his owner’s famous dictionary having just eaten an oyster …

No history of Fleet Street would be complete without mentioning another survivor from the 17th century, St Bride’s church. Built by Christopher Wren between 1671 and 1678, the famous ‘wedding cake’ spire was added 1701-3 and rebuilt after a lightning strike in 1764 …

It’s still known as ‘The Journalists’ Church’. Photo credit : Pinterest.

The entrance to Crane Court has a plaque celebrating the publishing of the first British daily newspaper, the Daily Courant, on 11 March 1702 …

It consisted of a single page with advertisements on the reverse …

It lasted until 1735 when it merged with the Daily Gazetteer.

Over the next century Fleet Street gradually became more and more commercial and in 1855 the repeal of stamp duty resulted in an immediate drop in the price of newspapers. Readership boomed. New printing works opened up and taverns and ‘gin palaces’ flourished of which the Punch Tavern (built 1894-7) is a good example that is still around today. This is an image from Tripadvisor since the pub is closed at the moment …

Here’s how the Street looked just before Punch’s construction started …

Fleet Street in 1893.

There’s a great ten minute documentary on Fleet Street’s newspaper architecture here, especially worth viewing because it takes you into the magnificent Art Deco interior of the Daily Express building. This has been hidden behind curtains since Goldman Sachs took over the building.

‘Read all about it!’ – 7th May 1937, the day after the Hindenberg disaster. That’s the headquarters of The Daily Telegraph in the background …

Photo credit : Getty images.

The 1980s and ’90s saw the dispersal of the newspaper industry to sites in the Docklands and in other parts of London but some of the old signage remains, next door to St Dunstan-in-the-West

The last journalists left in August 2016 – they worked for the Sunday Post in the office shown in the photograph.

Do pause at the east end of Fleet Street and look up Ludgate Hill. You’ll be enjoying a view that would have been familiar to every denizen of the City since 1710 – the spire of St Martin within Ludgate piercing the sky between the western towers of St Paul’s Cathedral (although the view was obstructed for a while by a railway bridge!) …

I am indebted to the City of London Corporation’s Fleet Street Conservation Area document for many of my sources and will end with a quote from it, written pre-Brexit …

Today, Fleet Street is a vibrant street enhanced by past religious, ceremonial and institutional associations and its links with the newspaper industry, with one of the longest ensembles of pre-war buildings in the City. It is part of the established processional route and the route of the Lord Mayor’s show.

Let’s hope that its full vibrancy will one day return.

I have written about Fleet Street before and here are links to the blogs:

Fleet Street Ghosts – people, buildings and places from the past.

Fleet Street Legends – great newspapermen.

Fleet Street’s Courts, Lanes and Alleys – lots of snippets of City history.

I have also written at some length about the Fleet River under the title Secret & Sacred Rivers.

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Potato Heads on Whitecross Street (and some Street history)

It was a lovely sunny day last Saturday so I wandered along Whitecross Street to gaze at some of the wonderful art works. Many of these have been produced over the years at the famous Whitecross Street Party. Who wouldn’t smile at this splendid pair of potato heads …

Work by Keith Jive.

Then there’s a crazy cat with a bird standing on his paw tweeting his love …

Work by Roo.

A pretty green-eyed lady being created …

And now finished and ‘hung’ …

Laughing heads … Ho ho ho ho ho!

I love the colours in this abstract work …

Spot the bee …

A young girl holding a spirit animal over her head and shoulders by Goya Torres (based on her Children of the Sun series). Read more about this fascinating artist here

Not sure what this represents but I still like it, dynamic and colourful …

Work by Will Vibes.

Looking north up the street you get a good view on the right of a mural by Conor Harrington, an Irish artist living and working in London. Incidentally, the church in the background is St Luke Old Street and the unusual obelisk spire is by Nicholas Hawksmoor …

Here is Harrington’s work in more detail. It has weathered quite well considering it was created in 2012 …

Below is a pretty, tattooed winged angel

Stencil by DS Art.

‘Oi, are you lookin’ at my bird?’ …

You can view more pictures and activity here on Instagram.

This year’s party is scheduled for 10th and 11th July, mid-day to 6:00 pm. Read more on the official website.

The street boasts a number of blue plaques placed there by ‘English Hedonists’ and ‘Mad in England’ …

I have written about the Debtors Prison before but here it is again for those of you who missed it the first time around.

British History Online confirms the Nell Gwynne story mentioned on the plaque but I cannot find another source. It also tells us that …

A man may exist in the prison who has been accustomed to good living, though he cannot live well. All kinds of luxuries are prohibited, as are also spirituous drinks. Each man may have a pint of wine a day, but not more; and dice, cards, and all other instruments for gaming, are strictly vetoed.”

A pint of wine a day doesn’t sound too bad.

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

Prisoners would often take their families with them, which meant that entire communities sprang up inside the debtors’ jails, which were run as private enterprises. The community created its own economy, with jailers charging for room, food, drink and furniture, or selling concessions to others, and attorneys charging fees in fruitless efforts to get the debtors out. Prisoners’ families, including children, often had to find employment simply to cover the cost of the imprisonment. Here is a view of the inside of the Whitecross Street prison with people meeting and promenading quite normally …

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

Creditors were able to imprison debtors without trial until they paid what they owed or died and in the 18th century debtors comprised over half the prison population. Prisoners were by no means all poor but often middle class people in small amounts of debt. One of the largest groups was made up of shopkeepers (about 20% of prisoners) though male and female prisoners came from across society with gentlemen, cheesemongers, lawyers, wigmakers and professors rubbing shoulders.

It’s over two years since I wrote about this second plaque so here it is again.

It tells us that there once lived here a lady called Priss Fotheringham who had been ranked ‘the second best whore in the City’. This description appeared in 1660 in a serial publication called The Wandring Whore by John Garfield, which described in some detail the antics of London’s prostitutes.

Described when young as a ‘cat-eyed gypsy, pleasing to the eye’, Priscilla Fotheringham (nee Carswell) was a colourful character very famous in her time. It is thought she was born in Scotland around 1615 and little is known of her early life. What we do know is that in 1652 she was sent to Newgate Gaol having been found in a house of ill-repute …

… sitting between two Dutchmen with her breasts naked to the waist and without stockings, drinking and singing in a very uncivil manner.

In 1658 she was still misbehaving and was bound over by a Middlesex Justice of the Peace for …

… being a notorious strumpet … that had undone several men by giving them the foul disease … and for keeping the husband of Susan Slaughter from her and for also threatening to stab said Susan Slaughter … and also for several notorious wickedness which is not fit to be named among the heathen.

She had married Edward Fotheringham, an odious character from a brothel-owning family, in 1656 and he set her up as a madam at the Jack-a-Newberry Tavern on the corner where her plaque now stands. As her looks faded with time she became more ‘creative’ in the way customers were entertained – you can read more detail in her Wikipedia entry. She made enough money to set up her own brothel and died (of syphilis) a wealthy woman around 1668.

The Whitecross Street area was at one time rather notorious, as this 17th century ballad records …


In Whitecross Street and Golden Lane
Do strapping lasses dwell,
And so there do in every street
‘Twixt that and Clerkenwell.
At Cowcross and at Smithfield
I have much pleasure found,
Where wenches like to fairies
Did often trace the ground.

Nowadays the big attraction is Waitrose.

