Symbols & Secrets

Walking the City of London

Author: The City Gent Page 1 of 8

Aimless wandering!

I think the lockdown is finally getting to me. I usually don’t have much trouble thinking of a theme for the blog but this week I have failed. So instead, I just wandered around a still quiet City with my camera waiting to see what caught my eye. These are the results – I hope you find some of them interesting.

Now the pavements are deserted, it’s easier to look upwards as you walk and see what you might have missed on previous occasions.

The Victorians paid a lot of attention to decorative detail and I really liked these two faces, carved into bricks, looking out over London Wall. I’ve nicknamed them Beauty …

… and the beast …

And while on the subject of beauties and beasts, take a look at this view from Gresham Street …

The church is St Lawrence Jewry and behind it some modern buildings that I like, the Cheesegrater and the Scalpel, and one I don’t, a characterless glass monster growing on Bishopsgate.

There’s a nice little pond in front of the church …

It’s home to these Arum Lilies and Irises …

I have written before about Thomas Gresham and the college he founded was once based here at 90 Basinghall Street until 1991 (EC2V 5AY) …

Above the coat of arms rests the symbolic Gresham grasshopper …

The sun was perfectly placed to illuminate Ariel or The Spirit of the Winds by Charles Wheeler. She’s positioned on a cupola above the Bank of England on Tivoli Corner …

When she was unveiled in 1937 the Bank’s magazine stated …

It is the symbol of the dynamic spirit of the Bank which carries Credit and Trust over the wide world.

Ariel was, of course, the Spirit of the Air in Shakespeare’s Tempest, who by Prospero’s magic could ‘put a girdle around the world in forty minutes’.

I’m fascinated by this old Wall on London Wall. I can’t find out more about it but it looks Medieval to me (EC2M 5ND) …

London Wall has lots of examples of the wonderful work the small team of City gardeners do to keep beds and parks looking good all year round …

Austin Friars (off Old Broad street) was once the location of an Augustinian Friary until its dissolution in 1538. Walk in through an atmospheric doorway with its charming ghost signs …

When I visited the sun was in exactly the right place to illuminate the slightly spooky friar who reminds us of the area’s original purpose …

He resides at 4 Austin Friars, was sculpted by T Metcalfe and dates from 1989 (EC2N 2HA).

Near St Giles Cripplegate, the Columbarium is known as ‘one of London’s secret gardens.’ It lies to the east of the church down a flight of stairs. There are some niches on an outside wall and others are in a covered area enclosed by a gate …

And finally, two of the City of London Police’s finest …

… and their riders.

I really enjoyed my little walk and I hope you enjoyed reading about it.

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St Sepulchre’s Church and Newgate Gaol

For centuries there was a close connection between the church and the notorious prison just across the road from it (EC1A 2DQ).

Demolished in 19o2 and standing where the Old Bailey is now, there had been a prison on the site since the 12th century. Over time the building had been consistently altered physically, but what did not change was its reputation for brutality, filth, sickness and death.

Newgate Gaol shortly before demolition.

The gallows loomed over the justice system. The first permanent version was set up at Tyburn in 1571 (roughly where Marble Arch is today) and prisoners were taken there through the streets from Newgate attracting vast crowds of spectators. The journey could take up to three hours with the carts stopping at taverns on the way where popular convicts were treated to drinks – sometimes the condemned men shouted ‘ I’ll buy you a pint on the way back’.

Getting ready for Tyburn ‘customers’. The Tyburn Tree by Wayne Haag from the Hyde Park Barracks Mural Project, Sydney, Australia.

After execution, which was often more like slow strangulation, fights frequently broke out over ownership of the body with relatives and friends fighting surgeons who were promised ten bodies a year for dissection.

While researching I came across this poem by John Taylor (1578-1653) …

I Have heard sundry men oft times dispute
Of trees, that in one year will twice bear fruit.
But if a man note Tyburn, ‘will appear,
That that’s a tree that bears twelve times a year.
I muse it should so fruitful be, for why
I understand the root of it is dry,
It bears no leaf, no bloom, or no bud,
The rain that makes it fructify is blood.
I further note, the fruit which it produces,
Doth seldom serve for profitable uses:
Except the skillful Surgeons industry
Do make Dissection of Anatomy.

To stamp out disorders, the Tyburn gallows was demolished in 1783 and executions moved to a spot outside Newgate itself …

A hanging outside Newgate in the early 1800s – Wikipedia.

Remarkably, a part of the old prison wall can still be seen at the end of the beautifully named Amen Corner, off the equally prettily named Ave Maria Lane (EC4M 7AQ) …

Amen Corner is now private property so this picture comes from the Internet.

Also, one of the doors condemned prisoners walked through to their execution is kept at the Museum of London …

Picture copyright Museum of London.

St Sepulchre’s Church today …

Look out for the sundial …

It is on the parapet above south wall of the nave and is believed to date from 1681. It is made of stone painted blue and white with noon marked by an engraved ‘X’ and dots marking the half hours. I wondered if the Newgate executioner might have taken the time from this dial to help him decide when to start the journey west to the gallows.

Incidentally, I have written about City Sundials before in a blog entitled We are but shadows. Also, on the corner of the churchyard, there is a famous drinking fountain which you can read about here.

Carts carrying the condemned on their way to Tyburn would pause briefly at the church where prisoners would be presented with a nosegay. However, they would already have had an encounter with someone from the church the night before. In 1605, a wealthy merchant called Robert Dow made a bequest of £50 for a bellman from the church to stand outside the cells of the condemned at midnight, ring the bell, and chant as follows:

All you that in the condemned hole do lie, Prepare you, for tomorrow you shall die; Watch all and pray, the hour is drawing near, That you before the Almighty must appear; Examine well yourselves, in time repent, That you may not to eternal flames be sent: And when St. Sepulchre’s bell tomorrow tolls, The Lord above have mercy on your souls.

And you can still see the bell today, displayed in a glass case in the church …

Includes my reflection … whoops!

Adjacent to the bell is this helpful notice …

The last public hanging in England took place outside Newgate on 26 May 1868, the condemned man being the Fenian Michael Barrett who had been convicted of mass murder.

St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, to give it it’s full name, has other fascinating features which I shall write about in a future blog.

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City children

Not all statues, pictures and memorials in the City are of the ‘great and the good’ – there are quite a few young people represented as well.

For a start, there are the charity school children who wore a striking uniform that confirmed their school’s charity status – hence the name Bluecoat Schools. Blue was chosen since it was once the cheapest dye available. The school buildings often displayed life-size representations of their pupils and these two can now be found outside the church of St Andrew Holborn (EC4A 3AF) …

They depict children attending St Andrew’s Parochial School, founded in 1696 and located in Hatton Garden since 1721. The statues once stood over the Cross Street entrance to the Hatton Street school but were moved here during the church’s restoration after WWII bombing damage.

Sir John Cass’s School at Aldgate also has its little boy and girl statues (C3A 5DE) …

This work outside Liverpool Street Station depicts children from the Kindertransport (EC2M 7PD). I think they are beautifully portrayed, appearing both curious and confident (and one piece of luggage is clearly a violin case) …

Photograph: Robin Coupland. Statue by Frank Meisler (2006).

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

On a modern building in Giltspur Street (EC1A 9DD) a naked boy stands looking upwards with his arms crossed. He is often referred to as The Golden Boy of Pye Corner and he probably started life as a shop sign …

Now he commemorates one of the places where the Great Fire of 1666 was finally halted, and the inscription beneath refers to the belief by some at the time that God was punishing the City for the sin of gluttony. This was also evidenced by the fact that the conflagration started in Pudding Lane!

Despite the reference to gluttony, the little boy is not enormously fat but ‘healthily rotund’, as children or putti tended to be sculpted at that time. Pye (or Pie) Corner, on the other hand, was noted for food shops, particularly at the time of Bartholomew Fair. This annual celebration was finally suppressed in 1855 for ‘encouraging debauchery and public disorder’ and becoming a ‘school of vice which … initiated … youth into the habits of villainy’. The fair had also become one of the year’s great opportunities for pickpockets as well as for prostitutes, who might be found in tents coyly labelled ‘soiled doves’ or in a nearby street appropriately named Cock Lane.

But I digress.

Just behind the Royal Exchange is a work that caused some controversy, the Charity Drinking Fountain (also known as La Maternité) by Aimé-Jules Dalou (1877-9). (EC3V 3NL).

In his book Public Sculpture of the City of London, Philip Ward-Jackson describes the lady as follows:

Despite her casual garb she has a diadem or tiara on her head. With her left arm she enfolds a baby, who she is suckling, whilst with her right she draws to her knee a naked boy, who gazes up at her.

Nearby is a very relaxed George Peabody who I have written about in an earlier blog

Ward-Jackson tells us that the suckling lady’s very authentic exposed breast produced at least one letter of protest to the editor of The Globe. The correspondent urged that ‘common decency’ should be observed and went on …

Do you not think, Sir, that Mr Peabody’s chair should be turned, at least until the delicate operation of ‘lacteal sustenation’ be concluded … or the young woman and youngsters provided with the requisite clothing.

