Walking the City of London

Author: The City Gent Page 1 of 14

Waterloo Station – Arrivals and (final) Departures.

Whenever I am travelling anywhere by plane or train I am always ludicrously early and that was the case last week when I was catching a train at Waterloo. I therefore took the opportunity to look around and see if there was some material for the blog. There certainly was.

The station now hosts the National Windrush monument, designed by renowned Jamaican artist Basil Watson. It acknowledges and celebrates the Windrush generation’s outstanding contribution and has been created as a permanent place of reflection, to foster greater understanding of the generation’s talent, hard work and continuing contribution to British society.

The three figures – a man, woman, and child – dressed in their ‘Sunday best’ are climbing a mountain of suitcases together, demonstrating the inseparable bond of the Windrush pioneers and their descendants, and the hopes and aspirations of their generation as they arrive to start new lives in the UK.

There’s much more to see at Waterloo and I shall return to it next week and write more about these images …

My Waterloo research has led me to write about a very different type of station that operated nearby. Passengers departing from here were destined for eternity rather than the seaside.

In the first half of the 19th century, London’s population shot up from around a million people in 1801 to close on two and a half million by 1851. Death was commonplace in the 19th century and eventually the City’s churchyards were literally full to bursting. Coffins were stacked one atop the other in 20-foot-deep shafts, the topmost mere inches from the surface. Putrefying bodies were frequently disturbed, dismembered or destroyed to make room for newcomers. Disinterred bones, dropped by neglectful gravediggers, lay scattered amidst the tombstones; smashed coffins were sold to the poor for firewood. Clergymen and sextons turned a blind eye to the worst practices because burial fees formed a large proportion of their income.

This is Bunhill Burial Ground around that time …

You can also get some idea of how packed cemeteries were if you look at some of the existing City churchyards and observe how much higher the graveyards are compared to street level. This, for example, is the graveyard of St Olave Hart street as seen from inside the church …

Between 1846 and 1849, a devastating cholera epidemic swept across London resulting in the deaths of almost 15,000 Londoners and it became apparent that something had to be done.

Legislation proved ineffective but private enterprise stepped in and a series of huge cemeteries, in which Londoners could be laid to rest in lush, green spacious landscapes, sprang up outside the metropolis. One such enterprise was the grandly titled ‘London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Company’ (LNC), which was formed in July, 1852, with a mandate to develop the former Woking Common, at Brookwood, in Surrey, as one of the new cemeteries to serve London.

Carrying the deceased 23 miles by horse-drawn coach was obviously not practical and thus, in November, 1854, one of Britain’s most bizarre railway lines – the London Necropolis Railway – commenced operations, and daily trains were soon chuffing their way out of ‘Cemetery Station’ in Waterloo, ‘wending their way through the outskirts of London, and on through verdant woodlands and lush, green countryside outside the Metropolis, bound for the tranquil oasis of the new Valhalla in rural Surrey’.

From The Illustrated London News. Saturday, 11th November, 1854 Copyright, Mary Evans Picture Library

The Company obviously gave a lot of thought to its logo and motto. Here it is (the skull and crossbones isn’t exactly subtle, is it) …

The Latin translates as ‘Peace to the dead, health to the living’. Possibly a reference to the lack of security in the old existing graveyards and also their threat to health. Just inside the circle is the ouroboros, an ancient symbol of a snake or serpent eating its own tail, variously signifying infinity and the cycle of birth and death.

The history of the company is an absolutely fascinating story and if you want to know more just click on the link here to the excellent London Walking Tours blog.

A new building for the London terminus was completed on the 8th of February, 1902. Here are some contemporary images …

A class system operated. First and Second Class ‘passengers’, accompanied by mourners, were placed in the train first. Third class mourners were not allowed to witness their loved ones being loaded! …

The end of the line. A funeral train from Waterloo pulling into the north section station at the cemetery in the early 20th century …

On Friday, 11th April, 1941, the body of Chelsea Pensioner Edward Irish (1868 – 1941) left the London Necropolis Station en route for Brookwood. He was the station’s last customer.

Five days later, on the night of the 16th/17th of April, 1941, a German bombing raid on the area destroyed the company’s rolling stock, along with much of the building. The Southern Railway’s Divisional Engineer, having inspected the damage at 2pm, on April, 17th, 1941, reported starkly, ‘Necropolis and buildings demolished.’ Although the offices and the First Class entrance from Westminster Bridge Road had survived, the devastation effectively sounded the death knell for the Necropolis Railway, and, on the 11th of May 1941, the station was officially declared closed.

The First Class platform just after the bombing …

The site in 1950 …

By the time it was put out of business after 87 years the company had ferried over 200,000 bodies between Waterloo and Surrey.

The First Class entrance and the Company’s old offices on Westminster Bridge Road are still there today (SE1 7HR) …

Inside the entrance arch (I think those lamps may be part of the original building, they look suitably funereal) …

I caught this image as I walked home across Waterloo Bridge – the ever-changing City skyline …

Finally, by way of light relief, my favourite newspaper front page of the week – British journalism at its finest …

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Another East End stroll – from anarchists to art nouveau.

For this expedition I got off the train at Aldgate and walked east along Whitechapel High Street.

The area is being transformed out of all recognition with massive refurbishment and redevelopment taking place on the south side. The north side of the street, however, still has its narrow cobbled alleys and iconic places like the Whitechapel Gallery.