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My pictures of St Paul’s Cathedral

Since many of the places I visit in order to get inspiration for my blog are temporarily closed I was beginning to get rather worried. However, an idea came to me just sitting at my desk and looking around the room. Regular readers will know how fond I am of St Paul’s and a number of pictures of the Cathedral hang on the study wall, so I decided to write about those.

The largest by far is this one, a signed limited edition print entitled Pencil drawing of London and St Paul’s of the 18th Century by Roger Withington used on the reverse of the £50 note issued from 1981

I love the detail like the little figures manning the boats …

On the quayside barrels are being unloaded, wood is being stacked in the wood yard and in the foreground two ladies are being rowed to their destination. The lady in the boat on the left is wearing a pretty bonnet and the one in the boat on the right is holding an open parasol …

Here is how the drawing was used on the actual £50 note, with Sir Christopher Wren in the foreground …

This is a signed etching entitled A City Lane. St Paul’s by Leslie Moffat Ward RE SGA (1888-1978) …

The picture isn’t dated but is obviously pre-Second World War. There is a lady standing on the corner and her clothes suggest the early years of the 20th century …

I have been trying to identify where the artist was at the time and I am pretty sure he was looking north up Black Swan Court, perhaps positioned at its junction with Carter Lane. Here’s the location in the 1873 Ordnance Survey Map with my pencil indicating where I think the lady was standing …

By 1895 the northern entrance had been built over and access converted into a covered alley way. I think that’s the arch you can see behind and to the right of the lady.

Black Swan Court is still shown in the Survey’s 1914 edition (although too small to be named) …

It looks like the southern entrance has now also been converted into a covered alley which suggests that, if he was standing on Carter Lane, Ward was working there before 1914 (when he would have had his 26th birthday).

The area was very badly damaged in the Blitz and Black Swan Court disappeared for ever. The Black Swan Tavern (which was actually on Carter Lane) was also destroyed and you can see an image of it in ruins here in the London Picture Archive.

I really like this depiction of Ludgate Hill in 1928 (or thereabouts), especially the stout City policeman and the classic open-topped red omnibus …

I’m sure about the dating because of the label on the back, which made me feel a bit sad. I wonder what Lizzie, Pollie and nephew Will would think of the fact that their thoughtful present would end up in a Kent bric-a-brac shop almost 90 years later, which is where I bought it for £20 …

This picture is entitled Eng. by J. Storer from a drawing by H.S. Storer N. East View of St. Paul’s Cathedral

The label on the back describes it as Date circa 1817 – copper engraving hand coloured in watercolours. It’s nice that there is a stagecoach in the picture since this was their golden age. For example, in 1750 it took around 2 days to travel from Cambridge to London but by 1820 the journey time had been slashed to under 7 hours. I also like the chap galloping off on his horse, obviously on urgent business.

And last, but by no means least, a painting by my friend Chris (on a Christmas card) …

Finally, a picture to cheer everyone up, the little daffodils are out …

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City Pumps – more tales of the City’s water

Back in 2012 this magnificent late 18th century pump on Cornhill was in a very sorry state, slowly rusting away …

Copyright: Coal Holes of London.

The pump in 1800 …

Credit: The water pump in Cornhill designed by Nathaniel Wright. Engraving by S. Rawle, 1800. Wellcome Collection.

Now it has been restored to its former glory (EC3V 3LL) …

I didn’t notice the cyclist waving at me when I took the picture!

Two sides of the pump record its history. This is the side facing the pavement …

The ‘neighbouring fire offices’ were insurance companies who made sure that passers-by learnt of their generous contributions by incorporating their emblems into the pump’s design. It was, of course, also in their own interest to have a reliable source of water should there be an outbreak of fire. There had been a particularly ferocious fire in nearby Change Alley in 1748 with many buildings destroyed. You can read more about it in my blog More City Courtyards and Alleys – Change Alley.

The Gentleman’s Magazine of 16 March 1799 tells the pump’s story in a little more detail …

By the sinking of the pavement nearly opposite the front gate of the Royal Exchange a very large deep well of great antiquity has been discovered. The water is of excellent quality, and the ward of Cornhill propose erecting a pump near the spot… What is remarkable, the top of the well was not secured by either arch or brickwork, but only covered with planks.

The emblem of the Sun Fire Office.
The emblem of the Phoenix Fire Office.
The emblem of the London Fire Office.
The emblem of the Royal Exchange Fire Office.

This is the inscription on the side of the pump facing the road …

It refers to a well and a ‘House of Correction built thereon by Henry Wallis Mayor of London in the year 1282’. Also known as Henry le Walleis and Henry le Waleys, he was elected Mayor an impressive five times and was an incredibly active and creative individual. You can read more about him here and here.

The House of Correction was, according to one chronicler …

… to be a Prison for Night-walkers, and other suspicious persons, and was called the Tunne upon Cornhill; because the same was builded somewhat in fashion of a Tunne (barrel), standing on the one end.

Anyone walking about the City at night came under suspicion since at sunset all fires and lights were extinguished and great peals of bells heralded the closing of the gates in the city wall until dawn. Night air was known to be unhealthy. It was therefore believed that those who walked in it were, at best, eavesdroppers at neighbours’ windows or at worst potential burglars, murderers or prostitutes. They would be held at the Tunne until morning and then brought before a judge. For further reading on the subject I recommend Matthew Beaumont’s fascinating book : Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London. You can read more about the Tunne here in British History Online including details of the nasty punishments meted out to women ‘taken in fornication or aduouterie (sic)‘.

I suppose the spikes on the spout are there to stop people resting their bottoms on it …

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I am indebted to Metro Girl’s blog for this piece of fun trivia. The pump in it’s original blue state can be seen in the climax of the first Bridget Jones’s Diary movie, where Renee Zellweger’s Bridget enjoys her first kiss with Colin Firth’s Mark Darcy after he buys her a new diary from the Royal Exchange …

Copyright : Working Title Films (2001).

In the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral this old Parish Pump, dated 1819, bears the name of St Faith’s Parish despite the fact that the church after which it was named was demolished in 1256 (yes, over 700 years ago) to allow for the eastern expansion of St Paul’s.

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That’s Paternoster Square in the background. The pump is in St Paul’s Churchyard.

From the 1250s until the reign of Edward VI, the parish known as St Faith under St Paul’s literally worshiped beneath St Paul’s Cathedral, using a space the end of the west crypt under St Paul’s Quire. After the Great Fire of 1666 the parish was united with St Augustine Watling Street. The pump was once situated against railings of St Paul’s Churchyard close to St Paul’s Cross, but was moved to its present position in 1973.

The old parish still has a boundary marker on the wall of St Paul’s Cathedral School …

You can read my blog about parish boundary markers here.

I’m very fond of Aldgate pump and its wolf’s head spout so, although I wrote about it just over a year ago, I hope regular readers will forgive me for writing about it again. At the junction of Fenchurch Street and Leadenhall Street people usually hurry past it without a second glance, not knowing anything about some gruesome aspects of its history …

There was a well here for centuries and one appears to be shown on the Agas map of 1561 …

Look under the ‘A’ of Aldegate

After a pump was installed in the sixteenth century the water gained a reputation for being ‘bright, sparkling, and cool, and of an agreeable taste’. In the early 1870s, however, people started noticing the taste deteriorate and become foul. Then people who had drank the water started dying in great numbers in a tragedy that became known as the Aldgate Pump Epidemic.

It was known that Thames water was dangerous as illustrated by this 1850s drawing entitled The Silent Highwayman

But Aldgate water originated in the healthy springs of Hampstead and Highgate and flowed underground – so it should have been safe.