Living in the Appold Street entrance to Exchange Square are The Broad Family (EC2A 2BR) …

Look long enough and you will see mum, dad, a little girl with her ball and the family dog (well I did, anyway). It has just occurred to me that the dog resembles Dr Who’s companion K9.

The little girl’s shoes peep out tantalisingly …

These young folk striding out purposefully are part of the memorial to Christ’s Hospital School which was sited nearby before it relocated to Horsham in 1902 (EC1A 7BA). It shows the pupils developing from street urchins to smart, confident young adults …

I love the ragamuffins at the far end of the sculpture.They seem to be having enormous fun and sport the most extraordinary hairstyles …

As you approach the Bank junction from Cheapside look up and you will see two young boys at either end of the grand building that was once the City headquarters of Midland Bank (1935). The are both struggling with a rather angry looking Goose …

The sculptor was William Reid Dick.

Why a goose? A clue is the ancient name of the street and the goose was a suggestion by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens to commemorate its original market function. The building is now a private club and restaurant, called The Ned in Sir Edwin’s honour.

In the Guildhall Art Gallery there is a pretty little girl attending her first sermon …

My First Sermon’ by John Everett Millais

She obviously knows this is an important occasion in her life and sits with her back straight, eyes attentively focused looking ahead. She is the artist’s 5 year old daughter Effie. On seeing it the Archbishop of Canterbury commented …

… our spirits are touched by the playfulness, the innocence, the purity, and … the piety of childhood

In 1864 the artist produced a sequel entitled ‘My Second Sermon’ …

The Archbishop, Charles Longley, was obviously a rather good sport, and when he saw the later picture commented …

… by the eloquence of her silent slumber, (she has) given us a warning of the evil of lengthy sermons and drowsy discourses. Sorry indeed should I be to disturb that sweet and peaceful slumber, but I beg that when she does awake she may be informed who they are who have pointed the moral of her story, have drawn the true inference from the change that has passed over her since she has heard her “first sermon,” and have resolved to profit by the lecture she has thus delivered to them.

I was reminded of this wonderful drawing of a Victorian congregation who are finding the sermon rather heavy going …

In 1995 a skeleton was discovered when excavations were taking place before the construction of 30 St Mary Axe, now often referred to as the Gherkin. The remains were of a young girl aged between 13 and 17 years – her arms were crossed over her body and pottery close by indicated a burial date of between AD 350 and 400.

Having been removed to the Museum of London, she waited patiently until 2007 when the developers of the Gherkin proposed that she be reburied on the site. So, in April of that year, there was a service at St Botolph’s church in Aldgate followed by a procession through the streets before her body was respectfully interred near where it was found. The Lady Mayoress of the City of London was there to spread rose petals on the gravesite, marked with a marble slab decorated with a laurel wreath.

We don’t know her name, or whether she was an original Londoner, but she now rests again 1,600 years after her death in the place that she would have called Londinium.

And finally to one of my favourite places, the Watts Memorial in Postman’s Park (EC1A 7BT). I have written before about three of the brave youngsters commemorated there – Alice Ayres, John Clinton and Elizabeth Boxall.

To them I will now add this young man …

While their mum was out running an errand Henry’s two-year-old sister Jessie, intrigued by the glow of a paraffin lamp, managed to clamber up a chair and reach out for it. Tragically, she overturned it and was enveloped in flaming paraffin. Henry rushed to help her, but in tearing off her clothes set fire to himself and both children received severe burns. Jessie survived but Henry died on 5th January – the coroner at his inquest commented ‘it is a sad case, the little fellow was quite a hero’.

That’s all for this week – I hope you enjoyed it even though I have written about some of these subjects before.

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Holborn Viaduct – ladies, lions and ‘maximum bling’

Last week I promised you a bit more about this brilliant Victorian masterpiece of engineering and sculpture.

There are four ladies on the Viaduct representing Fine Art, Science, Agriculture and Commerce.

Fine Art was sculpted by Farmer & Brindley

In her right hand she holds a crayon ‘as drawing is the most essential principal in Design’. Her left hand holds a drawing board with paper pinned to it, which rests on her left thigh. Her left foot rests on an Ionic capital denoting architecture. Behind her to her left is part of a Corinthian column, on the top of which stands a bust of Pallas Athena, ‘as she was the patroness of both the useful and elegant arts’.

Behind the figure’s right foot, a small palette and brushes rest on the base …

Science is also by Farmer & Brindley. She is ‘of more masculine proportions than Fine Art, with a fine penetrating countenance’ …

Her tiara has a star at its centre and stars form the fringe of her robe. She holds in her hand the ‘Governors’ that were used to control steam engines. At her left side stands a tripod on which is placed a terrestrial globe encircled with the Electric Telegraph wire which is connected with a battery.

Around the top of the tripod are the signs of the zodiac ‘indicating Astronomy’ …

Beneath it lie compasses and a crumpled sheet of paper with geometrical drawings, one of them a demonstration of Pythagoras’s theorem (you also get a better view of the battery in this picture) …

Agriculture was sculpted by Henry Bursill

She wears a crown of olives, ‘the emblem of peace’, and there is a decorative band of oak leaves on the fringe of her robe. ‘She turns to Providence with a thankful expression for a beautiful harvest’ and in her right hand she holds a sickle. Beside her left foot is a belt with a sheath, containing a whetstone.

Bursill also sculpted Commerce …

She is shown ‘advancing with right hand outstretched towards mankind in a sign of welcome, whilst in her left she proudly holds gold ingots and coin, the foundation of enterprise and Commerce in the civilized world’. At her feet to her right are two keys along with a parchment showing the City Arms representing ‘the Freedom of the City’ …

Farmer and Brindley are also responsible for the four winged lions …

I love these Atlantes holding up a balcony. They date from 2014 when the north east pavilion was rebuilt …

Here’s one in close up …

In 2013 the Viaduct was repainted and re-gilded with, at the request of the City Conservation Officer, ‘maximum bling’.

You get an idea of how well this was accomplished in this picture. It shows the re-gilded base of one of the lamps, a knight’s helmet and a City dragon …

There is a fascinating article about the work, particularly the gilding, here.

I hope you have enjoyed these two visits to the Viaduct. Again I have been plundering Dr Philip Ward-Jackson’s wonderful book Public Sculpture of the City of London for much of this blog’s detail.

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Holborn Viaduct – not all it seems

I have been out and about again, taking new pictures as I exercise.

Every now and then when researching I find out something I didn’t know that I really should have – more of this later.

Before the Viaduct was built it had become obvious that a flat route between Bank and Holborn had become desperately needed. The hills leading down into the valley were as steep as 1:15 in places and the following passage from the Observer for the 20th November 1864 tells us something of the horrors of horse drawn traffic using this route:

The great traffic of the city of London is from east to west, and to accommodate this there are at present but two leading lines – those by way of Holborn Hill and Fleet Street. The steep ascents of Holborn Hill and Skinner Street are wholly unsuited for the vehicular traffic which passes over them, and no person can pass along these streets without witnessing the delays which are caused, and the wasteful expenditure of horse flesh and the cruelty to animals which the ascent of these streets involve.

Work was started in 1863 and I really like this splendid photograph of the work in progress looking west …

Note the advertisement for the ‘New’ St Pancras Station.

And another view looking south …

The Holborn Viaduct Improvements Committee turned up for a photo shoot …

True top-hatted Victorian Gentlemen. It’s a good composition, isn’t it, with two of them getting their clothes grubby sitting on bricks. An anonymous artisan looks to be doing a bit of work on the balustrade and lamp post to the right.

Queen Victoria arrives at the formal opening on 6 November 1869 …

It has been called ‘The world’s first flyover’.

She killed two birds with one stone by opening Blackfriars Bridge on the same day.

Up until the turn of this century, the north eastern corner of the viaduct was dominated by an early 1950s building called Bath House. You can see its massive scale in this picture …

When it was demolished it was decided that a new staircase building should be constructed in the same style as the old Victorian one that had been lost in wartime bombing (and that it should include a lift).

It was completed in 2014 and here it is, looking white and pristine in my picture …

Not only that, the north west step building (also on the left) is itself relatively new, being completed in 2001. All this was, I am embarrassed to say, news to me, although the buildings’ colour and cleanliness should have been a clue.

All four pavilions around the viaduct are named after important Londoners from the past.

Sir William Walworth was a 14th century Lord Mayor. He now poses authoritatively, sword in scabbard, on the north west corner …

On June 15th 1381 he was accompanying King Richard II when they debated in Spitalfields with the leader of the Peasants’ Revolt, Wat Tyler. 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!

On the south west corner …

FitzEylwin was the first Mayor of London and probably held office until his death. His hands rest on a battleaxe and he is wearing a surcoat over his chain mail.

There is a City legend portrayed on the south east corner…

Sir Thomas Gresham, founder of the Royal Exchange, is dressed in 16th century costume and holds a parchment.

Finally, on the fourth corner, is this gentleman …

Sir Hugh Myddleton, a goldsmith and entrepreneur, established the New River Company which constructed the New River bringing much needed fresh water from Hertfordshire to London. This remained the most important source of piped water in London for 300 years and Robert Stephenson considered him ‘the first English Engineer’. He is holding the River plans in his hand and I think his right foot is resting on a water conduit pipe.

