Walking the City of London

Author: The City Gent Page 1 of 12

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

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

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

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

Another image showing nearby destruction …

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

St Giles Cripplegate

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

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

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

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

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

Some monuments remain from the old pre-Blitz building.

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

And here is the man himself …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is also this commemorative plaque …

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

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

British History Online reports the shocking event as follows …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And intriguing inscriptions, both inside …

And outside …

But for the moment ‘that is all!’

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

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

Noël Coward at the Guildhall Art Gallery.

What a pleasure on a gloomy, cold day to approach the Guildhall Art Gallery with an air of anticipation …

Sir Noël Peirce Coward (16 December 1899 – 26 March 1973) was one of the twentieth century’s most prolific and successful playwrights, songwriters, actors and directors …

Entry to the exhibition is free (timed ticket required) and you are also handed a delightful pocket biography containing images of some of the exhibits …

It tells us that there was much more to Coward’s style than just chic costumes and décor. His humour was often a deflecting mirror that allowed him to probe deeply into social and emotional complexities. As a gay man (at a time when homosexuality was criminalised) who also surmounted significant barriers of class, he brought to his art the acute perceptions of an outsider and an anarchic comic edge. He pushed boundaries by dramatising sexuality with candour, and modelled an alternative vision of masculinity. He built a family around him of friends and collaborators, offering fantastic opportunities to women that was rare for his time.

I recall seeing many Noël Coward caricatures over the years, often portraying him in a luxurious dressing gown holding a long cigarette holder …

And, appropriately, the first exhibit you see on display is this dressing gown that belonged to him in the 1950s. ‘They’re so comfortable to act in’, said Coward ‘. ‘And they’ve got swing …’ …

Noël’s famous Las Vegas dressing gown from 1955 …

It became an international icon in its own right following his stellar Las Vegas performances, Coward posing in it with a procession of celebrity visitors such as such as Cole Porter, Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall and, of course, Frank Sinatra …

Labels at the Gallery are clear and informative and items beautifully displayed …

For his contemporary audiences his productions were also visual feasts and one gets a great sense of this in the exhibition. For example, this reconstruction of a 1930 costume for Gertrude Lawrence when appearing in Private Lives

There are some iconic items and images …

There is sheet music … it’s 1941 and Londoners are going about their normal business despite the horrors of the Blitz …

And from 1923 …

Along with posters …

And costume and set designs …

You also get a sense of the glamorous audiences of the day …

There are some great, evocative photographs …

And the very personal …

Sir Noël after receiving his Knighthood …

It’s a great exhibition and I highly recommend it.

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

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

‘Lest we forget’.

I settled down to write this blog on Remembrance Sunday, the day we commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts.

I thought it would be appropriate to write again about some of the most moving of the memorials to be found around the City and suggest that this may be nice time to visit them since, for a few weeks now, wreaths, crosses and other tokens of remembrance will still be in place.

On Monday I visited the London Troops Memorial outside the Royal Exchange …

Your attention may be drawn to two battalions with unusual names, the Cyclists and the Artists’ Rifles …

Bicycles were commonly used in the First World War, not only for troop transport, but also for carrying dispatches. Field telephones were limited by the need for cables, and ‘wireless’ communications were still unreliable, so cyclists – and runners, motorbike riders, and pigeons and dogs – were frequently preferred, by the Allies and the German army.

I came across two interesting recruitment posters for the Cyclists at the Imperial War Museum. The first paints a quite romantic picture of the battalion going into combat in the bucolic setting of what looks like an English village. Nothing like the industrial level mass slaughter that these poor men would have to face in the First World War…

This one made me smile taking into account, as it does, the poor state of early 20th century dental hygiene …

The last British soldier to die in the First World War, Private Ellison, was a cyclist. Here Theresa May bows her head at his grave on the 2018 centenary …

The story of the Artists’ Rifles is a fascinating one.

The regiment was formed in 1859 by art student Edward Starling. It was a volunteer regiment and formed out of the widespread fear of a French invasion. Many of those who joined were artists, actors, musicians and architects and its first headquarters was located at Burlington House. The First World War would see the regiment literally leading from the front as they become a training regiment for officers in this period. It is also for this reason that the Artists Rifles had one of the highest casualty rates of any regiment.

This painting, Over the Top by John Nash, depicts his regiment in action. On 30th December 1917, the 1st Artists Rifles counter-attacked at Welsh Ridge, south-west of Cambrai. Nash called the action ‘pure murder’ as most of the company were killed. A sergeant, he counted himself lucky to escape the carnage …

Copyright : Imperial War Museum.

During the Great War, 2,003 of the regiment’s men were killed and over 3,000 wounded. Members of the regiment would be awarded eight Victoria Crosses and over 850 other military awards including the Distinguished Service Order (awarded 52 times) and the Military Cross (awarded 822 times). They were also mentioned in dispatches 564 times.

Incidentally, in the very first episode of the fourth series of Blackadder he becomes an artist, believing that this is his chance to escape the trenches. However, it is revealed that the artist’s role is to undertake a highly dangerous job – to draw the enemy’s defences from No Man’s Land.

The last episode of the series is renowned for its moving climax and you can view it here : Good luck everyone.

I also recommend a visit to the Tower Hill Memorial which commemorates men and women of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who died in both World Wars and who have no known grave.