The first alley I came across had no name but held the promise of some street art …

I wasn’t disappointed …

This next alley does have a name and is the home of a delightful project …

Look at these brilliant illustrations referencing the local area …

And it stretches right across the arched roof …

I see capitalist consumption alongside anarchist freedom just before I head down Angel Alley …

Freedom – a light at the end of the tunnel …

Some wall postings along the way …

The Freedom Press was founded way back in 1888 and this is their bookshop …

The wall of heroes …

Appropriate merchandise is available on their website

Back on the High Street, I don’t recall seeing one of these before …

Then one comes to a wonderful institution, The Whitechapel Art Gallery. It grew from the high-minded vision of the Reverend Samuel Barnett and his social reformer wife Henrietta. They believed that art would lift the spirits of the East End poor, counteracting the ‘paralysing and degrading sights of our streets’. It was opened in 1901 and designed by the brilliant architect Charles Harrison Townsend …

The Gallery’s history is a history of firsts: in 1939 Picasso’s masterpiece, Guernica was displayed there on its first and only visit to Britain; in 1958 the Gallery presented the first major show in Britain of seminal American abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock; and in 1970 and 1971 the first shows of David Hockney, Gilbert & George and Richard Long were staged to great acclaim.

Turning now to the classic Art Nouveau building itself, the rectangular space between the turrets was originally intended to be covered with a mosaic frieze, but this proved too expensive. In 2012, however, the acclaimed artist Rachel Whiteread created a beautiful substitute. The work was Whiteread’s first ever permanent public commission in the UK.

The Gallery’s towers each feature a Tree of Life. Their brochure explains that, for this new work of art, Whiteread has cast their leaves in bronze to create an exhilarating flurry across the frieze. Four reliefs, casts of windows, stand as reminders of previous architectural interventions. Inspired by the tenacious presence of urban plants like buddlea, which the artist calls ‘Hackney weed’, Whiteread has covered the leaves and branches in gold leaf, making them part of London’s rooftop repertoire of gilded angels, heraldic animals and crests.

Apart from visiting the Gallery, there are other advertised opportunities to better yourself …

Crossing to the south side of the road, I was fascinated by this old house and its wooden shutters …

It has an 18th century look about it but I haven’t been able to find out more.

And finally to this little park …

Formerly known as St Mary’s Park, it is the site of the old 14th-century white church, St Mary Matfelon, from which the area of Whitechapel gets its name. This is its 17th century incarnation …

All that now remains of the old church is the floor plan .

The area was renamed Altab Ali Park in 1998 in memory of Altab Ali, a 25-year-old Bangladeshi Sylheti clothing worker. He was murdered on 4 May 1978 in Adler Street by three teenage boys as he walked home from work. Ali’s murder was one of the many racist attacks that came to characterise the East End at that time.

At the entrance to the park is an arch created by David Petersen. It was developed as a memorial to Altab and other victims of racist attacks. The arch incorporates a complex Bengali-style pattern, meant to show the merging of different cultures in east London …

A few grave markers from the old church have survived. This one (belonging to the Maddock family) is very grand, with its button-lidded top, the tomb ‘looks exactly like an enormous soup-tureen for a family of giants with a rather pretentious taste in crockery’ …

For more information I turned to the Spitalfields Life blog and an entry by the historian Gillian Tindall. She writes: ‘The Maddocks … were prosperous timber merchants just off Cable St. Into the tomb, between 1774 and 1810, went Nathan Maddock and his wife Elizabeth, both only in middle life, a daughter of thirteen, a sister-in-law of twenty-five, and her son when he was seventeen. It is a relief to find that Richard Maddock (who did not actually live in Whitechapel any longer but grandly in St James) was seventy when he died, and his sister seventy-nine. A James Maddock died aged nineteen, but that same year another James in the same family was negotiating the deeds of land in the area on which he intended to build and he appears to have lived so long that the tomb was full before it could accommodate him’.

These markers are more modest …

Finally, there’s a very impressive water fountain alongside the park …

The inscription says it was ‘removed from the church railings and erected on present site AD 1879’ …

It was great to still find some character in this area despite the wholesale redevelopment.

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Hats, heads, handsome models and spooky manikins – a stroll down Commercial Road.

I have driven along Commercial Road hundreds, probably thousands, of times and often thought it would be good to take a closer look. These images are the result.

Commercial Road was constructed in 1802–6 as a direct route to link dock traffic between the West India Docks and East India Docks to the City of London. It’s now flanked on either side by numerous businesses involved in the garment trade, which has been historically based in the area. Many are small enterprises and most seem to be ‘wholesale only’ although some are happy to take orders as low as £150.

Here are my favourites.

First up – rather spooky manikins …

They reminded me of the scary shape-shifting robot in the Terminator movie …

They’re a bit less scary when dressed up …

Hats and heads, starting with the obvious place …

Across the road … Boy George? …

Heads awaiting hats …

Why do I find this one so disturbing?

Hey, good looking …

A nice window composition …

Some miscellaneous pics …

When I first read this I thought it said ‘naughty wear’. Actually, I suppose it is …

Every window frame seems to be plastered with ads like these …

Items I was tempted to buy.

Surely my wife would appreciate this …

… and maybe I should plan in advance for a cold Winter …

Someone has misbehaved …

I really enjoyed my visit to this vibrant part of London and I hope you enjoyed viewing the images.

I went home via Aldgate East Underground Station, admiring the 1930s roundel at the entrance …

… and the fascinating tiles on the platform …

I have written about them before in my September 2019 blog.

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Founders and Farmers, Ironmongers and Martyrs – another wander around Smithfield.

I felt it was time for another wander around Smithfield.

The Founders Company is one of the 110 Livery Companies based in the City and was established in 1375. In its earliest form the Company was made up of craftspeople who specialised in brass and ‘latten’ (an alloy of copper and zinc resembling brass), including making ‘candlesticks, buckles, straps and other such like articles’.  Membership is now much extended and even includes estate agents and wine merchants as well as bell founders. The Company motto is God, the only Founder...