The bad news broke publicly in April 1876 …

An investigation by the Medical Officer of Health for the City revealed the terrible truth. During its passage from north London it had passed through and under numerous new graveyards thereby picking up the bacteria, germs and calcium from the decaying bodies. The pump was immediately closed and eventually reconnected to the safer New River Company’s supply later in 1876. You will find a fascinating history of the New River Company if you access the splendid London Inheritance blog.

The epidemic was obviously a distant memory by the nineteen twenties when Whittard’s tea merchants used to

… always get the kettles filled at the Aldgate Pump so that only the purest water was used for tea tasting.

I have discovered a few old pictures …

The pump in 1874- picture from the Wellcome Collection.

And in August 1908 a little bare footed East End boy refreshes himself using the cup attached to the pump by a chain …

In the full picture his pal is doing the pumping …

The wolf’s head spout is said to reference the last wolf killed in the City of London …

Nice that it has survived intact into the 21st century.

Outside Tesco’s on Cheapside is this intriguing manhole cover …

For a fascinating talk by Chris Dyson about this and other aspects of the City’s water supply history click here : This City is Made of Water.

Also worth reading is this article in Square Mile Health Walks and the Gentle Author’s blog entitled The Pumps of Old London.

And there’s my blog from almost four years ago: Philanthropic Fountains.

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Some of my favourite tombs, gravestones and memorials

Since I started this blog almost four years ago I must have looked at hundreds of tombs, gravestones and memorials and I have been out again recently adding to my collection. These are some of my favourites with my reason for choosing them. I know times are tough at the moment but although this week’s blog is about dead people I will try to keep it interesting, positive and even maybe a little upbeat!

First up is this stone in the Bow Lane churchyard of St Mary Aldermary. It wins my award for attention to detail. I have never seen actual time of death recorded before …

There is a well preserved coat of arms which seems to include four beavers suggesting involvement in the fur trade which was flourishing at the time.

Under the coat of arms the inscription reads as follows …

Mrs Anna Catharina Schneider. Died 15th of June 1798 at half past Six O’clock in the Evening. Aged 57 Years, 3 months and 9 Days

Her husband’s details, also on the stone, are more basic …

Also John Henry Schneider, Husband of the above Anna Catharina, Died 6th of October 1824 in the 82nd year of his age

I have been trying to find out a bit more about them and I came across a few tantalising details. The London Metropolitan Archives of the City of London have a record of a John Henry Schneider & Company, Merchants, in Bow Lane – surely the same person. It records the company insuring its premises on 29th October 1791. A Wikipedia search throws up a John Henry Powell Schneider (circa 1768 – 1862) and describes him as a ‘merchant of Swiss origin’. I can’t help but speculate that he was Catharina and John Henry’s son. He certainly enjoyed a long life.

From a memorial displaying extraordinary accuracy to one where the date of death is not recorded at all. This gets my ‘oh dear, what happened there’ award.

The earliest memorial in the church of St Dunstan-in-the-West consists of these two brass kneeling figures commemorating Henry Dacres and his wife Elizabeth …

Elizabeth died in 1530 and Henry nine years later. His will tells us that the brass was already made before he died and ‘made at myn owne costes to the honour of almighty god and the blessed sacrament’. Unfortunately it seems he made no arrangement for his actual date of death to be included later and so the date on the plaque is blank and it reads …

Here lyeth buryed the body of Henry Dacres, Cetezen and Marchant Taylor and Sumtyme Alderman of London, and Elizabeth his Wyffe, the whych Henry decessed the … day of … the yere of our Lord God … and the said Elizabeth decessed the xxii day of Apryll the yere of our Lord God MD and XXX.

My award for the most interesting medical history must go to Dame Mary Page who has one of the most impressive tombs in Bunhill Fields Burial Ground

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 …

When I pointed this out to a friend he remarked ‘for me, that’s a bit too much information’.

Again located in Bunhill, my award for the most uplifting gravestone story goes to the Blake Society. Until recently the only stone recording the last resting place of William Blake was the one below …

It was originally placed over his actual grave by The Blake Society on the centenary of his death (1927) but it was moved in 1965 when the area was cleared to create a more public open space. Considered mad by many of his contemporaries, he is now regarded as one of Britain’s greatest artists and poets, his most famous work probably being the short poem And did those feet in ancient time. It is now best known as the anthem Jerusalem and includes the words that  are often cited when people refer to workplaces of the Industrial Revolution …

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

The present day Blake Society finally traced again where he was actually buried and in August 2018 a beautiful stone was placed over his final resting place exactly 191 years after his death …

Lots of memorials attempt to draw attention to the key characteristics and achievements of the person immortalised. My award for most interesting life history goes to this gentleman commemorated in the church St Mary Woolnoth where he served as rector, John Newton …

Born the son of a master mariner in Wapping, he spent the early part of his career as a slave trader. From 1745-1754 he worked on slave ships, serving as captain on three voyages. He was involved in every aspect of the slaver’s trade, and his log books record the torture of rebellious slaves. Following his conversion to devout Christianity in 1748 he eventually became rector at St Mary’s in 1780. In the church is his memorial tablet, which he wrote himself beginning …

John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa …

In 1785, he became a friend and counsellor to William Wilberforce and was very influential himself in the abolition of slavery. He lived just long enough to see the Abolition Act passed into law. Think of him also when you hear the hymn Amazing Grace, which he co-wrote with the poet William Cowper in 1773.

My award for being absolutely spectacular must go to Thomas Sutton’s tomb in the chapel at the Charterhouse

A relief panel shows the Poor Brothers in their gowns and a body of pious men and boys (perhaps scholars) listening to a sermon …

I love the plump figure, Vanitas, blowing bubbles and representing the ephemeral quality of worldly pleasure. The figure with the scythe is, of course, Time

The man himself …

His body rests in a vault beneath the monument

Incidentally, by way of contrast we can also see, in a darkened room lit by candles, this poor soul. Uncovered during the Crossrail tunneling, archeologists found it belonged to a man in the prime of his life, in his mid-twenties, when he was struck down by the Black Death. It’s believed he died at some point between 1348 and 1349, at the height of the pandemic …

Many memorials state the occupation of the deceased and my award for one of the most interesting as a reflection of the times is the tombstone of the hair merchant Mr Jonathan Thornell in St Bartholomew the Great

To be buried inside the church indicated that he was a wealthy man and this was no doubt because, in the 18th century, wigs of all varieties were tremendously fashionable. Good hair was seen as a sign of health, youth and beauty and merchants like Mr Thornell often travelled the country looking for supplies (even buying it off the head of those needy enough to sell it).

Finally, lots of brave deeds are recorded in city churches but one of the people I most admire is commemorated in St Stephen Walbrook, Dr Nathaniel Hodges …

His memorial is on the north wall and this is a translation from the Latin …

Learn to number thy days, for age advances with furtive step, the shadow never truly rests. Seeking mortals born that they might succumb, the executioner [comes] from behind. While you breathe [you are] a victim of death; you know not the hour which your faith will call you. While you look at monuments, time passes irrevocably. In this tomb is laid the physician Nathaniel Hodges in the hope of Heaven; now a son of earth, who was once [a son] of Oxford. May you survive the plague [by] his writings. Born: September 13, AD 1629 Died, 1o June 1688

Unlike many physicians, Dr Hodges stayed in London throughout the time of the terrible plague of 1665.

First thing every morning before breakfast he spent two or three hours with his patients. He wrote later …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flower therapy

One morning last week was really sunny so I set out to cheer myself up by looking at flowers.