The First World War section commemorates almost 12,000 Mercantile Marine casualties and was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens with sculpture by Sir William Reid-Dick. It was unveiled by Queen Mary on 12 December 1928 …

The Second World War extension, which commemorates almost 24,000 casualties, was designed by Sir Edward Maufe, with sculpture by Charles Wheeler. It was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II on 5 November 1955.

In the background, Neptune (standing on the old Port of London Authority headquarters) points towards the sea …

Within the garden the walls are overlaid with bronze plaques on which the names of the men and their ships are inscribed in relief. At regular intervals, between the inscription panels, are allegorical figures representing the Seven Seas. Here is one of them, Neptune with his trident …

And another, a mermaid combing her hair …

Images from my visit last November …

I noticed a small cross resting on one of the allegorical figures, just above the dolphin’s head …

Here it is in close up …

How wonderful. Arthur Myers remembered by a grandchild and two great, great grandchildren. His ship, the Empire Lakeland, was sunk by a U Boat on 11 March 1943.

On 2 April 1982, Argentine forces landed in and captured the Falklands Islands. A task force was dispatched in order to retake the territory and this was accomplished when the occupying forces surrendered on 14 June that year. Nine members of the Merchant Navy and eight members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary were killed in the conflict and their names are recorded here beneath those of their ships …

There is a Korean War Memorial outside St Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church (EC1A 9DQ) …

The Southwark Cathedral World War I bronze remembrance plaque is beautiful …

Another suggestion for a visit is the National Submarine War Memorial on Victoria Embankment (EC4Y 0HJ). Although able to hide when submerged, once struck the vessels were often unable to rise to the surface and became effectively underwater coffins. In the First World War fifty four boats were lost and with them the lives of 138 officers and 1,225 men. At the inauguration in 1922 Rear Admiral Sinclair, the Chief of the Submarine Service, reminded those present that, during the Great War …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is an image from this year’s service …

And finally, the Memorial at the entrance to the church of St Bartholomew the Great …

Much of the late 19th and early 20th century church restoration work was carried out by Sir Aston Webb (1849-1930) and he also designed the memorial. It includes the name of his son Philip, who was killed in action on 25th September 1916 …

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

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

Some things I have seen on recent wanderings – from traitors’ heads to woolly mammoths.

As regular readers will know, every now and then I like to publish some images that I have taken that don’t fit easily into any particular theme and this week’s blog is an example. They include wanderings outside the City and even London itself but I hope you will still enjoy them.

Walking down Errol Street in Islington (EC1Y 8LU – opposite Waitrose) I looked up and, for the first time, noticed this very touching memorial …

This wonderful map entitled The Streets They Left Behind is interactive. Just click on the poppies to read more about the men who never returned.

Just across the road in Whitecross Street are the premises of A Holt & Sons Ltd …

Because so many trades have moved out of the City and its adjacent boroughs, I had always assumed that the building contained flats and that the signage had been retained as a quaint ‘feature’ to attract tenants. How wrong I was!

The business (which specialises in cotton textiles) was founded by Abraham Holtz who started his enterprise on a stall nearby and who then bought these premises in 1864. It has been in the family ever since (the ‘z’ was dropped from the name at the time of the First World War). Have a look at their website for the full fascinating story.

The building is adjacent to the tiny, covered alley called Shrewsbury Court …

Despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to establish the origin of its name. You can read more about its history here in the splendid Ian Visits blog.

A few yards inside the alley is one of my favourite London doors. The story I have conjured up in my mind is that, some time in the early 1970s, the people living there found that visitors knocked on the door rather than ringing the bell. When asked why, callers usually said that they didn’t know there was a bell. As a consequence, the residents (who obviously had artistic talents) got out their paint brushes and added this helpful sign to indicate where the push button bell was. Brilliant!

If learning a bit more about City doors takes your fancy have a look at my blog entitled That rings a Bell.

The other day at the Museum of London I was admiring this painting of London as seen from Southwark in around 1630. It’s one of the few painted records of the City before it was destroyed in the Great Fire …

My eye was drawn to London Bridge where a wide selection of traitors’ heads offered a grisly welcome to newcomers approaching from the south …

I liked this view of the outside of the Charterhouse with the very old gates, a gas lamp and an iconic red London pillar box …

The Kentish ragstone wall is fantastic …

I wrote recently about the great Italian experience that is Eataly on Bishopsgate. Here’s some of the scrumptious produce on sale …

There are a few doorways around the City that have always intrigued me since the wood seems to be incredibly old and repurposed from another function. The first is on Foster Lane and the next two Carter Lane …

I have noticed a recent trend in City opticians to have really wacky displays that don’t seem to bear much resemblance at all to their product. This one’s in Aldersgate and is obviously referencing the nearby Barbican estate …

Generally speaking, I don’t approve of graffiti, but this made me laugh …

When visiting Highgate Cemetery a few weeks ago I encountered these two ladies on Highgate Hill. The first (‘Big girls need big diamonds’) is obviously Elizabeth Taylor …

If you are visiting nearby and are interested in finding them they are on the outside wall of the oddly named Brendan the Navigator pub (N19 5NQ).