Their hall is located in Cloth Fair with an entrance in Bartholomew Passage …

The planters outside are dated 1767 and contain what looks like a parish boundary mark. If they really are that old they are in remarkably good condition …

The coat of arms – a ewer or laver-pot and a pair of taper-candlesticks …

Just up the road in Cloth Street is the Farmers Hall which they share with the Fletchers (who made arrows). I do like the Farmers’ coat of arms and motto …

Agriculture can be said to be England’s oldest and most important industry, with the growth of the City dependent on the supply of food to support its growing population for centuries. Whilst evidence suggests some livery companies were active as early as 1155, it is thought farmers were not represented until much later (1946), since they operated outside the square mile, unlike the related trades of Bakers, Butchers, Poulters, Woolmen and Fruiterers.

There is another relatively new company in Bartholomew Close, only granted Livery status in 1992 …

This is its coat of arms which you can read more about here

The motto, CITO, means swiftly suggesting the way in which technology speeds the capture, storage and retrieval of knowledge.

A hanging sign on Aldersgate directs you to Ironmongers’ Hall …

The Ironmongers’ received a grant of arms in 1455, describing them as the ‘Honourable Crafte and Fellasship of Fraunchised Men of Iromongers’, and a charter of incorporation from Edward IV in 1463.

Two salamanders form the crest of the Company’s arms; medieval salamanders reputedly being able to survive fire …

Two saints flank the entrance door …

Elegius crafted many gold and silver pieces before taking holy orders in 633. He was made bishop of Noyon and died on 1 December 659. Because of his master craftsmanship and unfailing honesty, he became the patron saint of goldsmiths, blacksmiths and metalworkers.

Opposite him is St Lawrence …

He holds the griddle on which he was roasted to death in 345 AD. Reportedly he joked at one point ‘Look, wretch, you have me well done on one side, turn me over and eat!‘. Quite appropriately, he was adopted as the patron saint of comedians.

A martyr to many was the Scottish hero and patriot Sir William Wallace who was hanged, drawn and quartered in Smithfield in 1315…

His memorial nearby often shows evidence that he is still remembered and revered to this day …

This slate triptych, also in West Smithfield, was unveiled by Ken Loach in July 2015 and commemorates the Great Rising of 1381 (more commonly known as the Peasants’ Revolt) …

The Revolt was led by Wat Tyler and on June 15th 1381 he had the opportunity to speak directly to the 14-year-old king, Richard II. Accompanying the King was the Lord Mayor of London William Walworth and, for reasons that are not entirely clear, Walworth ran Tyler through with his sword. Badly wounded, Tyler was carried into nearby St Bartholomew’s Hospital but, rather unsportingly, Walworth had him dragged out and decapitated. Poll Tax protesters were dealt with very ruthlessly in those days!

Of the 288 people estimated to have been burnt for heresy during the five year reign of Mary Tudor, forty eight were killed in Smithfield. ‘Bloody Mary’ was the daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon and the burnings were part of her campaign to reverse the English Reformation.

The ‘Marian Martyrs’ are commemorated with this plaque erected by the Protestant Alliance in 1870 …

The gilding is a little faded in this picture. It reads …

Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord. The noble army of martyrs praise Thee! Within a few feet of this spot,

John Rogers,

John Bradford,

John Philpot,

and other servants of God, suffered death by fire for the faith of Christ, in the years 1555, 1556, 1557

One terrible occasion was on 16 July 1546 when Anne Askew was burnt at the stake along with John Lascelles (a lawyer and Gentleman of the King’s Privy Chamber), John Hadlam (a tailor from Essex) and John Hemsley (a former Franciscan friar). A great stage was built at Smithfield for the convenience of Chancellor Wriothesley, other members of the Privy Council and City dignitaries, to watch the burning in comfort …

The execution of Anne Askew and her companions – 1563 woodcut from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

Anne herself, having been illegally broken on the rack, was unable to stand, and was chained to the stake in a sitting position. You can read more about this fascinating, brave lady here.

Every burning was different; if the fire ‘caught’, it could be over relatively quickly, but on damp days, or when the wind persisted in blowing the flames away from the body, it could take up to an hour for the condemned person to die, an hour of excruciating agony.

The area is now being transformed by new residential developments along with the conversion of many old commercial premises into apartments.

I’m fascinated by some of the old buildings’ textures and features and will write more about this in future weeks …

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More street art – and who was Mr Schwartz?

Whenever I’m stuck for a blog topic I take myself off east to Brick Lane and its environs just to admire the constantly changing art that seems to appear on every conceivable surface. Also, I have some interesting news about this gentleman and his famous doors later in this week’s issue …

Here’s my personal selection – the works can be found in Fournier Street, Hanbury Street, Princelet Street and Brick Lane itself …

I hope you enjoyed those.

These doors on Fournier Street are very popular with people like me who enjoy their ever-changing selection of artwork …

I was intrigued by these bells adjacent to the doors …

Well, this is Mr Schwartz – doesn’t he look like a lovely man …

You can read all about him and the history of these premises in this excellent blog by Andrew Whitehead.

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An Anglo-Saxon dock and another magical mosaic.

It doesn’t look like much but this could be the oldest Anglo-Saxon era dock in the world – it’s certainly the oldest in the UK. It’s also the last surviving inlet on the Thames in Central London …

It’s squeezed in between tall modern buildings because it’s protected as a scheduled ancient monument …

Nearby is a very informative plaque …

The hotel next door has a terrace you can walk around. Look down at the wharf and this is what you’ll see …

A wonderful collection of oyster shells (oysters once being a poor person’s food) and medieval (maybe even Roman) roof tiles and bricks …

There are also some lumps of white chalk. Large chalk beds were once laid down to provide a soft settling place for barges at low tide.

I’ve written about the Riverfront before in my blog Down by the River – wharves, beaches and desperate immigrants.

Another plaque gives the second reason for my visit …

It was designed by Tessa Hunkin and executed by South Bank Mosaics under the supervision of Jo Thorpe – and I recommend you take a stroll down through the City to the river and study the intricate and lively detail of this epic work for yourself. Tessa also supervised the splendid mosaic I wrote about two weeks ago.