I can’t resist starting with another picture from our car park …

The repurposed boxes will give you a clue as to nature of merchandise often delivered to our flats!

A walk around the Barbican podium revealed some lovely displays managed by the members of the Barbican Horticultural Society …

I’m really looking forward to Spring.

Meanwhile, a confused hollyhock thinks it’s June …

A reminder from last Summer …

Some pictures from Bunhill Burial Ground …

This fine bust of Shakespeare looks out over the St Mary Aldermanbury garden …

A Wren church gutted in the Blitz, the remains of St Mary Aldermanbury were shipped to Fulton, Missouri, USA in 1966. The restored church is now a memorial to Winston Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech made at Westminster College, Fulton, in 1946. The plaque commemorates his fellow actors Henry Condell and John Heminge who were key figures in the printing of the playwright’s First Folio of works seven years after his death.

Some nearby flowers …

Outside St Paul’s Underground Station …

At the junction of Bread Street and Queen Victoria Street …

Massive thanks to the City of London gardening team who look after public spaces so enthusiastically throughout the year.

Outside the Dion Restaurant in St Paul’s Churchyard …

I did smile when I noticed this new mural in the Reception area at the City Point offices (EC2Y 9HT). Very cheerful …

You might also enjoy this post from the Gentle Author in Spitalfields Life : Winter Flowers.

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

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

A policeman’s lot* …

I have been looking again at my rescued copy of Living London published in 1902 and was fascinated by this description of the London Policeman …

It may be his painful duty to arrest you and lock you up … but he much prefers to be your guide and champion, to help and stand by you at every turn. At the crowded street crossing with uplifted finger he stays the multitudinous thunder of the traffic … and may sometime later risk his valuable life against the murderous burglar. Whether gentle or rough, he is always the same, civil-spoken, well mannered, long suffering but sturdy and uncompromising servant of the people.

The writer, Major Arthur Griffiths (1838-1908), was an Assistant Governor of several London prisons and wrote a number of books about policing, befriending a number of senior officers in the process.

His words inspired me to go off to do a bit more research and find some images that might complement this description.

It has been decades since I saw a policeman on traffic, or ‘point’, duty and so I haven’t for a long time witnessed an officer’s ‘uplifted finger’ staying the traffic. But I have found some great images.

At Bank junction. An old postcard (I’d guess from the 1930s) …

Another from circa 1930, taken on Ludgate Hill and its junction with Ludgate Circus …

Copyright: Museum of London.

This officer is standing in almost the same place during the terrible winter of 1962/3 which became known as the Big Freeze

Copyright: Rob Baker.

Outside the old Lyons Corner House Restaurant on the Strand near Charing Cross, probably early 1970s …

Fox Photos/Getty Images.

And what about this great scene. It’s entitled A London policeman controlling traffic from a box at Ludgate Circus on 2nd February 1931

Picture: Getty Images.

Here’s another image from a different angle. I imagine that the levers in the box can be used to control the traffic lights. Boy do we need something similar at that location today …

Image: Keith Nale, Pinterest.

This short eight minute film on YouTube is a real treat. It dates from 1932 and includes film of Bank Junction during a busy time of day with no traffic lights, just two policemen controlling everything. There’s a wonderful moment when a lady interrupts one of them to ask directions! Click here for the link. If that doesn’t work try Googling ‘London Traffic – early (1932) British Pathé’.

As far as arrests are concerned, my copy of Living London has provided me with one arrest image – a man caught trying to pawn stolen goods …

By the expression on the pawnbroker’s face it looks like he was the one who gave the police a tip off.

This is an 1890 photograph of an arrest entitled Taken in Charge

Picture from Pinterest, Dustin DeWitt.

Apparently it’s from an article about the Metropolitan Police but I can’t find any more detail. Presumably the officers and the person they are detaining had to stand still for the picture to be taken, hence its ‘posed’ appearance.

All this research reminded me of my visit almost three years ago to the City of London Police Museum where I recorded a fine set of moustaches …

The City of London police have been responsible for looking after the Square Mile since 1839 and this exhibition is a collaboration with the Guildhall Library.

Some exhibits make you smile …

The coat hanger joke refers to the fact that the minimum height for a City of London Police officer used to be 5 feet 9 inches whereas for the Metropolitan Police it was 5 feet 7 inches.

Other exhibits are more serious …

Cleverly disguised bombs made by Suffragettes.

And finally some police enforcement equipment …

The object with the elaborate crest is a tipstaff dated 1839 – it was a sign of rank and unscrewed to provide a place to carry documents. The handcuffs are 19th century, the earlier one was attached to the wrist of the detained person and the officer would hold the other side. The ‘bullseye’ lamp for night patrol is from the 1880s and the truncheon, with the City emblem, from the same period.

Villains also had ‘tools of the trade’. It looks like Major Griffiths had access to the notorious ‘Black Museum’ at Scotland Yard when writing his article since it includes pictures of some of the Museum’s exhibits …

In this image showing a corner of the Museum you can see that exhibits include some nooses hanging from the ceiling. They were probably used in the execution of individuals whose story excited particular public interest. Also visible are the death masks of five executed criminals lined up on a shelf at the back …

A number of items on display in the London Police Museum have come from the Black Museum.

*Click here to listen to the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company singing A Policeman’s Lot from The Pirates of Penzance. You will find the lyrics here.

If you have enjoyed today’s blog you may also like to read The Brave Policemen of Postman’s Park.

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Nature therapy to cheer us up

The weather last week was truly, truly awful but I waited until the sky brightened a little to go in search of some natural colour and some signs that nature was reasserting itself beyond the gloom.

What could be a better start that these spectacular red berries …

Here they are in their context outside St Paul’s Cathedral …

Some more berries peep out in Brewers’ Hall Garden …

Nearby Karin Jonzen’s Gardener (1971) toils patiently …

Postman’s Park has splashes of colour if you look carefully …

Along with a curious goldfish …

Congratulations to the owners or tenants of 30 Gresham Street for these displays …

There are also some pretty beds alongside St Paul’s Underground Station …

It’s nice to return home where our Car Park Attendant has created this wonderful little garden …

Incidentally, on my way back from St Paul’s this plaque caught my eye. I think the wording gives us a hint of the pride of the Kingdom when imperial power was probably at its height: ‘British Dominions beyond the Seas’ …

You might also like to read The Gentle Author’s blog on Winter Flowers.

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Reasons to be optimistic

Occasionally, when I feel the dark, heavy hand of doom tapping me on the shoulder (Covid, Lockdowns, Brexit, Trump etc) I cheer myself up by looking back at times past when things looked very grim but from which we eventually recovered. One way I do this is to look at some of the images of the terrifying days of the early 1940s and compare them to the same scene today.

The following Aerofilms photo from before the war shows how St. Paul’s was surrounded by the dense city streets with buildings much closer to the cathedral than they are now. These were not only offices, but also plenty of warehouses with one of the major publishers / book distributors having their office and warehouse just north of St. Paul’s in Paternoster Square. The spires of the city churches still stood clear of their surroundings, but St. Paul’s dominated the area …

EPW055297

Christmas 1940 had been relatively quiet, however on the evening of the 29th December a large bomber force appeared over the City just after 6pm and for just over the next three hours incendiary bombs rained down on the City along with high explosive bombs. This combination caused maximum damage. High explosive bombs would rip buildings apart, exposing their contents to the impact of the incendiaries. During the peak of the raid over 300 incendiary bombs a minute were falling across the City and St. Paul’s quickly became surrounded by a sea of flame, fire crossing over the small streets and debris falling all around. These pictures show what was considered to be the almost miraculous survival of St Paul’s Cathedral …

Two things strike me about the lower photograph. Firstly how dirty the cathedral stonework had become after over 300 years of London pollution. Secondly, two of those shrapnel marks that stand out so clearly against the soot-stained cathedral are still preserved today …

You can see where other scars from the bombing have been repaired.