In the Egyptian Avenue in Highgate Cemetery you will come across the vault containing the remains of Mabel Veronica Batten. In front of the entrance there are always fresh flowers placed in a marble container inscribed with the name of her lover, Radclyffe Hall, who is also laid to rest there …

Hall, born Marguerite Radclyffe Hall but known to her loved ones as John, was a lesbian who dressed in men’s clothes in a society and era when same-sex love was considered not only immoral but legally punishable. Her book, The Well of Loneliness, dealing with a love between two women, was published in 1928. Here she is circa 1910 …

Picture: National Portrait Gallery, photographer unknown.

Her novel became the target of a campaign by James Douglas, editor of the Sunday Express, who wrote, ‘I would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid than this novel.’ A judge eventually ordered the book destroyed, with the defendants to pay court costs.

A lady entrepreneur sets out her wares on Kilburn High Road …

Nearby stalls …

And finally, some images from a really enjoyable trip to Ipswich.

Ipswich Museum is a delight containing an extraordinary range of exhibits, all displayed in an authentic Victorian environment.

Ever wondered what a boa constrictor’s skeleton looks like? Wonder no more …

Ever fancied a close encounter with a woolly mammoth? This is the place to come …

In a sad sign of the times, ten years ago someone broke in and sawed off and stole Rosie the Rhino’s horn!

Staying at the Salthouse Harbour Hotel was fun. There is some interesting art on display …

And some, er, rather eccentric signage …

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

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

Special colour edition! The weather’s been a bit chilly so here’s some colour to warm us up!

Temple tube station’s grey concrete roof terrace has been given a kaleidoscopic makeover by London-based artist Lakwena Maciver. Titled ‘Back in the Air: A Meditation on Higher Ground,’ Maciver’s rooftop art installation features a series of interlocking geometric patterns inspired by her Ugandan heritage …

You can read more about the work here along with some great aerial images. Highly recommended since it also includes fascinating time lapse footage of the work’s construction.

You may wonder why Temple Station, built in 1870, has this unusual flat roof. Well, when the station building was proposed, the Duke of Norfolk, who owned land to the north, didn’t want a tall structure obstructing his view. As a result of his objection, the flat roof meant he could still gaze happily over the Thames and wander across the roof if that took his fancy. Another constraint was demanded by the barristers in the nearby Inns of Court. Train drivers were not allowed to blow their whistles in their proximity so members would not be distracted from their briefs (nor, presumably, have their slumbers interrupted).

If you like Italian food and produce Eataly, on Bishopsgate beside Liverpool Street Station, is the place for you. Great restaurants with scrumptious food and mini-shops selling all kinds of produce. There’s a great wine shop as well. I love this sparkling arcade …

Colourful stall at the Whitecross Street Party

My Party favourite, the Big Paintbrush …

Ventilation shafts dazzle underneath the Cheesegrater building at 122 Leadenhall Street (EC3V 4AB) …

Incidentally, there’s an interesting story behind the maypole you can see in the distance and the statue next to it. You can read all about it in my blog Around Leadenhall – Geishas, Sign Language, Maypoles and a Japanese proverb.

I like the ‘splashy’ roof over the pavement at 22 Bishopsgate (EC2N 4AJ) …

Fun pink ‘stuff’ at St Pancreas …

Crazy shop window nearby …

Street art near Rivington Street …

The ‘Hanging Gardens of the Barbican’ are gradually changing colour …

Sadly, the last hollyhock of the year …

However, there is cause for optimism. A little green leaf emerging from the Amaryllis!

Last Saturday I went on a guided tour of Highgate Cemetery and took this image of our excellent guide James in his natural green habitat …

The Cemetery is well worth visiting and the guided tours great value for money (or you can go self-guided if you prefer). Details can be found here on their website. You must book a time slot in advance.

And finally, can you spot the Tower 42 orange pumpkin head?

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

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

Roman elephants and Suffragette bread – more fun at the Museum of London.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I love the Museum of London and it’s one of my go-to places if I feel I need a bit of cheering up (and, almost inevitably, I learn something new).

For example, it had completely escaped my notice that the Roman Emperor Claudius used elephants during his invasion of Britain in AD 43. Not far inside the entrance to the Museum is this totally bonkers mural illustrating their use in battle. The beasts look suitably angry at being dragged half way around the world just to stamp on a few ancient Britons …

There’s Claudius on the right on a white horse, possibly declaring ‘missio peracta’ (which Google assures me is ‘mission accomplished’ in Latin). Around the same time a young woman of the Iceni tribe called Boudica was aged about 30.

As Queen Boudica, she is now famous for her 60/61 AD uprising against the Romans. For resisting the appropriation of her property and that of her tribe, the local Roman procurator had her flogged and her daughters raped. Building on the fury of other tribes, she raised an army which went on to capture present day Colchester (Camulodunum) routing the Roman division there in the process. She then headed for Londinium.

Early London was a sprawling settlement, unwalled and defenceless since the Governor, Gaius Seutonius Paulinus, believing his troops to be disastrously outnumbered, made a tactical retreat (i.e. fled). On arriving, Boudica’s army burnt the place to the ground and slaughtered everyone they could find. These skulls on display in the Museum may be evidence of that massacre …

Primarily belonging to young adult men, a large number were found in the ancient Walbrook stream (although it must be said that there are alternative theories as to their origin).