Here’s the mosaic from start to finish. It’s a stunning piece of work and rewards detailed study …

Note the little seal waving you goodbye …

A striking archaeological theme is that archaeology was incorporated into the mosaic. Archaeologist Mike Webber led volunteers to retrieve finds of Roman, medieval and modern date from the foreshore and selected finds were embedded into the mosaic: archaeology becomes art …

And how appropriate that we can see The Globe across the River …

Trivia fact: A key sequence of the 1951 Ealing comedy The Lavender Hill Mob used Queenhithe as a location for filming: Mr. Holland, played by Alec Guinness, can be seen falling from a wharf into the Thames and being rescued by two actors dressed as police officers. You can watch the official trailer here. They don’t make ’em like that any more!

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‘I tested positive 4 love’ – more super art around Whitecross Street.

I like to keep a week or so ahead in my blogging so this one was drafted during the really hot weather when the temperature was hitting 30+ degrees and I didn’t want to walk far. Fortunately, the roads around Whitecross Street always seem to have something to offer so this blog is a bit of a tribute to EC1 as is this mosaic on Chequer Street …

‘Mad in England’ …

Look closely and you’ll find the contributions clever, moving and amusing. Here is a sample …

Lucifur!

And nearby …

I’ve written before about this fascinating piece of street art but I like it so much here it is again. I hadn’t heard of the singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston before and so I am very grateful to this work by Steve Chapman for bringing him to my attention …

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

Here’s the rest of Chapman’s painting …

More decorated street furniture …

Other artistic legacies from this year’s Whitecross Street Party …

Read more about this year’s street party and the creation of the art here.

I don’t know the history of these tiles on Roscoe Street …

But they’re pretty and fun …

Look out for the sweet heart by Jimmy C

There’s a super blog about Whitecross Street and it’s history in the London Inheritance series. Here’s the link – it’s entitled Whitecross Street – Sunday 31st May, 1953.

You can read more about the art in my blog ‘True love will find you in the end’.

Incidentally, I was in Belsize Park recently and came across this bonkers bit of crochet work on top of a pillar box. It made me laugh so I thought I’d share it with you here …

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Mosaic Magic!

As you stroll along Shepherdess Walk in Hoxton you’ll see some tantalising clues as to the treat in store …

Then you head down steps to what must be one of the most spooky and best-concealed alleys in London …

With a promise of something really special …

Light at the end of the tunnel …

Emerging through the alley into the park you’re met with these stunning artworks. The mosaics were designed by Tessa Hunkin and completed over two years by a huge team of local volunteers (over 150 in total!) …

Unveiled in 2012 to coincide with the London Olympics, the scenes are a celebration of life in Hackney’s parks. Two later pieces on the floor were unveiled in 2013. Tessa Hunkin said proudly …

“We’ve made a little bit of Carthage here in Hoxton. I was inspired by the Roman mosaics of North Africa. It was my idea, I’ve been making mosaics for twenty-five years and I started working with people with mental health problems. I like working with groups of people on large compositions that they can be proud of. Mosaic-making is very time-consuming and laborious, so it seemed a good idea to work with people who have too much time, for whom filling time can be a problem. Also, I’m very interested in the historical precedents and that gives the work another dimension. This project started in July 2011 and it was going to be for six months but, when we came to end of the first mosaic nobody wanted the empty shop that is our workshop, so we just carried on.”

Taking the lyrical name of Shepherdess Walk as a starting point, the first mosaic portrays the shepherdesses that once drove their sheep through here when Hoxton was all fields …

The park itself is fairly recent, with houses standing on the site until around the 1970s. This is starkly different from the early history of the area, which until the late 18th century was rural, as seen in the John Rocque map of 1746 (the red dot shows the site of the park) …

The fields which surrounded this area were used as a route for driving livestock from outside London towards Smithfield meat market (circled above).

A double wall panel illustrates park life throughout the seasons of the year in the East End …

Check out your smartphone messages or do some bird watching …

What could be more Summery than buying a Mr Whippy ice cream, having a picnic or a swim in the lido wearing your smart goggles …

While, underfoot, a pair of pavement mosaics show the wild flowers that persist, all illustrated in superb botanic detail …

Just a few of the artists …

My thanks to the wonderful Katie Bignall of Look Up London and The Gentle Author of Spitalfields Life for inspiring me to visit this beautiful piece of art. Do click on the latter link for some lovely interviews with a few of the artists. If you don’t fancy walking through the alley the mosaics are in the corner of Shepherdess Walk Park (N1 7JN).

Other sights on Shepherdess Walk are some interesting doors and knockers …

… and a pub that features in a famous rhyme : ‘Up and down the City Road, in and out The Eagle; that’s the way the money goes, Pop! goes the weasel’ …

You can read more about the pub and the song in the excellent Londonist blog.

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Summer in the City.

We are so lucky to have the fantastic team of City gardeners brightening up our environment month in and month out – especially through these times of extreme weather. There are also enlightened property owners who look after window boxes and other areas where nature can proliferate.

So here is my tribute to them with images I have taken over the last few months. Enjoy!

I’ll start with this wonderful new garden opposite the Cathedral in Cannon Street (EC4M 5TA) – perfect reflections!

Can you believe you’re in the City of London …

Pigeon bath time at the garden of St John Zachary (EC2V 7HN) …

Opposite St Paul’s Underground Station …

Where do these starlings live?

Good corporate neighbours at the junction of Wood Street and Gresham Street …

In the pretty secluded garden at Saint Vedast Foster Lane (EC2V 6HH) …

On Foster Lane …

Upper Thames Street …

On Moorgate …

In the St Mary Aldermanbury Garden (EC2P 2NQ) …

Around the Barbican …

Proud mum …

Culture Mile signage on London Wall …

My Amaryllis gets confused as to the time of year …

Cheapside gets refreshed …

Do check out the Mobile Arboretum on Cheapside next door to St Mary-le-Bow …

And at Aldgate …

There have been numerous events and celebrations in 2022 to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee but one of the best must be Superbloom in the Tower of London’s moat. Twenty million seeds from twenty-nine flower species were planted earlier in the year to create a ‘floral tribute to Her Majesty’. And now the display is spectacular and will be at its best until at least September …

The garden is now open until late so visitors can see the flowers illuminated.