This aerial view shows how close the Cathedral came to destruction …

Copyright : Popperfoto – Getty Images.

The view today …

As a result of the bombing, many of the narrow alleys nearby dating from medieval times simply disappeared as did Paternoster Row (although the name still lives on) …

Copyright : Guildhall Library.

This picture is entitled ‘Prince Albert raises his hat as Holborn Circus burns behind him‘ …

Copyright : Guildhall Library.

And he is still there in the same jaunty pose, albeit relocated a few yards to the east. You can read more about the statue here

St Clement Danes was seriously damaged …

Copyright : Associated Press.

But eighty years later Dr Johnson carries on nonchalantly reading his book. He is no longer imprisoned behind railings and has a fully restored church behind him …

The building still bears its Second World War scars …

In the book I consulted for these photographs the good Doctor gets a further mention …

Copyright : Guildhall Library.

Nothing much has changed. The photograph above is looking south from Fleet Street, this is the view today looking north …

St Mary-le-Bow was completely gutted. I was moved by this poignant picture of a service being conducted in the roofless building in 1941 …

Copyright : PopperfotoGetty Images.

I am pretty sure that the window behind them that gives the unusual view of St Paul’s has now been filled with this beautiful stained glass work by John Hayward. Here the Virgin Mary cradles the church named after her as if it were a child, surrounded by church spires that survived the Blitz …

St Lawrence Jewry was also terribly damaged with only the walls and steeple remaining. This picture was taken on 30th December 1940 …

Copyright : Media Storehouse.

Now fully restored, it contains some of my favourite stained glass by Christopher Webb. In one window an angel holds the roofless, windowless church filled with rubble. In the background St Paul’s is illuminated by flames and searchlights pierce the sky as buildings burn …

In another the angel holds the restored building …

I have written previously about the lovely stained glass that can be found in the City and you can access the blog here : Dick Whittington, Hipster, City Stained Glass.

London Wall on the morning after the big December 1940 attack …

Copyright : PopperfotoGetty Images.

A scene typical of what Londoners faced on returning to work after an air raid. Fire hoses snake across the rubble filled street.

In this image a War Artist records the damage in Cannon Street …

The view today, as close as I can get it without being run over …

Christ Church Greyfriars, Newgate Street, could not be saved …

Copyright : PopperfotoGetty Images.

It’s now laid out as a garden …

Image courtesy of Jenikya’s Blog.

It’s impossible to consider the history of London without referencing some of the great disasters which have befallen it in the past and last year, living in Covid times, I published a piece about the terrible pestilence of 1665 : Samuel Pepys and the Plague – ‘God preserve us all.

I’m not making direct comparisons between these past disasters and the current pandemic – just reminding myself that even after terrible events a kind of normality usually returns, although life is never exactly the same as before. What seems to be unchanging, however, is people’s resilience and a spirit of helping others that I find positively uplifting.

I am indebted to the author of this book for some of the wartime photographs. It also contains a fascinating commentary …

I have also used quotations and pictures from from the excellent London Inheritance blog which you can access here.

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What do pigeons do all day? And why was one awarded the Croix de Guerre?

I was visiting Bunhill Fields burial ground last week with a view to writing about it again for a New Year blog. Whilst focusing my camera on an interesting tombstone I was photobombed by this cheeky fellow …

Although anthropomorphism is frowned upon by some, I do tend to indulge every now and then and felt the pigeon was definitely sending me a message along the lines of ‘why are you writing about boring bits of stone when you could be writing about me?’ So I took the hint and this week’s blog is the result.

Obviously I started with some serious research. Have you, for example, ever wondered what pigeons do all day? Wonder no more – here is a breakdown of their typical activity over 24 hours …

Pie chart of pigeon activity over a 24 hour period (n=12) | © www.londonpigeons.co.uk

Just how smart are they?

From my own observations it is obvious that the pigeon population has become aware of the Covid risk and birds are now practising social distancing as a matter of course …

With total isolation for the particularly vulnerable …

Sadly, however, they tend to lose all self-control when presented with food (just like some humans do when presented with alcohol and the opportunity to party) …

A kind lady has just distributed a handful of bread!

It has been difficult to establish the average pigeon’s IQ. As an expert in this field has written …

‘Pigeons have a very high brain to body mass ratio. The academic literature on pigeon intelligence is fairly non-existent. This is partly due to the difficulty in administering traditional IQ tests to pigeons: they have a notoriously short attention span and furthermore find it difficult to hold a pen’.

An MRI scan reveals a very large brain relative to body size …

Pigeon brain cross-section| © www.londonpigeons.co.uk

City of London pigeons, again according to my observations, spend a lot of time walking rather than flying and there would appear to be two reasons for this. Firstly, our fondness for eating ‘on the go’ due to our busy lifestyles which results either in accidental food distribution or occasional bursts of generosity where we share our snacks with our feathered companions. I have also witnessed acts of intimidation where rougher elements of the pigeon community hang around in an intimidating fashion in parks and outside supermarkets giving humans the ‘feed me or else’ glare …

The second reason, I believe, is the presence of a number of pairs of peregrine falcons that nest on Tate Modern and on the towers of the Barbican. A pigeon represents a tasty meal …

Photograph David Tipling/Getty Images.

Pigeons are monogamous and mate for life and their mating ritual is quite cute. A single male will nod his head at the female which takes his fancy and spread his tail feathers to communicate his interest. The birds look directly at each other, and if the hen likes what she sees, she will nod back. The male will then prune his feathers, leaving the next move to the female. If interested the hen will hold out her head and move closer to the male and fan her tail feathers.

Things get spicy when the male offers his beak and indulges in a pigeon kiss (rubbing their beaks together) …

The hen will feed the male from her beak and together they will coo. Once she demonstrates she is ready, four seconds later its all over …

After mating the first egg will be laid within 10 days, with a second arrival following a couple of days later.

When it comes to food they don’t seem to be that fussy. I have observed them eating …

  • Bread
  • Chips
  • Biscuits
  • Cooked rice
  • Crisps
  • Pizza

I think it rather sad they get called flying rats. They often seem to me to be positively fastidious, especially when there are pools of water around that they love to splash about in, like this one I spotted making sure to wash under his wings …

And lots of mutual grooming takes place too – occasionally leading to energetic bouts of hanky-panky.

A quick question for you. Who wrote the following to friends who were coming to visit him …

‘I hope Lady Lyell & yourself will remember whenever you want a little rest & have time how very glad we should be to see you here. I will show you my pigeons! Which is the greatest treat, in my opinion, which can be offered to human beings’.