The settlement of Verulamium – today’s St Albans – was next to feel the wrath of Boudica’s revenge as her, seemingly unstoppable, army sacked and burnt it en route to their inevitable confrontation with the now significantly strengthened Governor’s army.

The battle went badly and, rather than face the inevitable humiliation of capture, she is said to have poisoned herself and was buried by her people at a secret location. Some claim she’s buried beneath platform 10 of King’s Cross Station – maybe that’s why there’s a Boadicea Street nearby (N1 0UA)!

‘How’s my driving?’ Here she is with her daughters, driving her chariot, remarkably without the use of reins …

Boudica at Westminster : picture by Paul Walter/Wikipedia

Evidence of Boudica’s destruction of London lives on in a layer of burnt earth and debris known as the Red Layer that is occasionally uncovered during modern developments.

Not an elephant but the skull of a long extinct animal called an Auroch …

Up until the early 17th century you could still have encountered a live one (living in Poland). The one in the museum lived in Essex and was found in Ilford where it would have been part of a large herd. Incidentally, Aurochs live on today in the coats of arms of Romania and Moldova.

There’s a great temporary exhibition at the Museum illustrating the work of contemporary London makers.

I really like this stained glass work entitled Gorilla (2017) by Piotr Frac

And what about this piece by James Shaw entitled Plastic Baroque

And I love this witty Venus (2015) by Claire Partington

Pregnant and casually dressed, she poses with a ciggie in one hand and the dogs’ leash in another.

Now some brave women from a different era, the Suffragettes. This is the banner of the West Ham branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union 1909-1910 …

Suffragette prisoners often removed loaves of bread from Holloway Prison as a souvenir of their incarceration. Now well over 100 years old, this loaf was carefully preserved and gifted to the Museum in 1950 …

Read more about the campaign for Votes for Women and those who fought it here.

What a great poster …

If you’d like to cast you mind back to the heady, optimistic days of the 2012 London Olympics, the Olympic cauldron is on display again …

When you are appropriately Sanitised, the Victorian Walk is always a nice way to complete a visit …

By the way, if you are passing through Temple Station and have a bit of time to spare, get off and make your way to the station roof where you will find this fabulous installation by London-based artist Lakwena Maciver. It’s entitled ‘Back in the Air: A Meditation on Higher Ground’. This is only a small part of it …

I shall have more images for you next week.

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

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

Sculptures in the City (including some with a clever disguised purpose).

I thought it would be interesting to revisit the Sculpture in the City project again having written about it a few weeks ago. There are also some sculptures that I have come across over the years that are not quite what they seem so I have included them as well.

First up from the project is Rough Neck Business by Mike Ballard …

100 Bishopsgate, EC2M 1GT.

The work is made up of hoardings sourced from several sites across London which have seen great changes over recent years and have been surrounded by hoardings for quite some time. Ballard is interested in taking this material, that normally represents a threshold of ownership and protection of property, and transforming it from sheet form into a 3d structure of its own, to be admired for its un-painterly qualities and the ‘witness marks’ of the time it stood on the street.

This is Murmurs of the Deep by Laura Arminda Kingsley …

Installed on the escalators of the Leadenhall Building, EC3V 4AB.

The notes tell us that ‘here she creates a pictorial world in which our communion with the cosmos and nature is unmediated by cultural valuations or static ideas of identity. To accomplish this, Kingsley looks at the world through the lens of deep time, giving equal importance to; the microscopic and the macroscopic; folklore and science; and the archaic and the new, to offer the viewer a non-hierarchical perspective in which to reconsider their place in the world’.

Tatiana Wolska creates her sculptures using recycled plastic bottles. By cutting, perforating and thermo-welding them, she achieves sprawling, modular biomorphic forms …

‘Untitled’ : Leadenhall Market, EC3V 1LT.

‘By being light-weight these arresting forms can be placed within the environment in ways defying the laws of gravity. They can evoke floating islands of plastic waste or hold a strong poetic charge, appearing to be mysteriously suspended from the buildings or trees as if infecting the environment.’

The RedHead Sunset Stack captures a bit of the awe that seeing a beautiful sunset inspires in Almuth Tebbenhoff – reduced to the form of a large toy-tower …

Mitre Square, EC3A 5DH

‘At the centre the artist put a ragged and unstable human experience in pink and orange which is sandwiched between the steady blue earth and the red sun cubes. The earth and sun may be the only constants we have and even here we are at the mercy of incomprehensible forces.’

This work is my favourite and I make no excuses for showing it again …

The nearby notes tell us that the sculptor Jun T. Lai ‘created Bloom Paradise to symbolize hope and love. The artist’s intention was to bring greater positivity into the pandemic stricken world and release healing energy. The bright and colorful flowers call to an imaginative world, leading the visitor into a fantasy wonderland. Through this work, the artist hopes to bring positive energy and joy, a gift of life, to everyone’.

I think she has succeeded brilliantly. What a lovely vision to encounter as you leave Fenchurch Street Station on your way to work.

By way of further light relief, there are benches around the city with ‘memorial’ plaques devised by Oliver Bragg. This one made me laugh …

‘This project focuses on the everyman, the natural environment and memories to place and memory itself. A series of engraved brass bench plaques have been installed to existing benches around the City of London. The plaques have been created to mimic the plaques that often adorn benches to memorialise or pay homage to a specific person. These, however, are fabricated: in loving memory of a ‘made up’ person or place or abstract idea’.