A fellow blogger has written about it here in a blog called A Moat of Flowers – well worth a look.

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The definitive guide to the Samuel Pepys Seething Lane Garden. Part 2 – a very full life.

To Pepys, music wasn’t just a pleasant pastime; it was also an art of great significance – something that could change lives and affect everyone who heard it. He was a keen amateur, playing various instruments and studying singing – he even designed a room in his home specially for music-making.

Here are some of the instruments that Pepys played – a fiddle, a flageolet and recorders …

And a theorbo lute …

Alan Lamb, who supervised the carvings, working on the lute. Read more about him and his team here

Pepys attended St Paul’s School as a boy and the hind is from the school’s coat of arms …

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

Pepys kept the diary from 1660 until 1669. The first page …

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

In 1655 when he was 22 he had married Elizabeth Michel shortly before her fifteenth birthday. Although he had many affairs (scrupulously recorded in his coded diary) he was left distraught by her death from typhoid fever at the age of 29 in November 1669. Her silhouette is in the garden paving …

Pepys was on the ship the Royal Charles that brought Charles II back to England at the Restoration and was also a Trinity House Master on two occasions. The carving shows the ship and a section of the Trinity House coat of arms …

The Diary – September 1660 : ‘I did send for a cup of tee (a China drink) of which I never had drank before my lady having made us drink our morning draft there of several wines, but I drank nothing but some of her coffee, which was poorly made, with a little sugar in it’. Tea and coffee are represented in the garden by tea leaves and coffee beans …

Pepys’s home meant that his local Church (‘our own church’ as he described it) became St Olave Hart Street, which is still there for us to explore today. The church is represented by an angel from the vestry ceiling and skulls from the churchyard entrance …

In 1673 he was involved with the establishment of the Royal Mathematical School at Christ’s Hospital which was to train 40 boys annually in navigation for the benefit of the Royal Navy and the English Merchant Navy, The commemorative paver is entitled ‘The science and practice of navigation’ …

He wrote of a visit to Bartholomew Fair : ‘… but above all there was at last represented the sea, with Neptune, Venus mermaids and Ayrid on a dolphin’. You’ll find a mermaid in the garden …

If you wander around the garden here are the other carvings that you will encounter.

 Samuel’s monogram …

A watermark from a letter to Pepys from King James II …

Pepys was President of the Royal Society when Sir Isaac Newton       published Philosophiae Principea …

 A map of Pepys’s London …

The Naval Office in Seething Lane where Pepys worked …

The Pepys coat of arms …

A teasel from the arms of the Clothiers Company where Pepys was once the Master …

Pepys’s profile …

Were he to arise from his resting place next to Elizabeth in St Olave’s what would he make of all this? I’m sure he would be delighted that his ‘own church’ was still there along with the lovely bust of Elizabeth he commissioned after her death. She still looks pretty and animated as if in conversation …

And surely he would be proud of his own bust in the garden, especially as it also commemorates Beauty Retire. Being a man of insatiable curiosity, he would no doubt want to know more about the mechanics of how the garden was irrigated using rainwater harvested from the roof of the hotel next door!

When he retired as secretary of the affairs of the Admiralty of England in 1689 ’not only had he doubled the navy’s fighting strength, but he had given it what it had never possessed before and what it never again lost—a great administrative tradition of order, discipline and service’. The orator of Oxford University declared ‘To your praises, the whole ocean bears witness; truly, sir, you have encompassed Britain with wooden walls.’ Samuel might be a little disappointed that, now in the 21st century, the mention of his name brings to many peoples’ mind only his famous diary.

If you need help finding the various carvings here’s a useful little map …

Do visit the garden if you get the chance. It’s also an opportunity to visit the beautiful St Olave’s Hart Street, Sam’s ‘own church’, which is located nearby. I’ve written about it before and you can find my blogs here and here.

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The definitive guide to the Samuel Pepys Seething Lane Garden. Part 1 – bladderstones, lions and an unfortunate King.

I have written about the garden in Seething lane before since it contains carvings that commemorate the life of the great diarist and naval innovator. However, I thought it might be useful to combine all my previous efforts in two blogs and this is the first so that if you visit the garden (and I strongly recommend you do) you will have easy access to all the information.

An existing bust of Pepys has been given a new plinth and one’s eyes are drawn to the sculpture as you walk along Seething Lane …

The new plinth incorporates musical notes …

The music carved on it is the tune of Beauty Retire, a song that Pepys wrote. So if you read music you can hear Pepys’s creation as well as see his bust. He was evidently extremely proud of Beauty Retire for he holds a copy of the song in his most famous portrait by John Hayls, now in the National Portrait Gallery …

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

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

Pepys stayed in London during the terrible time of the plague which he first wrote about on 30th April 1665 mentioning ‘great fears of the sickness’. Despite this, he bravely wrote on 25 August to Sir William Coventry ‘You, Sir, took your turn at the sword; I must not therefore grudge to take mine at the pestilence’.

As plague moved from parish to parish he described the changing face of London-life – ‘nobody but poor wretches in the streets’, ‘no boats upon the River’, ‘fires burning in the street’ to cleanse the air and ‘little noise heard day or night but tolling of bells’ that accompanied the burial of plague victims. He also writes in his diary about the desensitisation of people, including himself, to the corpses of plague fatalities, ‘I am come almost to think nothing of it.’