It was the man whose writings brought about one of the most fundamental and controversial changes in the way we viewed the world – Charles Darwin …

Although he never wrote On the Origin of Pigeons he clearly became very fond of them after he started studying and breeding them for scientific purposes in 1856. He wrote to another friend about a trip to London ‘where I am going to bring a lot more pigeons back with me on Saturday, for it is a noble and majestic pursuit, and beats moths and butterflies, whatever you may say to the contrary’. Although his study of pigeons informed On The Origin of Species, Darwin’s real ‘pigeon book,’ The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication, did not come out until 1868. Its long and beautifully illustrated section on pigeons is still readable and relevant to both naturalists and pigeon fanciers today …

Here’s one of his illustrations …

And let’s not forget pigeon bravery in two World Wars. Here’s a picture of a carrier pigeon being released from a port-hole in the side of a tank near Albert in the Somme on 9th August 1918. The Tank Corps often used carrier pigeons to relay information during an advance …

One of the bravest military birds was Cher Ami, who now poses stuffed in the Smithsonian Institution …

On 13th October 1918, despite being seriously wounded, she successfully delivered the following message which effectively saved the lives of almost 200 men …

‘We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heavens sake stop it’.

Military vets made Cher Ami a prosthetic limb and sent her home to well earned retirement. For her part in saving the 77th Division, she was awarded the Croix de Guerre, one of France’s highest military honours for her gallantry in the field. General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, said ‘There isn’t anything the United States can do too much for this bird.’

Capt John Carney, Cher Ami’s trainer, holds the feathered hero.

Pigeons continued in service during the Second World War. In the early 1940s, the American Signal Pigeon Corps consisted of 3,150 soldiers and 54,000 birds. Some 90 per cent of the messages got through. And these avian secret agents saved countless lives, too – of 54 Dickin Medals (the animals’ Victoria Cross) awarded in World War II, 32 went to pigeons.

One of its most famous recipients in World war II was a pigeon called Commando – read more about him here.

So next time you are tempted to frighten a pigeon or shoo it away remember this – they may be a distant relative of a war hero or descended from one of Charles Darwin’s feathered pals. And maybe look a bit more closely at them too – their colouring can be very attractive …

Who’s a pretty boy then?

I hope you enjoyed this little pigeon journey. For help with this blog I am indebted to the informative and occasionally hilarious London Pigeons website which provided some of the data.

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‘Living London’ 1902

Where I live there is a space outside the flats which is designated for ‘Large recyclable items’ which are collected regularly by two guys in a slightly rickety van. Earlier this year I glanced at the stuff designated for removal (clapped out chairs, leaky radiators etc) and was intrigued to see a small stack of books which I duly rescued. I would like to write about one of them.

It had clearly had a bit of a hard life …

But its title page told me it might be something special …

This was Volume 2 (of three) of Sims’s series entitled Living London.

George Robert Sims (1847-1922) began writing lively humour and satiric pieces for Fun magazine and The Referee, but he was soon concentrating on social reform, particularly the plight of the poor in London’s slums. A prolific journalist and writer he also produced a number of novels.

Here he is, looking very dapper, in around 1890 …

Sims was also a very successful dramatist, writing numerous plays, often in collaboration, several of which had long runs and international success. He also bred bulldogs, was an avid sportsman and lived richly among a large circle of literary and artistic friends. He earned a fortune from his productive endeavours but had gambled most of it away by the time of his death. Read more about his fascinating life here.

To me, the book is treasure house of descriptions of London and its people at the turn of the 20th century. It contains almost sixty contributions from a host of authors with chapter headings such as London Sweethearts, London’s Flower Girls, Underground London and London’s Dosser-Land. Even more wonderful is the fact that it contains over 500, yes, 500, illustrations to enhance the authors’ themes.

For today’s blog I have just dived in to the book, pretty much at random, and chosen a few illustrations that you might find interesting. Later in the New Year I’m going to study it in much more detail and share with you what I have discovered.

This little selection I have entitled Saturday Night

After the performance some folk will be heading straight off home but others will be seeking sustenance at the grand hotels and restaurants nearby …

In another part of London, like another planet, people are gathering for a different reason. The book tells us that, within a radius of ten miles from the Royal exchange, there were 692 pawnbrokers’ shops…

For working class Londoners a convivial evening in the pub …

… might be followed by some tasty fish and chips …

This evening meal in the servants’ quarters is rather more sedate…

Dinner at the workhouse probably didn’t vary much from day to day …

Here are a few of the features of early 20th century London and its people that I may pick up on in the New Year.

London’s homeworkers …

London romance …

London crime …

And London’s hospitals …

I like to end my blogs on a lighthearted note if possible and one of the pictures in the book raised a smile. This gentleman selling matches had worked out that a person on the upper deck of an omnibus was unlikely to come all the way downstairs to buy a box. So our creative vendor devised a way to deliver the purchase and collect payment …

As usual, in the New Year I will be walking the streets to see just what evidence still exists today to remind us of those times past, particularly here in the City.

It just remains for me to wish all my readers a very happy, safe New Year in the hope that, with the arrival of a vaccine, the worst of times may soon be behind us.

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The Shard and Tower 42 at Christmas plus some nice costumes

Both buildings are putting on their Christmas displays and I thought you might enjoy seeing the one from Tower 42 and the Shard sequence.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers – thank you so much for following the blog.

Tower 42 has gone for a Christmas tree …

I think this year’s tree is better than last year’s which looked like this …

The Shard display sequence is great again, still images don’t really do it justice …

I have a great camera but it is a bit heavy and in these final two pictures my hand wobble is evident!

If you are interested here’s a link to my last Christmas blog about the lights. London Wall Place didn’t put up any this year which is a great shame.

And finally, I liked these costumes from a production of Grease on display at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in Silk Street …

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

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The Christmas Quiz!

Hello, friends, Happy Christmas!

It’s time again for the Christmas Quiz based on my blogs from 2020. I trust you are all OK in these difficult times and send you my very best wishes for 2021. I am sure that, like me, you hope that it will bring happier times for everyone than the year gone by.

  1. This magnificent statue of the Duke of Wellington stands outside the Royal Exchange. What is it made from?

2. This beautiful clock is sited alongside the church of St Magnus the Martyr and dates from a time when the church was clearly visible from the ‘old’ London Bridge. It was the gift of a Lord Mayor, Sir Charles Duncombe. What’s the story behind his generosity?

3. This extraordinary sculpture of St Bartholomew is, appropriately, on display in the church of St Bartholomew the Great in Smithfield. Entitled Exquisite Pain, as well as his skin the saint also holds a scalpel in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other. Who was the sculptor?

4. The Auroch is a beast that’s been extinct for nearly 400 years. This particular skull dates from the Neolithic period (4,000 -2,200 BC) and was discovered in Ilford, East London, where herds of this creature once roamed.

Where must you go to see it?

5. This brave policeman sacrificed his life saving warehouse workers from a First World War bombing raid. Where can you find this memorial to him?

6. In what way is this church in Eldon Street unique? It’s called St Mary Moorfields.

7. If you visit St Sepulchre-without-Newgate you can admire this font cover with its beautiful craftmanship. Made of oak, it was created about 1690 and is typical of many such covers made for City churches after the Great Fire of 1666. Until 1940 it belonged in Christchurch Newgate Street, so how did it come to reside in St Sepulchre’s?

8. Look at this extraordinary statue at 193 Fleet Street now, sadly, somewhat weathered. Is it a man dressed as a woman or a woman dressed as a man?

9. This cross-section shows the layers of paint from a lamp standard on a famous City landmark. What landmark is it?

10. These figures, called Atlantes, support a balcony overlooking Farringdon Street. Do they date from 1814, 1914 or 2014?

11. This is known as The Dean’s Door and the carver was stonemason and architect Christopher Kempster (1627-1715), one of Wren’s favourite craftsmen. His work on the cherubs’ heads and foliage was considered so good Wren awarded him an extra £20 for ‘the extraordinary diligence and care used in the said carving and his good performance of the same’. Where is The Dean’s Door?