I thought that, since we are on the subject of public sculpture, I’d take this opportunity to share with you a few examples of works that perform another function apart from the purely aesthetic.

This is Angel’s Wings on Paternoster Square by Thomas Heatherwick. The sculpture is actually a ventilator for an underground electrical substation …

The makers of the vents, the Heatherwick Studio, say that ‘the aesthetic design is derived from experiments with folded paper, scaled up to 11m in height; the vents retain the proportions of the A4-size paper used in these experiments. The Vents are fabricated from 63 identical, 8mm thick, stainless steel isosceles triangles welded together and finished by glass bead blasting’.

Paternoster Square also hosts this elegant column that has a striking resemblance to The Monument commemorating the Great Fire …

In fact it is based on Inigo Jones’ corinthian columns for St Paul’s West Portico, destroyed in favour of Wren’s design we see today. Look closely and you’ll spot grates under the base, a ventilation system for the car park underneath your feet.

The flaming urn at the top refers not only the 1666 fire but also the Blitz that destroyed most of the surrounding area …

I took this picture to illustrate its position relative to St Paul’s, although the weather was not ideal for photography …

And finally, another ventilation shaft. James Henry Greathead was a South African engineer (note the hat) who invented what was to become known as the Greathead Shield. He came to be here on Cornhill because a new shaft was needed for Bank Underground Station and it was decided that he should be honoured on the plinth covering it …

Designed by James Butler (1994) – Cornhill EC3V 3NR.

The Shield enabled the London Underground to be constructed at greater depths through the London clay. The miners doing the tunneling, using pneumatic spades and hand shovels, would create a cavity in the earth where the Shield would be inserted to hold back the walls whilst the miners installed cast-iron segments to create a ring. The process would be repeated until a tunnel had formed in the shape of a ‘tube’, which is where we get the nickname for the network today. A plaque on the side of the plinth shows the men at work …

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

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

The history of Passing Alley and other St John Street features.

You may remember that last week I suggested you reflect on the origin of the name of this narrow thoroughfare which has this entrance in St John’s Lane …

And another in St John Street …

As you have probably guessed, it was originally called Pissing Alley and appears as such in John Roque’s map of 1776

By 1792, however, according to Horwood’s Plan, it had become Passing Alley. See if you can spot it …

The blog A London Inheritance tells us that, although Passing Alley gives the impression of being one of London’s ancient alleys, in London terms it is relatively recent. It was originally around 40 feet to the north of its current location, however late 19th century development, which included the building that now provides access to the alley, required the shift of the alley to the south. The name does not necessarily refer to 18th century chaps bursting for a wee but may actually reference the location of cesspits in the area.

Incidentally, there was a Pissing Lane in the City. It’s shown on the Agas Map of 1561 but has since disappeared under Cannon Street Station …

Another walk along St John Street has revealed some more interesting buildings.

Number 16 was the former Cross Keys inn. It was rebuilt in 1886–7 for Lovell & Christmas, provision merchants. It has been closed as a pub since the Second World War and was occupied during the 1980s as the London headquarters and library of the Communist Party of Great Britain, before being refurbished as offices in the early 1990s …

You can see the cross keys symbol at roof level.

18-29 is a Gothic-style warehouse of 1886–7. It was built speculatively by Richard Curtis, builder and contractor of Aldersgate Street. Curtis went bankrupt during the work, and the building was completed for his mortgagee, the Nineteenth Century Building Society, who let it in 1889 to S. Oppenheimer & Co., sausage-skin manufacturers …

For more sausage-related history have a look at last week’s blog.

The exact date of construction of Number 22 next door is not known, but the little house is evidently of the early eighteenth century …

It appears to be the survivor of a row of three similar houses mentioned in the will of Frances Ashton, née Chew, proved in 1727. The house was in commercial use by the 1820s, and was occupied from then until the 1890s by a succession of wire-workers, manufacturing being carried on in a workshop in the back yard.

Here it is with its neighbours in 1946 …

Picture credit : British History Online.

Number 24 was erected in 1863–4 for George Penson, provision merchant, replacing the Golden Lion inn. It’s is a tall, narrow house faced in brick, with, originally, a ground-floor shop …

One can’t fail to be impressed by the Farmiloe building. Until their departure to Mitcham in April 1999, the lead and glass merchants George Farmiloe & Sons were one of Clerkenwell’s longest-established firms, and this was their headquarters.

During the company’s heyday in the first half of the twentieth century, the firm was supplying a variety of materials to the building trade, including paint, brasswork and sanitary ware, as well as lead and glass.

It’s a fine example of Victorian commercial architecture, featuring an attractive Italianate palazzo-style frontage executed in Portland stone, white Suffolk brick and polished Aberdeen granite.

The stonework is embellished with delicate decoration, both incised and in relief …

To the right is an archway leading to a courtyard facing a large covered warehouse at the rear of the building …

Numbers 44-46 are intriguing …

Here they are in 1877 …

Picture credit : British History Online.