The pestilence is represented by a plague doctor carrying a winged hourglass and fully dressed in 17th century protective clothing. No one at the time realised that the plague could be spread by fleas carried on rats. One of the species sits cheekily at the doctor’s feet …

There is also a flea based on a drawing from Robert Hooke’s Micrographia. While visiting his bookseller on a frosty day in early January 1665 Pepys noticed a copy of the book ‘which‘, Pepys recorded in his diary, ‘is so pretty that I presently bespoke it’

The illustration in the book …

The Great Fire of London began on 2 September 1666 and lasted just under five days. This is a contemporary view from the west held in the Museum of London collection …

One-third of London was destroyed and about 100,000 people were made homeless. He wrote in his diary ‘I (went) down to the water-side, and there got a boat … through (the) bridge, and there saw a lamentable fire. Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods: poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the water-side to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconys till … some of them burned their wings and fell down.’

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

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

There’s a carving of a monkey who is sitting on some books and appears to have taken a bite out of a rolled up document. This refers to an entry in Pepys’s diary for Friday 18th January 1661 :  ‘I took horse and guide for London; and through some rain, and a great wind in my face, I got to London at eleven o’clock. At home found all well, but the monkey loose, which did anger me, and so I did strike her till she was almost dead’.  I’m not sure whether it was his pet or his wife’s, but it certainly paid a heavy price for its misbehaviour.

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

In 1679 tragedy struck when Pepys was arrested, dismissed from service and sent to the Tower of London on charges of ‘Piracy, Popery and Treachery’. The first two were outlandish and easily disproved but much more damaging and dangerous was the rumour that he had sold state secrets to the French (a crime which carried the terrifying penalty of being hanged, drawn and quartered). Using his own resources and considerable network, he tracked down the story to a lying scoundrel called John Scott. Pepys was subsequently freed and this frightening episode in his life is recorded in the garden by a carving of him incarcerated in the Tower …

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

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

On 9th May 1662 he wrote : ‘Thence to see an Italian puppet play that is within the rayles there, which is very pretty, the best that ever I saw, and great resort of gallants. So to the Temple and by water home’. The ‘puppet play’ was probably Punch and Judy (trigger alert, they have dropped the baby!) …

Part 2 dealing with the remainder of the carvings will follow next week.

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The Whitecross Street Party Art – even better this year. Check out the robin with the positive Covid test!

The announcement I always look forward to …

Crazy creatures blocking the road mean something interesting is happening further up the street …

Lots of stalls …

You won’t go hungry …

There’s a friendly dragon …

A sunbathing fox …

And a shy whale …

Over the weekend there is art being created everywhere ….

Aspiring future exhibitors …

Some of the finished work …

Look at what the jackdaw has in his beak …

Extraordinary work by Stringman …

And the ones that made me smile …

Goodbye until next year …

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St Martin Within Ludgate – Wren’s least altered church (containing some clever word games and the remains of a 17th century food bank).

One of the most striking aspects about St Martin Within Ludgate is its tall, sharp leaded spire which, when seen from the lower part of Fleet Street, is a deliberate foil to the massive rounded dome of St Paul’s Cathedral …

The slim Portland stone exterior facing onto Ludgate Hill was designed by Wren to be best seen from the side …

I think the church suffers a bit because people walking past are more likely to be focused on St Paul’s and therefore miss the modest entrance to St Martin’s. There is a large entrance lobby (designed to reduce traffic noise inside the church) and you then enter one of Sir Christopher Wren’s least altered interiors (1677-1686) with fine dark woodwork which largely escaped the Blitz.

Look up and you will see this beautiful chandelier or candelabrum which is still lit by candles …

As one commentator has noticed, it looks more like something you would find in a country house or a ballroom. The candles were not lit when I visited but I am sure that when they are, on a dark morning or evening, one must get a real feel for what it was like to worship here in earlier centuries. It came to the church via St Vincent’s Cathedral in the West Indies, probably in 1777: a reminder of the links between the City’s trading economy and the British Empire overseas.

And now to the very unusual font and the first word game …

The bowl is white marble and the wooden supporting plinth is painted to look like stone. It dates from 1673, predating the church, and was previously located in a ‘tabernacle’ used by the congregation during the rebuilding.

It contains a Greek palindrome copied from the Cathedral of St Sophia in Constantinople:

Niyon anomhma mh monan oyin

(Cleanse my sin and not my face only)

The second word game is associated a plaque that was originally housed in St Mary Magdalene’s on Old Fish Street which burned down in 1888. I am indebted, as I often am, to the blogger A London Inheritance who pointed out in his blog something I missed when I first visited the church.

The plaque records a charity set up by Elizabethan fish monger Thomas Berry, or Beri. He is seen on the left of the plaque, and to the right are ten lines of text, followed by two lines which describe the charity:

“XII Penie loaves, to XI poor foulkes. Gave every Sabbath Day for aye”

The plaque is dated 1586, and the charity was set up in his will of 1601 which left his property in Edward Street, Southwark to St Mary Magdalen, with the instruction that the rent should be used to fund the loaves. The recipients of the charity were not in London, but were in Walton-on-the-Hill (now a suburb of Liverpool), a village that Berry seems to have had some connection with. The charity included an additional sum of 50s a year to fund a dinner for all the married people and householders of the town of Bootle.

The interesting lines of text are above those which describe the charity. Thomas seems to have spelled his last name either Berry or Beri and these ten lines of anti-papist verse include his concealed name.

St Martin Ludgate

I am a big fan of helpful signage …

The reredos …

… and the communion rails …

There is magnificent carving on the pulpit …

It’s original to the church (1680), made of oak and hexagonal in shape. Each face has an oval panel inlay with rich swags of fruit and flowers carved at the angles …

The sword rest is 18th century wrought iron and is also from St Mary Magdalene like Berry’s plaque. It was seriously damaged in the fire that destroyed the church and is much restored …

Another refugee from St Mary’s is a set of 17th century bread shelves. They would have hung from one of the walls on the entrance porch. After morning service wealthy parishioners would place bread on the shelves for the poor of the parish to collect …

As you can see, they have now been repurposed.