This is the view of the Viaduct today, giving some idea as to how deep the valley was …

Paint analysts reckon it has been repainted at least fourteen times. Look at this fascinating cross section of old paint layers …

Cross section of paint from one of the lamp standards.

The Viaduct proved much more interesting than I expected, so I shall be continuing its story next week.

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At the Charterhouse

Doing photography for my blog isn’t an essential journey, so I hope you won’t mind if I republish an earlier edition, the one reporting on my visit to the Charterhouse. The buildings are in Charterhouse Square (EC1M 6AN) just opposite Florin Court, the flats used as ‘Whitehaven Mansions’ in the Poirot TV series.

A Carthusian monastery had existed on this site since 1371, but catastrophe came in 1535 when the monks were asked to sign an oath acknowledging the King – Henry VIII – as the supreme head of the Church of England. Many refused, and on 4th May that year the Prior, John Houghton, a monk and a lay brother, were hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. Houghton’s right arm was chopped off and hung over the Charterhouse entrance gate – a symbol of what happened to those refusing to acknowledge the King’s authority.

One of the many fascinating things to see on a modern-day tour is this engraving …

Probably by Nicolas Beatrizet (1540-1560)

The print was produced in Rome about 20 years later. Five of the scenes show the monks imprisoned, dragged through the streets and then being executed. The final scene shows two Carthusian monks being executed in York.

The gatehouse in the 1930s

Charterhouse has passed through many incarnations over the centuries and evidence of this abounds to this day.

We can still see the entrance to one of the two-up two-down cells the monks occupied …

Food was passed in to the cell through the portal on the left to avoid disturbing the monk’s solitude

Each monk lived as a hermit, spending their time in prayer, contemplation and scholarly work. They seldom spoke, usually only meeting together for Sunday lunch.

Sir Edward North (later Baron North) bought the ransacked property in 1545 and turned it into a mansion. To describe North (1496-1564) as a ‘survivor’ in this tumultuous period would be an understatement – somehow remaining in favour with both Queen Mary and later Queen Elizabeth I. In fact three other owners of Charterhouse (John Dudley, Thomas Howard and Philip Howard) were all executed for treason.

Thomas Howard, the Fourth Duke of Norfolk, bought the buildings in 1564. He rebuilt what is now called the Norfolk Cloister, from the ruins of the monks’ original Great Cloister …

The boys from Charterhouse school played football here, its narrow dimensions creating the need for the offside rule

It was in King James’s reign in 1611 that a former ‘Master of the Ordnance in the Northern Parts’, Thomas Sutton, said to be England’s wealthiest commoner, bought the property and established a founda­tion to maintain a school and almshouses. The school, for 40 boys, was the beginning of Charterhouse School. Later, John Wesley and William Makepeace Thackeray were pupils. In 1872, the school moved to Godalming, taking the young Robert Baden-Powell to complete his schooling in Surrey.

The Great Hall (1571) where the Brothers dine today

In the Hall, Sutton’s coat of arms can be seen above this magnificent Caen stone chimneypiece, the cannon and gunpowder barrels at the sides referencing his connection with The Ordnance …

The arms include the head of a hunting dog, a Talbot, now extinct. It’s a motif that can be found throughout the building …

A carved Talbot dog on the stairs along with the arms of the fourth Duke of Norfolk


In Wash House Court, Tudor bricks meet Monastery stone …

Above the entrance to the passageway to the Court, a tiny monk has found a quiet place to study his Bible …

The buildings were severely damaged by incendiary bombs during the Second World War …

The medieval door to the Chapel damaged in the Blitz

The Chapel contains Thomas Sutton’s spectacular monument …

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

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

The man himself …

His body rests in a vault beneath the monument

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

Thomas Sutton’s will provided for up to 80 residents (called Brothers): ‘either decrepit or old captaynes either at sea or at land, maimed or disabled soldiers, merchants fallen on hard times, those ruined by shipwreck or other calamity’.

A community of some 40 Brothers (as of 2016, women are not excluded by this term) still live in the Charterhouse today.

This blog only covers a tiny example of what you will discover at the Charterhouse. I highly recommend the tours that are conducted every day except Monday. Some are led by one of the resident Brothers and are given from the perspective of each individual Brother, therefore no two tours are the same. Click here for details.

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City safari!

I have been looking again at some of the animals I have come across in previous City walks and I thought it might be fun to publish them again since, at the moment, walking around taking photographs doesn’t comply with the ‘stay at home’ recommendation.

When Barbican Station reopens you might like to pop in and pay your respects to the memory of Pebbles, the award-winning Station cat.

High up on a tiled pillar opposite the old ticket office is this poignant memorial …

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

Clearly he was greatly missed when he died, as the plaque faithfully records, on 26th May 1997. This was doubly sad because he was due to be given a Lifetime Achievement Award. This was sponsored by Spillers Pet Foods and named after Arthur, a cat they used in their advertising who, I seem to remember, ate with his paws. The Certificate that came with the award is also displayed (the co-winner, the aptly named Barbie, was Pebbles’ companion) …

Pebbles’ posthumous award.

Another famous cat, Hodge, is remembered by this attractive bronze by John Bickley which was unveiled by the Lord Mayor, no less, in 1997. Hodge belonged to Dr Johnson and sits atop a copy his famous dictionary and alongside a pair of empty oyster shells. Oysters were very affordable then and Johnson would buy them for Hodge himself. James Boswell, in his Life of Johnson, explained why:

I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat: for whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters, lest the servants having that trouble should take a dislike to the poor creature

People occasionally put coins in the shell for luck and every now and then Hodge is given a smart bow tie of pink lawyers’ ribbon.

You can find him in Gough Square opposite Dr Johnson’s house (EC4A 3DE). ‘A very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed’, said his owner.

And from famous cats to mysterious mice. Nibbling a piece of cheese, they add charm to a building in Philpot Lane off Eastcheap and have been described (rather appropriately, I think) as London’s smallest sculpture. Even though they have been repainted they are still a bit hard to find – so I am not saying precisely where they are, and hopefully (one day!) you will enjoy looking for them. One theory is that the builders in 1862 were pestered by mice who persistently ransacked their lunch packs, so they left this little informal tribute. Another is that they commemorate a man who died during the construction of the nearby Monument to the Great Fire. Mice had eaten his lunch, but he accused a fellow worker by mistake, and fell to his death in the fight that followed. As to the true story behind the little rodents, your guess is as good as mine …

In Paternoster Square is a 1975 bronze sculpture by Elisabeth Frink which I particularly like – a ‘naked’ shepherd with a crook in his left hand walks behind a small flock of five sheep …

Dame Elisabeth was, anecdotally, very fond of putting large testicles on her sculptures of both men and animals. In fact, her Catalogue Raisonné informs us that she ‘drew testicles on man and beast better than anyone’ and saw them with ‘a fresh, matter-of-fact delight’. It was reported in 1975, however, that the nude figure had been emasculated ‘to avoid any embarrassment in an ecclesiastical setting’. The sculpture is called Paternoster.

As you approach the Bank junction from Cheapside look up and you will see two young boys at either end of the grand building that was once the City headquarters of Midland Bank (1935). The are both struggling with a rather angry looking Goose …

The sculptor was William Reid Dick.

Why a goose? A clue is the ancient name of the street and the goose was a suggestion by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens to commemorate its original market function. The building is now a private club and restaurant, called The Ned in Sir Edwin’s honour.

The name of the street is a clue.

This little Scottish terrier is called Chippy. He rests now in All Hallows by the Tower at the feet of his master the Reverend ‘Tubby’ Clayton CH MC who became vicar of the Church in 1922 and remained there until 1963.  He is best known for his work initially as an army chaplain during the First World War and in particular the establishment of Talbot House, a unique place of rest and sanctuary for British troops. After the war the spirit and intent of Talbot House became expressed through the Toc H movement.

Clayton owned a succession of Scottish Terriers and they were all called Chippy.

A wise owl gazes at the commuters as they trek over London Bridge from his perch opposite the north entrance to the bridge …

The building used to be the offices of the Guardian Royal Exchange Insurance Company.

A wily fox decorates the door of the old Fox’s umbrella shop on London Wall …

This dolphin looks decidedly uncomfortable balanced on the facade of The Ship pub in Hart Street (built 1887) …

He needn’t look so worried – both he and the pub are Grade II listed.

Another dolphin serves a more solemn purpose on Tower Green…

More than 50,700 Commonwealth merchant seamen lost their lives in the two World Wars and the Mercantile Marine Memorial commemorates the almost 36,000 of them who have no known grave. The boy riding the dolphin, accompanied by fishes and seahorses, is one of seven sculptures representing the seven seas by Sir Charles Wheeler. The sculpture is surrounded by plaques showing the names of the dead arranged alphabetically under their ship’s name and the name of the Master or Skipper.

And finally, outside Spitalfields Market, is the wonderfully entitled I Goat. In the background is Hawksmoor’s Christ Church …

It was hand sculpted by Kenny Hunter and won the Spitalfields Sculpture Prize in 2010.