At the back of the warehouse, which included offices and a manager’s flat, are outbuildings ranged round a courtyard, originally bacon stoves, stores and stabling but now converted to offices and business units …

Number 78 was built as a warehouse in 1886 …

It’s now listed Grade II.

Number 72 is a shop and house dating from around 1830 …

Numbers 80 to 92 are attractive …

Numbers 80 to 86 could date from the 1770s.

Here’s number 88, built around 1837 …

With this thin 20th century building squeezed in beside it …

There is much more to see in this area so I will return to it at a later date.

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

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

The Sausage King, a fatal fire at a sex cinema and Ingersoll watches – a wander along St John Street.

I took advantage of a sunny afternoon to inspect more closely the fascinating architecture I had often observed on St John Street. It’s an ancient route, described in 1170 as the street ‘which goeth from the bar of Smithfield towards Yseldon [Islington]’. This is the earliest known documentary reference to the street, which later became known simply as ‘Clerkenwell Streete’. Its present name is taken from the adjacent priory of St John, established by the Knights Hospitallers in the twelfth century.

You can see it here on the Agas Map of 1561 (as reprinted and modified in 1633) …

Starting my walk at the Smithfield Market end the first buildings I encountered were numbers 1 and 3-5 (EC1M 4AA). The sunlight showed them off to great effect …

The ‘Venetian’ style Number 1 appears to have been built in the mid-1880s for the charmingly named Frederick Goodspeed, a grocer who had acquired, and briefly ran, an old coffeehouse on the site.

My camera couldn’t do justice to the decorations on numbers 3-5 so I have borrowed this image from British History Online

The building was constructed in 1897 for William Harris the ‘Sausage King’, sausage manufacturer and proprietor of a well-known restaurant chain specialising in sausage and mash. Faced in brick with stone dressings, it shows Arts-and-Crafts and Art Nouveau influence; the south front rises to an ornate gable decorated in relief with a wild boar, Harris’s name and the date. Here’s one of his promotional leaflets aimed at ‘City Clerks and others’…

The Victorians loved an eccentric and he obliged, whether it be by dressing entirely inappropriately for his job (opera hat, dinner suit and cravat with diamond pin) or riding a pig from Brighton to London (with the words ‘tomorrow’s sausages’ written cruelly on its back).

Harris’s registered trademark was a colour picture of himself riding a huge pig to victory in the ‘Pork Sausage Derby’ …

Harris in full self-promotion mode …

One anecdote tells of the time when he was visiting Brighton and a tramp ran off with a string of sausages from one of William’s shops. The thief was caught, and was challenged to a sausage-eating contest – if the tramp won he could go free. A huge crowd gathered to watch; when William delightedly won (by four sausages) he gave the tramp a sovereign and his freedom.

William ‘No. 1’ Harris, as he styled himself, lived over the shop at with his family including sons William ‘No. 2’ (Prince of Sausages) and William ‘Nos. 3 and 4’. His firm, William Harris & Son, remained here until the late 1950s or early 60s.

For an amusing look at Harris and his world I highly recommend this witty blog by Sheldon K Goodman and do read this wonderful obituary from the London Standard, 3rd May 1912.

Doorway to where William lived with his family.

Number 7 was the scene of a tragedy. The so-called Clerkenwell Cinema Fire occurred in the Dream City ‘adult cinema’ (also known as the ‘New City Cinema’) on 26 February 1994. Due to the pornographic nature of the films it screened, and the strict cinema licensing regulations in London at the time, the cinema was operating illegally, and thus was not subject to fire inspections as legal entertainment venues were …

The fire was caused by arson when a deaf, homeless man called David Lauwers (known to his friends as ‘Deaf Dave’) lost a fight with a doorman over entry fees. After being ejected from the cinema, Lauwers returned with a can of petrol and set fire to the entrance area. The fire took hold rapidly, trapping most of the staff and patrons within. Eight men died at the scene, seven from smoke inhalation and one from injuries sustained from jumping from a high window in the building, and there were three further fatalities in the following months in hospital, as well as thirteen injuries. Lauwers was later given a life sentence.

You can read a dramatic recounting of what happened that night in this blog by a Retired London Fireman.

On the left, the building today …

Numbers 69-73 consist essentially of two houses built in 1817–18, originally separated by the entry to a large yard, where warehousing was later built …

British History Online tells us that Number 69 appears to retain its original façade, but the other house has been refronted; this may have been done in 1896 when it was extended over the alley and the two houses thrown into one, together with the cork-warehouses at the rear, which had been partly rebuilt following a fire in 1882. The treatment of the ground floor at No. 69, with arched openings and Ionic pilasters, executed in stucco, is the remnant of a remodelling of the whole ground-floor front of probably carried out in the mid-nineteenth century. The present shopfront at No. 73 dates from 1884, though it has been altered in recent years.

Number 57 was once the White Bear pub dating from 1899 …

Now closed, it looks like a Covid victim.

At 115-121, this block of tenements and shops belongs to the select group of public housing schemes designed by the LCC Architect’s Department in the 1890s and early 1900s in an Arts-and Crafts or ‘English Domestic’ idiom …

Built in 1904–6, Mallory Buildings stands on part of the site of the medieval priory of St John, relics of which were discovered during the excavation for the foundations. The name commemorates Robert Mallory, one of the former priors.