Also on display is one of the bells from the post Great Fire rebuild. Resting on an iron chest, the bell dates from 1683 and was a ‘Gift of William Warne, Scrivener to the Parish of St Martin’s Ludgate’ …

There are four beautifully carved door surrounds illustrating the great skill of the craftsmen of the late 1600s – in this case joiner William Grey and carver William Emmett …

On this one they have (perhaps rather cheekily) included an open pea pod which was a mark commonly associated with the great Master Carver Grinling Gibbons

Here we are sternly ‘admonished’ to imitate the virtues ‘for thine own sake’ of the late John Purcas and his ‘deserving partner’ Anna …

And finally, these made me smile. Presumably people had been nicking their coat hangers – you can’t trust anyone these days …

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Experiments in black and white – people and places.

Usually I shoot images in colour but sometimes wonder whether black and white would be more effective.

This week I have been experimenting and here are the results starting with some people commemorated at St Giles-without-Cripplegate.

John Milton (1608-1674) the poet and republican is perhaps the most famous former church parishioner and his statue stands by the south wall of the church. It is 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’s the work of the sculptor Horace Montford (c1840-1919) and is based on a bust made in about 1654 …

There is also a bust under the organ gallery by the sculptor George Frampton which clearly indicates Milton’s later life blindness …

Oliver Cromwell, the military and political leader, who was Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1653 to 1658, was married in St Giles in 1620, aged 21. His wife, Elizabeth Bouchier, was the daughter of a Cripplegate leather merchant, and the couple had nine children. The St Giles bust follows his ‘warts and all’ instruction …

Here he is again (looking fierce) at the Guildhall Art Gallery …

He died in 1658 and his death mask is on display in the Museum of London …

After the Restoration, Charles II had Cromwell’s body was exhumed from Westminster Abbey on 30 January 1661, This was the the 12th anniversary of the execution of Charles’ father and Cromwell’s remains were subjected to a posthumous execution at Tyburn. After the body had been hanged in chains it was thrown into a pit with the head set on a spike outside Parliament.

Controversially, a statue was subsequently erected to him outside Parliament in 1899 …

I’m quite fond of this chap …

I smile when I see him because he looks like a man who enjoyed his food. Despite starting life as a bricklayer’s labourer, he amassed a vast fortune and, even though he remained virtually illiterate, he was eventually elected Lord Mayor of London. Here is his 1800 portrait by William Beechey …

He built nine houses for aged or infirm workmen and tradesmen who had fallen on hard times. No doubt remembering his own upbringing, he made sure that there was ‘nothing to distinguish them from the other dwelling-houses, and without ostentatious display of stone or other inscription to denote the poverty of the inhabitants’. That’s why I like him.

Highgate Cemetery is the last resting place of many famous and infamous individuals and Bruce Reynolds is one of them …

Bruce Richard Reynolds (1931 – 2013) was an English criminal who masterminded the 1963 Great Train Robbery. At the time it was Britain’s largest robbery, netting £2,631,684, equivalent to £58 million today. Reynolds spent five years on the run before being sentenced to 25 years in 1969. You can read his obituary here.

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

You can read more about it in my March 2022 blog.

The War Memorial in Wesley’s Chapel

It’s hard not to take an atmospheric picture at the Bunhill Burial Ground …

At the Inns of Court …

You can probably guess what this alley was originally known as …

You can read about its history here.

Narrow thoroughfares can look quite spooky …

As can old ruins like the church of St Dunstan-in-the-East, gutted by bombing in the Second World War …

I like The Cottage at number 3 Hayne Street, just off Charterhouse Square …

Read more about it here.

Images of architecture seem to respond well to the black and white approach. New buildings dwarf Leadenhall Market …

The Duke of Wellington at Bank Junction – a glass monster pierces the sky behind the Royal Exchange.

Tower 42 …

The Lloyd’s building …

At the Barbican (with colour images for contrast) …

.

However, I think some images definitely work better in colour. Especially if there is some blue sky and fluffy clouds …

Here are a few quirky choices to finish.

The East Window in St Martin in the Fields. You can read all about it here.

Chicago car park …

Spitalfields knockers

I think this exercise has convinced me to use more black and white images in future blogs.

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Another visit to the Inns of Court – including a garden treat everyone can enjoy.

Whenever I visit the Inns of Court I like to enter by one of the old gates in Fleet Street – it really is like stepping back in time, from the bustle of the City to the leafy, collegiate atmosphere of the Inns …

This lane leads south from Fleet Street and I read somewhere that Dr Johnson used to enjoy swinging round these supporting pillars when he was in an ebullient mood!

There are two nicely restored sundials nearby. This one in Pump Court reminds lawyers of their mortality …

And in Fountain Court, ‘Learn justice you who are now being instructed‘ …

The TWT refers to the Middle Temple Treasurer in 1684, William Thursby, a successful lawyer and later MP. He spoke of the study of law as ‘a rough and unpleasant study at the first, but honourable and profitable in the end … as pleasant (and safe and sure) as any profession’.

I paused to admire the lovely pair of Mulberry trees, also located in Fountain Court. Taken under an overcast sky, my images were a bit of a disappointment, so these are courtesy of Spitalfields Life

An added bonus of a visit nowadays is that the Inner Temple Gardens are now open to the public during weekdays from 12:30 until 3:00 pm.

I walked through the pretty gates, above which Pegasus, the Inner Temple emblem, was silhouetted against the sky …

A gentle stroll around the garden produced these images …

A fine spot for a picnic …

I’m sure many people seeing these pictures would not believe that they were taken in the centre of the City …

The area still has an ecclesiastical air about it …

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St Margaret Pattens – supporting ladies in more ways than one. And what did a Garbler do?

St Margaret’s church (EC3M 1HS) was originally built in the twelfth century, subsequently rebuilt in the sixteenth, and repaired in the early seventeenth. Here it is in the modified version of the Agas Map of 1633 …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of the City, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113.

When the church was rebuilt in the 16th century a cross, or ‘rood’, was put outside – those who prayed to it (and contributed to the cost of rebuilding) received a pardon from the Pope for their sins. During the reformation such practices were frowned upon and the antiquarian John Stow writes ‘about the 23rd of May, in the morning … it was found to have been in the night preceding, by people unknown, broken all to pieces, together with the tabernacle wherein it had been placed’. The street on which the church stood, however, had already become known as Rood Lane …

The spire is very imposing. Completed in 1702 to a height of 199 feet, it is the third highest of the City churches and is the only remaining example of Wren’s lead-covered timber spires….

During my visit, I was very fortunate to meet Chris Moore. Chris is not only the Church Administrator but also holds the office of Beadle of the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers. There could have been no one better qualified to show me around and point out items of interest that I might otherwise have missed.

The church has long had an association with the Pattenmakers Guild and there is an interesting exhibition for visitors to inspect which includes a history of the craft …

Pattens were under-shoes slipped on to protect the wearer’s shoes or clothing – not least from the filth on the streets in the Middle Ages!

If you could afford footwear like this you certainly wouldn’t want it contaminated with street debris …

Incidentally, the next time you see this famous portrait check out the pattens in the foreground …

And supporting ladies?

The Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers was awarded its Royal Charter in 1670, but the Company is first recorded as a trade association for the makers of pattens in 1379 and the trade itself dates from the 12th century or earlier. Its motto, Recipiunt fœminæ sustentacula nobis, means Women receive support from us

Not only that, Saint Margaret of Antioch, after whom the church is named, was the patron of childbirth and pregnant women.

Just inside the entrance are two canopied pews which are unique in the City …

These were for the churchwardens and the initials on either side reflect the name not only of this church (St MP) …

but also St Gabriel Fenchurch (St GF) …

St Gabriel’s was not rebuilt after the Great Fire and was instead amalgamated with St Margaret’s. The Agas map shows the churches’ locations relative to one another …

Stephen Millar has observed that, given the strong rivalry between parishes at this time, it is likely that the division between churchwardens was more than simply physical after 1666. Here’s a peep inside the St Margaret pew …

The church is shared with The Worshipful Company of Basketmakers …

The Stuart royal arms above the door are a particularly exquisite example …

The 19th century reredos in the north-aisle chapel incorporates a beautiful Della Robbia style tondo commemorating former rector Thomas Wagstaffe …

High up on the south wall is a copper cross weighing 3/4 cwt – a copy of the cross on St Paul’s Cathedral –  which used to surmount the spire. Below the  cross is a memorial to King Charles I, with the words ‘Touch not mine anointed’. A tradition of the Church is the commemoration of the death of King Charles at a special service which is held annually on the Thursday closest to 30th January …

Both the lectern (with the unusual feature of an eagle grasping a viper) and the pulpit are examples of the very fine wood carving and wood panelling with which the church is blessed …

The pulpit incorporates a holder for the hourglass once used to time the sermons …

The reredos above the altar contain a painting by the Italian painter Carlo Maratta (1625-1713) depicting Christ with the ministering angels in Gethsemane …

Before I left Chris made sure I visited the very impressive marker for the last resting place of James Donalson …

Donalson, who died in 1685, was the City Garbler who was entrusted with checking the quality of spices sold in the Square Mile. This was an incredibly important and prestigious appointment since nutmeg, for example, was at one time literally worth more than its weight in gold …

As a guild church, St Margaret Pattens has a regular weekday, rather than Sunday congregation, drawn mostly from people who work in offices nearby. As it’s not a parish church, it relies for funds on the generosity of the congregation, local business people, the supporting livery companies and visitors. Making a donation couldn’t be easier since, in the aisle next to the covered pews, you’ll find a facility to simply tap in your contribution using your credit or debit card. There’s also a box for more traditional cash donations.

There are drinks and snacks for sale in the courtyard on Eastcheap during weekdays.

If you want to contact the church for any reason the phone number is 020 7623 6630 and the email address info@stmargaretpattens.org 

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A wander around Leadenhall Market – Christopher Wren, Harry Potter and a famous goose.

Situated in the centre of the City of London’s financial district, the current Grade II listed Market building, designed by Horace Jones, dates back to 1881. Its airy and light wrought iron and glass structure replaced the stone market previously created by Lord Mayor of London, Dick Whittington in the 15th Century. The ‘old’ market before demolition …

It now offers a spectacular Victorian setting with the roof, cobbles and buildings preserved. Crowning the many entrances are elaborate stone pediments carved with dragons, swags, shields and other devices, with a particular emphasis on City heraldry …

I have written about the City dragon emblem before in Dragons and Maidens.

It’s a very convivial place at lunchtime, especially popular with workers from nearby Lloyd’s …

The underwriters are right next door …

New buildings are still springing up despite the reported trend for more hot-desking and part-time commuting …

This exhibit, from the Sculpture in the City programme, is entitled symbols by Guillaume Vandame

A tasteful celebration of the Jubilee …

What is this bar’s name all about?

It commemorates the famous goose Old Tom. During the early 19th Century one of the most celebrated characters in the Market was Old Tom, a gander from Ostend who came to England by chance, due to his fascination with one of the lady members of his flock. It is recorded that over two consecutive days 34,000 geese were slaughtered in the Market – but Old Tom managed to escape execution. He became a great favourite in the Market and was a regular customer at the local inns where he was fed titbits. So famous was he that his obituary appeared in The Times on 19th March 1835, giving his age as 37 years, 9 months and 6 days.

The market in 1890 …

And in the 1960s. It looks like people are shopping for their traditional Christmas turkey or goose …