The sculptor commented …

Goats are associated with non-conformity and being independently-minded. That is also true of London, its people and never more so than in Spitalfields.

I hope you enjoyed the safari even though the animals have featured in blogs before.

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More City doors and doorways

Created between the 15th century and the more recent past, I have found a selection for us to admire and, in many cases, still walk through like thousands before us.

The oldest door I have discovered is the medieval chapel door in The Charterhouse. It was damaged by fire when the building was bombed during the Blitz (EC1M 6AN) …

When you visit St Vedast-alias-Foster in Foster Lane you enter through early 17th century oak doors that have remarkably survived both the Great Fire of 1666 and the Blitz (EC2V 6HH) …

The cherubim carved on the keystone above the door are by one of Sir Christopher Wren’s favourite stonemasons, Edward Strong, and date from the 1690s. In total Strong was paid £3106:14:7 for his work on the church – he charged £5 for the cherubs.

On the south side of St Paul’s Cathedral is the Dean’s Door …

The carver was stonemason and architect Christopher Kempster (1627-1715), another of Wren’s favourite craftsmen. His work on the cherub’s heads and foliage was considered so good Wren awarded him an extra £20 for ‘the extraordinary diligence and care used in the said carving and his good performance of the same’. When Kempster died at the age of 88 his son carved a cherub’s head for his memorial.

Incidentally, £1 then was worth about £120 now.

The Cathedral’s main entrance, the 30 foot high Great West Door, is only opened on special occasions …

Look closely and you will see it is surrounded by 18th century graffiti, some in elegant cursive script …

The facade St Martin’s House at 1 Gresham Street is a delight (EC4V 7BX) …

Dating from 1891 it incorporates a wonderfully happy, smiling Mr Sun …

What also makes it charming is the rogue apostrophe ….

Surely it should read St Martin’s House?

What about this trio above what was once the entrance to the City Headquarters of the Royal Insurance Company at 24-28 Lombard Street (EC3V 9AJ) …

The historian Philip Ward-Jackson writes as follows:

‘The winged chimera at the centre of the group has the head of a woman and the legs of a lion. The two personifications are fine looking women, naked to the waist. The Sea holds a caduceus, and therefore also symbolises marine commerce … The attributes of Fire are a torch and bunches of faggots.

This quite sinister allegorical group must have been intended to intensify the fears of potential customers.’

The church of St Stephen Walbrook was constructed between 1672 and 1679 and is another Wren building (EC4N 8BN). The doors look original to me but I haven’t yet found out for sure …

The building is where Dr Chad Varah founded the Samaritans and you can read more about that and the church itself here.

This impressive entrance is just around the corner from St Stephens. Push the doorbell and you never know, the Lord Mayor might answer the door …

The virus shut down has meant that these magnificent doors at 2 Moorgate can now be seen easily during the week rather than just at the weekend (EC2R 6AG). Each door weighs a ton …

Suitably opulent for a private bank, they were designed by John Poole and date from 1975 when the building was opened by Edward Heath (who used to work for the company). Poole had a free hand with the design and said he intended to represent, in the circular forms, the firm’s centres of business. The linear patterns suggest communications between these centres along with ‘the interaction of spheres of influence’.

In 1888 the Institute of Chartered Accountants decided to treat themselves to a permanent headquarters and work was completed in 1893. Described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as ’eminently original and delightfully picturesque’, it is ‘a fine example of Victorian neo-Baroque which draws its inspiration from the work of the Italian Renaissance’. This is the formidable and imposing entrance at One Moorgate Place (EC2R 6EA) …

The architect was John Belcher RA.

The large cartouche above the massive bronze doors depicts the Institute’s coat of arms and is held up by two classical male figures.

In the Museum of London you will find a door that must have struck terror into the hearts of the poor souls who were led through it …

Photograph : Museum of London.

It comes from the now demolished Newgate Prison, dates from 1783, and was the one through which criminals were taken to their place of execution. In fact they walked through three doors of which this was the inner one – there was also an iron-cased half door and an outer one of solid iron. The final person to pass through it to his execution by hanging was the Fenian Michael Barrett on 27 May 1868 – the last public execution to take place in England.

Two doors that are a bit tucked away when open are here at 6 Holborn Viaduct (EC1A 2AE) …

They have certainly suffered some brutal treatment over the years and look very unloved, but the lions heads have survived …

And finally, to finish on a more lighthearted note, just off Whitecross Street is this doorway which makes me smile every time I see it. 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, by any remote chance, doors, doorways and bells are your thing, do have a browse of the blogs I have written on these subjects : That Rings a Bell and City of London Doors and Doorways.

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Moorgate and the Goddess of Electricity

Firstly, I hope you are all keeping well and safe in these troubled times, and that maybe my little blog occasionally offers a welcome distraction.

The diminished traffic flow in the City, combined with the recent really sunny days, meant that I could more easily incorporate some photography with the walks I take for exercise. I was able to pause for some time to take detailed images of this spectacular building on Moorgate …

I think it’s crowning glory is its stained glass window, back-lit from within so its detail can be seen clearly from outside the building. Unfortunately the building was closed and in darkness when I visited so I have copied an image from the splendid London Inheritance website and blog.

Originally the London headquarters of the Eastern Telegraph Company, the current neo-classical building was built by Belcher & Joass between 1900 and 1903. At first it was called Electra House (named after the goddess of electricity) and the centre section shows her perched on top of the world. A glowing orb behind her head sends out rays across the seas, presumably representing the information the company’s cables help spread around the world. To the bottom left of the centre section is a sailing ship under full sail and bottom right is a lighthouse. Between the ship and lighthouse is a rough looking sea. The side panels show clouds and more rough sea and stars are scattered over the three parts …

The architect John Belcher was a prominent member the Catholic Apostolic Church and it is thought that this influenced the ornamentation of buildings he designed. The Moorgate stained glass window embodies the theme of communications but also symbolism from the Book of Revelations. You can read more about Belcher here.

To the left of the arch is a seated girl accompanied by a young winged genius …

Sculptor: George Frampton

She is transmitting a message.

The figure on the right is receiving a message (could be an iPad!) …

And above the arch …

… a winged Mercury, the god of Commerce, carries a caduceus.

Higher up is a beautiful frieze of four female figures …

Sculptor: William Goscombe John

They represent from left to right Egypt, Japan, India and China. Egypt carries a water jar on her shoulder, Japan is in a kimono and carries a fan, India lifts the veil from her face, and China carries a samisen (a three stringed lute).

At the very top of the building four naked boys support an armillary sphere which is itself encircled by a broad band displaying zodiacal signs …

Here it is in close up …

Some small figures decorate the tops of the pillars. Here are a few of them.

The horned god Pan playing his flute …

A blindfolded Lady Justice holding scales and sword …

I have no idea as to what this one represents …

I hope you found this interesting. I have not covered all the building’s decorations in this blog and there are more inside which maybe I will get access to at some future date.

To end on a more lighthearted note, have you noticed that the pigeons seem to have deserted the City? No humans, no food, I suppose. However, I did spot this lonely chap self-isolating on the old Roman/Medieval City wall …

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‘The politest statue in London’

That’s how this statue of Prince Albert at Holborn Circus was described by one observer …

The words on the plinth are ‘Prince Albert Consort Born 1819 Died 1861’

Here he is again from a different angle …

He is shown astride a high-stepping horse, in the uniform of a Field Marshal, and raising his plumed hat in acknowledgment of a salute. He isn’t, therefore, waving at imaginary crowds, and so the epithet of ‘politeness’ is sadly misplaced.

The way the Prince and his horse faced was the subject of some debate but finally decided when the sculptor, Charles Bacon, wrote the following to the architect William Heywood on 9 May 1873 …

I most decidedly think the horse’s head ought to look into the City … as a matter of etiquette he ought not to turn his back on those who erected the statue and … most important of all, the sun would be on the face most of the day.

This arrangement was, of course, less satisfactory when viewed from Holborn!

Not everyone liked it. Common Councilman L.H. Elliott said the statue …

… was not suggestive of a man of military genius; but at best it only represents a captain of a cavalry regiment saluting some ladies in a balcony.

At the west end of the plinth is a seated allegory of Peace wearing a laurel crown …

In her left hand she holds a (rather droopy) palm and her right supports a cornucopia.

At the east end there is a seated allegory of History, her curly hair falling generously down her back and her right breast exposed …

Her left leg rests on three books and in her left hand she holds a guide to the 1851 Great Exhibition which Albert played a major role in organising. The quill in her right hand is new, the original having been stolen some time since the unveiling in 1874.

The relief on the north side shows him standing with a ceremonial mallet beside the foundation stone of the Royal Exchange. Two workmen are preparing the pulley …

Entitled ‘The Prince laying the first stone of the Royal exchange Jan 17 1842’

He is surrounded by a crowd of dignitaries including, directly behind him, the Lord Mayor. One of the persons in attendance holds the ceremonial trowel in readiness.

The relief on the south side shows Britannia enthroned, a lion reclining at her feet …

Entitled ‘ Exhibition of all nations 1851. Britannia distributing awards’

She holds out laurel crowns to representatives of the exhibiting nations who are all dressed in their national costumes.

Here is a close up of the Prince taken from the north …

Still a very handsome chap despite the bald patch. The statue was sited to show off his profile ‘from the new street leading to the market’.

Just like History’s quill, a thief had made off with his original sword some time in the past, so this is a replacement. The sculptor paid incredibly close attention to detail and the restorers in 2014, Rupert Harris Restoration Limited, did a superb job. You can watch a fascinating video about the restoration here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVgMoZW3Gdg

There is a mystery concerning the statue – to this day we don’t know who paid for it.

A sculpture of Albert had been discussed for some time and in 1868 Charles Oppenheim (the founder of the De Beers diamond company) came forward offering to meet the cost. Apparently, however, his probity was questioned by some and, perhaps as a result of this, he subsequently formally withdrew the offer.

After the monument was erected The Times, quoting the City Press, reported …

The donor is a very benevolent gentleman of considerable wealth, who is desirous that his name should not be announced, and it is, we believe, known only to Her Majesty, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, to Alderman Sir J.C. Lawrence … and to Mr Bacon.

As is often the case, I am grateful to Dr Philip Ward-Jackson and his splendid book Public Sculpture of the City of London for being the source of much of the content of this week’s edition.

You can see some earlier pictures of the monument in my blog The City before the War.

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Samuel Pepys and the Plague -‘God preserve us all’

I thought it might be interesting in these worrying days to look back on how one of my great heroes, Samuel Pepys, described the ferocious pestilence that attacked London’s citizens in 1665.

Pepys survived, and here he is a year later …

Samuel Pepys (1633 – 1703). Painted by John Hayls in 1666. Copyright National Portrait Gallery.

Hayls had already painted his wife and Pepys was so pleased he commissioned this one of himself. He noted in his diary on 17 March …

This day I begin to sit, and he will make me, I think, a very fine picture. He promises it shall be as good as my wife’s, and I sit to have it full of shadows, and do almost break my neck looking over my shoulder to make the posture for him to work by.

Pepys was a remarkable man, the son of a tailor whose rise to power owed something to circumstances but much more to his own tenacity, drive and personal charm. Despite eventually becoming First Secretary to the Admiralty (and instituting reforms that dramatically improved the professionalism of the Navy) it is for his diary that Pepys is usually remembered.

Here is its first page …

Written in a code and shorthand he personally devised, the diary runs to one and a quarter million words and covers the period 1660 to 1669. Anyone wanting to get a sense of the day-to-day life of an ambitious young Londoner, with a great appetite for work and pleasure, only has to consult his fascinating account.

But it is the year 1665 that I am going to write about.

The first mention in the diary of the plague was on 30 April 1665 …

Great fears of the sickness here in the City, it being said that two or three houses are already shut up. God preserve us all.

Then in July 1665 …

I did in Drury-lane see two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the doors, and “Lord have mercy upon us” writ there – which was a sad sight to me.

The main idea for management of the plague was containment of the infection and so entire families were locked in their own houses. A padlock was fixed to the outer door and a watchman assigned to make sure that any surviving inmates stayed there for the full 40-day quarantine period before being released. The only people being allowed to enter were the doctor, the nurse, the searchers and the men who came at night to remove the bodies …

Who were the searchers? Deaths in London and their causes were recorded in the Bills of Mortality. These were usually collected and published by Parish Clerks and ‘searchers’ were employed to help collect the data. According to Dr Robin Gain of the Samuel Pepys Club …

Plague was almost certainly under-reported by the searchers, who were usually ignorant old women, paid by the parishes to go into the houses where people had died to ascertain the cause of death … If relations of plague victims could persuade or bribe the searchers to report a cause of death other than plague, the family might avoid being quarantined.

Here is the Bill of Mortality from 15 to 22 August 1665 held at the Wellcome Library London. You may find some of the reasons for death a bit surreal …

By 10 June Pepys reported that the plague had entered the City and on 26 July he wrote that the ‘sickness is got into our parish this week’. His parish was St Olave Hart Street.

The number of deaths were beginning to overwhelm the capacity of the City graveyards and plague pits were being opened up. Here is a further image from the Wellcome Collection …

On August 12th he wrote …

The people die so, that now it seems they are fain to carry the dead to be buried by daylight, the nights not sufficing to do it in.

One of the reasons I admire him so much is that because, unlike many of those who had the opportunity, Pepys remained in London for much of that year. Even after he and his employer were forced to relocate to Greenwich in the late summer, he commuted by river from there to his home in Seething Lane near the Tower of London and visited other parts of the capital.

There was a war going on at the time with the Dutch and Pepys believed he should stay at his post. Here is how he elegantly put it in a letter 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.

On the same day he wrote in his diary …

This day I am told that Dr. Burnett my physician is this morning dead of the plague … poor unfortunate man.

As plague moved from parish to parish Pepys 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 desensitization of people, including himself, to the corpses of plague fatalities, ‘I am come almost to think nothing of it.’

It had eventually subsided significantly by January the following year and on January 30th 1666 he visited St Olave, but found the experience deeply shocking …

It frighted me indeed to go through the church … To see so many graves lie so high upon the churchyard, where many people have been buried of the plague.

And five days later, on February 4th he wrote …

It was a frost and had snowed last night, which had covered the graves in the churchyard, so I was less afraid of going through.

The churchyard survives, its banked-up top surface a reminder that it is still bloated with the bodies of plague victims, and gardeners still turn up bone fragments. Three hundred and sixty five were buried there including Mary Ramsay, who was widely blamed for bringing the disease to London. We know the number because their names were marked with a ‘p’ in the parish register.

Note how much higher the graveyard is than the floor at the church door.

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.

Do go into the church and find the lovely marble monument Pepys commissioned in her memory. High up on the North wall, she gazes directly at Pepys’ memorial portrait bust, their eyes meeting eternally across the nave where they are both buried. When he died in 1703, despite other long-term relationships, his express wish was to be buried next to her.

Memorial to Samuel Pepys.

And the sculpture of Elizabeth – I think she looks beautifully animated, like she is in the middle of a conversation.

Another reason I like Pepys is that, despite the terrible events of 1665 he carried on his life as usual, no self-isolation for him. He still worked at the Navy Office, continued his adulterous liaisons, celebrated his cousin’s wedding, and pursued many of his interests. Surprisingly the year brought much opportunity and wealth Pepys’s way and, as the plague subsided, he wrote in his final diary entry for the year …

I have never lived so merrily (besides that I never got so much) as I have done this plague-time.

According to the Bills of Mortality, 68,596 people died of the plague in London in 1665 but the true figure was probably more like 100,000. Even the lower figure represents a very high percentage of the population at the time, which was about 460,000. In today’s population that would mean getting on for 2,000,000 dead Londoners.

If you visit the church treat yourself to a copy of Dr Gain’s leaflet entitled Pepys and The Plague. It was of great help to me in composing this blog and can be yours for a modest £2 donation.

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Things that made me smile

It’s not much fun at the moment is it with a virus to worry about. So I thought I would pop in some light-hearted pictures this week and maybe cheer you up a bit.

First up, a brilliant busker collects donations using up-to-date technology …

Listen to him and his ‘backing singers’ by Googling ‘Bohemian Rhapsody Steve Aruni on YouTube’. I promise you will enjoy it.

A farmer chases his pigs across the front of The George pub with the Royal Courts of Justice reflected in the window …

Nearby a monk pours some ale into a jug. I think that’s his faithful dog next to him – I sincerely hope it’s not a rat …

Bidfood vans! I regularly see them delivering around the City and love the edible landscapes portrayed on the sides.

An orange sunrise between the cheese tower blocks …

A tranquil lake with bread hills and cauliflower clouds …

I know it’s not a Banksy, but this little flower cheered me up …

Colourful street art on Rivington Street …

Healthy eating options on Fleet Street …

‘Let’s ADORE and ENDURE each other’ on Great Eastern Street …

Postman, biplane and pigeon mural next to the Postal Museum …

Yes, the pretty guardian angels are still there on their swings opposite St Paul’s Underground Station …

I smiled at this at first …

…and then thought: ‘Hey, writing on seats isn’t good for them either!’

And finally, one of my favourite sculptures, Leaping Hare on Crescent Bell by the late Barry Flanagan on Broadgate Circle …

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The Temple Bar Memorial

If you walk east down Fleet Street past the Royal Courts of Justice and look up a fearsome dragon straight out of a Harry Potter story looms over you …

It sits atop the 1880 memorial to the Temple Bar that once stood here and marked the western boundary of the City of London. The beast holds in its forepaws a shield showing the cross of St George, part of the City’s coat of arms.

Unfortunately it is somewhat marooned on an island, and heavy traffic whooshes past, but it really is worth studying since it contains some fascinating detail. Let’s start with the people …

On the south side stands Queen Victoria in state robes holding a golden sceptre and orb. She is surrounded by symbols of the arts and science. Sadly the marble is very damaged by traffic fumes and pollution but some re-gilding was carried out to celebrate our own Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 2002.

On the north side stands Edward, then Prince of Wales but later to become King Edward VII on Queen Victoria’s death in 1901. He is wearing a Field marshal’s uniform …

He has not been as badly damaged by pollution as his mum but it looks like he has been given a new left hand.

The west face is framed with pilasters each side, decorated with emblems of war to the left and peace to the right. Carved in the stone between the pilasters is a medallion portrait of Prince Albert Victor …

He is ‘the king we never had’ since he was the eldest child of the Price and Princess of Wales who died in the 1892 influenza epidemic. Look just below his head and you will see St George slaying the dragon.

Gazing down at us on the east side is the generously bearded face of the Lord Mayor at the time of the monument’s erection, Sir Francis Wyatt Truscott …

Above his head is his coat of arms and below his ornate chain of office.

The art historian Philip Ward-Jackson writes …

The reliefs of royal progresses and the portraits of Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales celebrate the congenial relations between the City and the royal family, and recall the ceremonial function of Temple Bar as the spot where the Lord Mayor traditionally met royal visitors to the City.

The reliefs are absolutely fascinating and I do recommend you brave the traffic in order to get a closer look. This is the one on the north side …

It depicts Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales on their way to St Paul’s Cathedral for an 1872 service of thanks to celebrate the Prince’s recovery from typhoid.

This is the one on the south side …

Here Victoria is progressing to the Guildhall on 9th November 1837 after her accession. This is a close-up courtesy of the Ian Visits blog …

On the east side a plaque commemorating the removal of the old Bar – a curtain is being dramatically drawn over it by the angels of Fortune and Time

And finally, on the west side …

Flanked by the giants Gog and Magog, a golden arrow indicates the position of the west side of the old Temple Bar and where a line drawn through its centre from east to west would emerge.

The old gate, one of the eight that originally gave entry to the City, was removed in 1878 because it obstructed the traffic but has now found a new home alongside St Paul’s Cathedral …

Read more about its fascinating history since it was dismantled in my blog Temple Bar and the Banjo-playing Lady.

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The City before the War

I have been loaned a lovely book called Streets of the City by Judy Pulley and have included some of the photographs from it for those of you who like looking at wonderfully atmospheric pictures from the past. You can buy your copy of the book here.

A photographer recorded the vast scale of the construction site for the Holborn Viaduct looking west towards Holborn in 1869. A hoarding advertises the ‘New’ St Pancras Station which opened the previous year …

The finished product …

A congested Fleet Street in 1905 …

The view today …

Shops alongside the entrance to Cannon Street station in March 1939. Three years later most had been destroyed by the wartime bombing …

Prince Albert doffs his hat to the City in 2020 …

In this picture His Royal Highness makes the same gesture at the turn of the last century…

Below is the view towards the west in 1910. The awnings outside Gamages store can be seen on the right and just behind Prince Albert’s statue a man in an invalid carriage braves the traffic. He should be OK if vehicles obey the sign on the lamp post which urges ‘Caution’ and ‘Drive Slowly’. Wallis & Co on the left advertises linens and blankets and has a display of parasols hanging outside the shop. …

Eastcheap as seen from the end of Cannon Street. The statue of King William IV was erected in 1844 when King William street was created as a new approach to London Bridge. The small cart in the centre is delivering ice and the buses are turning right towards London Bridge, just as they do now …

The busy west end of Cheapside at the corner of New Change around 1905 with omnibuses and a Royal Mail coach to the right. The statue is of Sir Robert Peel and was erected here in 1855 and then removed to Hendon Police Training School in 1939 …

The sign on the lamp post says ‘Standing for 10 Hackney Carriages’.

I particularly like this picture of Fleet Street in the 1930s because it shows the cart on the left laden with massive rolls of paper for use in the nearby printing presses …

It’s 7 o’clock in the morning in February 1937 and Lower Thames Street is at a standstill as fish from old Billingsgate Market is loaded on to carts …

The viaduct carrying the approach road to London bridge can be seen in the distance and to its left the church of St Magnus the Martyr.

Many of these pictures illustrate the enormously important role horses played in the life and commerce of the City right into the 20th century.

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Another stroll along Fleet Street

As I think I have said before, I never tire of walking around this part of the City, especially spotting things of interest simply by directing my gaze skywards.

I remember the heyday of printed news when the Fleet Street hostelries were frequently packed with journalists, lawyers and print workers ‘refreshing’ themselves at lunchtime and in the evening. Now you are more likely to encounter overseas visitors seeking out ‘authentic old English pub’ experiences.

Mr Punch advertises these listed premises at the east end of the street …

The previous building on the site was known as the Crown and Sugar Loaf but was renamed the Punch Tavern in the late 1840s because of its association with Punch Magazine which had its offices at that end of Fleet Street.

The Old Bell further west is also listed …

The story goes that it was built by Sir Christopher Wren to accommodate the stonemasons working on nearby St Bride’s Church and the rear of the pub does, indeed, date from 1669.

Between the buildings you can glimpse St Bride’s and its famous ‘wedding cake’ spire as you proceed from east to west …

Why would a business stress ‘discretion’?

Because it’s a pawnbrokers, still advertising their presence using the symbol of three spheres suspended from a bar, said to be a reference to the coat of arms of the Florentine Medici family …

I love this pair of spectacles and thought at first that the sign must date from the 19th century but in fact Whitby & Co have only been around for 20 years …

On the north side of the street you can see the evidence of past publications now, alas, defunct or relocated elsewhere …

Further along are the premises previously occupied by the Kings & Keys pub, once a favourite hangout place for journalists from the Daily Telegraph next door. The name is derived by the amalgamation of two licences of separate former pubs, the Cross Keys and the Three Kings …

It’s narrow because, like many other buildings fronting Fleet Street, it follows the size of the original medieval plot.

If you are a little tired by now and need to recharge batteries there are healthy snacks available nearby …

Onward to St Dunstan in the West which boasts this magnificent clock …

It dates from 1671, and was the first public clock in London to have a minute hand. The figures of the two giants strike the hours and quarters, and turn their heads.

The double headed eagle is the emblem of the Hoare family and their bank’s premises are at the Sign of the Golden Bottle – a practice dating from the time before buildings were allocated street numbers …

The London firm was started in 1672 by Richard Hoare and tended to the affairs of many famous literary folk including the diarist Samuel Pepys, poet Lord Byron and novelist Jane Austen.

What about these three squirrels busy chomping on nuts …

Gosling’s, originally a goldsmiths and later a bank, started trading at the Sign of the Three Squirrels around 1650. It was the fourth largest of the banks that joined together in 1896 to establish Barclay and Co Ltd as a joint stock bank. Today, Goslings remains the oldest branch in the Barclays Group and still occupies its original site in the City.

The adjacent Inns of Court were once so important to Lloyd’s Bank that they had a dedicated branch (with a pretty beehive emblem suggesting hard work and prudence) …

Looking skywards, you can observe these muscular chaps supporting the building’s upper stories…

And finally, at number 50 …

Sculpted by A. Stanley Young in 1913, the building housed both the Norwich Union Insurance Company and the lawyers of Serjeant’s Inn. On the left, the Insurance side, Lady Prudence holds a little hoard of fruit and a leafy branch whilst the cherubic figure of Liberality or Plenty spills his cornucopia of coins and fruit. On the right, the lawyers’ side, blindfolded Lady Justice rests against her shield and sword grasping the scales of justice in her left hand.

There are many versions of Lady Justice in the City and I have written about them here.

You can find earlier blogs about Fleet Street here Fleet Street Ghosts and here Fleet Street Legends.

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Some pics from my Instagram collection

I set up my Instagram account because I found myself taking quite a few pictures totally unrelated to the City of London and I wanted a home for them.

They are quite lighthearted and I am publishing some here in the hope that it will encourage more of you to follow me on Instagram. You’ll find the address at the end of the blog.

I’ll start with a ‘heads up!’

Kilburn High Road wig shop …

A hairpiece for all styles and colours …

A selection of heads in an architectural salvage shop at King’s Cross …

Some fun street art …

Camden Town

An elegant lady on Highgate Hill …

And another …

‘Big girls need big diamonds’.

Street art meets a spinal column on Old Street …

Tasteful Shoreditch poetry …

On Rivington street …

Rather complex decision tree on Great Eastern Street …

More straightforward decision tree on Old street …

‘Let’s ADORE and ENDURE each other’ …

Artwork by Stik …

On Holloway Road, Dick Whittington strides out back to a modern looking City …

Mural at the London Postal Museum …

And a strongly worded notice on the wall inside where the railway workshops used to be …

The bear necessities at Spitalfields Market …

And nearby, a shop that once satisfied stallholders’ needs …

This injured kestrel found a friend near Guildhall …

And still on an animal theme. Where do Barbican ducks go shopping?

Waitrose of course …

Scrapyard sculpture …

Finally, a few pictures from a visit to Malaga …

‘Mmmmmm ice cream …. yummy!’

A water-themed painting next to a dry river course …

Picasso’s birthplace …

He was a great fan of the bullfight and inside is a photo of him catching a hat the matador has thrown to him. Lucky photographer – right place, right time …

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Some unusual artifacts in City Churches

I find great pleasure visiting the City churches and often come across unusual artifacts that spark my curiosity and I have put a selection together for this week’s blog. Incidentally, there are still an amazing 47 churches within the Square Mile and I have not yet visited all of them!