Numbers 159–173 once housed Pollard’s Shopfitting works with construction being carried out in 1925–7. The new building contained showrooms, offices, workshops and stores. On the fourth floor were the main administrative offices, and the boardroom, panelled in Italian walnut with Ionic pilasters …

Black granite was used to frame the bronze entrance doors …

Founded in 1895 by Edward Pollard, Pollards held the English patents for the American invention ‘invisible glass’, used in shopfronts. This employs steeply curved concave glass to deflect light towards matt black ‘baffles’ so that no reflections show in the window. The company installed invisible-glass windows in several important London stores, including Simpsons of Piccadilly (now Waterstones), where they remain intact as well as at Fox’s Umbrellas on London Wall (now a wine bar) …

Read more about the store in my blog ‘Art Deco in the City‘.

In 1967 the Pollard Group relocated to Basingstoke and the business continues today as Pollards Fyrespan, now in Enfield. The former Clerkenwell works are now used as offices and small-business workshops.

Three old houses survive at numbers 181–185 …

Finally, at numbers 223-227 you can look up and see the name Ingersoll picked out in green and cream mosaic. The factory was built in the 1930s for property speculator Gilbert Waghorn. Before it was completed, Ingersoll agreed to move in and so the architect, Gilbert’s brother Stanley Waghorn, modified slightly the parapet on the St John Street façade to incorporate the logo …

The Ingersoll Watch Company grew out of a mail order business started in New York City in 1882 by 21-year-old Robert Hawley Ingersoll and his brother Charles Henry Ingersoll. When they added the one-dollar watch to their catalogue, the business really took off. Millions were sold and they cheekily boasted it was …

The watch that made the dollar famous!

In 1904 they opened a store in London and in 1905 Robert sailed to England and introduced the Crown pocket watch for 5 shillings, which was the same value as $1 at the time (four dollars to the pound – those were the days!) …

Business boomed even more when they won the contract to produce Mickey Mouse watches for Disney …

Ingersoll went bankrupt during the recession that followed World War I. It was purchased by the Waterbury Clock Company (now the Timex Group USA) shortly after for 1.5 million dollars. Today they are owned by Zeon Watches, a British subsidiary of the Chinese company, Herald Group. They are still distributing Ingersoll watches in more than 50 countries around the world.

I will be returning to St John Street again in a future blog. In the meantime, perhaps you can imagine how this narrow thoroughfare got its name?

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

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

Sculpture in the City – from the joyous to the rather poignant.

Sculpture in the City is an annual sculpture exhibition that uses the City as a rotating gallery space. This is its 10th edition and will be in place until spring 2022.

I’m going to start with my absolute favourite …

The nearby notes tell us that the sculptor Jun T. Lai ‘created Bloom Paradise to symbolize hope and love. The artist’s intention was to bring greater positivity into the pandemic stricken world and release healing energy. The bright and colorful flowers call to an imaginative world, leading the visitor into a fantasy wonderland. Through this work, the artist hopes to bring positive energy and joy, a gift of life, to everyone’.

I think she has succeeded brilliantly. What a lovely vision to encounter as you leave Fenchurch Street Station on your way to work.

When I first caught a glimpse of this clock on the Corner of Bishopsgate and Wormwood Street (EC2M 3XD) I was rather puzzled …

Now I know that Silent Agitator by Ruth Ewan is a large clock based upon a detail of an illustration produced by Ralph Chaplin in 1917 for the Industrial Workers of the World union (the IWW). Chaplin’s illustration, bearing the inscription ‘What time is it? Time to organize!’, was reproduced on millions of gummed stickers, known as ‘silent agitators’, that were distributed by union members in workplaces and public spaces across the US. The clock hands bear workers’ clogs or, in French, sabots from which the word sabotage is derived (sabotage was originally used in English to specifically mean disruption instigated by workers).

At Undershaft, EC3A 8AH (Next to St Helen’s Church) is Harlequin Four By Mark Handforth

The descriptive notes state: ‘There is much symbolism in this number, for example it is considered a number of ‘being’, the number that connects mind-body-spirit with the physical world of structure and organisation’. Likewise, the use of lights is a commonality throughout his practice, in the form of candles, reflective neons and fluorescent lights. Handforth cites the way that the landscapes of artificial light that many of us live in, “means that night just becomes a different kind of day”.

Nearby at Undershaft, EC3P 3DQ (Between Aviva and the Leadenhall Building) is Cosmos by Eva Rothschild

The work is composed of three 3.5 metre-high slatted structures which lean into and support each other, painted black on the exterior and sprayed in a coloured gradient within. An imposing physical structure, the work encourages both a physical and aesthetic response. Says Rothschild: “The external piece is quite forbidding. Its black shiny surface is like a set of disruptive gates.”

In Beehive Passage, Leadenhall Market (EC3V 1LT) is Symbols by Guillaume Vandame

‘This is a sculptural installation consisting of 30 unique flags from the LGBTQ+ community. Spanning the original Pride Flag designed by Gilbert Baker in San Francisco in 1978 to its newest iteration by Daniel Quasar in 2018, the flags represent the diversity of gender, sexuality, and desire. The flags are standardised and ordinary, each five feet by three feet, and hang equidistant to represent the equal value and potential each community group has in the world today’.