12. This churchyard survives from the 17th century, its banked-up top surface a reminder that it is still bloated with the bodies of victims of the Great Plague of 1665. Three hundred and sixty five were buried there including Mary Ramsay, who was widely blamed for bringing the disease to London. What is the name of the church and what famous civil servant and diarist lived nearby and frequently worshipped there?

13. At the church of St Martin within Ludgate on Ludgate Hill rests this very unusual font. The bowl is white marble and the wooden supporting plinth is painted to look like stone. It dates from 1673, predating the church, and was previously located in a ‘tabernacle’ used by the congregation during the rebuilding. The inscription on it reads Niyon anomhma mh monan oyin (which translates as ‘Cleanse my sin and not my face only’). There is something unusual about the Greek wording – can you tell what it is?

14. In St Bartholomew the Less, high up on the south wall, is the memorial to Robert Balthrope, Sergeant Surgeon to Queen Elizabeth I …

The inscription reads …

Here Robert Balthrope Lyes intombed,
to Elizabeth Our Queene
Who Sergeant of the Surgeons Sworne,
Neere Thirtye Yeeres Hathe Beene
He Died at Sixtye Nine of Yeeres,
Decembers Ninthe The Daye
The Yeere of Grace Eight Hundred Twice

Deductinge Nine A waye.
Let Here His Rotten Bones Repose
Till Angells Trompet Sounde
To Warne The Worlde of Present Chaunge
And Raise the Deade From Grounde.

Can you do the maths and calculate the year he died?

15. What famous cat is this and who lived for a time in the house he is staring at?

16. Here a lady, her head bowed, strains hard to control a gigantic horse (and there is a similar male figure at the other end of the building). The sculpture, called Controlled Energy, dates from 1932 and the sculptor, William Reid Dick, was asked why he included female figures in the work.

This was the sculptor’s interesting reply: ‘These days women are controlling affairs nearly, if not quite, as much as men. They begin to take control in some respects … as soon as they are out of their cradles, and the idea would have been incompletely carried out if only men had been used’.

What building was he working on?

17. What notorious prison is this? Now demolished, where it once stood is now the site of the Central Criminal Court or Old Bailey.

18. What children are represented in this sculpture outside Liverpool Street Station?

19. A friar carrying his missal stands in an alcove in an area named after an order of monks that were finally expelled in 1538 as a result of the dissolution of the monasteries. What is the area called?


20. Tucked away in a corner at Liverpool Street railway station is this plaque directly underneath the main memorial to the First World War dead. Within two hours of unveiling the memorial Sir Henry Wilson was dead. What happened to him?

Answers to the Quiz:

  1. The statue is made of bronze from captured enemy cannon melted down after the Battle of Waterloo. You can read more here.
  2. The story goes that when he was a young apprentice, and rather poor, he missed an important meeting with his master on London Bridge because he had no way of telling the time. He vowed that, if ever he became rich, he would erect a clock in the vicinity and this magnificent example of the clockmakers’ art was the result. Read more here.
  3. It’s by Damien Hirst. Read more about my visit to the church here.
  4. The Museum of London.
  5. He is commemorated on the Watts Memorial in Postman’s Park. Read about him and three other brave policemen here.
  6. It’s the only Catholic church in the City of London. You can read more about its history here.
  7. When Christchurch was a blazing inferno as a result of the Blitz a postman ran into the building and rescued the font cover. Read more about this and other rescued artifacts here.
  8. It’s a woman dressed as a man, by Giuseppe Grandi, and dates from 1872. The shop owner, George Attenborough, had a niche created specially for it over the front door. Kaled is the page of Count Lara in Bryon’s poetic story of a nobleman who returns to his ancestral lands to restore justice. He antagonises the neighbouring chieftains who attack and kill him. Kaled stays with his master and lover to the end, when it is revealed he is in fact a woman. (Spoiler alert) She goes mad from grief and dies.
  9. It comes from a lamp standard on Holborn Viaduct. Read more about it here.
  10. 2014, when the staircase to the north east pavilion of Holborn Viaduct was rebuilt in Victorian style. Read more about the history of the viaduct and its statues here.
  11. It is situated on the south side of St Paul’s Cathedral.
  12. The church is St Olave Hart Street and the famous civil servant and diarist Samuel Pepys. Read more about him and the terrible plague of 1665 here.
  13. The Greek words are a palindrome copied from the Cathedral of St Sophia in Constantinople. Read more about unusual church artifacts here.
  14. Here is the inscription again and the answer to the maths:

Here Robert Balthrope Lyes intombed,
to Elizabeth Our Queene
Who Sergeant of the Surgeons Sworne,
Neere Thirtye Yeeres Hathe Beene
He Died at Sixtye Nine of Yeeres,
Decembers Ninthe The Daye
The Yeere of Grace Eight Hundred Twice

Deductinge Nine A waye.
Let Here His Rotten Bones Repose
Till Angells Trompet Sounde
To Warne The Worlde of Present Chaunge
And Raise the Deade From Grounde.

He died in 1591, but the poet who devised this eulogy presumably had a problem getting 1591 to rhyme with anything. So he chose the frankly odd solution of asking the reader to do some mental arithmetic – ‘The Yeere of Grace Eight Hundred Twice’ (i.e. 800 x 2 = 1600) Deductinge Nine A waye (1600 – 9 = 1591).

15. The famous cat, Hodge, is remembered by this attractive bronze by John Bickley which was unveiled by the Lord Mayor, no less, in 1997. Hodge belonged to Dr Johnson, who lived for a while in the house opposite. Hodge sits atop a copy Johnson’s famous dictionary and alongside a pair of empty oyster shells. Read more here.

16. Unilever house at Blackfriars. You can read more here.

17. It was Newgate Gaol. Read more about it here along with its connection to St Sepulchre’s church including the bell that was rung outside the cells of condemned prisoners the night before their execution.

18. It is the Kindertransport commemorative statue. In 1938 and 1939, nearly ten thousand unaccompanied Jewish children were transported to Britain to escape persecution in their hometowns in Germany, Czechoslovakia and Austria. These children arrived at Liverpool Street station to be taken in by British families and foster homes. Often they were the only members of their families to survive the Holocaust.

19. Austin Friars (off Old Broad street), once the location of an Augustinian Friary. Read more here.

20 Wilson was assassinated outside his house in Eaton Place at about 2:20 pm. Still in full uniform, he was shot six times, two bullets in the chest proving fatal. The two perpetrators, IRA volunteers Reginald Dunne and Joseph O’Sullivan, shot two police officers and a chauffeur as they attempted to escape but were surrounded by a hostile crowd and arrested after a struggle. Interestingly both were former British army officers and O’Sullivan had lost a leg at Ypres, his subsequent disability hindering their escape. After a trial lasting just three hours they were convicted of murder and hanged at Wandsworth gaol on 10 August that year – justice was certainly delivered swiftly in those days. No organisation claimed responsibility for Wilson’s murder. Read more and view other interesting memorials here.

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Christmas Lights and Trees!

I love Christmas, and one of its features that I like best is the efforts made in the City to celebrate the season using lights and trees.

I must admit, I was a bit worried that this year would be a bit of a disappointment in view of the fact that significantly fewer people are travelling here for work or leisure. However, this was not the case and I have been wandering around taking in the work organisations have put in to cheer us up and this week’s blog aims to recognise their achievements.

I’ll start outside one of my favourite places, St Paul’s Cathedral …

Thousands of little lights are embedded in Christmas tree foliage attached to a cone-shaped infrastructure.

One New Change has done a great job with ceiling lights …

And a magnificent ‘tree’ …

If you’re going to advertise Covid tests you might as well make the message more cheerful by surrounding it with decorations …

Moor House on London Wall seen from the Barbican Highwalk …

The Dion Bar and Restaurant at St Paul’s has put together a nice display …

‘Welcome to 88 Wood Street’ …

This one cheers you up when you go shopping …

The folk at 5 Aldermanbury Square have gone to town with four trees, these are two of them …

I like this display too …

Look at that seat on the left. There must be a company that specialises in manufacturing ‘odd looking uncomfortable seats for Reception areas’. This is the ‘Victorian bathtub’ look.

Trees always appear nicer if there are a few parcels scattered around their base. This one is at number 10 Gresham Street …

I thought this new Reception area at 91 Gresham Street looked very smart, even though their tree is a bit tucked away at the back on the right …

This one at City Point looked a bit sad, standing on its own with no other furniture …

The Shard is currently blue in honour of NHS workers …

I think this will change tomorrow (Friday 11th) to a more traditional display.

And finally three from the Barbican Estate. Reception at Cromwell Tower …

At Lauderdale …

and at Shakespeare (I love the little figures) …

Have your thinking caps ready because next week’s blog is the CHRISTMAS QUIZ!

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My attempt to cheer you up if you’re a bit fed up!

These really are strange times and so this week I have been browsing my photo library for images that made me smile. Apologies to Instagram followers since some of them have appeared there already.

First of all, a reminder that there is a market for almost anything …

A tattooed angel has appeared in Whitecross Street …

She replaces the cherubs that were assembling a bazooka …

I wonder what was special about these girls …

I remember when many schools had one of these living on the premises …

I always think ‘man struggling with golf umbrella’ …

Incidentally, this one either means watch out for elderly people or beware of pickpockets …

Cute garden furniture …

And more – even the dustpan is smiling …

Eclectic windowsill collection …

If you are looking for smart garden furniture there is this great stall in Kings Lynn. What about the duck pushing a wheelbarrow? …

Sadly poetic closure notice …

Coffee shop humour …

A witty licence plate from Pimlico Plumbers …

And another …

And yet more …

Suited and Booted tailors in Moorgate. ‘It’s all gonna end in tiers (or with a vaccine)’ …

But this chap seems to be doing OK. I wonder what he advises on …

A sealed door on St John’s Gate Clerkenwell. I don’t think the monks were tiny, just that the level of the street has risen …

The Stag at The Jugged Hare bar and restaurant is very angry about being in Tier 2 …

I have never, ever seen a dog dressed like this. ‘Please mum, I need to go to the loo’ …

Rainbow and red crane combo …

Yet another spooky clothes model to add to the collection …

Finally, I make no apology for including this picture again. It had been raining and this pigeon was drying his feathers and warming his bottom on a spotlight. He is doing this whilst half asleep and balanced on one leg …

Hope these cheered you up a bit if you needed it – I enjoyed putting the selection together.

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City ladies, a magic square and some gentle amusement

Women feature on many City sculptures (often in an allegorical role) and I have been on another sculpture safari to see how many I can identify. I have written about female sculptures twice before and you can find links here and here.

In quite a few cases they are located high up on buildings and so are easily missed.

A good example is this pediment group on what once was the Cripplegate Institute building on Golden Lane (EC1Y 0RR) …

Education is seated in the centre, whilst Art and Science recline at either side. Although the building opened in 1896 the pediment was only added in 1910-11 when the upper stories were modified to provide, among other facilities, a rifle range.

You can read much more about the Institute in the excellent London Inheritance blog which also contains this 1947 photograph highlighting the vast extent of the wartime bomb damage. The Institute building is circled in red …

If you stand outside the Royal Exchange you will be rewarded with two more female figures along with the mysterious Magic Square, but again you have to look up.

The first lady is sited in a pediment above the Bank of England and is known as The Lady of the Bank …

Sculptor Charles Wheeler 1929-1930.

She is seated on a globe and her right hand holds a cloak which billows out to her left. Her left hand holds a temple-like building which contains a miniature relief of the Lady herself and beside her right leg is a cascade of coins. She is a replacement for the original ‘Old Lady of Threadneedle Street’, which resembled Britannia, since it was considered stylistically incompatible with the new building. She is intended to represent ‘the stability and security of the Bank of England’. Inside the wreath on the right is the date of construction in Roman numerals, MCMXXX.

On the corner across Bank junction is the impressive NatWest building and if you look up you will see this (rather grubby) allegorical group …

Sculptor Ernest Gillick – 1931-2.

Britannia rises on a winged seat, flanked by Mercury (representing Commerce) and Truth with his torch. At Britannia’s knees are crouching nude females representing Higher and Lower Mathematics. Higher Mathematics, on the left, holds a carved version of Dürer’s Magic Square, a numerical acrostic whose numbers add up to 34 when added horizontally, vertically or diagonally. Lower mathematics holds a pen and a book whilst beside her two owls sit on piles of books.

The square is not very clear now due to the dirt on the carving so here are the numbers it contains …

Innovation Factory — Magic Squares

Dürer included it in an engraving entitled Melancholia I

It can be seen in the top right hand corner and you can read more about it here and here.

Nearby in Prince’s Street, on the same building, you can view this elegant lady at street level …

Sculptor Charles Doman – 1931.

Representing Prosperity, she holds a basket with a rich assortment of fruit and corn.

You have to stretch your neck if you want to examine this relief sculpture at 7 Lothbury (EC2R 7HH) …

Sculptor James Redfern – 1866.

It is rather unusual and is intended as a pastiche of a late medieval Venetian palace. A crowned female figure at the centre sits on a padlocked strong-box and writes in a ledger held up for her by a standing woman with a bunch of large keys suspended from her girdle. Other figures include a woman holding a model steam engine and another figure holding a model boat.

It’s a fascinating building and you can read more about it here.

The frieze on the Institute of Chartered Accountants 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 (EC2R 7EF). Groups of figures represent the arts, science, crafts, education, commerce, manufactures, agriculture, mining, railways, shipping and India and the Colonies. I have chosen a few 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.

Another example is ‘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.

In my favourite sculpture from the building Lady Justice looks like she has stepped out of her niche in order to upstage the accountants number-crunching away behind her …

She appears frequently in allegorical representations around the City and I have written about them before. If you are interested you can find my blog here.

You can see her again on the Old Bailey behind my final sculpture, the Peace drinking fountain in the Smithfield Rotunda Garden (EC1A 9DY). She is depicted with her right hand raised in a gesture of blessing while her left holds an olive branch …

Sculptors John Birnie Philip and Farmer & Brindley – 1871-3.

The structure was erected by the Corporation’s Market Improvement Committee in 1873 a few years after the armistice between France and Prussia was signed in 1871. The 11m-high fountain originally comprised a huge stone canopy in an eclectic style with four corner figures of Temperance, Hope, Faith and Charity but the structure fell into disrepair and was taken down. The illustration below appeared in The Builder magazine in 1871 …

I thought I’d add some light relief in these difficult times.

Happy Clerkenwell gnomes …

Santa’s elves, with appropriate face coverings, seconded for Covid prevention duty …

An optician on London Wall goes for the ‘minimalist’ window display approach …

And finally, more spooky clothes models to add to the collection …

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