As you approach the door to St Magnus the Martyr on Lower Thames Street you are walking on the paving that once led to the original London Bridge between 1171 and 1831 (EC3R 6DN). Inside is this beautiful scale model of the bridge …

Over nine hundred tiny people are crammed onto the bridge, amongst them a miniature King Henry V, who can be seen processing towards the City of London from the Southwark side of the bridge …

Read more on the excellent London Walking Tours blog from which these pictures were taken.

As an added bonus you can check out the 17th century parish fire engine just inside the main entrance …

Lovat Lane, which runs between Eastcheap and Lower Thames Street, reminds one of the old City with its cobbled surface and narrow winding shape …

St Mary-At-Hill EC3R 8EE

If you pop into St Mary-At-Hill church you will immediately encounter on your left this fascinating representation of Resurrection on the Day of Judgment

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

It’s a very unusual example of late 17th century English religious carving and most likely dates from the 1670s. Its carver is unknown, but it is known that the prominent City mason Joshua Marshall was responsible for the rebuilding of the church in 1670-74 and his workshop may have produced the relief.  Exactly where it was originally positioned is uncertain; most likely it stood over the entrance to the parish burial ground and was brought inside in more recent times …

You can see open coffins among the chaos
The winged Archangel Michael helps people rise again

If you find yourself in St Paul’s Cathedral do seek out the only statue to survive the ravages of the Great Fire of 1666 which totally destroyed the Cathedral’s predecessor.

Nicholas Stone’s effigy of the poet and preacher John Donne is a remarkable survival of seventeenth-century English sculpture. Donne is shown standing, perched on a funerary urn, and enveloped in a body-hugging burial shroud which has been gathered into two decorative ruffs at the head and feet. Based on a drawing done when he was dying, and at his request, consider the face, with its shuttered eyelids, raffish beard, and benign, half-smiling expression.

The urn still shows scorch marks from the fire …

I haven’t had a proper long look at St Mary Abchurch yet but did manage to call in for a few minutes to take a (rather hurried) picture of this unusual Poor Box …

You need three keys to open it, one being inserted horizontally.

And I like this old box outside the little museum at St Bartholomew’s Hospital …

Rather a strangely placed apostrophe, I think.

And now on to one of my favourite churches, St Vedast-alias-Foster (EC2V 6HH).

You enter through early 17th century oak doors that have remarkably survived both the Great Fire and the Blitz. Beyond the foyer you find yourself facing the font and its beautifully carved wooden cover. Originally from St Anne and St Agnes, the font was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and the cover is by Wren’s frequent collaborator, the master woodcarver Grinling Gibbons

Inside St Martin within Ludgate on Ludgate Hill (EC4M 7DE) I found both a fascinating chandelier and a very unusual font. 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 …

It’s 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 …

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)

And I am indebted, as I often am, to the blogger A London Inheritance who pointed out in his latest publication something I missed.

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

And finally, why would a church display an old-fashioned telephone under a glass case?

One day in 1936 a young priest officiated at his first funeral – a 14 year old girl who had killed herself because, when her periods started, she thought it was a sign of a sexually transmitted disease. That there seemed to have been no one she could talk to had a profound effect on him, but it was not until 18 years later that, as he put it,

I read somewhere there were three suicides a day in Greater London. What were they supposed to do if they didn’t want a Doctor or Social Worker … ? What sort of a someone might they want?

He looked at his phone, ‘DIAL 999 for Fire, Police or Ambulance’ it said …

There ought to be an emergency number for suicidal people, I thought. Then I said to God, be reasonable! Don’t look at me… I’m possibly the busiest person in the Church of England.

When the priest, Chad Varah, was offered charge of the parish of St Stephen Walbrook in the summer of 1953 he knew that the time was right for him to launch what he called a ‘999 for the suicidal’. He was, in his own words, ‘a man willing to listen, with a base and an emergency telephone’. The first call to the new service was made on 2nd November 1953 and this date is recognised as Samaritans’ official birthday.

And this is the original telephone …

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Health & Safety in Victorian times

You only need to visit the Watts Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice in Postman’s Park to see evidence of the dangers that people were exposed to in Victorian times.

Here is the man we have to thank for this window on the past …

George Frederic Watts was a famous Victorian artist and this picture is a self-portrait. He first suggested the memorials we see today in 1887 but the idea was not taken up until 1898 when the vicar of St Botolph’s church offered him this site in Postman’s Park (EC1A 7BT). There Watts’ ambition to commemorate ‘likely to be forgotten heroes’ came to fruition and when the park was officially opened on 30 July 1900 there were already four tablets in place.

Sixty two people feature on the memorial today which is housed in a wooden loggia …

I find that their stories still evoke a range of emotions, particularly ones of sadness and curiosity, which left me wanting to know more about these people, their lives and the manner of their deaths. There are also clues as to the nature of society and work at that time along with the quality of healthcare.

We are reminded, for example, that horses played a tremendous part in work practices, transport, leisure and, sadly, war. It’s estimated, for example, that there were about 3.3 million horses in late Victorian Britain and in 1900 about a million of these were working horses. Of the 62 people commemorated here, five died as a result of an incident involving horses and I shall write about two of them.

Here is the first mention of horses on the wall …

William Drake earned his living as a carriage driver and on this occasion his passenger was one of the most famous sopranos of her day, a lady called Thérèse Tietjens. The breaking of the carriage pole caused panic among the horses and they reared out of control. In fighting to control them, Drake received a severe kick to his right knee which subsequently resulted in the septicaemia that led to his death on April 8th. A message was passed to the coroner at the inquest that ‘those dependent on the deceased would be amply cared for by Madame Tietjens’. Notwithstanding this, Drake was buried at the expense of the parish in a common grave in Brompton Cemetery, although there is evidence that his widow did receive an annuity from somewhere.

Elizabeth Boxall died after being kicked by a runaway carthorse as she pulled a small child out of its way …

Her brave act actually took place in July 1887 but over the next eleven months poor Elizabeth’s health deteriorated. Part of her leg was amputated in September and a further part (up to her hip) in January 1888, her condition being complicated by a diagnosis of cancer. Her parents were distraught by her death and the way she had been treated by the medical profession – for example, the first amputation was carried out without her or her parents’ permission. ‘They regularly butchered her at that hospital’ her father exclaimed at the inquest and the jury found that shock from the second operation was the cause of death. No one from the hospital attended the inquest but the House Governor at the London Hospital disputed the finding in a letter to the press.

Still on a medical theme, the highly contagious infection known as diptheria features twice on the memorials. Now extremely rare due to vaccination programmes, it was once a frequent killer of small children and also posed a danger to physicians such as Samuel Rabbeth …

I have been able to locate a picture of him thanks to the excellent London Walking Tours blog

Dr Samuel Rabbeth (1858 – 1884) from The Illustrated London News 15th November 1884
Copyright, The British Library Board

On October 10th the doctor was treating a four year old patient who was in danger of asphyxiation as diptheria often resulted in a membrane blocking the airways. The standard treatment of tracheotomy had been performed but to no avail and Rabbeth performed the more risky procedure of sucking on the tracheotomy tube to remove the obstruction. Unfortunately in doing so he contracted the infection himself and died on 20th October (not the 26th as shown on the plaque). There was some (fairly muted) criticism of his actions by doctors who believed he acted recklessly, although from the most honourable of motives.

He has a fine gravestone in Barnes Cemetery …

Dr Lucas was infected as a result of an unfortunate accident …

He was in the process of administering an anaesthetic to a child with diptheria in order that a tracheotomy could be carried out. The child coughed or sneezed in his face but, instead of delaying to clean himself up, which may have endangered the child’s life, he continued and as a result became infected. He died within a week.

I haven’t been able to find an image of him or his final resting place but a poem written in his memory was published in a number of newspapers and you can read it in full here.

Thomas Griffin was engaged to be married on 16 April 1899 and on 11 April he had travelled to Northampton to discuss arrangements with his family and then back home to Battersea for work the next day. He expected that by the end of the week he would be married, but that was not to be, and by the end of the following day he was dead …

An inquest on 17 April was told that, after an explosion in the refinery boiler room, the door had been closed and the men told to keep out. Griffin, who had been evacuated to safety, suddenly cried out ‘My mate! My mate!’ and before anyone could stop him had disappeared into the boiler room. Terribly scalded all over his body he died later that day. The coroner lamented that …

… the conduct of a man like him deserves to be recorded. No doubt there are heroes in everyday life, but they do not come to the front and so we do not hear of them.

Unbeknown to the coroner, Watts had been collecting newspaper cuttings of heroic acts for years and added Griffin’s story to the growing archive. So it came to pass that Thomas Griffin was among the first four people to be commemorated upon the newly opened memorial.

And finally …

One might get the impression that this gentleman was particularly worthy of recognition because the person he saved was not only a stranger but also a foreigner. This would be a shame if it detracts from a very brave act and a tragic one also since, according to Cambridge’s brother Royston, John need not have perished. He told the Nottingham Evening Post

My brother, who was a very good swimmer, saw while bathing an unknown person drowning, and swam out to her assistance. The bathing boat rescued the lady, and the other bather, but the boatmen declined to go out again, although we implored them to do so, and offered them payment, until they were ordered out by officials. It was then, of course, too late.

I have written in great detail about the following four heroes in an earlier blog which you can find (along with pictures of three of them) here

I am indebted for the background research used in this blog to the historian John Price and his incredibly interesting book Heroes of Postman’s Park – Heroic Self-Sacrifice in Victorian London. You will find details of how to purchase your copy here.

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St Bartholomew the Less (including a memorial that requires you to multiply and subtract)

Poor St Bartholomew the Less has had a tough time (EC1A 9DS). Designated ‘the less’ to distinguish it from its better known namesake nearby, it has also had to be substantially rebuilt a number of times including the need to repair damage inflicted in the Blitz. Nonetheless, it is a fascinating place containing many interesting historical monuments.

To find its modest doorway you must enter the grounds of St Bartholomew’s hospital through the Henry VIII gates and look to your left. Inside a rather spooky white hand directs you up stairs to the main body of the church …

It was once a parish church in its own right, the parish boundary being the walls of the hospital. The parishioners were made up of the hospital staff and patients and at one time attendance at services was compulsory for all who were fit enough. It was the only parish of this nature in existence but since 2015, however, it has become part of the Parish of St Bartholomew the Great.

There are many features to admire but, for reasons of space, I have tried to pick some of the most interesting and will look at others in a future blog.

High up on the south wall is the memorial to Robert Balthrope, Sergeant Surgeon to Queen Elizabeth I …

The inscription reads …

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

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

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

The current windows in the church were designed by Hugh Easton, following the loss of the earlier windows during World War Two. Easton was an eminent stained glass maker who also designed the Battle of Britain memorial window in Westminster Abbey. The design of the nurse in the window in Westminster Abbey is strikingly similar to that in the window here …

And the doctors’ memorial window …

The mid-19th century alabaster pulpit depicts Christ healing the sick …

On the east wall is the poignant memorial plaque to Arthur Jermyn Landon which I wrote about in last week’s blog

Here he is in an image of him dated 1881 held at the Wellcome Foundation …

The elaborate memorial to John and Mary Darker (Died 1784 and 1800) is signed by J Binley …

Before you leave, look to the right of the door and you will see the tomb of Surgeon John Freke (1688-1756) …

English History Online has the following to say …

… a remarkably curious tomb of the fireplace kind, most elaborately wrought. It is the tomb of Freke, the senior surgeon of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, who wrote many works upon surgery, still to be found in its library. His bust is to be seen in the museum of the hospital, and he is represented by Hogarth, in the last plate of “The Stages of Cruelty,” presiding aloft over the dissecting-table, and pointing with a long wand to the dead “subject,” upon whom he is lecturing to the assembled students.

And here it is …

You can read more about Hogarth’s The Four Stages of Cruelty here.

Look back after leaving the church and observe the oldest parts of the building, the 15th-century tower and west end of the church …

Within the tower are three bells, the oldest being cast in 1380. The bells are hung in the original wooden frame thought to be the oldest in London.

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A plethora of plaques

Plaques abound in the City and I thought it might be fun to write here about some of the more unusual or interesting ones I have come across.

First up is this example, now rather tucked away in a corner at Liverpool Street railway station. It’s underneath the main memorial to the First World War dead, which was unveiled by this gentleman in 1922 …

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

Until researching this event I hadn’t realised that, in all, about 210,000 Irishmen served in the British forces during World War One. Since there was no conscription, about 140,000 of these joined during the war as volunteers and about 35,000 of them died.

A brave doctor from an earlier war is commemorated in the church of St Bartholomew the Less, his actions and character described in poignant detail …

His former medical contemporaries at St Bartholomew’s Hospital have set up this tablet to keep in memory the bright example of ARTHUR JERMYN LANDON Surgeon Army Medical Department who, while continuing to dress the wounded amid a shower of bullets in the action on Majuba Hill, was in turn mortally wounded. His immediate request to his assistants “I am dying do what you can for the wounded” was characteristic of his unselfish disposition. His habitual life was expressed in the simple grandeur of his death. He was born at Brentwood Essex 29th June 1851. Died two days after the action at Mount Prospect South Africa 1st March 1881.

A plaque of a totally different nature is affixed to a hotel in Carter Lane …

The plaque was the result of a long campaign by a City grandee called Joseph Newbon who was a great believer in making sure that historical events connected with the City were properly commemorated.

Ironically, the letter written to Shakespeare by Richard Quiney (asking to borrow £30, about £3,700 in today’s money) was never dispatched and was found among his papers after he died.

Here it is …

You can find a transcript here, along with a lot more information, on the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust website.

The plaque was originally on the wall of a major Post Office, hence the reference to the Postmaster General. Now demolished, its imposing entrance has been incorporated into the hotel …

Whilst on the subject of The Bard, this magnificent bust is in St Mary Aldermanbury Garden, Love Lane EC2 …

A Wren church gutted in the Blitz, the remains of St Mary Aldermanbury were shipped to Fulton, Missouri, USA in 1966. The restored church is now a memorial to Winston Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech made at Westminster College, Fulton, in 1946.

Below the bust is a plaque commemorating his fellow actors Henry Condell and John Heminge who were key figures in the printing of the playwright’s First Folio of works seven years after his death. There are almost twenty plays by Shakespeare, including The Tempest, Julius Caesar, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra, which we would not have at all if it were not for their efforts. Both of them were buried at St Mary’s …

This is what Shakespeare had to say about the churchyards of his day …

‘Tis now the very witching of the night

When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out

Contagion to the world.

(Hamlet’s soliloquy Act 3 Scene 2)

Up until the mid-19th century the City contained numerous churchyards, usually adjacent to a parish church, but these were becoming seriously overcrowded and seen as an obvious threat to health. Not only did the population have to breathe in the ‘odour of the dead’, gravediggers themselves could contract typhus and smallpox from handling diseased corpses.

You can get a sense of how packed the graveyards were if you look at them now and see how much higher than street level some of them still are. For example, here is the view from inside St Olave Hart Street …

Eventually the overcrowding of the dead meant relatively fresh graves were broken into while new ones were being dug, and corpses were dismembered in order to make room for more. Sites were also subject to body snatchers (nicknamed the ‘Resurrection Men’), who sold the corpses on the black market as medical cadavers. The government eventually took action action when a serious cholera epidemic broke out and burial within the City limits was virtually totally prohibited by a series Burial Acts.

The removal of the dead from one churchyard is commemorated here …

A plaque on the wall informs us that ‘the burial ground of the parish church of St. Mary-At-Hill has been closed by order of the respective vestries of the united parishes of St. Mary-At-Hill and Saint Andrew Hubbard with the consent of the rector and that no further interments are allowed therein – Dated this 21st day of June 1846’. Following the closure, all human remains from the churchyard, vaults and crypts were removed and reburied in West Norwood cemetery. You can read more on the excellent London Inheritance blog.

Some bodies remained in place only to be resited for other reasons. In the case of the churchyard of St John the Baptist upon Walbrook it was the construction of the District Line underground railway …

The plaque is in Cloak Lane EC4R 2RU.

There is a fascinating article here about the London Underground’s construction and it’s reported encounters with London’s dead.

St Olave Silver Street was totally destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 but its little churchyard lives on. A much weathered 17th century stone plaque records the terrible event …

This was the Parish Church of St Olave Silver street, destroyed by the dreadful fire in the year 1666.

Silver Street itself was annihilated in the Blitz and erased completely by post-war development and traffic planning. The little garden containing the stone is on London Wall at the junction with Noble Street.

I shall end on two more lighthearted notes.

Probably hundreds of people pass through the subway that leads to Mansion House Underground Station every day and don’t notice this old plaque dating from 1913 …

It celebrates not only the opening of the subway but also some brand new Gentlemen’s toilets (hence the involvement of the Public Health Department). ‘Street fouling’ had become a major problem, hence the rather ambiguously worded signs that were once common around London exhorting people to …

In the mid 19th century ideas were being put forward for ‘halting places’ and ‘waiting rooms’ and the City of London installed the first underground ‘Convenience’ outside the Royal Exchange in 1855. It’s still there, completely renovated, and is accessed by tunnels leading to Bank Underground Station. The original toilets were for men only, ladies had to wait another 30 years for their ‘convenience’.

The Mansion House loo is now closed and sealed off but a great example of street level toilet architecture exists on Eastcheap …

I am indebted for much of this information to a lady called Sarah McCabe who made the provision of underground conveniences the subject of her MA dissertation – I highly recommend it.

And finally. I know I have written about this famous cat before but it’s a nice story so I am going to repeat it.

High up on a tiled pillar in Barbican Underground Station is this rather sad little memorial …

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

Clearly he was greatly missed when he died, as the plaque faithfully records, on 26th May 1997. This was doubly sad because he was due to be given a Lifetime Achievement Award. This was sponsored by Spillers Pet Foods and named after Arthur, a cat they used in their advertising who, I seem to remember, ate with his paws. The Certificate that came with the award is also displayed (the co-winner, the aptly named Barbie, was Pebbles’ companion) …

Pebbles’ posthumous award.

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