And finally, Orphans, by Bram Ellens, a rather poignant work situated on Cullum Street (EC3M 7JJ) …

In Orphans, we see how the artist collected old paintings from deceased people to give them a new life …

Through undertakers and thrift stores, he managed to lay his hands on paintings that had become ‘orphaned’ after their owner died and the art was discarded by their heirs.

All of these paintings that ended up in damp storage basements longing for a new owner, contained both the energy of the original artist as well as the attachment of the deceased owner.

The above are only six of the sixteen works you can discover around the City. More details are available here.

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

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

In search of some colour and humour.

When the weather was miserable at the beginning of the month I decided to go in search of some colour and humour to cheer myself up. I started a little to the east of the City in Rivington Street and wandered slowly back to Whitecross Street. I finished with a quick diversion to Paternoster Square to see something unusual – wall-painted street art in the City of London itself.

My first exciting discovery was this work by Dan Kitchener outside the Callooh Gallery …

Underneath the railway bridge …

Hopes and dreams …

Oh dear …

And nearby, by Steve McCracken

Rude but made me laugh …

Note the work by Stik in the top left, and can you spot the cute bunny rabbit carrying a grenade?

Here he is …

More by Thierry Noir

I know I posted this before but can’t resist doing it again …

Can you see the old fireplaces? Probably exposed as a result of bombing and now bricked up. I got a bit carried away thinking about families gathered around them in wintertime, chatting and drinking tea and maybe making toast just like I did as a kid …

On Boot Street N1 6HJ.

As I left the subway I caught a glimpse of the spectacular Leysian Mission building – something for a future blog …

I’ll have to do a bit of research. I really liked the doorbells but resisted the temptation to press one to see if they still worked …

These plaques, placed by some of the great and the good at the turn of the last century, were intriguing also …

I noticed the green line on the pavement, there to help sight-impaired people find their way from the Underground station to Moorfields Eye Hospital. Some say that green is the last colour you see before you lose your vision entirely but I couldn’t find a scientific confirmation of this …

And so onward to the western branch of Old Street and some street art by Bowen and Blackmore

Now half way down Whitecross Street. Note the ‘correspondence’ …

Alongside, the pretty tattooed angel now has a weird companion …

Finally, off to Paternoster Square to record these two characters flanking the entrance to the public loos (EC4M 7BP)!

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

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

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

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

Fun at the Whitecross Street Party!

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

Poetry on one of the performance stages …

Time to get creative …

Who needs brushes when a handful of paint will do!

Concentration is so important …

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

Learn about saving our planet whilst having fun …

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

The big paintbrush is back!

New murals take shape …

Artists at work …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The eastern half of the building contained a police station …

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

The building in 1974 …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You could even buy a portable one!

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

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

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

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

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

William Caslon the Elder is buried in the churchyard. …

Caslon’s family grave. He died in 1766.

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

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

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

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

Some commentators mistakenly attribute the likeness to Lord Nelson.

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

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

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

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

The Londonist : How old is Old Street?

The Gentle Author : Along Old Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some things that made me smile …

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

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

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

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

The big bird of Narrow Street …

‘Herring Gull’ by Jane Ackroyd.

Slightly bonkers window display on Ludgate Hill …

A seat called The Friendly Blob in Bow Churchyard …

You can read more about it here …

Another seat from the Festival installed nearby …

I enjoyed reading this ‘correspondence’ …

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

I just had to publish this again …

Sweet message left outside Waitrose …

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

Remind you of anyone? …

Big nose at St Pancras …

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

Wig shop ladies …

A little bit scary, I think …

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

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

The final chapter

Unequivocal statement …

Pimlico Plumbers registration plates – a small collection …

A timely message from the Clerkenwell Road Chiropractic Clinic …

Another nice suggestion for these difficult times …

Finally, two important dates for your diary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blue is usually for water pipes …

Yellow refers to all things gas …

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

And finally some others in orange …

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Old Street …

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

And Dufferin Street …

And Roscoe Street …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the headstone alongside Thomas’s …

It reads as follows …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More alleys this week.

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

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

It displays some very nice Coade stone dressings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It wasn’t there in the 1930s …

Picture: Historic England.

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

Picture: London Picture Archive

The Cowcross Street entrance is not exactly welcoming …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here you will find another little haven of peace …

There is a sign giving a brief history …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those were the days!

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

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

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

A couple of great surprises – exploring alleys and courts.

Where do you think this pretty marble fountain is located?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at the spandrels above the window … …

Two men are holding the reins of two camels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

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

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

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

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

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

And now to a beautiful Roman lady who died young …

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

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

Her final resting place.

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

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

The Times newspaper commented …

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

A year later he painted Home Again

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

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

The Times had this to say about Home Again

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

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

But I like his daintily decorated shoes …

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

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

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

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

Photo credit : BBC TV.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source Pinterest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She made this sweet comment …

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

The clock is newer than it looks …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a link to him actually playing it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A ship’s prow cutting through the waves …

3 Moorgate Place.

And another two Neptunes …

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

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

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

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

Look at those imposing bronze doors …

I think the serpent signifies wisdom.

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

You can read more about the building here.

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

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

Next is ‘Education’ …

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

Onward to ‘Manufactures’ …

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

And now ‘Agriculture’ …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit – London Transport Museum.

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

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

Page 1 of 12

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén